Puslapio vaizdai

sake, not merely of an overwhelming power, but of all the force of long-rooted habits, and native love of order and peace. Above all, their blood calls to us from the soil which we tread; it beats in our veins; it cries to us not merely in the thrilling words of one of the first victims in this cause," My sons, scorn to be slaves!"-but it cries with a still more moving eloquence—" My sons, forget not your fathers!" Fast, oh! too fast, with all our efforts to prevent it, their precious memories are dying away. Notwithstanding our numerous written memorials, much of what is known of those eventful times dwells but in the recollections of a few revered survivors, and with them is rapidly perishing unrecorded and irretrievable. How many prudent counsels, conceived in perplexed times; how many heart-stirring words, uttered when liberty was treason, how many brave and heroic deeds, performed when the halter, not the laurel, was the promised meed of patriotic daring, are already lost and forgotten in the graves of their authors! How little do we,-although we have been permitted to hold converse with the venerable remnants of that day,how little do we know of their dark and anxious hours; of their secret meditations; of the hurried and perilous events of the momentous struggle! And while they are dropping around us like the leaves of autumn, while scarce a week passes that does not call away some member of the veteran ranks, already so sadly thinned, shall we make no effort to hand down the traditions of their day to our children; to pass the torch of liberty, which we received in all the splendor of its first enkindling,--bright and flaming, to those who stand next us on the line; so that, when we shall come to be gathered to the dust where our fathers are laid, we may say to our sons and our grandsons, "If we did not amass, we have not squandered your inheritance of glory ?"



On the 25th of September, the last division of the allied troops arrived in James River, and were disembarked at the landing near Williamsburg; soon after which the preparations for the siege were completed.

York is a small village on the south side of the river which bears that name, where the long peninsula between the York and the James, is only eight miles wide. In this broad and

bold river, a ship of the line may ride in safety. Its southern banks are high, and, on the opposite shore, is Gloucester Point, a piece of land projecting deep into the river, and narrowing it, at that place, to the space of one mile. Both these posts were occupied by Lord Cornwallis. The communication between them was commanded by his batteries, and by some ships of war which lay under his guns.

The main body of his army was encamped on the open grounds about Yorktown, within a range of outer redoubts and field works, calculated to command the peninsula, and impede the approach of the assailants; and Lieutenant Colonel Dundass, with a small detachment consisting of six or seven hundred men, held the post at Gloucester Point. He was afterwards reinforced by Lieutenant Colonel Tarlton.

The legion of Lauzun, and a brigade of militia under General Weedon, the whole commanded by the French General de Choisé, were directed to watch the enemy on the side of Gloucester; and, on the twenty-eighth, the grand combined army moved down on the south side of the river, by different roads, towards Yorktown. About noon, the heads of the columns reached the ground assigned them respectively; and, after driving in the piquets and some cavalry, encamped for the evening. The next day, the right wing, consisting of Americans, extended farther to the right, and occupied the ground east of Beaverdam Creek; while the left wing, consisting of French, was stationed on the west side of that stream. In the course of the night, Lord Cornwallis withdrew from his outer lines; and the works he had evacuated were, the next day, occupied by the besieging army, which now invested the town completely on that side.

Two thousand men were stationed on the Gloucester side, for the purpose of keeping up a rigorous blockade. On approaching the lines, a sharp skirmish took place which terminated unfavorably for the British; after which they remained under cover of their works, making no attempt to interrupt the blockade.

On the night of the sixth of October, until which time the besieging army was incessantly employed in disembarking their heavy artillery and military stores, and drawing them to camp, the first parallel was commenced within six hundred yards of the British lines. This operation was conducted with so much silence, that it appears not to have been perceived until the return of daylight disclosed it to the garrison; by which time


the trenches were in such forwardness as to cover the men. By the evening of the ninth, several batteries and redoubts were completed, and the effect of their fire was soon perceived. New batteries were opened the next day, and the fire became so heavy that the besieged withdrew their cannon from the embrasures, and scarcely returned a shot. Shells and red hot balls from the batteries of the allied army reached the ships in the harbor, and, in the evening, set fire to the Charon of fortyfour guns, and to three large transports, which were entirely consumed. Reciprocal esteem, and a spirit of emulation between the French and Americans, being carefully cultivated by the Commander-in-chief, the siege was carried on with great rapidity. The second parallel was opened, on the night of the eleventh, within three hundred yards of the British lines. The three succeeding days were devoted to the completion of this parallel, during which, the fire of the garrison, which had opened several new embrasures, became more destructive than at any previous time. The men in the trenches were particularly annoyed by two redoubts, advanced three hundred yards in front of the British works, which flanked the second parallel of the besiegers. Preparations were inade on the fourteenth, to carry them both by storm. The attack of one was committed to the Americans, and of the other to the French. The Marquis de Lafayette commanded the American detachment, and the Baron de Viominel the French. Towards the close of the day, the two detachments marched with equal firmness to the assault. Colonel Hamilton, who had commanded a battalion of light infantry throughout this campaign, led the advanced corps of the Americans; and Colonel Laurens turned the redoubt at the head of eighty men, in order to take the garrison in reverse, and intercept their retreat. The troops rushed to the charge without firing a gun, and without giving the sappers time to remove the abattis and palisades. Passing over them, they assaulted the works with irresistible impetuosity on all sides at the same time, and entered them with such rapidity that their loss was inconsiderable. This redoubt was defended by Major Campbell, with some inferior officers, and forty-five privates. The major, a captain, a subaltern, and seventeen privates, were made prisoners, and eight privates were killed while the assailants were entering the works.

The redoubt attacked by the French was defended by a greater number of men; and the resistance being greater, was not overcome so quickly, or with so little loss. One hundred

and twenty men, commanded by a lieutenant colonel, were in this work, eighteen of whom were killed, forty-two, including a captain, and two subaltern officers, were made prisoners. The assailants lost, in killed and wounded, near one hundred


During the same night, these redoubts were included in the second parallel; and, in the course of the next day, some howitzers were placed in them, which, by five in the afternoon, were opened on the besieged.

The situation of Lord Cornwallis was becoming desperate. His works were sinking, in every quarter, under the fire of the besiegers. The batteries already playing on him had silenced nearly all his guns, and the second parallel was about to open, which must in a few hours render the town untenable. To suspend a catastrophe which appeared almost inevitable, he resolved on attempting to retard the completion of the second parallel, by a vigorous sortie against two batteries which appeared to be in the greatest forwardness, and were guarded by French troops. The party making this sortie was led by Lieutenant Colonel Abercrombie, who attacked the two batteries with great impetuosity, about four in the morning, and carried both with inconsiderable loss; but the guards from the trenches immediately advancing on the assailants, they retreated without being able to effect any thing of importance.

About four in the afternoon, the besiegers opened several batteries in their second parallel; and it was apparent that, in the course of the ensuing day, the whole line of batteries in that parallel would be ready to play on the town. The works of the besieged were not in a condition to sustain so tremendous a fire. In this extremity, Lord Cornwallis formed the bold design of forcing his way to New York.

He determined to leave his sick, and baggage behind, and, crossing over in the night with his effectives, to the Gloucester shore, to attack De Choisé. After cutting to pieces or dispersing the troops under that officer, he intended to mount his infantry on the horses taken from that detachment, and on others to be seized on the road, and, by a rapid march to gain the fords of the great rivers, and forcing his way through Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Jersey, to form a junction with the army in New York.

This desperate attempt would be extremely hazardous; but the situation of the British general had become so hopeless, that it could scarcely be changed for the worse.

Boats prepared under other pretexts were held in readiness to receive the troops at ten in the evening, and convey them over the river. The arrangements were made in such secrecy that the first embarkation arrived at the point unperceived, and part of the troops were landed, when a sudden and violent storm interrupted the execution of this hazardous plan, and drove the boats down the river. The storm continued till near daylight, when the boats returned. But the plan was necessarily abandoned, and the boats were sent to bring back the soldiers, who were relanded on the southern shore in the course of the forenoon without much loss.


In the morning of the seventeenth, several new batteries were opened in the second parallel, which poured in a weight of fire not to be resisted. The place being no longer tenable, Lord Cornwallis, about ten in the forenoon, beat a parley, and proposed a cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours, that commissioners might meet at Moore's house, which was just in the rear of the first parallel, sett terms for the surrender of the posts of York and Gloucester. To this letter General Washington returned an immediate answer declaring his " dent desire to spare the further effusion of blood, and his readiness to listen to such terms as were admissible; " but, as in the present crisis he could not consent to lose a moment in fruitless negotiations, he desired that, "previous to the meeting of the commissioners, the proposals of his lordship might be transmitted in writing, for which purpose a suspension of hostilities for two hours should be granted." The general propositions stated by Lord Cornwallis as forming the basis of the capitulation, though not all admissible, being such as led to the opinion that no great difficulty would occur in adjusting the terms, the suspension of hostilities was prolonged for the night. In the mean time, to avoid the delay of useless discussion, the Commander-in-chief drew up and proposed such articles as he would be willing to grant. These were transmitted to Lord Cornwallis with the accompanying declaration that, if he approved them, commisioners might be immediately appointed to digest them into form.

In consequence of this message, the Viscount De Noailles, and Lieutenant Colonel Laurens, were met next day by Colonel Dundass, and Major Ross; but, being unable to adjust the terms of capitulation definitively, only a rough draught of them could be prepared, which was to be submitted to the consideration of the British general. Determined not to expose him.

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