« AnteriorContinuar »
Meadows manifested in this affair, equal ability and valor; though wounded in the very commencement of the action, no persuasions could induce him to quit the field until it was decided. The loss of the French was serious. Four hundred were killed on the spot; five hundred were so severely wounded as to be rendered incapable of service; five hundred others were wounded slightly. The loss of the English, in consequence of the advantage of their position, was inconsiderable. The count d’Estaing left his troops on shore still, for several days after the battle; during this time he continued standing off and on with his fleet, in sight of the island, hoping that some occasion might present itself of operating more effectively. But at length he embarked his troops, in the night of the twenty-eighth, and sailed to Martínico the following day, having abandoned the enterprise of St. Vincent and Grenada, which islands he had purposed to attack. The day after his departure, the chevalier de Micou capitulated ; his garrison consisted of only an hundred men. He obtained the most favorable conditions. He marched out with all the honors of war; his soldiers retained their baggage, but not their arms. The inhabitants, and especially the curates, were protected in their persons, property, and religion. They were to pay to the king of Great Britain the same taxes only, that they were accustomed to pay to the king of France; finally, they were not to be compelled to bear arms against their late sovereign. The English found in the sorts fifty-nine pieces of cannon, a great number of muskets, and an immense quantity of military stores. Thus fell into the power of the English the island of St. Lucia; it was an acquisition of extreme importance to them. They made of it a place of arms for all their forces in the West Indies, and the repository of all their munitions. From its proximity to Martinico, they were enabled, without risk, to watch all the movements of the French in the bay of Fort Royal, and to intercept the reenforcements and convoys that might approach it by the channel of St. Lucia. They strengthened it with many new works, and constantly maintained in it a numerous garrison, notwithstanding the great loss of men it cost them from the insalubrity of the climate. A few days after the retreat of the count d' Estaing, admiral Byron arrived in that part with nine sail of the line, and came to anchor at St. Lucia. There resulted from it a sort of tacit truce between the two parties; the English having too decided a superiority of naval, and the French of land forces. This armistice, which lasted five months, was not interrupted until the squadron of commodore Rawley had joined the fleet of Byron, and the count d' Estaing had been reenforced by that of the chevalier de la Motte Piquet and of the count de Grasse. These several reenforcements were despatched from Purope to the West Indies about the close of the year; the two
governments having reflected at the same time how important it was to have formidable maritime forces in the midst of these rich islands, situated at little distance one from the other, and intermingled, as it were, with those of the enemy. It is time to return upon the American continent. The British ministers and generals had taken the determination to direct their greatest efforts towards the southern parts of the confederation. Under the persuasion that the inhabitants of these provinces supported with repugnance the yoke of the republicans, they hoped to find in the loyalists an efficacious cooperation for the reestablishment of the royal authority. Other, and no less powerful motives, conduced to decide them for this expedition. The provinces of the south, and especially Georgia and Carolina, abound in fertile lands, which produce copious crops of wheat, and particularly of rice, than which nothing could be more essential to the support of a fleet and army, at so great a distance from their principal sources of supply. The parts of the American territory which had hitherto fallen into the power of the English, had offered them but a feeble resource, and they were obliged to draw the greatest part of their provisions from Europe, through all the perils of the sea, and the swarms of American privateers which continually preyed on their convoys. It is, besides, to be observed, that the rice of Georgia and South Carolina served to nourish the French fleets, and the troops that formed the garrisons of their islands in the West Indies. The quiet and security which these provinces had hitherto enjoyed, admitted so vigorous a cultivation, that the products of it not only furnished an inexhaustible resource to the allies of the Americans, but, being exported to the markets of Europe, constituted the material of a commerce, by which they received those supplies which were necessary as well to the support of the war, as to the conducting of the common business and affairs of life. The English also reflected that, as Georgia borders upon East Florida, the latter was exposed to constant alarms and incursions on the part of the republicans; and they were convinced that there existed no effectual means of securing the quiet of that province, short of compelling the troops of Congress to evacuate Georgia and the Carolinas. The conquest of the first of these provinces, they had little doubt, would ensure them that of the two others; and they promised themselves with full assurance the possession of Charleston, a rich and populous city, and of extreme importance, both for its situation and port. Such were the advantages the English expected to derive from their expedition against the southern provinces. To these considerations was added another; the severity of the season no longer admitted operations in the mountainous provinces of the north. Accordingly, general Clinton, as we have related in the preceding book, had embarked for Georgia, under convoy of
commodore Hyde Parker, a detachment of twenty-five hundred men, consisting of English, Hessians and refugees. He hoped, by the assistance of these last, and their partisans, to find easy admission into that province. This corps was under the command of colonel Campbell, an officer of distinguished valor and capacity. Clinton, at the same time, had ordered general Prevost, who commanded in the Floridas, to collect all the troops that could be spared from the defence of those provinces, and to march also against Georgia, in order that it might be attacked at once in front, on the part of the sea by Campbell, and in flank, on the banks of the Savannah river by Prevost. The plan of this expedition thus arranged, commodore Hyde Parker and colonel Campbell arrived towards the close of December at the isle of Tybee, situated near the mouth of the Savannah. The transports had little difficulty in passing the bar and entering into that river. They were followed a few days after by the ships of war, so that all the fleet lay together at anchor in its waters on the twenty-seventh of December, ready to execute the orders of the commanders for the invasion of the province. The latter, not knowing what were the forces, the measures of defence, and the intentions of the republicans, detached some light infantry to scour the adjacent banks. They took two Georgians, from whom it was understood that no intimation had been received in the province of the project of the royalists; that consequently no preparations for defence had been made ; that the batteries which protected the entrance of the rivers were out of condition, and that the armed gallies were so placed that they might easily be surprised. It was also learned that the garrison of Savanmah, the capital of the province, was very feeble, but that it was soon to be reenforced. Upon this intelligence, the British commander no longer delayed to commence his operations. The whole country on the two banks of the Savannah, from its mouth to a considerable distance above, being a continued tract of deep marsh, intersected by the extensive creeks of St. Augustine and Tybee, it offers no point capable of serving as a place of debarkation. The English were therefore under the necessity of moving higher up in order to reach the usual landingplace, at which commences a very narrow causeway that leads to the city. This post, extremely difficult of itself, might have been vigorously defended by the Americans. But, surprised by an unexpected attack, or destitute of sufficient force, they made no opposition to the descent of the English, who landed at first their light troops. The causeway leads through a rice swamp, and is flanked on each side by a deep ditch. Six hundred yards above the landingplace, and at the head of the causeway, rises an abrupt eminence, upon which was situated the house of a certain Gerridoe. It was occupied by a detachment of republicans. As soon as the light infantry, the greater part Scotch Highlanders, had
landed under the command of captain Cameron, they formed, and pushed forward along the dike to attack the post of the AmericansThe latter received them with a smart fire of musketry; Cameron was mortally wounded. Incensed at the loss of their captain, the Highlanders advanced with such rapidity, that the Americans had no time for charging again, and instantly fled. The English seized the height; colonel Campbell having ascended it, in order to view the country, discovered the army of the enemy drawn up about half a mile east of the town of Savannah. It was commanded by majorgeneral Robert Howe, and appeared disposed to make a firm standi to cover the capital of the province. It consisted in a strong corps of continental troops, and the militia of the country. It was so disposed that its two wings extended on the two sides of the great road leading to Savannah. The right, under the command of colonel Eugee, and composed of Carolinians, was to the south, having its flank towards the country protected by a wooded swamp and by the houses of Tatnal. The left, having the road on its right flank, was covered on the left by rice swamps. It consisted for the most part of Georgians, under the orders of colonel Elbert. One piece of cannon was planted at each extremity of the American line, and two pieces occupied the traverse, across the great road in the centre. About one hundred yards in front of this traverse, at a critical point between two swamps, a trench was cut across the road, and about one hundred yards in front of the trench, ran a marshy rivulet, the bridge over which had been destroyed. Lastly, the Americans had on their rear the town of Savannah itself, which was surrounded by a II) () at . The British commander, having lest a detachment to guard the landingplace, and another to secure a neighboring cross road, to cover his rear, advanced directly towards the enemy. He endeavored to devise the most expedient mode of attacking them in the strong position they occupied. By the movements of the Americans, he was not long in perceiving that they expected and even desired that he should engage their left wing ; he accordingly omitted no means in use on similar occasions, with experienced commanders, that could serve to cherish that opinion and continue its delusion. He drew off a part of his forces to form on his right, where he also displayed his light infantry. His intention, however, was to attack the right wing of the Americans. While making his dispositions, chance threw into his hands a negro, by whom he was informed of a private path through the wooded swamp on the enemy’s right, which led to their rear. The negro offered to show the way, and promised infallible success. Colonel Campbell resolved to profit of the occasion which fortune seemed to have provided him. He accordingly directed Sir James Baird to pursue with his light infantry the indicated path, turn the right of the Americans, and fall in by surprise
upon their rear. The New York volunteers under colonel Tumbull, were ordered to support the light insantry. While Baird and Tumbull, guided by the negro, proceeded to execute this movement, Campbell posted his artillery in a field on the left of the road, concealed from the enemy by a swell of ground in the front. It was destined to bear upon the Carolinians, and to cannonade any body of troops in flank, which they might detach into the wood to retard the progress of Baird's light infantry. Meanwhile, the republicans continued to ply their artillery with great animation; the royalists were motionless; a circumstance which doubtless would have excited alarm if their enemies had been either more experienced, or less sanguine. At length, when Campbell conceived that Baird had reached his position, he suddenly unmasked his artillery, and marched briskly on to the enemy, who were still totally blind to their danger.
The charge of the English and Hessians was so impetuous that the Americans, unable to withstand its shock, immediately fell into confusion and dispersed. The victors pursued them. During this time, the light infantry of Baird had gained the rear of the American right. They fell in with a body of Georgian militia, who were stationed to guard the great road from Ogeeche, and routed them at the . first onset. As they were in pursuit of the fugitives, on their way to fall upon the main body of the Americans, the latter, already discomfited, came running across the plain full in their front. The disorder and dismay that now ensued, were past all remedy ; the victory of the English was complete. Thirty-eight commissioned officers, upwards of four hundred noncommissioned and privates, forty-eight pieces of cannon, twenty-three mortars, the sort with its ammunition and stores, the shipping in the river, a large quantity of provisions, with the capital of Georgia, were all in the hands of the conquerors before dark. The loss of the Americans, owing to their prompt flight, was very small. Only about four score fell in the action and pursuit, and about thirty more perished in their attempts to escape through the swamp. The English lost perhaps not twenty men in dead and wounded. This singular good fortune was the fruit of the excellent dispositions of colonel Campbell. He distinguished himself no less by an humanity the more deserving of praise, as he could not have forgotten the harsh treatment he had received in the prisons of Boston. Not only was the town of Savannah preserved from pillage, but such was the excellent discipline observed, that though the English entered it with the fugitives, as into a city taken by storm, not a single person suffered who had not arms in his hand, and who was not besides in the act either of flight or resistance. A strong circumstantial testimony, that those enormities so frequently committed in time of war, should with more justice be charged to the negligence or immediate participation of the chiefs, than to the ungovernable license of the soldiers.
WOL. II. 25