THE HISTORY
OF THE
UNITED STATES

FROM 1492 TO 1920

BY JULIAN HAWTHORNE

P F COLLIER & SONS COMPANY, NEW YORK 1920

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CHAPTER  XX
THE CAROLINAS AND WEST POINT (Part 1)

 

 THE population of the United States during the Revolution was less than the present population of the City of New York. The total armed force engaged was an uncertain quantity, varying from under five thousand to under fifteen, exclusive of French auxiliaries. The most important battles in the field were mere skirmishes, and the fights for the capture of forts were on the same small scale. Students of war can learn nothing by the study of the battles of Washington and his generals, or from the strategy of his British opponents. Were a war of these dimensions to occur to-day, it would occupy but a small place in the public mind, or in the columns of the papers. Considered solely from the military point of view, it was insignificant.

The conditions under which it took place, and the cause which was at stake, are what render it important and remarkable. Three million persons, sprinkled along a thousand miles of sea coast, with slow and imperfect means of communicating with one another, and without any firm principle of union, so far as commercial and industrial interests -were concerned, or personal habits and traditions, were called upon to resist the attack of a powerful nation, aided by foreign mercenaries, and strengthened by the best navy of the age. The Americans had no government that governed) and no permanent army; as for a navy, they possessed none worth mentioning, though their privateers inflicted heavy losses on English commerce and performed deeds of extraordinary daring. When one reviews the external aspects of the struggle, the chief wonder is that there should have been any struggle at all.

But the war, on the English side, was conducted by a small group of men, who were intellectually the least competent and morally the most profligate in the public life of the country. The nation disapproved the attempt to crush the revolution, partly for selfish reasons connected with trade, and partly because. the moral principle involved was intrinsically odious, and, should it prevail, threatened the liberties of England herself. Therefore it was impossible to procure adequate enlistments in the country, and the purchase of mercenaries hurt the pride and outraged the decency of the nation. The generals sent out to conduct the war were in no case of first-class ability; most of them were of very inferior caliber; and the consciousness that they were engaged in a dishonest enterprise took from them what small merit they possessed, and predisposed them to compensate for military deficiencies by resort to barbarous methods of warfare and terrorism, including the employment of Indians, and negotiations, not always unsuccessful, to corrupt the American officers and soldiers with offers of money and place. The disgraceful intrigue between Arnold and Clinton, which we are soon to narrate, was but one instance out of many similar but less conspicuous ones, of the manner in which the British sought to accomplish by corruption and subterfuge what they lacked either means or energy to do by methods of fair and open war. Such conduct might be excused in a feeble state warring with a powerful one; but not when the conditions are reversed. Be that as it may, the results for the English were unimportant; they incurred the odium without reaping the profits.

On the American side, the chief material element of success for the people was the geographical extent of their country, and the fact that they were distributed all over it, instead of being concentrated within a small area where they could be surrounded and destroyed. They could not be overcome in detail, because they could avoid battle and harass the enemy, disappearing as he advanced, and closing up behind him. This type of warfare was illustrated in the very first action of the war, when the British troops we're driven back to Boston from Concord. Every male inhabitant was more or less a fighter, accustomed to the use of firearms, brave, and stubborn, and of more than average intelligence. It was not fatal to occupy or destroy their towns, because these were not the sources of wealth; enough of the people could not be killed to cripple thier powers of defense; while, on the other hand, every loss which they inflicted on the enemy was serious, on account of the difficulty and expense of supplying it with fresh men. Three thousand miles, in 1778, was equivalent to thrice that distance now; and England had other matters besides her revolting colonies on her hands.

Nevertheless, the Americans would probably have been beaten in the end, had it not been for the moral excellence of their cause. They literally preferred death to submission; and that is a feeling which makes every individual a host in himself. A forlorn hope, in war, is always an ugly customer to deal with, because it has cast aside all considerations which commonly control men's actions. Ten men who have resolved not to let death stand in the way of their aim, are stronger than a hundred who limit themselves to the excursions of ordinary courage. Three million people who are a forlorn hope could not be overcome by any force that might be brought against them. It is not contended that every individual American was inspired with this spirit of desperation, but there were enough of them to give character to the action of all: and at the head of them all was Washington.

The refusal of Congress, or its inability, owing to lack of authorization from the people, to organize, equip and maintain a regular standing army, was undoubtedly a source of weakness in the prosecution of the war; nothing can fully take the place of a disciplined and seasoned force, with traditions of its own past deeds to inspire it to achieve others. There is, no doubt, a distinction to be drawn between the American "Continentals" who had, seen some continuous service, and the militia of the various States in which fighting was carried on, which consisted simply of the undisciplined levies called out by the exigencies of each occasion. The former, on more than one field, saved the day which the unsteadiness of the militia would have lost. But the fact remains that the militia formed by far the majority of the fighting force of the Americans; and as the war went on, more and more of these had become more or less used to facing an enemy. In process of time, the entire nation would have become veterans, and indefinitely more formidable than at first. The system was not wise, according to military ideas; it wasted. time and money; it involved constant and sometimes serious disputes and quarrels between officers and men in Congress; but it finally carried the day, and perhaps made the nation feel that it had fought the war from its own hearthstones more than it would have done had a permanent army been established in the beginning. It was not a scientific system, but it was a natural one-a popular one; and if ever there was a war made by and for the people of a country the Revolution was it. It was made by the thirteen States, not by the United States; but, as we have said before, Washington stood for the Union, and made good many deficiencies that might have been fatal but for him. He advocated a standing army; but possibly the objections against it urged by others would have been justified and have caused the establishment of an undemocratic government after the war was over. The Constitution might never have had its present form; had the army been a constant and predominant power.

Meanwhile, no attempt Will be made to follow in specific detail the further progress of the war.. We have seen a number of typical battles, and have observed the simplicity of their elements: a turning of the flank, a surprise in the rear, a retreat before superior numbers, a valiant defense of a fortification, an assault successful through desperate courage; and once in a while a maneuver which showed real military genius, such as Washington's turning upon his pursuers at Trenton, or his attack upon a self-confident foe at Germantown. And not less admirable than these exploits, thoughless brilliant in the telling, were his tactics, in avoiding unprofitable engagements, in keeping the enemy uncertain as to his intentions, and in gradually wearing out the patience and resources of the invaders. No general of Washington's ability was ever less anxious - for those sensational movements which better support his own fame than the welfare of the cause for which he contends. Both Congress and his own officers were often restive under this restraint; but, when all was over, they recognized his wisdom. With the material lie had, and under the conditions which existed, no man could have done better, and perhaps, all things considered, none so well.

The first event of note after the battle at Monmouth was the attack on the settlers in the valley of Wyoming, at that time claimed as a part of Connecticut, by Colonel John Butler and some six or seven hundred Senecas and tort' rangers. The able men of the settlement were absent in the army; only the old men and boys, and the women and children, remained. In all they numbered -scarce three hundred; they were led by one whose name was also Butler. They were surprised and slain without quarter; the Senecas took the scalps of all but fifty; and the women and children were driven into captivity. The affair was conducted with the most savage and useless cruelty-the .Indians surpassing themselves in the exquisiteness of the tortures which they inflicted on their prisoners. Nothing was gained for the British by this atrocity, and, on the other hand, it created an implacable and permanent hostility in the hearts of the people. Even in the English Parliament the war was denounced more boldly than ever before, and members of the government voted with the opposition. "We can never conquer them," said British officers, returning home from the seat of war; and Howe admitted that "Things go ill, and will not go better." Yet the conflict prolonged itself by a sort of vis inertice, the British policy seeming to be nothing more definite than to lay waste the country.

When France declared war, Admiral D'Estaing obtained a fleet through the agency of Marie Antoinette, and set sail for America, but his voyage was stormy, and he was not in time to attack Lord Howe's fleet retreating down the Delaware from Philadelphia. He followed them to Sandy Hook, but could not get a pilot to take him past the Narrows to do battle with them in the bay. Washington suggested an attack on Rhode Island, and called on the northern States to assist. The French fleet appeared off Point Judith about the last of July, 1778; but Sullivan, who was in command of the land attack on the British, kept D'Estaing there for ten days, when he entered Newport harbor. Lord Howe's squadron, reenforced, was ready to meet him; but a storm of extraordinary violence arose, by which both fleets were so much shattered as to be unable to engage; and even the camp of the army on shore was destroyed, and the ammunition spoiled. Beyond a skirmish between six vessels, three on a side, no offensive measures were taken; Howe retreated to New York, D'Estaing to Boston, for repairs. The American land force, owing to Sullivan's inefficiency and disobedience of Washington's orders, came near being surrounded and captured; they were saved by a timely at tack by Greene. Clinton with a large force arrived a day too late to be of use, and returned to New York after burning the New Bedford shipping and levying tribute on the farmers of Martha's Vineyard. Lord Howe resigned as Admiral of the. British fleet, and disappeared from our history, Byron taking his place. As Washington observed at this juncture, "After two years of maneuvering and the strangest vicissitudes, both armies are brought back to the very point they set out from, and the offending party at the beginning is now reduced to the use of spade and pickax for defense. The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this that he must be worse than an infidel that has not gratitude to acknowledge his obligations." Clinton, shut up in New York, could do nothing more than arrange massacring and freebooting parties; and presently his strength was further reduced by the drawing off of regiments for the reduction of the southern States. The English government announced a war of desolation and extermination, scalping knives were among the supplies voted by Parliament, and the methods of the Indians were openly adopted by the British soldiers. One of the government leaders declared that, if he could, he would let loose the infernals upon America. War was to be kept up for the sake of the war, with no reasonable hope of success. The Americans were struggling with an apparently hopeless financial problem, and at every turn smothered themselves under a deeper flood of irredeemable paper, which, nevertheless, they declared to be redeemable and ordered to be taken as legal tender under penalties. Such a muddle was never before seen, and the dishonest of course took advantage of it to buy cheap and sell dear; lotteries and loan offices were established, and strenuous efforts were made to borrow from France and other European countries. Congress even stooped to crave the "protection" of the French King. Seeing these difficulties, and hoping to find a weapon in them which would compensate for the inefficiency of his army, King George, through Lord Dunmore, flooded Virginia and other States with counterfeits of their own bills. No crime was too base or too brutal for this monarch eagerly to undertake it, if so his thirst for revenge and despotism could be sated.

The tendency to separatism increased through natural causes; Congress had no authority, and therefore commanded no respect or interest; the best men in the country were inevitably busied with the affairs of the State governments, which were ably and intelligently carried on. Each act of national dimensions must be the result of altruistic conduct on . the part of the States; each must voluntarily sacrifice its own immediate interests for the contingent and perhaps doubtful advantage of the whole; there was no power to compel them to do so. No more absurd scheme for insuring united action could be imagined; and yet it succeeded beyond all probability, on account of the genuine earnestness and spirit of the people. The spectacle of a people who were not yet a nation literally governing themselves, in whole and in part, in obedience to impulses of abstract morality and virtue, had never been seen before in the world, and may never be seen again; but it was exhibited in this Revolution. Strangest of all, behind all this poverty and distress of the country as a political and financial entity, we discover a population full of enterprise, spirit, and confidence, raising their crops and multiplying their herds and flocks, amassing real wealth at the same time that the currency representing it was depreciating to nothing; presenting in a word almost all the features of happiness and prosperity, at the moment when, theoretically, they should have been sitting despairing amid the ruins of all that make life possible. Neither the Indians ravaging the borders nor the British intrenched in the towns had a substantial effect upon the country at large; the mass of the people kept at work on their domestic and civil affairs until danger from the enemy became, at one or another point, too acute to be longer neglected; then they would arise, and, with such force as the occasion required, meet and overcome it. Whatever the statesmen in Congress or elsewhere might think or say or forebode, the people never entertained a thought of being defeated in their struggle; they felt infinite reserves of strength, and knew not when they were either beaten or beggared. They felt in their limbs and hearts the power and courage of the whole continent. If the history of the Revolution could be written, as in the interests of truth and human nature it should be, from the point of view of the individual citizens, it would be so unlike the record of the anxieties and plottings of statesmen, and the marchings and battling of armies, which pass for that history now, as to be unrecognizable. But such a history cannot be written because, in the technical sense, there would be nothing to write about. Had the world always been happy and at peace from the beginning till now, the people of one age would know nothing of those of any former one. History is the story of the struggle of right against wrong, or it is nothing.

It is not enough to say that there was, at this period, no United States; it is not enough to say that there was nothing but thirteen loosely confederated colonies; we might almost affirm that there were only three million distinct and independent persons, imbued with a lively sense each of his own ability and right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and always ready to help his fellows to maintain them. There was no government to carry on the war for them, and this was a disadvantage; but it was compensated by the fact that neither was there any government to consider itself defeated, and to sue for peace. A government of one hundred million people may be conquered in war; but the three million inhabitants of this country could not be conquered by any force which the Europe of a hundred years ago could bring against them. So long as any appreciable number of them remained alive, and had a retreat open to them in the further depths of the wilderness, they would continue to resist, and even to

But there is a great deal in the life of a nation besides defending itself against active aggression in war; and America had a destiny before her which would require a government, and a strong one, to fulfill it. Though the people had kept the habit of regarding the entire western extent of the continent as theirs, yet wben it came to negotiating with France and Spain as to arrangements to follow peace, men like Jay. could say that the country occupied by the Americans was already quite as large as they could manage; and the French minister could remark to Florida -Blanca, the pettifogger of Spain, that the States, owing to the form of their federation, were and must always remain a feeble and inert body, from which need be feared no spirit of acquisition or conquest. But America was already greater.tban its own great men suspected; and perhaps the simple backwoodsman, hewing down trees beyond the borders of settlements, and thinking of the unknown forests beyond as not less free to him than those behind, may have had a truer notion of what the Republic really implied than the anxious and conservative gentlemen in Congress. and the supercilious critics in Europe.

In April a treaty was signed between France and Spain, by the terms of which the latter power gained almost all the profit of the exertions of the former. Spain claimed everything south of Canada and west of the Alleghenies, and hoped to either compress the English colonies into a helpless group of incoherent communities, or perhaps, ultimately, to extinguish them altogether. She was not to acknowledge their independence "until England had done so"; and she was explicitly hostile to their liberties. Vergennes perhaps perceived that Europe would not long permit an effete power such as Spain already was to own, and thereby destroy the usefulness of, so vast a domain as that which her pretensions required; and relied upon the chemistry of time to disintegrate her empire. Both nations desired to keep America from the Mississippi; perceiving that the geography of that river would immensely increase her power and homogeneity: The sources of the streams which empty into the Mississippi are near the springs of those which flow eastward to. the Atlantic; and' in the northwest its headwaters open a path through the Oregon to the Pacific. Even be. fore the days of railways and telegraphs the command of this mighty artery meant the dominion of the continent; and it is probable that had America remained content with the western boundary which Jay and others mentioned, she would long since have disappeared as a separate power from the world. But the backwoodsmen were stronger than Vergennes, Florida Blanca, Jay, and all the rest of political experts.

In 1776 a young man named George Rogers Clark was elected by settlers in the region west of the Sandy River to represent them in the Virginia Legislature, and to request that their settlement be made a county, to be called Kentucky. The request was granted; and the following year Clark began to plan excursions further north to the French villages of Illinois and the Wabash. Patrick Henry, then governor of Virginia, approved the plan; and Clark, in the summer of 1778, collected a party of less than two hundred adventurers to attack them - they being, of course, under English dominion. He captured Kaskaskia on the 4th of July, 1778, without bloodshed, and Vincennes surrendered soon afterward; it was temporarily recaptured by Hamilton, the British governor, in December; but at a moment when the latter had weakened himself by the dispatch of large bodies of his Indian allies to other points, Clark, with a hundred and thirty men, surprised the place on the 23d of February, 1779, took Hamilton and his garrison prisoners, and captured large supplies which were coming to them down the river. The county of Illinois was secured to the States; and about the same time James Willing, with but a hundred followers, hoisted the American flag at Natchez, on the lower river, and put the British agents to flight. Emigration soon confirmed this territory, extending from Pittsburgh to Florida, to the Americans, and the desigus of Europe were blighted before they were ripe.

Urgent efforts were however made to secure to Spain the sole use of the Mississippi, and to circumscribe the American rights to the Newfoundland fisheries, when the terms of peace (which was by this time looked forward to) should be fixed; but .the States could not agree, 'and Congress could not command, and the abundant negotiations had for the present no definite result. Spain threatened to side with England if her demands were . not conceded; but though Congress wanted to borrow European money, it would not yield the right to navigate the Mississippi and to have a harbor at its mouth. It was willing to let Spain have Florida; meanwhile, Jay was appointed envoy to that country. But it may be admitted that the diplomatic, affairs of America were not at this period conducted with much dignity or foresight, nor was the result of them valuable or important. Europe was trying' to make this country of use in its own internal broils, and we were divided between a craving for loans, and an uncertainty as to precisely what we wanted in the way of territory and other advantages. For a time very little was accomplished in any direction. But Franklin was still in France, and, so far as his influence extended, our interests were in the best hands.

In the summer of 1779 the British captured Stony Point and Verplanck's Point on the Hudson, the garrisons withdrawing from the former and surrendering without a contest at the other. Tryon undertook a burning and pillaging incursion into Connecticut, and perpetrated the usual brutalities at New Haven, East. Haven, Fairfield, Green Farms, and Norwalk, and was about to attack New London, when the recapture of Stony Point by Wayne forced him to return. The steep promontory is surrounded by the river on three sides, and by a marsh, crossed by one narrow road, on the fourth. The fort was garrisoned by six hundred men, and between that and the river was a double defense of abattis, while other batteries commanded the marsh road. Wayne brought up his party of twelve hundred by a night march over the mountains, and arming his troops with bayonets only, made his attack about half an hour after midnight. Two advance parties of twenty each cleared away the abattis, with a loss of seventeen; Wayne, leading a regiment in support, was wounded in the head, but still went forward, and in the face of a heavy fire reached the works, and captured the entire British force. The guns and stores were removed and the works destroyed, it being impossible to hold the place; but it was not permanently reoccupied by the enemy. It was a very daring little adventure; and so far as the spirit which carried it out was concerned, equal to any exploit of- the kind. Similar was the achievement of Henry Lee of Virginia, ,who, on the morning of August 19, captured the fort at Paulus Hook, Jersey City, in spite of volleys of musketry from the garrison, and carried off over a hundred and fifty prisoners. At about the same time, also, Sullivan, after much waste of time, involving disaster to the inhabitants of the region, marched with four thousand men to avenge the massacre of Wyoming, and laid waste the villages of the Six Nations, who were thereby ad= monished of the expediency of neutrality. An attempt, with a considerable force, to capture the fort at Castine, on the Penobscot, was however unsuccessful, the attacking party being overtaken by a British fleet; but the soldiers burned their transports and escaped through the woods. But the winter began with the British evacuating Rhode Island, and leaving the Hudson above King's Ferry in the hands of the Americans.

The Englishman Pownall, who had been long employed by the English Government in the United States, addressed a memorial concerning them to the sovereigns of Europe which contains observations worthy of record. ('America will establish her own system and constitution and- change the system of Europe," he said. "Every man has the full and free exertion of his powers, and application and struggle sharpen the wits and train the mind. The settlers try experiments, and the advantages of their discoveries are their own. Their spirit rises as their improvements advance. Many a real philosopher, politician, warrior, emerge out of the wilderness. In agriculture, in mechanic handicrafts, the New World hath been led to many improvements of implements, tools and machines, leading experience by the hand to many anew invention. Here no laws frame the conditions on which a man is to exercise this or that trade. The same ingenuity is exerted in the art of shipbuilding; the nature of the coast and of the winds renders marine navigation a perpetual moving intercourse; and the nature' of the rivers renders inland navigation but a further process of that communion. Will that enterprising spirit be stopped at Cape Horn, or not pass the Cape of Good Hope? Before long it will be found trading in the South Sea, in the Spice Islands, and in China. This fostering happiness doth produce progressive population; they have increased nearly the double in eighteen years. Unless the potentates of Europe can station cherubim at every avenue with a flaming sword, to prevent man's quitting this Old World, multitudes of their people, many of the most useful, enterprising spirits, will emigrate to the new one. The new empire of America is like a giant ready to run its course." This was written in the year 1780, and time has given it proof.

George being resolute to continue the war against France, Spain, and America combined (if combination it could be called), a fleet of French and Spanish ships made a demonstration against the southern coast -of England, which came to nothing on account of the mutual jealousies of the commanders. England scoured the seas with privateers, and invaded the rights of European commerce; until at length Catherine of Russia was induced to interfere, and to declare the freedom of all goods except munitions of war in neutral bottoms. Meanwhile Paul Jones, of whom we have already had a passing glimpse, bad begun his extraordinary career. In September, 1779, be was off the English coast in his ship, the Bonhomme Richard, named after Franklin's Poor Richard, of the "Almanac"; with him were the Alliance and the French Pallas. Near Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, they fell in with an English convoy protected by the Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough, of forty and of twenty guns respectively. The English, who were much the superior in strength, attacked; but Jones laid his ship alongside his big enemy, and fought with such invincible energy that after two hours the Serapis struck. It was in this combat that Jones made his memorable reply to the question whether he had surrendered-"I have not yet begun to fight." He transferred his flag to his prize, and his own ship sank the next day. The Frenchman meantime captured the Countess of Scarborough, and the convoy was taken into a Dutch port. Jones's exploits were numerous, and so striking in point of reckless daring and picturesqueness that they have entered into story and legend. In genius and courage he was of the caliber of Nelson, though fortune did not give him Nelson's vast opportunities.

The winter of 1780-1781 was marked by the disgraceful attack of England on the rich but defenseless republic of the Netherlands, which had been her ally for nearly two hundred years, and had incurred vast expenses on her account. The pretext was a disavowed treaty with the United States; the Dutch were unable to make any resistance; more than five hundred of her merchantmen were made prizes, and the island of St. Eustatius, in the West Indies, was taken by Rodney, with goods worth at least three million sterling. Lord North's government, by this war, which was not a war, but the onslaught of a bullying freebooter, lost the last vestige of the sympathy and respect of the world. The enemy of America had made himself the enemy of civilization.

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