However, being thoroughly sensible that defensive measures would be certain ruin to the affairs of Great Britain in the Southern Colonies, this event did not deter me from prosecuting the original plan. This move is interesting, for it leads indirectly to Yorktown. No one could then have dreamed that Cornwallis at the Catawba, and Washing ton upon the Hudson, seven hundred miles apart, each looking at different objective points, would within eight months meet face to face midway down the coast and settle the issue.
Cornwallis, certainly, did not dream 1 "Cornwallis Correspondence, Ross, vol. The Yorktown Campaign began with him, when he started out to crush Greene and reduce North Carolina to subjection. That was its first stage. Into the details of these earlier movements it is not intended to enter here.
Greene, too weak to meet the enemy, retreated rapidly. The enemy followed as rapidly. Night and day the chase was continued through North Carolina, until Greene skilfully saved himself at the Virginia line by put ting the river Dan between his troops and their pursuers. Cornwallis, hav ing thus accomplished one object of his invasion in driving Greene out of the State, anticipated the restoration of the King s authority within its lim its.
But once more "a capital misfortune" under the disguise of a victory befell him, and again his expectations failed of realization. Corn wallis gladly seized the opportunity, in the hope of breaking up Greene s force and opening the way into Virginia, which would be his next object, and the well-known battle at Guilford followed. It was an obstinate con test, resulting in the retreat of the American troops.
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But it was not a Camden defeat for them. In this fact lay very material consequences. So great a loss had the British sustained, both in officers and men, that their nominal advantages could not be pursued. On the contrary, their victory had entailed upon them the positive effects of a defeat. It proved too costly too great a drain upon their effective strength to permit them even to remain where they were. Cornwallis, indeed, established himself at Ilillsborough, as contemplated in his plan, raised the royal standard, and issued proclamations calling upon the King s true subjects to assert themselves, and offering them protection.
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But hardly had lie assumed this attitude of a conqueror and deliverer before we lind him obliged to retire from the heart of the State to the coast, for the avowed purpose of recruiting and refitting his exhausted and sadly diminished force. The move to Wilmington was a clear admission that, for the time being, the scheme of reducing North Carolina had failed. At Wilmington, now, the Southern invasion develops a new phase: we reach the second and vital step that led Cornwallis to Yorktown.
As the march into North Carolina contemplated no such result as a retirement to the seaboard, and as the reduction of that State had been declared indispensable for the security of all below it, it lay with Corn wallis either to re-enforce himself, were that possible, from Charleston and return to Ilillsborough, or fall back once more to his base in South Carolina. This was the alternative, if the original scheme was to be ad hered to. But at Wilmington, under the altered condition of things, Cornwallis changed his plan, and, abandoning the Carolinas for the pres ent, decided to move directly into Virginia, unite with Phillips and Ar nold, and there renew operations with the Chesapeake as his base.
What these operations would be he did not then know himself.
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The success of the entire Southern scheme hinged upon this move to Virginia, and its merits have been discussed both by the principal actors in the scenes, and by subsequent military and historical writers. Some important points were involved.
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Why, at all events, without the previous approval of his commander-in-chief The change was a radical one, and the responsibility proportionately great. For all these questions, however, Cornwallis had apparently satis factory replies, and in his final answer to Clinton, in the controversy which arose between them after the war, he makes a ready and pointed defence. Speaking of his move to Virginia, he says : " I came to this res olution principally for the following reasons: I could not remain at AVil- mington, lest General Greene should succeed against Lord llawdon [who was left in command in South Carolina], and, by returning to North Caro lina, have it in his power to cut off every means of saving my small corps, except that disgraceful one of an embarkation, with the loss of the cavalry and every horse in the army.
From the shortness of Lord Raw- don s stock of provisions and the great distance from Wilmington to Camden, it appeared impossible that any direct move of mine could afford him the least prospect of relief. I was likewise influenced by having just re ceived an account from Charleston of the arrival of a frigate with de spatches from the commander-in-chief, the substance of which, then trans mitted to rne, M as that General Phillips had been detached to the Chesa peake and put under my orders, which induced me to hope that solid operations might be adopted in that quarter; and I was finally persuaded that, until Virginia was reduced, we could not hold the more southern r- S THE YORKTOWN CAMPAIGN.
Phillips himself had un fortunately fallen a victim to a fever a few days before. Sir Henry Clinton never approved of this move, pronouncing it con trary to the spirit of his instructions, which required Cornwallis to hold and secure South Carolina. By entering Virginia he was abandoning it. Had you intimated the probability of your intention," wrote Clinton to Cornwallis, in May, "I should certainly have endeavored to have stopped you, as I did then as well as now consider such a move likely to be dan gerous to our interests in the southern colonies.
Cornwallis had at last reached the State whose control, from its cen tral position, he believed would be followed by the control of all America. Precisely how this coveted result was to be brought about in the case of the States to the northward does not appear. As to the reduction of Vir ginia, however, his Lordship had some definite ideas. He would have had Clinton abandon New York, if necessary, concentrate all available forces in the Chesapeake, and, moving up the large navigable rivers, occupy the territory, compel the submission of the inhabitants, and establish the royal authority.
The scheme contemplated a previous decisive victory over any American army brought to the defence of the State. It presupposed, also, the existence of a considerable Tory element in the population, which, however, did not exist in Virginia. The State could have been held only by sheer conquest, in which case it could scarcely have become a satisfactory central base of operations.
Any temporary advantage gain ed there would doubtless have been offset by the moral effect of the aban donment of the Northern field. That step in the eyes both of America and Europe would have meant failure in the strong Colonies, instead of a change of base. Clinton, the commander-in-chief, seems to have thor oughly appreciated this when he declined to entertain Cornwallis s sug gestion. Indeed, Clinton, although charged sometimes with indecision and incompetency, understood the American situation quite as clearly as Cornwallis or the home government; and in asking for a re-enforcement of ten thousand men and the assurance of a continued naval supremacy for the operations of , he but represented, like a faithful head, the true necessities of the case.
England s force in America that year was inadequate for her purposes. That the reduction of Virginia would have been followed by the ap parent submission of the States below is possible. When Cornwallis entered the State he found for his antagonist the youthful Lafayette a name America delights to honor. His services in the Revolution are a familiar record ; but above these stands the unalloy ed motive, the noble spirit, that brought him here. In , then nine teen years of age, he was stationed on duty at Metz as an officer in the French army; and it was there that he first understood the merits of the American struggle.
Several officers were invited, and among others Lafayette. Despatches had just been received by the duke from England, and he made their contents the topic of conversation; they related to American affairs the recent declaration of independence, the resistance of the Colonists, and the strong measures adopted by the ministry to crush the rebellion. The details were new to Lafayette; he listened with eagerness to the conver sation, and prolonged it by asking -questions of the duke.
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His curiosity was deeply excited by what he heard, and the idea of a people fighting for liberty had a strong influence upon his imagination. The cause seem ed to him just and noble from the representations of the duke himself, and before he left the table the thought came into his head that he would go to America, and offer his services to a people who were struggling for freedom and independence. From that hour he could think of nothing but this chivalrous enterprise.
But, after failing in one attempt, he succeeded in quitting France in the disguise of a courier, and, with De Kalb and other foreign officers, sailed for this country from the Spanish port of Passage, in April, After a seven-weeks voyage he reached Georgetown, South Caro lina, on June 15th, and Charleston on the 19th, where he procured horses 1 In and equipments, clothing, and ammunition for the Southern troops could be obtained only from Philadelphia and the scanty depots from which Washing ton s army in the Highlands was supplied.
Riding nearly nine hundred miles, he reached the city in the course of a month, and sought admission to the American army. Congress at first denied Lafayette s application, as coming from one of the increasing number of foreigners who expected commissions; but he immediately represented that he wished to offer himself simply as a vol unteer without pay, when that body, appreciating his devotion and enthusiasm in their cause, resolved on the 31st of July that "his services be accepted, and that in consideration of his zeal, illustrious fam ily and connections, he have the rank and com mission of major-general in the Army of the United States.
The young marquis gladly accepted the flattering invitation, and three weeks later we find him writing to his wife as follows, in regard to the commander-in-chief : "This excellent man, whose talents and virtues I admired, and whom I have learned to revere as I know him better, has now become my intimate friend ; his affectionate interest in me instantly won my heart, I am established in his house, and we live together like two attached brothers, with mutual confidence and cordiality.
This friendship renders me as happy as I can possibly be in this country. The beautiful statue of Lafayette, at the lower end of Union Square, in New York City, represents him in buoyant attitude, offering his ser vices to America. The most valuable services he rendered in the field were those rendered here in Virginia. At Brandywine, his first engage ment, in , he fought bravely as a volunteer, and received a wound.
Finally, early in he appears in Virginia to be constantly active in an independent command until the investment of Yorktown. What took this now popular and trusted officer to the southward was the attention paid by the enemy to the Chesapeake. Clinton, as we have seen, had sent thither the three expeditions under Leslie, Arnold, and Phillips.