During the dreary winter at Valley Forge, Washington busied himself in improving the organi-azation of his army. The fall of the Conway cabal removed many obstacles. Greene was per-suaded, somewhat against his wishes, to serve as quarter-master-general, and forthwith the duties of that important office were discharged with zeal and promptness. Conway's resigna-tion opened the way for a most auspicious change in the inspectorship of the army. Of all the foreign officers who served under Washington during the War for Independence, the Baron Von Steuben was in many respects the most important. Member of a noble family which for five centuries had been distinguished in the local annals of Magdeburg, Steuben was on of the best educated and most experienced soldiers of Germany. His grandfather, an able theo-logian, was well known as the author of a critical treatise on the New Testament. His uncle an eminent mathematician, had been the inventor of a new system of fortification. His father had seen half a century of honourable service in the corps of engineers. He had him-self held the rank of first lieutenant at the beginning of the Seven Years' War,
and after excellent service in the battles of Prague, Rossbach and Kunersdorf he was raised to a position on the staff of Frederick the Great. At the end of the war, when the thrifty king reduced his army, and Blucher with other officers afterward famous left the service, Steuben retired to private life, with the honorary rank of General of the Circle of Swabia. For more than ten years he was grand marshal to the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Then he went travelling about Europe, until the spring of 1777 he arrived in Paris and became acquainted with Franklin and Beaumarchais. The American alliance was already secretly contemplated by the French ministry, and the astute Vergennes, knowing that the chief defect of our armies lay in their want of organi-zation and discipline, saw in the scientific German soldier an efficient instrument for remedying the evil. After much hesitation Steuben was persuaded to undertake the task. That his arrival upon the scene might excite no heart-burning among the American officers, the honorary rank which he held in Germany was translated by Vergennes into the rank of lieutenant-general as more eminent than any position existing in their own army except that of commander-in-chief.
Knowing no English, Steuben took with him as secretary and interpreter the youthful Pierre Duponceau, afterward famous as a lawyer, and still more famous as a philologist. One day, on shipboard, this gay young
Frenchman laid a wager that he would kiss the first Yankee girl he should meet on landing. So as they came ashore at Portsmouth on a frosty December day, he gravely stepped up to a pretty New Hampshire maiden who was passing by, and told her that before leaving his native land to fight for American freedom he had taken a vow to ask, in earnest victory, a kiss from the first lady he should meet. The prayer of chilvalry found favour in the eyes of the fair Puritan and the token of success was granted.
At Boston John Hancock furnished the party with sleighs, drivers and saddle-horses for the inland journey of more than four hundred miles to York. During this cheerful journey, which it took three weeks to perform, Steuben's heart was warmed toward his new country by the reminiscences of the Seven Years' War which he frequently encountered. The name of Frederick was deservedly popular in America, and his familiar features decorated the sign-board of many a wayside inn, while on the coffee-room walls hung quaint prints with doggerel verses commemorating Rossbach and Leuthen along with Louisburg and Quebec. On arriving at York, the German general was received by Congress with distinguished honours; and this time the confidence given to a trained European soldier turned out to be well deserved. Throughout the war Steuben prove no less faithful than capable. He came to feel a genuine love for his adopted country and after the war was over, retiring to the romantic woodland near Oriskany,
where so many families of German lineage were already settled, and where the state of New York presented him with a farm of sixteen thousand acres in acknowledgment of his services, he lived the quiet life of a country gentleman until his death in 1794. A little village some twelve miles north of the site of old Fort Stanwix still bears his name and marks the position of his estate.
After his interview with Congress, Steuben repaired at once to Valley Forge, where Washington was not slow in recognizing his ability; nor was Steuben, on the other hand, at a loss to perceive, in the ragged and motley army which he passed in review, the exist-ence of soldierly qualities which needed nothing so much as training. Disregarding the English prejudice which looked upon the drilling of soldiers as work fit only for sergeants, he took musket in hand and showed what was to be done. Alert and untiring, he worked from morning till night in showing the men how to advance, retreat, or change front without falling into disorder - how to perform, in short, all the rapid and accurrate movements for which the Prussian army had become so famous. It was a revelation to the American troops. Generals, colonels and captains were fired by the contagion of his example and his tremendous enthusiasm and for several months the camp was converted into a training-school, in which masters and pupils worked with incessant and furious energy. Steuben was struck with the quickness and with which the common soldiers
learned their lessons. He had a harmlessly choleric temper, which was part of his over-flowing vigour, and sometimes, when drilling an awkward squad, he would exhaust his stock of French and German oaths, and shout for his aid to come and curse the blockheads in English. "Viens, mon ami Walker," he would say, "viens, mon bon ami. Sacre-blue! Gott-vertamn de gaucherie of des badauts. Je ne puis plus; I can curse dem no more!" Yet in an incredibly short time, as he afterward wrote, these awkward fellows had acquired a military air, ahd learned how to carry their arms, and knew how to form into column, deploy, and execute manoeuvres with precision. In May, 1778, after three months of such work, Steuben was appointed inspector-general of the army, with the rank and pay of major-general. The reforms which he introduced were so far-reaching that after a year they were said to have saved more than 800,000 French livres to the United States. No accounts had been kept of arms and accoutrements, and owing to the careless good-nature which allowed every recruit to carry home his musket as a keepsake, there had been a loss of from five to eight thousand muskets annually. During the first year of Steuben's inspectorship less than twenty muskets were lost. Half of the arms at Valley Forge wer found by Steuben without bayonets. The American soldier had no faith in this weapon, because he did not know how to use it; when he did not throw it away, he adapted it to colinary purposes, holding on its point the beef which he roasted before his campfire.
Yet in little more than a year after Steuben's arrival we shall see an American column, without firing a gun, storm the works at Stony Point in one of the most spirited bayonet charges known to history.
Besides all this, it was Steuben who first taught the American army to understand the value of an efficient staff. The want of such a staff had been severely felt at the battle of Brandywine; but before the end of the war Washington had become provided with a staff that Frederick need not have despised. While busy with all these laborious reforms, the good baron found time to prepare a new code of discipline and tactics, based on Prussian experience, but adapted to the peculiar conditions of American warfare; and this excellent manual held its place, long after the death of its author, as the Blue Book of our army.
In this adaptation of means to ends, Steuben proved himself to be no martinet, but a thorough military scholar; he was able not only to teach, but to learn. And in the art of warfare there was one lesson which Europe now learned from America. In woodland fights with Indians, it had been found desirable to act in loose columns, which could easily separate to fall behind trees and reunite at brief notice; and in this way there had been developed a kind of light infantry peculiar to America, and especially adapted for skirm-ishing. It was light infantry of this sort that, in the hands of Arnold and Morgan, had twice won the day in the Saratoga campaign. Reduced to scientific shape by Steuben, and absorbed, with all the other
military knowledge of the age, by Napolean, these light-infantry tactics have come to play a great part on the European battlefields of the nineteenth century. Thus from the terrible winter at Valley Forge, in which the accumulated evils of congressional mismanagement had done their best to destroy the army, it came forth, nevertheless, stronger in organization and bolder in spirit than every before.
On the part of the enemy nothing had been done to molest it. The position at Valley Forge was a strong one and Sir William Howe found it easier to loiter in Philadelphia than to play a strategic game against Washington in the depths of an American winter. When Franklin at paris first heard the news that Howe had taken Philadelphia, knowing well how slight was the military value of the conquest, he observed that it would be more corrrect to say that Philadelphia had taken General Howe. And so it turned out, in more ways than one; for his conduct in going there at all was roundly blamed by the opposition in Parliament, and not a word was said in his behalf by Lord George Germaine. The campaign of 1777 had been such a bungling piece of work that none of the chief actors, save Burgoyne, was willing frankly to assume his share of responsibility for it. Sir William Howe did not care to disclose the secret of his peculiar obligations to the traitor Lee; and it would have ruined Lord George Germaine to have told the story of the dispatch that never was sent. Lord George, who was never noted for generosity, sought to screen himself by throwing
the blame for everything indiscriminately upon the two generals. Burgoyne, who sat in Parliament, defended himself ably and candidly; and when Howe heard what was going on, he sent in his resignation, in order that he too might go home and defend himself. Besides this, he had grown sick of the war, and was more than ever convinced that it must end in failure. On the 18th of May, Philadelphia was the scene of a grand farewell banquet, called the Mischianza, - a strange medley combining the modern parade with the mediaeval tournament, wherein seven silk-clad knights of the Blended Rose and seven more of the Burning Mountain did amicably break lances in honour of fourteen blooming damsels dressed in Turkish trousers, while triumphal arches, surmounted by effigies of Fame, displayed inscriptions commemorating in fulsome Latin and French the glories of the departing general.
In these curious festivities savouring more strongly of Bruges in the fifteenth century than Philadelphia in the eighteenth, it was long after remembered that the most prominent parts were taken by the ill-starred Major Andre' and the beautiful Miss Margaret Shippen, who was soon to become the wife of Benedict Arnold. With such farewell ceremonies Sir William Howe set sail for England, and Sir Henry Clinton took his place as commander-in-chief of the British armies in America.
Washington's position at Valley Forge had held the British in check through the winter. They had derived no advantage from the possession of the "rebel capital," for such poor work as Congress
could do was as well done from York as from Philadelphia, and the political life of the United States was diffused from one end of the country to the other. The place was worth-less as a basis for military operations. It was harder to defend and harder to supply with food than the insular city of New York; and, moreover, a powerful French fleet, under Count d'Estaing, was approaching the American coast. With the control of the Delaware imperilled Philadelphia would soon become untenable, and, in accordance with instructions received from the ministry, Sir Henry Clinton prepared to evacuate the place and concentrate his forces at New York. His first intention was to go by water; but finding that he had not transports enough for his whole army, together with the Tory refugees who had put themselves under his protection, he changed his plan. The Tories, to the number of 3,000, with their personal effects, were sent on in the fleet, while the army, encumbered with twelve miles of baggage wagons, began its retreat across New Jersey. On the morning of the 18th of June, 1778, the rear-guard of the British marched out of Philadelphia, and before sunset the American advance marched in and took possession of the city. General Arnold, whose crippled leg did not allow him to take the field, was put in command, and after a fortnight both Congress and the state government returned. Of the Tories who remained behind, twenty five were indicted under the laws of Pennsylvania, for the crime of offering aid to the enemy. Two Quakers,
who had actually conducted a party of British to a midnight attack upon an American outpost, were found guilty of treason and hanged. The other twenty-three were either acquitted or pardoned. Across the river, seventeen Tories, convicted of treason under the laws of New Jersey, all received pardon from the governor. The British retreat from Philadelphia was regarded by the Americans as equivalent to a victory, and Washington was anxious to enhance the moral effect of it by a sudden blow which should cripple Sir Henry Clinton's army. In force he was about equal to the enemy, both armies now numbering about 15,000 while in equipment and discipline his men were better off than ever before. Unfortunately, the American army had just received one addition which went far to neutralize these advantages. The mischief-maker, Lee, had returned.
In the preceding summer the British Major-General Prescott had been captured in Rhode Island, and after a tedious negotiation of nine months Lee was exchanged for him. He arrived at Valley Forge in May, and as Washington had found a lenient interpretation for his outrageous conduct before his capture, while nothing whatever was known of his treason-able plot with the Howes, he naturally came back unquestioned to his old position as senior major-general of the army. It was a dangerous situation for the Americans to have such high command entrusted to such a villain.
When Philadelphia was evacuted, Lee first tried to throw Washington off on a false scent
by alleging reasons for believing that Clinton did not intend to retreat across New Jersey. Failing in this, he found reasons as plentiful as blackberries why the British army should not be followed up and harassed on its retreat. Then when Washington decided that an attack must be made he grew sulky and refused to conduct it. Washington was marching more rapidly than Clinton, on a line nearly parallel with him, to the northward, so that by the time the British general reached Allentown he found his adversary getting in front of him upon his line of retreat. Clinton had nothing to gain by fighting, if he could possibly avoid it, and accordingly he turned to the right, following the road which ran through Monmouth and Middletown to Sandy Hook. Washington now detached a force of about 5,000 men to advance swiftly and cut off the enemy's rear, while he designed to come up and support the operation with the rest of his army. To Lee, as second in rank, the command of this advanced party properly belonged; but he declined to take it, on the ground that it was sure to be de-feated and Washington entrusted the movement to the youthful Lafayette, of the soundness of whose judgment he had already seen many proofs. But in the course of the night it occurred to Lee, whatever his miserable purpose may have been, that perhaps he might best accomplish it, after all, by taking the field. So he told Washington, next morning, that he had changed his mind and was anxious to take the command which he had just declined.
With extraordinary forbearance Washington granted his request, and arranged the affair with such tact as not to wound the feelings of Lafayette, who thus, unfortunately, lost the direction of the movement.
On the night of June 27th, the left wing of the British army, 8,000 strong, commanded by Lord Cornwallis, encamped near Monmouth Court House, on the road from Allentown. The right wing, of about equal strength, and composed chiefly of Hessians under Knyphausen, lay just beyond the Court House on the road to Middletown. In order of march the right wing took the lead, convoying the immense baggage train. The left wing, following in the rear, was the part exposed to danger, and with it stayed Sir Henry Clinton. The American advance under Lee, 6,000 strong lay about five miles northeast of the British line, and Washington, with the main body, was only three miles behind. Lee's orders from Washington were positive and explicit. He was to gain the flank of th British left wing and attack it vigorously, while Washington was to come up and complete its discomfiture. Lee's force was ample, in quantity and quality, for the task assigned it and there was fair ground for hope that the flower of the British army might thus be cut off and captured or destroyed. Since the war began there had hardly been such a golden opportunity.
Sunday, the 28th of June, was a day of fiery heat, the thermometer showing 98 degrees in the shade. Early in the morning Clinton moved cautiously.
Knyphausen made all haste forward on the Middletown road, and the left wing followed till it had passed more than a mile beyond Monmouth Court House, when it found itself outflanked on the north by the American columns. Lee had advanced from Freehold church by the main road, crossing two deep rvines upon causeways; and now, while his left wing was folding about Cornwallis on the north, occupying superior ground, his centre, under Wayne, was close be-hind and his right, under Lafayette, had already passed the Court House, and was threatening the other end of the British line on the south. Cornwallis instantly changed front to meet the danger on the north, and a detachment was thrown down the road toward the Court House to check Lafayette. The British position was one of extreme peril, but the behaviour of the American commander now became very extraordinary. When Wayne was beginning his attack, he was ordered by Lee to hold back and simply make a feint, as the main attack was to be made in another quarter. While Wayne was wondering at this, the British troops coming down the road were seen directing their march so as to come between Wayne and Lafayette. It would be easy to check them, but the marquis had no sooner started than Lee ordered him back, murmering about its being impossible to stand against British soldiers.
Lafayette's suspicions were now aroused, and he sent a dispatch in all haste to Washington saying that his presence in the field was sorely needed.
Map - The Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778
The army was bewildered. Fighting had hardly begun, but their position was obviously so good that the failure to make prompt use of it suggested some unknown danger. One of the divisions on the left was now ordered back by Lee, and the others, seeing this retrograde movement, and understanding it as the prelude to a general retreat, began likewise to fall back. All thus retreated, though without flurry or disorder, to the high ground just east of the second ravine which they had crossed in their advance. All the advantage of their offensive movement was thus thrown away without a struggle but the position they had now reached was excellent for a defensive fight. To the amazement of everybody, Lee ordered the retreat to be continued across the marshy ravine. As they crowded upon the causeway the ranks began to fall into some disorder. Many sank exhuasted from the heat. No one could tell from what they were fleeing, and the exultant ardour with which they had begun to en-fold the British line gave place to bitter disappointment, which vented itself in passionate curses. So they hurried on, with increasing disorder, till they approached the brink of the westerly ravine, where their craven commander met Washington riding up, pale with anger, looking like an avenging deity.
"What is the meaning of all this?" shouted Washington. His tone was so fierce and his look so threatening tht the traitor shook in his stirrups and could make no answer. When the question was repeated with yet greater fierceness, and further emphasized by a tremendous oath, he flew
into a rage, and complained at having been sent out to beard the whole British army. "I am very sorry," said Washington, "that you undertook the command, if you did not mean to fight." Lee replied that he did not think it prudent to bring on a general engagement, which was, however, precisely what he had been sent out to do. "Whatever your opinions may have been," said Washington sharply, "I expected my orders to be obeyed." and with these words he wheeled about to stop the retreat and form a new front. There was not a moment to lose, for the British were within a mile of them, and their fire began before the line of battle could be formed. To throw a mass of disorderly fugitives in the face of advancing reinforcements as Lee had been on the point of doing, was to endanger the organi-zation of the whole force. It was now that the admirable results of Steuben's teachings were to be seen. The retreating soldiers immediately wheeled and formed under fire with as much coolness and precision as they could have shown on parade, and while they stopped the enemy's progress, Washington rode back and brought up the main body of his army. On some heights to the left of the enemy Greene placed a battery which enfiladed their lines, while Wayne attacked them vigorously in front. After a brave resistance, the British were driven back upon the second ravine which Lee had crossed in the morning's advance. Washington now sent word to Steuben, who was a couple of miles in the rear, telling him to bring up three brigades and press
the retreating enemy. Some time before this he had again met Lee and ordered him to the rear, for his suspicion was now thoroughly aroused. As the traitor rode away from the field he met Steuben advancing and tried to work one final piece of mischief. He tried to persuade Steuben to halt, alleging that he must have misunderstood Washington's orders; but the worthy baron was not to be trifled with, and doggedly kept on his way. The British were driven in some confusion across the ravine, and were just making a fresh stand on the high ground east of it when night put an end to the strife. Washington sent out parties to attack them on both flanks as soon as day should dawn; but Clinton withdrew in the night, leaving his wounded behind, and by daybreak had joined Knyphausen on the heights of Middle-town, whither it was useless to follow him.
The British loss in the battle of Monmouth was about 416 and the American loss was 362. On both sides there were many deaths by sunstroke. The battle has usually been claimed as a victory for the Americans; and so it was, in a certain sense, as they drove the enemy from the field. Strategically considered, however, Lord Stanhope is quite right in calling it a drawn battle. The purpose for which Washington undertook it was foiled by the treachery of Lee. Nevertheless, in view of the promptness with which Washington turned defeat into victory, and of the greatly increased efficiency which it showed in the soldiers, the moral advantage was doubtless with the Americans. It deepened the impression
produced by the recovery of Philadelphia, it silenced the cavillers against Washington, and its effect upon Clinton's army was disheartening. More than 2,000 of his men, chiefly Hessians, deserted in the course of the following week.
During the night after the battle, the behaviour of Lee was the theme of excited discussion among the American officers. By the next day, having recovered his self-possession he wrote a petulant letter to Washington, demanding an apology for his language on the battlefield. Washington's reply was as follows:
"Sir - I received your letter, expressed, as I conceive, in terms highly improper. I am not conscious of making use of any very singular expressions at the time of meeting you, as you intimate. What I recollect to have said was dictated by duty and warranted by the occasion. As soon as circumstance will permit, you shall have an opportunity of justifying yourself to the army, to Congress, to America, and to the world in general; or of convincing them that you were guilty of a breach of orders, and of misbehaviour before the enemy on the 28th instant, in not attacking them as you had been directed, and in making an unnecessary, disorderly, and shameful retreat."
To this terrible letter Lee sent the following impudent answer: "You cannot afford me greater pleasure than in giving me the opportunity of showing to America the sufficiencey of her respective servants. I trust that temporary power of office and the tinsel dignity attending it will not
be able, by all the mists they can raise, to obfuscate the bright rays of truth." Washing-ton replied by putting Lee under arrest. A court-martial was at once convened, before which he was charged with disobedience of orders in not attacking the enemy, with misbehaviour on the field in making an unnecessary and shameful retreat and lastly, with gross disrespect to the commander-in-chief. After a painstaking trial, which lasted more than a month, he was found guilty on all three charges and suspended from command in the army for the term of one year.
This absurdly inadequate sentence is an example of the extreme and sometimes ill-judged humanity which has been wont to characterize judicial proceedings in America. Many a European soldier has been ruthlessly shot for less serious misconduct and on less convincing evidence. A general can be guilty of no blacker crime than knowingly to betray his trust on the field of battle. But in Lee's case, the very enormity of his crime went far to screen him from the punishment which it deserved. People are usually slow to believe in criminality that goes far beyond the ordinary wickedness of the society in which they live. If a candidate for Congress is accused of bribery or embesslement, we unfortunately find it easy to believe the charge; but if he were to be accused of attempting to poison his rival, we should find it very hard indeed to believe it. In the France of Catherine de' Medici or the Italy of Caesar Borgia, the one accusation would have been as credible as
the other, but we have gone far toward outgrowing some of the grosser forms of crime. In American history, as in modern English history, instances of downright treason have been very rare; and in proportion as we are impressed with with their ineffable wickedness are we slow to admit the possibility of their occurrence. In ancient Greece and in mediaeval Italy there were many Benedict Arnolds; in the United States a single plot for surrendering a stronghold to the enemy has consigned its author to a solitary immortality of infamy. But unless the proof of Arnold's treason had been absolutely irrefragable, many persons would have refused to believe it. In like manner, people were slow to believe that Lee could have been so deliberately wicked as to plan the defeat of the army in which he held so high a command, and some historians have preferred to regard his conduct as wholly unintelligible rather than adopt the only clue by which it can be explained. He might have been bewilder-ed, he might have been afraid, he might have been crazy, it was suggested; and to the latter hypothesis his well-known eccentricity gave some countenance. It was well for the court martial to give him the benefit of the doubt, but in any case it should have been obvious that he had proved himself permanently unfit for a command.
Historians for a long time imitated the clemency of the court-martial by speaking of the "way-wardness" of General Lee. Nearly eighty years elapsed before the discovery of that document which obliges us to put the worst interpretation
upon his acts, while it enables us clearly to understand the motives which prompted him. Lee was nothing but a selfish adventurer. He had no faith in the principles for which the Americans were fighting, or indeed in any principles. He came here to advance his own fortunes, and hoped to be made commander-in-chief. Disappointed in this, he began at once to look with hatred and envy on Washington, and sought to thwart his purposes, while at the same time he intrigued with the enemy. He became infatuated with the idea of playing some such part in the American Revolution as Monk ahdplayed in the Restoration of Charles II. This explains his conduct in the autumn of 1776 when he refused to march to the support of Washington. Should Washington be defeated and captured, then Lee, as next in command and at the head of a separate army, might negotiate for peace. His conduct as prisoner in New York, first in soliciting an interview with Congress, then in giving aid and counsel to the enemy, is all to be explained in the same way. And his behaviour in the Monmouth campaign was part and parcel of the same crooked policy. Lord North's commissioners had just arrived from England to offer terms to the Americans, but in the exultation over Saratoga and the French alliance, now increased by the recovery of Philadelphia, there was little hope of their effecting anything. The spirits of these Yankees, though Lee, must not be suffered to rise too high, else they will never listen to reason. So he wished to build a bridge of gold for
Clinton to retreat by; and when he found it impossible to prevent an attack, his second thoughts led him to take command, in order to keep the game in his own hands. Should Washington now incur defeat by adopting a course which Lee had emphatically condemned as impracticable, the impatient prejudices upon which the cabal had played might be re-vived. The downfall of Washington would perhaps be easy to compass; and the schemer would thus not only enjoy the humiliation of the man whom he so bitterly hated, but he might fairly hope to succeed him in the chief command, and thus have an opportunity of bringing the war to a "glorious" end through a negotiation with Lord North's commissioners. Such thoughts as these were, in all probability, at the bottom of Lee's extraordinary behaviour at Monmouth. they were the impracticable schemes of a vain, egotistical dreamer. That Washington and Chatham, had that great statesman been still alive, might have brought the war to an honourable close through open and frank negotiation was perhaps not impossible. That such a man as Lee, by paltering with agents of Lord North, should effect anything but mischief and confusion was inconceivable. But selfishness is always incompatible with sound judgement and Lee's wild schemes were quite in keeping with his character. The method he adopted for carrying them out was equally so. It would have been impossible for a man of strong military instincts to have relaxed his clutch upon an enemy in the field, as Lee did at the battle of Monmouth. If Arnold had been
there that day, with his head never so full of treason, an irrestible impulse would doubtless have led him to attack the enemy tooth and nail, and the treason would have waited till the morrow.
As usually happens in such cases, the selfish schemer overreached himself. Washington won a victory, after all; the treachery was detected, and the traitor disgraced. Maddened by the destruction of his air-castles, Lee now began writing scurrilous articles in the newspapers. He could not hear Washington's name mentioned without losing his temper, and his venomous tongue at length got him into a duel with Colonel Laurens, one of Washington's aids and son of the president of Congress. He came out of the affair with nothing worse than a wound in the side; but when, a little later he wrote an angry letter to Congress, he was summarily expelled from the army. "Ah, I see," he said, aiming a Parthian shot at Washington, "if you wish to become a great general in America, you must learn to grow tobacco;" and so he retired to a plantation which he had in the Shenandoah valley. He lived to behold the triumph of the cause which he had done so much to injure, and in October, 1782 he died in a mean public-house in Philadelphia, friendless and alone. His last wish was that he might not be buried in consecrated ground or within a mile of any church or meeting-house, because he had kept so much bad company in this world that he did not choose to continue it in the next. But in this he was not allowed to have his way. He was buried
in the cemetery of Christ Church in Philadelphia, and many worthy citizens came to the funeral.
When Washington, after the battle of Monmouth, saw that it was useless further to molest Clinton's retreat, he march straight for the Hudson river, and on the 20th of July he en-camped at White Plains, while his adversary took refuge in New York. The opposing armies occupied the same ground as in the autumn of 1776; but the Americans were not the aggressive party. Howe's object in 1776 was the capture of Washington's army; Clinton's object in 1778 was limited to keeping possession of New York. There was now a chance for testing the worth of the French alliance. With the aid of a powerful French fleet, it might be possible to capture Clinton's army and thus end the war at a blow. But this was not to be. The French fleet of twelve ships-of-the-line ans six frigates, commanded by the Count d' Estaing, sailed from Toulon on the 13th of April, and after a tedious struggle with the head winds arrived at the mouth of the Delaware on the 8th of July, just too late to intercept Lord Howe's squadron. The fleet contained a land force of 4,000 men, and brought over M. Gerard, the first minister from France to the United States. Finding nothing to do on the Delaware, the count proceeded to Sandy Hook, where he was boarded by Washington's aids, Laurens and Hamilton, and a council of war was held. As the British fleet in the harbour consisted of only six ships-of-the-line, with several frigates and gun-boats, it seemed
obvious that it might be destroyed or captured by Estaing's superior force, and then Clinton would be entrapped in the island city. But this plan was defeated by a strange obstacle. Though the harbour of New York is one of the finest in the world, it has, like most harbours situated at the mouths of great rivers, a bar at the entrance, which in 1778 was far more troublesome than it is today. Since that time the bar has shifted its position and been partially worn away, so that the largest ships can now freely enter, except at low tide. But when the American pilots examined Estaing's two largest ships, which carried eighty and ninety guns respectively, they declared it unsafe, even at high tide, for them to venture upon the bar. The enterprise was accordingly abandoned, but in its stead another one was undertaken, which, if successful might prove hardly less decisive than the capture of New York.
After their expulsion from Boston in the first year of the war, the British never regained their foothold upon the mainland of New England. But in December, 1776, the island which gives its name to the state of Rhode Island had been seized by Lord Percy and the enemy had occupied it ever since. From its commanding position at the entrance to the Sound, it assisted them in threatening the Connecticut coast; and on the other hand, should occasion require, it might even enable them to threaten Boston with an overland attack. After Lord Percy's departure for England in the spring of 1777, the command devolved upon Major General Richard Prescott
an unmitigated brute. Under his rule no citizen of Newport was safe in his own house. He not only arrested people and threw the into jail without assigning any reason, but he en-couraged his soldiers in plundering houses and offering gross insults to ladies, as well as in cutting down shade-trees and wantonly defacing the beautiful lawns. A great loud-voiced, irascible fellow, swelling with the sense of his own importance, if he chanced to meet with a Quaker who failed to take off his hat, he would seize him by the collar and knock his head against the wall, or strike him over the shoulders with the big gnarled stick which he usually carried. One night in July, as this petty tyrant was sleeping at a country house about five miles from Newport, a party of soldiers rowed over from the mainland in boats, under the guns of three British frigates, and, taking the general out of bed, carried him off in his night-gown. He was sent to Washington's headquarters on the Hudson. As he passed through the village of Lebanon, Connecticut, he stopped to dine at an old inn kept by one Captain Alden. He was politely received, and in the course of the meal Mrs. Alden set upon the table a dish of succotash, whereupon Prescott, not knowing the delicious dish roared "What do you mean by offering me this hog's food?" And he threw it all upon the floor The good woman retreated in tears to the kitchen, and presently her husband, coming in with a stout horsewhip dealt with the boor as he deserved.
When Prescott was exchanged for General Lee, in April, 1778,
he resumed the command at Newport, but was soon superseded by the amiable an accomplished Sir Robert Pigott, under whom the garrison was increased to 6,000 men.
New York and Newport were now the only places held by the enemy in the United States, and the capture of either, with its army of occupation, would be an event of prime importance. As soon as the enterprise was suggested, the New England militia began to muster in force, Massachusetts sending a strong contingent under John Hancock. General Sullivan had been in command at Providence since April. Washington now sent him 1,500 men of his Continental troops, with Greene, who was born hard by and knew every inch of the island; with Glover, of amphibious renown; and Lafayette, who was a kinsman of the Count d'Estaing. The New England yeomanry soon swelled this force to about 9,000, and with the 4,000 French regulars and the fleet, it might well be hoped that General Pigott would quickly be brought to surrender.
The expedition failed through the inefficient cooperation of the French and the insubordina-tion of the yeomanry. Estaing arrived off the harbour of Newport on the 29th of July and had a conference with Sullivan. It was agreed that the Americans should land upon the east side of the island while the French were landing upon the west side, thus intervening between the main garrison at Newport and a strong detachment which was stationed on Butts Hill, at the northern end
of the island. By such a movement this detachment might be isolated and captured, to begin with. But General Pigott, divining the purpose of the allies, withdrew the detachment, and concentrated all his forces in and around the city. At this moment the French troops were landing upon Conanicut island, intending to cross to the north of Newport on the morrow, according to the agreement. Sullivan did not wait for them, but seeing the commanding posi-tion on Butts Hill evacuated, he rightly pushed across the channel and seized it, while at the same time he informed Estaing of his reasons for doing so. The count, not understanding the situation, was somewhat offended at what he deemed undue haste on the part of Sullivan, but thus far nothing had happened to disturb the execution of their scheme. He had only to continue landing his troops and blockade the southern end of the island with his fleet, and Sir Robert Pigott was doomed. But the next day Lord Howe appeared off Point Judith, with thirteen ships-of-the-line, seven frigates, and several small vessels, and Estaing, re-embarking the troops he had landed on Conanicut, straightway put out to sea to engage him. For two days the hostile fleets manoeuvred for the weather-gage, and just as they were getting ready for action there came up a terrific storm, which scattered them far and wide. Instead of trying to destroy one another, each had to bend all his energies to saving himself. So fierce was the storm that it was remembered in local tradition as lately
as 1850 as "the Great Storm." Windows in the town were encrusted with salt blown up in the ocean spray. Great trees were torn up by the roots, and much shipping was destroyed along the coast. It was not until the 20th of August that Estaing brought in his squadron, somewhat damaged from the storm. He now insisted upon going to Boston to refit, in accordance with general instructions received from the ministry before leaving home. It was urged in vain by Greene and Lafayette that the vessels could be repaired as easily in Narragansett Bay as in Boston harbour; that by the voyage around Cape Cod, in his crippled condition, he would only incur additional risk; that by staying he would strictly fulfil the spririt of his instructions; that an army had been brought here, and stores collected, in reliance upon his aid; that if the expedition were to be ruined through his failure to cooperate, it would sully the honour of France and give rise to hard feelings in America; and finally, that even if he felt constrained, in spite of sound arguments, to go and refit at Boston, there was no earthly reason for his taking the 4,000 French soldiers with him. The count was quite disposed to yield to these sensible remonstrances, but on calling a council of war he found himself overruled by his officers. Estaing was not himself a naval officer, but a lieutenant-general in the army, and it has been said that the officers of his fleet, vexed at having a land-lubber put over them, were glad of a chance to thwart him in his plans. However this may have been, it
was voted that the letter of the royal instructions must be blindly adhered to, and so on the 23d Estaing weighed anchor for Boston, taking the land forces with him, and leaving General Sullivan in the lurch.
Great was the exasperation in the American camp. Sullivan's vexation found indiscreet ex-pression in a general order, in which he hoped the event would prove America "able to pro-cure that by her own arms which her allies refuse to assist in obtaining." But the insub-ordination of the volunteers now came in to complicate the matter. Some 3,000 of them, despairing of success and impatient at being kept from home in harvest time, marched away in disgust and went about their business, thus reducing Sullivan's army to the same size as that of the enemy. The investment of Newport, by land had already been completed, but the speedy success of the enterprise depended upon a superiority of force, and in case of British reinforcements arriving from New York the American situation would become dangerous.
Upon these grounds, Sullivan, on the 28th, decided to retreat to the strong position of Butts Hill, and await events. Lafayette mounted his horse and rode the seventy miles to Boston in seven hours, to beg his kinsman to return as soon as possible. Estaing despaired of getting his ships ready for many days, but, catching a spark of the young man's enthusi-asm, he offered to bring up his troops by land. Fired with fresh hope, the young marquis spurred back as fast as he had come, but when he arrived
on the scene the action all was over. As soon as Sullivan's retreat was perceived the whole British army gave chase. After the Americans had retired to their lines on Butts Hill, Sir Robert Pigott tried to carry their position by storm, and there ensued an obstinate fight, in which the conditions were in many respects similar to those of Bunker Hill; but this time the Americans had powder enough and the British were totally defeated.
This slaughter of their brave men was useless. The next day Sullivan received a dispatch from Washington with the news that Clinton had started from New York with 5,000 men to re-inforce Sir Robert Pigott. Under these circumstances, it was rightly thought best to abandon the island. The services of General Glover, who had taken Washington's army across the East River after the defeat of Long Island, and across the Delaware before the victory of Trenton, were called into requisition and all the men and stores were ferried safely to the mainland; Lafayette arriving from Boston just in time to bring off the pickets and covering parties. The next day Clinton arrived with his 5,000 men, and the siege of Newport was over.
The failure of this enterprise excited much indignation, and seemed to justify the distrust with which so many people regarded the French alliance. In Boston the ill-feeling found vent in a riot on the wharves between French and American sailors, and throughout New England there was
loud discontent. It required all Washington's tact to keep peace between ill-yoked allies. When Congress passed a politic resolution approving the course of the French commander, it met with no cordial assent from the people. When in November, Estaing took his fleet to the West Indies, for purposes solely French, the feeling was one of lively disgust, which was heightened by an indiscreet proclomation of the count inviting the people of Canada to return to their old allegiance.
For the American people regarded the work of Pitt as final, and at no time during the war did their feeling against Great Britain rise to such a point as to make them willing to see the French restored to their old position on this continent. The sagacious Vergennes understood this so well that Estaing's proclomation found little favour in his eyes. But it served none the less to irritate the Americans, and especially the people of New England.
So far as the departure of the fleet for the West Indies was concerned, the American com-plaints were not wholly reasonable; for the operations of the French in that quarter helped materially to diminish the force which Great Britain could spare for the war in the United States. On the very day of Estaing's departure, Sir Henry Clinton was obliged to send 5,000 men from New York to take part in the West India campaign. This new pressure put upon England by the necessity of warding off French attack went on increasing. In 1779, England had 314,000 men under arms in various parts of the world, but she had so many points to
defend that it was difficult for her to maintain a sufficient force in America. In the autumn of that year, Sir Henry Clinton did not regard his position in New York as secure enough to justify him any longer in sparing troops for the occupation of Newport, and the island was accordingly evacuated.
From this time till the end of the war, the only point which the British succeeded in holding, north of Virginia, was the city of New York. After the Rhode Island campaign of 1778, no further operations occurred at the North between the two principal armies which could properly be said to constitute a campaign. Clinton's resources were too slender for him to do anything but hold New York. Washington's resources were to slender for him to do anything but sit and watch Clinton. Whle the two commanders-in-chief thus held each other at bay, the rapid and violent work of the war was goingin the southern states, conducted by subordinate officers. During much of this time Washington's army formed a cordon about Manhattan Island, from Danbury in Connecticut to Elizabethtown in New Jersey, and thus blockaded the enemy. But while there were no decisive military operations in the northern states during this period, many interesting and important events occurred which demand consideration before we go on to treat of the great southern campaigns which ended the war.
Table of Contents