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November. But be finally agreed to continue in the Chesapeake. - until the operation against Tord Cornwallis should be decided. After which the company returned. ! All the Americans and French troops formed a junction at Willianisburgh. The marquis de la Fayeite had been joined by 3000 under St. Sinun some days before the 25th of September.
de whole regular force thus collected am unted to between 11 and 12,000 inen. The muilla of Virginia were also called out to service, and were commanded by gov. Nelsoli. On the 27th, Washington gave out in general orders--“ if the enemy would be tempied to meet the army on its inarch, the gencial particularly enjoins the troops to place their principal reliance on the bavonet, that they may prove the vanily of the boust which the British make of their peculiar prowess in deciding buttles with that weapon.”. The next morning the army marched, and halted about two iniles from York+ Town just before sun-set. The otticers and so diers were ordered to lie on their arms the whole night. On the 30:1, col. Scammell (being officer of the day) in approaching the eneanys's outer works, to sec if they bad really left them, was mortally wounded and taken prisoner by a party of the enemy's horse,' which lay secreted. This day lord Cornwallis was closely in. . vested in York-Town. The French cxtended from the river above the town to a morass in the centre, where they were met by the Americans, who occupied the opposite side from the river to that spot. The post at Gloucester Point was, at the same time, javested by the duke de Lauzun with his legion, and a number of · Virginia militia under gen. Weedon,
Before the troops lett Williamsburgh, Washington received a letter from de Grasse, informing him, that in case of the appear·ance of a British feet, the count conceived it to be his duty to go put and meet them at sea, instead of fighting in a confined situation. This information exceedingly alarmed the general, who instantly saw the propability of the British tlcet's mancuvring in such manner, as to reinforce or withdraw lord Cornwallis. To prevent a measure pregnant with so mucha evid, lis excellency wrote to the count on the 26th- “ I am unable to describe the painful anxiety under which I have labored since the reception of your letter of the 23.d instant. It obliges me warmly to unge a perseverance in the plan agreed upon. The atiempt upon York, under the protection of your shipping, is as certain of success as a superior force and a superiority of measures can ronder any military operation. The capture of the British arzy is a matter so important in itself and in its consequences, that it must greatly tend to bring an end to the war. If your excellency quits the bay, Vol. III.
an access is open to relieve York, of which the enemy will instantly avail themselves. The consequence of this will be, not only the disgrace, but the probable disbanding of the whole army for the present seat of war being such, as absolutely precludes the use of waggons, from the great number of large rivers which in. tersect the country, there will be a total want of provisions. This province has been so exhausted, that subsistence inust be drawn trom a distance, and that can only be done by a.superior fleet in the bay. I earnestly beg: your excellency to consider, that if by. moving your fleet from the situation agreed upon, we lose the present opportunity, we shall never hereafter have it in our power to strike so decisive a stroke, and the period of an honorable peace will be further distant that ever. Supposing the force, said to have arrived under adm. Digby, to be true, their whole force uz nited cannot be such as to give them any hope of success in the attacking your fieet.-I am to press your excellency to persevere in the scheme so happily concerted between us. Permit me to add, that the absence of your fleet from the bay may frustrate our design upon the garrison at York. Eor, in the present situation, lord Cornwallis might evacuate the place with the loss of his are tillery, baggage and a few men--sacrifices, which would be highe jy justifiable, from the desire of saving the body of the army. The marquis de la Fayette carries this. He is not to pass the Cape for fear of accident, in case you should be at sea.” This letter, with the marquis's persuasions; had the desired effect;, and the same hour when the combined army appeared before York-Town, the French Heet was brought to the mouth of York-River, and by their position effectually covered all subsequent military operations, and prevented cither the retreat or, succor of lord Corn. wallis's army by water. The posts of York and Gloucester were the most favorable of any in the country for besieging the British and preventing their escape, when the siege was supported by a superior land and naval force. .
Lord Cornwallis was sufficiently strong for fighting the marquis de la Fayette, even after he had been joined by St. Simon ; and is thought to have been mistaken in not engaging them either separately or together. The moment he heard that the allied troops were at the head of Elk, and that de Grasse was arrived with so powerful a fleet at the Chesapeake, his lordship should have pushed off for Charleston. Therefore it was that gen. Greene wrote to Baron Steuben on the 17th-" Nothing can save Cornwallis but a, rapid retreat through North-Carolina to Charleston.” His lordship’s conduct was influenced by an expectation of a reinforce.ment. from Sir Henry Clinton, and a full persuasion that these
txertions would be made at New-York, and such a naval strength would arrive from thence in time, as would effectually relieve him. This inay be gathered from his writing on the 16th "If #had no hopes of relief, I would rather risk an action than de -fend my half finished works. But as you say admiral Digby is hourly expected, and have promised exertions to assist me, I do not think myself justifiable in putting the fate of the war upon so desperate an attempt.” He must have meant that of fighting Fayette and St. Simon, for the troops of Washington and Rochambeau did not arrive till afterward. Fayette had taken a strong position; but the attempt would not have appeared so desperate to his lordship, had he known the real number of the enemy. . u The trenches were opened by the combined armies on the 6th of October, at 600 yards distance from Cornwallis's works. The night being dark and rainy, was well adapted to the service, in which there was not a inan hurt. In the afternoon of the 9th, the redoubts and batteries being completed, a general discharge of 24 and 18 pounders and of 10 inch mortars, commenced by the Americans on the right, and continued all night without in termission. The next morning the French opened their batteries on the left, and a tremendous roar of cannon and mortars was continued for six or eight hours without.ceasing. There was an Acessant fire through the succeeding night. By one. of the French shells, the Charon of. 44 guns and a transport ship, were set on fire and burnt. The following morning (Lith]the enemy's other guard-ship was fired by one of the American shells, and consumed. At night the besiegers opened their second parallel, -200 yards from the works of the besieged. The Americans had *3 men killed and I wounded, by a French cannon which fired too low, On the 14th in the evening, an Anierican battalion was ordered into the second parallel, and to begin a.large battery. in * advance on the right. A few minutes before they began to break ground, the enemy kept. a constant fire upon them; one of their shells burst in the centre of the battalion, and killed a captain and one private, and wounded a second. The fire of the be* sieged was very great through the night.;. and it was thought
that the besiegers lost as many men within 24 hours at this pegiod, as they had done nearly the whole siege before. t. Two redoubts, which were advanced about 200 yards on the Jeft of the British, greatly impeded the progress of the combined
armies. An attack on these was therefore proposed. To excite 26 spirit of emulation, the reduction of the one was committed to
the French, of the other to the Americans. The light-infantry of uile latter were coinmanded by the marguis de la Fayette; and
the service was alotted to a select corps. The marquis said to gen. Washington--- The troups should retaliate on the British, for the cruelties they have practised." The general answered “ You have full command, and may order as you please." The marquis ordered the party to remember New-London, and to retaliate by putting the men in the redoubt to the sword after have ing carried it. The men marched to the assault with unloaded arms, at dark on the night of the 14th, passed the abbatis and pallisades, and attacking on all sides, carried the redoubt in, a few minutes, with the loss of 8 killed and 28.wounded. * Lieut. col. Laurens personally took the commanding officer. The colonel's humanity and that of the Americans, so overcame their rel: sentments, that they spared the British. When bringing them of as prisoners, they said among themselves Why ! how is this? We were ordered to put them to death." Being asked by others why they had not done it, they answered“We could not when they begged and cried so upon their knees for their lives.” A bout five of the enemy were killed, and I major, 1 captain, 'I; ensign and 20 privates captured. Col. Hamilton, who conducted the enterprise with much address and intrepidity, in his see port to the marquis, mentioned, to the honor of his detachmenty
that, incapable of imitating examples of barbarity, and forgetting recent provocations, they spared every man that ceased to resist." The French were equally successful on their side. They carried the redoubt committed to them, with rapidity, but lost a considerable number of men. These two works being taken: into the second parallel, facilitated the subsequent operations. :)
The British were so weakened by the fire of the combined ara mies, but chiefly by sickness, that lord Cornwallis could not ven.. ture any considerable number in the making of sallies. The pres sent emergency however was such, that a little before day-break! of the morning of the 16th, he ordered a sortie of about 400 men, under lieut. col. Abercrombie, to attack two batteries which ap+ peared to be in the greatest forwardness, and to spike the guese Two detachnients were appointed to the service; and both at-, tacks were made with such impetuosity, that the redoubts which covered the batteries were forced, and eleven piccs of cannon spiked. The French troops, who had the guard of that part of: the entrenchment, suffered considerably. This successful action did honor to the officers and troops engaged, but produced
* Major Gibbs, the commander of the men that formed the guards for Washington's person, received a small contulion in his leg, by a grape hot. His manuscripts of the (sansactions before, al, and after the fiege, are otica aid in this narrative.
no essential benefit. The cannon, being hastily spiked, were soon rendered again. serviceable ; and the combined forces were so in dustrious, that they finished their batteries, opened them about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and fired briskly. Their several batteries were now covered with near 100 pieces of heavy ordnance; and the British works were so destroyed, that they could scarce Jy show a single gun.
Thus was Lord Cornwallis reduced to the necessity of preparing for a surrender, or of attempting an escape. He determined upon the latter. - Boats were prepared under different pretexts, for the reception of the troops by ten at night, in order to pass them over to Gloucester Point. The arrangements were niade with the utmost secrecy. The intention was to abandon the bag. gage, and to leave a detachment behind to capitulate for the towns people, and for the sick and wounded, his lordship having already prepared a letter on the subject to be delivered to gen. Washington after his departure. The first embarkation had arrived at Gloucester Point, and the greater part of the troops were already banded, when the weather, which was before moderate and calm, instantly changed to a most violent storm of wind and rain. The boats with the remaining troops were all driven down the river, and the design of passing was not only entirely frustrated, but the absence of the boats rendered it impossible to bring back the troops from Gloucester. Thus weakened and divided, the army was in the most imminent danger. The boats however returned: and the troops were brought back without much loss in the course of the forenoon. . . . . . .
Matters were now hastening to a crisis, which could not be longer åverted. The British works were sinking under the weight of the American and French artillery. The continuance of the allied fire, only for a few more hours, would reduce them to such a condition that it would be rashness to attempt their defence. The time for expecting relief from New-York was elapsed. The strength and spirits of the royal troops were worn down by constant watching, and unremitting fatigue. Lord Cornwallis thereföre-sent out a flag at ten o'ciock in the morning of the 17th with a letter to general Washington, requesting a cessation of aims for twenty-four hours, and that commissioners might be ap-. pointed for digesting the terms of capitulation. An answer was given; and a reply forwarded in the afternoon; to which gen. Washington rejoined the next day, declaring the general basis on which the capitulation might take place: Commissioners were appointed-on the side of the allies Viscount de Noaille, and lieut. cüs. Laurens, whose father was in close confinement at the towe