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Chapter 58:

Britain Beats up for recruits in America.

January—February, 1776.

the disbanded Highlanders, who had settled in
Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Jan.
the valley of the Mohawk, were reported as disposed to rally once more under the king's standard; to prevent their rising, Schuyler at Albany, in January, following the orders of the general congress, called out seven hundred of the New York militia, and sending an envoy in advance to quiet the Mohawks of the Lower Castle, marched upon Johnstown, in what was then Tryon county. He was joined on the way by Herkimer and the militia of that district, till his force numbered more than two thousand, and easily overpowered Sir John Johnson and his party. The Indians, as mediators, entreated the personal liberty of Johnson, and Schuyler, whose ingenuous mind would not harbor the thought, that a man of rank could break his word of honor, was contented with exacting his parole to preserve neutrality, and confine himself within carefully prescribed bounds. [273] The quantity of military stores that he delivered up,
Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Jan.
was inconsiderable; on the twentieth, at noon, between two and three hundred Highlanders marched to the front of the invading force, and grounded their arms. In the two following days, Herkimer completed the disarmament of the disaffected, and secured six Highlanders as hostages for the peaceable conduct of the rest. Schuyler and his party were rewarded by the approbation of congress.

After the death of Montgomery, the active command in Canada was reserved for Schuyler, to whom it properly belonged. His want of vigorous health, and the irksomeness of controlling the men of Connecticut, had inclined him to leave the army; the reverses, suffered within his own district, now placed him in a painful dilemma: he must either risk the reproach of resigning at the news of disasters, or retain his commission, and in the division of his department leave to another the post of difficulty and danger. Unwilling at such a moment to retire, yet too ‘weak and indisposed’ to undertake the campaign in Canada, he continued as before to render auxiliary services. The general congress acquiesced in his decision, and invited Washington to propose in his stead an officer to conduct the perilous warfare on the St. Lawrence.

The position of New York gave great advantage to the friends of the royal government; for the British men-of-war were masters of the bay, the harbor, the East River, and Hudson River below the Highlands; neither Staten Island nor Long Island could prevent the landing of British troops; the possession of Long Island would give the command of Manhattan Island, which had not as yet accumulated materials [274] for defence. In Queen's county, where a large

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Jan.
part of the population was of Dutch descent, and among the English there were churchmen and very many Quakers, the inhabitants, by a vote of more than three to one, refused to send delegates to the provincial congress; and it was only after long delays that the inhabitants of Richmond county made their election. In West Chester, Morris of Morrisania and Van Cortland were unwavering in their patriotism; but the Delanceys and Philipse, who owned vast tracts of land in the county, bent their influence over their tenants in favor of the king with so much effect, that the inhabitants were nearly equally divided. In the city the popular movement was irresistible; but a large part of the wealthy merchants were opposed in any event to a separation from Britain. The colony of New York, guided in its policy by men of high ability, courage, and purity, had pursued with unvarying consistency a system of moderation, at first from a sincere desire to avoid a revolution, if it could be done without a surrender of American rights; and when that hope failed, with the purpose of making it manifest to all, that the plan of independence was adopted from necessity.

In this manner only could they stand acquitted of the guilt of needlessly provoking war, and unite in the impending struggle the large majority of the people. It was also obviously wise to delay the outbreak of actual hostilities till warlike stores could be imported, and the women and children of a rich and populous city be removed from danger. This system was maintained alike by the prudent and the bold; by Livingston and Jay, by John Morin Scott and Macdougall. [275] A sort of truce was permitted; the British men-of-

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Jan.
war were not fired upon; and in return the commerceof the port was not harassed, so that vessels laden with provisions, to purchase powder in St. Eustatia, went and came without question. A small party in the city, insignificant in numbers and in weight of character, clamored at this forbearance; and with rash indiscretion would have risked ultimate success for the gratification of momentary passion. Of these the most active was Isaac Sears, who, as a son of liberty, had merited high praise for his fearlessness. Vexed at his want of influence, impatient at being overlooked, and naturally inclined to precipitate counsels, he left the city for Connecticut, and returned with a party of mounted volunteers from that colony, who rode into the city and rifled the printing house of the tory Rivington. The committee of New York and its convention censured the riot, as an unwise infringement of the liberty of the press, and a dangerous example to their enemies; but as the unsolicited intermeddling of New England men in New York affairs, without concert with the New York committee and even without warning, it was resented by the Dutch, and universally by all moderate men. Jay and his colleagues were anxious, lest this high insult to the authority of the New York committee should confirm that jealous distrust of the eastern colonies, which the wise and the virtuous studied to suppress.

Disowned and censured by every branch of the popular representation of New York, vexed at not receiving a high appointment in the American navy, Sears repaired to the camp in Cambridge, and there found a hearer in Lee, to whom he represented that [276] the city and colony of New York were in imminent

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Jan.
danger from the tories; and that large bodies of unpaid volunteers from Connecticut would readily march to disarm them.

Meantime the New York provincial convention, in spite of many obstacles and delays, met in sufficient numbers to transact business; explained to the general congress the expediency of delaying the appeal to arms in their city till better preparations could be made; and requested that body to undertake the disarming of the disaffected on Long Island. All their suggestions were approved, and made general in their application. After the report of a committee, consisting of Samuel Adams, William Livingston, and Jay, the several colonial conventions or committees were authorized to disarm ‘the unworthy Americans who took the part of their oppressors;’ and were carefully invested with full authority to direct and control the continental troops who might be employed in this delicate service. Colonel Nathaniel Heard of Woodbridge, New Jersey, and Colonel Waterbury of Stamford in Connecticut, were then directed, each with five or six hundred minute men, to enter Long Island, and disarm every man in Queen's county who voted against sending deputies to the New York congress. On second thought, the march of the minute men from Connecticut was countermanded and the service assigned to the Jersey men alone, who, before the end of the month, aided by Lord Stirling's battalion and in perfect harmony with the New York committee of safety, executed their commission.

Early in January the commander in chief ascertained [277] that Clinton was about to embark from Bos-

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Jan.
ton, with troops, on a southern expedition, of which New York was believed to be the object; at the same time Lee, whose claim to ‘the character of a military genius and the officer of experience’ had not as yet been even suspected to be ‘false,’ desired to be detached from the army, that he might collect volunteers in Connecticut to secure New York and expel the tories, or ‘crush those serpents before their rattles were grown;’ and he urged the measure upon Washington, whether it exceeded his authority or not. After consulting John Adams, who was then with the provincial convention at Watertown, and who pronounced the plan to be practicable, expedient, and clearly authorized, Washington, uninformed of the measures already adopted, gave his consent to the request of Lee, expressly charging him to ‘keep always in view the declared intention of congress,’ and to communicate with the New York committee of safety; to whom he also wrote, soliciting their cooperation.

The proposed measure would have been warmly seconded, had its execution been entrusted to an officer who respected the civil authority; but Lee drove on under the sole guidance of his own judgment and self-will. As soon as he arrived in Connecticut, he found that Waterbury, obeying the countermand of the general congress, had disbanded his regiment; railing at congress for indecision, and cursing the provincial congress of New York, he forwarded no communication to the committee of safety of that colony, while he persuaded the governor and council of Connecticut not only to reassemble the regiment [278] of Waterbury, but to call out another under Ward.

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Jan.
In this manner Lee, who had never commanded so much as one regiment before he entered the American army, found himself in the separate command of two. Following his constant maxim, he usurped authority which he perfectly well knew did not belong to him, and appointed Sears assistant adjutant general with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

The tidings that Lee, with nearly fifteen hundred men of Connecticut, was advancing upon New York, without so much as intimating his design to its committee, or its inhabitants, offended the pride of the province, and increased a jealousy which afterwards proved unfavorable to federation. According to the American principle of the right of resistance, the wish to resort to force in New York must spring from within itself, and not be superimposed from abroad: Washington scrupulously respected the civil authority of each colony, as well as of the congress; Lee scoffed at the thought of being rigidly bound by either; and his movement seemed to have for its end to coerce New York, rather than to offer it his cooperation. The committee of safety, conscious of their readiness to devote their city as a sacrifice to the cause of America, despatched a messenger to Lee to request that the troops of Connecticut might not pass the border, till the purpose of their coming should be explained. Lee made a jest of the letter, as ‘wofully hysterical.’ He treated it as a sign of fear; and in his reply, he declared that ‘if the ships of war should make a pretext of his presence to fire on the town, the first house set in flames by their guns should be the funeral pile of some of their best friends;’ and [279] added, in his rant, that he would ‘chain one hundred

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Feb.
of them together by the neck.’

Both parties appealed to the general congress; and on motion of Edward Rutledge and Duane, Harrison, Lynch, and Allen, were sent from that body with powers of direction. On the first day of February the three envoys met the committee of New York, when John Morin Scott said for himself and his colleagues: ‘Our duty to our constituents and their dignity forbid the introduction of troops without our consent; but we will always obey the orders of congress;’ and they were satisfied with the assurance, that the troops would be under the control of the committee of the continental congress.

On the fourth, Lee entered the city of New York, just two hours after Clinton anchored in its harbor. Troops from the Jerseys and from Connecticut at the same time marched into town, and a transport, with two companies of British infantry and some Highlanders, came up to the docks. In the general consternation, women and children were removed from the city which for seven years to come was to know no peace; all the wagons that could be found were employed in transporting valuable effects; the flight in winter was attended with peculiar danger and distress; the opulent knew not where to find shelter; the poor, thrown upon the cold hands of exhausted charity in the interior towns and the Jerseys, suffered from a series of complicated wants. Both parties wished to delay extreme measures; Clinton pledged his honor that for the present no more British troops were coming, and said openly that he himself was on his way to North Carolina. But the work of [280] defence was not given up by the Americans; under the

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harmonizing influence of the continental committee, Lee and the New York committee held friendly conferences; the whole people showed a wonderful alacrity; and men and boys of all ages toiled with the greatest zeal and pleasure. To control the commerce of the Sound, a fortification was raised at Hellgate; on a height west of Trinity church, a battery was erected fronting the North River; that part of the old fort which faced Broadway was torn down; Lee and Lord Stirling, crossing to Long Island, marked out the ground for an intrenched camp, extending from the Wallabout to Gowanus Bay, and spacious enough to hold four thousand men; the connection between Long Island and New York was secured by a battery of forty guns at the foot of Wall street, and another of twenty guns a little further to the south. It was fondly hoped that the proposed fortifications would prove impregnable; the ships of war, without firing a gun, removed to the bay; and this state of peace and of confidence confirmed the preconceived notion of Lee's superior ability. The charm of exercising a separate command wrought a change in his caprices; and he who two months before had scorned the Americans as unworthy to aspire after independence, was now loud in praise of the doctrines of ‘Common Sense,’ and repudiated the thought of reconciliation with Britain, unless ‘the whole ministry should be condignly punished, and the king beheaded or dethroned.’

His zeal and his seeming success concentred upon him public confidence. ‘Canada,’ said Washington, ‘will be a fine field for the exertion of your admirable [281] talents, but your presence will be as neces-

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Feb.
sary in New York.’ In like manner Franklin wrote: ‘I am glad you are come to New York; but I also wish you could be in Canada;’ and on the nineteenth the congress destined him to ‘that most arduous service.’ John Adams, who had counselled his expedition to New York, wrote to him complacently, ‘that a luckier or a happier one had never been projected;’ and added: ‘We want you at New York; we want you at Cambridge; we want you in Virginia; but Canada seems of more importance, and therefore you are sent there. I wish you the laurels of Wolfe and Montgomery, with a happier fate.’ Elated by such homage, Lee indulged his natural propensities, and made bold to ask money of the New York congress; ‘two thousand dollars at the least,’ said he; ‘if you could make it twenty five hundred it would be more convenient to me;’ and they allowed him the gratuity. ‘When I leave this place,’ so he wrote to Washington on the last day of February, the ‘provincial congress and inhabitants will relapse into their hysterics; the men-of-war will return to their wharfs, and the first regiments from England will take quiet possession of the town.’ Those about him chimed in with his revilings. ‘Things will never go well,’ said Waterbury, ‘unless the city of New York is crushed down by the Connecticut people;’ and Sears set no bounds to his contumelious abuse of the committee of New York and its convention.

On the first of March, after a warm contest among

the delegates of various colonies, each wishing to have him where they had most at stake, on the motion of [282] Edward Rutledge, Lee was invested with the com-
Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Mar.
mand of the continental forces south of the Potomac. ‘As a Virginian, I rejoice at the change;’ wrote Washington, who had, however, already discovered that the officer so much courted, was both ‘violent and fickle.’ On the seventh he left New York, but not without one last indulgence of his turbulent temper. The continental congress had instructed him to put the city in the best possible state of defence; and this he interpreted as a grant of unlimited authority. He therefore arrested men at discretion, and deputed power to Sears to offer a prescribed test oath to a registered number of suspected persons, and, if they refused it, to send them to Connecticut as irreclaimable enemies. To the rebuke of the New York convention, he answered: ‘When the enemy is at our door, forms must be dispensed with;’ and on the eve of his departure, he gave Ward of Connecticut the sweeping order, ‘to secure the whole body of professed tories on Long Island.’ The arbitrary orders were resented by all the New York delegates as ‘a high encroachment upon the rights of the representatives of a free people,’ and were unequivocally condemned and reversed by congress.

Instead of hastening to his new command, Lee loitered at Philadelphia, till, on the fifteenth,‘Richard Henry Lee and Franklin were directed to request him to repair forthwith to his southern department.’

The expedition to the Carolinas never met the ap-

proval of Howe, who condemned the activity of the southern governors, and would have had them avoid all disputes, till New York should be recovered. When Lord Dunmore learned from Clinton that Cape [283] Fear River was the place appointed for the meeting
Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Jan.
of the seven regiments from Ireland, he broke out into angry complaints, that no heed had been paid to his representations, his sufferings, and his efforts; that Virginia, ‘the first on the continent for riches, power, and extent,’ was neglected; and the preference given to ‘a poor, insignificant colony,’ where there were no pilots, nor a harbor that could admit half the fleet, and where the army, should it land, must wade for many miles through a sandy pine barren before it could reach the inhabited part of the country.

But Martin, who had good reason to expect the arrival of the armament in January or early in February, was infatuated with the hope, that multitudes, even in the county of Brunswick, would revolt ‘from their new-fangled government;’ and ‘his unwearied, persevering agent,’ Alexander Maclean, after a careful computation of the numbers that would flock to the king's standard from the interior, brought written assurances from the principal persons to whom he had been directed, that between two and three thousand men, of whom about half were well armed, would take the field at the governor's summons. Under this encouragement he was sent again into the back country, with a commission dated the tenth of January, authorizing Allan Macdonald of Kingsborough, and eight other Scots of Cumberland and Anson, and seventeen persons who resided in a belt of counties in middle Carolina and in Rowan, to raise and array all the king's loyal subjects, and to march with them in a body to Brunswick by the fifteenth of February. Donald Macdonald, then in his sixty [284] fifth year, was to command the army as brigadier;

Chap. LVII.} 1776. Feb.
next him in rank was Donald Macleod.

The first return to Martin represented that the loyalists were in high spirits; that their force would amount even to six thousand men; that they were well furnished with wagons and horses; and that by the twentieth or twenty fifth of February at furthest they would be in possession of Wilmington, and within reach of the king's ships. On receiving their commission, William Campbell, Neil MacArthur, and Donald Macleod issued circular letters, inviting all their associates to meet on the fifth of February at Cross Creek, or, as it is now called, Fayetteville. At the appointed time all the Scots appeared, and four only of the rest. The Scots, who could promise no more than seven hundred men, advised to await the arrival of the British troops; the other royalists, who boasted that they could bring out five thousand, of whom five hundred were already embodied, prevailed in their demand for an immediate rising. But the Highlanders, whose past conflicts were ennobled by their courage and fidelity to one another, whose sorrows, borne for generations with fortitude, deserved at last to find relief; were sure to keep their word: from a blind instinct of kindred, they took up arms for a cause in which their traditions and their affections had no part; while many of the chiefs of the loyalists shrunk from danger to hiding places in swamps and forests. Employing a few days to collect his army, which was composed chiefly of Highlanders and remnants of the old Regulators, Macdonald, on the eighteenth, began his march for Wilmington, and at evening his army, of which the number was very [285] variously estimated, encamped on the Cape Fear river,

Chap. LVII.} 1776. Feb.
four miles below Cross Creek.

On that same day Moore, who, at the first menace of danger, took the field at the head of his regiment, and lay in an intrenched camp at Rockfish, was joined by Lillington, with one hundred and fifty minute men from Wilmington, by Kenon with two hundred of the Duplin militia, and by Ashe with about a hundred volunteer independent rangers; so that his number was increased to eleven hundred.

On the nineteenth the royalists were paraded, with a view to assail Moore on the following night; but his camp was too strong to be attempted; and at the bare suspicion of such a project, two companies of Cotton's corps ran off with their arms. On that day Donald Macdonald, their commander, sent Donald Morrison with a proclamation, prepared the month before by Martin, calling on Moore and his troops to join the king's standard, or to be considered as enemies. Moore made answer instantly, that ‘neither his duty nor his inclination permitted him to accept terms so incompatible with American freedom;’ and in return, he besought Macdonald not to array the deluded people under his command, against men who were resolved to hazard every thing in defence of the liberties of mankind. ‘You declare sentiments of revolt, hostility, and rebellion to the king and to the constitution,’ was Macdonald's prompt answer; ‘as a soldier in his majesty's service, it is my duty to conquer, if I cannot reclaim, all those who may be hardy enough to take up arms against the best of masters.’ But knowing that Caswell, at the head of the gallant minute men of Newbern, and others to the number [286] of six or eight hundred, was marching through

Chap. LVII.} 1775. Feb.
Duplin county, to effect a junction with Moore, Macdonald became aware of the extremity of his danger; cut off from the direct road along the Cape Fear, he resolved to leave the army at Rockfish in his rear, and by celerity of movement, and crossing rivers at unexpected places, to disengage himself from that larger force, and encounter the party with Caswell alone. Before marching, he urged his men to fidelity, expressed bitter scorn of ‘the base cravens who had deserted the night before;’ and continued: ‘If any amongst you is so faint-hearted as not to serve with the resolution of conquering or dying, this is the time for such to declare themselves.’ The speech was answered by a general huzza for the king; but from Cotton's corps about twenty men laid down their arms. The army then marched to Fayetteville, employed the night in crossing the Cape Fear, sunk their boats, and sent a party fifteen miles in advance to secure the bridge over South River. This the main body passed on the twenty first, and took the direct route to Wilmington. On the day on which they effected the passage, Moore detached Lillington and Ashe to reenforce Caswell, or, if that could not be effected, to occupy Moore's Creek bridge.

On the following days the Scots and Regulators drew near to Caswell, who perceived their purpose, and changed his own course the more effectually to intercept their march. On the twenty third they thought to overtake him, and were arrayed in the order of battle, eighty able-bodied Highlanders, armed with broadswords, forming the centre of the army; but Caswell was already posted at Corbett's Ferry, [287] and could not be reached for want of boats. The

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Feb.
royalists were in extreme danger; but at a point six miles higher up the Black River a negro succeeded in raising for their use a broad shallow boat; and while Maclean and Fraser, with a few men, a drum and a pipe, were left to amuse Caswell, the main body of the loyalists crossed Black River near what is now Newkirk Bridge.

On the twenty fifth Lillington, who had not as yet been able to join Caswell, took post with his small party on the east side of the bridge over Moore's Creek. On the afternoon of the twenty sixth, Caswell reached its west side, and raising a small breastwork and destroying a part of the bridge, awaited the enemy, who on that day advanced within six miles of him. A messenger from the loyalists, sent to his camp under the pretext of summoning him to return to his allegiance, brought back word that he had halted upon the same side of the river with themselves, and could be attacked with advantage; but the wise Carolina commander, who was one of the best woodmen in the province, as well as a man of superior ability, had no sooner misled his enemy, than lighting up fires and leaving them burning, he crossed the creek, took off the planks from the bridge, and placed his men behind trees and such slight intrenchments as the night permitted to be thrown up.

The loyalists, expecting an easy victory, unanimously agreed that his camp should be immediately assaulted. His force at that time amounted to a thousand men, consisting of the Newbern minute men, of militia from Craven, Johnson, Dobbs, and Wake counties, and the detachment under Lillington. The [288] army under Macdonald, who was himself confined to

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Feb.
his tent by illness, numbered between fifteen and sixteen hundred. At one o'clock in the morning of the twenty seventh, the loyalists, commanded by Donald Macleod, began their march; but it cost so much time to cross an intervening morass, that it was within an hour of daylight before they reached the western bank of the creek. There they had expected to find Caswell encamped; they entered the ground in three columns without resistance, for Caswell and all his force had taken post on the opposite side. The Scots were now within lessthan twenty miles of Wilmington; orders were directly given to reduce the columns, and for the sake of concealment to form the line of battle within the verge of the wood; the rallying cry was, ‘King George and broadswords;’ the signal for the attack, three cheers, the drum to beat and the pipes to play. It was still dark; Macleod, who led the van of about forty, was challenged at the bridge by the Carolina sentinels, asking: ‘Who goes there?’ He answered: ‘A friend.’—‘A friend to whom?’— ‘To the king.’ Upon this the sentinels bent themselves down with their faces towards the ground. Macleod then challenged them in Gaelic, thinking they might be some of his own party who had crossed the bridge; receiving no answer, he fired his own piece, and ordered those with him to fire. Of the bridge that separated the Scots and the Carolinians, nothing had been left but the two logs, which had served as sleepers; only two persons therefore could pass at a time. Donald Macleod and John Campbell rushed forward and succeeded in getting over; Highlanders who followed with broadswords, were shot [289] down on the logs, falling into the deep and muddy
Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Feb.
water of the creek. Macleod, who was greatly esteemed for his valor and his worth, was mortally wounded; and yet he was seen to rise repeatedly from the ground, flourishing his sword and encouraging his men to come on, till he received twenty six, or as some say thirty six balls in his body. Campbell also was shot dead. It was impossible to furnish men for the deadly pass, and in a very few minutes the assailants fled in irretrievable despair. The Americans had but three wounded, one only mortally; of their opponents, about thirty, less than fifty at most, were killed and mortally wounded, most of them while passing the bridge. The routed fugitives could never be rallied; during the following day the aged Macdonald, their general, and many others of the chief men, were taken prisoners; amongst the rest, Macdonald of Kingsborough and one of his sons, who were at first confined in Halifax jail and afterwards transferred to Reading in Pennsylvania. Thirteen wagons, with complete sets of horses, eighteen hundred stand of arms, one hundred and fifty swords, two medicine chests just received from England, a box containing fifteen thousand pounds sterling in gold, fell to the victors; eight or nine hundred common soldiers were taken, disarmed, and dismissed.

A generous zeal pervaded all ranks of people in every part of North Carolina; in less than a fortnight more than nine thousand four hundred men had risen against the enemy; and the coming of Clinton inspired no terror. They knew well the difficulty of moving from the sea into their back country, and almost every man was ready to turn out at an hour's [290] warning. Moore, under orders from the council, dis-

Chap. LVIII.} 1776. Feb.
armed the Highlanders and Regulators of the back country, and sent the ringleaders to Halifax jail. Virginia offered assistance, and South Carolina would gladly have contributed relief; but North Carolina had men enough of her own to crush the insurrection and guard against invasion; and as they marched in triumph through their piny forests, they were persuaded that in their own woods they could win an easy victory over British regulars. Martin had promised the king to raise ten thousand recruits; the storeship, with their ten thousand stands of arms and two millions of cartridges, was then buffeting the storms of the Atlantic; and he could not supply a single company. North Carolina remained confident, secure, and tranquil; the terrors of a fate like that of Norfolk could not dismay the patriots of Wilmington; the people spoke more and more of independence; and the provincial congress, at its impending session, was expected to give an authoritative form to the prevailing desire.

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