The British retreat from Pennsylvania
The rescript of France
, which announced to the
British ministry her acknowledgment of American independence, assumed as a principle of public law that a nationality may, by its own declaration, speak itself into being.
The old systems of the two governments were reversed.
The British monarchy, which from the days of William of Orange
had been the representative of toleration and liberty, put forth its strength in behalf of unjust authority; while France
became the foster-mother of republicanism.
In one respect France
was more suited than Britain to lead the peoples of Europe
in the road to freedom.
On the release of her rural population from serfdom, a large part of them retained rights to the soil; and, though bowed down under grievous burdens and evil laws, they had a shelter and acres from which they could not be evicted.
The saddest defect in English life was the absence of a class of
small freeholders, the class which constituted the
strength of France
, of the most enlightened parts of Germany
, and of the states which Great Britain
had formed by colonization.
, though ‘the property by feudal law was strictly in the tenant,’1
the feudal chiefs had taken to themselves in absolute ownership nearly all the ground; the landless people, dependent in the rural districts on their lords, were never certain of their to-morrow; and the government was controlled by an aristocracy which had no political check but in the crown.
On the fourth of May the treaties of commerce
and alliance with Louis the Sixteenth were unanimously ratified by congress, with grateful acknowledgments of his magnanimous and disinterested conduct, and the ‘wish that the friendship so happily commenced between France
and the United States
might be perpetuated.’
The rivalries of centuries, in which the Americans
had been involved only from their dependence on England
, were effaced for ever; all Frenchmen became their friends, and the king of France
was proclaimed ‘the protector of the rights of mankind.’
's camp Lafayette smiled as he read, that his government dated the independence of America
from the moment of its own declaration, and said prophetically: ‘Therein lies a principle of national sovereignty which one day will be recalled to them at home.’
On the sixth the alliance was
celebrated at Valley Forge
After a salute of thirteen cannon and a running fire of all the musketry,
the army, drawn up in two lines, shouted: ‘Long
live the king of France
and again: ‘Long live the friendly European
and the ceremonies were closed by a huzza for the American
In an address to the inhabitants of the United States, congress assumed that independence was secured, and they proclaimed the existence of a new people, though they could not hide its want of a government.
They rightly represented its territory as of all others the most extensive and most blessed in its climate and productions; they confessed financial embarrassments, because no taxes had been laid to carry on the war; and they invited their countrymen to ‘bring forth their armies into the field,’ while men of leisure were encouraged to collect moneys for the public funds.
In return for all losses, they promised ‘the sweets of a free commerce with every part of the earth.’
On the eighteenth of May a festival was given to General Howe
by thirty of his officers, most of them members of his staff.
The numerous company embarked on the Delaware
above the town, and, to the music of one hundred and eight hautboys, rowed two miles down the stream in galleys and boats, glittering with colors and streamers.
They passed two hundred transport vessels tricked out in bravery and crowded with lookers-on; and, landing to the tune of ‘God save the king’ under salutes from two decorated ships of war, they marched between lines of cavalry and infantry and all the standards of the army to a lawn, where, in presence of their chosen ladies raised on thrones, officers, fantastically dressed as knights and squires, engaged in a tournament.
After this they proceeded under an ornamented
arch to a splendidly furnished house, where dancing began; and a gaming table was opened with a bank of two thousand guineas.
The tickets of admission described the guest of the night as the setting sun, bright at his going down, but destined to rise in greater glory; and fireworks in dazzling letters promised him immortal laurels.
At midnight a supper of four hundred and thirty covers was served under the light of twelve hundred wax candles, and was enlivened by an orchestra of more than one hundred instruments.
Dancing continued till the sun
was more than an hour high.2
Never had subordinates given a more brilliant farewell to a departing general: and it was doubly dear to their commander; for it expressed their belief that the ministry had wronged him, and that his own virtue pointed him out for advancement.
The festival was hardly over, when Howe
was informed that Lafayette
, with twenty-five hundred men and eight cannon, had crossed the Schuylkill
, and, twelve miles from Valley Forge
, had taken a post of observation on the range of Barren Hill
Flushed with the hope of ending his American career with lustre, he resolved by a swift movement to capture the party.
At ten on the night of the nineteenth, he sent Grant
at the head of fifty-three hundred chosen men, with the best guides, to gain by roundabout ways the rear of Lafayette
were followed the next morning by fifty-seven hundred selected troops, commanded by Howe
himself, assisted by Clinton
, with Lord
to witness the discomfit of the youthful gen-
eral, whom he was to ship to England
At Chestnut Hill
they were to meet the American
party after its rout; but they listened in vain for the sound of cannon, and at noon Grant
came in sight with only his own detachment.
had been surprised and his direct communication with Valley Forge cut off; but a lower ford called Matson
's, which was nearer to Grant
than to him, remained unoccupied.
Sending small parties into the woods, to present themselves as the heads of attacking columns, he had deceived his antagonist, and crossed the ford while Grant
was preparing to give battle.
Wayworn and crestfallen, Howe
returned to the city.
On the twenty-fourth he gave up to Sir Henry
Clinton the command of an army which excelled in discipline, health, and alertness.
Of the officers who attended him to the place of embarkation, the most gallant shed tears at the parting; and Knyphausen
, from deep emotion, could not finish the address which he began in their name.
Brave and an adept in military science, Howe
had failed in the conduct of the war from sluggish dilatoriness, want of earnest enterprise, and love of the pleasures which excite a coarse nature.
On landing near Bunker Hill
he had sufficient troops to have turned the position of the Americans
; but he delayed just long enough for them to prepare for his attack.
He was driven out of Boston
from his most unmilitary neglect to occupy Dorchester heights
which overlook the town.
He took his troops in midwinter to the bleak, remote, and then scarcely inhabited Halifax
, instead of sailing to Rhode Island
or some convenient nook on Long Island
sound, where he would have found a milder climate, greater resources, and nearness to the scene of his next campaign.
In the summer of 1776, marching by night to attack General Putnam
in his lines at Brooklyn
, he lost the best chance of success by halting his men for rest and breakfast.
When his officers still reported to him that they could easily storm the American
intrenchments, he forbade them to make the attempt.
His want of vigilance was so great that he let Washington pass
a day in collecting boats, and a night and morning in retreating across an arm of the sea, and knew not what was done till he was roused from slumber after sunrise.
When with his undivided force he might have reached Philadelphia
, he detached four brigades and eleven ships of war to Rhode Island
, where the troops remained for three years in idle uselessness.
Failing to cross the Delaware
, he occupied New Jersey
with insulated detachments which Washington
was able to cut to pieces in detail.
In 1777, instead of an early and active campaign, he lingered in New York till midsummer, and then neglected to make a connection with Burgoyne
He passed the winter in Philadelphia
without once attempting to break up the American
camp at Valley Forge
, corrupting his own army by his example of licentiousness, and teaching the younger officers how to ruin themselves by gaming.
The manner in which he threw up his command was a defiance of his government, and an open declaration to all Europe3
that the attempt of England
to reduce its colonies must certainly fail.
affections of his officers were so won by indulgence,
that they parted from such a general as though they were bidding farewell to a meritorious commander.
Nothing saved him from reprobation in England
but that Lord George Germain
had made mistakes still graver than his own.
Meantime Lord Howe and Sir Henry Clinton
acting under special instructions, separately communicated the three conciliatory acts of parliament to congress, who received them on the sixth of June, and on the same day answered: ‘They have in April last expressed their sentiments upon bills not essentially different from those acts.
When the king of Great Britain
shall be seriously disposed to end the unprovoked war waged against these United States
, they will readily attend to such terms of peace as may consist with the honor of independent nations and the sacred regard they mean to pay to treaties.’
On the day of this second rejection of Lord North's offers, the three British commissioners arrived in Philadelphia
In sailing up the Delaware
, they had seen enough ‘to regret ten thousand times that their rulers, instead of a tour through the worn-out countries of Europe
, had not finished their education with a visit round the coasts and rivers of this beautiful and boundless continent.’
The English rivers shrunk for them into rills; they predicted that in a few years the opulent ‘village’ of Philadelphia
, which it seemed to them most melancholy to desert, would become a magnificent metropolis.
The result of their mission was watched with intense interest throughout all Europe
, especially at Versailles
and in the Netherlands; but the creation of their office was a mere
device to aid Lord North in governing the house of
commons, and to ‘reconcile the people of England
to a continuance of the war.’4 Carlisle
, the first commissioner, had in the house of lords ‘spoken with warmth upon the insolence of the rebels’ for refusing to treat with the Howes, and had stigmatized the people of America
as ‘base and unnatural children’ of England
The second commissioner was an under-secretary, whose chief, a few weeks before, in the same assembly, had scoffed at congress as a ‘body of vagrants.’5
The third was Johnstone
, who had lately in parliament justified the Americans
and charged the king with hypocrisy.
There never was any expectation on the part of the ministry that the commission would be successful, or it would have been differently constituted.
In the certainty that it would not be received, Germain
had given orders for the prosecution of the war, and on a different plan,6
such as a consciousness of weakness might inspire in a cruel and revengeful mind.
was ordered to abandon Philadelphia
; to hold New York and Rhode Island
; to curtail the boundaries of the thirteen states on the north-east and on the south; to lay waste Virginia
by means of ships of war; and to attack Providence
, and all accessible ports between New York and Nova Scotia
, destroying vessels, wharfs, stores, and materials for ship-building.
At the same time the Indians, from Detroit7
all along the frontiers of the west and
, were to be hounded on to spread
dismay and to murder.
No active operations at the north were expected, except the devastation of towns on the sea, and raids of the allied savages on the border.
The king, under his sign-manual, ordered Clinton
to detach five thousand men for the conquest of the French
island, St. Lucia
As the commissioners stepped on shore to receive
the submission of the colonies,10
and on their submission to pardon their rebellion, they found to their extreme surprise and chagrin11
that orders for the immediate evacuation of Philadelphia
had preceded them, and were just being executed.
About three thousand of the most tenderly bred of the inhabitants were escaping to embark in British ships.
‘The commission,’ it was said, ‘can do no good now: if Philadelphia
is left to the rebels, independence is acknowledged, and America
In the streets that lately had the air of one continuous marketday, the stillness was broken by auctions of furniture which lay in heaps on the sidewalks.
Those who resolved to stay roused mournfully from a delusive confidence in British protection to restless anxiety.
In this strait the commissioners, as representatives of Britain, thought fit, in a communication to congress sealed with the image of a fond mother caressing her children,12
to recognise the constituency
of congress as ‘states,’ and pressed them to accept
perfect freedom of legislation and of internal government, representation in parliament, and an exemption from the presence of military forces, except with their own permission; in short, the gratification of ‘every wish that America had expressed.’
And they insinuated that France
was the common enemy.
These offers, which were made without authority13
and were therefore fraudulent, they wrote from a flying army; and, before an answer could be received, they had sailed down the Delaware
The land crowned with stately forests, and seeming to them the richest country in the world; the river covered with vessels in full sail crowded with people leaving the city of their birth and all their property, except what they could carry with them, and hurrying from an enemy consisting in part of relations and friends,—presented a spectacle the most beautiful and the most sad.
Congress resented the letter of the commissioners as an offence to their own honor and to their ally.
They knew that their wars with France
had been but a consequence of their connection with England
; that independence was peace; and, by a unanimous vote, they on the seventeenth made answer as before:
‘The idea of dependence is inadmissible.
Congress will be ready to enter upon a treaty of peace and commerce, when the king of Great Britain
shall demonstrate a sincere disposition for that purpose by an explicit acknowledgment of the independence of these states, or withdrawing his fleets and armies.’
The American officers were of the same mind, except
, who was false, and Gates
, who, in the belief that
everything contended for was granted, wished a conference with the commissioners.
, reproving Johnstone
for addressing him a private letter, assured him that ‘the voice of congress was the general voice of the people.’
The convention of Saratoga
had been broken by the British
at the time of the surrender by the concealment of the public chest and other public property of which the United States
were thus defrauded.
In November, 1777, Burgoyne
had written a rash and groundless complaint of its violation by the Americans
, and raised the implication that he might use the pretended breach to disengage himself and his government from all its obligations.
In January, 1778, congress suspended the embarkation of his army until his capitulation should be expressly confirmed by the court of Great Britain
Congress had also made a demand for lists of all persons comprehended in the surrender; and a compliance with this very proper and even necessary requisition had been refused.
The commissioners now desired to intervene and negotiate for leave for the captives to return to Europe
But their powers under their appointment reached the case only by construction; and their acts might be disclaimed by their government as unwarranted.
Besides, by their attempts at bribery, they had forfeited every claim to confidence.
Congress, therefore, on the fourth of September, without a dissentient voice, resolved to detain the troops till it should receive the most formal and irrevocable ratification of the convention by the highest authority in Great Britain
, on their
side, complained that an essential condition of the
Chap. IV.} 1778. June 17.
capitulation remained unexecuted.
On the night following the seventeenth of June, Sir Henry Clinton
crossed the Delaware
with more than seventeen thousand effective men. To the loyalists the retreat appeared as a violation of the plighted faith of the British
The winter's revelry was over; honors and offices turned suddenly to bitterness and ashes; papers of protection were become only an opprobrium and a peril.
Crowds of wretched refugees, with all of their possessions which they could transport, fled with the army.
The sky sparkled with stars; the air of the summer night was
soft and tranquil, as the exiles, broken in fortune and without a career, went in despair from the only city they could love.
Had the several states fully met the requisitions of congress, the army of Washington
would have been the master of New Jersey
; but while it was pining from their delinquency, Lee
, then second in command, was treacherously plotting its ruin.
His loud faultfinding was rebuked by the general for its ‘very mischievous’ tendency.14
To secure to the British
a retreat ‘on velvet,’15
he had the effrontery to assert that, on leaving Philadelphia
, they would move to the south.
But the attempt to mislead Washington
In a council on the seventeenth, Lee
advised that it would not be safe to attack the British
, and carried with him all the officers except Greene
, and Cadwalader
Unmoved by the apathy of so many, Washington
sixteen miles above Trenton
, and de-
Chap. IV.} 1778. June 24.
's brigade of nine hundred to assist a party of a thousand Jersey
militia in destroying the roads, and Morgan
with a corps of six hundred to hang upon the enemy's right, he moved with the main army to Hopewell
There, on the twentyfourth, Lee
insisted in council that the Americans
should rather build a bridge for the retreat of their enemies, than attack so well-disciplined an army.
replied that it would be shameful to suffer the British
to cross New Jersey
with impunity; that, without extreme risk, it was possible to engage their rear, and to take advantage of any favorable opportunity: yet Lord Stirling and most of the brigadiers again sided with Lee
. From Allentown
general, fearing danger in crossing the Raritan
, decided to march by way of Monmouth
to Sandy Hook
; and Washington
followed him in a parallel line, ready to strike his force at right angles.
The parties in advance, increased by Scott
with fourteen hundred and forty men, and on the twenty-
fifth by Wayne
with a thousand more, composed a third of the army, and formed a fit command for the oldest major-general.
refused it, saying that the plans of the commander-in-chief
must surely fail.
Upon this Washington
intrusted it to Lafayette
, who marched towards the enemy with alacrity.
now fretted at the wrong which he pretended was done to himself and to Lord Stirling.
heard him unmoved, he wrote to Lafayette
: ‘My fortune and my honor are in your hands: you are too generous to ruin the one or the other.’
And this appeal succeeded.
On the twenty-sixth Lee
was sent forward with
Chap. IV.} 1778. June 27.
two brigades, to command the whole advance party, with orders to attack the enemy's rear.
Intense heat and heavy rains held both armies quiet on the twentyseventh; but just after noon on that day Washington
, summoning the generals to headquarters, instructed them to engage the enemy on the next morning; and he directed Lee
to concert with his officers the mode of attack.
But when Lafayette
, and Maxwell
at the appointed hour came to Lee
, he refused to form a plan, so that none was made.
Nor did he attempt to gain knowledge of the ground on which he was ordered to fight.
In the evening he was charged by Washington
to detach a party of six or eight hundred skirmishers to lie very near the enemy, and delay them, if they should move off at night, or early in the morning.
The order was executed too tardily to have effect.
Informed, at five in the morning of the twenty-
eighth, that the British
had begun their march from Monmouth
remained inert, till Washington
, who was the first to be in motion, sent him orders to attack the British
rear, unless there should be very powerful reasons to the contrary, promising to come up rapidly to his support.
He obeyed so far as to move, but languidly, without a plan, and without any concert with his generals, or of them with one another.
To a proposal of Lafayette
answered: ‘You don't know the British
soldiers: we cannot stand against them.’
Upon this Lafayette
sent to Washington
, that his presence on the field was needed; and twice were similar messages sent by Laurens
Having orders to attack the enemy's left, Lafayette
counter orders before he had proceeded one quarter
Chap. IV.} 1778. June 28.
of the way. Wayne
was on the point of engaging the enemy in earnest, when he was enjoined only to make a feint.
There was marching and conntermarching, crossing and recrossing a bridge, and a halt for an hour.
To a French officer who expressed surprise, Lee
said: ‘I have orders from congress and the commander-in-chief
not to engage.’
Yet, to appear to do something, he professed as his object to cut off a small covering party.
Thus Sir Henry Clinton
gained time for preparation.
His baggage, which occupied a line of eight miles or more, was sent onward, protected by a strong force under Knyphausen
The division of Cornwallis, and a brigade and a regiment of dragoons from Knyphausen
's division, remained behind.
At about eight in the morning Clinton
sent against Lee
two regiments of cavalry with the grenadiers, guards, and highlanders.
should now have ordered a retreat; but he left the largest part of his command to act for themselves, and then expressed indignation that they had retreated, confessing in the same breath that this act alone saved them from destruction.
There had been no engagement, attack, or skirmish; nor was anything done to check the enemy as they followed the Americans
through a narrow defile; nor was an order sent by Lee
to any of the parties to rally, or a report transmitted to the commander-in-chief
encountered the fugitives, he, in a voice of anger, demanded of Lee
: ‘What is the meaning of this?’
Abashed and confused, Lee
stammered: ‘Sir—Sir,’ and to the renewed inquiry answered: ‘You know that the attack was contrary
to my advice and opinion.’16 Washington
Chap. IV.} 1778. June 28.
‘You should not have undertaken the command, unless you intended to carry it through.’
The precipitate flight of Lee
, whether due to necessity, or the want of ability, or treachery, spread a baleful influence.
The flower of the British
army, led by Clinton
and Cornwallis and numbering from six to eight thousand, were hotly chasing an unresisting enemy, when Washington
, with his faculties quickened by the vexations of the morning and with cheerful ‘trust in that Providence
which had never failed the country in its hour of distress,’ took measures to arrest the retreat.
As the narrow road through which the enemy came on was bounded on each side by a morass, he swiftly formed two of the retreating regiments of Wayne
's brigade, commanded by Stewart
, in front of the pursuers and under their fire; and thus gained time to plant the troops that were advancing with him upon good ground.
This being done, he again met Lee
, who was doing nothing, ‘like one in a private capacity;’ and, finding in him no disposition to retrieve his character,17
ordered him to the rear.
gladly left the
field, believing that the Americans
would be utterly
Chap. IV.} 1778. June 28.
hoped for no more than an orderly retreat, and Hamilton
's thought was to die on the spot.
's self-possession, his inspiring mien, his exposure of himself to every danger, and the obvious wisdom of his orders kindled the enthusiasm of officers and men; while Lee
in the rear, sitting idly on horseback, explained to bystanders that ‘the attempt was madness and could not be successful.’
The British cavalry were easily driven back, and showed themselves no more.
The regiments of foot came up next; but they could not turn the left flank where Stirling
commanded, without exposing their own right to the American
The attack upon the right where Greene
commanded was defeated by his battery; while others encountered the grenadiers and guards till they turned and fled.
As they rallied and came back to the charge, Wayne
with a body of infantry engaged them face to face till they were again repulsed after great slaughter, Lieutenant-Colonel Monckton
falling at the head of the grenadiers.
During the day the heat reached ninety-six degrees in the shade, and many on both sides, struck by the sun, fell dead without a wound.
retreated through the pass by which they had advanced, and occupied a position accessible in front only by the narrow road, and protected on both flanks by woods and morasses which could not be turned before night.
Two American brigades hung on their right, a third on their left; while the rest of the army planted their standards on the field of battle, and lay on their arms to renew the contest
, abandoning his severely
wounded and leaving his dead unburied, withdrew his forces before midnight; and at the early dawn they found shelter in the highlands of Middleburg
then marched towards the North
river; the British
for New York by way of Sandy Hook
On receiving the English
accounts, Frederic of Prussia
gained no advantage except to reach New York with the wreck of his army; America is probably lost for England
Of the Americans
who were in the engagement two hundred and twenty-nine were killed or wounded; of the British
more than four hundred, and above eight hundred deserted their standard during their march through the Jerseys.
In the battle which took its name from the adjacent village of Monmouth
, the American
generals, except Lee
, did well: Wayne
especially established his fame.
The army and the whole country resounded with the praises of Washington
, and congress unanimously thanked him ‘for his great good conduct and victory.’
Nor may history omit to record that, of the ‘revolutionary patriots’ who on that day perilled life for their country, more than seven hundred black18 Americans
fought side by side with the white.
After the battle Lee
was treated from headquarters with forbearance; but in two letters to the commander-in-chief
he avowed the expectation that the campaign would close the war,—that is, that the terms offered by the British
commissioners would be accepted,—and demanded reparation for injustice
A court-martial found him guilty of
disobedience, misbehavior before the enemy, and disrespect to the commander-in-chief
, and all too leniently did but suspend him from command for twelve months. After long delay congress confirmed the sentence; the next year it censured Lee
for obtaining money through British officers in New York; and in January, 1780, provoked by an impertinent letter, dismissed him from the service.
From that time he no longer concealed his wish for the return of America
to her old allegiance; and his chosen companions were the partisans of England
He persisted in advising a rotation in military office, so that Washington
might be removed; and for the United States
he predicted two years of anarchy, from 1780 to 1782, to be followed by an absolute tyranny.
Under the false colors of military genius and experience in war, he had solicited a command; after his appointment he had given the reins to self-will, so that misfortune overtook his treachery.
In October, 1782, sinking under a fever in a sordid inn at Philadelphia
, he died as he had lived, loving neither God nor man.
This year is memorable for the far-seeing advice of a neglected New-England
man, standing alone and sustained only by his own firmness of mind.
, who had taken part in the war that wrested Canada
, had, as a traveller, with rare intrepidity penetrated the wilderness beyond Green bay
and the Wisconsin river
to the west of what is now Minnesota
or even to Dakota
In the midst of the confusion of war, he published in England
his travels, with a preface full
of deep feeling and of happy predictions that mighty
states would emerge from these wildernesses; that solemn temples would supplant the Indian
huts which had no decorations but the barbarous trophies of their vanquished enemies; that, to those who would undertake it, a settlement on the Pacific
would bring emoluments beyond their most sanguine expectations, and would disclose new sources of trade, develop national advantages, and form the shortest and most convenient line of communication between Europe