AT GREEN SPRING
During the spring and early summer of 1781 two major considerations engulfed the mind of the British commander in chief. Always there was the fear that a combined army of the allies would invest the posts around New York Harbor, while a French Fleet blocked communication with the sea. When later intelligence reports indicated that no such operations were imminent, Clinton's mind then turned to an extensive strategical movement into the upper Chesapeake of a part of his army, in conjunction with about one-half of the troops from Virginia.
As early as the 11th of May Clinton feared that the French Fleet was about to sail from Rhode Island, and that probably Rochambeau's army was even then en route to join Washington. Two regiments and two battalions of infantry, that had previously embarked under Leslie as a reenforcement for Virginia, were being held by Arbuthnot outside of Sandy Hook until he had additional information relative to the safety of the passage down the coast. Clinton was strongly inclined to recall these troops to aid in the defense of the posts around New York. The convoy carrying Leslie's troops was finally permitted to sail, however, and it was this detachment which was mentioned as having joined Cornwallis in the James River about the 24th of May.
Again fear of the enemy took hold of Clinton when, early in June, he learned through intercepted letters that New York was threatened with a siege, and immediately a call was made upon Cornwallis for 2,000 troops. They were to be sent north at once, unless Cornwallis should be in the midst of preparations to engage
in an enterprise against Baltimore or the Delaware neck, as had been previously suggested by Clinton. The transmission of this dispatch, which was dated the 8th of June, was of such great importance that it was sent by a runner; and Cornwallis was directed to give orders to the officer commanding at Portsmouth "to dispatch a runner once a week while they last, whether he has anything material to say or not."
General Clinton's decision to reenforce the northern army at the expense of the army in Virginia was based upon an overestimation of Cornwallis's strength, and an underestimation of Lafayette's command. He interpreted an intercepted dispatch written by Lafayette as signifying that his command consisted only of the light infantry brought down from the north, and a mob of ineffective, unarmed militia. Furthermore, intelligence had reached Clinton that the Pennsylvania troops had revolted a second time; and that Wayne's men, who were being prepared at York Town, Pa., were involved in the mutiny. Cornwallis bitterly resented the implication in Clinton's dispatch that the militia were worthless by replying with pungent sarcasm:
I will not say much in praise of the militia of the southern colonies; but the list of British officers and soldiers killed and wounded by them since last June, proves but too fatally that they are not wholly contemptible.
Changes in plans now occurred with increasing rapidity—much faster than it was possible to transmit dispatches from New York to Virginia and receive replies; and the confusion which resulted was one of the several causes that eventually brought about the surrender of the British Army in Virginia. Upon the receipt of a letter from Cornwallis dated the 26th of May, Clinton learned that his project for operating in the upper Chesapeake was strongly opposed by Cornwallis. On the 11th of June he prepared a reply to this communication, in which was repeated his fear that New York was threatened with a siege; and he stated that there was a force of somewhat less than 11,000 effectives under his command to oppose the combined army of more than 20,000 men, which he
estimated would take part in the investment. He directed Cornwallis, as soon as the active operations which might be engaging his attention were completed, to take a defensive station at Williamsburg or Yorktown, reserving such troops as he might judge necessary for its protection and to make desultory movements by water, and to send the remainder of his command to New York. A list of the troops desired by Clinton was inclosed with the dispatch, the total of which was somewhat less than 3,000 men.
Clinton set forth in this letter his belief that friends could be found in Philadelphia who would render invaluable service in operations against that city, in which "are collected their principal depots of stores for the campaign, an immense quantity of European and West India commodities, and no inconsiderable supply of money." He announced his determination to give this project a fair trial "whenever it can be done with propriety."
Four days elapsed after the dispatch of the 11th was written, during which period a convoy loaded with stores for Virginia was held in the harbor, and the dispatch suffered a like delay. Clinton became impatient of this delay and on the 15th of June sent a duplicate of the letter by a runner. He ordered Cornwallis to embark immediately a part of the troops enumerated "and send them to me with all possible dispatch." The remainder of the organizations mentioned in the list was to be embarked as soon as Admiral Arbuthnot should send more transports into the Chesapeake. Clinton reiterated his purpose of not leaving "more troops in that unhealthy climate at this season of the year than what are absolutely wanted for a defensive, and desultory water excursions."
The runner reached Williamsburg on the 26th of June, the day after Cornwallis had established himself there, upon the termination of his offensive operations throughout the province. Many of the things written by Clinton hurt, and their sting was not mitigated because of the misapprehension of conditions in Virginia under which the commander in chief labored when he wrote. Cornwallis prepared his reply on the 30th of June and in it narrated, without egoism, what his army had accomplished in upper
Virginia and declared "that until Virginia was to a degree subjected, we could not reduce North Carolina, or have any certain hold of the back country of South Carolina." The lack of water communication rendered it impossible to maintain a sufficient army in either of those provinces at a considerable distance from the coast. Commenting on Clinton's proposed project of operations against Philadelphia, Cornwallis remarked:
We could not hope to arrive without their having had sufficient warning of our approach to enable them to secure specie, and the greatest part of their valuable public stores, by means of their boats and shipping, which give them certain possession of the river from Mud Island upwards.
Notwithstanding the injustice of Clinton's comments and the fallacy of his proposed operations, Cornwallis did not forget that he was only second in command, and loyally subordinated his will to that of the commander in chief.
Your Excellency being charged with the weight of the whole American war, your opinions of course are less partial, and are directed to all parts; to those opinions it is my duty implicitly to submit.
Cornwallis lost no time in taking measures to comply with Clinton's requisition for troops and ordered the few transports at Portsmouth to be made ready. He informed Clinton that as soon as he could pass the James and get the convoy prepared, he would embark all the troops the vessels would hold and send the others as fast as transports were received. "When I see Portsmouth," he wrote in this letter of June 30th, "I shall give my opinion of the number of men necessary for its defence, or of any other post that may be thought more proper." As Cornwallis did not think it possible to render any service in a defensive situation in Virginia, he expressed a willingness to repair to Charleston should Clinton give permission for the change.
During the several days that elapsed following the dispatching of the June 15th letter, intelligence reports at the headquarters of the British Army in New York were confined to rumors and conjectures as to what the enemy contemplated doing. "The
French Admiral meant to escape with his fleet to Boston," Clinton wrote on the 19th of June. It appeared certain that the combined French and American armies would attempt the investment of New York. It seemed highly probable that De Grasse would appear along the coast during the hurricane season in the West Indies. This possibility caused Clinton no great apprehension, "as Sir George Rodney seems to have the same suspicions of De Grasse's intention that we have, and will of course follow him hither." In view of all these conjectures Clinton informed Cornwallis that should he have—
any solid operation in the Chesapeake to propose, or have approved of the one I mentioned in my former letters [in the region of the upper Chesapeake], I shall not, as I have already told you, press you for the corps I wished to have sent me, at least for the present.
During the next nine days, however, and before additional intelligence as to the situation in Virginia had been received at British headquarters, Clinton departed from his usual vacillating policy and came to a definite decision that called for immediate action.
Having for very essential reasons come to a resolution of endeavouring by a rapid move to seize the stores, etc. collected at Philadelphia, and afterwards to bring the troops employed on that service to reinforce this post—
Clinton wrote on the 28th of June—
I am to request, that if your Lordship has not already embarked the reinforcement I called for in my letters of the 8th, 11th, 15th, and 19th instant, and should not be engaged in some very important move, * * * you will be pleased, as soon as possible, to order an embarkation of the troops specified below.
Then followed a list of the organizations desired by Clinton, which was almost the same as the one contained in his previous dispatches.
* * * * * * *
Meanwhile Cornwallis was actively engaged in preparing for the embarkation of the troops that had been ordered north in previous dispatches. The boats and other naval assistance under Captain Aplin having arrived in the river, the Royal Army marched from
Williamsburg on the 4th of July to a camp which protected the passage to James Island. A narrow inlet of water not more than 2 feet deep at ebb tide separated the island from the mainland. That evening the Queen's Rangers passed to the south bank of the James for the purpose of covering the crossing of the army. The legion cavalry and two companies of mounted infantry had been directed to protect the rear of the British column during its march to the James. With this in view, Tarleton proceeded to the vicinity of Lafayette's camp at Tyree's plantation and attacked the line of pickets. In the late afternoon he retired with his corps to where the British Army was encamped on the left bank of the river opposite James Island.
The following day the wheel carriages were sent across to Cobham, and on the 6th the bat horses and all the baggage followed. A well-selected position to cover the crossing had been chosen for the army. The right of the camp was protected by ponds and the center and left by morasses, over which passed a few narrow cause, ways. Should Lafayette attempt to contest the crossing, his troops would encounter difficulty in effecting a deployment of sufficient front to get into action. In truth Cornwallis hoped the marquis would venture upon some such enterprise, and that it would be possible to entrap at least part of his corps. Tarleton sent emissaries in the near locality to disseminate the news that the main body of the army had crossed the river, and that the detachment still on the north bank was merely a rear guard.
Lafayette lost no time in reestablishing the close contact with the British Army which had been temporarily interrupted upon the evacuation of Williamsburg, and on the morning of the 5th the Americans left their camp below New Kent Court House and advanced to Bird's Tavern. The next day Lafayette detached an advanced corps under Wayne with a view to reconnoiter the enemy's situation in the vicinity of Green Spring farm. That afternoon Wayne's covering party beat back a British patrol over one of the causeways on the left, and a body of Continentals and riflemen advanced toward the morass. The stubbornness with
which the British outposts held their ground, tended to verify the correctness of the rumors which had come to Lafayette, that the main body of the British Army was still north of the river. While Wayne's corps was engaged in slowly pushing back the hostile covering forces, Lafayette hastened to a tongue of land on the flank from which he could better observe conditions. From this vantage point he discovered that the greater part of the British Army was in front of him, prepared to offer battle.
Cornwallis held his battalions and regiments quiet in camp, where they were concealed from observation while the Americans were engaged in driving in the British outposts. The legion cavalry was in close support of the line of pickets on the left in order to contain the Americans within the woods and prevent their viewing the main body of the army. Before sunset Wayne's entire corps of 800 men, composed of Pennsylvanians and light infantry, together with three cannon, had effected a crossing of the morass and now engaged the line of pickets, in close proximity to the camp, as yet unseen by the Americans. The vanguard under Major Galvan made a dash to take a cannon in the enemy lines, and at that instant the enemy fired a signal gun.
The moment of surprise for which Cornwallis had carefully planned was now at hand. Immediately the British troops formed under arms in the position assigned to them and advanced to the attack. Tarleton's dragoons fell back through the intervals made for them by the infantry. The right wing of the army, commanded by General O'Hara, consisted of two battalions of light infantry, Colonel York's brigade, and the Hessians. Colonel Dundas's brigade, composed of the Forty-third, Seventy-sixth, and Eightieth Regiments, with two six-pounders under Captain Fage, constituted the left wing. The legion cavalry formed a second line behind the Eightieth, and Tarleton's light companies dismounted to reenforce the Seventy-sixth Regiment.
The appearance of such a large force on Wayne's front was a complete surprise to him. The long line that had risen out of the
ground with such amazing suddenness was now bearing down upon his corps, its flanks far outreaching his own. Quick thinking was necessary, and Wayne made the only decision that a daring leader, finding himself about to be entrapped, could make—not to retreat and thereby demoralize his own corps and endanger the remainder of the army, but to attack fiercely and hope that by rash bravery some means would be found to extricate his troops. He gave a sharp order to advance, and the response of his troops was instantaneous.
At sight of the British the troops ran to the rencontre.
Tarleton says that—
The conflict in this quarter was severe and well contested. The artillery and infantry of each army, in presence of their respective generals, were for some minutes warmly engaged not fifty yards asunder.
Lafayette hastily returned from his reconnaissance and reached the scene of conflict about 15 minutes after the action started. He at once sent Wayne orders to withdraw his corps half a mile and form in rear of two battalions of light infantry, which by a rapid move had come forward to a position on solid ground back of the morasses. Wayne withdrew his corps through the woods and across the causeways without undue confusion, but two of the guns had to be abandoned, as all the horses were either killed or disabled. Darkness was setting in, and the obscurity of the night prevented pursuit by the legion cavalry. Cornwallis collected his troops and returned to his encampment for the night. The following day he completed the crossing of the James and lay with his army at Cobham, there to await the arrival of transports on which to embark the troops intended for the north.
The right wing of the British Army encountered but little resistance in the action at Green Spring. The brunt of the contest fell upon the Seventy-sixth and Eightieth Regiments in the left wing. In reporting on the action, Cornwallis said that "Lieutenant Colonel Dundas' conduct and gallantry deserve the highest praise." The King's troops had 5 officers wounded and about 70 men killed and wounded.
The American loss was 28 killed, a few more than a hundred wounded, and 9 missing. In a congratulatory order published on the 8th of July at Ambler's plantation, Lafayette said:
The General is happy in acknowledging the spirit of the detachment commanded by General Wayne in their engagement with the total of the British army, of which he happened to be an eye witness. He requests General Wayne, the officers and men under his command, to receive his best thanks.
The action at Green Spring was one of brilliant daring on the part of Wayne. An almost instantaneous decision to attack an enemy battle line of four times one's own strength could be made only by a bold, adventurous leader like Daniel Morgan or Anthony Wayne. The Pennsylvanians and light infantry valiantly demonstrated their confidence in their leader, both in the attack and in the retreat. Had they failed in the attack or become stampeded in the retreat, Lafayette's army might have lost one-half of Wayne's command. It is desirable that in every war there be a commander like Anthony Wayne, successful because of the apparent reckless impetuosity of his leadership, as such gallant conduct is an inspiration to the Army and to the Nation.
* * * * * * *
It is not known what had occurred that caused Clinton to write the peremptory order of June 28; but whatever it was, the situation, in his opinion, immediately became more urgent, for on the 19t of July he sent a second mandatory dispatch by a runner, this time placing a tentative time limit on the embarkation:
For reasons which I think it unnecessary to mention to you by this opportunity, I request, that whatever troops, etc. your Lordship may have embarked for this place, may sail forty-eight hours after the departure from the Chesapeak of the frigate which carries this letter, and which has orders to return whenever your Lordship signifies to the Captain of her, that the troops, etc. are all on board, and ready to proceed on the intended service.
Cornwallis received this letter without undue delay, and on the 12th of July wrote to Clinton that he was making every exertion to get the expedition ready without loss of time. On the 17th of the month he was able to write from Suffolk, to which place he had
moved, that the expedition was almost ready to sail from Ports, mouth. The halting of the army at Suffolk was caused by Cornwallis having sent a strong detachment under Tarleton on the 9th to Prince Edward Court House and Bedford Court House, to destroy magazines between the James and Dan Rivers that were destined for use by Greene's army in the Carolinas. He desired to hold the army at Suffolk as a point of rendezvous for Tarleton's detachment.
Three days after Cornwallis had written the letter of the 17th of July a bombshell was dropped into his camp. A runner arrived at 1 o'clock in the morning of the 20th, eight days by boat from New York, with a dispatch that entirely reversed all of Clinton's previous demands for troops. The letter was dated the 11th of July and was written in great haste and with unusual brevity:
I cannot be more explicit by this opportunity than to desire, that if you have not already passed the James river, you will continue on the Williamsburg Neck, until she [the dispatch frigate] arrives with my dispatches by Captain Stapleton. If you have passed, and find it expedient to recover that station, you will please to do it, and keep possession until you hear further from me. Whatever troops may have been embarked by you for this place, are likewise to remain until further orders; and if they should have been sailed, and within your call, you will be pleased to stop them. It is the Admiral's and my wish, at all events to hold Old Point Comfort, which secures Hampton road.
Lord Cornwallis could not account for the startling requirements of this communication. The following day (July 21), however, a delayed dispatch from Clinton dated the 8th of July came to hand, which threw some fight on the matter. Clinton expressed dumfounded surprise that his lordship should so suddenly lose sight of the necessity to hold some position on the Peninsula, as to pass the James "and retire with your army to the sickly post of Portsmouth." There was then interjected into the correspondence for the first time a strategical requirement of great importance, which was treated by Clinton as though it had always been a part of the problem. Clinton was strongly impressed with the necessity of holding "a naval station for large ships as well as small," and was of the opinion that Yorktown was of prime importance for securing such a station.
The crux of the bitter controversy between Clinton and Cornwallis, which did not die with them, is found in this letter written by Clinton on the 8th of July. The British commander in chief had directed the attention of every general sent into Virginia to Elizabeth River as a suitable harbor for British ships. It had long since been learned, however, that no protection for a line-of-battle ship could be found in the Elizabeth River, and that even frigates were frequently exposed to danger owing to shallow water and the restricted area of the harbor. Now Cornwallis is told that a naval station for large ships is required, and the information is conveyed to him in a manner reflecting upon his common sense in not having anticipated this necessity. The unadmitted and startling about-face on the part of Clinton was occasioned by a change in naval policy. On the 4th of July Vice Admiral Arbuthnot resigned command of the squadron of His Majesty's ships in North America, and Rear Admiral Thomas Graves assumed direction of naval matters along the Atlantic coast.
The more aggressive Graves had very positive ideas regarding the wintering of his ships, a matter of serious consequence to the fleet to which Admiral Arbuthnot had not given sufficient consideration.
I need only to say to your Lordship—
Graves wrote to Cornwallis on the 12th of July—
that there is no place for the great ships during the freezing months on this side the Chesapeak, where the great ships will be in security, and at the same time capable of acting—and in my opinion they had better go to the West Indies than be laid up in Halifax during the winter. If the squadron is necessary to the operations of the army—Hampton road appears to be the place where they can be anchored with the greatest security, and at the same time be capable of acting with the most effect against any attempts of the enemy. To this end, Old Point Comfort seems necessary to be occupied by us, as commanding the entrance to the road.
The wisdom of this decision is readily appreciated if the great freeze which occurred during the months of January and February of 1780 is recalled. Much fairer treatment would have been
accorded Cornwallis, however, had Clinton presented the requirement of a harbor for big ships as something new, instead of making a quasi-pretense of its being a matter that had been discussed for more than six months with the several British commanders in Virginia. The previous urgent desire to march against Philadelphia was now casually brushed aside by Clinton with the declaration that he would probably send to the Chesapeake all the troops that could be spared from the different posts under his command, "as soon as the season returns for acting in that climate."
Supplemental instructions were dispatched to Cornwallis on the 11th of July as a result of a conference aboard the flagship between the general and the admiral. After the conference Clinton wrote:
I beg leave to request that you will without loss of time examine Old Point Comfort, and fortify it; detaining such troops as you may think necessary for that purpose, and garrisoning it afterwards. But it if should be your Lordship's opinion that Old Point Comfort cannot be held without having possession of York, for in this case Gloucester may perhaps be not so material, and that the whole cannot be done with less than seven thousand men, you are at full liberty to detain all the troops now in the Chesapeak, which I believe amount to somewhat more than that number.
The dispatch concluded with an injunction that as soon as Cornwallis finally determined upon the force which would be sufficient for the works to be erected at Old Point Comfort, and the number which he might judge requisite to cover them at Yorktown, he was to send the remainder to New York. Clinton said that he saw no great necessity for holding Portsmouth while the British occupied Old Point Comfort, for if a station on Elizabeth River were judged necessary for the purpose of covering frigates, a post at Mill Point would answer the purpose.
Attention has been brought to the many conflicting orders which were largely responsible for the controversy that started immediately after the British Army surrendered at Yorktown. The point of greatest contention made by Clinton was that Cornwallis did not obey his order to take post at Old Point Comfort, but went to Yorktown instead and there permitted himself to be bottled up by the French Fleet and the allied armies.
It would seem that at this critical time the British commander in chief might have permitted his orders to stand for at least a few days, but such was not his temperament. On the 15th of July Clinton wrote that he thought Cornwallis would at least have waited for a line from him in answer to the letter written on the 30th of June before finally determining upon "so serious and mortifying a move as the repassing James river," and retiring with his army to Portsmouth. Clinton concluded this dispatch with further modifications of the instructions contained in his letter of July 11, both as to the occupation of Old Point Comfort and in regard to sending to New York all the troops not needed in Virginia.
You are at full liberty to employ all the troops under your immediate command in the Chesapeak, if you are of opinion they may be wanted for the defence of the stations you shall think proper to occupy, securing to us at least a healthy one, from whence we may start at the proper time for beginning operation, and for the carrying on in the interim such desultory water expeditions as you may think of any utility.
Cornwallis did not hesitate to inform the commander in chief of the hurt which the severe censure of his conduct caused. He wrote on the 26th of July that the contents of Clinton's letters "were to me as unexpected as, I trust, they are undeserved." As a subordinate officer he said it was his duty to obey orders, or in exercising discretionary powers to act in conformity with the apparent wishes of his superior officer, combined with the evident good of the service, and he declared that in his late conduct he had not deviated from those principles. He added further that he discovered nowhere in his own correspondence with the commander in chief—
any trace of the extreme earnestness, that now appears, to secure a harbour for ships of the line, and your assent to my engaging in operations in the Upper Chesapeak, if I could have brought myself to think them expedient, would, if I had doubted before, have convinced me that securing a harbour for line of battle ships was not with you a primary and immediate object.
A careful survey of Old Point Comfort and Hampton Roads was made by Lieutenants Sutherland and Stratton of the Royal Engineers, and the impracticability of using this post and roadstead for
the purposes intended by Clinton and Graves was easily demonstrated. The great width and depth of the channel gave ships the opportunity of passing, with very little risk, any work that might be erected on the ruins of Fort George, which offered the best site for mounting guns. The report says:
I apprehend fifteen hundred yards is too great a distance for batteries to stop ships, which is the distance here. Ships that wish to pass the fire of the fort have no occasion to approach nearer.
The opinions of the commanders of His Majesty's ships in the Chesapeake, as to the propriety of defending Old Point Comfort, are expressed in the following report dated the 26th of July:
In consequence of a requisition that your Lordship received from the commanders in chief of his Majesty's troops and ships, relative to a post being established at Old Point Comfort, for the protection and security of the King's ships that may occasionally be sent to the Chesapeak: We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, have taken as accurate a survey of that place as possible, and are unanimously of opinion, from the width of the channel and depth of water close to it, that any superior enemy's force coming in, may pass any work that can be established there, with little damage, or destroy it with the ships that may be there, under its protection.
This communication was signed by Captain Charles Hudson, the senior naval commander in the Chesapeake, and three other captains of battle ships.
Captain Hudson sent, at the same time, a separate report to Admiral Graves confirming the joint report, with the additional statement that as the occupation of Old Point Comfort would not give protection to the ships, Lord Cornwallis and himself had resolved to remove the troops that were then in Portsmouth and its vicinity to "York and Gloucester river, where we apprehend a better Port can be established for the protection of the King's troops."
In transmitting to Clinton the reports of the engineer officers and the captains of the navy, Cornwallis said:
Your Excellency will see, that a work on Point Comfort, would neither command the entrance, nor secure his Majesty's ships at anchor in Hampton road.
This being the case, I shall in obedience to the spirit of your Excellency's orders, take measures with as much dispatch as possible, to seize and fortify York and Gloucester, being the only harbour in which we can hope to be able to give effectual protection to line of battle ships. I shall, likewise, use all the expedition in my power to evacuate Portsmouth and the posts belonging to it, but until that is accomplished, it will be impossible for me to spare troops.
All the transports were loaded and on the 30th of July set sail from Portsmouth with 4,500 men aboard. The passage was considerably protracted by unfavorable winds, and it was not until the night of the 1st of August and on the following day that the troops were landed at Gloucester and Yorktown. Two frigates remained at Portsmouth for the protection of the troops who were left there to demolish the works. The Eightieth Regiment and the regiment Du Prince Hereditaire were landed at Gloucester and the other troops at Yorktown. Tarleton crossed from Sewall Point to Hampton Roads by small vessels on the 6th of August and joined Cornwallis at Yorktown the following morning. By the 22d of the month the detachment left at Portsmouth had completed its work of destruction and effected a junction with the main army.
Work on the defenses on the left bank of the York River was begun as soon as the troops were established there. By the middle of August considerable progress had been made, and Cornwallis was able to advise the commander in chief that Gloucester would require a garrison of 1,000 men to make it safe against a coup de main. The works required to make the post at Yorktown defensible were much more extensive, and their construction was begun as soon as the engineer officer had the plans ready.
Cornwallis estimated that it would require a period of at least six weeks, counting from August 22, to put both Gloucester and Yorktown in a fair state of defense, due to the difficulty of constructing works in the warm season. As Clinton had communicated his intention of recommencing operations in the Chesapeake early in October, Cornwallis felt it was essential that nothing be done which would tend to retard the establishment of these posts, so necessary for the protection of the fleet. He asked Clinton to
decide whether it was more important that a detachment of 1,000 or 1,200 men, which he thought could be spared "from every other purpose but that of labour," should be sent to New York, or that all the troops be retained in Virginia and employed in expediting the works.
There was never any need for Clinton to reply to Cornwallis's question regarding the disposition of his command. On the 31st of August the French Fleet under De Grasse arrived in the Chesapeake. Two days later definite information was received at Clinton's headquarters in New York that Washington and Rochambeau were moving, "with an appearance of haste," to the southward. Clinton communicated this intelligence to Cornwallis in a letter dated the 2d of September, in which he said:
I shall either endeavour to reinforce the army under your command by all the means within the compass of my power, or make every possible diversion in your favour.
page created 20 March 2000
Return to Table of Contents
Return to CMH Online