OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 6

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 <6> 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

The great end of Rodney was gained. He had cut in two the great fleet, and his ships doubling on one half threw the whole into confusion. The half to the windward were terribly raked, whilst the half to the leeward were unable to come up to their aid. The battle, however, continued without respite from noon till evening, the leeward half endeavouring to join and return to the charge, but without being able. The most striking part of the action was the attack on the great ship of De Grasse, the Ville de Paris. That huge vessel, the pride of the French navy, towering over all far and near, attracted the ambition of captain Cornwallis, of the Canada, the brother of lord Cornwallis, to whose surrender De Grasse had so greatly contributed. Captain Cornwallis, as if determined on a noble revenge, attacked the Ville de Paris with fury, hugely as it towered above him, and so well did he ply his guns that he soon reduced the monster almost to a wreck. De Grasse fought desperately, but Hood coming up to the assistance of Cornwallis, in the Barfleur, about sunset, De Grasse was compelled to strike his flag. That was a sight that sent a " thrill of victory," says Dr. Blane, through every heart in the fleet, a sensation defying description. In fact, when the news reached Europe, the French naval officers exclaimed that the report was false. u It is impossible!" they cried; " not the whole British fleet could take the Ville de Paris! "

At the close of the engagement it was found that the English had captured five large ships, to which two others were almost immediately added by admiral Hood, and an eighth was sunk. Owing to the condition of the French vessels, crowded with the soldiers who were to have conquered Jamaica, the slaughter was terrible. The killed were computed at nearly three thousand; the wounded at double that number. The English lost two hundred and fifty killed, and had seven hundred and sixty wounded. Rodney declared it, in his opinion, u the severest battle ever fought at sea." On board the Ville de Paris were found thirty-six chests of money, intended to pay the conquerors of Jamaica, and on the other ships nearly all the battering trains for that purpose. The remainder of the fleet made all sail, and Rodney pursued, but was stopped by a calm of three days under Guadaloupe, and they escaped.

It was with a just pride that Rodney wrote to his wife, " Within two little years I have taken two Spanish, one French, and one Dutch admiral; " adding, beautifully, " It is Providence does it all, or how could I escape the shot of thirty-three sail-of-the-line, every one of which I believe attacked me?" Rodney had, it must be remembered, thirty-six of the line, and De Grasse only thirty-three, but three of De Grasse's ships were disabled by the four days' battle, and of Hood's division five or six never got into battle owing to the wind, so that the French were not only numerically, but in weight of metal stronger, showing the infinite advantage of breaking the line. Rodney, in the joy of his heart, not only desired his wife to kiss " his dear girls at home " for him, but his faithful dog Loup too!

He received De Grasse on board his vessel with much respect. He was the first commander-in-chief of the French by land or sea who had been taken, since Tallard gave up his sword to Marlborough. Both in the West Indies and in England De Grasse was honourably received, but in France the news of this great defeat fell like a thunderbolt. " It carried," says Botta, " the most profound despair from one end of the country to the other, and poor De Grasse was not only disgraced, but insulted in all possible ways." In America, too, the news spread the deepest consternation. The great French admiral who enabled them to win York Town, and the surrender of the English force there, was thus thoroughly beaten, the invincible Ville de Paris taken, the West Indies were saved, and England was once more the empress of the ocean!

Rodney sailed to Jamaica, which he had thus saved, and was received with the acclamations of honour and gratitude. There, however, he received the order for his recall, and returned home. To the eternal dishonour of the Rockingham administration, on receiving the news of this superb and most important victory - a victory which at once restored the drooping glories of Great Britain - they had not the heart to cancel his recall, though the feeling of the country compelled the crown to grant him a pension, and to raise him to the peerage by the title of baron Rodney. Sir Samuel Hood was also made an Irish baron; admiral Drake and commodore Affleck were made baronets; and monuments were voted for captains Bayne, Blair, and lord Robert Manners, who were killed in the action. It was about the middle of May when this inspiriting news reached England, and effaced the memory of a hundred disasters and feebly- conducted enterprises

During this time the hostile army in America had remained much in the condition we have described. The English, too few for any active operation - the Americans in the last condition of misery and destitution. But the rancour which burned betwixt the American republicans and royalists continued to show itself the more fiercely from the opportunities afforded for its exercise by the presence of large armies. Throughout the war the royalists had been treated without mercy by their republican countrymen; their property had been confiscated or destroyed remorselessly wherever it could be seized, and their persons insulted, and their lives destroyed with a savage pleasure. Now the English had retired from the Carolinas and Georgia to within the walls of Charlestown and Savannah, and, since

York Town had been surrendered, the vengeance of the republicans on the unhappy royalists became perfectly fiendish. Stung to madness by their sufferings, and by the barbarous assassination of one of their party, Philip White, the royalists seized on one Joshua Huddy, a captain in Washington's army, whom they declared had been one of the most cruel of their persecutors, and who with his own hand had tied the knot and put the rope round the neck of one of the most inoffensive of the royalists. This man they hanged on the 30th of March, with a label on his breast in these words: - " We, the refugees, having with grief long beheld the cruel murders of our brethren, and finding nothing but such measures carried daily into execution, determine not to suffer without taking vengeance for these numerous cruelties, and thus begin, and have made use of captain Huddy as the first object to present to your view; and further determine to hang man for man while there is a refugee existing. Up goes Huddy for Philip White! "

Sir Henry Clinton arrested captain Lippincot, the commander of the party, and several others of the ringleaders; but the royalists made strong declarations of the justice and necessity of retaliations. Clinton appointed a court-martial to try these men; but this court returned a verdict of not guilty, on the ground that captain Lippincot had only obeyed the orders of the board of directors of the associated royalists, captain Lippincot not doubting the validity of the orders of that board.

But this did not satisfy Washington, the author of all the atrocities by his unwarrantable and implacable execution of major Andre, a British officer, acting under a pass from one of their own generals. Washington demanded that captain Lippincot, the assassin, as he termed him, should be given up to him, to be treated according to the laws of the republicans. Of course, Sir Henry could not do this. The republicans had commenced this barbarous practice. Washington himself had been the great sanctioner of it; and captain Lippincot, having been duly submitted to a court-martial and acquitted, was exempt from further proceedings by all the laws of war. On all such occasions, however, Washington showed himself as unprincipled and as destitute of the nobler qualities which so highly distinguished him from his countrymen, as the average of them. He at once ordered an English officer of the same rank to be seized and treated in the same manner. He waited for no order from the congress - he took the matter upon himself, and ordered, on the 3rd of May, twenty-one days after the death of Huddy, brigadier Hazen to cast lots upon a number of unconditional prisoners, and the lot fell on captain Asgill, a young man of nineteen, the son of Sir Charles Asgill. Now, captain Asgill was not an unconditional prisoner, but one of the English surrendered by lord Cornwallis at York Town, under express conditions. This was pointed out to Washington, and he ordered a lieutenant Turner, a British officer, who had been taken without conditions, to be substituted. This, however, was not done; and Washington, with full knowledge that his orders were not obeyed, suffered the matter to go on! Gordon, the historian, says: - " If you inquire why Turner, or some other officer, was not sent on to take the place of Asgill, it is not in my power to answer." And another writer adds, " The Americans, no doubt, thought it proper and spirited to adhere to the principle of captain for captain, though lord Cornwallis's capitulations stood in their way; and they may, besides, have given their cruel preference to young Asgill, from the knowledge of his being a person of family and superior consideration, whose fate would excite more attention than that of a more obscure officer."

This is sufficient answer, as it regards Americans in general, for we have seen that through the whole war they set the usual laws of honour and of nations at defiance in the case of Andre and of Burgoyne's army; but it does not satisfy us with regard to Washington - in most cases, a brilliant exception. Yet nothing is clearer than that Washington continued, with a full knowledge of all the facts, to hold Asgill, and menace the full execution of retaliate death. In no case, as it seems to us, could such retaliation be justified, except in the case of a royalist, where the royalists were the offenders, and that the selection of a British officer at all was an unwarrantable piece of violence; the selection of one surrendered under the most explicit and most solemn conditions, beyond all conception flagrant and atrocious.

Washington announced the very day for the death of this unoffending youth by a letter written on the 5th of May; but at this moment Sir Henry Clinton was superseded by Sir Guy Carleton, formerly governor of Canada, and Sir Guy brought with him the proposals of the Rockingham administration and the votes of the English house of commons for peace, as well as a bill enabling the king to conclude a preliminary truce.

These important and conciliatory documents Sir Guy, in conjunction with admiral Digby, sent to Washington, informing him that he had duplicates for the congress, and requested a passport for his messenger, adding that with such amicable dispositions on the part of England there could be no difficulty in a perfect arrangement, provided America showed the same feeling. But Washington, with the same sternness and discourtesy which most unhappily seized him in the Andre affair, bluntly refused the passport, and paying no attention to the friendly overtures, turned again to the subject of captain Huddy, reiterating his determination to hang young Asgill. Sir Guy, surprised at this most unamiable rebuff, but maintaining the courtesy of a good diplomatist, expressed his regret for the circumstances which had occurred, and his readiness to make further inquiries into the death of Huddy; but Washington repeated his peremptory demand for the surrender of captain Lippincot, and asserted, in default, his certain resolve to hang Asgill. It was not till the 19th of August that Washington thought well to remove this responsibility to congress, which, had he taken it finally on himself by the youth's execution, would have branded his name for ever with just infamy.

During these four anxious months, the news had reached the young man's distracted family, and astonished England. Lady Asgill, the youth's mother, had written to the count de Vergennes, the French minister, and in September Washington received a letter from count de Vergennes, enclosing another from lady Asgill. In the letter of lady Asgill to Vergennes, she represented her husband, Sir Charles, at the point of death, at the moment that the news arrived, and her daughter as seized with a fever and delirium, on hearing of her brother's danger, and, as she wrote, raving wildly about him. This letter had produced the utmost compassion in the king and queen of France; and their majesties begged "that the inquietudes of an unfortunate mother might be calmed, and her tenderness reassured." But Vergennes put the matter on still stronger grounds, properly reminding Washington of the sacred obligations he had vowed to violate, and of the laws of nations, so strangely forgotten. " Captain Asgill," he wrote, "is your prisoner; but he is amongst those whom the arms of the king, my master, contributed to put into your hands at York Town. And," he added, "in seeking to deliver Mr. Asgill from the fate which threatens him, I am far from engaging you to select another victim; the pardon, to be perfectly satisfactory, must be entire."

This was the language of civilisation as well as humanity; and, coming from all-important allies, could not be disregarded. Washington forwarded the letters to congress, and, after some obstinacy also in that quarter, captain Asgill was eventually freed on the 7th of November. On liberating the young officer, who had been kept without any fault of his own, or of the army to which he belonged, for six months in daily expectation of death, Washington assured him that he had never been influenced by any sanguinary motives; and Gordon thinks captain Asgill was rather ungrateful for expressing no acknowledgment of the general's kindness in his release! The best and ablest biographer of Washington (judge Marshall), however, very prudently passes over the whole of this transaction in silence; evidently as a matter that admitted of no defence.

At this moment, when the offers of peace had arrived in America, never was a country in a more deplorable necessity for it. Washington's army was suffering all the horrors of nakedness and destitution recently described. He was himself, as he stated candidly in his letter to congress, deeply apprehensive that, unless peace came quickly, his soldiers would make use of their arms to force an existence from the population at large; and that the desultory warfare going on in the Carolinas betwixt the republicans and royalists, full of horrors, would become general. Congress, however, had no means of helping him. Their coffers were empty, and their treasurer, Morris, declared it was impossible to raise another penny. Money was in vain asked for at sixty per cent. The French troops, under these circumstances, took their departure for the West Indies, the victory of Rodney having left their own islands exposed to imminent peril. It must be a startling revelation for those who ever entertained the grand idea that the Americans could have liberated themselves, or were now in any condition to continue the war, to read Washington's own statements in his letters on this subject. Peace, however, was approaching; but it appeared as impossible for congress to accomplish it as they had found it to prosecute the war. It was in Paris, and through Franklin, that this desirable consummation was to be aimed at. But before entering on the negotiations there, we must notice yet a few circumstances which rendered this object as necessary for France, Holland, and Spain, as for England or America.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 <6> 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 6

Admiral Sir John Jervis
Admiral Sir John Jervis >>>>
View of Minden
View of Minden >>>>
Surrender of the Garrison
Surrender of the Garrison >>>>
Shandon Steeple
Shandon Steeple >>>>
Washingtons house
Washingtons house >>>>
Jean Francois Galaup de la Perouse
Jean Francois Galaup de la Perouse >>>>
Comte de Grasse
Comte de Grasse >>>>
Gibraltar >>>>
Siege if Gibraltar
Siege if Gibraltar >>>>
Washington in New York
Washington in New York >>>>
John Adams
John Adams >>>>
Thomas Erskine
Thomas Erskine >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About