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other defences had been constructed than those immediately on the bay. Should an attempt be made to transport a body of troops in flat boats, from James's island into the town, nothing could be easier than to elude the batteries. These circumstances had been strongly represented to the governor by General Lincoln ; but, from some defect in the existing law, the executive found it impracticable to collect a sufficient number of blacks, the only labourers to be depended upon in that sultry climate for these essential purposes.
On retiring from the siege of Savannah, the Virginia dragoons and infantry were detached to Argusta : the troops of South Carolina were stationed partly at Sheldon opposite Port Royal ferry, between thirty and forty miles north of Savannah, and partly in Fort Moultrie ; and those of North Carolina remained with General Lincoln in Charlestown.
In this situation he waited events, in the hope of reinforcements from the north, and of the adoption of more vigorous defensive measures by, the legislature of the state than had hitherto been taken. ;
Admiral Arbuthnot, who has been already stated to have sailed from Sandy Hook on the 26th of December 1779, arrived at Savannah on the 31st of the following month. One of the transports which had been separated from his fleet in a storm, i was brought into Charlestown harbour on the 23d of
January 1780; and, from the prisoners, the first certain intelligence was received, that the expedition from New York was destined against the capital of South Carolina. . On receiving this intelligence, General Lincoln re-assembled his regular troops in the neighbourhood of Charlestown.
Sir Henry Clinton remained at Savannah till his ships which had been scattered in the storm, could be collected, and repaired, so as again to put to sea. Before the middle of February he entered the haabour or inlet of North Edisto, about thirty -miles south of Charlestown, and, without any opposition, effected a landing on St. John's island.
A part of the fleet was sent round to blockade the -harbour, while the army proceeded slowly and cautiously from Stone creek 'to Wappoocut, and through the islands of St. John and St. James.
General Lincoln received a reinforcement of be. tween three and four hundred Virginia regulars, who had marched from Petersburg'under the command of Colonel Heath, and of some new levies and militia from North Carolina. His fórce how. ever was still so incompetent to the defence of the place, and the works around it were so incomplete, that had Sir Henry Clinton been in a condition to march against it, immediately after effecting his landing, the town must nécessarily have fallen into his hands. But the injuries and losses sustained during the voyage from New York to Savannah,
had unfitted him for immediate operations, and he seems to have determined to commit nothing to hazard. He dispatched a frigate for further aid from New York, and ordered General Prevost to reinforce him with eleven hundred men from Savannah. In the mean time he continued his advances, making depots at proper stations, and securing his communications with them and with the sea, across Wappoocut to the main land, on which he extended his posts to Ashley river.
This delay, in the event so fatal, but then deemed so propitious to the American arms, was employed to the utmost advantage in improving the defences of Charlestown. The legislature on its meeting had enabled the executive to employ slaves to work on the fortifications; and, alarmed at the formidable army with which their country was invaded, had passed an act“ delegating to Gover. nor Rutledge, and such of his council as he could conveniently consult, a power to do every thing necessary for the public good, except taking away the life of a citizen without a legal trial.”
Under these acts, about six hundred slaves were immediately employed on the works, and vigorous though not very successful measures were taken by the executive to assemble the militia of the country.
The fallacious hope was entertained, that if the fortifications could be so improved as to render the
town defensible before the siege should commence, the garrison would be made sufficiently strong by the reinforcements expected from the north, and by the militia of the state, to maintain the place, and compel Sir Henry Clinton to raise the siege.
It was determined in council that the American army was too weak to hazard a diminution of it by any serious opposition to the progress of the British through the country. The cavalry, with a small
corps of light troops, were directed to hoyer on their left flank; and the other troops, consisting of about fourteen hundred regulars fit for duty, aided by the militia, were drawn into the town, and employed in unremitting labour on the works.
Although the horses of the British cavalry had been entirely lost on the passage from New York, Sir Henry Clinton soon obtained others, with which he remounted his dragoons, and formed a light corps under the command of Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, which completely covered his left flank, and was very active in dispersing the militia who were assembling in the neighbourhood. In one of these excursions, his cavalry fell in with and engaged . Lieutenant-colonel Washington, who commanded the remnant of Baylor's regiment. Tarleton was driven back with loss; but the want of infantry disabled Washington from pursuing the advantage he had obtained.
In carrying on the siege of Charlestown, the command of the harbour is at all times of infinite importance. Without that advantage, it requires a very large army completely to invest the place, and to preserve a communication with the sea. Aware of this circumstance, Congress had ordered four continental frigates to South Carolina. These, with the marine force belonging to the state, and two French vessels of war, carrying the one twen. ty-six, and the other eighteen guns, constituted a respectable fleet under the command of Commodore Whipple, with which it was intended to dispute the entrance into the harbour.
General Lincoln was the more sanguine respecting the issue of this conflict, because it was understood that the bar was impassable by a ship of the line, and that even a large frigate could not be brought over it without first taking out her guns, or careening her so much that the crew would be unable to work her.
On sounding within the bar, it was for the first time discovered that the water was too shallow for the continental frigates to act with any effect; that they could not approach nearer than Five-fathom Hole; that the channel was too narrow for them to form the line of battle ; and that, in making the attempt, they would be very much exposed to the fire from the batteries erected by the assailants on the land. Under these circum.