History of the Loyalists: General Leslie's Arrival in Virginal

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History of the Loyalists: General Leslie's Arrival in Virginal
James Hannay
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HISTORY OF THE LOYALISTS GENERAL LESLIE'S ARRIVAL IN VIRGINIA. Arnold and Simcoe Capture Richmond-Defeat of the British at Cowpens— Battle of Guilford and Defeat of the American Army. BY JAMES HANNAY. CHAPIER XXXV.—Continued. In October, 1780, Brigadier General Leslie, with about 3,000 troops from New York, landed at Portsmouth in Virginia, and took possession of every kind of public property in its vicinity. His intention was to co-operate with Lord Cornwallis, who proposed to enter Virginia from the south. He did net remain long, however, for Cornwallis retired after hearing of the defeat at King’s Mountain, and Leslie, on learning of this left for Charlestown for the purpose of joining Cornwallis in the Carolinas. General Leslie, on landing at Charlestown in December found an order to march to the frontier with the brigade of guards and the regiment of Boss, 120 Yagers, and a detachment of light dragoons; the remainder of his corps being destined to strengthen Camden, and augment the garrison of Charleston. The arrival of a reinforcement of upwards of 2,300 men seemed at the crisis to promise the scours possession of the two Southern provinces, and the reduction of North Carolina, while the offensive operations carried on in Virginia by Brigadier General Arnold were calculated to distract the attention of the enemy. ARNOLD'S RAID ON VIRGINIA. Arnold had been appointed a brigadier general in the British army, and sent with a force of British and Loyalist troops to make a diversion in Virginia. He was accompanied by Colonels Dundas and Simcoe, who had a dormant commission to supersede Arnold in case they had any doubt of his good faith. The Loyalist portion of Arnold's force was the Queen's rangers, of which Simcoe was lieutenant colonel The British 80th regiment also formed a portion of Arnold's corps. The force entered Hampton Roads on the 30th of December, and on the 3rd of January the fleet anchored near Jamestown. On the following day the British landed 25 miles below Richmond the capital of the province, and marched into that town 2 1/2 hours later without encountering any serious opposition. Jefferson, the Governor of the state, had called out the militia, but, being an arrant coward, he did not remain to lead them, but fled to a place of safety. The troops that captured Richmond did not amount to 800 men. A body of American militia had gathered on Richmond hill, but the Queen's Rangers speedily drove thorn away in confusion. As soon as Richmond was taken Simcoe and his Rangers were sent to Westham to destroy the cannon foundry and magazine there, and this was speedily accomplished. All the public property in Richmond was also destroyed. Arnold then took possession of Portsmouth, which he fortified, and sent detachments in various directions for the purpose of destroying the public property. A great deal of tobacco was burnt and a large number of vessels destroyed. The American militia had gathered in considerable strength, and an attempt was made to capture Arnold’s force. Jefferson, the skedaddling governor of Virginia, offered 5,000 guineas to anyone who would accomplish the capture of Arnold, but their plan did not succeed. Washington was also very anxious to accomplish the same result, and employed one of his sergeants named Champe for that purpose. Champe deserted from his own corps and ENLISTED WITH THE BRITISH, and actually went with Arnold to Virginia. This plot reflected very little credit on Washington, and may be properly classed with the plots that were promoted by Bonaparte for the assassination of the Duke of Wellington. While Arnold and Simcoe were terrorizing Virginia, Lord Cornwallis was advancing into North Carolina. Information had been received that Greene, the American general, had made a division of his army and had given the light infantry and part of his cavalry to General Morgan, with directions to pass the Catawba and Broad rivers and collect the militia in the districts through which he marched, and threaten Fort Ninety-six. Cornwallis sent Tarleton with about 900 men and two field pieces to attack Morgan, whose force amounted to about 1,100. He found Morgan fortified at the Cowpens on the 17th of January, and immediately attacked the Americans. THE RESULT WAS UNFORTUNATE and ended in a severe disaster for the British. Tarleton was not a tactician like Simcoe, but merely a dashing officer headlong in attack, and at Cowpens he brought his forces into the field in such a confined fashion as to invite defeat. The American general had his men well posted, and although his militia gave way, the continentals stood firm, and poured such a murderous fire into the British that they were thrown into confusion, about 160 of them were killed or wounded, and some 400 taken prisoners. The only Loyalists engaged in this affair were the men of the British legion. Considering the good quality of the British troops, the disaster at Cowpens must be put down as one of the unaccountable events which occur in war. Lord Cornwallis resolved to attempt to retrieve this disaster by a pursuit of Morgan, who had moved off with his prisoners to Virginia. Greene had joined Morgan's division of the army so that he might conduct the retreat of both bodies. The British urged the pursuit with such rapidity, that they reached the Catawaba on the evening of the same day on which the Americans crossed it, and before the next a heavy fall of rain rendered that river impassable. A passage being at length effected the British continued the pursuit. The Americans succeeded in crossing the Yadkin on the 2nd and 3rd of February, but the British although close in their rear were unable to cross the Yadkin owing to the want of boats and the rapid rise of the river from recent rains. Thus the Americans escaped on two occasions as the result of fortunate accidents. The American army was now united at QUILFORD COURT HOUSE and retreated across the Dan to avoid an engagement. Lord Cornwallis attempted to cut off Greene from Virginia and pursued them so closely that on the 14th of February the American light troops were compelled to retire upwards of 40 miles. On that day the American army crossed the Dan, escaping so narrowly that the van of the British just arrived at the river as the rear of the Americans got over it. General Greene, being reinforced early in March, thought it necessary to re-cross the Dan, and the result of this movement was the battle of Guilford, which was fought on the 15th of that month. The American general had a great superiority in numbers, his force numbering 4,400 men, of whom 1,500 were regulars. The British force numbered about 2,400, and consisted of the 7lst regiment, the 23rd and 33rd, a brigade of guards, the regiment of Bose and the British legion. The British, after a brisk cannonade in front, advanced in three columns, the Hessians on the right, the guards in the center, and Lieut. Colonel Webster’s brigade on the loft. The North Carolina militia gave way before the British attack, but the Virginia militia stood their ground better; the Continental troops maintained the conflict with some spirit, but the British broke the second Maryland brigade, turned the American left flank, and got in the rear of the Virginians. This decided the battle, and the Americans were compelled to retreat, and the same evening were 10 miles distant from the field. As the British were outnumbered two to one in this conflict, their losses were naturally heavy, amounting to 93 killed, 413 wounded and 26 missing. The gallant Lieutenant Colonel Webster, an officer of distinguished merit, died of his wounds. The killed, wounded and missing of the continental troops amounted to 330, while an imperfect return of the loss of the militia places their casualties at upwards of 400. The total loss of the Americans, according to their own reports, was upwards of 1,300, the missing forming a large proportion of this number. Nevertheless, the battle of Guilford, although a victory for the British, was almost equal to a defeat, so heavy was the loss of the royal army in proportion to its numbers.