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than to occupy a cold bleak hill and sleep under frost and snow without clothes or blankets. However, as they seem to have little feeling for the naked and distressed soldiers, I feel superabundantly for them.” He goes on to tell them that "no day nor scarce an hour passes without the offer of a resigned Commission.” In February, 1778, he tells them that the horses are dying for want of forage. A strong cabal was formed against him both in Congress and amongst the officers of the army
It would appear to a layman that if, under these circumstances, Howe had attacked Washington's army, he must have annihilated it.
vii. The European Allies of the Colonists. In this impasse help came for the colonists against the Constitution of Great Britain, but it was certainly of a nature to raise ironical laughter. They allied themselves with France and Spain, the traditional foes of free British institutions, two of the most absolute monarchies in Europe, armed respectively for the subjection of their peoples with the lettres de cachet and the Inquisition. The friends of liberty called in by the colonies may be gauged by two examples.
After the failure of the French in India and the fall of Pondicherry in 1760, Lally de Tollendal, the French commander, was thrown into the Bastille, where he lay for five years before trial. His failure to defeat the British and to save Pondicherry was due, so far as it was avoidable, to the corruption and treasonable behaviour of the French colonial officials. It was these men who accused him at his trial before the judges of the Parlement of the very acts of which they themselves were guilty. In 1766 he was at length condemned on valueless evidence and executed with every circumstance of brutal insult accorded to the commonest criminal. Louis XV. was appealed to for a reprieve, but declined, and left the brave general to the revenge of the mob calling for a scapegoat. He did not see the scene twenty-three years later when, as the direct result of such rule and such misuse of legal forms, he may be said to have signed in 1766 the death warrant of Louis XVI.
In Spain the Sierra Morena was at this time practically an uninhabited desert. A German, Don Caspar Thurriegel,
agreed in 1770 to settle there a colony of some six thousand foreigners, Germans, Flemings, Swiss and Italians, many of them Protestants. He and his assistants founded villages, apportioned the lands, forwarded agriculture, and constructed model farms. Then a superintendent, Don Paolo Olavide, Peruvian Spaniard, was appointed superintendent. He allowed no monks or convents in the settlement, which in such a country as Spain, from which the Jesuits had recently been expelled, was hardly likely to pass without retaliation. The settlement suffered all the drawbacks which attend the pioneer, but succeeded in the end. Then, in 1775, when the liberal minister, D'Aranda, under whom the settlement was made, had been dismissed, Don Olavide was arrested and charged with freethinking and opposition to the Church. He was accused, among other things, of having letters of recommendation from Voltaire. In 1778, after two years' imprisonment, he was publicly condemned to eight years' imprisonment in a convent, banishment from Madrid and various other places, confiscation of all his property, insults and disgraces (Rousseau). It was with these powers, who had throughout fomented the quarrels between Britain and the colonists, that the Americans, fighting as they claimed for freedom, now allied themselves.
The agents of the revolted colonies had been busy in European countries, in the West Indies, and in Scotland and Ireland, inciting to revolt against Britain for years past. Now, after Burgoyne's surrender, they were successful. On February 6, 1778, they concluded a treaty with Louis XVI., containing the provision that no peace should be made by either party until their independence was acknowledged. France declared war in July. In June, 1779, the Bourbon King of Spain, bound by the family pact, followed Louis and began at once the siege of Gibraltar. On December 20, 1780, Great Britain declared war against Holland. Britain, now with her back to the wall, had to face these enemies assisted by the opposition, who, taking advantage of the republican attitude of the Presbyterian ministers in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, did all that lay in their power to hurt the prospects of recruiting which went on busily all over the country by counties, towns and private persons, the country as a whole supporting the ministers.
The immediate effect of the entry of these nations into the quarrel was not as bad as it looks on paper. The three powers, especially France and Holland, had been steadily supplying the colonists with money, food, clothing and military stores, and had allowed the American privateers to use their ports. A very large trade in provisions had sprung up between Ireland and Holland, carried on in Dutch ships, for the use of the French fleet. This trade was the result of the foolish prohibition of export of Irish cattle to England and Scotland after the Restoration and consequent orders in Council, a policy by which England lost all the advantage of the trade and threw it into the hands of her enemies. (See George O'Brien's Economic History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 217–22.)
The British were compelled to ignore this commerce unless they wished to bring these European powers into line as allies of the colonies. When they became open enemies their ships could be seized in all parts of the world by the British fleets, and their colonies and coasts at home raided. The commerce of the three countries suffered far more than that of the British, owing to our superiority at sea.
The entry of France into the war made America a secondary scene of operations, the hope of reducing the colonists becoming very distant. The war became a naval war, carried on all over the world between Britain and the three continental powers assisted by the American privateers. Although the record of the British forces in America in these years was very fine, indeed, including many daring raids and brilliant victories over superior forces, the war on this continent away from the sea ports tended to degenerate into a guerilla war between loyalists and republicans to wipe off old scores, accompanied by much brutality. As the terror lifted and the British troops drew near, Ramsay says that “people of the worst characters emerged from their hiding places in the swamps, called themselves king's men, and began to appropriate to their own use whatsoever came in their way," a position, no doubt, reversed when the American troops were at hand. But Gates and other American leaders behaved with splendid chivalry throughout, and so did many of the British. You will find in the history of Stedman who served in the British armies, and other like accounts, a record of the many little battles fought by the small bodies of British troops which operated over the continent,
either moving by sea from one naval base to another, or making dangerous marches through swamps and almost impassable roads, or amphibious raids up the rivers to destroy ships and stores. As a single example in 1779, the stores and provisions for the operations in the Southern States were carried in open boats through the inland waterways, often so shallow that the men had to wade and drag them through the mud, the troops being obliged to live on oysters most of the time. It was in this way that Maitland came to help Prevost, besieged with two thousand mixed troops in Savannah by d'Estaing with ten thousand French and Americans. D'Estaing attempted a storm, but was completely defeated. Clinton, with Gambier of the Navy, did splendid work with the small force at his disposal. Otherwise the war was a naval war, as, for instance, in the West Indies, a scene of action which had so great an influence on events, drawing off the fleets which should have been on the American coast, and so contributing to the catastrophe of Yorktown.
Beyond noticing a few of the most notable incidents in this world war, I do not intend to mention details which are of permanent interest only to military and naval writers. A single passage will give a reader a better idea of the various heroism of the British soldiers than any number of pages recounting battles. I recommend the perusal of page 464 in Vol. III. of Fortescue, beginning, “So closed the operations of 1781, and it is worth while to think for a moment of the great array of British officers who were standing at bay against heavy odds in that terrible year.”
viii. The War at Sea.-When one approaches naval warfare, the reasons for avoiding detailed description are even greater, as the manœuvres of sailing vessels, if only at a local regatta, are generally a sealed book to most laymen. So far as battles were concerned, all that one can say is that unless a fleet had the weather gage, that is, stood in such a relation to the wind that it could sail down on its opponents, and attack them, it could not begin an action, nor was it able to refuse one. A fleet with the lee gage had to act on the defensive. The British generally manquvred for the attack and the French for the defence. Each had its advantages.
The naval war was fought over the whole world, involving an immense amount of commerce-destroying, transport of troops, combined raids and relief of besieged places, besides occasional naval battles—which were frequently indecisive, owing to wind, storms and darkness, conflicting orders, or diplomacy at home. Great Britain was everywhere on the defensive against vastly superior forces and moved across the seas from one point to another, often on imperfect information, to meet the allied fleets. Only the courage of her seamen and the skill and daring of her leaders enabled the island power to survive those years of unequal conflict. Yet they were the proudest years of British history. As it was impossible to be superior in all areas of operation, the British had to rely on the good judgment and tenacity of their sea captains. For the most part they were justified. They might say with the old play :
“ Tis not in mortals to command success,
But we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll deserve it.” The French and Spanish fleets were in unusually good condition and well prepared for war.
But the prompt action, technical skill and daring in attack of the British seamen offset any superiority in number or size of ships or weight of metal. At the opening of the war, for instance, Admiral Howe frustrated all plans of d'Estaing for co-operation with the colonists on the American coast, and Barrington in the West Indies, taking St. Lucia, held it against the French with more than double the number of his ships. Six months later Byron boldly attacked the superior force of the French, but d'Estaing would not follow up the advantage which his numbers gave him. At the end of 1781 Kempenfeldt, with a far inferior force, cut off the greater part of a convoy which de Guichen was taking to the West Indies.
At the end of 1779 Rodney sailed with twenty ships of the line to relieve Gibraltar, convoying on his way the West India merchant fleet. He met off Cadiz a Spanish fleet of eleven ships of the line, took six, blew up one, and sending on a convoy to Minorca, and supplying Gibraltar in January, 1780, he sailed to command in the West Indies. A masterful man, with ideas of his own, he did for naval warfare what Frederick II.