History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 5

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IV.
THE LAST CAMPAIGN OF THE AMERICAN WAR.
1781.

SIR HENRY CLINTON persevered in the purpose of holding a station in the Chesapeake bay; and, on the second of January 1781, Arnold, with sixteen hundred men, appeared by his order in the James river. The generous commonwealth of Virginia having sent its best troops and arms to the more southern states, Governor Jefferson promptly called the whole militia from the adjacent counties; but, in the region of planters with slaves, there were not freemen enough at hand to meet the invaders. Arnold offered to spare Richmond if he might unmolested carry off its stores of tobacco; the proposal being rejected with scorn, on the fifth and sixth its houses and stores, public and private, were set on fire. Washington used his knowledge of the lowlands of Virginia to form for the capture of Arnold a plan of which the success seemed to him certain. From his own army he detached about twelve hundred men of the New England and New Jersey lines under the command of Lafayette, and asked the combined aid of the whole French fleet at Newport and a detachment from the land forces under Rochambeau. But d’Estouches, the French admiral, had already sent out a sixty-four-gun ship and two frigates, and did not think it prudent to put to sea with the residue of the fleet. The ships-of-war, which arrived safely in the Chesapeake, having no land troops, could not reach Arnold; but, on their way back to Rhode Island, they captured a British fifty-gun frigate. Washington, on the sixth of March, met Rochambeau and d’Estouches in council on board

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