The Life of General Francis Marion
Mason Locke Weems
Part 2 out of 5
being their only son, but detained him with them in London,
as gay as a young man well could be, in the gayest city in the world,
moving every day in the highest circles of society, and every night
encircled in the fond arms of a beauteous wife.
But soon as the war against America broke out, his gaiety all forsook him.
The idea of a ruffian soldiery overrunning his native land,
preyed incessantly on his spirits, and threw him into those brown studies
which cost his lady full many a tear. Unable to bear his disquietude,
he fled at length from his wife and infant family, to fight for his country.
He presented himself before the great Washington, who was so struck
with the fire that beamed from his eyes, that he made him
handsome offers of rank in the army. But his favorite service
was to lead `forlorn hopes', and the daring bands that are destined
to carry the enemy's works by storm. Washington often gave him
letters to this effect to his generals. And this was his object at Savannah,
where a regiment of choice infantry was immediately put under his command.
But instead of being permitted his favorite pleasure of seeing
his ardent warriors mounting the enemy's works, and rushing
down streams of fire, followed by the bayonet, he was doomed
to fret and pine in the humble office of interpreter
between count D'Estang and general Lincoln.
"But, Monsieur le count," said Laurens to D'Estang, "the American officers
say they are afraid you have given the English too long time to think."
At this, as Laurens told us afterwards, the count put on a most comic stare,
and breaking into a hearty laugh, replied, "De Engleesh think! ha, ha, ha!
By gar dat one ver good parole! De Engleesh tink, heh, Monsieur le colonel!
By gar, de Engleesh never tink but for deir bellie.
Give de Jack Engleeshman plenty beef -- plenty pudding -- plenty porter,
by gar he never tink any more, he lay down, he go a sleep like vun hog."
"But, Monsieur le count," continued Laurens, "the English are doing
worse for us than thinking. They are working away like horses,
and will soon get their defences too high for us to scale."
"Eh, heh, Monsieur le colonel! you think-a so? Well den, by gar
you no need for tink-a so -- by gar my French-a-mans run over de fence
just like vun tief horse run over de cornfield fence --
mind now I tell-a you dat, Monsieur le colonel."
"Well, but Monsieur le count, the British sometimes fight like the d---l."
"Sacre Dieu!" replied the nettled count, starting and gaping
as though he would have swallowed a young alligator --
"de Briteesh fight like de diable! Jaun foutre de Briteesh!
when they been known for fight like de diable? Ess, ess, dat true enough;
dey fight de Americans like de diable -- but by gar dey no fight
de French-a-mans so -- no no, by gar dey no make one mouthful
for my French-a-mans -- Morbleu! my French-a-mans eat dem up
like vun leetle grenoulle."
"Green Owl!" exclaimed one of general Lincoln's aids --
"Oh my God! who ever heard of a `green owl' before?"
Here Laurens, smiling at the officer's mistake, replied,
"not `green owl', sir, but `grenouille', grenouille, sir,
is the French for frog."
"Aye, sure enough, sure enough, frog," continued the count,
"frog; grenouille is frog. By gar, Monsieur le colonel,
you be vun dam good interpret, I set dat well enough. Well den, now,
Monsieur le colonel, you hear-a me speak -- my French-a-mans
eat dem Jack Engleesh all same like vun leetle frog."
"Oh to be sure! -- no doubt of all that, Monsieur le count --
but before we eat them up, they may kill a great many of our soldiers."
"Dey kill-a de soldier!" replied the passionate count -- "well what den
if dey do kill-a de soldier! Jaun foutre de soldier! what dey good for
but for be kill? dat deir trade. You give-a vun poor dog soldier,
two, three, four penny a day, he go fight -- he get kill. Well den, what dat?
By gar he only get what he HIRE for."
"But pardon me, Monsieur le count, we can't spare them."
"Vat! no spare de soldier! de GRAND MONARQUE no spare de soldier?
O mon Dieu! Vy, Monsieur le colonel -- for why you talk-a so? Well den,
hear-a me speak now, Monsieur le colonel -- you see de star in de sky;
de leaf on de tree; de sand on de shore -- you no see all dat, heh?
Well den, by gar, Monsieur le colonel, de GRAND MONARQUE got soldier
more an-a all dat -- ess, sacra Dieu! more an-a all dat, by gar."
"Well but, Monsieur le count, is it not CRUEL to kill
the poor fellows notwithstanding?"
"Pooh!" replied the count, throwing back his head, and puffing out his cheeks
as when a cigar sucker explodes a cataract of smoke from
the crater of his throat; "cruel! vat cruel for kill-a de soldier!
by gar, Monsieur le colonel, you make-a de king of France laugh
he hear-a you talk after dat fashong. Let-a me tell you, Monsieur le colonel,
de king of France no like general Washington -- by gar,
general Washington talk wi' de soldier -- he shake hand wi' de soldier --
he give de soldier dram -- By gar, de GRAND MONARQUE no do so --
no, sacra Dieu! he no LOOK AT de soldier. When de king of France
ride out in de coach royale wid de supeerb horses, and harness shining
so bright all vun like gold, if he run over one soldier,
you tink he going stop for dat? No, sacra foutre! he ride on so,
all one like if nothing at all been happen. Jaun foutre de soldier!
let him prenez garde for himself; by gar the grand Monarque no mind dat.
De grand Monarque only tink of de soldier `commes des chiens',
like de poor dam dog for fight for him."
Thus ended the dialogue between colonel Laurens and the count D'Estang.
The next day, the memorable twenty-four hours being expired,
a flag was sent into town to know the determination of the British officer,
who very politely replied, that having consulted his pillow, he had
made up his mind to defend the place. A regular siege was then commenced,
and continued for three weeks: at the end of which an attack was made,
and with the success which Marion had all along predicted. After a full
hour's exposure to the destructive rage of grape shot and musketry,
we were obliged to make a precipitate retreat; leaving the ground covered
with the mingled carcasses of 400 Americans and 800 Frenchmen.
Marion's corps fighting with their usual confidence, suffered great loss;
himself did not receive a scratch. Colonel Laurens raged like a wounded lion.
Soon as the retreat was ordered he paused, and looking round
on his fallen men, cried out, "Poor fellows, I envy you!"
then hurling his sword in wrath against the ground, he retired.
Presently, after we had reached our encampment, he came to my marquee,
and like one greatly disordered, said, "Horry, my life is a burden to me;
I would to God I was lying on yonder field at rest with my poor men!"
"No! no! none of that, colonel," said I, "none of that;
I trust we shall live to pay them yet for all this."
And so it turned out. And though for humanity's sake, I ought not
to BOAST of it, yet we did live to pay them for it, and often too:
and in the same bloody coin which they gave us that day. And although
in that fiery season of my days, and when my dear country was in danger,
it was but natural for me to rejoice in the downfall of my enemies,
yet I was often witness to scenes, which to this day I can never think of
but with sorrow -- as when, for example, after dashing upon an enemy
by surprise, and cutting one half of them to pieces and chasing the rest,
we returned to collect the horses and arms of the slain. Who, I say,
without grief could behold those sad sights which then offered themselves,
of human beings lying mangled over the crimson ground --
some stone dead, some still alive and struggling, with brains oozing
from their cloven skulls -- and others sitting up, or leaning on their elbows,
but pale with loss of blood, running in streams from their mortal wounds,
and they themselves looking down, the while, sadly thinking of home
and of distant wives and children, whom they shall never see again.
Such thoughts, if often cherished, would much abate the rancor of malice
in the hearts of those whose sad destiny it is to kill one another;
especially if it were known how short sometimes are the triumphs
of the victor. It was remarkably so in the present case:
for colonel Maitland, of the Highlanders, who had contributed
a large part to this very unexpected victory, was so elated by it,
that he took to hard drinking, and killed himself in a single week,
and the sickly season coming on, the greater part of the garrison
perished of the yellow or bilious fever!!
Thus friends and foes the same sad fortune shar'd,
And sickness swallowed whom the sword had spar'd.
Many gallant men were the victims of count D'Estang's folly in this affair;
among the number was that impetuous Polander, the count Polaski.
But none fell more universally lamented than the heroic Jasper.
Every reader must wish to hear the last of this brave and generous soldier.
And they shall have it faithfully, for I happened to be close by him
when he received his death's wound; and I was with him
when he breathed his last.
Early in the action, the elegant colors presented by Mrs. Elliot,
had been planted on the enemy's works; and the fury of the battle
raged near the spot where they waved. During the whole of the bloody fray,
Jasper had remained unhurt. But on hearing the retreat sounded,
he rushed up to bear off his colors, and in that desperate act,
was mortally wounded. As he passed by me, with the colors in his hands,
I observed he had a bad limp in his walk.
"You are not much hurt, I hope, Jasper," said I.
"Yes, major," he replied, "I believe I have got my furlough."
"Pshaw," quoth I, "furlough indeed, for what?"
"Why to go home," he answered, "to go to Heaven, I hope."
"Pooh!" said I, and having, as the reader must suppose, a good deal
to attend to, I turned off and left him. However, his words made
such an impression on me, that soon as duty permitted, I went to see him,
and found too true what he had predicted; the ball had opened
a blood vessel in the lungs which no art could stop, and he was bleeding
to slow but certain death.
As I entered the tent, he lifted his eyes to me, but their fire
was almost quenched; and stretching his feeble hand, he said,
with perfect tranquillity, "Well, major, I told you I had got my furlough."
"I hope not," I replied.
"O yes!" said he, "I am going -- and very fast too; but, thank God,
I am not afraid to go."
I told him I knew he was too brave to fear death, and too honest
to be alarmed about its consequences.
"Why, as to that matter, sir," said he, "I won't brag: but I have my hopes,
notwithstanding I may be wrong, for I know I am but a poor ignorant body,
but somehow or other, I have always built my hopes of what God may do
for me hereafter, on what he has done for me here!"
I told him I thought he was very correct in that.
"Do you, indeed?" said he. "Well, I am mighty glad of that --
and now major, here's the way I always comfort myself:
Fifty years ago, (I say to myself,) I was nothing, and had no thought
that there was any such grand and beautiful world as this.
But still there was such a world notwithstanding; and here God
has brought me into it. Now, can't he, in fifty years more,
or indeed in fifty minutes more, bring me into another world,
as much above this as this is above that state of nothing,
wherein I was fifty years ago?"
I told him that this was, to my mind, a very happy way of reasoning;
and such, no doubt, as suited the greatness and goodness of God.
"I think so, major," said he, "and I trust I shall find it so;
for though I've been a man of blood, yet, thank God, I've always lived
with an eye to that great hope. My mother, major, was a good woman;
when I was but a child, and sat on her lap, she used to talk to me of God,
and tell how it was he who built this great world, with all its riches
and good things: and not for himself, but for ME! and also,
that if I would but do his will in that only acceptable way, a good life,
he would do still greater and better things for me hereafter.
"Well, major, from the mouth of a dear mother, like her,
these things went so deep into my heart, that they could never
be taken away from me. I have hardly ever gone to bed, or got up again,
without saying my prayers. I have honored my father and mother;
and, thank God, been strictly HONEST. And since you have known me, major,
I believe you can bear witness, that though a strong man,
I never was quarrelsome."
I told him, nothing afforded me more satisfaction, than to remember that,
since he was now going to die, he had always led so good a life.
He answered, with tears in his eyes, that he had a good hope he was going
where he should not do what he had been obliged to do in this world.
"I've killed men in my time, major, but not in malice, but in what I thought
a just war in defence of my country. And as I bore no malice against
those I killed, neither do I bear any against those who have killed me.
And I heartily trust in God for Christ's sake, that we shall yet, one day,
meet together, where we shall forgive and love one another like brothers.
I own, indeed, major, that had it so pleased God, I should have been glad
to stay a little longer with you to fight for my country. But however,
I humbly hope that my death is of God; which makes it welcome to me,
and so I bow me to his blessed will. And now, my good friend, as I feel
I have but a little time to live, I beg you will do a few things for me
when I am dead and gone."
I could not speak; but gathering my answer from my tears, and the close press
I gave his hand, he thus went on, but it was in a low voice and laborious.
"You see that sword? -- It is the one which governor Rutledge presented to me
for my services at Fort Moultrie -- give that sword to my father,
and tell him I never dishonored it. If he should weep for me,
tell him his son died in hope of a better life. If you should see
that great gentlewoman, Mrs. Elliot, tell her I lost my life
in saving the colors she gave to our regiment. And if ever
you should come across poor Jones and his wife, and little boy,
tell them Jasper is gone; but that the remembrance of the hard battle
which he once fought for their sakes brought a secret joy to his heart
just as it was about to stop its motion for ever."
He spoke these last words in a livelier tone than usual,
but it was like the last kindling of the taper in its oil-less socket --
for instantly the paleness of death overspread his face,
and after a feeble effort to vomit, with convulsions,
the natural effect of great loss of blood, he sunk back and expired.
From this victim of D'Estang's madness, I went with a heavy heart on parade,
to take a review of the sad remains of the battle. The call of the roll
completed the depression of my spirits. To every fourth or fifth name
there was no answer -- the gloomy silence which ensued, told us
where they were. About twelve o'clock we sent in a flag to the garrison
for permission to bury our dead. Curiosity led me to accompany the party
destined to this mournful duty. I had prepared myself for a sorrowful sight;
but ah! what words can express what I then saw and suffered!
A scattered few lay here and there on the utmost verge of the field,
killed by cannon shot, and so mangled, that in some instances, it was hard
to tell who they were. As we advanced, they lay thicker and thicker.
Some, not quite dead, were constantly crying, "Water! water! --
Oh! for God's sake, a little water!" -- Others lay quite dead,
but still their lifeless visages retained the dark frowns of war.
There, on the side of the enemy's breast-work, lay the brave ensign Boushe,
covering with his dead body, the very spot where he had fixed
the American standard. His face was pale and cold as the earth he pressed,
but still it spoke the fierce determined air of one whose last sentiment
towards those degenerate Britons was, "There d--n you!
look at the stripes of liberty."
Close by ensign Boushe, lay that elegant young man, Alexander Hume, Esq.
with his sword still grasped in his stiffened fingers.
My heart bled within me, when I looked on young Hume, where he lay
in all the pale beauties of death. He was to have been married
the week following, to a charming woman; but such was his zeal
to serve his country, that he came a volunteer to our camp,
and met his death the next morning after he joined us.
Gifted with a pretty taste for painting, he had tried his skill,
and very successfully too, in sketching the likeness of his lovely mistress.
For on opening his bosom, was found, suspended by a blue ribband,
(the happy lover's color) a fine likeness of the beautiful Miss ----:
the back of the portrait was stained with his blood;
but unconscious of her lover's fate, she still wore the enchanting smile
with which yielding beauty views the youth she loves.
We then proceeded to bury our dead; which was done by digging large pits,
sufficient to contain about a hundred corpses. Then taking off their clothes,
with heavy hearts, we threw them into the pits, with very little
regard to order, and covered them over with earth.
"Poor brothers, farewell! the storm of your last battle has long ago ceased
on the field, and no trace now remains on earth that you ever lived.
The worms have devoured your flesh; and the mounds raised over your dust,
are sunk back to the common level with the plain. But ah!
could your mournful story be read, the youth of America would listen
to the last words of Washington, and `study the art of war,'
that their countrymen might no more be murdered by military quacks.
As a hint to American officers, I think it my duty to state
the following fact: -- Our fatal attack on Savannah was made
very early in the morning. A few hours previous thereto,
a council of war was held; and while it was deliberating, a deserter and spy
had the address to bear a musket, as sentinel at the door of the marquee!!
On hearing where the attack was to be made, he ran off in the dark,
and gave such intelligence to the enemy, as enabled them very completely
to defeat us. The fellow was afterwards taken at the battle of Hobkirk Hill,
near Camden, and hung.
Scarcely had we finished burying the dead, before the count D'Estang
hurried on board his ships with his troops and artillery, while we,
passing on in silence by the way of Zubley's ferry, returned to Carolina,
and pitched our tents at Sheldon, the country seat of general Bull.
The theatre of war being, from this period, and for some time at least,
removed to the northern states, the governor and council were pleased
to reduce the regiments, and dismiss the supernumerary officers.
To some of my brethren in arms, this was matter of serious alarm.
But for myself, possessing, thank God, a liberal fortune in the country,
and feeling no ATTRACTION to the camp, except when drawn thither
by public danger, I was quite happy to hear of this new arrangement,
and waited on his excellency to return my commission.
Perhaps some may say it was pride in me, and that I did not like
the idea of being `unfrocked'. Why, as to that matter,
it is not for me to boast of my standing among my superiors in those days.
But this I must needs say, that it is joy enough, and glory enough too,
for me to know, that I was always the favorite of the great Marion;
and that he seldom ever asked the lightning of any other sword than mine,
to lead his squadron to the charge. However, the moment I heard, as above,
that it was in agitation to reduce the regiments, I waited on the governor,
and begged that, as there was nothing doing, he would allow me
to return to my plantation. To my plantation I DID return,
and there continued till spring, 1780, when Charleston was taken
by the British; at which time, and for some weeks before,
I was grievously afflicted with the rheumatism. Thus by a providence,
which, I confess, I did not at that time altogether like,
I was kindly saved from being kidnapped by the enemy, and also introduced
into a field of some little service, I hope, to my country,
and of no great dishonor to myself. However, be this as it may,
the reader shall soon see, and then let him judge for himself.
Providential escape of Marion out of Charleston --
the British fleet and army invest and take that place --
Tarleton and the British officers begin to let out -- young Scotch Macdonald
comes upon the turf -- extraordinary anecdote of him --
plays a very curious trick on a rich old tory.
How happy it is for man, that the author of his being loves him
so much better than he loves himself; and has established so close a connexion
between his duty and his advantage. This delightful truth
was remarkably exemplified in an event that befell Marion about this time,
March, 1780. Dining with a squad of choice whigs, in Charleston,
in the house of Mr. Alexander M'Queen, Tradd street, he was so frequently
pressed to bumpers of old wine, that he found himself in a fair way
to get drunk. 'Twas in vain he attempted to beat a retreat.
The company swore, that that would never do for general Marion.
Finding, at last, that there was no other way of escaping a debauch,
but by leaping out of one of the windows of the dining-room,
which was on the second story, he bravely undertook it. It cost him,
however, a broken ankle. When the story got about in Charleston,
most people said he was a great fool for his pains; but the event soon proved
that Marion was in the right, and that there is no policy
like sticking to a man's duty. For, behold! presently Charleston was invested
by a large British army, and the American general (Lincoln)
finding Marion was utterly unfit for duty, advised him
to push off in a litter to his seat in St. John's parish.
Thus providentially was Marion preserved to his country
when Charleston fell, as it soon did, with all our troops.
The spirits of the British were so raised by the capture of our metropolis
with all the southern army, that they presently began to scour
the neighboring country. And never victors, perhaps, had a country
more completely in their power. Their troops were of the choicest kind;
excellently equipped, and commanded by active, ambitious young fellows,
who looked on themselves as on the high road to fortune
among the conquered rebels. They all carried with them
pocket maps of South Carolina, on which they were constantly poring
like young spendthrifts on their fathers' last testaments. They would also
ask a world of questions, such as, "where lay the richest lands? --
and the finest situations? -- and who were the warmest old fellows,
and had the finest girls?" and when answered to their humor,
they would break out into hearty laughs; and flourish their swords,
and `whoop' and `hoic' it away like young fox hunters,
just striking on a fresh trail.
Some of them had Dr. Madan's famous book called "Thylipthora,
or a Defence of Polygamy", with which they were prodigiously taken,
and talked very freely of reducing the system to practice. Cornwallis,
it seems, was to be a bashaw of three tails -- Rawdon and Tarleton,
of two each -- and as a natural appendage of such high rank,
they were to have their seraglios and harems filled
with the greatest beauties of the country.
"Huzza, my brave fellows!" -- they would say to each other;
"one more campaign and the `hash' will be settled with the d----d rebels,
and then stand by the girls! -- stand by the Miss Pinckneys! and Elliots!
and Rutledges! and all your bright-eyed, soft bosomed, lovely dames,
look sharp! Egad! your charms shall reward our valor! like the grand Turk,
we'll have regiments of our own raising! Charleston shall be
our Constantinople! and our Circassia, this sweet Carolina famed for beauties!
Prepare the baths, the perfumes, and spices! bring forth
the violins and the rose buds! and tap the old Madeira,
that our souls may all be joy!"
'Twas in this way they would rant; and then, brightened up to the pitch,
they would look and grin on each other as sweetly as young foxes,
who, prowling round a farm yard, had suddenly heard
the cackling of the rooster pullets. The reader shall presently see
the violent and bloody course of these ruffians, who did such dishonor
to the glorious island they came from. But before I begin my tragedy,
I beg leave, by way of prologue, to entertain him a moment
with a very curious farce that was acted on a wealthy old tory,
near Monk's Corner, while colonel Tarleton with the British advance,
The hero of the play was a remarkably stout, red-haired young Scotsman,
named Macdonald, son of the Macdonald of famous defeat at Morris Creek Bridge,
North Carolina. Soon after the defeat of his father
he came and joined our troops. Led by curiosity, I could not help, one day,
asking him the reason: to which he made, in substance, the following reply.
"Immediately on the misfortune of my father and his friends
at the Great Bridge, I fell to thinking what could be the cause;
and then it struck me that it must have been owing to
their own monstrous ingratitude. "Here now," said I to myself,
"is a parcel of people, meaning my poor father and his friends, who fled
from the murderous swords of the English after the massacre at Culloden.
Well, they came to America, with hardly any thing but their poverty
and mournful looks. But among this friendly people that was enough. --
Every eye that saw us, had pity; and every hand was reached out to assist.
They received us in their houses as though we had been their own
unfortunate brothers. They kindled high their hospitable fires for us,
and spread their feasts, and bid us eat and drink and banish our sorrows,
for that we were in a land of friends. And so indeed we found it;
for, whenever we told of the woeful battle of Culloden, and how the English
gave no quarter to our unfortunate countrymen, but butchered
all they could overtake, these generous people often gave us their tears,
and said, "O! that we had been there to aid with our rifles,
then should many of these monsters have bit the ground."
They received us into the bosoms of their peaceful forests,
and gave us their lands and their beauteous daughters in marriage,
and we became rich. And yet, after all, soon as the English came to America,
to murder this innocent people, merely for refusing to be their slaves,
then my father and friends, forgetting all that the Americans
had done for them, went and joined the British, to assist them
to cut the throats of their `best friends'!
"Now," said I to myself, "if ever there was a time for God to stand up
to punish ingratitude, this was the time." And God did stand up:
for he enabled the Americans to defeat my father and his friends
most completely. But, instead of murdering the prisoners, as the English
had done at Culloden, they treated us with their usual generosity.
And now these are, "the people I love and will fight for as long as I live."
And so he did fight for us, and as undauntedly too as George Washington
This was young Scotch Macdonald. Now the curious trick which he played,
is as follows.
Soon as he heard that colonel Tarleton was encamped at Monk's Corner,
he went the next morning to a wealthy old tory of that neighborhood,
and passing himself for a sergeant of Colonel Tarleton's corps,
presented that officer's compliments, adding that colonel Tarleton
was just come to drive the rebels out of the country, and knowing him to be
a good friend of the king, begged he would send him one of his best horses
for a charger, and that he should be no loser by it.
"Send him one of my finest horses!" cried the old traitor,
with eyes sparkling with joy; "Yes, Mr. Sergeant, that I will, by gad!
and would send him one of my finest daughters too, had he but said the word.
A good friend of the king, did he call me, Mr. Sergeant?
yes, God save his sacred majesty, a good friend I am indeed, and a true.
And, faith! I am glad too, Mr. Sergeant, that colonel knows it.
Send him a charger to drive the rebels, heh? Yes, egad will I send him one,
and as proper a one too, as ever a soldier straddled. Dick! Dick!
I say you Dick!"
"Here, massa, here! here Dick!"
"Oh, you plaguy dog! so I must always split my throat with bawling,
before I can get you to answer heh?"
"High, massa! sure Dick always answer when he hear massa hallo!"
"You do, you villain, do you? -- Well then, run! jump! fly, you rascal,
fly to the stable, and bring me out Selim, my young Selim! do you hear?
you villain, do you hear?"
"Yes, massa, be sure!"
Then turning to Macdonald, he went on: "Well, Mr. Sergeant,
you have made me confounded glad this morning, you may depend.
And now suppose you take a glass of peach; of good old peach, Mr. Sergeant?
do you think it would do you any harm?"
"Why, they say it is good of a rainy morning, sir," replied Macdonald.
"O yes, famous of a rainy morning, Mr. Sergeant! a mighty antifogmatic.
It prevents you the ague, Mr. Sergeant; and clears a man's throat
of the cobwebs, sir."
"God bless your honor!" said Macdonald, as he turned off
a bumper of the high-beaded cordial.
But scarcely had he smacked his lips, before Dick paraded Selim;
a proud, full-blooded, stately steed, that stepped as though
he disdained the earth he walked upon.
Here the old fellow brightening up, broke out again: "Aye! there,
Mr. Sergeant, there is a horse for you! isn't he, my boy?"
"Faith, a noble animal, sir," replied Macdonald.
"Yes, egad! a noble animal indeed! -- a charger for a king, Mr. Sergeant! --
Well, my compliments to colonel Tarleton: tell him I've sent him a horse,
my young Selim, my grand Turk, do you hear, my son of thunder?
And say to the colonel that I don't grudge him neither, for egad!
he's too noble for me, Mr. Sergeant. I've no work that's fit for him, sir;
no! damme, sir, if there's any work in all this country
that's good enough for him, but just that which he is now going on;
the driving the d----d rebels out of the land."
And in order to send Selim off in high style, he ordered Dick to bring down
his elegant new saddle and holsters, with his silver-mounted pistols.
Then giving Macdonald a hot breakfast, and lending him his great coat,
as it was raining, he let him go, with a promise that he would
come next morning and see how colonel Tarleton liked young Selim.
Accordingly next morning he waited on colonel Tarleton, and told his name,
with the smiling countenance of one who expected to be eaten up with fondness.
But alas! to his infinite mortification, Tarleton heard his name
without the least change of feature.
After recovering a little from his embarrassment, he asked colonel Tarleton
how he liked his charger.
"Charger, sir!" replied Tarleton.
"Yes, sir, the elegant horse I sent you yesterday."
"The elegant horse you sent me, sir!"
"Yes, sir, and by your sergeant, sir, as he called himself."
"An elegant horse! and by my sergeant! Why really, sir,
I-I-I don't understand all this!"
The looks and voice of colonel Tarleton too sadly convinced the old traitor
that he had been `bit'; and that young Selim was gone!
then trembling and pale, cried out, "Why, my dear good sir,
did you not send a sergeant yesterday with your compliments to me,
and a request that I would send you my very best horse for a charger,
which I did?"
"No, sir, never!" replied Tarleton: "I never sent a sergeant
on any such errand. Nor till this moment did I ever know
that there existed on earth such a being as you."
To have been outwitted in this manner by a rebel sergeant --
to have lost his peach brandy -- his hot breakfast -- his great coat --
his new saddle -- his silver mounted pistols -- and worse than all,
his darling horse, his young, full-blooded, bounding Selim --
all these keen reflections, like so many forked lightnings,
falling at once on the train and tinder of his passions, blew them up
to such a diabolical rage that the old sinner had like to have been suffocated
on the spot. He turned black in the face; he shook throughout;
and as soon as he could recover breath and power of speech,
he broke out into a torrent of curses, enough to raise the hair
on any Christian man's head.
Nor was colonel Tarleton much behind him, when he came to learn
what a noble horse had slipped through his hands. And a noble horse
he was indeed! Full sixteen hands high; the eye of a hawk,
the spirit of the king eagle; a chest like a lion; swifter than a roebuck,
and strong as a buffalo.
I asked Macdonald, how he could reconcile it to himself
to take the old poltroon's horse in that way?
"Why, sir," replied he, "as to that matter, people will think differently;
but for my part I hold that all is fair in war: and, besides, sir,
if I had not taken him colonel Tarleton, no doubt, would have got him.
And then, with such a swift strong charger as this, he might do us
as much harm as I hope to do to them."
And he did do them harm with a vengeance; for he had no more sense of fear
than a hungry tiger. And, as to his strength, it was such,
that with one of Potter's blades he would make no more
to drive through cap and skull of a British dragoon, than a boy would,
with a case-knife, to chip off the head of a carrot. And then,
he always kept Selim up so lustily to the top of his metal.
He was so fond of him, that I verily believe he would at any time
have sold the shirt off his back to get corn for him. And truly Selim
was not much his debtor; for, at the first flash and glimpse of a red coat,
he would paw and champ his iron bit with rage; and the moment
he heard the word "go", off he was among them like a thunderbolt.
And to see how Macdonald would charge, you would swear the fear of death
was never before his eyes. Whether it was one or ten against him,
it made no odds to this gallant Scotsman. He never stopped
to count noses, but would dash in upon the thickest of them,
and fall to hewing and cutting down like a very fury incarnate.
Poor Macdonald! the arm of his strength is now in dust;
and his large red cheeks have, long ago been food for worms:
but never shall I forget when first I saw him fight. 'Twas in the days
when the British held Georgetown; and Marion had said to me,
"Go and reconnoitre." I took only Macdonald with me. Before day
we reached our place of concealment, a thick clump of pines near the road,
and in full view of the enemy's lines. Soon as the bonny grey-eyed morning
began to peep, we heard the town all alive, as it were, with drums and fifes;
and about sunrise, beheld five dragoons turn out, and with prancing steeds
dash up the road towards us. I turned my eye on Macdonald,
and saw his face all kindled up with the joy of battle.
It was like that terrible joy which flashes from the eyes of an ambushed lion,
when he beholds the coming forth of the buffaloes towards his gloomy cave.
"Zounds, Macdonald," said I, "here's an odds against us, five to two."
"By my soul now captain," he replied, "and let 'em come on.
Three are welcome to the sword of Macdonald."
Soon as they were come fairly opposite to us, we gave them a blast
from our bugles, and with drawn sabres broke in upon them like a tornado.
Their panic was complete; two we stopped, overthrown and weltering
in the road. The remaining three wheeled about, and taking to their heels,
went off as if old Nick had been bringing up the rear.
Then you might have heard the roar, and seen the dust,
which dragoons can raise, when, with whip and spur and wildly rolling eyes,
they bend forward from the pursuit of death. My charger being
but a heavy brute, was soon distanced. But they could not distance
the swift-footed Selim. Rapid as the deadly blast of the desert,
he pursued their dusty course, still gathering upon them at every jump.
And before they could reach the town, though so near,
he brought his furious rider alongside of two of them, whom he cut down.
One hundred yards further, and the third also would have been slain;
for Macdonald, with his crimson claymore, was within a few steps of him,
when the guns of the fort compelled him to retire. However,
though quickly pursued by the enemy, he had the address to bring off
an elegant horse of one of the dragoons whom he had killed.
The abomination and desolation set up in South Carolina --
the author, with sorrowful heart, quits his native land,
and flies to the north in quest of warlike friends --
fortunate rencontre with his gallant friend colonel Marion --
After the capture of Charleston, with all our troops, the British,
as aforesaid, began to spread themselves over the country.
Then was exhibited a spectacle, which for sadness and alarm,
ought never to be forgotten by the people of America.
I mean how easy a thing it is for a small body of soldiers
to overrun a populous and powerful country. The British did not,
after Sir Henry Clinton's return to New York, exceed THREE THOUSAND MEN;
and South Carolina alone, at the lowest computation, must have contained
FIFTY THOUSAND! and yet this host of poor honest men were made to tremble
before that handful of ruffians, as a flock of sheep before the wolf,
or a household of little children before a dark frowning pedagogue.
The reason is immensely plain. The British were all embodied and firm
as a rock of granite; the Carolinians were scattered over the country
loose as a rope of sand: the British all well armed and disciplined,
moved in dreadful harmony, giving their fire like a volcano; the Carolinians,
with no other than birding pieces, and strangers to the art of war,
were comparatively feeble, as a forest of glow-worms:
the British, though but units in number, were so artfully arranged
that they told for myriads; while, for lack of unity, the Carolinians,
though numerous as myriads, passed only for ciphers. In short,
the British were a handful of hawks; the poor Carolinians
a swarm of rice-birds, and rather than be plucked to the pin feather,
or picked to the bone, they and their little ones, they were fain
to flatter those furious falcons, and oft times to chirp and sing
when they were much in the humor to hate and curse.
Oh! blind indeed, and doubly blind is that people, and well worthy
of iron yokes, who, enjoying all the sweets of liberty,
in a land of milk and honey, can expose to foreign Philistines,
that blessed Canaan, unguarded by Military science. Surely those
who thus throw "their pearl before swine", richly deserve that the beast
should turn again and trample THEM, and their treasures too, into the mire.
Yes, and had it not been for a better watch than our own,
at this day, like the wretched Irish, we should have been trampled
into the mire of slavery; groaning under heavy burdens
to enrich our task-masters; and doomed on every fruitless attempt at freedom,
to fatten the buzzards with our gibbeted carcasses.
For lack of this habitual military preparation on our part,
in a few days after the fall of Charleston, Col. Tarleton,
with only one hundred and fifty horse, galloped up to Georgetown,
through the most populous part of the state, with as much hauteur
as an overseer and his boys would gallop through a negro plantation!
To me this was the signal for clearing out. Accordingly,
though still in much pain from the rheumatism, I mounted my horse,
and with sword and pistol by my side, set out for the northward,
in quest of friendly powers to aid our fallen cause.
In passing through Georgetown, I saw a distant group of people,
to whom I rode up, and with great civility, as I thought,
asked the news. To which a young fellow very scornfully replied,
that "Colonel Tarleton was coming, and that the country, thank God,
would soon be cleared of the continental colonels."
I was within an ace of drawing a pistol and shooting the young slave dead
upon the spot. But God was pleased to give me patience to bear up
under that heavy cross; for which I have since very heartily thanked him
a thousand times and more. And indeed, on thinking over the matter,
it has often struck me, that the man who could speak in that way
to one who had on, as he saw, the American uniform, must be a savage,
and therefore not an object of anger, but of pity. But though my anger
was soon over, nothing could cure the melancholy into which this affair
threw me. To see my native country thus prostrate under foreign usurpers,
the generality quite disheartened, and the few, who dared to take her part,
thus publicly insulted, was a shock I was not prepared for,
and which, therefore, sunk my spirits to the lowest ebb of despondence.
Such was the frame of mind wherein I left my native state, and set out,
sick and alone, for the northward, with scarce a hope of ever seeing
better days. About the middle of the second day, as I beat my solitary road,
slowly winding through the silent, gloomy woods of North Carolina,
I discovered, just before me, a stranger and his servant.
Instantly my heart sprang afresh for the pleasures of society,
and quickening my pace, I soon overtook the gentleman, when lo!
who should it be but the man first of all in my wishes,
though the last in my expectations; who, I say, should it be but Marion!
Our mutual surprise was great. "Good heavens!" we both exclaimed
in the same moment, "Is that colonel Marion?" "Is that Horry?"
After the first transports of that joy, which those who have been long absent
from dear friends, can better conceive than I describe, we began to inquire
into each other's destinations, which was found to be the same;
both flying to the north for troops to fight the British.
We had not rode far when Marion, after looking up to the sun,
who was now past his half-way house, came suddenly to a halt, and said,
"Well, come Horry, I feel both peckish and weary, and here is a fine shade,
so let us go down and rest, and refresh ourselves a while."
Whereupon I dismounted; and with the help of his servant,
for his ankle was yet very crazy, got him down too.
Then, sitting side by side, on the trunk of a fallen pine,
we talked over the mournful state of our country; and came at last,
as we had always done, to this solemn conclusion, that we would stand by her
like true children, and either conquer or die with her.
After this, a piece of dried beef was paraded, from Marion's saddle-bags,
with a loaf of Indian bread and a bottle of brandy. The wealthy reader
may smile at this bill of fare; but to me it was a feast indeed. For joy,
like a cordial, had so raised my spirits, and reinvigorated my system,
that I fed like a thresher.
I shall never forget an expression which Marion let fall during our repast,
and which, as things have turned out, clearly shows
what an intimate acquaintance he had with human nature.
I happened to say that I was afraid "our happy days were all gone."
"Pshaw, Horry," he replied, "don't give way to such idle fears.
Our happy days are not all gone. On the contrary, the victory is still sure.
The enemy, it is true, have all the trumps in their hands,
and if they had but the spirit to play a generous game,
would certainly ruin us. But they have no idea of that game;
but will treat the people cruelly. And that one thing will ruin them,
and save America."
"I pray God," said I, "it may be so."
"Well, don't be afraid," replied he, "you will assuredly see it."
Having despatched our simple dinner, we mounted again and pursued our journey,
but with feelings so different from what I had before this meeting,
as made me more sensible than ever what a divine thing friendship is.
And well indeed it was for us that our hearts were so rich in friendship,
for our pockets were as bare of gold and silver as if there were
no such metals on earth. And but for carrying a knife, or a horse-fleam,
or a gun-flint, we had no more use for a pocket than a Highlander has
for a knee-buckle. As to hard money, we had not seen a dollar for years;
and of old continental, bad as it was, we had received but little,
and that little was gone away like a flash; as the reader may well suppose,
when he comes to learn, that a bottle of rum would sweep fifty dollars.
And so here were two continental colonels of us, just started
on a journey of several hundred miles, without a cent in pocket!
But though poor in gold, we were rich in faith. Burning patriots ourselves,
we had counted on it as a certainty, that every body we met,
out of reach of the British, were as fiery as we, and that
the first sight of our uniforms would command smiling countenances,
and hot suppers, and downy beds, and mint slings; and in short,
everything that our hearts could wish. But, alas and alack the mistake!
For instead of being smiled on every where along the road as the champions
of liberty, we were often grinned at as if we had been horse thieves.
In place of being hailed with benedictions, we were frequently
in danger from the brick bats; and in lieu of hot dinners and suppers,
we were actually on the point of starving, both we and our horses!
For in consequence of candidly telling the publicans that, "we had nothing
to pay," they as candidly declared, "they had nothing to give,"
and that "those that had no money had no business to travel."
At length we came to the resolution to say nothing about our poverty,
but, after getting such things as we wanted, to give our `due bills'.
In this we felt ourselves perfectly warranted; for we had, both of us,
thank God, very sufficient estates; and besides, turning out, as we did,
to fight for our country, we thought we had, even by sacred precept,
a very fair claim on that country for a little food.
I remember, one evening, after dark, we reached a tavern, the owner of which
at first seemed very fond of accommodating us. But as soon as
a lighted wood torch had given him a glimpse of our regimentals,
the rogue began to hem and ha, to tell us of a `mighty fine tavern'
about five miles further on.
We begged him to recollect that it was night, and also very rainy,
and as dark as pitch.
"Oh!" quoth he, "the road is mighty plain; you can't miss your way."
"But consider, sir, we are strangers."
"Oh! I never liked strangers in all my life."
"But, sir, we are your countrymen, American officers, going to the north
for men to fight your battles."
"Oh! I wants nobody to fight my battles; king George is good enough for me."
"But, sir, we have travelled all day long without a mouthful
for ourselves or horses."
To this also the brute was preparing some fit answer, when his wife,
who appeared to be a very genteel woman, with a couple of charming girls,
her daughters, ran out and declared that "take us in he could, and should,
that he should; and that he might as well consent at first,
for they would not be said nay."
Even against all this, he stood out for some time; till at length his wife
reminded him, that though the British were carrying every thing before them
in South Carolina, yet that Washington was still in the field,
and the issue of the war unknown; and that at any rate it was good
to have a friend at court.
On this he came to a pause; and at length reluctantly drawled out,
"Well -- I suppose -- you must -- come -- in."
I have related this story, partly to show what a savage man would be
without that softening, polishing friend, a good wife.
Observing that we were wet and cold, this amiable woman and her daughters
soon had kindled up for us a fine sparkling fire, to which
their own sweetly smiling looks gave tenfold cheerfulness and comfort.
And while the husband went poking about the house, silent and surly
as an ill-natured slave, the ladies displayed towards us
the most endearing attentions. The mother brought out from her closet
a bottle of nice family cordial, to warm and cheer us;
while the girls presented basins of water and towels,
that we might wash and refresh ourselves after our fatigue.
And all these seasonable hospitalities they did, not with that ungracious
silence and reserve, which so often depress the traveller's spirits,
but with the charming alacrity of daughters or sisters,
so sweetening every thing with smiles and sprightly chat
as almost made us feel ourselves at home.
As with deep struck thought, I compared our present happy condition
with that a few minutes before, benighted, wet and weary,
I could not help exclaiming, "O my God! what pity it is
that among so many labors which poor mortals take under the sun,
they do not labor more for that which alone deserves their care.
I mean that LOVE, which at once diffuses and enjoys all the happiness
both of earth and heaven."
At supper, the poor creature of a husband strove very hard to draw Marion
into a dispute, about what he was pleased to call our "REBELLION".
I expected to have heard him lashed very severely for such brutality;
for few men ever excelled Marion in the `retort abrupt'. But every time
the subject was introduced, he contrived very handsomely to waive it,
by some pretty turn to the ladies, which happily relieved their terrors,
and gave a fresh spring to general and sprightly conversation.
As our excellent hostess and her fair daughters were about to retire,
we bade them good night, and also adieu, telling them that we meant to ride
very early in the morning. To this they stoutly objected, urging that,
from our fatigue and fasting, we ought to pass a day or two with them,
and refresh ourselves. But if we could not do this, we must at any rate
stay and give them the pleasure of our company at breakfast.
When we retired to our chamber, I asked Marion why he had not given
that brute, our landlord, a proper set down.
"I am surprised at you, Horry," he replied; "when you see
that your fellow man is wretched, can't you give him quarter?
You must have observed, ever since we darkened his door,
that with spleen and toryism, this poor gentleman is in the condition of him
in the parable, who was possessed of seven devils. Since we have not
the power to cast them out, let us not torment him before his time.
Besides, this excellent woman his wife; these charming girls his daughters.
They love him, no doubt, and therefore, to us, at least,
he ought to be sacred, because surrounded by their affections."
The next morning while breakfast was preparing, the churl renewed
his hostilities, by telling us, with a malignant pleasure in his face,
that he and his neighbors were making ready to go to South Carolina
"For negroes!" replied Marion; "pray sir, what do you mean by that?"
"Why, sir," returned he, "South Carolina is now all one as conquered
by the British, and why may we not go and pick up what negroes we can?
They would help me in my corn-field yonder."
Marion asked him whether, if he were to find HIS negroes,
he would think it right to take them?
"To be sure I would," answered he. "You great men who choose to fight
against your king, are all now running away. And why may I not go
and catch your negroes as well as any body else?"
"My God!" replied Marion, with a deep sigh, "what will this world come to?"
and turned the conversation.
Soon as breakfast was over, we took leave of this most unequally yoked couple
and their lovely daughters, and continued our journey. We had not got far
from the house when Marion's servant rode up, and, with a very smirking face,
told his master that he believed the gentlewoman where we stayed last night
must be a monstrous fine lady! Marion asked him why he thought so.
"Why, sir," replied he, "she not only made me almost burst myself
with eating and drinking, and all of the very best, but she has gone
and filled my portmanteau too, filled it up chock full, sir!
A fine ham of bacon, sir, and a pair of roasted fowls,
with two bottles of brandy, and a matter of a peck of biscuit."
"God bless the dear lady!" we both exclaimed at the same moment.
And I trust God did bless her. For indeed to us she was a kind angel,
who not only refreshed our bodies, but still more, feasted our souls.
And though eight and twenty long years have rolled away since that time,
I can still see that angel smile which brightened on her face towards us,
and the memory of which springs a joy in my heart beyond what
the memory of his money bags ever gave to the miser.
On the evening of the same day that we left this charming family,
(I mean the FAIRER PART of it) we reached the house of colonel Thatcher,
one of the noblest whigs in North Carolina. His eyes seemed
as though they would never tire in gazing on our regimentals.
We soon gave him the history of our travels through his native state,
and of the very uncivil manner in which his countrymen had treated us.
He smiled, and bid us be thankful, for that it was entirely of God's mercy
that we had come off so well. "Those people," continued he,
"are mere Hottentots; a set of unenlightened miserable tories, who know
nothing of the grounds of the war; nothing of the rights and blessings
we are contending for; nor of the corruptions and cruelties
of the British ministry; and are therefore just as ready
to fall into their destructive jaws, as young cat-birds are
to run into the mouth of a rattle-snake."
Glorious news -- a brave army of continentals coming up --
Marion and the author hasten to meet them at Roanoke --
fortunately get introduced to the baron de Kalb -- polite reception
by that amiable officer -- curious and interesting conversation.
After spending two days of very welcome repose with the elegant
colonel Thatcher, we took leave and set out for Hillsborough,
where we met general Huger and colonel W. White, of the horse,
who told us the glorious news, that "Washington had sent on
a gallant detachment of continentals, who were now in full march
to aid South Carolina."
Our hearts leaped for joy at the news. So great was our impatience
to see what our hearts had so long and so fondly dwelt on, an army of friends,
that we could not wait until they came up, but hurried off instantly
to meet them at Roanoke, where it was said they were crossing.
On reaching the river, we found that they had all got over, and had just
formed their line of march. Oh! how lovely is the sight of friends
in the day of our danger! We have had many military corps, but none
had ever interested us like this. In shining regimentals and glittering arms,
they moved before the eye of the glowing fancy like a host of heroes.
Thrice happy for man, that a veil, dark as the grave, is thrown
over future events! For how could we, who had seen one fine army
butchered at Savannah, and another captured at Charleston,
have borne up under the dreadful prospect of having this gallant armament
also destroyed in a few days!
Soon as our first paroxysm of joy had a little subsided,
we moved toward head quarters, where we had the good fortune
to fall in with our old friend Col. Semp, who appeared overjoyed to see us,
and immediately offered to introduce us to the general. His excellency
Horatio Gates was the commander in chief, but as he had not yet arrived,
the command rested on that brave old German general, the baron de Kalb.
It was to this officer that colonel Semp introduced us, and, as was usual
with him, in very flattering terms; styling us "continental colonels,
and two of the wealthiest and most distinguished patriots of South Carolina!"
I shall never forget what I felt when introduced to this gentleman.
He appeared to be rather elderly. But though the snow of winter was on
his locks, his cheeks were still reddened over with the bloom of spring.
His person was large and manly, above the common size,
with great nerve and activity; while his fine blue eyes
expressed the mild radiance of intelligence and goodness.
He received us very politely, saying he was glad to see us,
"especially as we were the first Carolinians that he had seen;
which had not a little surprised him."
Observing, I suppose, that we labored under rather too much
of our national weakness, I mean modesty, he kindly redoubled
his attentions to us, and soon succeeded in curing us of our reserve.
"I thought," said he, "that British tyranny would have sent
great numbers of the South Carolinians to join our arms. But, so far from it,
they are all, as we have been told, running to take British protections.
Surely they are not tired already of fighting for liberty."
We told him the reason was very plain to us, who were inhabitants
of that country, and knew very well the state of things there.
"Aye," replied he, "well, what can the reason be?"
"Why, sir," answered Marion, "the people of Carolina form but two classes,
the rich and the poor. The poor are generally very poor, because,
not being necessary to the rich, who have slaves to do all their work,
they get no employment from them. Being thus unsupported by the rich,
they continue poor and low spirited. They seldom get money; and indeed,
what little they do get, is laid out in brandy to raise their spirits,
and not on books and newspapers to get information. Hence they know
nothing of the comparative blessings of their own country,
nor of the great dangers which threaten it, and therefore care nothing
about it. As to the other class, the rich, they are generally very rich,
and consequently afraid to stir, unless a fair chance offer,
lest the British should burn their houses and furniture,
and carry off their negroes and stock. But permit me to assure you, sir,
that though thus kept under by fear, they still mortally hate the British,
and will, I am confident, the moment they see an army of friends
at their door, fly to their standard, like a generous pack
to the sound of the horn that calls them to the chase of a hated wolf."
The baron de Kalb smiled, and said he hoped it would be found so.
"No doubt of it at all sir," replied Marion.
The baron then invited us to dine with him, but added, smiling, that he hoped
we had good military stomachs that could relish and digest plain fare,
which was all he could promise us, and perhaps hardly enough of that.
On sitting down to table, we found that his prediction about the bill of fare,
was most unwelcomely true. Our dinner was just half a side
of a miserably poor hog, as miserably cooked; and in such small quantity,
that before we were done there was nothing of it left but a rasher,
for good manners' sake. And as to bread, there was not even a hoe-cake!
It is true, that, by way of substitute, we had a trencher or two
of sweet potatoes paraded. Our drink was admirably suited to the dinner;
apple brandy with river water.
God forbid that I should be unmindful of his favors! For well do I know
that the least of them is much better than the best of us deserve.
On the contrary, I mention it rather as a compliment to his heavenly bounty,
which is wont to spread our tables with so many dainties,
as to cause even roast pigs and sweet potatoes to pass for a sorry meal.
Soon as dinner was over, all of us who could parade a cigar or a pipe,
began to comfort our olfactories with a puff, not forgetting our brandy
the while, so that by the time we had got well entrenched
in clouds of fragrant kite-foot, we were in admirable cue for a dish of chat.
De Kalb led the way; and, as nearly as I can recollect,
in the following words.
"Colonel Marion," said he, pressing the tobacco in his pipe at the same time,
"can you answer me ONE question?"
"Most gladly, general, and a THOUSAND if I can!"
"Thank you, colonel, but ONE will do."
"Be pleased then, sir, to say on."
"Well, colonel, can you tell me how old I am?"
"That's a tough question, general."
"TOUGH, colonel! pray how do you make that out?"
"Why, sir, there is a strange January and May sort of contrast
between your locks and your looks that quite confuses me.
By your locks you seem to be in the winter, by your looks
in the summer of your days."
"Well but, colonel, striking the balance between the two,
whereabouts do you take me to be?"
"Why, sir, in the spring and prime of life; about forty."
"Good heavens, forty!"
"Yes, sir, that's the mark; there or thereabouts."
"What! no more?"
"No, sir, not a day more; not an hour."
"Yes, sir, upon honor; upon a soldier's honor."
"Ha! -- ha! -- ha! -- Well, colonel, I would not for a thousand guineas
that your riflemen shot as wide off the mark as you guess.
The British would not dread them as they do. Forty years old, indeed!
why what will you say, colonel, when I tell you that I have been
two and forty years a soldier."
Here we all exclaimed, "Impossible, general! impossible."
"I ask your pardon, gentlemen," replied he, "it is not at all impossible,
but very certain. Very certain that I have been two and forty years
a soldier in the service of the king of France!"
"O wonderful! two and forty years! Well then, at that rate,
and pray how old, general, may you take yourself to be?"
"Why, gentlemen," replied he, "man and boy, I am now about sixty-three."
"Good heaven! sixty-three! and yet such bloom, such flesh and blood!"
"If you are so surprised, gentlemen, at my looks at sixty-three,
what would you have thought had you seen my father at eighty-seven."
"Your father, general! he cannot be alive yet, sure."
"Alive! yes, thank God, and alive like to be, I hope, for many a good year
to come yet. Now, gentlemen, let me tell you a little story of my father.
The very Christmas before I sailed for America, I went to see him.
It was three hundred miles, at least, from Paris. On arriving at the house
I found my dear old mother at her wheel, in her eighty-third year,
mind gentlemen!! spinning very gaily, while one of her great-granddaughters
carded the wool and sung a hymn for her. Soon as the first transport
of meeting was over, I eagerly asked for my father. `Do not be uneasy,
my son,' said she, `your father is only gone to the woods
with his three little great-grandchildren, to cut some fuel for the fire,
and they will all be here presently, I'll be bound!' And so it proved;
for in a very short time I heard them coming along. My father
was the foremost, with his axe under his arm, and a stout billet
on his shoulder; and the children, each with his little load,
staggering along, and prattling to my father with all their might.
Be assured, gentlemen, that this was a most delicious moment to me.
Thus after a long absence, to meet a beloved father, not only alive,
but in health and dear domestic happiness above the lot of kings:
also to see the two extremes of human life, youth and age,
thus sweetly meeting and mingling in that cordial love,
which turns the cottage into a paradise."
In telling this little story of his aged father and his young relatives,
the general's fine countenance caught an animation which perfectly
charmed us all.
The eyes of Marion sparkled with pleasure. "General," said he,
"the picture which you have given us of your father,
and his little great-grandchildren, though short, is extremely
interesting and delightful. It confirms me in an opinion
which I have long entertained, which is, that there is more happiness
in low life than in high life; in a cottage than in a castle.
Pray give us, general, your opinion of that matter."
"Why," replied De Kalb, "this opinion of yours, colonel, is not a novel one
by any means. It was the opinion of Rousseau, Fenelon, and of many other
great men, and elegant writers. But notwithstanding such high authority,
I must still beg leave to be a dissenter. I have seen so many people happy
and also unhappy, both in cottages and castles, that I cannot but conclude,
that happiness does not belong, peculiarly, to either condition, but depends
on something very different from, and infinitely superior to both."
We eagerly asked what he alluded to.
"Why, gentlemen," replied he, "since you have been so polite
as to ask my opinion, I will as frankly give it, though I am afraid
it will seem very odd, especially coming from a soldier. However,
be that as it may, my opinion you have asked, and my opinion you shall have;
which is, that religion is the only thing to make a man happy
in cottages or courts."
The young officers began to stare.
Gathering from their looks, that some of the company did not relish
this kind of philosophy, he quickly thus resumed his speech.
"Pardon! gentlemen, I beg pardon! I must not be misunderstood.
By `religion', I don't mean `priest-craft'. I don't mean
that superstitious grimace; that rolling up of white eyes,
and spreading of sanctified palms; with `disfigured faces and long prayers,'
and all the rest of that holy trumpery, which, so far from
making people cheerful, tends but to throw them into the dumps.
But I mean, by `religion', that divine effort of the soul,
which rises and embraces the great author of its being with filial ardor,
and walks and converses with him, as a dutiful child with his revered father.
Now gentlemen, I would ask, all prejudice apart, what is there
can so exalt the mind and gladden the heart, as this high friendship
with heaven, and those immortal hopes that spring from religion?"
Here one of the company, half blushing, as palpably convicted
by the truth of the general's argument smartly called out --
"Well but, general, don't you think we can do pretty well here in camp,
"What!" replied De Kalb, "would you give it all up to the priests?"
"Yes, to be sure I would," said the young officer, "for I am for every man's
following his own trade, general. They are priests, and we are soldiers.
So let them do all the praying, and we will do all the fighting."
"Why, as to the fighting part," rejoined De Kalb, "I have no objection
to doing all that for the priests, especially as their profession
does not allow them to fight for themselves. But as to giving them up
all the devotion, I confess I am not so liberal. No! no! gentlemen,
charity begins at home; and I am not for parting with pleasure so easily."
"PLEASURE!" replied the young officer with a sneer.
"Yes, sir, PLEASURE," returned De Kalb. "According to my creed, sir,
piety and pleasure are synonymous terms; and I should just as soon
think of living physically, without bread, as of living pleasantly,
without religion. For what is religion, as I said before, but HABITUAL
FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD? And what can the heart conceive so delightful?
Or what can so gratify it in all its best and strongest desires.
For example, gentlemen, we are all fond of honor. I, for my part,
am fond of the friendship of the king of France. You glory in
the friendship of the great Washington. Then what must be the glory of him
who is in friendship with God? Again, gentlemen, we are all born to love,
to admire, to adore. If a man have no love, he is gloomy.
If he love a worthless object, he is mortified. But if he love
a truly worthy object, his face shines, his eyes sparkle,
his voice becomes sweet, and his whole air expressive of cheerfulness.
And as this happy feeling must, in the nature of things,
keep pace with the excellence of the object that is beloved,
then what must be the cheerfulness of him who loves the greatest, best,
and loveliest of all beings, whose eternal perfections and goodness
can for ever make him happier than heart can ask or think?
"In a word, gentlemen, though I am a soldier, and soldiers you know
are seldom enthusiasts in this way, yet I verily believe, as I said before,
that a man of enlightened and fervent piety must be infinitely happier
in a cottage, than an irreligious emperor in his palace."
In the height of this extraordinary conversation, an officer stepped in
and announced the arrival of general Gates.
And here, as I have in this chapter given the reader what the jockies call
a `pretty long heat', I beg leave to order a halt and allow him
a little time to breathe.
Gen. Gates -- bon mot of British general Lee -- how an army
ought not to march -- De Kalb prophecies -- chickens counted
before they are hatched, alias, Marion and the author sent by Gen. Gates
to prevent the escape of Cornwallis, before he had run --
the British and American armies meet -- Gates and his militia-men
leave De Kalb in the lurch -- his gallant behavior, and glorious death.
When a poor fellow is going down hill, it is but too common, they say,
for every body to give him a kick.
"Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For heaven hath made them so."
But, if I know myself aright, I can truly say, that nothing
of this vile spirit suggests a syllable of what I now write
of the unfortunate general Gates. On the contrary, I feel an ardent wish
to speak handsomely of him; and in one view of him I can so speak.
As a gentleman, few camps or courts ever produced his superior.
But though a perfect Chesterfield at court, in camp he was certainly
but a Paris. 'Tis true, at Saratoga he got his temples stuck round
with laurels as thick as a May-day queen with gaudy flowers.
And though the greater part of this was certainly the gallant workmanship
of Arnold and Morgan, yet did it so hoist general Gates
in the opinion of the nation, that many of his dear friends,
with a prudent regard, no doubt, to their own dearer selves,
had the courage to bring him forward on the military turf
and run him for the generalissimoship against the great Washington.
But though they were not able to prosper him in this mad attempt,
yet they so far succeeded as to get him the command of the army of Carolina,
where his short and calamitous career soon caused every good patriot
to thank God for continuing to his servant Washington,
the command of the American armies.
On his way from the northern states, general Gates passed
through Fredericksburg, where he fell in with general Charles Lee,
who, in his frank manner, asked him where he was going.
"Why, to take Cornwallis."
"I am afraid," quoth Lee, "you will find him a tough piece of English beef."
"Tough, sir," replied Gates; "tough! then begad I'll tender him.
I'll make `piloo' of him, sir, in three hours after I set eyes upon him."
"Aye! will you indeed?" returned Lee. "Well then send for me,
and I will go and help you to eat him."
Gates smiled; and bidding him adieu, rode off. Lee bawled after him,
"Take care, Gates! take care! or your northern laurels will degenerate
into southern willows."
The truth is, though general Lee was extremely splenetic, other than which,
such a miserable old bachelor and infidel could hardly be,
yet he certainly had a knack of telling people's fortunes.
By virtue of this faculty he presently discovered that general Gates
was no Fabius; but on the contrary, too much inclined
to the fatal rashness of his unfortunate colleague.
And so it turned out. For, from the moment he joined the army, he appeared
to act like one who thought of nothing but to have it proclaimed of him
in all the newspapers on the continent, that in so many days, hours,
minutes, and seconds, he flew from Philadelphia to South Carolina,
`saw, fought, and conquered' Cornwallis; and flew back again
with the trophies of a second British army vanquished.
Instead of moving on as old De Kalb had done, with a prudent regard
to the health and refreshment of the troops, he, Jehu like,
drove them on without regard to either. He would not take the lower road,
as De Kalb earnestly advised, through a rich and plentiful country.
Oh no; that was too round about; would too long have delayed
his promised glory.
Like an eagle shaking his bold pinions in the clouds of his pride,
he must dash down at once upon his prey; and so, for a near cut,
take us through a pine barren, sufficient to have starved
a forlorn hope of caterpillars. I shall make no attempt to describe
the sufferings of the army. For, admitting that I should not lack words,
my reader would, I am sure, lack faith. Indeed, at this season,
when the old crop was gone and the new not quite come in,
what had we to expect, especially in such a miserable country,
where many a family goes without dinner, unless the father can knock down
a squirrel in the woods, or his pale sickly boy pick up a terrapin
in the swamps? We did, indeed, sometimes fall in with a little corn;
but then, the poor, skinny, sun-burnt women, with long uncombed tresses,
and shrivelled breasts hanging down, would run screaming to us,
with tears in their eyes, declaring that if we took away their corn,
they and their children must perish. Such times I never saw,
and I pray God, I may never see nor hear of again; for, to this day,
the bare thought of it depresses my spirits. But perhaps I ought
to think of it, and often too, that I may be the more thankful to him
who never, but in that one instance, permitted me to suffer,
except in thinking of it.
There was one case in particular which I shall never forget.
Almost spent with fatigue and fasting, we halted one evening
near the house of a man, whose plantation bespoke him a tolerably good liver.
He met us with a countenance strongly marked with terror,
and begged for God's sake we would not ruin him, for that he had
a large family of children to maintain. We told him that we were soldiers
fighting for the country, and that it would never do for us to starve.
Understanding from this that we meant to forage upon him that night,
he heaved a deep sigh, and turning about, went off without saying
another word. I must confess I could not help feeling very sensibly for him,
especially when we saw his little white-headed children, in melancholy groups,
peeping at us around the corners of the house.
His young corn, which seemed to cover about fifty acres,
was just in the prime, roasting ear state, and he had also
a couple of beautiful orchards of peach and apple trees,
loaded with young fruit. Scarcely were our tents pitched,
before the whole army, foot and horse, turned in to destroy.
The trees were all threshed in a trice; after which the soldiers fell,
like a herd of wild boars, upon the roasting ears, and the horses
upon the blades and stalks, so that by morning light
there was no sign or symptom left that corn had ever grown there
since the creation of the world. What became of the poor man and his children
God only knows, for by sunrise we were all under marching orders again,
bending for the south. I said ALL, but I only meant all that were ABLE.
For numbers were knocked up every night by agues, fluxes, and other maladies,
brought on by excessive fatigue and lack of food.
I once before observed how highly the baron de Kalb had been pleased
to think of Marion and myself travelling so far to meet him.
His liking for us grew so fast, that we had not been with him
more than two days, before he appointed us his supernumerary aids.
We were, of course, much in his company, and entrusted, I believe,
with every thought of his bosom that related to the good of the army.
He made no scruple to tell us how utterly unmilitary those proceedings were;
and frequently foretold the ruin that would ensue.
"Here," said he, "we are hurrying to attack an enemy, who,
if they but knew our condition, would long for nothing so much
as our arrival. We, two-thirds at least, raw militia; they, all regulars.
We, fatigued; they, fresh. We, feeble and faint through long fasting;
they, from high keeping, as strong and fierce as game cocks or butchers'
bull dogs. It does not signify, gentlemen; it is all over with us;
our army is lost as sure as ever it comes into contact with the British.
I have hinted these things more than once to general Gates,
but he is an officer who will take no counsel but his own."
The truth is, general Gates was one of that crazy-brained quality,
to whom it is a misfortune to be fortunate. The least dram of success
would intoxicate and make him fool hardy. He could never bring himself
to believe, as he used to say, that "lord Cornwallis would dare to look him
in the face."
So confident, indeed, was he of victory, that on the morning before
the fatal action, he ordered Marion and myself to hasten on to Santee river,
and destroy every scow, boat or canoe, that could assist an Englishman
in his flight to Charleston!
Immediately on receiving orders, we waited on the good old De Kalb
to take leave; and also to assure him of our deep regret at parting with him.
"It is with equal regret, my dear sirs," said he, "that I part with you,
because I feel a presentiment that we part to meet no more."
We told him we hoped better things.
"Oh no!" replied he, "it is impossible. War is a kind of game,
and has its fixed rules, whereby, when we are well acquainted with them,
we can pretty correctly tell how the trial will go. To-morrow, it seems,
the die is to be cast, and in my judgment, without the least chance
on our side. The militia will, I suppose, as usual, play the back-game,
that is, get out of the scrape as fast as their legs can carry them.
But that, you know, won't do for me. I am an old soldier, and cannot run:
and I believe I have with me some brave fellows that will stand by me
to the last. So that, when you hear of our battle, you will probably hear
that your old friend De Kalb is at rest."
I do not know that I was ever more affected in my life.
I looked at Marion and saw that his eyes were watery. De Kalb saw it too,
and taking us by the hand, with a firm tone, and animated look,
said, "No! no! gentlemen; no emotions for me but those of congratulation.
I am happy. To die is the irreversible decree of him who made us.
Then what joy to be able to meet his decree without dismay!
This, thank God, is my case. The happiness of man is my wish, that happiness
I deem inconsistent with slavery. -- And to avert so great an evil
from an innocent people, I will gladly meet the British to-morrow,
at any odds whatever."
As he spoke this, I saw a something in his eyes which at once demonstrated
the divinity of virtue and the immortality of the soul.
With sorrowful hearts we then left him, and with feelings which
I shall never forget, while memory maintains her place in this my aged brain.
"Oh my God!" said Marion, as we rode off, "what a difference
does education make between man and man! Enlightened by her sacred ray,
see here is the native of a distant country, come to fight
for our liberty and happiness, while many of our own people,
for lack of education, are actually aiding the British
to heap chains and curses upon themselves and children."
It was on the morning of August the 15th, 1780, that we left the army
in a good position near Rugeley's mills, twelve miles from Camden,
where the enemy lay. About ten o'clock that night orders were given to march
to surprise the enemy, who had at the same time commenced their march,
to surprise the Americans. To their mutual astonishment,
the advance of the two armies met about two o'clock, and began to fire
on each other. The firing, however, was soon discontinued by both parties,
who appeared very willing to leave the matter to be decided by daylight.
A council of war was called: in which De Kalb advised that the army
should fall back to Rugeley's mills, and there, in a good position,
wait to be attacked. --
But Gates not only rejected this excellent counsel, but threw out suspicions
that it originated from fear. Upon this, the brave old De Kalb
called to his servant to take his horse, and leaping on the ground,
placed himself at the head of his command, on foot. To this indecent
expression of general Gates, he also retorted with considerable warmth,
"Well, sir, a few hours perhaps will let us see who are the brave."
It should be recorded for the benefit of our officers,
many of whose laurels have been blasted by the fumes of brandy,
that general Gates was rather too fond of his nocturnal glass.
"I wonder where we shall dine to-morrow?" said one of his officers,
as, in the dark, they sat on their sleepy horses waiting for the day.
"Dine, sir!" replied the confident Gates, "why at Camden, sir, to be sure.
Begad! I would not give a pinch of snuff, sir, to be insured a beef-steak
to-morrow in Camden, and lord Cornwallis at my table."
Presently day appeared; and, as the dawning light increased,
the frighted militia began to discover the woods reddening over like crimson
with the long extended lines of the British army, which soon,
with rattling drums and thundering cannon, came rushing on to the charge.
The militia, scarcely waiting to give them a distant fire, broke and fled
in the utmost precipitation. Whereupon Gates clapped spurs to his horse,
and pushed hard after them, as he said, "to bring the rascals back."
But he took care never to bring himself back, nor indeed to stop
until he had fairly reached Charlotte, eighty miles from the field of battle.
I remember it was common to talk in those days, that he killed three horses
in his flight.
Gates and the militia, composing two-thirds of the army,
having thus shamefully taken themselves off, the brave old De Kalb,
and his handful of continentals were left alone to try the fortune of the day.
And never did men display a more determined valor! For though outnumbered
more than two to one, they sustained the shock of the enemy's whole force,
for upwards of an hour. With equal fury the ranks-sweeping cannon and muskets
were employed by both sides, until the contending legions were nearly mixed.
Then quitting this slower mode of slaughter, with rage-blackened faces
and fiery eyeballs, they plunge forward on each other,
to the swifter vengeance of the bayonet. Far and wide the woods resound
with the clang of steel, while the red reeking weapons, like stings
of infernal serpents, are seen piercing the bodies of the combatants.
Some, on receiving the fatal stab, let drop their useless arms,
and with dying fingers clasped the hostile steel that's cold in their bowels.
Others, faintly crying out, "O God I am slain!" sank pale,
quivering to the ground, while the vital current gushed in hissing streams
from their bursted bosoms. Officers, as well as men, now mingle
in the uproaring strife, and snatching the weapons of the slain,
swell the horrid carnage. Glorying in his continentals,
the brave De Kalb towers before them, like a pillar of fire.
His burning face is like a red star, guiding their destructive course;
his voice, as the horn that kindles the young pack in the chase of blood.
A British grenadier, of giant size, rushes on him with a fixed bayonet.
De Kalb parries the furious blow, and plunges his sword
in the Briton's breast; then, seizing his falling arms, he deals death
around him on the crowding foe. Loud rise the shouts of the Americans;
but louder still the shouts of the more numerous enemy.
The battle burns anew along all the fierce conflicting line.
There, the distant Cornwallis pushes on his fresh regiments,
like red clouds, bursting in thunder on the Americans; and here,
condensing his diminished legions, the brave De Kalb still maintains
the unequal contest. But, alas! what can valor do against equal valor,
aided by such fearful odds? The sons of freedom bleed on every side.
With grief their gallant leader marks the fall of his heroes;
soon himself to fall. For, as with a face all inflamed in the fight,
he bends forward animating his men, he receives ELEVEN WOUNDS!
Fainting with loss of blood, he falls to the ground. Several brave men,
Britons and Americans, were killed over him, as they furiously strove
to destroy or to defend. In the midst of the clashing bayonets,
his only surviving aid, Monsieur du Buyson, ran to him, and stretching
his arms over the fallen hero, called out, "Save the baron de Kalb!
Save the baron de Kalb!" The British officers interposed,
and prevented his immediate destruction.
It has been said that lord Cornwallis was so struck with
the bravery of De Kalb, that he generously superintended
while his wounds were dressed, by his own surgeons. It has also been said,
that he appointed him to be buried with the honors of war.
British officers have been often known to do such noble deeds,
but that lord Cornwallis was capable of acting so honorably, is doubtful.
De Kalb died as he had lived, the unconquered friend of liberty.
For, being kindly condoled with by a British officer for his misfortune,
he replied, "I thank you, sir, for your generous sympathy;
but I die the death I always prayed for; the death of a soldier
fighting for the rights of man."
His last moments were spent in dictating a letter to a friend
concerning his continentals, of whom he said, he "had no words
that could sufficiently express his love, and his admiration of their valor."
He survived the action but a few hours, and was buried
in the plains of Camden, near which his last battle was fought.
When the great Washington, many years afterwards, came on a visit to Camden
he eagerly inquired for the grave of De Kalb. It was shown to him.
After looking on it a while, with a countenance marked with thought,
he breathed a deep sigh, and exclaimed -- "So, there lies the brave De Kalb;
the generous stranger, who came from a distant land, to fight our battles,
and to water, with his blood, the tree of our liberty.
Would to God he had lived to share with us its fruits!"
Congress ordered him a monument. But the friend of St. Tammany
still sleeps "without his fame". I have seen the place of his rest.
It was the lowest spot of the plain. No sculptured warrior
mourned at his low-laid head; no cypress decked his heel.
But the tall corn stood in darkening ranks around him,
and seemed to shake their green leaves with joy over his narrow dwelling.
But the roar of his battle is not yet quite passed away,
nor his ghastly wounds forgotten. The citizens of Camden
have lately enclosed his grave, and placed on it handsome marble,
with an epitaph gratefully descriptive of his VIRTUES and SERVICES,
that the people of future days may, like Washington, heave the sigh
when they read of "the generous stranger who came from a distant land
to fight their battles, and to water, with his blood,
the tree of their liberties."
Fair Camden's plains his glorious dust inhume,
Where annual Ceres shades her hero's tomb.
Marion and the author very busy in destroying the rice-makers' boats
on Santee -- first got the news of the defeat of our army,
and death of the brave De Kalb -- Marion addresses his followers --
their gallant reply.
Marion and myself, as yet ignorant of the fate of the army, were on
the waters of the Santee, very busily executing our boat-burning orders.
Not content with destroying the common scows and flats of the ferries,
we went on to sweep the river of every skiff and canoe
that we could lay hands on; nay, had the harmless wonkopkins been able
to ferry an Englishman over the river, we should certainly have declared war
and hurled our firebrands among them.
The reader may be sure we gained no good will by our zeal in this affair;
for it was a serious thing to the planters: and their wrath
waxed exceedingly hot against us. Among that fleet of boats and flats
that perished by our firebrands or hatchets, there were two that belonged
to my excellent old uncle, colonel E. Horry. The old gentleman
could hardly believe his negroes, when they told him
that we were destroying his boats. However, to be satisfied of the matter,
he mounted his horse, and galloped down to the river to see.
We had completely done for his scow, and were just giving
the finishing blows to his boat as he hove in sight; whereupon,
clapping whip and spur to his horse, he came on as hard as he could drive.
Soon as he was within hailing distance of an ordinary speaking trumpet,
he began to bawl -- "Hold! hold! for God's sake hold!"
Then dashing up, with cheeks red as fire coals, and his mouth all in a lather,
he roared out, "Why, what? what? what are you about here?"
"We are only trying to kidnap the British, uncle," said I.
"Kidnap the d---l," he replied.
Then looking around, and seeing how completely we had shivered
his fine new boat and scow, he ripped out again -- "Well! here is a pretty
spot of work! a pretty spot of work! A brand new scow and boat,
that cost me, only last spring, three hundred dollars! every farthing of it!
and here now all cut to smash! ruined! not worth a chew of tobacco!
why! did mortal flesh ever see the like of this? Breaking up our boats!
why, how are we to harvest our rice?"
"Uncle," said I, "you had better think less of harvesting your rice,
and more of catching the muskrats," meaning the British.
Here, darting at me an eye of inexpressible astonishment and rage,
he exclaimed -- "Why, certainly the d---l is in the young man!
catch the British? Why, have you not heard that the British are carrying
every thing before them; have broke up our army; cut the regulars to pieces;
scattered the militia; and chased general Gates to Jericho,
and to the d---l for what I care?"
"God forbid!" said Marion.
"Nay, that is past praying for," replied my uncle, "and if you had
any interest in heaven, you ought to have made it sooner.
It is too late now."
"Great God!" returned Marion; "and so our army is lost!"
"Yes," continued my uncle; "lost, as sure as a gun: and that is not all;
for De Kalb is killed; Sumter surprised and cut to pieces;
and Charleston illuminated every night for joy."
We could neither of us utter a word.
Presently my uncle, casting a searching eye around on our men,
about thirty in number, asked where our troops were.
I told him those were all the troops we had.
I thought the good old gentleman would have gone into fits.
He rolled up his eyes to heaven; smacked his hands together, and bringing them
by a sudden jerk to his breast, with a shrill whistle exclaimed,
"Mad! -- mad! -- the young fellow is as mad as a March hare --
Well, I'll tell you what, nephew of mine, you may go about on the river,
chopping the planters' boats at this rate, but I would not be in your coat,
my lad, for your jacket, though it was stiff with gold."
I asked him what he meant by that?
"Why, I mean," replied he, "that if you are not, all of you,
knocked on the head in three hours, it will be a wonder."
"Aye! what makes you think so, uncle," said I.
He answered: "You know my old waiting man, Tom, don't you?"
"To be sure I do," said I; "I have known Tom ever since I was a boy,
and should be confounded sorry to hear Tom prophesy any harm of me;
for I have always taken him to be a very true man of his word."
"Yes, I'll warrant him," said my uncle; "for though Tom is a negro,
and as black as old Nick, yet I would as soon take Tom's word
as that of any white man in Carolina. Well, Tom, you know,
has a wife at Mr. ----'s, as rank a tory as we have hereabouts.
On coming home this morning, he shook his head and said he was mighty 'fraid
you and Col. Marion were in a bad box; for, that he got it from
one of the black waiters in the house, who overheard the talk,
that there are THREE companies of tories now moulding their bullets,
and making ready to cut you off."
I looked at Marion and saw battle in his face.
My uncle was about to invite us to the house; but Marion interrupted him
by saying, "This is no time to think of visiting;" and turning
to his trumpeter, ordered him to wind his horn, which was instantly done.
Then placing himself at our head, he dashed off at a charging lope;
with equal speed we followed and soon lost sight of my uncle Horry.
On reaching the woods, Marion ordered the troop to halt and form;
when, with his usual modesty, he thus addressed us:
"Well, gentlemen, you see our situation! widely different
from what it once was. Yes, once we were a happy people!
Liberty shone upon our land, bright as the sun that gilds yon fields;
while we and our fathers rejoiced in its lovely beams, gay as the birds
that enliven our forests. But, alas! those golden days are gone,
and the cloud of war now hangs dark and lowering over our heads.
Our once peaceful land is now filled with uproar and death.
Foreign ruffians, braving us up to our very firesides and altars,
leave us no alternative but slavery or death. Two gallant armies
have been marched to our assistance; but, for lack of competent commanders,
both have been lost. That under general Lincoln, after having been
duped and butchered at Savannah, was at last completely trapped at Charleston.
And that under general Gates, after having been imprudently overmarched,
is now cut up at Camden. Thus are all our hopes from the north
entirely at an end; and poor Carolina is left to shift for herself.
A sad shift indeed, when not one in a thousand of her own children will rise
to take her part; but, on the contrary, are madly taking part with the enemy
against her. And now, my countrymen, I want to know your minds.
As to my own, that has long been made up. I consider my life as but a moment.
But I also consider, that to fill that moment with duty, is my all.
To guard my innocent country against the evils of slavery, seems now
my greatest duty; and, therefore, I am determined, that while I live,
she shall never be enslaved. She may come to that wretched state
for what I know, but MY eyes shall never behold it. Never shall she clank
her chains in my ears, and pointing to the ignominious badge, exclaim,
"IT WAS YOUR COWARDICE THAT BROUGHT ME TO THIS."
In answer to this, we unanimously assured him, that those sentiments
and resolutions were exactly our own: and that we were steadfastly determined
to die with him, or conquer for our country.
"Well then, my brave friends," said he, "draw your swords! Now for a circle,
emblematical of our eternal union! and pointing your blades to heaven,
the bright throne of Him who made us free, swear you will never be
slaves of Britain."
Which was all most devoutly done.
Soon as this patriotic rite was performed, we all dismounted,
and taking our seats on the trunks of two fallen pines
that lay conveniently parallel, we made our simple dinner of cold roots;
and for our beverage drank of the lucid stream that softly murmured by.
The reader will please to keep in mind, that our troops consisted of
but thirty mounted militia; chiefly gentlemen volunteers,
armed with muskets and swords, but almost without powder and ball.
How Marion came to be at the head of this little party,
it may be amusing to the reader to hear.
Some short time before this date, 1779-80, when the war began to rage
in South Carolina, a British captain by the name of Ardeisoff
came up to Georgetown in an armed vessel, and filled the country
with printed proclamations from lord Cornwallis, calling on
the GOOD PEOPLE of South Carolina to submit and take royal protections!!
Numbers of the ignorant and pusillanimous sort closed with the offer.
But the nobler ones of the district, (Williamsburgh,)
having no notion of selling their liberties for a `pig in a poke',
called a caucus of their own, from whom they selected captain John James,
and sent him down to master captain Ardeisoff, to know what he would be at.
This captain James, by birth an Irishman, had rendered himself
so popular in the district, that he was made a militia captain
under the royal government. But in '75, soon as he found that the ministry
were determined to tax the Americans, without allowing them
the common British right of representation, he bravely
threw up his commission, declaring that he would never serve a TYRANT.
Such was the gentleman chosen by the aforesaid liberty caucus,
to go on the embassy before mentioned. In the garb of a plain planter,
James presented himself before the haughty captain Ardeisoff,
and politely asked "on what terms himself and friends must submit?"
"What terms, sir!" replied the angry Briton, "what terms! why, no other terms,
you may be sure, than unconditional submission."
"Well but sir," answered James, very calmly, "are we not to be allowed
to stay at home in peace and quiet?"
"In peace and quiet, indeed!" replied Ardeisoff, with a sarcastic grin;
"a pretty story, truly! Stay at home in peace and quiet, heh? No, no, sir,
you have all rebelled against your king; and if treated as you deserve,
would now be dancing like dogs at the arms of the gallows.
But his majesty is merciful, sir; and now that he has graciously pardoned you,
he expects you will immediately take up arms and turn out
in support of his cause."
"You are very candid, sir," said James; "and now I hope
you will not be displeased with me for being equally plain.
Permit me, then, sir, to tell you that such terms will never go down
with the gentlemen whom I have the honor to represent."
"The gentlemen you have the honor to represent, you d--n-d rebel!"
Vesuvius! Aetna! and Strumbolo! what are your fires and flames,
compared with those that raged in the bosom of James,
when he heard himself called a d--n-d rebel!
Instantly springing up, with eyes of lightning, he snatched up his chair,
and, regardless of consequences, laid the audacious Ardeisoff sprawling
on the floor; then flying to his horse, he mounted and made his escape.
Learning from him, at his return, what they had to understand
by `British protections', his gallant constituents came at once
to the resolution to arm and fight till death, rather than hold life
on such ignominious terms. Immediately the whole force of the district,
about two hundred, able to bear arms, were mustered and placed under
captains William M`Coltery, John M`Cawley, Henry Mowizon, and our brave
captain James, who was appointed major and captain general of the whole.
Feeling that distrust in themselves which is common with raw troops,
and learning that the northern army was just entering South Carolina,
they despatched a messenger to general Gates, to request
that he would send them an officer who had seen service. Governor Rutledge,
who happened at that time to be in camp, advised general Gates
by all means to send Marion. Marion was accordingly sent;
but with orders, as we have seen, to destroy, on his route, all the boats
on the Santee river, lest lord Cornwallis should make his escape.
At the time of leaving general Gates, Marion had but ten men with him;
but on reaching Santee, we were joined by major John James,
with about twenty gallant gentlemen volunteers, making his whole force
A slender force, to be sure, to oppose to the tremendous powers
which Marion had to encounter! But, "the Lord is king, the victory is his!"
and when he pleases to give it to an oppressed people,
he can make the few and feeble overcome the many and mighty.
As the brave major James may perhaps be mentioned no more in this history,
I must gratify the reader by informing him, that the noble major lost nothing
by his attachment to duty and the rights of man. He lived to see Cornwallis,
Tarleton, and Rawdon, laid as low as the insolent Ardeisoff;
and after enjoying many years of sweet repose, under the pleasant shade
of peace and plenty, he sunk gently to rest. But though now fallen asleep,
he still lives in his country's gratitude, and in the virtues of his son,
who fills one of the highest places in the judiciary of his native state.
Carolina apparently lost -- Marion almost alone keeps the field --
begins to figure -- surprises a strong British party at Nelson's old field
-- scourges the tories at Black Mingo -- again smites them hip and thigh
The history of the American Revolution is a history of miracles,
all bearing, like sunbeams, on this heavenly fiat: "America shall be free!"
Some of our chimney-corner philosophers can hardly believe,
when they read of Samson making such a smash among the Philistines
with the jawbone of an ass. Then how will they believe
what I am going to tell them of Marion? How will they believe that,
at a time when the British had completely overrun South Carolina;
their headquarters at Charleston, a victorious army at Camden;
strong garrisons at Georgetown and Jacksonborough,
with swarms of thievish and bloody minded tories, filling up all between;
and the spirits of the poor whigs so completely cowed, that they were
fairly knocked under to the civil and military yoke of the British,
who, I ask again, will believe, that in this desperate state of things,
one little, swarthy, French-phizzed Carolinian, with only
thirty of his ragged countrymen, issuing out of the swamps,
should have dared to turn his horse's head towards this all conquering foe?
Well, Marion was that man. He it was, who, with his feeble force,
dared to dash up at once to Nelson's ferry, on the great war path
between the British armies at Charleston and Camden.
"Now, my gallant friends," said he, at sight of the road,
and with a face burning for battle, "now look sharp!
here are the British wagon tracks, with the sand still falling in!
and here are the steps of their troops passing and repassing.
We shall not long be idle here!"
And so it turned out. For scarcely had we reached our hiding place
in the swamp, before in came our scouts at half speed,
stating that a British guard, with a world of American prisoners,
were on their march for Charleston.
"How many prisoners do you suppose there were?" said Marion.
"Near two hundred," replied the scouts.
"And what do you imagine was the number of the British guard?"
"Why, sir, we counted about ninety."
"Ninety!" said Marion with a smile; "ninety! Well, that will do.
And now, gentlemen, if you will only stand by me, I've a good hope
that we thirty will have those ninety by to-morrow's sunrise."
We told him to lead on, for that we were resolved to die by his side.
Soon as the dusky night came on, we went down to the ferry, and passing
for a party of good loyalists, we easily got set over. The enemy,
with their prisoners, having just effected the passage of the river as the sun
went down, halted at the first tavern, generally called "the Blue House",
where the officers ordered supper. In front of the building,
was a large arbor, wherein the topers were wont to sit, and spend
the jocund night away in songs and gleeful draughts of apple brandy grog.
In this arbor, flushed with their late success, sat the British guard;
and tickler after tickler swilling, roared it away
to the tune of "Britannia strike home": till overcome with fatigue,
and the opiate juice, down they sunk, deliciously beastified, to the ground.
Just as the cock had winded his last horn for day we approached the house
in perfect concealment, behind a string of fence, within a few yards of it.
But in spite of all our address, we could not effect
a complete surprisal of them. Their sentinels took the alarm,
and firing their pieces, fled into the yard. Swift as lightning
we entered with them, and seizing their muskets, which were all
stacked near the gate, we made prisoners of the whole party,
without having been obliged to kill more than three of them.
Had Washington and his whole army been upon the survivors,
they could hardly have roared out louder for quarter.
After securing their arms, Marion called for their captain;
but he was not to be found, high nor low, among the living or dead.
However, after a hot search, he was found up the chimney!
He begged very hard that we would not let his men know where he had
concealed himself. Nothing could equal the mortification of the British,
when they came to see what a handful of militia-men had taken them,
and recovered all their prisoners.
Marion was at first in high hopes, that the American regulars
whom he had so gallantly rescued, would, to a man, have joined his arms,
and fought hard to avenge their late defeat. But equally to HIS surprise
and their own disgrace, not one of them could be prevailed on
to shoulder a musket! "Where is the use," said they, "of fighting now,
when all is lost?"
This was the general impression. And indeed except these
unconquerable spirits, Marion and Sumter, with a few others
of the same heroic stamp, who kept the field, Carolina was no better
than a British province.
In our late attack on the enemy, we had but four rounds of powder and ball;
and not a single sword that deserved the name. But Marion soon remedied
that defect. He bought up all the old saw blades from the mills,
and gave them to the smiths, who presently manufactured for us
a parcel of substantial broadswords, sufficient, as I have often seen,
to kill a man at a single blow.
From our prisoners in the late action, we got completely armed;
a couple of English muskets, with bayonets and cartouch-boxes, to each of us,
with which we retreated into Britton's Neck.
We had not been there above twenty-four hours before news was brought us
by a trusty friend, that the tories, on Pedee, were mustering, in force,
under a captain Barfield. This, as we learnt afterwards,
was one of the companies that my uncle's old coachman
had been so troubled about. We were quickly on horseback;
and after a brisk ride of forty miles, came upon their encampment,
at three o'clock in the morning. Their surprise was so complete,
that they did not fire a single shot! Of forty-nine men,
who composed their company, we killed and took about thirty.
The arms, ammunition, and horses of the whole party, fell into our hands,
with which we returned to Britton's Neck, without the loss of a man.
The rumor of these two exploits soon reached the British
and their friends the tories, who presently despatched three stout companies
to attack us. Two of the parties were British; one of them commanded
by major Weymies, of house-burning memory. The third party
were altogether tories. We fled before them towards North Carolina.
Back to Full Books