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CHAPTER XVII: Campaign of 1779. - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 2 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 2.
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Campaign of 1779.
Throughout the year 1779, the British seem to have aimed at little more, in the States to the northward of Carolina, than distress and depredation. Having publicly announced their resolution of making “The colonies of as little avail as possible to their new connections,” they planned sundry expeditions, on this principle.
May 10One of these consisting of both a naval and land force, was committed to Sir George Collyer and Gen. Mathews, who made a descent on Virginia. They sailed for Portsmouth, and on their arrival took possession of that defenceless town. The remains of Norfolk on the opposite side of the river, fell of course into their hands. The Americans burned some of their own vessels, but others were made prizes by the invaders. The British guards marched 18 miles in the night, and arriving at Suffolk by morning proceeded to the destruction of vessels, naval stores, and of a large magazine of provisions, which had been deposited in that place. A similar destruction was carried on at Kemp’s landing, Shepherds-gosport, Tanners creek, and other places in the vicinity.1778 The frigates and armed vessels were employed on the same business  along the margin of the rivers. Three thousand hogsheads of tobacco were taken at Portsmouth. Every house in Suffolk was burnt except the church, and one dwelling house. The houses of several private gentlemen in the country, shared the same fate. Above 130 vessels were either destroyed or taken. All that were upon the stocks were burned, and every thing relative to the building or fitting of ships, was either carried off or destroyed. The fleet and army after demolishing fort Nelson, and setting fire to the store-houses, and other public buildings in the dockyard at Gosport, embarked from Virginia, and returned with their prizes and booty safe to New-York, in the same month in which they had left it. This expedition into Virginia distressed a number of its inhabitants, and enriched the British forces, but was of no real service to the royal cause. It was presumed that by involving the citizens in losses and distress, they would be brought to reflect on the advantages of submitting to a power, against which they had not the means of defending themselves: But the temper of the times was unfavourable to these views. Such was the high toned state of the American mind, that property had comparatively lost its value. It was fashionable to suffer in the cause of independence. Some hearty whigs gloried in their losses, with as much pride as others gloried in their possessions. The British supposing the Americans to be influenced, by the considerations which bias men in the languid scenes of tranquil life, and not reflecting on the sacrifices which enthusiastic patriotism is willing to make, proceeded in their schemes of distress: But the more extensively they carried on this mode of warfare, the more obstacles they created to the re-union of the empire. In about five weeks after the termination of the expedition to Virginia, a similar one was projected against the exposed margin of Connecticut. Gov. Tryon was appointed to the command of about 2600 land forces, employed on this business and he was supported by Gen. Garth. The transports which conveyed these troops, were covered by a suitable number of armed vessels, commanded by Sir George Collyer.July 5 1778 They proceeded from New-York,  by the way of Hell-gate, and landed at East-Haven. The royal commanders made an address to the inhabitants, in which they invited them to return to their duty and allegiance, and promised protection to all who should remain peaceably in their usual place of residence, except the civil and military officers of the government. It also stated
that their property lay still within the grasp of that power, whose lenity had persisted in its mild and noble efforts, though branded with the most unworthy imputation. That the existence of a single house on their defenceless coast, ought to be a constant reproof of their ingratitude. That they who lay so much in the British power, afforded a striking monument of their mercy, and therefore ought to set the first example of returning to their allegiance.
One of the many addresses, from which the above extract is taken, was sent, by a flag to Col. Whiting of the militia near Fairfield. The Col. was allowed an hour for his answer, but he had scarcely time to read it before the town was in flames. He nevertheless returned the following answer “Connecticut, having nobly dared to take up arms against the cruel despotism of Great Britain, and the flames having preceded the answer to your flag, they will persist to oppose to the utmost, the power exerted against injured innocence.” The British marched from their landing to New-Haven. The town on their entering it, was delivered up to promiscuous plunder, a few instances of protection excepted. The inhabitants were stripped of their household furniture and other moveable property. The harbour and water side was covered with feathers, which were discharged from opened beds. An aged citizen who labored under a natural inability of speech, had his tongue cut out by one of the royal army. After perpetrating every species of enormity, but that of burning houses, the invaders suddenly re-imbarked and proceeded by water to Fairfield. The militia of that place and the vicinity, posted themselves at the court-house green, and gave considerable annoyance to them as they were advancing, but soon retreated to the height back of the town. On the approach of the British the town was  evacuated by most of its inhabitants. A few women remained with the view of saving their property. They imagined, that their sex would protect them. They also reposed confidence in an enemy who they knew had been formerly famed for humanity and politeness, but they bitterly repented their presumption. Parties of the royal army entered the deserted houses of the inhabitants, broke open desks, trunks, closets and chests, and took every thing of value that came in their way. They robbed the women of their buckles, rings, bonnets, aprons and handkerchiefs. They abused them with the foulest language, threatened their lives, and presented the bayonets to their breasts. A sucking infant was plundered of part of its clothing, while the bayonet was presented to the breast of its mother. Towards evening, they began to burn the houses, which they had previously plundered. The women begged Gen. Tryon to spare the town. Mr. Sayre, the episcopal minister, who had suffered for his attachment to the royal cause, joined the women in their requests, but their joint supplications were disregarded. They then begged, that a few houses might be spared for a general shelter. This was at first denied, but at length Tryon consented to save the buildings of Mr. Burr and of Mr. Elliot, and also said, that the houses for public worship should be spared. After his departure on the next morning with the main body, the rear guard consisting of German yaugers set fire to every thing which Tryon had spared, but on their departure the inhabitants extinguished the flames, and saved some of the houses. The militia were joined by numbers from the country which successively came in to their aid, but they were too few to make effectual opposition.
The British in this excursion, also burned East-Haven, and the greatest part of Green’s farms, and the flourishing town of Norwalk. A considerable number of ships, either finished or on the stocks, with whale-boats and a large amount of stores and merchandise, were destroyed. Particular accounts of these devastations were, in a short time, transmitted by authority to Congress.1778 By these it appeared that they were burnt at Norwalk  two houses of public worship, 8o dwelling houses, 87 barns, 22 stores, 17 shops, 4 mills and 5 vessels; And at Fairfield two houses of public worship, 15 dwelling houses, 11 barns and several stores. There were at the same time a number of certificates transmitted to Gen. Washington, in which sundry persons of veracity bore witness on oath to various acts of brutality, rapine and cruelty, committed on aged persons, women and prisoners.July 19 Congress, on receiving satisfactory attestation of the ravages of the British in this and other similar expeditions, resolved “To direct their marine committee to take the most effectual measures, to carry into execution their manifesto of October 30th 1778, by burning or destroying the towns belonging to the enemy in Great Britain or the West-Indies;” but their resolve was never carried into effect.
The older citizens of the United States, who had grown up with habits of love and attachment to the British nation, felt the keenest sensations of regret, when they contrasted the years 1759 and 1779. The former was their glory, when in the days of their youth, they were disposed to boast of the honors of their common country, but the latter filled them with distress, not only for what they suffered, but for the degradation of a country they revered as the natal soil of their forefathers. The one enobled the British name with the conquest of Crown-Point, Oswego, Montreal, Quebec and the whole province of Canada. The other was remarkable only, for the burning of magazines, store-houses, dock-yards, the towns of Fairfield, and Norwalk, and for the general distress of a defenceless peasantry.
The fires and destruction which accompanied this expedition, were severely censured by the Americans, and apologised for by the British in a very unsatisfactory manner. The latter in their vindication, alleged that the houses which they had burned gave shelter to the Americans, while they fired from them, and on other occassions concealed their retreat.
Tryon, who was a civil governor as well as a general, undertook the justification of the measure, on principles  of policy.1779 “I should be very sorry” said he
if the destruction of these villages would be thought less reconcileable with humanity, than the love of my country, my duty to the king, and the laws of arms. The usurpers have professedly placed their hopes of severing the empire, in avoiding decisive actions—upon the waste of the British treasures, and upon the escape of their own property during the protracting of the war. Their power is supported by the general dread of their tyranny and threats, practiced to inspire a credulous mulitude, with a presumptuous confidence in our forbearance; I wish to detect this delusion.
These devastations were the subject of an elegant poem, written on the spot a few days after, by Col. Humphries.
While the British were proceeding in these desolating operations, Gen. Washington was called upon for continental troops, but he could spare very few. He durst not detach largely, as he apprehended that one design of the British in these movements was to draw off a proportion of his army from West-Point, to favour an intended attack on that important post. General Parsons, though closely connected with Connecticut, and though from his small force he was unable to make successful opposition to the invaders, yet instead of pressing General Washington for a large detachment of continental troops, wrote to him as follows, “The British may probably distress the country exceedingly, by the ravages they will commit, but I would rather see all the towns on the coast of my country in flames, than that the enemy should possess West-Point.”
The inhabitants feared much more than they suffered. They expected that the whole margin of their country, 120 miles in extent, would suffer the fate of Fairfield and Norwalk. The season of the year added much to their difficulties, as the close attention of the farmers to their harvesting could not be omitted, without hazarding their subsistence. These fears were not of long duration. In about ten days after the landing of the British troops, an order was issued for their immediate return to New-York.1779 This they effected, in a short time,  and with a loss so inconsiderable, that in the whole expedition, it did not exceed 150 men.
While the British were successfully making these desultory operations, the American army was incapable of covering the country. The former, having by means of their superior marine force, the command of the numerous rivers, bays and harbours of the United States, had it in their power to make descents, where they pleased, with an expedition that could not be equalled by the American land forces. Had Gen. Washington divided his army, conformably to the wishes of the invaded citizens, he would have subjected his whole force to be cut up in detail.August It was therefore his uniform practice, to risque no more by way of covering the country than was consistent with the general safety.
His army was posted at some distance from British head quarters in New York, and on both sides of the North river. The van thereof consisting of 300 infantry and 150 cavalry, under the command of Col. Anthony Walton White, patroled constantly, for several months, in front of the British lines, and kept a constant watch on the Sound and on the North river. This corps had sundry skirmishes with parties of the British, and was particularly useful in checking their excursions, and in procuring and communicating intelligence of their movements.
About this time Gen. Putnam, who had been stationed with a respectable command at Reading in Connecticut, when on a visit to his out-post at Horse-Neck, was attacked by Gov. Tryon, with about 1500 men. Gen. Putnam had only a picket of 150 men, and two iron field pieces without horses or drag-ropes. He however planted his cannon on the high ground, near the meeting house, and by several fires retarded the advancing enemy, and continued to make opposition till he perceived the enemy’s horse, supported by the infantry, were about to charge. Gen. Putnam after ordering the picket to provide for their safety, by retiring to a swamp inaccessible to horse, plunged down the precipice at the church.1779 This is so steep as to have artificial stairs, composed  of nearly one hundred stone steps, for the accommodation of foot passengers. The dragoons stopped short, without venturing down the abrupt declivity, and before they got round the brow of the hill, Putnam was far enough beyond their reach; of the many balls that were fired at him, all missed except one, which went through his hat. He proceeded to Stamford, and having strengthened his picket with some militia, faced about and pursued Governor Tryon on his return.
The campaign of 1779, though barren of important events, was distinguished by one of the most gallant enterprises, which took place in the course of the war. This was the capture of Stoney-Point, on the North river.July 15 Gen. Wayne, who had the honor of conducting this enterprise, set out at the head of a strong detachment of the most active infantry in the American army at noon, and completed a march of about 14 miles, over bad roads, by eight o’clock in the evening. The detachment being then within a mile and a half of its object, was halted and formed into columns. The General, with a few of his officers, advanced and reconnoitred the works. At half past eleven, the whole moved forward to the attack. The van of the right, consisting of 150 volunteers under the command of Lieut. Col. Fleury, advanced with unloaded muskets, and fixed bayonets. These were preceded by 20 picked men, who were particularly instructed to remove the abbatis and other obstructions. The van of the left was led by Major Stewart, and advanced with unloaded muskets and fixed bayonets. It was also preceded by a similar forlorn hope. The General placed himself at the head of the right column, and gave the most pointed orders not to fire, but to depend solely on the bayonet. The two columns directed their attacks to opposite points of the works, while a detachment engaged the attention of the garrison, by a feint in their front. The approaches were more difficult than had been apprehended. The works were defended by a deep morass, which was also, at that time, overflowed by the tide.1779 Neither the morass, the double row of abbatis, nor the strength of the works, damped the ardor  of the assailants. In the face of a most tremendous fire of musketry, and of cannon loaded with grape-shot, they forced their way, at the point of the bayonet, through every obstacle, until both columns met in the centre of the works, at nearly the same instant. Gen. Wayne as he passed the last abbatis, was wounded in the head by a musket ball, but nevertheless insisted on being carried forward, adding as a reason for it, [“]that if he died he wished it might be in the fort.” Lieutenants Gibbons and Knox, who led the forlorn hope, escaped unhurt, although the first lost 17 men out of 20, and the last nearly as many. The killed and wounded of the Americans amounted to 98. The killed of the garrison were 63, and the number of their prisoners 543. Two flags, two standards, 15 pieces of ordnance, and a considerable quantity of military stores, fell into the hands of the conquerors. The vigor and spirit, with which this enterprise was conducted, was matter of triumph to the Americans. Congress gave their thanks to Gen. Washington “For the vigilance, wisdom and magnanimity with which he had conducted the military operations of the States, and which were among many other signal instances manifested in his orders for the above enterprise.” They also gave thanks to Gen. Wayne, and ordered a medal, emblematical of the action, to be struck and one of gold to be presented to him. They directed a silver one to be presented to Lieut. Col. Fleury, and also to Major Stewart. At the same time, they passed general resolutions in honor of the officers and men, but particularly designating Lieut. Col. Fleury, Major Stewart, Lieutenants Gibbons and Knox. To the two latter and also to Mr. Archer, the General’s volunteer aid-de-camp, they gave the rank of Captain. The clemency shewn to the vanquished, was universally applauded. The customs of war, and the recent barbarities at Fairfield and Norwalk, would have been an apology for the conquerors, had they put the whole garrison to the sword, but the assailants, no less generous than brave, ceased to destroy as soon as their adversaries ceased to resist.1779 Upon the capture of Stoney-Point, the victors turned its artillery  against Verplank’s-Point, and fired upon it with such effect, that the shipping in its vicinity cut their cables and fell down the river. As soon as the news of these events reached New-York, preparations were instantly made to relieve the latter post and to recover the former. It by no means accorded with the cautious prudence of Gen. Washington, to risque an engagement for either or for both of them. He therefore removed the cannon and stores, destroyed the works, and evacuated the captured post. Sir Henry Clinton regained possession of Stoney-Point, on the third day after its capture, and placed in it a strong garrison.
The successful enterprise of the Americans at Stoney-Point, was speedily followed by another, which equalled it in boldness of design.July 19 1779 This was the surprise of the British garrison at Powles-Hook, opposite to New-York, which was effected by Major Lee with about 350 men. Major Sutherland the commandant, with a number of Hessians got off safe to a small block-house on the left of the fort, but about 30 of his men were killed and 160 taken prisoners. The loss of the Americans was inconsiderable. Major Lee in conformity to the orders he had received, made an immediate retreat, without waiting to destroy either the barracks or the artillery. Congress honored him with their thanks, and ordered a medal of gold, emblematical of the affair to be struck, and presented to him as a reward “for his prudence, address and bravery.” They also passed resolutions applauding his humanity, and expressing their high sense of the good conduct of his troops, and at the same time, ordered a considerable donative in money, to be distributed among them.
These advantages were more than counterbalanced, by an unsuccessful attempt, made by the state of Massachusetts, on a British post at Penobscot.Jun. 16 Col. Macleane by the direction of Sir Henry Clinton, landed with a detachment of 650 men from Halifax, on the banks of Penobscot river, in the eastern confines of New-England, and proceeded soon after to construct a fort in a well chosen situation. This occasioned an alarm at Boston.1779 To  counteract the establishment of the post, vigorous measures were resolved upon. That armed vessels, transports and sailors, might be secured for an expedition, which was immediately projected for this purpose, an embargo for 40 days was laid by the state of Massachusetts, on all their shipping. A considerable armament consisting of 18 armed vessels besides transports, was fitted out with extraordinary expedition, and put under the command of Com. Saltonstal. The largest vessel in this fleet, was the Warren of 32 guns, 18 and 12 pounders. The others varied from 24 to 12 guns.July 25 A body of land forces commanded by Gen. Lovel, embarked on this expedition. On the 25th of July, the American fleet consisting of 37 sail appeared off Penobscot. Col. Macleane had four days before gained information, of what was intended against him. This induced him to redouble his exertions in strengthening his fort, which was in an unfinished state. Two of the bastions were untouched. The remaining two were in no part above 4 or 5 feet high. The ditch was only about 3 feet deep. There was no platform laid, nor any artillery mounted.July 28 The American general on his landing, summoned the colonel to surrender, which being refused, he proceeded to erect a battery at the distance of 750 yards. A cannonading commenced, and was kept up for about a fortnight, but without any considerable effect. While the besiegers were making preparation for an assault, which they had in immediate contemplation, Sir George Collyer appeared full in view, with a squadron for the relief of the garrison.Aug. 3 He had sailed from Sandy-Hook, on hearing of the intended attack on Col. Macleane’s party, and in about 11 days arrived in the river Penobscot. His marine force consisted of the Raisonable of 64 guns and five frigates. The Americans at first made a shew of resistance, but they intended no more than to give the transports time to move up the river, that the troops might have an opportunity of landing, and making their escape. The superior force and weight of metal of the Raisonable was irresistible, and the escape of the Americans was impracticable. A general flight on the one side, and a general  chase on the other took place.1779 Sir George destroyed and took 17 or 18 armed vessels. The American soldiers and sailors had to return a great part of their way by land, and to explore their route through thick woods.
While the war languished as to great objects in the country where it originated, it was raging on a new element, and involving distant countries in its wide spreading flame. Hostilities between the fleets of France and Great-Britain, were carrying on in both the Indies and in the European seas, as well as on the coast of America. His most Catholic Majesty was also, about this time, induced to take a decided part with France against Great-Britain.
Jun. 16To the surprise of many, the Marquis D’Almodovar the Spanish ambassador delivered a manifesto to lord Viscount Weymouth, amounting to a declaration of war against Great-Britain. This event had often been predicted by the minority in the British parliament, but disbelieved by the ministry. The latter reasoned “that Spain could have no interest in joining their adversaries. That she had colonies of her own, and could not set so bad an example to them, as to give any countenance to the Americans. It was also said that Spain was naturally attached to Great-Britain, and unable to enter into war.” They were so far imposed upon by their eagerness to effect the conquest of the United-States, as to believe that to be true which they wished to be so. The event proved that the politics of sovereign powers, are not reducible to fixed principles. Sometimes one interest clashes with another, and it is not always the case that the strongest preponderates. Whether the influence of the French counsels, or the prospect of recovering Gibralter, Jamaica and the two Floridas, or the pressure of recent injuries determined the court of Spain to adopt this measure it is impossible with certainty to decide, but circumstances make it probable, that the hope of regaining Gibraltar and Jamaica, was the principal inducement.
The situation of Great Britain, was at this time truly distressing. She was weakened and distracted in a domestic contest, in which victory produced no advantages,  but defeat all its natural effects. In the midst of this wasting contest, in which her ability to reduce her revolted colonies, though without foreign aid was doubtful, she was suddenly involved in a new and much more dangerous war with one of the greatest powers in Europe. At this very time while she was engaged in this double warfare, against old friends and old enemies, his most Catholic Majesty added his force to that of her numerous foes.
In this situation a direliction of the American war was recommended by some leading characters in the nation, but every proposition of that kind was over-ruled, and assurances from both houses of Parliament, were given to his Majesty “to support him in carrying on the war against all his enemies”.
From these events which only affected the United-States as far as they increased the embarrassments of Great Britain, I return to relate the transactions which took place within their own limits. In the year 1779, though the war was carried on for little more than distress or depredation in the northern states, the re-establishment of British government was seriously attempted in Carolina and Georgia. After the reduction of Savannah, a great part of the state of Georgia was restored to the King’s peace. The royal army in that quarter was strengthened by a numerous re-inforcement from East Florida, and the whole was put under the command of Major Gen. Prevost. The force then in Georgia gave a serious alarm to the adjacent states. There were at that time but few continental troops in Georgia, or South Carolina, and scarce any in North-Carolina, as during the late tranquillity in the southern states, they had been detached to serve in the main army commanded by Gen. Washington. A body of militia was raised and sent forward by North Carolina to aid her neighbours. These joined the continental troops, but not till they had retreated out of Georgia, and taken post in South Carolina. Towards the close of the year 1778 Gen. Lincoln, at the request of the delegates of South Carolina, was appointed by Congress, to take the command of their southern army.
1779 This consisted only of a few hundred continentals. To supply the deficiency of regular soldiers, a considerable body of militia was ordered to join him, but they added much more to his numbers than to his effective force.
They had not yet learned the implicit obedience necessary for military operations. Accustomed to activity on their farms, they could not bear the languor of an encampment. Having grown up in habits of freedom and independence, they reluctantly submitted to martial discipline. The royal army at Savannah being reinforced by the junction of the troops from St. Augustine, was in condition to extend their posts. Their first object was to take possession of Port-Royal, in South-Carolina. Major Gardiner with two hundred men being detached with this view, landed on the island, but Gen. Moultrie at the head of an equal number of Americans, in which there were only nine regular soldiers, attacked and drove him off it. This advantage was principally gained by two field pieces, which were well served by a party of Charleston militia artillery. The British lost almost all their officers. The Americans had eight men killed and 22 wounded. Among the former, was Lieut. Benjamin Wilkins an artillery officer of great merit, and a citizen of distinguished virtue, whose early fall deprived a numerous family of their chief support. He was the first officer of South-Carolina who lost his life in supporting its independence. This repulse restrained the British from attempting any immediate enterprise to the northward of Savannah, but they fixed posts at Ebenezer, and Augusta, and extended themselves over a great part of Georgia. They also endeavored to stengthen themselves by reinforcements from the tories, in the western settlements of Georgia and Carolina.
Emissaries were sent among the inhabitants of that description, to encourage them to a general insurrection. They were assured that if they embodied and added their force to that of the King’s army in Georgia, they would have such a decided superiority as would make a speedy return to their homes practicable, on their own terms.1779 Several hundreds of them accordingly rendezvoused,  and set off to join the royal forces at Augusta. Among those who called themselves loyalists, there were many of the most infamous characters. Their general complexion was that of a plundering banditti, more solicitous for booty, than for the honor and interest of their royal master. At every period before the war, the western wilderness of these States which extended to the Mississippi, afforded an asylum for the idle or disorderly, who disrelished the restraints of civil society. While the war raged, the demands of militia duty and of taxes contributed much to the peopling of those remote settlements, by holding out prospects of exemption from the control of government. Among these people the royal emissaries had successfully planted the standard of loyalty, and of that class was a great proportion of those, who in the upper country of the Carolinas and Georgia, called themselves the King’s friends. They had no sooner embodied and begun their march to join the royal army at Augusta, than they commenced such a scene of plundering of the defenceless settlements through which they passed, as induced the orderly inhabitants to turn out to oppose them. Col. Pickens, with about 300 men of the latter character, immediately pursued and came up with them, near Kettle-creek. An action took place, which lasted three quarters of an hour. The tories were totally routed. About forty of them were killed, and in that number was their leader Col. Boyd, who had been secretly employed by British authority to collect and head them. By this action the British were disconcerted. The tories were dispersed. Some ran quite off. Others went to their homes, and cast themselves on the mercy of their country. These were tried by the laws of South Carolina for offending against an act called the sedition act, which had been passed since the revolution for the security of the new government. Seventy of them were condemned to die, but the sentence was only executed on five of their ringleaders.
As the British extended their posts on the Georgia side of Savannah river, Gen. Lincoln fixed encampments at Black-Swamp, and nearly opposite to Augusta on the Carolina  side.1779 From these posts he formed a plan of crossing into Georgia, with the view of limiting the British to the low country, near the ocean. In the execution of this design, Gen. Ash with 1500 North-Carolina militia and a few regular troops, after crossing the river Savannah, took a position on Briar-creek;May 3 but in a few days he was surprised by Lieut. Col. Prevost, who having made a circuitous march of about 50 miles, came unexpectedly on his rear with about 900 men. The militia were thrown into confusion, and fled at the first fire. One hundred and fifty of the Americans were killed, and 162 were taken. Few had any chance of escaping but by crossing the Savannah, in attempting which many were drowned. Of those who got off safe, a great part returned home. The number that rejoined the American camp did not exceed 450 men. The few continentals under Col. Elbert made a brave resistence, but the survivors of them, with their gallant leader, were at last compelled to surrender. This event deprived Gen. Lincoln of one fourth of his numbers, and opened a communication between the British, the Indians, and the tories of North and South-Carolina.
Unexperienced in the art of war, the Americans were subject to those reverses of fortune, which usually attend young soldiers. Unacquainted with military stratagems, deficient in discipline, and not thoroughly broken to habits of implicit obedience, they were often surprised, and had to learn by repeated misfortunes the necessity of subordination, and the advantages of watchfulness and discipline. Their numbers in the field, to those who are acquainted with European wars, must appear inconsiderable, but such is the difference of the state of society and of the population in the old and new world, that in America, a few hundreds decided objects of equal magnitude with those, which in Europe would have called into the field as many thousands. The prize contended for was nothing less than the Sovereignty of three millions of people, and of five hundred millions of acres of land, and yet from the remote situation of the invading powers, and the thin population of the invaded States, especially  in the southern extreme of the union,1779 this momentous question was materially affected by the consequences of battles, in which only a few hundreds engaged.
The series of disasters which had followed the American arms since the landing of the British near Savannah, occasioned well founded apprehension for the safety of the adjacent States. The militia of South-Carolina was therefore put on a better footing, and a regiment of cavalry was raised. John Rutledge a Carolinian of the most distinguished abilities, was called to the chair of government by an almost unanimous vote, and in imitation of the ancient republic of Rome invested, in conjunction with his council, with dictatorial powers. By virtue of his authority, he convened a large body of the militia near the centre of the State, that they might be in constant readiness to march whithersoever public service required. The original plan of penetrating into Georgia was resumed. Part of the American force was stationed on the north side of the Savannah at Purrysburgh and Black-swamp, while Gen. Lincoln and the main army crossed into Georgia near Augusta. General Prevost availed himself of the critical moment, when the American army had ascended 150 miles towards the source of the Savannah, and crossed into Carolina over the same river near to its mouth, with about 2400 men. A considerable body of Indians, whose friendship the British had previously secured, were associated with the British on this expedition. The superior British force which crossed Savannah river, soon compelled General Moultrie, who was charged with the defence of South-Carolina, to retire. Lincoln on receiving information of these movements, detached 300 of his light troops to reinforce Moultrie, but proceeded with the main army towards the capital of Georgia. He was induced to pursue his original intention, from an idea that Gen. Prevost meant nothing more than to divert him by a feint on Carolina, and because his marching down on the south side of the river Savannah, would occasion very little additional delay in repairing to its defense.1779 When Lincoln  found that Prevost was seriously pushing for Charleston, he re-crossed the Savannah and pursued him. The British proceeded in their march by the main road near the sea coast, with but little opposition, and in the mean time the Americans retreated before them towards Charleston. Gen. Moultrie, who ably conducted this retreat, had no cavalry to check the advancing foe. Instead of his receiving reinforcements from the inhabitants, as he marched through the country, he was abandoned by many of the militia who went to their homes. Their families and property lay directly in the route of the invading army. The abcence of the main army under Lincoln, the retreat of Moultrie, the plunderings and devastations of the invaders, and above all the dread of the Indian savages which accompanied the royal army, diffused a general panic among the inhabitants. The terror of each individual became a source of terror to another. From the influence of these causes, many were induced to apply for British protection. New converts to the royal standard endeavoured to ingratiate themselves with their protectors, by encouraging them to attempt the reduction of Charleston. Being in their power, they were more anxious to frame intelligence on the idea of what was agreeable, than of what was true. They represented the inhabitants as being generally tired of the war, and wishing for peace at all events. They also stated that Charleston was incapable of much resistance. These circumstances combined with the facility with which the British marched through the country, induced Gen. Prevost to extend his plan and push for Charleston. Had he designed it at first, and continued his march with the same rapidity with which it was begun, the town would probably have been carried by a coup-de-main, but he halted two or three days when advanced near half the distance. In that interval every preparation was made by the South-Carolinians, for the defence of their capital. All the houses in its suburbs were burnt. Lines and abbatis were, in a few days, carried across the peninsula between Ashley and Cooper rivers, and cannon were mounted at proper intervals on its whole extent.1779 Though this visit  of the British, and especially an attack on the land side, was unexpected, yet in a few days great preparations were made, and a force of 3300 men assembled in Charleston for its defence.
May 11The main body and baggage of the British army, being left on the south side of Ashley river, an advanced detachment of 900 men, crossed the ferry and appeared before the town. In the mean time Lincoln was marching on as fast as possible, for the relief of Charleston, but as his arrival was doubtful and the crisis hazardous, to gain time was a matter of consequence. A whole day was therefore spent in the exchange of flags. Commissioners from the garrison were instructed “to propose a neutrality during the war between Great Britain and America, and that the question whether the state shall belong to Great Britain, or remain one of the United States, be determined by the treaty of peace between these powers.” The British commanders refused this advantageous offer, alledging that they did not come in a legislative capacity, and insisted that as the inhabitants and others were in arms, they should surrender prisoners of war. This being refused the garrison prepared for an immediate assault, but this was not attempted. About this time Major Benjamin Huger commanding a party without the lines, was through mistake killed by his countrymen. This was a loss indeed. The liberality, generosity and public spirit, which distinguished him as a citizen, added to great political and military talents, rendered his untimely death the subject of universal regret. By his fall the country was deprived of one of its firmest and most useful friends, and the army lost one of its brightest ornaments. Prevost knowing by an intercepted letter, that Lincoln was coming on in his rear, retreated from Charleston, and filed off with his whole force from the main to the islands near the sea, that he might avoid being between two fires.Jun. 20 Both armies encamped in the vicinity of Charleston, watching each others motions till the 20th of June, when an attack was made with about 1200 Americans on six or 700 of the British, advantageously posted at Stono ferry.1779 The latter had redoubts  with a line of communication, and field pieces in the intervals, and the whole was secured with an abbatis. By a preconcerted plan, a feint was to have been made from James Island, with a body of Charleston militia, at the moment when Gen. Lincoln began the attack from the main, but from mismanagement, they did not reach their place of destination till the action was over. The attack was continued for an hour and twenty minutes, and the assailants had the advantage, but the appearance of a reinforcement, to prevent which the feint from James Island was intended, made their retreat necessary. The loss of the Americans in killed and wounded was about 150. Among the former was Col. Roberts, an artillery officer of distinguished abilities. Having been bred to arms in his native country England, he had been particularly serviceable in diffusing military knowledge among the less informed American officers. In the short interval between his being wounded and his dying, he was visited on the field of battle by his son Capt. Roberts, of his own regiment. The expiring father presented his sword to his son, with an exhortation to behave worthy of it, and to use it in defence of liberty and his country. After a short conversation he desired him to return to his proper station, adding for reason “that there he might be useful, but to him he could be of no service.”
Immediately after this attack, the American militia impatient of absence from their homes returned to their plantations, and about the same time the British left the islands adjacent to Charleston, retreating from one to another, till they arrived at Port-royal and Savannah. A considerable garrison was left at the former place under Col. Maitland, but the main body went to Savannah.
This incursion into South-Carolina contributed very little to the advancement of the royal cause, but added much to the wealth of the officers, soldiers and followers of the British army, and still more to the distresses of the inhabitants. The forces under the command of Gen. Prevost spread themselves over a considerable part of the richest settlements of the state, and where there are the fewest white inhabitants in proportion to the number of  slaves.1779 There was much to attract, and but little to resist the invaders. Small parties visited almost every house, and unopposed took whatever they chose. They not only rifled the inhabitants of household furniture, but of wearing apparel, money, rings and other personal ornaments. Every place, in their line of march, experienced the effects of their rapacity.
Soon after the affair at Stono, the continental forces under the command of Gen. Lincoln retired to Sheldon, a healthy situation in the vicinity of Beaufort. Both armies remained in their respective encampments, till the arrival of a French fleet on the coast, roused the whole country to immediate activity.
Nov. 3, 1778Count D’Estaing having repaired and victualled his fleet at Boston, sailed for the West-Indies, and on the same day Commodore Hotham with five men of war, a bomb vessel and some frigates, set out from New-York to convoy a number of transports with Gen. Grant, and 5000 men to the same theatre of naval operations.
Dec. 30, 1778The British took St. Lucia, and Count D’Estaing took St. Vincents and Grenada. Soon after the reduction of the latter, the Count retired to Cape François.July 1779 Having received instructions from the King his master to act in concert with the forces of the United States, and being strongly solicited by Gen. Lincoln, President Lownds, Gov. Rutledge, and Mr. Plombard Consul of France in Charleston, he sailed for the American continent with expectation of rendering essential service, in operating against the common enemy.Sept. 1 He arrived on the coast of Georgia, with a fleet consisting of twenty sail of the line, two of fifty guns and eleven frigates. His appearance was so unexpected that the Experiment man of war, of 50 guns commanded by Sir James Wallace, and three frigates fell into his hands.
As soon as his arrival on the coast was known, Gen. Lincoln with the army under his command, marched for the vicinity of Savannah, and orders were given for the militia of Georgia and South-Carolina to rendezvous near the same place. The British were equally diligent in preparing for their defence. Great numbers were employed  both by day and night, in strengthening and extending their lines. The American militia, flushed with the hope of speedily expelling the British from their southern possessions, turned out with an alacrity which far surpassed their exertions in the preceding campaign. D’Estaing before the arrival of Lincoln demanded the surrender of the town to the arms of France. Prevost in his answer declined surrendering on a general summons, and requested that specific terms should be proposed, to which he would give an answer. The Count replied that it was the part of the besieged to propose terms. Prevost then asked for a suspension of hostilities, for 24 hours, for preparing proper terms. This was inconsiderately granted. Before the 24 hours elapsed, Lieut. Col. Maitland with several hundred men who had been stationed at Beaufort, made their way good through many obstacles, and joined the royal army in Savannah. The garrison, encouraged by the arrival of so respectable a force, determined on resistance. The French and Americans, who formed a junction the evening after, were therefore reduced to the necessity of storming or besieging the garrison. The resolution of proceeding by siege being adopted, several days were consumed in preparing for it, and in the mean time the works of the garrison were hourly strengthened by the labour of several hundred negroes, directed by that able engineer Major Moncrief.Oct. 4 The besiegers opened with nine mortars, thirty seven pieces of cannon from the land side, and fifteen from the water. Soon after the commencement of the cannonade, Prevost solicited for leave to send the women and children out of town, but this was refused. The combined army suspected that a desire of secreting the plunder, lately taken from the South-Carolinians, was covered under the veil of humanity. It was also presumed that a refusal would expedite a surrender. On a report from the engineers that a considerable time would be necessary to reduce the garrison by regular approaches, it was determined to make an assault. This measure was forced on Count D’Estaing by his marine officers, who had remonstrated against his continuing to risk so valuable  a fleet on a dangerous coast,1779 in the hurricane season, and at so great a distance from the shore, that it might be surprised by a British fleet, completely repaired and fully manned. In a few days the lines of the besiegers might have been carried into the works of the besieged, but under these critical circumstances, no farther delay could be admitted. To assault or raise the siege was the alternative. Prudence would have dictated the latter, but a sense of honor determined the besiegers to adopt the former.Oct. 9 Two feints were made with the country militia, and a real attack on Spring-hill battery early in the morning, with 3500 French troops, 600 continentals, and 350 of the inhabitants of Charleston. These boldly marched up to the lines, under the command of D’Estaing and Lincoln, but a heavy and well directed fire from the batteries, and a cross fire from the gallies, threw the front of their columns into confusion. Two standards were nevertheless planted on the British redoubts. A retreat of the assailants was ordered, after they had stood the enemies fire for 55 minutes. Count D’Estaing and Count Pulaski were both wounded. The former slightly, but the latter mortally. Six hundred and thirty seven of the French, and upwards of 200 of the continentals and militia were killed or wounded. Gen. Prevost, Lieut. Col. Maitland, and Major Moncrief deservedly acquired great reputation by this successful defence. The force of the garrison was between 2 and 3000, of which about 150 were militia. The damage sustained by the besieged was trifling, as they fired from behind works, and few of the assailants fired at all. Immediately after this unsucessful assault, the militia, almost universally, went to their homes. Count D’Estaing reimbarked his troops and artillery, and left the continent.
While the siege of Savannah was pending, a remarkable enterprise was effected by Col. John White of the Georgia line. Capt. French had taken post with about 100 men near the river Ogechee, some time before the siege began. There were also at the same place forty sailors on board of five British vessels, four of which  were armed.1779 Oct. 1 All these men, together with the vessels and 130 stand of arms, were surrendered to Col. White, Capt. Elholm and four others, one of which was the Colonel’s servant. On the preceding night this small party kindled a number of fires in different places, and adopted the parade of a large encampment. By these and a variety of deceptive stratagems, Capt. French was fully impressed with an opinion, that nothing but an instant surrender, in conformity to a peremptory summons, could save his men from being cut to pieces by a superior force. He therefore gave up, without making any resistance.
This visit of the fleet of his most Christian Majesty to the coast of America, though unsuccessful as to its main object, was not without utility to the United States. It disconcerted the measures already digested by the British commanders, and caused a considerable waste of time, before they could determine on a new plan of operations. It also occasioned the evacuation of Rhode-Island. But this was of no advantage to the United States. For of all the blunders committed by the British in the course of the American war, none was greater than their stationing near 6000 men, for two years and eight months, on that Island, where they were lost to every purpose of co-operation, and where they could render very little more service to the royal cause, than could have been obtained by a couple of frigates cruising in the vicinity.
The siege being raised, the continental troops retreated over the river Savannah. The vicissitudes of an autumnal atmosphere made a severe impression on the irritable fibres of men, exhausted with fatigue and dejected by defeat. In proportion to the towering hopes, with which the expedition was undertaken, was the depression of spirits subsequent to its failure. The Georgia exiles, who had assembled from all quarters to repossess themselves of their estates, were a second time obliged to flee from their country and possessions. The most gloomy apprehensions, respecting the Southern States, took possession of the minds of the people.
1779 Thus ended the southern campaign of 1779, without any thing decisive on either side. After one year, in which the British had over-run the State of Georgia for 150 miles from the sea coast, and had penetrated as far as the lines of Charleston, they were reduced to their original limits in Savannah. All their schemes of cooperation with the tories had failed, and the spirits of that class of the inhabitants, by successive disappointments, were thoroughly broken.
The campaign of 1779 is remarkable for the feeble exertions of the Americans. Accidental causes, which had previously excited their activity, had in a great measure ceased to have influence. An enthusiasm for liberty made them comparatively disregard property, and brave all danger in the first years of the war. The successes of their arms near the beginning of 1777, and the hopes of capturing Burgoyne’s army in the close of it, together with the brisk circulation of a large quantity of paper money in good credit, made that year both active and decisive. The flattering prospects inspired by the alliance with France in 1778 banished allfears of the success of the revolution, but the failure of every scheme of co-operation produced a despondency of mind unfavourable to great exertions. Instead of driving the British out of the country, as the Americans vainly presumed, the campaign of 1778 and 1779 terminated without any direct advantage from the French fleet sent to their aid. Expecting too much from their allies, and then failing in these expectations, they were less prepared to prosecute the war from their own resources, than they would have been had D’Estaing not touched on their coast. Their army was reduced in its numbers, and badly cloathed: In the first years of the war the mercantile character was lost in the military spirit of the times, but in the progress of it the inhabitants, cooling in their enthusiasm, gradually returned to their former habits of lucrative business. This made distinction between the army and the citizens, and was unfriendly to military exertions.1779 While several foreign events tended to the embarrassment of Great-Britain, and indirectly to the establishment of independence, a variety  of internal causes relaxed the exertions of the Americans, and for a time made it doubtful, whether they would ultimately be independent citizens or conquered subjects. Among these, the daily depreciation of their bills of credit held a distinguished pre-eminence. This so materially affected every department as to merit a particular discussion. The subject, to prevent an interruption of the thread of the narrative, is treated of in a separate appendix.
APPENDIX No. II
Of Continental Paper Currency.
In the modern mode of making war, money is not less essential, than valour in the field, or wisdom in the cabinet. The deepest purse decides the fate of contending nations, as often as the longest sword. It early occurred to the founders of the American empire, that the established revenues of Great Britain, must eventually overbalance the sudden and impetuous sallies of men contending for freedom, on the spur of the occasion, and without the permanent means of defence: but how to remedy the evil, puzzled their wisest politicians. Gold and silver, as far as was known, had not a physical existence in the country, in any quantity equal to the demands of war, nor could they be procured from abroad, as the channels of commerce had been previously shut, by the voluntary association of Congress to suspend foreign trade. America having never been much taxed in any direct way, and being without established governments, and especially as she was contending against what was lately lawful authority, could not immediately proceed to taxation. Besides as the contest was on the subject of taxation, the laying on of taxes adequate to the exigencies of war, even though it had been practicable, would have been impolitic. The only plausible expedient in their power to adopt, was the emission of bills of credit representing specie, under a public engagement to be ultimately sunk by equal taxes, or exchanged for gold or silver.1779 This practice had been familiar from the first settlement of the colonies, and under proper restrictions  had been found highly advantageous. Their resolution to raise an army in June 1775, was therefore followed by another to emit bills of credit, to the amount of two millions of dollars. To that sum on the 25th of the next month, it was resolved to add another million. For their redemption they pledged the confederated colonies, and directed each colony to find ways and means, to sink its proportion and quota, in four annual payments, the first to be made on or before the last of Nov. 1779. That time was fixed upon from an expectation, that previous to its arrival, the contest would be brought to a conclusion. On the 29th of November, 1775, an estimate having been made by Congress of the public expences already incurred, or likely to be incurred in carrying on their defence till the 10th of June, 1776, it was resolved to emit a farther sum of three millions of dollars, to be redeemed as the former by four annual payments, the first to be made on or before the last day of Novem. 1783. It was at the same time determined, that the quotas of bills to be redeemed by each colony, should be in a relative proportion to their respective numbers of inhabitants. This estimate was calculated to defray expences to the 10th of June, 1776, on the idea that an accommodation would take place before that time. Hitherto all arrangements, both for men and money were temporary, and founded on the supposed probability of a reconciliation. Early in 1776, Congress obtained information, that Great Britain had contracted for 16,000 foreign mercenaries, to be sent over for the purpose of subduing America. This enforced the necessity of extending their plan of defence, beyond the 10th of the next June. They therefore on the 17th of February 1776, ordered four millions of dollars to be emitted, and on the 9th of May and the 22d of July following, emitted ten millions more on the same security. Such was the animation of the times, that these several emissions amounting in the aggregate to 20 millions of dollars, circulated for several months without any depreciation, and commanded the resources of the country for public service, equally with the same sum of gold1779 or  silver. The United States derived for a considerable time, as much benefit from this paper creation of their own, though without any established funds for its support or redemption, as would have resulted from a free gift of as many Mexican dollars. While the ministry of England were puzzling themselves for new taxes, and funds on which to raise their supplies, Congress raised theirs by resolutions, directing paper of no intrinsic value to be struck off, in form of promissory notes. But there was a point both in time and quantity, beyond which this congressional alchymy ceased to operate. That time was about 18 months from the date of their first emission, and that quantity about 20 millions of dollars.
Independence being declared in the second year of the war, and the object for which arms were at first assumed being changed, it was obvious that more money must be procured, and equally so that if bills of credit were multiplied beyond a reasonable sum for circulation, they must necessarily depreciate. It was therefore on the 3d of October 1776 resolved to borrow five millions of dollars, and in the month following a lottery was set on foot for obtaining a farther sum on loan. The expences of the war were so great, that the money arising from both, though considerable, was far short of a sufficiency. The rulers of America thought it still premature to urge taxation. They therefore reiterated the expedient of farther emissions. The ease with which the means of procuring supplies were furnished by striking off bills of credit, and the readiness of the people to receive them, prompted Congress to multiply them beyond the limits of prudence. A diminution of their value was the unavoidable consequence. This at first was scarcely perceivable, but it daily increased. The zeal of the people nevertheless so far overbalanced the nice mercantile calculations of interest, that the campaigns of 1776 and 1777 were not affected by the depreciation of the paper currency. Congress foresaw that this could not long be the case.1779 It was therefore on the 22d of November 1777 recommended to the several States, to raise by taxes the  sum of five millions of dollars, for the service of the year 1778.
Previously to this it had been resolved to borrow larger sums, and for the encouragement of lenders, it was agreed to pay the interest which should accrue thereon by bills of exchange, payable in France, out of monies borrowed there for the use of the United States. This tax unfortunately failed in several of the States. From the impossibility of procuring a sufficiency of money either from loans or taxes, the old expedient of farther emissions was reiterated; but the value decreased as the quantity increased. Congress anxious to put a stop to the increase of their bills of credit, and to provide a fund for reducing what were issued, called upon the States on the 1st of January 1779, to pay into the continental treasury their respective quotas of fifteen millions of dollars for the service of that year, and of six millions annually from and after the year 1779, as a fund for reducing their early emissions and loans. Such had been the mistaken ideas, which originally prevailed of the duration of the contest, that though the war was raging, and the demands for money unabated, yet the period was arrived which had been originally fixed upon for the redemption of the first emissions of Congress.
In addition to these 15 millions called for on the 1st of January 1779, the States were on the 21st of May following called upon to furnish, for public service within the current year, their respective quotas of 45 millions of dollars. Congress wished to arrest the growing depreciation, and therefore called for taxes in large sums, proportioned to the demands of the public, and also to the diminished value of their bills. These requisitions, though nominally large, were by no means sufficient. From the fluctuating state of the money, it was impossible to make any certain calculations, for it was not two days of the same value. A sum which when demanded, would have purchased a sufficiency of the commodities wanted for the public service, was very inadequate, when the collection was made, and the money lodged in the treasury. The depreciation began at different periods in different  States; but in general about the middle of the year 1777, and progressively increased for three or four years. Towards the last of 1777, the depreciation was about two or three for one; in 1778 it advanced from two or three for one to five or six for one: in 1779, from five or six for one to 27 or 28 for one; in 1780 from 27 or 28 for one to 50 or 6o for one, in the first four or five months. Its circulation was afterwards partial, but where it passed it soon depreciated to 150 for one. In some few parts it continued in circulation for the first four or five months of 1781, but in this latter period many would not take it at any rate, and they who did, received it at a depreciation of several hundreds for one.
As there was a general clamor on account of the floods of money, which at successive periods had deluged the States, it was resolved in October 1779 that no farther sum should be issued on any account whatever than what, when added to the present sum in circulation, would in the whole be equal to 200 millions of dollars. It was at the same time resolved, that Congress should emit only such a part of the sum wanting to make up 200 millions, as should be absolutely necessary for the public exigencies, before adequate supplies could be otherwise obtained, relying for such supplies on the exertions of the several States.Sept. 13, 1779 This was forcibly represented in a circular letter from Congress to their constituents, and the States were earnestly intreated to prevent that deluge of evils which would flow from their neglecting to furnish adequate supplies for the wants of the confederacy. The same circular letter stated the practicability of redeeming all the bills of Congress at par with gold and silver, and rejected with indignation the supposition that the States would ever tarnish their credit by violating public faith. These strong declarations in favour of the paper currency deceived many to repose confidence in it to their ruin. Subsequent events compelled Congress to adopt the very measure in 1780, which in the preceding year they had sincerely reprobated.
From the non-compliance of the States, Congress was obliged in a short time after the date of their circular letter to issue such a farther quantity, as when added to  previous emissions made the sum of 200 millions of dollars. Besides this immense sum, the paper emissions of the different States amounted to many millions; which mixed with the continental money, and added to its depreciation. What was of little value before now became of less. The whole was soon expended, and yet from its increased depreciation the immediate wants of the army were not supplied. The source which for five years had enabled Congress to keep an army in the field being exhausted, Gen. Washington was reduced for some time to the alternative of disbanding his troops, or of supplying them by a military force. He preferred the latter, and the inhabitants of New-York and New-Jersey, though they felt the injury, saw the necessity, and patiently submitted.
The States were next called upon to furnish in lieu of money determinate quantities of beef, pork, flour and other articles, for the use of the army. This was called a requisition for specific supplies or a tax in kind, and was found on experiment to be so difficult of execution, so inconvenient, partial and expensive, that it was speedily abandoned. About this time, Congress resolved upon another expedient. This was to issue a new species of paper money, under the guarantee of the several States. The old money was to be called in by taxes, and as soon as brought in to be burnt, and in lieu thereof one dollar of the new was to be emitted for every twenty of the old, so that when the whole 200 millions were drawn in and cancelled, only ten millions of the new should be issued in their place, four tenths of which were to be subject to the order of Congress, and the remaining six tenths to the order of the several States. These new bills were to be redeemable in specie within six years, and to bear an interest at the rate of five per cent to be paid also in specie, at the redemption of the bills, or at the election of the owner annually in bills of exchange on the American commissioners in Europe, at four shillings and six pence for each dollar.
1779From the execution of these resolutions it was expected, that the old money would be cancelled—that the  currency would be reduced to a fixed standard—that the States would be supplied with the means of purchasing the specific supplies required of them, and that Congress would be furnished with efficient money, to provide for the exigencies of the war. That these good effects would have followed, even though the resolutions of Congress had been carried into execution, is very questionable, but from the partial compliances of the States the experiment was never fairly made, and the new paper answered very little purpose. It was hoped by varying the ground of credit, that Congress would gain a repetition of the advantages which resulted from their first paper expedient, but these hopes were of short duration. By this time much of the popular enthusiasm had spent itself, and confidence in public engagements was nearly expired. The event proved, that credit is of too delicate a nature to be sported with, and can only be maintained by honesty and punctuality. The several expedients proposed by Congress for raising supplies having failed, a crisis followed very interesting to the success of the revolution. The particulars of this shall be related among the public events of the year 1781, in which it took place. Some observations on that primary instrument of American Independence, the old continental bills of credit, shall for the present close this subject.
It would have been impossible to have carried on the war, without something in the form of money. There was spirit enough in America to bring to the field of battle as many of her sons, as would have outnumbered the armies of Britain, and to have risqued their fate on a general engagement; but this was the very thing they ought to avoid. Their principal hope lay in evacuating, retreating, and protracting to its utmost length a war of posts. The continued exertions, necessary for this species of defence, could not be expected from the impetuous sallies of militia. A regular permanent army became necessary. Though the enthusiasm of the times might have dispensed with present pay, yet without at least as much money, as would support them in the field, the most patriotic army must have dispersed.
1779 The impossibility of the Americans procuring gold and silver even for that purpose, doubtless weighed with the British as an encouragement, to bring the controversy to the decision of the sword. What they knew could not be done by ordinary means, was accomplished by those which were extraordinary. Paper of no intrinsic value was made to answer all the purposes of gold and silver, and to support the expences of five campaigns. This was in some degree owing to a previous confidence, which had been begotten by honesty and fidelity, in discharging the engagements of government. From New-York to Georgia there never had been in matters relating to money, an instance of a breach of public faith. In the scarcity of gold and silver, many emergencies had imposed a necessity of emitting bills of credit. These had been uniformly and honestly redeemed. The bills of Congress being thrown into circulation, on this favourable foundation of public confidence, were readily received. The enthusiasm of the people contributed to the same effect. That the endangered liberties of America ought to be defended, and that the credit of their paper was essentially necessary to a proper defence, were opinions engraven on the hearts of a great majority of the citizens. It was therefore a point of honor and considered as a part of duty, to take the bills freely at their full value. Private gain was then so little regarded, that the whig citizens were willing to run all the hazards incidental to bills of credit, rather than injure the cause of their country by under valuing its money. Every thing human has its limits. While the credit of the money was well supported by public confidence and patriotism, its value diminished from the increase of its quantity. Repeated emissions begat that natural depreciation, which results from an excess of quantity. This was helped on by various causes, which affected the credit of the money. The enemy very ingeniously counterfeited their bills, and industriously circulated their forgeries through the United States. Congress allowed to their public agents a commission on the amount of their purchases.1779 Instead of exerting themselves to purchase at a low price, they had therefore  an interest in giving a high price for every thing. So strong was the force of prejudice, that the British mode of supplying armies by contract, could not for a long time obtain the approbation of Congress. While these causes operated, confidence in the public was abating, and at the same time, that fervor of patriotism which disregarded interest was daily declining. To prevent or retard the depreciation of their paper money, Congress attempted to prop its credit by means which wrecked private property, and injured the morals of the people without answering the end proposed. They recommended to the States to pass laws for regulating the prices of labour, manufacture and all sorts of commodities, and for confiscating and selling the estates of tories, and for investing the money arising from the sales thereof in loan-office certificates. As many of those who were disaffected to the revolution absolutely refused to take the bills of Congress even in the first stage of the war, when the real and nominal value was the same, with the view of counteracting their machinations, Congress early recommended to the States to pass laws for making the paper money a legal tender, at their nominal value in the discharge of bonafide debts, though contracted to be paid in gold or silver. With the same views, they farther recommended that laws should be passed by each of the States, ordaining that
whosoever should ask or receive more, in their bills of credit for gold or silver or any species of money whatsoever, than the nominal sum thereof in Spanish dollars, or more in the said bills for any commodities whatsoever, than the same could be purchased from the same person in gold and silver, or offer to sell any commodities for gold or silver, and refuse to sell the same for the said bills, shall be deemed an enemy to the liberties of the United States, and forfeit the property so sold or offered for sale.
The laws which were passed by the States, for regulating the prices of labor and commodities, were found on experiment to be visionary and impracticable.1779 They only operated on the patriotic few, who were disposed to sacrifice every thing in the cause of their country, and who implicitly obeyed every mandate  of their rulers. Others disregarded them, and either refused to part with their commodities, or demanded and obtained their own prices.
These laws in the first instance, made an artificial scarcity, and had they not been repealed would soon have made a real one, for men never exert themselves unless they have the fruit of their exertions secured to them, and at their own disposal.
The confiscation and sale of the property of tories, for the most part brought but very little into the public treasury. The sales were generally made for credit, and by the progressive depreciation, what was dear at the time of the purchase, was very cheap at the time of payment. The most extensive mischief resulted in the progress, and towards the close of the war from the operation of the laws, which made the paper bills a tender, in the discharge of debts contracted payable in gold or silver. When this measure was first adopted little or no injustice resulted from it, for at that time the paper bills were equal, or nearly equal to gold or silver, of the same nominal sum. In the progress of the war, when depreciation took place, the case was materially altered. Laws which were originally innocent became eventually the occasion of much injustice.
The aged who had retired from the scenes of active business, to enjoy the fruits of their industry, found their substance melting away to a mere pittance, insufficient for their support. The widow who lived comfortably on the bequests of a deceased husband, experienced a frustration of all his well meant tenderness. The laws of the country interposed, and compelled her to receive a shilling, where a pound was her due. The blooming virgin who had grown up with an unquestionable title to a liberal patrimony, was legally stripped of every thing but her personal charms and virtues. The hapless orphan, instead of receiving from the hands of an executor, a competency to set out in business, was obliged to give a final discharge on the payment of 6d. in the pound. In many instances, the earnings of a long life of care and diligence were, in the space of a few years, reduced to a trifling sum.1779 A few persons escaped  these affecting calamities, by secretly transferring their bonds, or by flying from the presence or neighbourhood of their debtors. The evils which resulted from the legal tender of these paper bills, were foreign from the intentions of Congress, and of the State legislatures. It is but justice to add farther, that a great proportion of them flowed from ignorance. Till the year 1780, when the bills fell to forty for one, it was designed by most of the rulers of America, and believed by a great majority of the people, that the whole sum in circulation would be appreciated by a reduction of its quantity, so as finally to be equal to gold or silver. In every department of government the Americans erred from ignorance, but in none so much, as in that which related to money.
Such were the evils which resulted from paper money. On the other hand, it was the occasion of good to many. It was at all times the poor man’s friend. While it was current, all kinds of labor very readily found their reward. In the first years of the war, none were idle from want of employment, and none were employed, without having it in their power to obtain ready payment for their services. To that class of people, whose daily labor was their support, the depreciation was no disadvantage. Expending their money as fast as they received it, they always got its full value. The reverse was the case with the rich, or those who were disposed to hoarding. No agrarian law ever had a more extensive operation, than continental money. That for which the Gracchi lost their lives in Rome, was peaceably effected in the United States, by the legal tender of these depreciating bills. The poor became rich, and the rich became poor. Money lenders, and they whose circumstances enabled them to give credit, were essentially injured. All that the money lost in its value was so much taken from their capital, but the active and industrious indemnified themselves, by conforming the price of their services to the present state of the depreciation. The experience of this time inculcated on youth two salutary lessons, the impolicy of depending on paternal acquisitions, and the necessity of their own exertions.1779 They who  were in debt, and possessed property of any kind, could easily make the latter extinguish the former. Every thing that was useful when brought to market readily found a purchaser. A hog or two would pay for a slave; a few cattle for a comfortable house; and a good horse for an improved plantation. A small part of the productions of a farm would discharge the long outstanding accounts, due from its owner. The dreams of the golden age were realised to the poor man and the debtor, but unfortunately what these gained, was just so much taken from others.
The evils of depreciation did not terminate with the war. They extend to the present hour. That the helpless part of the community were legislatively deprived of their property, was among the lesser evils, which resulted from the legal tender of the depreciated bills of credit. The iniquity of the laws estranged the minds of many of the citizens from the habits and love of justice.
The nature of obligations was so far changed, that he was reckoned the honest man, who from principle delayed to pay his debts. The mounds which government had erected, to secure the observance of honesty in the commercial intercourse of man with man, were broken down. Truth, honor, and justice were swept away by the overflowing deluge of legal iniquity, nor have they yet assumed their ancient and accustomed seats. Time and industry have already, in a great degree, repaired the losses of property, which the citizens sustained during the war, but both have hitherto failed in effacing the taint which was then communicated to their principles, nor can its total ablution be expected till a new generation arises, unpractised in the iniquities of their fathers.