Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXII: The revolt of the Pennsylvania line; of part of the Jersey troops; distresses of the American army; Arnold's invasion of Virginia. - The History of the American Revolution, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XXII: The revolt of the Pennsylvania line; of part of the Jersey troops; distresses of the American army; Arnold’s invasion of Virginia. - 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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The revolt of the Pennsylvania line; of part of the Jersey troops; distresses of the American army; Arnold’s invasion of Virginia.
Though General Arnold’s address to his countrymen produced no effect, in detaching the soldiery of America from the unproductive service of Congress, their steadiness could not be accounted for, from any melioration of their circumstances. They still remained without pay, and without such cloathing as the season required. They could not be induced to enter the British service, but their complicated distresses at length broke out into deliberate mutiny. This event which had been long expected, made its first threatening appearance in the Pennsylvania line. The common soldiers enlisted in that State, were for the most part natives of Ireland, but though not bound to America by the accidental tie of birth, they were inferior to none in discipline, courage, or attachment to the cause of independence. They had been but a few months before, the most active instruments in quelling a mutiny of the Connecticut troops, and had on all occasions done their duty to admiration. An ambiguity in the terms of their inlistment, furnished a pretext for their conduct. A great part of them were enlisted for three years or during the war, the three years were expired, and the men insisted that the choice of staying or going remained with them, while the officers contended that the choice was in the State.
 The mutiny was excited by the non-commissioned officers and privates, in the night of the 1st of January 1781, and soon became so universal in the line of that State as to defy all opposition. The whole, except three regiments, upon a signal for the purpose, turned out under arms without their officers, and declared for a redress of grievances. The officers in vain endeavoured to quell them. Several were wounded, and a captain was killed in attempting it. Gen. Wayne presented his pistols, as if about to fire on them; they held their bayonets to his breast and said “We love and respect you, but if you fire you are a dead man.” “We are not going to the enemy, on the contrary, if they were now to come out, you should see us fight under your orders with as much alacrity as ever; but we will be no longer amused, we are determined on obtaining what is our just due.” Deaf to arguments and entreaties, they to the number of 1300 moved off in a body from Morristown, and proceeded in good order with their arms and six field pieces to Princeton. They elected temporary officers from their own body, and appointed a Serjeant Major, who had formerly deserted from the British army, to be their commander. Gen. Wayne forwarded provisions after them, to prevent their plundering the country for their subsistence. They invaded no man’s property, farther than their immediate necessities made unavoidable. This was readily submitted to by the inhabitants, who had long been used to exactions of the same kind, levied for similar purposes by their lawful rulers. They professed that they had no object in view, but to obtain what was justly due to them, nor were their actions inconsistent with that profession.
Congress sent a committee of their body, consisting of General Sullivan, Mr. Mathews, Mr. Atlee and Dr. Witherspoon, to procure an accommodation. The revolters were resolute in refusing any terms, of which a redress of their grievances was not the foundation. Every thing asked of their country, they might at any time after the 6th of January, have obtained from the British, by passing over into New-York. This they  refused. Their sufferings had exhausted their patience but not their patriotism. Sir Henry Clinton, by confidential messengers, offered to take them under the protection of the British government—to pardon all their past offences—to have the pay due them from Congress faithfully made up, without any expectation of military service in return, although it would be received if voluntarily offered. It was recommended to them to move behind the South river, and it was promised, that a detachment of British troops should be in readiness for their protection as soon as desired. In the mean time, the troops passed over from New-York to Staten-Island, and the necessary arrangements were made for moving them into New-Jersey, whensoever they might be wanted. The royal commander was not less disappointed than surprised to find that the faithful, though revolting soldiers, disdained his offers. The messengers of Sir Henry Clinton were seized and delivered to Gen. Wayne. President Reed and General Potter were appointed, by the council of Pennsylvania, to accommodate matters with the revolters. They met them at Princeton, and agreed to dismiss all whose terms of enlistment were completed, and admitted the oath of each solider to be evidence in his own case. A board of officers tried and condemned the British spies, and they were instantly executed. President Reed offered a purse of 100 guineas to the mutineers, as a reward of their fidelity, in delivering up the spies: but they refused to accept it, saying “That what they had done was only a duty they owed their country, and that they neither desired nor would receive any reward but the approbation of that country, for which they had so often fought and bled.”
Jan. 17By these healing measures the revolt was completely quelled; but the complaints of the soldiers being founded in justice, were first redressed. Those whose time of service was expired obtained their discharges, and others had their arrears of pay in a great measure made up to them. A general amnesty closed the business. On this occasion, the commander in chief stated in a circular letter to the four eastern states, the well founded complaints  of his army; and the impossibility of keeping them together, under the pressure of such a variety of sufferings. General Knox was requested to be the bearer of these dispatches; and to urge the States to an immediate exertion for the relief of the soldiers. He visited Massachusetts, New-Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode-Island; and with great earnestness and equal success described the wants of the army. Massachusetts gave 24 silver dollars to each man of her line; and also furnished them with some cloathing. Other States about the same time made similar advances.
January 1781The spirit of mutiny proved contagious. About 160 of the Jersey troops followed the example of the Pennsylvania line; but they did not conduct with equal spirit, nor with equal prudence. They committed sundry acts of outrage against particular officers, while they affected to be submissive to others. Major General Howe, with a considerable force, was ordered to take methods for reducing them to obedience. Convinced that there was no medium between dignity and servility, but coercion, and that no other remedy could be applied without the deepest wound to the service, he determined to proceed against them with decision. General Howe marched from Kingwood about midnight; and by the dawning of the next day, had his men in four different positions, to prevent the revolters from making their escape. Every avenue being secured, Colonel Barber of the Jersey line was sent to them, with orders immediately to parade without arms; and to march to a particular spot of ground. Some hesitation appearing among them, Colonel Sproat was directed to advance, and only five minutes were given to the mutineers to comply with the orders which had been sent them. This had its effect, and they to a man marched without arms to the appointed ground. The Jersey officers gave a list of the leaders of the revolt, upon which General Howe desired them to select three of the greatest offenders. A field court martial was presently held upon these three, and they were unanimously sentenced to death. Two of them were executed on the spot, and the executioners were selected from  among the most active in the mutiny. The men were divided into platoons, and made public concessions to their officers, and promised by future good conduct, to atone for past offences.
These mutinies alarmed the States, but did not produce permanent relief to the army. Their wants with respect to provisions were only partially supplied, and by expedients from one short time to another. The most usual was ordering an officer to seize on provisions wherever found. This differed from robbing only in its being done by authority for the public service, and in the officer being always directed to give the proprietor a certificate, of the quantity and quality of what was taken from him. At first some reliance was placed on these certificates as vouchers to support a future demand on the United States; but they soon became so common as to be of little value. Recourse was so frequently had to coercion, both legislative and military, that the people not only lost confidence in public credit but became impatient under all exertions of authority, for forcing their property from them. That an army should be kept together under such circumstances, so far exceeds credibility as to make it necessary to produce some evidence of the fact. The American General Clinton in a letter to General Washington dated at Albany, April 16th 1781, wrote as follows.
There is not now (independent of fort Schuyler) three days provision in the whole department for the troops in case of an alarm, nor any prospect of procuring any. The recruits of the new levies, I cannot receive, because I have nothing to give them. The Canadian families, l have been obliged to deprive of their scanty pittance, contrary to every principle of humanity. The quartermaster’s department is totally useless, the public armory has been shut up for near three weeks, and a total suspension of every military operation has ensued.
Soon after this General Washington was obliged to apply 9000 dollars, sent by the State of Massachusetts for the payment of her troops to the use of the quartermaster’s department, to enable him to transport provisions from the adjacent States. Before he consented  to adopt this expedient, he had consumed every ounce of provision, which had been kept as a reserve in the garrison of West-Point; and had strained impress by military force, to so great an extent, that there was reason to apprehend the inhabitants, irritated by such frequent calls, would proceed to dangerous insurrections. Fort Schuyler, West-Point, and the posts up the North river, were on the point of being abandoned by their starving garrisons. At this period of the war, there was little or no circulating medium, either in the form of paper or specie, and in the neighbourhood of the American army there was a real want of necessary provisions. The deficiency of the former occasioned many inconveniences, and an unequal distribution of the burdens of the war; but the insufficiency of the latter, had well nigh dissolved the army, and laid the country in every direction open to British excursions.
These events were not unforeseen by the rulers of America. From the progressive depreciation of their bills of credit, it had for some time past occurred, that the period could not be far distant, when they would cease to circulate. This crisis which had been ardently wished for by the enemies, and dreaded by the friends of American independence, took place in 1781; but without realising the hopes of the one, or the fears of the other. New resources were providentially opened, and the war was carried on with the same vigor as before. A great deal of gold and silver was about this time introduced into the United States, by a beneficial trade with the French and Spanish West-India islands, and by means of the French army in Rhode-Island. Pathetic representations were made to the ministers of his most Christian Majesty by General Washington, Dr. Franklin, and particularly by Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, who was sent to the court of Versailles as a special minister on this occasion. The King of France gave the United States a subsidy of six millions of livres, and became their security for ten millions more, borrowed for their use in the United Netherlands. A regular system of finance was also about this time adopted. All matters relative to  the treasury the supplies of the army and the accounts, were put under the direction of Robert Morris, who arranged the whole with judgment and oeconomy. The issuing of paper money by the authority of government was discontinued, and the public engagements were made payable in coin. The introduction of so much gold and silver, together with these judicious domestic regulations, aided by the bank, which had been erected the preceding year in Philadelphia, extricated Congress from much of their embarrassment, and put it in their power to feed, cloath and move their army.
About the same time the old continental money, by common consent, ceased to have currency. Like an aged man expiring by the decays of nature, without a sigh or a groan, it fell asleep in the hands of its last possessors. By the scale of depreciation the war was carried on five years, for little more than a million of pounds sterling, and 200 millions of paper dollars were made redeemable by five millions of silver ones. In other countries, such measures would probably have produced popular insurrections, but in the United States they were submitted to without any tumults. Public faith was violated but in the opinion of most men public good was promoted. The evils consequent on depreciation had taken place, and the redemption of the bills of credit at their nominal value as originally promised, instead of remedying the distresses of the sufferers would in many cases have increased them, by subjecting their small remains of property to exorbitant taxation. The money had in a great measure got out of the hands of the original proprietors, and was in the possession of others, who had obtained it at a rate of value not exceeding what was fixed upon it by the scale of depreciation.
Nothing could afford a stronger proof that the resistence of America to Great Britain was grounded in the hearts of the people, than these events. To receive paper bills of credit issued without any funds, and to give property in exchange for them, as equal to gold or silver, demonstrated the zeal and enthusiasm with which the war was begun; but to consent to the extinction of  the same after a currency of five years, without any adequate provision made for their future redemption, was more than would have been born by any people, who conceived that their rulers had separate interests or views from themselves. The demise of one king and the coronation of a lawful successor have often excited greater commotions in royal governments, than took place in the United States on the sudden extinction of their whole current money. The people saw the necessity which compelled their rulers to act in the manner they had done, and being well convinced that the good of the country was their object, quietly submitted to measures, which under other circumstances, would scarcely have been expiated by the lives and fortunes of their authors.
While the Americans were suffering the complicated calamities which introduced the year 1781, their adversaries were carrying on the most extensive plan of operation, which had ever been attempted since the war. It had often been objected to the British commanders, that they had not conducted the war in the manner most likely to effect the subjugation of the revolted provinces. Military critics in particular, found fault with them for keeping a large army idle at New-York, which they said if properly applied, would have been sufficient to make successful impressions, at one and the same time, on several of the States. The British seem to have calculated the campaign of 1781, with a view to make an experiment of the comparative merit of this mode of conducting military operations. The war raged in that year, not only in the vicinity of British head quarters at New-York, but in Georgia, South-Carolina, North-Carolina, and in Virginia. The latter State from its peculiar situation, and from the modes of building, planting and living, which had been adopted by the inhabitants, is particularly exposed, and lies at the mercy of whatever army is master of the Chesapeak. These circumstances, together with the pre-eminent rank which Virginia held in the confederacy, pointed out the propriety of making that State the object of particular attention. To favour  lord Cornwallis’ designs in the southern States, Major Gen. Leslie, with about 2000 men, had been detached from New-York to the Chesapeak, in the latter end of 1780; but subsequent events induced his lordship to order him from Virginia to Charleston, with the view of his more effectually cooperating with the army under his own immediate command. Soon after the departure of General Leslie, Virginia was again invaded by another party from New-York. This was commanded by Gen. Arnold, now a Brigadier in the royal army. His force consisted of about 1600 men, and was supported by such a number of armed vessels as enabled him to commit extensive ravages, on the unprotected coasts of that well watered country.Jan. 5, 1781 The invaders landed about 15 miles below Richmond, and in two days marched into the town, where they destroyed large quantities of tobacco, salt, rum, sail-cloth and other merchandize. Successive excursions were made to several other places, in which the royal army committed similar devastations.
Jan. 20In about a fortnight, they marched into Portsmouth and began to fortify it. The loss they sustained from the feeble opposition of the dispersed inhabitants was inconsiderable. The havoc made by General Arnold, and the apprehension of a design to fix a permanent post in Virginia, induced General Washington to detach the Marquis de la Fayette, with 1200 of the American infantry, to that State, and also to urge the French in Rhode-Island to co-operate with him in attempting to capture Arnold and his party. The French commanders eagerly closed with the proposal. Since they had landed in the United States, no proper opportunity of gratifying their passion for military fame, had yet presented itself. They rejoiced at that which now offered, and indulged a cheerful hope of rendering essential service to their allies, by cutting off the retreat of Arnold’s party.March 8 With this view, their fleet with 1500 additional men on board, sailed from Rhode-Island for Virginia.Feb. 9 D’Estouches, who since the death of de Ternay on the preceding December had commanded the French fleet, previous to the sailing of his whole naval force, dispatched the Eveillé, a sixty  four gun ship, and two frigates, with orders to destroy the British ships and frigates in the Chesapeak.March 25 These took or destroyed ten vessels, and captured the Romulus of 44 guns.10 Arbuthnot with a British fleet sailed from Gardiner’s-bay in pursuit of D’Estouches.16The former overtook and engaged the latter off the capes of Virginia. The British had the advantage of more guns than the French, but the latter were much more strongly manned than the former. The contest between the fleets thus nearly balanced, ended without the loss of a ship on either side; but the British obtained the fruits of victory so far as to frustrate the whole scheme of their adversaries. The fleet of his most Christian Majesty returned to Rhode-Island, without effecting the object of the expedition. Thus was Arnold saved from imminent danger of falling into the hands of his exasperated countrymen.March 25 The day before the French fleet returned to Newport, a convoy arrived in the Chesapeak from New-York, with Major Gen. Philips and about 2000 men. This distinguished officer who having been taken at Saratoga had been lately exchanged, was appointed to be commander of the royal forces in Virginia. Philips and Arnold soon made a junction, and carried every thing before them. They successively defeated those bodies of militia which came in their way. The whole country was open to their excursions. On their embarkation from Portsmouth, a detachment visited York-town but the main body proceeded to Williamsburgh.April 22 On the 22d of April they reached Chickapowing. A party proceeded up that river 10 or 12 miles, and destroyed much property.24 On the 24th they landed at City-point, and soon after they marched for Petersburgh. About one mile from the town they were opposed by a small force commanded by Baron Steuben; but this after making a gallant resistance was compelled to retreat.
April 27At Petersburgh they destroyed 4000 hogsheads of tobacco, a ship and a number of small vessels. Within three days one party marched to Chesterfield courthouse, and burned a range of barracks, and 300 barrels of flour. On the same day, another party under the command  of Gen. Arnold marched to Osborne’s. About four miles above that place, a small marine force was drawn up to oppose him. Gen. Arnold sent a flag to treat with the commander of this fleet, but he declared that he would defend it to the last extremity. Upon this refusal, Arnold advanced with some artillery, and fired upon him with decisive effect from the banks of the river. Two ships and ten small vessels loaded with tobacco, cordage, flour, &c. were captured. Four ships, five brigantines and a number of small vessels were burnt or sunk.30 The quantity of tobacco taken or destroyed in this fleet, exceeded 2000 hogsheads, and the whole was effected without the loss of a single man, on the side of the British. The royal forces then marched up the fork till they arrived at Manchester. There they destroyed 1200 hogsheads of tobacco; returning thence they made great havoc at Warmic. They destroyed the ships on the stocks, and in the river, and a large range of rope walks. A magazine of 500 barrels of flour, within a number of warehouses, and of tan houses, all filled with their respective commodities, were also consumed in one general conflagration. On the 9th of May they returned to Petersburgh, having in the course of the preceding three weeks, destroyed property to an immense amount. With this expedition, Major Gen. Philips terminated a life, which in all his previous operations had been full of glory. At early periods of his military career, on different occasions of a preceding war, he had gained the full approbation of Prince Ferdinand, under whom he had served in Germany. As an officer he was universally admired. Though much of the devastations committed by the troops under his command, may be vindicated on the principles of those who hold that the rights and laws of war, are of equal obligation with the rights and laws of humanity; yet the friends of his fame, have reason to regret that he did not die three weeks sooner.