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APPENDIX NO. III: Of the treatment of prisoners, and of the distresses of the Inhabitants. - 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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APPENDIX NO. III
Of the treatment of prisoners, and of the distresses of the Inhabitants.
Many circumstances occurred to make the American war particularly calamitous. It was originally a civil war in the estimation of both parties, and a rebellion to its termination, in the opinion of one of them. Unfortunately for mankind doubts have been entertained of the obligatory force of the law of nations in such cases. The refinement of modern ages has stripped war of half its horrors, but the systems of some illiberal men have tended to re-produce the barbarism of Gothic times, by withholding the benefits of that refinement from those who are effecting revolutions.1781 An enlightened philanthropist embraces the whole human race and enquires,  not whether an object of distress is or is not an unit of an acknowledged nation. It is sufficient that he is a child of the same common parent, and capable of happiness or misery. The prevalence of such a temper would have greatly lessened the calamities of the American war, but while from contracted policy, unfortunate captives were considered as not entitled to the treatment of prisoners, they were often doomed without being guilty, to suffer the punishment due to criminals.
The first American prisoners were taken on the 17th of June 1775. These were thrown indiscriminately into the jail at Boston, without any consideration of their rank.Aug 11, 1775 Gen. Washington wrote to Gen. Gage on this subject, to which the latter answered by asserting that the prisoners had been treated with care and kindness, though indiscriminately “as he acknowledged no rank that was not derived from the King.” To which Gen. Washington replied “You affect, Sir, to despise all rank not derived from the same source with your own; I cannot conceive one more honorable, than that which flows from the uncorrupted choice of a brave and free people, the purest source and original fountain of all power.”
Gen. Carleton during his command conducted towards the American prisoners with a degree of humanity, that reflected the greatest honor on his character. Before he commenced his operations on the lake in 1776, he shipped off those of them who were officers for New-England, but previously supplied them with every thing requisite to make their voyage comfortable. The other prisoners, amounting to 800, were sent home by a flag after exacting an oath from them, not to serve during the war unless exchanged. Many of these being almost naked were comfortably cloathed by his orders, previously to their being sent off.
The capture of Gen. Lee proved calamitous to several individuals. Six Hessian field officers were offered in exchange for him, but this was refused. It was said by the British, that Lee was a deserter from their service, and as such could not expect the indulgences usually given to prisoners of war.1781 The Americans replied, that as  he had resigned his British commission previously to his accepting one from the Americans, he could not be considered as a deserter. He was nevertheless confined, watched, and guarded. Congress thereupon resolved, that Gen. Washington be directed to inform Gen. Howe, that should the proffered exchange of Gen. Lee for six field officers not be accepted, and the treatment of him as above mentioned be continued, the principles of retaliation should occasion five of the said Hessian field officers, together with Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell to be detained, in order that the said treatment which Gen. Lee received, should be exactly inflicted on their persons. The Campbell thus designated as the subject of retaliation, was a humane man, and a meritorious officer, who had been captured by some of the Massachusett’s privateers near Boston, to which, from the want of information, he was proceeding soon after the British had evacuated it. The above act of Congress was forwarded to Massachusetts with a request that they would detain Lt. Col. Campbell and keep him in safe custody till the further order of Congress. The council of Massachusett’s exceeded this request, and sent him to Concord jail, where he was lodged in a gloomy dungeon of twelve or thirteen feet square. The attendance of a single servant on his person was denied him, and every visit from a friend refused.
The prisoners captured by Sir William Howe in 1776, amounted to many hundreds. The officers were admitted to parole, and had some waste houses assigned to them as quarters; but the privates were shut up in the coldest season of the year in churches, sugar houses, and such like large open buildings. The severity of the weather, and the rigor of their treatment, occasioned the death of many hundreds of these unfortunate men. The filth of the places of their confinement, in consequence of fluxes which prevailed among them, was both offensive and dangerous. Seven dead bodies have been seen in one building, at one time, and all lying in a situation shocking to humanity. The provisions served out to them were deficient in quantity, and of an unwholsome quality.1781 These suffering prisoners were  generally pressed to enter into the British service, but hundreds submitted to death, rather than procure a melioration of their circumstances by enlisting with the enemies of their country. After Gen. Washington’s successes at Trenton and Princeton, the American prisoners fared somewhat better. Those who survived were ordered to be sent out for exchange, but some of them fell down dead in the streets, while attempting to walk to the vessels. Others were so emaciated that their appearance was horrible. A speedy death closed the scene with many.
Dec. 1, 1777The American board of war, after conferring with Mr. Boudinot the commissary-general of prisoners, and examining evidences produced by him, reported among other things,
That there were 900 privates and 300 officers of the American army, prisoners in the city of New-York, and about 500 privates and 50 officers prisoners in Philadelphia. That since the beginning of October all these prisoners, both officers and privates, had been confined in prison ships or the Provost: That from the best evidence the subject could admit of, the general allowance of prisoners, at most did not exceed four ounces of meat per day, and often so damaged as not to be eatable: That it had been a common practice with the British, on a prisoner’s being first captured, to keep him three, four or five days without a morsel of meat, and then to tempt him to enlist to save his life: That there were numerous instances of prisoners of war, perishing in all the agonies of hunger.
Dec. 24, 1777About this time there was a meeting of merchants in London, for the purpose of raising a sum of money to relieve the distresses of the American prisoners, then in England. The sum subscribed for that purpose amounted in two months to £4647 15s. Thus while human nature was dishonoured by the cruelties of some of the British in America, there was a laudable display of the benevolence of others of the same nation in Europe. The American sailors, when captured by the British, suffered more than even the soldiers, which fell into their hands.1781 The former were confined on board prison ships.  They were there crouded together in such numbers, and their accommodations were so wretched, that diseases broke out and swept them off in a manner, that was sufficient to excite compassion in breasts of the least sensibility. It has been asserted, on as good evidence as the case will admit, that in the last six years of the war upwards of eleven thousand persons died on board the Jersey, one of these prison ships, which was stationed in east river near New-York. On many of these, the rights of sepulture were never, or but very imperfectly conferred. For some time after the war was ended their bones lay whitening in the sun, on the shores of Long Island.
The operations of treason laws added to the calamities of the war. Individuals on both sides, while they were doing no more than they supposed to be their duty, were involved in the penal consequences of capital crimes. The Americans in conformity to the usual policy of nations, demanded the allegiance of all who resided among them, but several of these preferred the late royal government and were disposed, when opportunity offered, to support it. While they acted in conformity to these sentiments, the laws enacted for the security of the new government, condemned them to death. Hard is the lot of a people involved in civil war; for in such circumstances the lives of individuals may not only be legally forfeited, but justly taken from those, who have acted solely from a sense of duty. It is to be wished that some more rational mode than war might be adopted for deciding national contentions; but of all wars, those which are called civil are most to be dreaded. They are attended with the bitterest resentments, and produce the greatest quantity of human woes. In the American war, the distresses of the country were aggravated, from the circumstance that every man was obliged, some way or other, to be in the public service. In Europe, where military operations are carried on by armies hired and paid for the purpose, the common people partake but little of the calamities of war: but in America, where the whole people were enrolled as a militia, and where both sides endeavoured to strengthen themselves by oaths and  by laws,1781 denouncing the penalties of treason on those who aided or abetted the opposite party, the sufferings of individuals were renewed, as often as fortune varied her standard. Each side claimed the co-operation of the inhabitants, and was ready to punish when it was withheld. Where either party had a decided superiority the common people were comparatively undisturbed; but the intermediate space between the contending armies, was subject to the alternate ravages of both.
In the first institution of the American governments, the boundaries of authority were not properly fixed; Committees exercised legislative, executive and judicial powers. It is not to be doubted, that in many instances these were improperly used, and that private resentments were often covered under the specious veil of patriotism. The sufferers in passing over to the royalists, carried with them a keen remembrance of the vengeance of committees, and when opportunity presented, were tempted to retaliate. From the nature of the case, the original offenders were less frequently the objects of retaliation, than those who were entirely innocent. One instance of severity begat another, and they continued to encrease in a proportion that doubled the evils of common war. From one unadvised step, individuals were often involved in the loss of all their property. Some from present appearances, apprehending that the British would finally conquer, repaired to their standard. Their return after the partial storm which intimidated them to submission, had blown over, was always difficult and often impossible. From this single error in judgement, such were often obliged to seek safety by continuing to support the interest of those to whom, in an hour of temptation, they had devoted themselves. The embarrassments on both sides were often so great, that many in the humbler walks of life, could not tell what course was best to pursue. It was happy for those who having made up their minds on the nature of the contest, invariably followed the dictates of their consciences, for in every instance they enjoyed self-approbation.1781 Though they could not be deprived of this reward, they were not always successful in saving  their property. They who varied with the times, in like manner often missed their object, for to such it frequently happened that they were plundered by both, and lost the esteem of all. A few saved their credit and their property; but of these, there was not one for every hundred of those, who were materially injured either in the one or the other. The American whigs were exasperated against those of their fellow citizens who joined their enemies, with a resentment which was far more bitter, than that which they harboured against their European adversaries. Feeling that the whole strength of the states was scarcely sufficient to protect them against the British, they could not brook the desertion of their countrymen to invading foreigners. They seldom would give them credit for acting from principle, but generally supposed them to be influenced either by cowardice or interest, and were therefore inclined to proceed against them with rigor. They were filled with indignation at the idea of fighting for the property of such as had deserted their country, and were therefore clamorous, that it should be seized for public service. The royalists raised the cry of persecution and loudly complained that merely for supporting the government, under which they were born, and to which they owed a natural allegiance, they were doomed to suffer all the penalties due to capital offenders. Those of them who acted from principle felt no consciousness of guilt, and could not look but with abhorrence upon a government, which inflicted such severe punishments on what they deemed a laudable line of conduct. Humanity would shudder at a particular recital of the calamities which the whigs inflicted on the tories, and the tories on the whigs. It is particularly remarkable that on both sides, they for the most part consoled themselves with the belief, that they were acting or suffering in a good cause. Though the rules of moral right and wrong never vary, political innocence and guilt, changes so much with circumstances, that the innocence of the sufferer, and of the party that punishes, are often compatible. The distresses of the American prisoners in the southern states, prevailed particularly towards the close of the war.1781 Colonel  Campbell, who reduced Savannah, though he had personally suffered from the Americans, treated allwho fell into his hands with humanity. Those who were taken at Savannah and at Ashe’s defeat, suffered very much from his successors in South Carolina. The American prisoners with a few exceptions, had but little to complain of till after Gates’ defeat. Soon after that event, sundry of them, though entitled to the benefits of the capitulation of Charleston, were separated from their families and sent into exile; others in violation of the same solemn agreement were crouded into prison ships, and deprived of the use of their property. When a general exchange of prisoners was effected, the wives and children of those inhabitants who adhered to the Americans, were exiled from their homes to Virginia and Philadelphia. Upwards of one thousand persons were thrown upon the charity of their fellow citizens in the more northern states. This severe treatment was the occasion of retaliating on the families of those who had taken part with the British. In the first months of the year 1781, the British were in force in the remotest settlements of South-Carolina, but as their limits were contracted in the course of the year, the male inhabitants who joined them, thought proper to retire with the royal army towards the capital. In retaliation for the expulsion of the wives and children of the whig Americans from the state, Governor Rutledge ordered the brigadiers of militia, to send within the British lines, the families of such of the inhabitants as adhered to their interest. In consequence of this order, and more especially in consequence of the one which occasioned it, several hundreds of helpless women and children were reduced to great distress.
The refugees who had fled to New-York, were formed into an association under Sir Henry Clinton, for the purposes of retaliating on the Americans, and for reimbursing the losses they had sustained from their countrymen. The depredations they committed in their several excursions would fill a volume, and would answer little purpose but to excite compassion and horror. Towards the close of the war, they began to retaliate on a bolder  scale.1781 Captain Joshua Huddy who commanded a small party of Americans at a block house, in Monmouth County New-Jersey was, after a gallant resistance, taken prisoner by a party of these refugees.Apr. 2 He was brought to New-York and there kept in close custody fifteen days, and then told “that he was ordered to be hanged.” Four days after, he was sent out with a party of refugees, and hanged on the highths of Middleton. The following label was affixed to his breast “We the refugees having long with grief beheld the cruel murders of our brethren, and finding nothing but such measures daily carrying into execution; we therefore determine not to suffer without taking vengeance for the numerous cruelties, and thus begin, and have made use of Capt. Huddy as the first object to present to your view, and further determine to hang man for man, while there is a refugee existing: Up goes Huddy for Philip White.” The Philip White in retaliation for whom Huddy was hanged, had been taken by a party of the Jersey militia, and was killed in attempting to make his escape.
Gen. Washington resolved on retaliation for this deliberate murder, but instead of immediately executing a British officer he wrote to Sir Henry Clinton, that unless the murderers of Huddy were given up, he should be under the necessity of retaliating. The former being refused, Capt. Asgill was designated by lot for that purpose. In the mean time the British instituted a court martial for the trial of Capt. Lippencutt, who was supposed to be the principal agent, in executing Capt. Huddy. It appeared in the course of this trial that Gov. Franklin, the President of the board of associated loyalists, gave Lippencutt verbal orders for what he did, and that he had been designated as a proper subject for retaliation, having been, as the refugees stated, a persecutor of the loyalists, and particularly as having been instrumental in hanging Stephen Edwards, who had been one of that description. The court having considered the whole matter gave their opinion
That as what Lippencutt did was not the effect of malice or ill will, but proceeded from a conviction that it was his duty to obey the orders  of the board of directors of associated loyalists, and as he did not doubt their having full authority to give such orders, he was not guilty of the murder laid to his charge, and therefore they acquitted him.
Sir Guy Carleton, who a little before this time had been appointed commander in chief of the British army, in a letter to Gen. Washington, accompanying the tryal of Lippencutt, declared “that notwithstanding the acquittal of Lippencutt, he reprobated the measure, and gave assurances of prosecuting a farther enquiry.” Sir Guy Carleton about the same time, broke up the board of associated loyalists, which prevented a repetition of similar excesses. The war also drawing near a close, the motives for retaliation as tending to prevent other murders, in a great measure ceased. In the mean time Gen. Washington received a letter from the Count de Vergenes interceding for Capt. Asgill, which was also accompanied with a very pathetic one, from his mother Mrs. Asgill to the Count.Nov. 7, 1782 Copies of these several letters were forwarded to Congress, and soon after they resolved, “that the commander in chief be directed to set Capt. Asgill at liberty.” The lovers of humanity rejoined that the necessity for retaliation was superseded, by the known humanity of the new commander in chief, and still more by the well founded prospect of a speedy peace. Asgill who had received every indulgence, and who had been treated with all possible politeness, was released and permitted to go into New-York.
Campaign of 1782. Foreign events and negotiations. Peace 1782.
After the capture of Lord Cornwallis, General Washington, with the greatest part of his force returned to the vicinity of New-York. He was in no condition to attempt the reduction of that post, and the royal army had good reasons for not urging hostilities without their lines.1782 An obstruction of the communication between town and country, some indecisive skirmishes  and praedatory excursions, were the principal evidences of an existing state of war. This in a great measure was also the case in South-Carolina. From December 1781, General Greene had possession of all the state except Charleston and the vicinity.Aug. 27, 1782 The British sometimes sallied out of their lines for the acquisition of property and provisions, but never for the purposes of conquest. In opposing one of these near Combahee Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, an accomplished officer of uncommon merit, was mortally wounded. Nature had adorned him with a large proportion of her choicest gifts, and these were highly cultivated by an elegant, useful and practical education. His patriotism was of the most ardent kind. The moment he was of age, he broke off from the amusements of London, and on his arrival in America, instantly joined the army. Wherever the war raged most, there was he to be found. A dauntless bravery was the least of his virtues, and an excess of it his greatest foible. His various talents fitted him to shine in courts or camps, or popular assemblies. He had a heart to conceive, a head to contrive, a tongue to persuade, and a hand to execute schemes of the most extensive utility to his country, or rather to mankind, for his enlarged philanthropy knowing no bounds, embraced the whole human race. This excellent young man, who was the pride of his country, the idol of the army, and an ornament of human nature, lost his life in the 27th year of his age, in an unimportant skirmish with a foraging party, in the very last moments of the war.
At the commencement of the year 1782, the British had more extensive range in Georgia, than in any other of the United States, but of this they were soon abridged. From the unsuccessful issue of the assault on Savannah in 1779, that State had eminently suffered the desolations of war. Political hatred raged to such a degree that the blood of its citizens was daily shed by the hands of each other, contending under the names of whigs and tories. A few of the friends of the revolution kept together in the western settlements, and exercised the powers of independent government. The whole  extent between these and the capital, was subject to the alternate ravages of both parties. After the surrender of lord Cornwallis, General Greene being reinforced by the Pennsylvania line, was enabled to detach General Wayne with a part of the southern army to Georgia. General Clarke who commanded in Savannah, on hearing of their advance, sent orders to his officers in the out posts, to burn as far as they could, all the provisions in the country, and then to retire within the lines at the capital. The country being evacuated by the British, the Governor came with his council from Augusta to Ebenezer, and re-established government in the vicinity of the sea coast.
May 21, 1782Colonel Brown at the head of a considerable force marched out of the garrison of Savannah, with the apparent intention of attacking the Americans. General Wayne by a bold manoeuvre got in his rear, attacked him at 12 o’clock at night, and routed his whole party. A large number of Creek Indians, headed by a number of their chiefs and a British officer, made a furious attack on Wayne’s infantry in the night. For a few minutes they possessed themselves of his field pieces, but they were soon recovered. In the mean time Colonel White with a party of the cavalry came up, and pressed hard upon them. Both sides engaged in close quarters. The Indians displayed uncommon bravery, but were at length completely routed. Shortly after this affair, a period was put to the calamities of war, in that ravaged state. In about three months after the capture of lord Cornwallis was known in Great-Britain, the parliament resolved to abandon all offensive operations in America. In consequence thereof, every idea of conquest being given up, arrangements were made for withdrawing the royal forces from Georgia and South-Carolina.July 11 Peace was restored to Georgia, after it had been upwards of three years in possession of the British, and had been ravaged nearly from one extreme to the other. It is computed that the state lost by the war, one thousand of its citizens, besides four thousand slaves.1782 In about five months after the British left Georgia,  they in like manner withdrew their force, from South-Carolina. The inhabitants of Charleston, who had remained therein, while it was possessed by the British, felt themselves happy in being delivered from the severities of a garrison life. The exiled citizens collected from all quarters and took possession of their estates. Thus in less than three years from the landing of the British in South-Carolina, they withdrew all their forces from it. In that time the citizens had suffered an accumulation of evils. There was scarcely an inhabitant however obscure in character, or remote in situation, whether he remained firm to one party or changed with the times, who did not partake of the general distress.
In modern Europe the revolutions of public affairs seldom disturb the humble obscurity of private life, but the American revolution involved the interest of every family, and deeply affected the fortunes and happiness of almost every individual in the United States. South-Carolina lost a great number of its citizens, and upwards of 20,000 of its slaves. Property was sported with by both parties. Besides those who fell in battle or died of diseases brought on by the war, many were inhumanly murdered by private assassinations. The country abounded with widows and orphans. The severities of a military life co-operating with the climate, destroyed the healths and lives of many hundreds of the invading army. Excepting those who enriched themselves by plunder, and a few successful speculators, no private advantage was gained by individuals on either side, but an experimental conviction of the folly and madness of war.
Though in the year 1782 the United States afforded few great events, the reverse was the case with the other powers involved in the consequences of the American war.
Feb. 5Minorca after a tedious siege surrendered to the Duke de Crillon in the service of his most Catholic Majesty. About the same time the settlements of Demarara and Essequibo, which in the preceding year had been taken by the British, were taken from them by the French. The gallant Marquis de Bouille added to the splendor of his former fame by reducing St. Eustatia and St. Kitts, the former  at the close of the year 1781, and the latter early in the year 1782.1782 The islands of Nevis and Monserrat followed the fortune of St. Kitts. The French at this period seemed to be established in the West Indies, on a firm foundation. Their islands were full of excellent troops, and their marine force was truly respectable. The exertions of Spain were also uncommonly great. The strength of these two monarchies had never before been so conspicuously displayed, in that quarter of the globe. Their combined navies amounted to threescore ships of the line, and these were attended with a prodigious multitude of frigates and armed vessels. With this immense force they entertained hopes of wresting from his Britannic Majesty a great part of his West-India islands.
In the mean time, the British ministry prepared a strong squadron, for the protection of their possessions in that quarter. This was commanded by Admiral Rodney and amounted, after a junction with Sir Samuel Hood’s squadron, and the arrival of three ships from Great Britain, to 36 sail of the line.
It was the design of Count de Grasse, who commanded the French fleet at Martinque amounting to 34 sail of the line, to proceed to Hispaniola and join the Spanish Admiral Don Solano, who with sixteen ships of the line and a considerable land force was waiting for his arrival, and to make in concert with him an attack on Jamaica.
Apr. 8The British admiral wished to prevent this junction, or at least to force an engagement before it was effected. Admiral Rodney came up with Count de Grasse, soon after he had set out to join the Spanish fleet at Hispaniola. Partial engagements took place on the three first days, after they came near to each other. In these, two of the French ships were so badly damaged, that they were obliged to quit the fleet.Apr. 12 On the next day a general engagement took place: This began at seven in the morning, and continued till past six in the evening. There was no apparent superiority on either side till between twelve and one o’clock, when Admiral Rodney broke the French line of battle, by bearing down upon their centre, and  penetrating through it.1782 The land forces, destined for the expedition against Jamaica, amounting to 5500 men, were distributed on board the French fleet. Their ships were therefore so crouded, that the slaughter on board was prodigious. The battle was fought on both sides with equal spirit, but with a very unequal issue. The French for near a century, had not in any naval engagement been so completely worsted. Their fleet was little less than ruined. Upwards of 400 men were killed on board one of their ships, and the whole number of their killed and wounded amounted to several thousands, while the loss of the British did not much exceed 1100 men. The French lost in this action, and the subsequent pursuit, eight ships of the line. On board the captured ships, was the whole train of artillery, with the battering cannon and travelling carriages, intended for the expedition against Jamaica. One of them was the Ville de Paris, so called from the city of Paris, having built her at its own expence, and made a present of her to the King. She had cost four millions of livres, and was esteemed the most magnificent ship in France; she carried 110 guns and had on board 1300 men. This was truly an unfortunate day to Count de Grasse. Though his behaviour throughout the whole action was firm and intrepid, and his resistance continued till he and two more were the only men left standing upon the upper deck, he was at last obliged to strike. It was no small addition to his misfortunes that he was on the point of forming a junction, which would have set him above all danger. Had this taken place, the whole British naval power in the West-Indies, on principles of ordinary calculation, would have been insufficient to have prevented him from carrying into effect, schemes of the most extensive consequence.
The ships of the defeated fleet fled in a variety of directions. Twenty three or twenty four sail made the best of their way to Cape François. This was all that remained in a body of that fleet, which was lately so formidable. By this signal victory, the designs of France and Spain were frustrated.1782 No farther enterprises were  undertaken against the fleets or possessions of Great Britain in the West-Indies, and such measures only were embraced, as seemed requisite for the purposes of safety. When the news of Admiral Rodney’s victory reached Great Britain, a general joy was diffused over the nation. Before there had been much despondency. Their losses in the Chesapeak and in the West-Indies, together with the increasing number of their enemies, had depressed the spirits of the great body of the people; but the advantages gained on the 12th of April, placed them on high ground, either for ending or prosecuting the war. It was fortunate for the Americans, that this success of the British was posterior to their loss in Virginia. It so elevated the spirits of Britain, and so depressed the hopes of France, that had it taken place prior to the surrender of lord Cornwallis, that event would have been less influential in disposing the nation to peace. As the catastrophe of York-Town closed the national war in North-America, so the defeat of de Grasse, in a great measure, put a period to hostilities in the West-Indies.
Other decisive events soon followed, which disposed another of the belligerent powers to a pacification. Gibraltar though successively relieved, still continued to be besieged. The reduction of Minorca inspired the Spanish nation with fresh motives to perseverance. The Duke de Crillon, who had been recently successful in the siege of Minorca, was appointed to conduct the siege of Gibraltar, and it was resolved to employ the whole strength of the Spanish monarchy in seconding his operations. No means were neglected, nor expence spared, that promised to forward the views of the besiegers. From the failure of all plans, hitherto adopted for effecting the reduction of Gibraltar, it was resolved to adopt new ones. Among the various projects for this purpose, one which had been formed by the Chevalier D’Arcon, was deemed the most worthy of trial. This was to construct such floating batteries as could neither be sunk nor fired. With this view their bottoms were made of the thickest timber, and their sides of wood and cork long soaked in water, with a large layer of wet sand between.
1782 To prevent the effects of red hot balls, a number of pipes were contrived to carry water through every part of them, and pumps were provided to keep these constantly supplied with water. The people on board were to be sheltered from the fall of bombs by a cover of rope netting, which was made sloping and overlaid with wet hides.
These floating batteries, ten in number, were made out of the hulls of large vessels, cut down for the purpose, and carried from 28 to ten guns each, and were seconded by 8o large boats mounted with guns of heavy metal, and also by a multitude of frigates, ships of force, and some hundreds of small craft.
General Elliott the intrepid defender of Gibraltar, was not ignorant that inventions of a peculiar kind were prepared against him, but knew nothing of their construction. He nevertheless provided for every circumstance of danger that could be foreseen or imagined. The 13th day of Sept. was fixed upon by the besiegers for making a grand attack, when the new invented machines, with all the united powers of gunpowder and artillery in their highest state of improvement, were to be called into action. The combined fleets of France and Spain in the bay of Gibraltar amounted to 48 sail of the line. Their batteries were covered with 154 pieces of heavy brass cannon. The numbers employed by land and sea against the fortress were estimated at one hundred thousand men. With this force and by the fire of 300 cannon, mortars, and howitzers, from the adjacent isthmus, it was intended to attack every part of the British works at one and the same instant. The surrounding hills were covered with people assembled to behold the spectacle. The canonade and bombardment was tremendous. The showers of shot and shells from the land batteries, and the ships of the besiegers, and from the various works of the garrison, exhibited a most dreadful scene. Four hundred pieces of the heaviest artillery were playing at the same moment. The whole Peninsula seemed to be overwhelmed in the torrents of fire, which were incessantly poured upon it.1782 The Spanish floating batteries for some time answered  the expectations of their framers. The heaviest shells often rebounded from their tops, while thirty two pound shot, made no visible impression upon their hulls. For some hours, the attack and defence were so equally supported, as scarcely to admit any appearance of superiority on either side. The construction of the battering ships was so well calculated, for withstanding the combined force of fire and artillery, that they seemed for some time to bid defiance to the powers of the heaviest ordnance. In the afternoon the effects of hot shot became visible. At first there was only an appearance of smoke, but in the course of the night, after the fire of the garrison had continued about 15 hours, two of the floating batteries were in flames, and several more were visibly beginning to kindle. The endeavors of the besiegers were now exclusively directed to bring off the men from the burning vessels, but in this they were interrupted. Captain Curtis who lay ready with 12 gun boats, advanced and fired upon them with such order and expedition, as to throw them into confusion before they had finished their business. They fled with their boats, and abandoned to their fate great numbers of their people. The opening of day light disclosed a most dreadful spectacle. Many were seen in the midst of the flames crying out for help, while others were floating upon pieces of timber, exposed to equal danger from the opposite element. The generous humanity of the victors equalled their valor, and was the more honorable, as the exertions of it exposed them to no less danger than those of active hostility. In endeavoring to save the lives of his enemies, Capt. Curtis nearly lost his own. While for the most benevolent purpose, he was along side the floating batteries one of them blew up, and some heavy pieces of timber fell into his boat, and pierced through its bottom. By similar perilous exertions, near 400 men were saved from inevitable destruction. The exercise of humanity to an enemy, under such circumstances of immediate action, and impending danger, conferred more true honor than could be acquired by the most splendid series of victories. It in some degree obscured the impression made to the disadvantage  of human nature, by the madness of mankind in destroying each other by wasteful wars. The floating batteries were all consumed. The violence of their explosion was such, as to burst open doors, and windows at a great distance. Soon after the destruction of the floating batteries, lord Howe with 35 ships of the line, brought to the brave garrison an ample supply of every thing wanted, either for their support or their defence. This complete relief of Gibraltar, was the third decisive event in the course of a twelve month, which favoured the re-establishment of a general peace.
The capture of the British army in Virginia—the defeat of Count de Grasse, and the destruction of the Spanish floating batteries, inculcated on Great Britain, France and Spain, the policy of sheathing the sword, and stopping the effusion of human blood. Each nation found on a review of past events, that though their losses were great, their gains were little or nothing. By urging the American war, Great Britain had encreased her national debt one hundred millions of pounds sterling, and wasted the lives of at least 50,000 of her subjects. To add to her mortification she had brought all this on herself, by pursuing an object the attainment of which seemed to be daily less probable, and the benefits of which, even though it could have been attained, were very problematical. While Great Britain, France and Spain were successively brought to think favourably of peace, the United States of America had the consolation of a public acknowledgment of their independence, by a second power of Europe.Jan. 1, 1781 This was effected in a great measure by the address of John Adams. On the capture of Henry Laurens, he had been commissioned to be the minister plenipotentiary of Congress, to the States General of the United Provinces, and was also empowered to negociate a loan of money among the Hollanders.Apr. 19, 1781 Soon after his arrival he presented to their High Mightinesses a memorial, in which he informed them that the United States of America, had thought fit to send him a commission with full power and instructions, to confer with them concerning a treaty of amity and commerce, and  that they had appointed him to be their Minister Plenipotentiary to reside near them. Similar information, was the same time communicated to the Statholder the Prince of Orange.
Apr. 22, 1782About a year after the presentation of this memorial, it was resolved “that the said Mr. Adams was agreeable to their High Mightinesses, and that he should be acknowledged in quality of Minister Plenipotentiary.” Before this was obtained much pains had been taken and much ingenuity had been exerted, to convince the rulers and people of the States General, that they had an interest in connecting themselves with the United States. These representations, together with some recent successes in their contests on the sea with Great Britain, and their evident commercial interest, encouraged them to venture on being the second power of Europe, to acknowledge American Independence.
Mr. Adams having gained this point, proceeded on the negociation of a treaty of amity and commerce between the two countries.Oct. 8 This was a few months concluded, to the reciprocal satisfaction of both parties. The same success which attended Mr. Adams in these negociations, continued to follow him in obtaining a loan of money, which was a most seasonable supply to his almost exhausted country.
Mr. Jay had for nearly three years past exerted equal abilities, and equal industry with Mr. Adams, in endeavouring to negociate a treaty between the United States and his most Catholic Majesty, but his exertions were not crowned with equal success.
To gain the friendship of the Spaniards, Congress passed sundry resolutions, favouring the wishes of his most Catholic Majesty to re-annex the two Floridas to his dominions. Mr. Jay was instructed to contend for the right of the United States to the free navigation of the river Mississippi, and if an express acknowledgement of it could not be obtained, he was restrained from acceding to any stipulation, by which it should be relinquished.1782 But in February 1781, when lord Cornwallis was making rapid progress in overrunning the southern States, and  when the mutiny of the Pennsylvania line and other unfavourable circumstances depressed the spirits of the Americans, Congress, on the recommendation of Virginia, directed him to recede from his instructions, so far as they insist on the free navigation of that part of the river Mississippi, which lies below the thirty first degree of North Latitude, and on a free port or ports below the same: provided such cession should be unalterably insisted on by Spain, and provided the free navigation of the said river above the said degree of North Latitude should be acknowledged and guarantied by his Catholic Majesty, in common with his own subjects.
These propositions were made to the ministers of his most Catholic Majesty, but not accepted.Sep. 22, 1781 Mr. Jay in his own name informed them “That if the acceptance of this offer should, together with the proposed alliance, be postponed to a general peace, the United States would cease to consider themselves bound by any propositions or offers he might then make in their behalf.”
Spain having delayed to accept of these terms, which originated more in necessity than in policy, till the crisis of American independence was past, Congress apprehensive that their offered relinquishment of the free navigation of the Mississippi should at that late hour be accepted, instructed their ministerAug. 7, 1782 “To forbear making any overtures to the court of Spain, or entering into any stipulations, in consequence of any which he had previously made.” The ministers of his most Catholic Majesty, from indecision and tardiness of deliberation, let slip an opportunity of gaining a favourite point, which from the increasing numbers of the western settlements of the United States, seems to be removed at a daily increasing distance. Humiliating offers, made and rejected in the hour of distress, will not readily be renewed in the day of prosperity.
It was expected not only by the sanguine Americans, but by many in England, that the capture of lord Cornwallis would instantly dispose the nation to peace; but whatever might have been the wish or the interest of the  people,1782 the American war was too much the favourite of ministry to be relinquished, without a struggle for its continuance.
Nov. 27, 1781Just after intelligence arrived of the capitulation of York-Town, the King of Great Britain, in his speech to Parliament, declared “That he should not answer the trust committed to the sovereign of a free people, if he consented to sacrifice either to his own desire of peace, or to their temporary ease and relief, those essential rights and permanent interests, upon the maintenance and preservation of which the future strength and security of the country must forever depend.” The determined language of this speech, pointing to the continuance of the American war, was echoed back by a majority of both Lords and Commons.
Dec. 12In a few days after, it was moved in the house of commons that a resolution should be adopted declaring it to be their opinion “That all farther attempts to reduce the Americans to obedience by force would be ineffectual, and injurious to the true interests of Great Britain.” Though the debate on this subject was continued till two o’clock in the morning, and though the opposition received additional strength, yet the question was not carried.1782, Jan. 4 The same ground of argument was soon gone over again, and the American war underwent, for the fourth time since the beginning of the session, a full discussion; but no resolution, disapproving its farther prosecution, could yet obtain the assent of a majority of the members.Feb. 22 The advocates for peace becoming daily more numerous, it was moved by Gen. Conway “That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be pleased to give directions to his ministers not to pursue any longer the impracticable object of reducing his Majesty’s revolted colonies by force to their allegiance, by a war on the continent of America.” This brought forth a repetition of the former arguments on the subject, and engaged the attention of the house till two o’clock in the morning. On a division, the motion for the address was lost by a single vote.1782 In the course of these debates, while the minority were gaining ground, the ministry were giving  up one point after another. They at first consented that the war should not be carried on to the same extent as formerly—then that there should be no internal continental war—next that there should be no other war than what was necessary for the defence of the posts already in their possession—and last of all, none but against the French in America.
The ministry as well as the nation began to be sensible of the impolicy of continental operations, but hoped that they might gain their point, by prosecuting hostilities at sea. Every opposition was therefore made by them against the total direliction of a war, on the success of which they had so repeatedly pledged themselves, and on the continuance of which they held their places.Feb. 27 General Conway in five days after, brought forward another motion expressed in different words, but to the same effect with that which he had lost by a single vote. This caused a long debate which lasted till two o’clock in the morning. It was then moved to adjourn the debate till the l3th of March. There appeared for the adjournment 215, and against it 234.
The original motion, and an address to the king formed upon the resolution were then carried without a division, and the address was ordered to be presented by the whole house.
To this his majesty answered, “that in pursuance of their advice, he would take such measures as should appear to him the most conducive to the restoration of harmony, between Great Britain and the revolted colonies.” The thanks of the house were voted for this answer. But the guarded language thereof, not inconsistent with farther hostilities against America; together with other suspicious circumstances, induced General Conway to move another resolution, expressed in the most decisive language. This was to the following effect. “That the house would consider as enemies to his majesty and the country, all those who should advise or by any means attempt the further prosecution of offensive war, on the continent of North-America, for the purpose of reducing the colonies to obedience by force.”1782 This motion  after a feeble opposition was carried without a division, and put a period to all that chicanery by which ministers meant to distinguish between a prosecution of offensive war in North-America, and a total direliction of it. This resolution and the preceding address, to which it had reference, may be considered as the closing scene of the American war. As it was made a parliamentary war, by an address from parliament for its prosecution in February 1775[, i]t now was no longer so, by an address from the most numerous house of the same parliament in February 1782, for its discontinuance. A change of ministry was the consequence of this total change of that political system which, for seven years, had directed the affairs of Great Britain. A new administration was formed under the auspices of the Marquis of Rockingham, and was composed of characters who opposed the American war.July 1 It has been said that the new minister stipulated with the court before he entered into office, that there should be peace with the Americans, and that the acknowledgement of their independence should not be a bar to the attainment of it. Soon after the Marquis of Rockingham, on whom Great Britain relied with a well placed confidence, for extrication from surrounding embarrassments departed this life, and his much lamented death, for some time obscured the agreeable prospects which had lately begun to dawn on the nation. On the decease of the noble Marquis, Earl Shelburne was appointed his successor. To remove constitutional impediments to negociate with the late British colonies, an act of parliament was passed, granting to the crown powers for negotiating or concluding a general or particular peace or truce with the whole, or with any part of the colonies, and for setting aside all former laws, whose operations where in controvention to that purpose.
Sir Guy Carleton, who was lately appointed to the command of the royal army in North-America, was instructed to use his endeavours for carrying into effect the wishes of Great-Britain, for an accommodation with the Americans.May, 1782 He therefore dispatched a letter to General Washington, informing him of the late proceedings of  parliament, and of the dispositions so favourable to America, which were prevalent in Great Britain, and at the same time solicited a passport for his secretary, Mr. Morgan to pay a visit to Congress. His request was refused. The application for it, with its concomitant circumstances were considered as introductory to a scheme for opening negotiations with Congress or the states, without the concurrence of their allies. This caused no small alarm and gave rise to sundry resolutions, by which several states declared, that a proposition from the enemy to all or any of the United States for peace or truce, separate from their allies was inadmissible. Congress not long after resolved “that they would not enter into the discussion of any overtures for pacification, but in confidence and in concert with his most Christian Majesty, and as a proof of this, they recommended to the several States to pass laws, that no subject of his Britannic Majesty coming directly or indirectly from any part of the British dominions, be admitted into any of the United States during the war.” This decisive conduct extinguished all hopes that Great Britain might have entertained, of making a separate peace with America. Two of the first sovereigns of Europe, the Empress of Russia, and the Emperor of Germany, were the mediators in accomplishing the great work of peace. Such was the state of the contending parties, that the intercession of powerful mediators was no longer necessary. The disposition of Great Britain, to recognize the independence of the United States, had removed the principal difficulty, which had hitherto obstructed a general pacification. It would be curious to trace the successive steps by which the nation was brought to this measure, so irreconcilable to their former declarations. Various auxiliary causes might be called in to account for this great change of the public mind of Great Britain, but the sum of the whole must be resolved into this simple proposition, “That it was unavoidable.” A state of perpetual war was inconsistent with the interest of a commercial nation. Even the longer continuance of hostilities was forbidden by every principle of wise policy.
1782 The avowed object of the alliance between France and America, and the steady adherence of both parties to enter into no negotiations without the concurrence of each other, reduced Great Britain to the alternative of continuing a hopeless unproductive war, or of negotiating under the idea of recognizing American independence. This great change of the public mind in Great Britain, favourable to American independence, took place between November 1781, and March 1782. In that interval Mr. Laurens was released from his confinement in the tower. Before and after his release, he had frequent opportunities of demonstrating to persons in power, that from his personal knowledge of the sentiments of Congress, and of their instructions to their ministers, every hope of peace, without the acknowledgement of independence was illusory. Seven years experience had proved to the nation that the conquest of the American States was impracticable; they now received equal conviction, that the recognition of their independence, was an indispensible preliminary to the termination of a war, from the continuance of which, neither profit nor honor was to be acquired. The pride of Great Britain for a long time resisted, but that usurping passion was obliged to yield to the superior influence of interest. The feelings of the great body of the people were no longer to be controuled, by the honor of ministers, or romantic ideas of national dignity. At the close of the war, a revolution was effected in the sentiments of the inhabitants of Great Britain, not less remarkable than what in the beginning of it, took place among the citizens of America.
Independence which was neither thought of nor wished for by the latter in the year 1774, and 1775, became in the year 1776 their favorite object. A recognition of this, which throughout the war, had been with few exceptions the object of abhorrence to the British nation, became in the year 1782, a popular measure in Great Britain, as the means of putting an end to a ruinous war.
The commissioners for negotiating peace on the part of the United States, were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens. On the part of Great Britain, Mr. Fitzherbert, and Mr. Oswald.Nov. 30, 1782 Provisional  articles of peace, between Great Britain and the United States were agreed upon by these gentlemen, which were to be inserted in a future treaty of peace, to be finally concluded between the parties, when that between Great Britain and France took place. By these the independence of the states was acknowledged in its fullest extent. Very ample boundaries were allowed them, which comprehended the fertile and extensive countries on both sides of the Ohio, and on the east side of the Mississippi, in which was the residence of upwards of twenty nations of Indians, and particularly of the five nations, who had long been the friends and allies of Great Britain. An unlimited right of fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, and on other places where both nations had heretofore been accustomed to fish, was likewise confirmed to the Americans. From the necessity of the case, the loyalists were sacrificed, nothing further than a simple recommendation for restitution, being stipulated in their favour. Five days after these provisional articles were signed, the British parliament met. They underwent a severe parliamentary discussion. It was said by the opposition that independence being recognized, every thing ceded by Great Britain required an equivalent; but that while they gave up the many posts they held in the United States, an immense extent of north and western territory, a participation in the fur trade, and in the fisheries, nothing was stipulated in return.
It must be acknowledged, that the ministers of Congress procured for their countrymen better terms than they had reason to expect; but from a combination of circumstances, it was scarcely possible to end the war without similar concessions on the part of Great Britain. By the alliance between France and America, there could be no peace without independence. That once granted, most of the other articles followed of course. It is true the boundaries agreed upon, were more extensive than the States, when colonies had claimed, yet the surplus ceded could have been of little or no use to Great Britain, and might if retained have given an occasion to a future war.
 The case of the loyalists was undoubtedly a hard one, but unavoidable, from the complex constitution of the United States. The American ministers engaged as far as they were authorised, and Congress did all that they constitutionally could; but this was no more than simply to recommend their case to the several States, for the purpose of making them restitution. To have insisted on more, under such circumstances, would have been equivalent to saying that there should be no peace. It is true much more was expected from the recommendations of Congress, than resulted from them; but this was not the consequence of deception, but of misunderstanding the principles of the confederation. In conformity to the letter and spirit of the treaty, Congress urged in strong terms the propriety of making restitution to the loyalists, but to procure it was beyond their power. In the animation produced by the war, when the Americans conceived their liberties to be in danger, and that their only safety consisted in obeying their foederal head, they yielded a more unreserved obedience to the recommendations of Congress, than is usually paid to the decrees of the most arbitrary sovereigns. But the case was widely different, when at the close of the war, a measure was recommended, in direct opposition to their prejudices. It was the general opinion of the Americans, that the continuance of the war, and the asperity with which it had been carried on, was more owing to the machinations of their own countrymen, who had taken part with royal government, than to their British enemies. It is certain that the former had been most active in predatory excursions, and most forward in scenes of blood and murder. Their knowledge of the country enabled them to do mischief, which would never have occurred to European soldiers. Many powerful passions of human nature operated against making restitution to men, who were thus considered as the authors of so great a share of the general distress.
There were doubtless among the loyalists many worthy characters—friends to peace, and lovers of justice: To such, restitution was undoubtedly due, and to many  such it was made;1782 but it is one of the many calamities incident to war, that the innocent, from the impossibility of discrimination, are often involved in the same distress with the guilty. The return of the loyalists to their former places of residence, was as much disrelished by the whig citizens of America, as the proposal for reimbursing their confiscated property. In sundry places committees were formed, which in an arbitrary manner, opposed their peaceable residence. The sober and dispassionate citizens exerted themselves in checking these irregular measures; but such was the violence of party spirit, and so relaxed were the sinews of government, that in opposition to legal authority, and the private interference of the judicious and moderate, many indecent outrages were committed on the persons and property of the returning loyalists. Nor were these all the sufferings of those Americans who had attached themselves to the royal cause. Being compelled to depart their native country, many of them were obliged to take up their abodes in the inhospitable wilds of Nova Scotia, or on the barren shores of the Bahama Islands. Parliamentary relief was extended to them, but this was obtained with difficulty, and distributed with a partial hand. Some who invented plausible tales of loyalty and distress received much more than they ever possessed; but others, less artful, were not half reimbursed for their actual losses. The bulk of the sufferings, subsequent to the peace among the Americans, fell to the share of the merchants, and others, who owed money in England. From the operations of the war remittances were impossible. In the mean time payments were made in America by a depreciating paper, under the sanction of a law which made it a legal tender. The unhappy persons, who in this manner suffered payment, could not apply it to the extinguishment of their foreign debts. If they retained in their hands the paper which was paid to them, it daily decreased in value: If they invested it in public securities, from the deficiency of funds, their situation was no better: If they purchased land, such was the superabundance of territory ceded by the peace, that it fell greatly  in value.1782 Under all these embarrassments, the American debtor was by treaty bound to make payments in specie of all his bonafide debts, due in Great Britain. The British merchant was materially injured by being kept for many years out of his capital, and the American was often ruined by being ultimately held to pay in specie, what he received in paper. Enough was suffered on both sides to make the inhabitants, as well in Great Britain as in America, deprecate war as one of the greatest evils incident to humanity.