Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

volunteers, who would run forward of the brigade, and commence the attack. They were led forward, within forty or fifty yards of the

enemy, and ordered to take trees, and keep up as brisk a fire as possible. The desired effect of this expedient, to extort the enemy's fire at some distance, in order to the rendering it less terrible to the militia, was not gained. General Stevens, observing the enemy to rush on, put his men in nind of their bayonets ; but the impetuosity with which they advanced, firing and huzzaing, threw the whole body of the militia into such a panic, that they generally threw down their loaded arms, and fled in the utmost consternation. The unworthy example of the Virginians was almost instantly followed by the North-Carolinians ; only a small part of the brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Gregory, made a slort pause. A part of Dixon's regiment, of that brigade, next in line to the second Maryland brigade, fired two or three rounds of cartridge. But a great majority of the militia, (at least two-thirds of the army,) fled without firing a shot. The writer avers it of his own knowledge, having seen and observed every part of the army, from left to right, during the action. He who has never seen the effect of a panic upon a multitude, can have but an imperfect idea of such a thing. The best disciplined troops have been enervated and made cowards by it. Armies have been routed by it, even where no enemy appeared, to furnish an excuse. Like electricity, it operates instantaneously-like sympathy, it is irresistible where it touches. But, in the present instance, its action was not universal. The regular troops, who had the keen edge of sensibility rubbed off by strict discipline and hard service, saw the confusion with but little emotion. They engaged seriously in the affair; and, notwithstanding some irregularity, which was created by the militia breaking, pell mell, through the second line, order was restored there, time enough to give the enemy a severe check, which abated the fury of their assault, and obliged them to assume a more deliberate manner of acting. The second Maryland brigade, including the battalion of Delawares, on the right, were engaged with the enemy's left, which they opposed with very great firmness. They even advanced upon them, and had taken a number of prisoners, when their companions of the first brigade, (which formed the second line,) being greatly outflanked, and charged by superior numbers, were obliged to give ground. At this critical moment, the regimental officers of the latter brigade, reluctant to leave the field without orders, inquired for their commanding officer, (Brigadier-General Smallwood,) who, however, was not to be found ; notwithstanding, Col. Gunby, Major Anderson, and a number of other brave officers, assisted by the deputy adjutant-general and Major Jones, one of Smallwood's aids, rallied the brigade, and renewed the contest. Again they were

obliged to give way, and were again rallied. The second brigade were still warmly engaged. The distance between the two brigades did not exceed two hundred yards, their opposite flanks being nearly upon a line perpendicular to their front. At this eventful juncture, the deputy adjutant-general, anxious that the communication between them should be preserved, and wishing that, in the almost certain event of a retreat, some order might be sustained by them, hastened from the first to the second brigade, which he found precisely in the same circumstances. He called upon his own regiment, (the 6th Maryland,) not to fly, and was answered by the lieutenant-colonel, Ford, who said, "They have done all that can be expected of them -we are outnumbered and outflanked

-see the enemy charge with bayonets." The enemy having collected their corps, and directing their whole force against the two devoted brigades, a tremendous fire of musketry was, for some time, kept up on both sides, with equal perseverance and obstinacy, until Lord Cornwallis, perceiving that there was no cavalry opposed to him, pushed forward his dragoons-and his infantry charging, at the same moment, with fixed bayonets, put an end to the contest.

His victory was complete. All the artillery, and a very great number of prisoners, fell into his hands ; many fine fellows lay on the field, and the rout of the remainder was entire ; not even a company

retired in any order ; every one escaped as he could. If, in this affair, the militia fled too soon, the regulars may be thought almost as blameable, for remaining too long on the field, especially after all hope of victory must have been despaired of. Let the commandants of the brigades answer for themselves. Allow the same privilege to the officers of the corps comprising those brigades, and they will say that they never received orders to retreat, nor any order from any general officer, from the commencement of the action until it became desperate. The brave major-general, the Baron DeKalb, fought on foot, with the second brigade, and fell, mortally wounded, into the hands of the enemy, who stripped him even of his shirt—a fate wbich probably was avoided by other generals, only by an opportune retreat."

Weems tells the story of DeKalb's death more dramatically; and, more recently, there is another witness on the subject—one who claims to have been on the field, in the battle, and to have witnessed the event. This witness is the Rev. Humphrey Hunter, whose narrative is on file in the archives of North-Carolina, and occurs in Wheeler's History of North-Carolina, lately published. Hunter became a preacher of the Gospel after the war was over, and was but twenty when it began. It will be seen

that his account differs somewhat from that of AdjutantGeneral Williams, who reports that DeKalb fought on foot, at the head of his second brigade ; while Hunter shows him to us on horseback. It is possible to reconcile both accounts, since the Baron may have taken to his horse, for flight, when sauve qui peut became the cry on all quarters, and when his commander had shown him such a notable example of prompt decision in such cases. Here is Hunter's account:

“On the 16th of August, 1780, the unfortunate battle of Camden was fought. A contagious panic seized most of the militia, early in the action, and a precipitate and disgraceful retreat was the consequence. The regulars of Maryland and Delaware, with a small portion of the North-Carolina militia, firmly stood their ground, until surrounded by overwhelming numbers. The subject of this sketch was there made prisoner, and stripped of most of his clothes. Soon after his surrender, as a prisoner of war, he witnessed the painful incidents of battle, resulting in the death of Baron DeKalb. He informs us he saw the Baron, without suite or aid, and without manifesting the design of his movements, galloping down the line. He was soon descried by the enemy, who, clapping their hands on their shoulders, in reference to his epaulettes, exclaimed . A general, a rebel general !' Immediately, a man on horseback (not Tarleton) met him, and demanded his sword. The Baron reluctantly presented the handle towards him, saying in French, 'Etes vous un officier, Monsieur ?' (* Are you an officer, Sir ?) His antagonist, not understanding the language, with an oath, more sternly demanded his sword. The Baron then, not understanding him perfectly, with all possible speed rode on, disdaining to surrender to any but an officer.

“ The cry. A rebel general !' sounded along the line. The musketeers immediately, by platoons, fired upon him. He proceeded about twenty-five rods, when he fell from his horse, mortally wounded. Soon afterwards he was raised to his feet, and stripped of his hat, coat and neckcloth, and placed with his hands resting on a wagon. Ilis body was found, upon examination, to have been pierced with seven musket balls. Whilst standing in this position, and the blood streaming through his shirt, Cornwallis and his suite rode up. Being informed that the wounded man was DeKalb, he addressed him by saying, “I am sorry, sir, to see you; not sorry that you are vanquished, but sorry to see you so badly wounded. Having given orders to an officer to administer to the wants of the Baron, the British general rode on, to secure the results of his victory.”

The task which we proposed to ourselves is finished. Our summary is a brief one. The Baron DeKalb was no doubt an energetic and brave man, and a good soldier, calm, cool, calculating, ready, and heedful against surprise ; but we doubt if there was anything imposing or remarkable in his endowments. We doubt if he had either genius or enthusiasm, and incline rather to think him a phlegmatic. His career seems to have been without reproach, and his conduct in camp and battle free from faults. Our nation owes him gratitude for his services, whatever the degree of merit which he possessed; and it would be but a simple duty, on the part of the federal government-or Congress, rather-to institute proper inquiries after his family, and, if his descendants survive, honourably to provide for them.

ART. VIII.-KENNEDY's HORSE-SHOE ROBINSON.
Horse-Shoe Robinson: a Tale of the Tory Ascendancy.

By John P. KENNEDY, author of “Swallow Barn.'
“I say the tale as 'twas said to me.”Lay of the
Last Minstrel. Revised edition. New-York : Geo.
P. Putnam. 1852.

MR. KENNEDY has acquitted himself with great credit, and acquired permanent reputation, in sundry departments of literature—the biography, the satire, the descriptive narrative and the novel. His “ Life of Wirt” takes rank among the best of the American biographies. His

Quodlibet,” unacknowledged, but generally understood to be from his pen, was a trenchant whig satire, over which that party, renowned for its sense of the proprieties, may have chuckled decorously, but which, we suspect, they did no justice to in any more earnest mannerfor which, we apprehend, they did not pay! His “Swallow Barn,” by which he was first brought into literary circles, duly honoured already in our pages, affords a lively and piquant portraiture of domestic life in Virginia, at a period when things wore more salient characteristics in the “Old Dominion” than at present. The novels of

[ocr errors]

Mr. Kennedy are two in number—the one before us, and one subsequently written, entitled “Rob of the Bowl”-a work meant to illustrate the early times in Maryland, when that excellent sister State was yet in its infancy. “Rob of the Bowl” did not seize upon the popular fancy, and, upon the whole, was rather a languid performance, though with some scenes of great interest and spirit. As a novelist, the reputation of the author rests wholly upon “ Horse-Shoe Robinson.' This romance was originally published in 1835, and at once took firm hold upon the public fancy. It soon passed to a second edition, and became a popular favourite. Its material was comparatively fresh. At that time, the events of the revolution had been little used in works of fiction. “The Spy,” and “Lionel Lincoln,” of Mr. Cooper, and one or more novels, by writers of less note, constituted, in that early day, the whole body of our romantic literature, founded

upon events of the revolutionary period; and just enough had been done, in this field, to whet the popular appetite, and to indicate the excellent uses to which our struggle for independence might be put. Horse-Shoe Robinson strengthened the popular faith to this effect. As a story, simply, it was of little value. Mr. Kennedy is not distinguished as a raconteur. His merits lie in portraiture of character, and, especially, in a happy perception of the piquant and the humorous. The love legend of the

Horse-Shoe” is its smallest attraction. The lover is little more than the walking gentleman of the conventional drama. The heroine is only a pleasing child, with the tenderness of the woman. Their course of love lacks originality. The true attraction of the work lies wholly in the character of “ Horse Shoe Robinson.” This is a faithful portrait of a frank, shrewd, generous, high-spirited backwoodsman; rough and untutored, but warm and kindly; unlearned in books, but of admirable mother wit; qui in expedients, fertile in resource; of large experience, and of that buoyant nature which never knows how to succumb to misfortune, and so laughs under the pressure of fate as to take from it most of its sour aspects.

In a broader style, less subtle but perhaps more truthful, “ Horse Shoe Robinson” is another “Leather-Stocking." He is quite as ready and practical as Cooper's Hunter, but not so poetical. Where the latter indulged in mu

« AnteriorContinuar »