THE BIRTH OF THE NATION (2)
|Source||The Scotch-Irish in America (1915): Henry Jones Ford|
|Section||CHAPTER XIX (2) Start of Section|
After the evacuation of Boston Colonel Stark with his regiment was sent to New York which he assisted in fortifying. The following spring he took part in the Canadian campaign, at the close of which he joined Washington in New Jersey, a few days before the battle of Trenton, in which engagement he commanded the van of the right wing. Although his efficiency in the New Jersey campaign was generally recognized he was passed over in the promotions made by Congress, while colonels whom he outranked became brigadiers. Stark resented the slight so deeply that he resigned his commission and retired to his New Hampshire farm. As it turned out this retirement was the prelude to a most important military service.
In response to the call of his State he formed an independent corps, the strength of which was largely drawn from the Scotch-Irish settlements. Stark had stipulated that he should not be subject to any orders save from his own State. He refused to recognize orders reaching him from the commander of the Continental troops opposing Burgoyne. This discord seemed to Burgoyne to afford a good opportunity for striking a blow, but the actual result was a severe reverse that was the beginning of the end of his campaign.
Burgoyne dispatched a well appointed force to attack Stark's independent corps which, being composed of volunteers and State militia, seemed to be an easy prey. The only uniformed troops in Stark's command were the Green Mountain rangers who wore hunting frocks with green facings. On August 13, 1777, Stark received word that Indian scouts acting for the British had appeared twelve miles from Bennington, Vt., and he began preparations at once. The British commander took position upon high ground, made intrenchments and mounted two pieces of ordnance. During the fifteenth there was skirmishing which had the effect of driving off the Indian scouts. Meanwhile Stark made a shrewd plan of attack, involving a feint diverting attention from the main assault. The attack was completely successful. The British were driven out of their intrenchments, although the Americans had not a single cannon to support their attack. The British fled abandoning their baggage and artillery.
It was rather a characteristic incident of American warfare at this period that the battle was nearly lost after it had been won. With the retreat of the British the Americans dispersed to collect plunder. Reinforcements sent by Burgoyne came up, arresting the retreat and renewing the battle. Stark had difficulty in holding his position. At the nick of time fresh troops arrived from Bennington and by their aid Stark kept up the battle which was fought with obstinacy until sunset when the enemy finally broke and fled. Among the numerous prisoners made by the Americans was the British commander who was badly wounded and died soon afterward. Although known as the battle of Bennington the action really took place about seven miles distant in New York territory, two miles west of the Vermont boundary. Congress now appointed Stark a brigadier-general, and he served until the close of the war, when he retired, declining all public office. He lived to be ninety-four, dying at Manchester, N. H., May 2, 1822.
The battle of Bennington led to the failure of Burgoyne's campaign. His line of march was flanked by a tier of Scotch-Irish settlements, from which volunteers and militia poured into the American camp. The spirit of the soldiers was animated by Stark's victory and Burgoyne at last found himself in a position from which he could neither advance nor retreat. All his communications were cut off and he was hopelessly outnumbered. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne surrendered his entire command. The event practically decided the issue of the struggle for it secured the French alliance. Previously the French Government had been undecided but when the news reached Europe the American commissioners were notified that France was now ready to acknowledge and support American independence.
The carrying on of the war with France so occupied the British Government that operations in America languished for several years. In June, 1778, the British evacuated Philadelphia, and although they still held New York, no systematic American campaign was undertaken until 1780, when the Southern States became the theatre of operations. Clinton, with forces sent from New York, landed in the vicinity of Charleston, South Carolina, in March, 1780, and although the American garrison made an obstinate defense it was at last, on May 12, obliged to capitulate. Soon after Clinton returned to New York, leaving Cornwallis to prosecute the war. What followed is like the story of Burgoyne's campaign, over again, with a similar turning point.
On August 16, 1780, the American army under General Gates was defeated by Cornwallis, near Camden, S. C., and its organization was shattered. Two days later Tarleton routed Sumter at Fishing Creek. American resistance for the time was crushed out except in the western section where Scotch-Irish settlements were thick. Cornwallis detached Major Patrick Ferguson with a force of regulars and Tories, to scour the country west of the Wateree, beat back the Mountain Men, as the frontiersmen were called, and rally the Loyalists. Major Ferguson came of the same stock as those who were soon to end his career, up to this time one of brilliant promise. He was born in Scotland, son of the eminent jurist James Ferguson, and nephew of Lord Elibank. He served with the army in Flanders when only eighteen years old. He came to America with his regiment in 1777 and was active in the battle of the Brandywine in September of that year. He was engaged in operations on the Hudson in 1779, establishing his reputation as an able and energetic officer. At the siege of Charleston in 1780 he so distinguished himself that he received special mention from the commander-in-chief.
As Ferguson moved toward the mountain country, Colonel Charles McDowell of Burke County, North Carolina, put himself in communication with Colonel John Sevier of Washington County, and Colonel Isaac Shelby of Sullivan County. Expresses were sent out along the western tier of settlements for help and nearly 1,400 men responded to the call. The largest contingent came from Washington County, Virginia, under Colonel William Campbell, who took the general command in the engagement that followed. Campbell's father was one of the Scotch-Irish settlers in Augusta County, Virginia, and William was born there in 1745. In 1767 he settled in Washington County, where he became a justice of the peace, a militia officer and a leading man of affairs. He married a sister of Patrick Henry.
Learning of the concentration of force against him, Ferguson occupied a strong position on King's Mountain. He had over eleven hundred men in his force, in part regulars and in part Loyalist militia. The position was stormed by the Americans, who not only drove the British from their lines but also cut off their retreat. Ferguson fought with conspicuous gallantry, repeatedly leading charges upon the American lines, but his men fell rapidly under the deadly accuracy of the frontiersmen's fire, and at last he too was shot dead. This disheartened the defense, and the officer upon whom the command devolved raised the white flag, and surrendered his entire force, October 7, 1780.
Colonel Campbell received votes of thanks from the Virginia Legislature and the Continental Congress, while Washington sent him a congratulatory letter. He was appointed brigadier-general but while in the service he contracted a fever of which he died in 1781.
Colonel Charles McDowell who was active in the arrangements for collecting the frontiersmen was the son of Joseph McDowell, an Ulster emigrant who arrived in America in 1730. Charles McDowell was not present at the battle of King's Mountain. When the frontier militia colonels came together, it was a question who should take command, and it was finally settled that McDowell should proceed to headquarters and have a general officer detailed to take over the command which meanwhile should be held by Campbell. In McDowell's absence the militia from Burke and Rutherford Counties, North Carolina, were led by his brother, Major Joseph McDowell. Another brother, William, also fought in the battle. Joseph McDowell led a force of his Mountain Men at the battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1781. In 1788 he was a member of the North Carolina constitutional convention and in 1792 he was elected a member of Congress.
King's Mountain and Cowpens were fatal to the plans of the British. At the end of the campaign they held no part of the Carolinas except the country immediately round Charleston. Additional British troops were landed in Virginia, and Cornwallis, marching from the Carolinas, effected a junction and took charge of the entire force. He experienced Burgoyne's fate, as he had to surrender with his whole army on October 19, 1781. This virtually ended the Revolutionary War. When the news reached England there was a change of Government and the new Ministry negotiated liberal terms of peace.
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|Contents||The Scotch-Irish in America|
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