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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

At the Battle of the Cowpens Tarleton having


so far as the actual military situation was concerned, there were no darker days for the Americans than those which intervened between the promise of French help and its fulfilment. Lord Cornwallis had appeared in the South and had taken possession of Charleston, the chief port of South Carolina. In that State the inhabitants were less unanimous than elsewhere. The "Tories," as the local adherents of the English Crown were called, had already attempted a rebellion against the rebellion, but had been forced to yield to the Republican majority backed by the army of Washington. The presence of Cornwallis revived their courage. They boasted in Tarleton, able, enterprising and imperious, an excellent commander for the direction of irregular warfare, whose name and that of the squadron of horse which he raised and organized became to the rebels what the names of Claverhouse and his dragoons were to the Covenanters. Cornwallis and Tarleton between them completely reduced the Carolinas, save for the strip of mountainous country to the north, wherein many of those families that Tarleton had "burnt out" found refuge, and proceeded to overrun Georgia. Only two successes encouraged the rebels. At the Battle of the Cowpens Tarleton having, with the recklessness which was the defeat of his qualities as a leader, advanced too far into the hostile country, was met and completely defeated by Washington. The defeat produced little immediate result, but it was the one definite military success which
the American general achieved before the advent of the French, and it helped to keep up the spirit of the insurgents. Perhaps even greater in its moral effect was the other victory, which from the military point of view was even more insignificant. In Sumter and Davie the rebels found two cavalry leaders fully as daring and capable as Tarleton himself. They formed from among the refugees who had sought the shelter of the Carolinian hills a troop of horse with which they made a sudden raid upon the conquered province and broke the local Tories at the Battle of the Hanging Rock. It was a small affair so far as numbers went, and Davie's troopers were a handful of irregulars drawn as best might be from the hard-riding, sharp-shooting population of the South. Many of them were mere striplings; indeed, among them was a boy of thirteen, an incorrigible young rebel who had run away from school to take part in the fighting. In the course of this narration it will be necessary to refer to that boy again more than once. His name was Andrew Jackson.

While there was so little in the events of the Southern campaign to bring comfort to the rebels, in the North their cause suffered a moral blow which was felt at the moment to be almost as grave as any military disaster. Here the principal American force was commanded by one of the ablest soldiers the Rebellion had produced, a man who might well have disputed the pre-eminent fame of Washington if he had not chosen rather to challenge--and with no contemptible measures of success--that of Iscariot. Benedict Arnold was, like Washington, a professional soldier whose talent had been recognized before the war. He had early embraced the revolutionary cause, and had borne a brilliant part in the campaign which ended in the surrender of Burgoyne. There seemed before him every prospect of a glorious career. The motives which led him to the most inexpiable of human crimes were perhaps mixed, though all of them were poisonous. He was in savage need of money to support the extravagance of his private tastes: the Confederacy had none to give, while the Crown had plenty. But it seems also that his ravenous vanity had been wounded, first by the fact that the glory of Burgoyne's defeat had gone to Gates and not to him, and afterwards by a censure, temperate and tactful enough and accompanied by a liberal eulogy of his general conduct, which Washington had felt obliged to pass on certain of his later military proceedings. At any rate, the "ingratitude" of his country was the reason he publicly alleged for his treason; and those interested in the psychology of infamy may give it such weight as it may seem to deserve. For history the important fact is that Arnold at this point in the campaign secretly offered his services to the English, and the offer was accepted.

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