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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Arnold was given a command in the South


Arnold

escaped to the British camp and was safe. The unfortunate gentleman on whom patriotic duty laid the unhappy task of trafficking with the traitor was less fortunate. Major Andre had been imprudent enough to pay a visit to a spot behind the American lines, and, at Arnold's suggestion, to do so in plain clothes. He was taken, tried, and hanged as a spy. Though espionage was not his intention, the Americans cannot fairly be blamed for deciding that he should die. He had undoubtedly committed an act which was the act of a spy in the eyes of military law. It is pretty certain that a hint was given that the authorities would gladly exchange him for Arnold, and it is very probable that the unslaked thirst for just vengeance against Arnold was partly responsible for the refusal of the American commanders to show mercy. Andre's courage and dignity made a profound impression on them, and there was a strong disposition to comply with his request that he should at least be shot instead of hanged. But to that concession a valid and indeed irresistible objection was urged. Whatever the Americans did was certain to be scanned with critical and suspicious eyes. Little could be said in the face of the facts if they treated Andre as a spy and inflicted on him the normal fate of a spy. But if they showed that they scrupled to hang him as a spy, it would be easy to say that they had shot a prisoner of war.

Arnold was given a command in the South, and the rage of

the population of that region was intensified into something like torment when they saw their lands occupied and their fields devastated no longer by a stranger from overseas who was but fulfilling his military duty, but by a cynical and triumphant traitor. Virginia was invaded and a bold stroke almost resulted in the capture of the author of the Declaration of Independence himself, who had been elected Governor of that State. In the course of these raids many abominable things were done which it is unnecessary to chronicle here. The regular English troops, on the whole, behaved reasonably well, but Tarleton's native "Tories" were inflamed by a fanaticism far fiercer than theirs, while atrocity was of course normal to the warfare of the barbarous mercenaries of England, whether Indian or German. It is equally a matter of course that such excesses provoked frequent reprisals from the irregular colonial levies.

But aid was at last at hand. Already Lafayette, a young French noble of liberal leanings, had appeared in Washington's camp at the head of a band of volunteers, and the accession, small as it was, led to a distinct revival of the fortunes of the revolution in the South. It was, however, but a beginning. England, under pressure of the war with France and Spain, lost that absolute supremacy at sea which has ever been and ever will be necessary to her conduct of a successful war. A formidable French armament was able to cross the Atlantic. A French fleet threatened the coasts. Cornwallis, not knowing at which point the blow would fall, was compelled to withdraw his forces from the country they had overrun, and to concentrate them in a strong position in the peninsula of Yorktown. Here he was threatened on both sides by Washington and Rochambeau, while the armada of De Grasse menaced him from the sea. The war took on the character of a siege. His resources were speedily exhausted, and on September 19, 1781, he surrendered.


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