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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Eustache and recovered possession of the island


so many and such painful efforts, the day of triumph was at last dawning upon General Washington and his country. Alternations of success and reverse had signalized the commencement of the campaign of 1781. Lord Cornwallis, who commanded the English armies in the South, was occupying Virginia with a considerable force, when Washington, who had managed to conceal his designs from Sir Henry Clinton, shut up in New York, crossed Philadelphia on the 4th of September, and advanced by forced marches against the enemy. The latter had been for some time past harassed by the little army of M. de La Fayette. The fleet of Admiral de Grasse cut off the retreat of the English. Lord Cornwallis threw himself into Yorktown; on the 30th of September the place was invested.

It was but slightly and badly fortified; the English troops were fatigued by a hard campaign; the besiegers were animated by a zeal further stimulated by emulation; French and Americans vied with one another in ardor. Batteries sprang up rapidly, the soldiers refused to take any rest, the trenches were opened by the 6th of October. On the 10th, the cannon began to batter the town; on the 14th an American column, commanded by M. de La Fayette, Colonel Hamilton and Colonel Lawrence, attacked one of the redoubts which protected the approaches to the town, whilst the French dashed forward on their side to attack the second redoubt, under the orders of Baron de Viomenil, Viscount de Noailles,

and Marquis de St. Simon, who, ill as he was, had insisted on being carried at the head of his regiment. The flag of the Union floated above both works at almost the same instant; when the attacking columns joined again on the other side of the outwork they had attacked, the French had made five hundred prisoners. All defence became impossible. Lord Cornwallis in vain attempted to escape; he was reduced, on the 17th of October, to signing a capitulation more humiliating than that of Saratoga: eight thousand men laid down their arms, the vessels which happened to be lying at Yorktown and Gloucester were given up to the victors. Lord Cornwallis was ill of grief and fatigue. General O'Hara, who took his place, tendered his sword to Count de Rochambeau; the latter stepped back, and, pointing to General Washington, said aloud, "I am only an auxiliary." In receiving the English general's sword, Washington was receiving the pledge of his country's independence.

England felt this. "Lord North received the news of the capitulation like a bullet in his breast," said Lord George Germaine, secretary of state for the colonies; he threw up his arms without being able to utter a word beyond 'My God, all's lost!'" To this growing conviction on the part of his ministers, as well as of the nation, George III. opposed an unwavering persistency. "None of the members of my cabinet," he wrote immediately, "will suppose, I am quite sure, that this event can in any way modify the principles which have guided me hitherto and which will continue to regulate my conduct during the rest of this struggle."

Whilst the United States were celebrating their victory with thanksgivings and public festivities, their allies were triumphing at all the different points, simultaneously, at which hostilities had been entered upon. Becoming embroiled with Holland, where the republican party had prevailed against the stadtholder, who was devoted to them, the English had waged war upon the Dutch colonies. Admiral Rodney had taken St. Eustache, the centre of an immense trade; he had pillaged the warehouses and laden his vessels with an enormous mass of merchandise; the convoy which was conveying a part of the spoil to England was captured by Admiral La Motte-Piquet; M. Bouille surprised the English garrison remaining at St. Eustache and recovered possession of the island, which was restored to the Dutch. They had just maintained gloriously, at Dogger Bank, their old maritime renown. "Officers and men all fought like lions," said Admiral Zouttman. The firing had not commenced until the two fleets were within pistol-shot. The ships on both sides were dismasted, scarcely in a condition to keep afloat; the glory and the losses were equal; but the English admiral, Hyde Parker, was irritated and displeased. George III. went to see him on board his vessel. "I wish your Majesty younger seamen and better ships," said the old sailor, and he insisted on resigning. This was the only action fought by the Dutch during the war; they left to Admiral de Kersaint the job of recovering from the English their colonies of Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice, on the coasts of Guiana.

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