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it to adm. Graves. Graves however failed on a cruise 1781. before Boston. When he returned on the 16th of August, the proposal was renewed: but it was now become neceffary to refit one of his fhips, and to repair others, fo that his fleet could not be ready in feafon. Mr. de Barras failed with the train and ftores from Rhode Island Aug. on the 25th; concluding from de Graffe's own difpatches, 25 that he must be then at the Chesapeak. De Barras was at liberty to have undertaken any other fervice: but though he was an older officer than de Graffe, he voluntarily chose to put himself under his command, to enfure an object, the attainment of which was of fuch immenfe confequence to the allied arms of France and America. On the day of his failing, Sir Samuel Hood arrived off the Chefapeak, where he expected to have met Graves with the fquadron from New York; but being disappointed, he fent a frigate to that commander with the news of his arrival. Had they formed a junction at this period and place, they might have fecured the Chesapeak, and have prevented de Graffe's entering it a few days after. Sir Samuel having examined the bay, proceeded to the capes of Delaware, and not seeing or hearing any thing of de Graffe, made the best of his way to Sandy Hook, where he arrived on the 28th. 28. On that day, the commanders at New York received intelligence, that Barras had failed three days before to the fouthward. Notwithstanding the hope of intercepting his fquadron before it could join de Graffe, muft, have been a new incentive for exertions; it was three days before Graves could be in readinefs to proceed from New York with five fhips of the line and a fifty gun to the Hook, and from thence with the whole fleet. N 3 under
1781. under his command to the fouthward. The day before he failed, de Graffe arrived in the Chesapeak. On his paffage the count fell in with and took a packet from Charlestown, having on board lord Rawdon, who was on his return to Great Britain.
The French admiral after blocking up York river, took poffeffion of James's, in order to cover the boats of the fleet, which were to convoy the marquis de St. Simon, with 3300 land forces from the Weft Indies, eighteen leagues up the river, to form a junction with Fayette. Graves received no intelligence of the French fleet (nor they of his approach) till they were discovered Sept, early in the morning of September the 5th, lying at anchor, to the number of 24 fail of the line, juft within Cape Henry, and confequently the mouth of the Chefapeak. The French immediately flipped their cables, and turning out from the anchorage ground, Graffe threw out a fignal for the fhips feverally to form the line as they could come up, without regarding particular stations. The British fleet amounted to nineteen fhips of the line, and one or more of 50 guns. Through various delays the action did not commence till four o'clock, and then was partial, only the van and a part of the British centre being able to come near enough to engage with effect. De Graffe did not aim fo much at a close engagement, as at keeping poffeffion of the Chefapeak, and faving his fhips for that and all its correfpondent purposes. The absence of 1800 of his feamen, and 90 officers, employed in conveying Simons's troops up James river, confirmed him in his avoidance of a hazardous action. Drake with the rear divifion, in confequence of the last tack, becoming the van of the
the British fleet, treated the French van so roughly, that 1781. they bore away, while de Graffe with the centre edged up in order to cover their retreat. The weight of the action fell principally upon the British van, the centre coming in for a more moderate share, and feven fail never being able to get within a proper gun-fhot distance of the French: from these circumftances Drake's divifion fuffered feverely. The engagement ended about fun-fet. The flain on board the British amounted to 90, and the wounded to 230. The Shrewsbury and Intrepid bore more than a proportionable share of this lofs. Capt. Robinson of the former loft a leg, and capt. Molloy of the latter gained great honor, by the gallantry with which he fuccoured and covered the Shrewsbury, when overborne and furrounded by the French. According to the French accounts, no more than 15 ships on each fide were engaged. Admiral Graves used all measures to keep up the line during the night, with the defign of renewing the action in the morning. But he discovered that several ships of the van, and the Montague of the centre, had suffered so much in their masts, that they were in no condition for renewing the action, till the fame were fecured. The Terrible was fo leaky as to keep all her pumps going, and the Ajax was in little better condition. The hoftile fleets continued for five fucceffive days, partly repairing their damages, and partly manoeuvring in fight of each other; and at times. were very near. The British were fo mutilated, that they had not speed enough to attack the French; and these showed no inclination to renew the action, though they had it often in their power, as they generally maintained the wind of Graves. De Graffe fearing left by
1781. fome favorable change of it, the British should get beSept. fore him to the Chesapeak, returned thither on the 10th. The Richmond and Iris, of 32 guns each, which had been fent to cut away the buoys of the French anchors, fell into his hands. His putting to fea, and continuing. there after fighting the British, was probably the saving of de Barras; for during de Graffe's absence *, the other arrived in the bay with eight French line of battle fhips, befide frigates, transports and victuallers, bringing with him the artillery and ftores indifpenfably neceffary for the fiege of York Town. The American officers were in great pain about him, when they heard of Graves's having put to fea, left he should fall in with the latter, be over-powered, and thereby all their hopes of capturing lord Cornwallis be disappointed. De Barras had taken a wide circuitous course to avoid being intercepted; but that very precaution might have proved his ruin, had not de Graffe left the Chefapeak on the 5th, and engaged and manoeuvred with Graves. In the mean time, a fresh gale and a head fea fo increased the damage and danger of the Terrible, that it was found neceffary to evacuate and then burn her. This was done on the 11th, and about nine at night, Graves bore up for the Chesapeak; but upon information's being brought him, that the French fleet were all anchored within the Cape, fo as to block the paffage, it was determined by a council of war, to return to New York, where the fleet arrived the 20th of September.
*See count de Graffe's letter to the chevalier de Luzerne, Sept. 13, and the Baltimore News-paper of Sept. 18, 1781.
One great object of the British force in Virginia was 1781. the establishment of a strong post and place of arms, which by embracing fome good harbour, or commanding one of the great navigable rivers, should equally facilitate future hoftile operations whether by fea or land; and which, befide giving an opportunity for distressing the country, if the reduction of it could not be effected, fhould afford fuch a ftation for the British fleets and cruifers, as would render them entirely mafters of Chefapeak bay. But the utility of fuch a poft was neceffarily founded on the confidence of a constant naval fuperiority, as well as of its being defenfible by a moderate force on the land fide. Upon a personal examination of Portsmouth, lord Cornwallis difcovered it to be totally incompetent to the purpose of the intended poft. Point Comfort was thought to be no lefs defective. York Town lying on the river of that name, and on the narroweft part of the peninfula between York and James rivers, where it is about five miles over; and Gloucester Point on the north and oppofite fide, and projecting fo far into the river, that the distance between both is not much above a mile, afforded the only remaining choice. They entirely commanded the navigation of the river, which is fo deep at this place, as to admit of fhips of great fize and burden: but then they required the whole force that Cornwallis poffeffed to render them effective. His lordship gave the preference to them; and repaired with his army in Auguft to the peninfula. He applied himself with the utmoft diligence to fortify these posts, and to render them equally refpectable by land and water. His whole force amounted to about 7000 excellent troops. Before his lordship had fixed himself and