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some other distinguished Frenchmen were present in the gallery of Congress. As the clerk was opening Sullivan's letter, Greene, who suspected what it contained, sent a slip of paper to the president of Congress on which was written,
"Don't let that letter be read until you have looked it over.”
The president bade the clerk in a whisper not to read it, other business came up, and when the president at length read the offensive missive he decided at once that it must be suppressed. Those few words perhaps saved to America the aid of the French, for, if the letter accusing him had been made public, D'Estaing might have sailed away with his fleet.
A period of rest followed the unlucky expedition to Newport, and during this time of quiet Greene's enemies assailed him, as Washington's had assailed him during the winter at Valley Forge. He was accused of using his office as quartermaster for his own benefit and Congress called him to account. Greene indignantly denied the slanders, proved that the charges against him were false, and then resigned his post as quartermaster.
In June, 1780, Washington moved north to protect West Point, which the British seemed on the point of attacking, and left Greene on duty at Springfield, New Jersey. Clinton, in command at New York, was apprised of these movements, and when Washington was well on his way, the British, five thousand strong, suddenly turned and marched on Greene's small force, thirteen hundred in all. But he placed these in such excellent positions and inspired them with such soldierly zeal that the assailing force was foiled and obliged to march back again.
The next affair in which he was engaged had to do with Benedict Arnold's treasonable attempt to deliver West Point to the British. Greene was temporarily in command of the army while Washington had gone to Hartford to consult with the French generals. Greene had his spies in New York and through them he discovered that some movement seemed on foot. He sent word to Washington, but advised keeping the information quiet until the secret revealed itself.
They had not long to wait. In a few days afterwards André was captured and the treason revealed. Greene presided over the court-martial by which André was tried and signed the death-warrant. The sentence was severer than he liked, but he felt that it was necessary. He was then given the command of West Point. We may be sure that the British did not approach him with treasonable offers.
While these affairs were taking place in the North, the active seat of war had been transferred to the South, severe fighting had been taking place in Georgia and the Carolinas and the British had overrun that section of the country until it all lay under their control. General Gates, who had had the good fortune to command the army to which Burgoyne surrendered, had been sent to the Carolinas, but handled the army there so badly that it suffered a complete defeat at Camden, South Carolina, the commander and all his troops being dispersed. The incompetent Gates was in consequence withdrawn from his command and in October, 1780, Greene was sent south to take charge of the disorganized and scattered forces. It was his first independent command, and in it he was to gain a fame second only to that of Washington himself.
General Greene had a task before him that would have discouraged any man lacking in energy and resolution. The army, such as it was, wanted everything an army should have had. After the battle of Camden there was little left that could be called a military force, it being so utterly shattered that Gates himself was seen soon after the battle eighty miles from the battlefield and without a soldier. The scattered forces Greene found lacked discipline, clothing, arms, and spirit. Bad handling and defeat had taken the very life out of them, and their new general had a hard task in bringing them together and supplying them with the necessaries of life.
Congress had no money to give him for supplies, the term of service of most of the men was at an end, and the new forces he gathered were mostly raw militia, who knew nothing of drill or discipline and had never seen a gun fired on a battle-field. With this sorry shadow of an army General Greene set out to face the old and able troops under Cornwallis.
The story is told that, on one occasion during the campaign, Greene reached a tavern at Salisbury, North Carolina, after midnight, wet to the skin with the heavy rain. Steele, the landlord, who knew him, looked at him with surprise, and asked if he was alone.
“Yes," he said, in a disconsolate tone, "tired, hungry, alone, and penniless."
Mrs. Steele, who heard him, hastened to set before him a smoking hot meal. Then she drew from under her apron two bags of silver and held them out to her guest, saying, “Take these: you need them and we can do without them."
It was this spirit in the women of the Carolinas
that greatly helped the men in those times of stress and strain.
Greene gradually got together an army of about two thousand men, regulars and militia, half clad and half supplied. With these he faced the veterans of Cornwallis. With him were three excellent officers, Daniel Morgan, the famous rifleman, William Washington, cousin to the commander-in-chief, and Henry Lee, the daring “Light Horse Harry."
The first battle was fought on January 17, 1781, at Cowpens, South Carolina, where Morgan, with nine hundred men, met a larger force under the notorious Colonel Tarleton, and defeated them so completely that they were almost destroyed. Morgan's loss was
When the news of this victory reached Greene and his army it filled them with joy and hope. But Cornwallis was now hastily advancing with his whole army, much larger and better equipped than that of Greene, who was too weak to meet him. Morgan hastened to join him, crossing the Catawba River just as Cornwallis appeared on the other side. That night a heavy rain swelled the stream and the British could not cross it for three days. It was a happy meeting when Greene and Morgan came together. Northward they marched, reaching and crossing the Yadkin. When Cornwallis came to this stream he was again vexed to find it swollen with rain. Still the two armies sped northward till the forks of the Dan River were reached. Again Greene was first and crossed over to Virginia soil, holding the fords so firmly that Cornwallis dared not follow him.
By this masterly retreat he had drawn the British commander two hundred miles from his base and baffled him at every point. Washington wrote him when he heard of it, “ your retreat before Cornwallis is highly applauded by all ranks.”
Reinforcements reaching him, Greene soon felt strong enough to advance and at every point to harass the retreating British. When Guilford Court-House was reached the position of the invaders was so critical that Cornwallis was forced to turn and fight. Greene met him boldly. The militia were soon broken and fled, but the Continental regulars held their own with much courage. In the end they were driven back, but the British had been so roughly handled that they had no heart to pursue these unbroken troops. It was a defeat for Greene, but it had all the effect of a victory. Cornwallis found his army so cut up that it was in no shape for a further fight, supplies were sadly needed, and he retreated to Wilmington, North Carolina, which he reached in very bad plight.
South Carolina was abandoned in the retreat. Cornwallis never returned there, but made his way north into Virginia, where he met his fate at Yorktown. Greene pursued him for some distance towards Wilmington, then turned and made a march two hundred miles long into South Carolina. Here he was joined by the active partisan leaders, Sumter, Marion, and Pickins, and encamped at Hobkirk's Hill, near Camden, where Lord Rawdon was in command.
Rawdon attacked and defeated him on April 25, but it was another defeat that had the effect of a victory, and Rawdon found Camden an unsafe place to hold. Greene went on taking post after post from the British, and on September 8 met the forces under Rawdon again at Eutaw Springs. Here a sharp battle