Page images
PDF
EPUB

ary attack upon Savannah in October, 1779. Count D'Estaing was in the vicinity with a French fleet and three thousand troops, and Lincoln joined the latter with about one thousand men, with the purpose of seeking to regain the city.

Fortunately for Prevost, he was reinforced and felt strong enough to attempt a defence of the place, but the allied army of Americans and French began a regular siege, with strong hopes of success. As it proved, however, the cannonade failed to produce the effect desired and, as the Count could not stay long on the coast, an assault was determined upon.

This took place in the early morning of October 9th, D'Estaing and Lincoln leading their united troops. A second column led by Count Dillon missed its route in the darkness, and the intended co-operation failed. The allies rushed forward through a terrible fire from the enemy, forcing the abatis and planting two standards on the parapet, but here they met the garrison massed in overpowering force and were driven back with heavy loss. In this unsuccessful attack the French lost seven hundred, the Americans two hundred and forty men. Among the slain was the brave Polish soldier, Count Pulaski.

The capture of Savannah proving hopeless, Lincoln sought to put Charleston in a state of defence, though Congress failed to send him all the reinforcements and supplies he demanded. General Clinton appeared with a fleet and army from New York in February, 1780, landed a powerful force, and on the 30th of March encamped before the American lines.

A successful defence of the city, in view of the great superiority of the British forces, seemed impossible, but Lincoln decided to make the attempt, having what

[graphic][merged small]

he thought good hopes of receiving reinforcements. These did not come and he was obliged to defend himself with inadequate forces. The enemy began a siege, and on the ioth of April summoned the garrison to an unconditional surrender. This was promptly refused and both sides opened a heavy cannonade, which was continued till May II. By this time the enemy had completed his third parallel and the situation of the defenders had become hopeless. A second demand for surrender was made and Lincoln felt obliged to capitulate.

General Lincoln's career was an unfortunate one. Obliged to contend with insufficient forces against a strong position at Savannah and an overwhelming enemy at Charleston, failure and defeat attended his efforts, but he retained the confidence of those in authority and the esteem of the army, and was looked upon as a brave and able soldier.

Exchanged in the spring of 1781, he joined Washington on the Hudson, and took an active part in the siege of Yorktown and the final British defeat. In the articles of capitulation, the British were given the same terms as they had given the Americans at Charleston, and Lincoln was selected by Washington to receive the sword of Cornwallis as a recompense for having had to give up his own.

With the remainder of General Lincoln's career we must deal very briefly. He served the Government as Secretary of War from 1781 to 1783, and in 1787 was selected to command against what was known as the Shay Rebellion in Massachusetts. This he speedily put down, almost without bloodshed. He acted afterwards in several public positions, and died in his native town of Hingham, May 9, 1810.

It may be of interest to complete this story with an anecdote of an amusing character in which General Lincoln was incidentally concerned. While at Purysburg, on the Savannah River, a soldier named Fickling, who had several times attempted to desert, was sentenced to be hanged. As it happened, the rope broke twice and a cry for mercy was raised in the ranks. The general being applied to said, “Let him run. I thought he looked like a scape-gallows." He gave orders that the fellow should be drummed out of camp and threatened with death if he ever attempted to return.

Meanwhile the surgeon-general had sought his quarters, under the impression that Fickling was quietly reposing in his grave. Midnight found him busily writing, when, hearing a footstep, he looked up and saw before him the miserable wretch whom he supposed dead and buried. He sprang up hastily in alarm, thinking that a spectre stood before him.

Whence come you? What do you want with me?" he ejaculated. “Were you not hanged this morning?”

Yes,” said the man in a hollow voice, “I am the poor wretch that was hanged.”

Keep your distance! Tell me what brings you here,” cried the scared surgeon.

I am here to beg for food. I am no ghost, doctor. The rope broke twice and the general pardoned me."

.“Oh, if that is the case," said the relieved surgeon, “ eat and be welcome; but the next time you are hanged do not intrude into the apartment of one who has every right to suppose you an inmate of the tomb."

« PreviousContinue »