American War of Independence Campaign - The Story - Part III
Turn 9 (25th to 27th May)
Howe, although he would never admit it publicly, was rattled by the events at Cormacks Creek. He immediately ordered Von Knyphausen to return to New York. The Americans had scored a moral victory, and Howe's confidence had suffered as a result. What would Washington do - press onto New York and lay siege?
Washington himself was concerned about the battle, despite fielding his main field army, in fortifications, the British had forced him from the field, and only the arrival of LaFayette on the British flank had saved the day.
The battle had confirmed to Washington, that he could not beat the British in open battle, worse still, his main force was split by the British, LaFayette to the north, Washington and Lee to the south with Von Knyphausen in between.
Nervously, Washington waited for the inevitable British attack.
Meanwhile, Arbuthnot was within 3 days of Yorktown, and the Iroquois leader (Brant), and his 750 braves, demonstrated outside Philadelphia, causing minor panic to its citizens, protected by Gates and his Brigade of regulars. The article appearing in the Yorktown Times about Indian atrocities did not help matters.
To the utter astonishment of Washington, Von Knyphausen did not press home an attack on the fractured American army, but marched toward New York, leaving the battlefield, and fortifications intact.
At sea, Admiral Graves with his 98 Gun Barfluer, and three 74's dispatched the small frigate Falmouth to scout to the south. He didn't know that he was on a direct course to intercept Des-touches who was sailing north to bombard New York.
Several stories began appearing in the Yorktown Times - rumour was the editor was writing them whilst a British musket was pointed in his direction
Turn 10 (28th to 30th May)
Knyphausen closed to the safety of New York, and Arbuthnot arrived in Yorktown, drunken sailors from the fleet clashed with the local militia (as was reported in the Yorktown Times). Arbuthnot began loading three battalions of troops onto his vessels and readied for the return trip to New York.
Only a week or so to the east of the Chesapeake, and Yorktown, and bound for Baltimore, was De Grasse with his fleet of 110 gun Ville de Paris, 80 gun Langeudoc, three 74's and a frigate, escorting Rochambeau's 5,000 troops.
There was a more than even chance that Arbuthnot could be caught by De Grasse, either in Yorktown harbour, or sailing in the Chesapeake.
Washington frantically tried to rejoin with LaFayette. He was also confused by the apparent withdrawal of the British. The spectre of a third British force haunted his thoughts....
Should he return to Philadelphia? What was Howe up to?
Turn 11 (31st May to 2nd June)
A quiet turn, Washington and LaFayette marched toward each other, Knyphausen moved into New York. De Grasse sailed passed Yorktown, noting three or four sail in the harbour, but passed up the chance of attack. He desired to land Rochambeau and his troops as soon as possible.
Arbuthnot breathed a sigh of relief. He continued to load the troops.
The Falmouth signalled Graves that she sighted three sail to the south.
Battle off New York
This was the first naval battle of the campaign. Des-touches, with his two 74's and 36 gun Frigate (Romulus) were bound for New York with the intention of bombarding the city. Graves had fortuitously intersected his course and a long distance pursuit began.
Graves outmatched Des-touches in strength by two to one, but his fleet was slower than the French, and a frustrating encounter, with gunnery at long range ensued. The only major damage was to the French Frigate who lost the top of her mainmast.
Des-touches sailed south, with Graves in pursuit.
Graves was a patient man, and accepted frustration of a stern pursuit, he would chase Des-touches all the way to the Chesapeake if he needed to. He didn't know that De Grasse had arrived in America, and this knowledge may have changed his strategic decision.
Turn 12 (3rd to 5th June)
The Iroquois moved north away from Philadelphia toward New York. Washington finally joined with LaFayette and pondered his next move.
Arbuthnot sailed as soon as he could from Yorktown, fearing an imminent return of De Grasse.
Cornwallis was so concerned by the weakness and vulnerability of his position that he took the unprecedented step of sending a forthright letter to Howe:
The requested regiments are now with Arbuthnot who sailed Yorktown this morning bound for New York. I have raised, as already informed a Brigade of Militia.
I confess to feeling exposed and understrength in my current position without my key troops.
Please could your Lordship give some serious consideration to re-enforcement, or removal from Yorktown.
My concern has increased with the sighting of seven French sail heading along the Chesapeake toward Baltimore 31st to 2nd June.
There are also reports of a French frigate stationed outside Yorktown. Arbuthnot will no doubt have to take consideration about this as he leaves harbour.
Your obedient servant
Graves continued in his dogged pursuit of Des-touches.
An American militia Brigade under the command of General Stephen departed Philadelphia, moving north, a week behind the Iroquois.
Both Washington and Howe paused.
Graves sailed south hoping to catch Destouches
To be continued.......