TEARS OF THE FOOT GUARDS
SCHERZO - STAVE XXXIV
S T A V E
A muddled Mess in Henry Clinton’s eyes, made worse by Politics, Egos and Incompetence. The Home Office fritted away the American command as fighting erupted across the globe. England braced for invasion with few too troops to defend her shores. America, in truth, devolved into a theatre of a Greater War. Strategy must change to meet the new Threat – Spain and Holland come in for the Rebels.
“Withdraw from America altogether,” many in government said. “Let the Americans stew and trounce the French . . . or give Americans what they wish.”
“I will not,” his Majesty said. “I have conceded nearly all. Independence is out of the question. Raise more Loyalist troops to carry more of the fighting. It is, after all, a Civil War.”
And what do they expect of me, Clinton wondered?
“Do what you see fit. Coastal raids. Be opportunistic. You’ve still a fine army. Act.”
An attempt to trap the French at Newport, but come too late; General Pigot, Newport’s British commander, had successfully battled the Continental Army cutting off the town. The French never engaged and remained on their ships. Just so, for Lord Howe’s fleet, a week ahead of Clinton, appeared on the horizon. The French sailed out to meet him and as they jockeyed for the weather gage, a Nor’easter hit. Neither could come to grips. The French retired to Boston for repairs. Lord Howe sailed home. Clinton, disgruntled, returned to New York. Admiral Byron finally arrived. Clinton briefed him on Newport and off he sailed to trap the French in Boston. Clinton, to his despair, sent 8000 to the West Indies as Lord Germaine had instructed. Yet, in early December, he learned the Rebels were marching Burgoyne’s captured army to a winter camp in the Middle Colonies and would pass near Tarry Town. Here, at last, were his additional men. He sent a force to intercept them, but again Late.
Another Clintonian Expedition his officers called it.
He wrote to Germaine demanding more troops and if they not be granted, he be allowed to resign.
The Ministry wouldn’t hear of it: Lord Cornwallis had gone home to nurse his dying wife, the Howes would not take back command, Hugh Percy refused to return, General Jones had put in for his recall, Sir William Erskine had requested the same, and Generals Grey and Pigot had just made London vowing they will never serve again. It must be Clinton, upon whom else can his Majesty rely?
Sir Henry fell into Miasma. The Army too. The Victualer fleet was late; it had sailed for Philadelphia without knowledge of the Army in New York. On New Year’s, it had food for only forty more days and the little dried meat left was “as hard as wood and rusty as the devil”. Forging brought little; they could slaughter cattle and eat well for a day, but with no salt and in the mildest winter in Memory, the meat would not freeze and rotted in the barns. Packs roamed the street – soldiers, women, children. Court-martials abound: Private So-in-So of the 44th Regiment was returning from the guard and found his wife Drunk behind the barracks on the naked lap of his file mate with her skirts over her head; said Private pulled his bayonet and stabbed his wife through the breast and stabbed the file mate through the throat as the weight of her Body pinned him to the Ground. Mrs. So-in-So of the 63rd to be lashed and drummed out of the regiment for the continued Illegal operation of a mobile dram shop in which 2 Private Men had died of poisoning and 10 had gone Blind. Privates So-in-So’s of the 55th sentenced to be hanged for murder of a local man and rape of his wife and daughter while plundering their farmhouse. And so it went.
When Victualers arrived, what Celebration. They unloaded on the beach below Utrecht, the Quartermaster Corps with a daunting task of distribution, the army cantoned across one hundred miles: Guards in Manhattan, Grenadiers in Newtown, Light Infantry in the Hamptons, and the Rest in between so not to hinder any particular town. Those in New York barracked in churches, while those in the countryside, in Log-Hut Towns. Officers in Private Residences away from their Men – Men unsupervised and left to Mischief.