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GENERAL GREENE'S FAMOUS RETREAT
 THE rain was pouring pitilessly from the skies. The wind blew chill from the north. The
country was soaked with the falling flood, dark rain-clouds swept across the heavens, and
a dreary mist shut out all the distant view. In the midst of this cheerless scene a
solitary horseman stood on a lonely roadside, with his military cape drawn closely up, and
his horse's head drooping as if the poor beast was utterly weary of the situation. In
truth, they had kept watch and ward there for hours, and night was near at hand, the weary
watcher still looking southward with an anxiety that seemed fast growing into hopeless
At times, as he waited, a faint, far-off, booming sound was heard, which caused the lonely
cavalier to lift his head and listen intently. It might have been the sound of cannon, it
might have been distant thunder, but whatever it was, his anxiety seemed steadily to
The day darkened into night, and hour by hour night crept on until midnight came and
passed, yet the lone watcher waited still, his horse beside him, the gloom around him, the
rain still plashing on the sodden road. It was a wearing vigil, and only
 a critical need could have kept him there through those slow and dreary hours of gloom.
At length he sharply lifted his head and listened more intently than before. It was not
the dull and distant boom this time, but a nearer sound that grew momentarily more
distinct, the thud, it seemed, of a horse's hoofs. In a few minutes more a horseman rode
into the narrow circle of view.
"Is that you, sergeant?" asked the watcher. "Yes, sir," answered the other, with an
instinctive military salute.
"What news? I have been waiting here for hours for the militia, and not a man has come. I
trust there is nothing wrong."
"Everything is wrong," answered the new-comer. "Davidson is dead and the militia are
scattered to the winds. Cornwallis is over the Catawba and is in camp five miles this side
of the river."
"You bring bad news," said the listener, with a look of agitation. "Davidson dead and his
men dispersed! That is bad enough. And Morgan?"
"I know nothing about him."
Sad of heart, the questioner mounted his impatient steed and rode disconsolately away
along the muddy road. He was no less a person than General Greene, the newly-appointed
commander of the American forces in the South, and the tidings he had just heard had
disarranged all his plans. With the militia on whose aid he had depended scattered in
flight, and no sign of others coming, his hope of facing Cornwallis in the field was gone,
and he was
 a heavy-hearted man when he rode at length into the North Carolina town of Salisbury and
dismounted at the door of Steele's tavern, the house of entertainment in that place. As he
entered the reception-room of the hotel, stiff and weary from his long vigil, he was met
by Dr. Read, a friend.
"What! alone, General?" exclaimed Read.
"Yes; tired, hungry, alone, and penniless."
The fate of the patriot cause in the South seemed to lie in those hopeless words. Mrs.
Steele, the landlady, heard them, and made all haste to prepare a bountiful supper for her
late guest, who sat seeking to dry himself before the blazing fire. As quickly as possible
a smoking hot supper was on the table before him, and as he sat enjoying it with a craving
appetite, Mrs. Steele again entered the room.
Closing the door carefully behind her, she advanced with a look of sympathy on her face,
and drew her hands from under her apron, each of them holding a small bag of silver coin.
"Take these, general," she said. "You need them, and I can do without them."
A look of hope beamed on Greene's face as he heard these words. With a spirit like this in
the women of the country, he felt that no man should despair. Rising with a sudden
impulse, he walked to where a portrait of George III. hung over the fireplace, remaining
from the old ante-war time. He turned the face of this to the wall and wrote these words
on the back: "Hide thy face, George, and blush."
 It is said that this portrait was still hanging in the same place not many years ago, with
Greene's writing yet legible upon it, and possibly it may be there still. As for Mrs.
Steele, she had proved herself a patriot woman, of the type of Mrs. Motte, who furnished
Marion with arrows for the burning of her own house when it was occupied by a party of
British soldiers whom he could not dislodge. And they two were far from alone in the list
of patriot women in the South.
The incident in General Greene's career above given has become famous. And connected with
it is the skilful military movement by which he restored the American cause in the South,
which had been nearly lost by the disastrous defeat of General Gates. This celebrated
example of strategy has often been described, but is worth telling again.
Lord Cornwallis, the most active of the British commanders in the war of American
Independence, had brought South Carolina and Georgia under his control, and was marching
north with the expectation of soon bringing North Carolina into subjection, and following
up his success with the conquest of Virginia. This accomplished, he would have the whole
South subdued. But in some respects he reckoned without his host. He had now such men as
Greene and Morgan in his front, Marion and Sumter in his rear, and his task was not likely
to prove an easy one.
As for Morgan, he sent the rough-rider Tarleton to deal with him, fancying that the noted
 who had won undying fame in the North, would now meet fate in the face, and perhaps be
captured, with all his men. But Morgan had a word to say about that, as was proved on the
17th of January, 1781, when he met Tarleton at the Cowpens, a place about five miles south
of the North Carolina line.
Tarleton had the strongest and best appointed force, and Morgan, many of whose men were
untried militia, seemed in imminent danger, especially when the men of the Maryland line
began to retreat, and the British, thinking the day their own, pressed upon them with
exultant shouts. But to their surprise the bold Marylanders suddenly halted, turned, and
greeted their pursuers with a destructive volley. At the same time the Virginia riflemen,
who had been posted on the wings, closed in on both flanks of the British and poured a
shower of bullets into their ranks. The British were stunned by this abrupt change in the
situation, and when the Maryland line charged upon them with levelled bayonets they broke
and fled in dismay.
Colonel Washington commanded the small cavalry force, so far held in reserve and unseen.
This compact body of troopers now charged on the British cavalry, more than three times
their numbers, and quickly put them to flight. Tarleton himself made a narrow escape, for
he received a wound from Washington's sword in the hot pursuit. So utter was the rout of
the British that they were pursued for twenty miles, and lost more than three hundred of
their number in killed and wounded and six
 hundred in prisoners, with many horses, wagons, muskets, and cannon. Tarleton's abundant
baggage was burned by his own order to save it from capture. In this signal victory Morgan
lost only ten men killed and sixty wounded.
And now began that famous retreat, which was of more advantage to the Americans than a
victory. Morgan, knowing well that Cornwallis would soon be after him to retrieve the
disaster at the Cowpens, hastened with his prisoners and spoils across the Catawba.
Cornwallis, furious at his defeat and eager to move rapidly in pursuit, set fire to all
his baggage and wagons except those absolutely needed, thus turning his army into light
troops at the expense of the greater part of its food-supply and munitions.
But when he reached the Catawba, he found it so swollen with the rains that he was forced
to halt on its banks while Morgan continued his march. Meanwhile, General Greene was
making earnest efforts to collect a force of militia, directing all those who came in to
meet at a certain point. Such was the situation on the 1st of February when Greene waited
for weary hours at the place fixed upon for the militia to assemble, only to learn that
Cornwallis had forced the passage of the river, dispersing the North Carolina militia left
to guard the ford, and killing General Davidson, their commander. He had certainly
abundant reason for depression on that wet and dreary night when he rode alone into
 The Catawba crossed, the next stream of importance was the Yadkin. Hither Morgan marched
in all haste, crossing the stream on the 2nd and 3rd of February, and at once securing all
boats. The rains began to fall again before his men were fairly over, and soon the stream
was swelling with the mountain floods. When Cornwallis reached its banks it was swollen
high and running madly, and it was the 7th of February before he was able to cross. It
seemed, indeed, as if Providence had come to the aid of the Americans, lowering the rains
for them and raising them for their foes.
Meanwhile, the two divisions of the American army were marching on converging lines, and
on the 9th the forces under Greene and Morgan made a junction at Guilford Court-House,
Cornwallis being then at Salem, twenty-five miles distant. A battle was fought at this
place a month later, but just then the force under Greene's command was too small to risk
a fight. A defeat at that time might have proved fatal to the cause of the South. Nothing
remained but to continue the retreat across the State to the border of Virginia, and there
put the Dan River between him and his foe.
To cover the route of his retreat from the enemy, Greene detached General Williams with
the flower of his troops to act as a light corps, watch and impede Cornwallis and strive
to lead him towards Dix's ferry on the Dan, while the crossing would be made twenty miles
It was a terrible march which the poor patriots
 made during the next four days. Without tents, with thin and ragged clothes, most of them
without shoes, "many hundreds of the soldiers tracking the ground with their bloody feet,"
they retreated at the rate of seventeen miles a day along barely passable roads, the
wagon-wheels sinking deep in the mud, and every creek swollen with the rains. In these
four days of anxiety Greene slept barely four hours, watching every detail with a vigilant
eye, which nothing escaped. On the 14th they reached the ford, hurrying the wagons across
and then the troops, and before nightfall Greene was able to write that "all his troops
were over and the stage was clear."
General Williams had aided him ably in this critical march, keeping just beyond reach of
Cornwallis, and deceiving him for a day or two as to the intention of the Americans. When
the British general discovered how he had been deceived, he got rid of more of his baggage
by the easy method of fire, and chased Williams across the State at the speed of thirty
miles a day. But the alert Americans marched forty miles a day and reached the fords of
the Dan just as the last of Greene's men had crossed. That night the rear guard crossed
the stream, and when Cornwallis reached its banks, on the morning of the 15th, to his deep
chagrin he found all the Americans safe on the Virginia side and ready to contest the
crossing if he should seek to continue the pursuit.
That famous march of two hundred miles, from
 the south side of the Catawba to the north side of the Dan, in which the whole State of
North Carolina was crossed by the ragged and largely shoeless army, was the salvation of
the Southern States. In Greene's camp there was only joy and congratulation. Little did
the soldiers heed their tattered garments, their shoeless feet, their lack of blankets and
of regular food, in their pride at having outwitted the British army and fulfilled their
duty to their country. With renewed courage they were ready to cross the Dan again and
attack Cornwallis and his men. Washington wrote to General Greene, applauding him highly
for his skilful feat, and even a British historian gave him great praise and credit for
his skill in strategy.
Shall we tell in a few words the outcome of this fine feat? Cornwallis had been drawn so
far from his base of supplies, and had burned so much of his war-material, that he found
himself in an ugly quandary. On his return march Greene became the pursuer, harassing him
at every step. When Guilford Court-House was reached again Greene felt strong enough to
fight, and though Cornwallis held the field at the end of the battle he was left in such a
sorry plight that he was forced to retreat to Wilmington and leave South Carolina
uncovered. Here it did not take Greene long, with the aid of such valiant partisans as
Marion, Sumter, and Lee, to shut the British up in Charleston and win back the State.
Cornwallis, on the other hand, concluded to try
 his fortune in Virginia, where there seemed to be a fine chance for fighting and conquest.
But he was not long there before he found himself shut up in Yorktown like a rat in a
trap, with Washington and his forces in front and the French fleet in the rear. His
surrender, soon after, not only freed the South from its foes, but cured George III. of
any further desire to put down the rebels in America.