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´╗┐Title: A sketch of the life and services of Gen. Otho Holland Williams - Read before the Maryland historical society, on Thursday - evening, March 6, 1851
Author: Tiffany, Osmond, 1823-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A sketch of the life and services of Gen. Otho Holland Williams - Read before the Maryland historical society, on Thursday - evening, March 6, 1851" ***

produced from images generously made available by The
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  Gen. Otho Holland Williams,


  Maryland Historical Society,









The events of the American Revolution are so nearly connected with our
own times, that the actors in that great struggle seem yet to be to us
as living men. We open the portal of the past century, and are with
those who once like ourselves, breathed and thought, and who now, lie
not silent or forgotten in the tomb.

Their deeds live in our memory; their examples are glorious as of old:
their words of hope in dark hours, and of their joy in success, still
burn before us:--they have become the great historians of their age.
Among this band of gallant men, who gave themselves with all their soul
to liberty, I could name none of our native State, who displayed a more
patient, disinterested, and zealous spirit, than the pure and chivalrous
Otho Holland Williams.

He was born in the county of Prince George's, in March, 1749. His
parentage was highly respectable, his ancestors emigrating from Wales,
and he being of the second generation after their settlement in

Had his days been wholly passed in the enjoyment of peace, his influence
would not have been lost. He would still have left to his friends the
same invaluable legacy of a good name, but it was his fortune to deserve
and gain a wider celebrity. He was his father's oldest son, and in the
year succeeding his birth, his home was changed to the mouth of the
Conococheague Creek, in Frederick, near Washington county. In that
beautiful region of country, watered by the stream that lends its name
to the valley, were spent the few short years of his boyhood. There he
learned to love the aspect of fields and groves, the memory of which
was his solace long after, in many dark and trying hours, for we find in
the midst of the toils of the camp, that his spirit yearns for rural
peace and solitude. The love of nature is ever ennobling; it perhaps
contributed to form the character of the future hero.

It is a favorite theme with biographers to dwell on parental precepts,
especially on those of the mother. We have no anecdotes of this period,
but we may yield to a happy idea, and imagine young Williams listening
to the accents of a mother's lip, with the true deference which he
always paid to goodness. We may see him, among his little playmates on
his father's farm, already showing those traits of character, which
guided him in the path to honor: that love of truth, that physical and
moral courage, which won in time the confidence of his great
commander-in-chief, who had himself early shone in the same qualities.
We may picture him crossing the fields, at early morning hours, to the
rustic school, there to recite the simple lesson, and to be instructed
in his mother tongue, which he afterwards used with the grace of a
scholar. But the sunshine of his boyhood was soon clouded--his father,
Joseph Williams, died, leaving but a small property to seven children;
and Otho at the age of thirteen, was thrown upon his own exertions. He
was placed with his brother-in-law, Mr. Ross, in the Clerk's Office of
Frederick county. Here he remained several years, diligently occupied in
studying the duties of the bureau, and when he was duly qualified, took
charge of it himself, for a while, until removed to a similar situation
in Baltimore. It was in this vocation that he acquired those habits of
regularity and method, which were so signally manifested when called to
situations of the highest trust.

His appearance at this time, when about eighteen years of age, is thus
described by his friend and fellow-soldier, Gen. Samuel Smith: "He was,"
says the writer, "about six feet high, elegantly formed; his whole
appearance and conduct much beyond his years; his manner, such as made
friends of all who knew him."

Thus does he appear before us, while to use Burke's apt expression, he
was yet in the gristle, and had not hardened into the bone of manhood.
But he was already a man in his high sense of honor, his unsullied
integrity, and the polish of his address: if he had not won laurels, he
had acquired the esteem of the worthy.

Thus endowed, we learn that he entered into commercial life, in
Fredericktown, shortly before the commencement of the American
Revolution. There is little doubt, that had this course been pursued, it
would have been crowned with eminent success, for he afterwards united,
to an extraordinary degree, military genius with scientific business
habits. But when the clouds, which had so long been gathering over the
sun of peace, burst at last, all thought of pursuing quiet trade was
abandoned. The spirit that prompted Putnam to reverse the Scriptural
promise, and beat the plough-share into the sword, kindled kindred
feelings in the breast of Williams. A company was formed in
Fredericktown, and under the command of Capt. Price, marched for Boston.
Williams might easily have obtained the captaincy, but with the modesty
which always kept pace with his success, he declined to press a claim to
command, saying to the committee, that though ambitious to lead, he was
willing to serve. This spirit uniformly attended him--he deferred
cheerfully to authority himself, and exacted obedience from those whom
he commanded. He was a strict disciplinarian, as all good officers are,
but governed his own conduct by his rigid adherence to the rules of
superiors. In reporting an officer to Gen. Greene, for disobedience, he
says: "When orders are received with contempt, and rejected with
insolence, examples are requisite to re-establish subordination, the
basis of discipline."

But, before attempting to trace the career of the soldier, it will be by
no means uninteresting, or uninstructive, to depict the man. His letters
to his family and friends, are true mirrors in which he was reflected,
and we cannot more fully present him, than by a few sentences from his
correspondence. Indeed, I have found his letters so graphic and elegant
in style, so illustrative of any subject on which they touch, that I
have made large extracts, believing that they would be of much greater
historic value, concerning the scenes and actions of which they treat,
than any description of mine. His views of life were most cheerful and
happy--he writes to his brother thus:

"I have seen a great variety of life, and profess most seriously, that
there is more true felicity to be found in a bare competence and
domestic industry, than in any other circumstances. My observations on
others confirm this opinion, and I wish to have an opportunity of
experiencing the satisfaction which I am sure is to be found in rural
employments. We should not hope to be wealthy, or fear to be poor; we
never shall want; and whoever considers the true source of his
happiness, will find it in a very great degree, arising from a delicate
concern for those dependent upon him, useful employments, and the
approbation of his friends."

He was ambitious, but his ambition never led him astray: and through all
circumstances of life, he was governed by a deeply religious faith. His
own words precisely express his feelings: "It would give me pain, if the
world should believe any person, with the same advantages, may do more
than I may. Fortune does a great deal in all military adventures, and,
therefore, I am not to say whether this reproach will come upon me or
not. But you may rely upon it, my good friend, discretion and fortitude
shall govern my conduct; and in the interim, I commit myself to that
Power whose eye is over all his works, and by whose goodness I have been
preserved in numerous perils."

We do not learn that Williams was engaged in any very noted service
until the following year, but he acquired the confidence and esteem of
his superiors--among others Gen. Gates, whose friendship often
professed, was afterwards proven. In 1776 he was promoted to the rank of
Major, in a rifle regiment formed from Maryland and Virginia troops, and
we learn that his first trial in actual battle, occurred at the fall of
Fort Washington, on the Hudson River. He was stationed in a wood with
his troops, in advance of the Fort, and was attacked by the Hessian
allies. They were several times repulsed with heavy loss, but being
reinforced, they succeeded in beating back Williams and his company into
the Fort, where all were eventually taken prisoners. The enemy
accomplished this by reinforcements, as has been already mentioned, and
from the unfortunate condition of the rifles of the attacked party. By
long continued and incessant fire, these had become so foul as to be
nearly useless, and Williams reluctantly retreated at the last moment,
only to delay capture for a short period. The feelings of an officer,
when obliged to yield his sword, and suffer an imprisonment, he knows
not how long or cruel it may be, must be sufficiently agonizing to feel
that utter inactivity is forced upon him, at the very instant that his
country is most in need of the services he would cheerfully render. In
the last attack of the Hessians, Williams received a severe and
dangerous shot wound in the groin, though he entirely recovered from its
effects in due time. His career was suddenly checked, and he was doomed
to languish fifteen months, before he again saw the sun shine on his
freedom. The first half of his captivity, though painful enough to an
ardent patriot, was not total eclipse.

He was placed on Long Island on parole, and among many annoyances, there
occurred some incidents which cheered him in captivity. He formed the
acquaintance of Major Ackland, a British officer, and they became firm
friends. The elegant person, and finished manners of Williams, procured
him access to circles as a gentleman, which would have closed to him
solely as a prisoner; and under the guidance of Ackland, visiting the
opposite city of New York, he sometimes appeared in the fashionable
houses, which reversing the present order, were then measured on the
scale of style, by proximity to the battery.

It is related that on one occasion, after Williams had been dining with
Lady Ackland, his good friend the Major, and he, sallied forth for a
ball, and that although the company were much struck with the elegant
figures and demeanor of the two friends, and although the Briton made
all effort to introduce the captive, the gentlemen of the party could
not forget the enemy to welcome the stranger, and the ladies treated him
with extreme coldness. Ackland finding that all his efforts were vain,
took Williams by the arm and led him from the room, saying, "Come, this
company is too exclusive for us." This was not the only occasion on
which Major Ackland proved his friendship and sympathy for Americans.

His fate was a melancholy one, and such as he little deserved. After
the war of the Revolution, and when he had returned to his own country,
on the occasion of a dinner, the valor of American soldiers became the
subject of conversation. On their merit being denied, Ackland defended
them, and in the warmth of argument with a brother officer, to some
assertion, replied that he lied. The insult was of course unpardonable,
and could only be settled by a duel, in which he was shot dead.

During the period of Williams' confinement on Long Island, it was the
pleasure of some of the British officers to stroll among the American
prisoners, and tauntingly ask them in what trade they had been employed.
When Williams was asked this impertinent question by a titled officer,
he replied, that he had been bred in that situation which had taught him
to rebuke and punish insolence, and that the questioner would have ample
proof of his apprenticeship on a repetition of his offence. The noble
did not attempt it, or demand satisfaction for the contempt with which
he had been treated, but it is probable, that through his
instrumentality, Williams was accused of carrying on a secret
correspondence with Washington. There was, indeed, some apparent
foundation for suspicion in Williams' superior ability, and from the
respect paid to him by his fellow-prisoners. He was seized, and without
one word of defence on his part being listened to, without being
suffered to confront his accusers, he was suddenly removed to the
provost jail in New York.

Here he was delivered to the tender mercies of harsh turnkeys, and
confined in a room about sixteen feet square that was seldom visited by
the breath of heaven, and always remaining in a state of loathsome
filth. Among other prisoners, was the celebrated Ethan Allen, and he
shared the miserable den, in which Williams was confined. Their only
visitors were wretches who came to glut their brutal curiosity, and to
torture their victims with loud sentiments of delight in the
anticipation of seeing them hanged. Letters complaining of such cruel
treatment were repeatedly but vainly addressed to the commandant of New
York, and they thus suffered for seven or eight months.

Their health was much impaired, for their food was of the vilest sort,
and scarce enough to keep soul and body together, and to add to these
discomforts, the anxiety that preyed upon their minds, was terrible in
the extreme. The naturally fine constitution of Williams was much
impaired, and he never recovered entirely from the effects of his
imprisonment. But he is still full of hope, to which, though not written
at the time of his incarceration, his own words to one of his family
thus bear witness: "I flatter myself I shall still see a day, a
prosperous day, when we shall all be assembled in some agreeable spot in
the neighborhood of Hagerstown, where we shall mutually embrace each
other, with joy and tenderness, and cheerfully recount the tedious hours
which the distresses of our country oblige us to pass in absence, and
when the dangers that are passed will serve as a subject for an evening
tale." But finally, the doors of his prison-house were thrown asunder
and he was free.

After the surrender of Burgoyne, Gen. Gates proved his friendship by
stipulating positively for Williams' release, and he was exchanged for
his old friend Major Ackland, who had been taken prisoner with the
British army. Gen. Phillips, the commandant of New York, anxious to
offer some excuse for the rigor with which Williams had been treated,
asked him to dine with him, but the invitation was properly rejected.
During his captivity his native State had not been unmindful of him, he
had been appointed to the command of the 6th regiment of the Maryland
line, and he joined the army in New Jersey, shortly before the battle of
Monmouth, fought in June, 1778. The result of this engagement is well
known: it gave great encouragement to the American troops, and Col.
Williams has left a little description of the joy with which the
following anniversary of Independence was celebrated, a joy enhanced by
the favorable issue of the late conflict, and moreover, is one of the
few instances on record in which the day has been celebrated without a
patriotic oration.

His letter is dated Camp New Brunswick, July 6th, 1778:--

"On the 4th inst. the anniversary of American Independence was
celebrated in the following manner. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, a
cannon was discharged as a signal for the troops to get under arms, half
an hour afterwards, the second fire was a signal for the troops to
begin their march, and at four the third signal was given, for the
troops to be drawn up in two lines, on the west side of the Raritan,
which they did in beautiful order. A flag was then hoisted for the _feu
de joie_ to begin. Thirteen pieces of artillery were then discharged,
and a running fire of small arms went through the lines, beginning at
the right of the front line, catching the left, and ending at the right
of the second line. The field pieces in the intervals of brigades, were
discharged in the running fire, thus affording a harmonious and uniform
display of music and fire, which was thrice well executed. After the
_feu de joie_ the general officers and officers commanding brigades,
dined with his Excellency. Yesterday a number of field officers shared
the same fate, and I had the satisfaction of seeing the old warrior in
very fine spirits."

During the remainder of Col. Williams' sojourn in the Northern States,
we do not learn that he was in any position to prove his skill as a
soldier, excepting in those qualities which are too often
under-estimated by the public. His regiment when he took command of it,
was rather noted for looseness of discipline, and did not stand upon a
mark with others of the line, but in a very short time, under Williams'
prompt and active organization, it became equal if not superior, in
thorough discipline, to any in the whole army.

A soldier should certainly not be deemed unable, who has few
opportunities of any brilliant success, and who is only known by the
admirable order of his troops.

From several of Williams' letters written about this time, we learn that
if there was little chance of fame, he found time to fall in love,
proving that though ambitious of the glory of Mars, he was not
insensible to the blandishments of Venus.

But it is time, that we approach the sphere of action in which Williams
was particularly distinguished, and where he acquired such honor, as to
raise him to eminence among the greatest Generals of this country. We
allude to the war in the Southern States, particularly the Carolinas, in
which some of the bloodiest and most obstinate battles were fought,
during the whole revolution. The entire country in that portion of the
States, was completely reduced and subdued by the superior generalship
of Sir Henry Clinton, who had left New York, for the express purpose of
subjugating the Carolinas. He had been eminently successful, and it will
not be unimportant to pass briefly in review, the condition to which
those States had been reduced, when Congress determined to succor them,
by reinforcements of Northern troops, among which were the Maryland and
Virginia lines. On receipt of the news of Clinton's expedition,
Charleston, then in possession of the Americans, had been placed in a
state of defence, in the manner deemed best calculated to resist the
enemy, though the garrison was enfeebled by disease, want of money, and
want of enthusiasm among the soldiery. Many refused to serve again,
after the late campaign in Georgia, unwilling to leave their homes, and
having no faith in their own strength, against a powerful and amply
munitioned foe. They also had strong grounds, through the proclamations
of the English, to believe that non-resistance to the Crown would
purchase security from fire and pillage, for it was the policy of the
English utterly to destroy, as far as possible, all kinds of property
belonging to the Republicans. The garrison of Charleston consisted of
scarcely five thousand men, under command of General Lincoln, while
Clinton's force alone, amounted to upwards of eight thousand. The
garrison, after an obstinate defence of forty days, was obliged to
surrender to the enemy, before which time, all hope of succor or escape
was reluctantly abandoned. Various expeditions were planned by the
American troops, but almost every one was prevented, or destroyed, by
the ceaseless vigilance and activity of the British, among whom none was
ever more conspicuous than the well remembered Tarlton. No sooner did
the British standard wave over the ramparts of Charleston, than Clinton
determined to use the most energetic means, to ensure the reduction of
the entire province. To this end, he planned several expeditions, all of
which succeeded even beyond his own hopes. The royalists joined his army
in great numbers, and the Americans were defeated at all points. The
complete rout and terrible slaughter of the Republicans, under Col.
Buford, at Wacsaw, the enemy being led on by Tarlton, for a time utterly
prostrated the vigor of the Carolinians, who thereupon submitted in
despair. Clinton, then by promise of amnesty, endeavored to maintain
the authority which British bayonets had again acquired, but he excepted
those who had been instrumental in the defence of Charleston. This
measure was productive, as we shall see, of the most fatal consequences,
and in time overturned all hopes of those which he so strenuously
endeavored to introduce. His object was to put down the slightest
attempt at rebellion, and those who had lately fought for Congress, were
forced to take up arms for the Crown, instead of being suffered to
remain as prisoners of war, on parole.

This unexpected act of tyranny produced a state of society of which, at
this period, we can have but little idea.

Those who had fought bravely in defence, were treated with the most
cruel persecutions, their property plundered and destroyed, while those
who submitted supinely to their fate, were sometimes rewarded, or at
least suffered to remain undisturbed. This naturally engendered a bitter
feeling, even between families, and the complete separation of members
of the same flock, were but the happiest results: their hate was
frequently kindled into a flame, only quenched in blood. Williams has
left a graphic picture of the state of society at that time, and it may
be remarked, that his opinion of the inhabitants was by no means high.

He says, writing to his brother:--"There are a few virtuous good men in
this State, and in Georgia; but a great majority of the people is
composed of the most unprincipled, abandoned, vicious vagrants that ever
inhabited the earth. The daily deliberate murders committed by pretended
Whigs, and reputed tories, (men who are actually neither one thing nor
the other in principle,) are too numerous and too shocking to relate.
The licentiousness of various classes and denominations of villains,
desolate this country, impoverish all who attempt to live by other means
and destroy the strength and resources of the country, which ought to be
collected and united, against a common enemy.

"You may rely on it, my dear brother, that the enemy have had such
footing and influence in this country that their success in putting the
inhabitants together by the ears, has exceeded even their own
expectations: the distraction that prevails surpasses any thing I ever
before witnessed, and equals any idea, which your imagination can
conceive, of a desperate and inveterate civil war."

But horrible as this state of society was, it had some redeeming
features; fire might consume, a savage soldiery might plunder, the sun
might scorch and not gladden, and the rivers might run with blood,
instead of water, but the women of the Carolinas stood superior to their
husbands, their sons, and their brothers, and were unconquered,
unconquerable. They indeed, bore the fiery trial, and preferred exile to
submission, death to slavery. They incited their kindred never to lay
down their arms, until the last foe had vanished from their soil. They
would with the courage of Joan of Arc, have grasped the sword, and
perished at the stake. They would not give their hand in the light dance
to a Briton; they gave their heart with their hand to the meanest of
their countrymen. They threw the gold bracelet into the scale to lighten
the iron fetter. They feared not the contagion of the prison ships, nor
the damp of the dungeon. They instilled into their drooping relatives
new hopes, and urged them once more to draw the sword, and throw away
the scabbard. It is related that Col. Tarlton once asked a lady in
Charleston, the name of the Camomile blossom. "It is called," answered
the noble woman, "the Rebel flower, because it flourishes best when most
trampled on." The influence of woman prevailed, the sword seemed
sharpened, instead of blunted by the blows it had taken, and the spirit
of '76 again animated the soldiery. The arrival of Lafayette about this
period, was most welcome: he brought encouraging news, and instilled
into the colonists hopes which were soon verified by the arrival of the
French fleet, commanded by Admiral de Tiernay, in Newport harbor. Then
the people once more flew to arms, and

  The war that for a space did fail
  Now trebly thundering swelled the gale.

General Gates took command in July, 1780, superseding Baron de Kalb; and
Col. Williams with his regiment appears at the seat of war, in the
Southern States, about that time. He assumed by appointment the
important post of deputy Adjutant General, which added greatly to his
duties, but which he discharged through his whole period of service,
with exemplary fidelity. He has left a detailed narrative of the
campaign of 1780, (published in Johnston's Life of Greene,) and his
letters give most graphic accounts of the battles in which he was
engaged, and the trials in other forms, through which he passed. The
sharp action where blows were given and taken, proved less arduous and
scarce more dangerous, than the sufferings of the army without an enemy
in sight. He writes soon after his arrival--"The affairs of our little
southern army are much deranged, and we find ourselves under very
considerable embarrassments in our present position; the want of
provisions is an inconvenience we have often experienced, but we have
never been in a country so unwilling to supply us as at present. By
military authority, we collect a kind of casual subsistence that can
scarcely be called our daily bread. The fatigue of campaigning in this
country is almost inconceivable. I have slept, when I have had time to
sleep, in my clothes. I seldom divest myself of my sword, boots or coat;
my horse is constantly saddled, and we eat when provisions are to be
got, and we have nothing else to do. The dangers of the field are
neither more frequent, nor more fatal, than those attending the fatigues
and accidents that reduce an army--from long experience, I find myself
so capable of sustaining the fatigue, and by my good fortune (the favor
of Providence) I have so often escaped the danger, that I am contented
to do my duty, and submit myself to that fate which Heaven ordains."

The campaign of 1780 was a most unfortunate one for the Southern States,
as that of 1776 was for the Northern. Soon after General Gates took
command, the battle of Camden was fought, which resulted in the total
defeat of the Americans. Col. Williams gives an account of it in his
sketch of the campaign, but I have not been able to find any of his
private letters on the subject. The battle was fought on the 16th of
August, and from returns which Williams collected, the actual number of
fighting men or rather of able bodied troops, for some did not fight at
all, amounted only to three thousand and fifty-two, about one-half of
the nominal strength of the army. The numbers of the enemy were much
superior, and at the very time that Gen. Gates had determined to march
upon Camden, Lord Cornwallis, commander-in-chief, (Clinton having
returned to New York,) apprised of all that was passing in the interior
of the States, determined to march himself to reinforce Lord Rawdon,
thinking it highly probable from the position of the American army, that
Camden would be a point of speedy attack. He arrived there two days
before the battle, and unwilling to hazard an assault, determined to
surprise the rebels in their place of encampment at Clermont. Thus both
armies, ignorant of each other's intentions, moved about the same hour
of the night, and approaching each other, met half way between their
respective encampments at midnight. An exchange of fire between the
advanced guards was the first notice that either army had of the other.
Hostilities were for the time suspended, and from one of the prisoners
taken in the skirmish, Williams learned that Lord Cornwallis led the
army with three thousand troops under his especial command, besides
those of Lord Rawdon's.

This intelligence threw consternation into the American army, and Gen.
Gates called a council of war. It was decided that the time had passed
for any course but fighting. Frequent skirmishes occurred throughout the
night, which served to display the relative force and situation of the
two armies. Col. Williams narrates another circumstance which
contributed to distress the Americans, and he says:

"Nothing ought to be considered as trivial in an army which in any
degree affects the health or spirit of the troops, upon which often,
more than upon number, the fate of battles depends. The troops of Gen.
Gates' army had frequently felt the consequence of eating bad
provisions, but at this time a hasty meal of quick baked bread and fresh
meat, with a dessert of molasses mixed with mush or dumplings, operated
so cathartically as to disorder very many of the men, who were breaking
the ranks all night, and were certainly much debilitated before the
action commenced in the morning."

On the morning of the 16th, the two armies came together, and Williams
at the very onset distinguished himself by his valor, and by his
suggestion to Gen. Gates that the enemy should be attacked while
displaying by Gen. Stevens' brigade, already in line of battle, as first
impressions were very important. Gen. Gates at once replied, "that's
right, let it be done." This, however, could not be accomplished until
the right wing of the British was discovered in line, too late to attack
them while displaying. Williams at the head of forty or fifty men then
commenced the attack, and kept up a brisk fire. But the militia no
sooner beheld the enemy advance impetuously, than they threw down their
arms without firing and fled instantly. This was followed by others,
acting in the same pusillanimous style, and at least two-thirds of the
army never fired a shot. Williams writes:

"He who has never seen the effect of a panic upon a multitude can have
but an imperfect idea of such a thing. The best disciplined troops have
been enervated and made cowards by it. Armies have been routed by it,
even where no enemy appeared to furnish an excuse. Like electricity, it
operates instantly; like sympathy, it is irresistible where it touches."

The regular troops, including those of Maryland, stood their ground, and
by tremendous fires of musketry kept the enemy for a while in check.
Several times did the British give way and as often rallied. But two
brigades of American troops remained firm upon the field. Williams
called upon his regiment not to fly; he saw that to avoid retreat was
impossible but wished it to be accomplished with credit. The troops
stood well and returned the hot fire of the enemy with zeal, until
Cornwallis, charging with his whole force of dragoons and infantry, put
them to total rout. Not a company retired in good order, but Williams
attributed this not to want of courage; they had fought against
desperate odds, besides having to fight for those who so ingloriously
fled, but it appears that there was no command to retreat from any
general officer until it became too late to retire in order. Williams
gained in this action, unfortunate as it proved, a character for cool
courage, for discretion, and that thorough knowledge of tactics so
essential in the officer, and without which impetuosity would be but an
explosive gas, but which, guarded by the master-hand of the philosopher,
burns steadily through the thickest gloom. Never off his guard, he knew
when and where to strike, and when to reserve the blow that opportunity
only served to encourage; for it is hard for the brave in battle to
retain the gauntlet of defiance, and so armed, "out of the nettle danger
pluck the flower safety."

General Gates never entirely recovered from the odium showered upon him
by the event of the battle of Camden, and the consequences finally led
to his displacement, and the appointment of Gen. Greene to the command
of the Southern army, but Williams always continued his firm friend, and
speaks of him in several instances as the "good old man."

(It is impossible, in a sketch so brief as this, to give any detailed
account of the war in the Carolinas; it will be sufficient to introduce
successively Col. Williams' graphic pictures of the battles and scenes
in which he was engaged.)

The tide of fortune could not flow forever with the English, and at the
battle of King's Mountain, in which Williams took part, they were
utterly defeated; this victory proved a severe blow to the interests of
Lord Cornwallis. Sometimes by good luck, advantages were gained, as in
the following circumstance during the same year, and of which Williams
gives this account, dated 7th Dec. 1780:

"A few days ago Gen. Morgan, with the Light Infantry of our army and a
party of Light Dragoons under Lieut. Col. Washington, moved towards
Camden. Col. Rugely's farm was defended by a strong block house, which
was garrisoned by Col. Rugely and a party of new levies. A good block
house is proof against musketry and sometimes against light artillery.
Therefore Gen. Morgan would not risk his troops in an assault, but had
recourse to stratagem, and Lieut. Col. Washington executed the plan. He
paraded the cavalry in view of the block house and mounted the trunk of
a pine tree upon three prongs, instead of a field piece, and which he
manned with dismounted dragoons, then summoned Rugely to surrender,
which the poltroon did, without hearing a report of this new invented
piece of ordnance, and submitted himself with about 100 officers and men
to be taken as prisoners of war."

The battle of Cowpens was another blow--perhaps the most decisive
victory gained by the Americans during the whole war, and in which the
hitherto terrible and fortunate Tarlton was put to total rout.

The retreat of the army through North Carolina, which, so admirably
executed, had the effect of leading Cornwallis into Virginia, followed
the battle of Cowpens, and gave Williams an opportunity of displaying
those qualities of tact, vigilance and prudence, which gain for an
officer a fame as deserved as the laurels won in battle. He commanded
the rear guard, and succeeded in eluding every effort of the enemy in
pursuit. Greene, with a keen eye, early distinguished his abilities, and
he became, as long as he remained with the army, one of his general's
few and constant advisers. He appointed him Adjutant General, as he had
been Deputy under Gates.

The next engagement of consequence is that of Guilford Court House, and
Williams has left a short account of it in a hasty letter to his
brother. His letter is dated from Camp at Speedwell's furnace, ten miles
from Guilford Court House, 1st March, 1781:

"The Southern army has once more come off second best in a general
action. Gen. Greene being reinforced with a few small detachments of new
levies, which gave the regular battalion a respectable appearance, and a
sufficient number of militia to make his force apparently superior to
the British army, made the best possible arrangement of his troops, and
for many reasons which rendered it almost absolutely necessary, came to
a resolution of attacking Lord Cornwallis the first opportunity. When
both parties are disposed for action all obstacles are soon overcome.
The two armies met at Guilford Court House yesterday at 12 o'clock. Our
army was well posted; the action was commenced by the advanced parties
of infantry and cavalry, in which our troops were successful, but the
situation of the ground not being favorable in our front, our army kept
its position and waited the attack of the British. They were opposed
wherever they appeared. The militia of North Carolina behaved as usual,
but those of Virginia distinguished themselves by uncommon bravery. The
regular troops were the last that had come to action and generally
behaved well, but as these were the most inconsiderable in number, the
general chose rather to retire than risk a defeat. The retreat was made
in tolerable good order, and so stern was the appearance of our regular
force, that the enemy did not think proper to press our rear, nor
continue the pursuit more than three miles. Our greatest loss is four
pieces of artillery and the field."

During the next month another ineffectual attempt was made upon Camden,
and pursuing the plan formed of allowing the actors in these scenes to
speak for themselves, we have Col. Williams' account of the efforts of
the army as follows:

     "CAMP BEFORE CAMDEN, _27 April, 1781_.

     "_Dear Elie_--We have been here ever since the 19th instant, and
     have made several manoeuvres, upon different quarters of the
     town, but have neither been able to discover advantages, that
     promised success by a storm, nor to completely invest the place.
     The town is flanked on the West by the Wateree, and on the East by
     two deep creeks; the other quarters are strongly fortified. A
     villain of a drummer went in to the enemy on the the 24th, when we
     were encamped within a mile of the town, and gave them such
     information of our circumstances, position and numbers, as induced
     Lord Rawdon to sally with all his best troops the next morning,
     about eleven o'clock.

     "This was what we wished, and the only hope we had of a speedy
     reduction of the post. Lieut. Col. Washington was ordered to pass
     the right flank of the enemy with his cavalry, which he did, and
     threw himself in their rear. Capt. Kirkwood, with two small
     companies of light infantry, was behaving bravely in front, and the
     picquets were doing their duty upon the flanks, when the line was
     ordered to advance, and the artillery to play upon the enemy. The
     first Maryland regiment particularly, was ordered to charge
     bayonets, without firing, but for some cause not yet clearly
     ascertained, the regiment received orders to retire and then broke.
     The second regiment retired in consequence. The second Virginia
     regiment was ordered off, and the first broke. The unfavorable
     consequences were, that the army lost a glorious opportunity of
     gaining a complete victory, taking the town, and biasing the beam
     of fortune greatly in favor of our cause.

     "The action was at no time very warm, but it was durable, and our
     troops by the gallant exertions of our officers, were rallied
     frequently, but always fought at long shot. A convincing testimony
     that this was generally the case, is that none or very few of our
     men were wounded with buck shot or bayonet. The baggage of our army
     was sent off to Rugely's, and the troops halted at Saunder's Creek,
     about two miles South of where we fought last year, and about five
     miles from Camden. The loss was nearly equal on both sides, if we
     do not consider the loss of opportunity. We lost about 130 killed
     and wounded, and from every account the enemy were not more lucky.

     "The cavalry, the light infantry, and the guards, acquired all the
     honor, and the infantry of the battalions all the disgrace that
     fell upon our shoulders. The cavalry, led on by Washington, behaved
     in a manner truly heroic. He charged the British army in the rear,
     took a great number of prisoners, sent many of them off with small
     detachments, and when he saw we were turning our backs upon victory
     in front, by a circuitous manoeuvre, he threw his dragoons into
     our rear, passed the line and charged the York volunteers, (a fine
     corps of cavalry,) killed a number and drove the rest out of the
     field. Washington is an elegant officer; his reputation is
     deservedly great. Many of our officers are mortally mortified at
     our late inglorious retreat. I say mortally, because I cannot doubt
     that some of us must fall, in endeavoring the next opportunity, to
     re-establish our reputation. Dear Reputation, what trouble do you
     not occasion, what danger do you not expose us to! Who but for it,
     would patiently persevere in prosecuting a war, with the mere
     remnant of a fugitive army, in a country made desolate by repeated
     ravages, and rendered sterile by streams of blood. Who but for
     reputation would sustain the varied evils that daily attend the
     life of a soldier, and expose him to jeopardy every hour. Liberty,
     thou basis of reputation, suffer me not to forget the cause of my
     country, nor to murmur at my fate."

The events of this campaign being active, and following in quick
succession, we have an account of the siege of Ninety-six, a very
important post. The fortunes of the war had turned generally in favor of
the Americans, although their troops were several times defeated in this
campaign. Lord Rawdon was forced to abandon Camden shortly after the
events narrated by Williams, and the posts of Fort Watson, Fort Mott,
Fort Granby, Nelson's Ferry, Georgetown, Fort Dreadnought and Augusta
were all reduced or deserted, and there remained only Charleston and
Ninety-six in South Carolina, and Savannah, in Georgia, in the hands of
the enemy. The post of Ninety-six was closely besieged for three weeks,
and without reinforcements, which the Americans hardly expected, would
certainly have been taken. But it so happened, unfortunately, that the
garrison was strongly reinforced by Lord Rawdon, and the Americans were
obliged to abandon the siege. Col. Williams writes thus:

     "BUSH RIVER, _June 23d, 1781_.

     "_Dear Bro._--The circumstances of the war, in this part of the
     world, have had a material alteration since I had the pleasure to
     write you. After Lord Rawdon's retreat from Camden, Gen. Greene
     pushed his operations southwardly, and has obliged the enemy to
     abandon or surrender all their posts in South Carolina, except
     Charleston and Ninety-six. On the 22d ult. our little army invested
     the last mentioned place, and continued the siege with infinite
     labor and alacrity till the 20th inst., when we were obliged to
     relinquish an object, which, if attained, would not only have given
     peace to this distracted country, but would have added a lustre to
     our former services, sufficiently brilliant to have thrown a proper
     light upon the character of our excellent General, and reflected a
     ray of glory upon the reputation of each inferior officer. Though
     we have been greatly disappointed, no troops ever deserved more
     credit for their exertions. The operations were prosecuted with
     indefatigable zeal and bravery, and the place was defended with
     spirit and address. Our loss is Capt. Armstrong, of the Maryland
     Line, killed; Capt. Benson, dangerously wounded, and Lieut. Duvall,
     also wounded. Besides officers, we lost fifty-eight men killed,
     sixty-nine wounded, and twenty missing. From this account you will
     conclude that a day seldom passed without execution, and I can
     assure you that each night rather promoted than diminished the
     mischief. We succeeded so far as to take one of the enemy's
     redoubts, and in all probability a few days more would have happily
     concluded the business. But Lord Rawdon had received a strong
     reinforcement, and by making forced marches, arrived in time to
     avert the impending fate of the garrison. I cannot ascertain the
     loss the enemy may have sustained, but judging by our own, it
     cannot be inconsiderable. Our approaches were carried by two
     trenches and a mine to within a few feet of the ditch of their
     strongest fort, and our troops once took possession of it, but
     their works were too strong to be escaladed. Instances of
     consummate bravery were exhibited, but their fire was too fatal for
     our people to remain in their fosse, and we were obliged to leave
     it with loss."

But the most important battle, and the last of consequence, was that of
Eutaw. It was by no means as decisive as that of Cowpens, but it was
instrumental in putting an end to the war. Col. Williams displays his
knowledge of the enemy, and his skill as a soldier, in this prognostic
of the battle, which happened four days after that he writes as follows

     "FORT MOTT, on the Congaree River, _Sept. 4th, 1781_.

     "I wrote last from the high hills of Santee, from which the army
     moved the 23d of August, with the view of attacking the enemy at
     Thompson's Farm, which is within half a mile of this place, but
     having a large circuit to make before we could pass the Wateree and
     Congaree rivers, which lay between us, the enemy took the
     opportunity of retiring to Nelson Ferry, which is on the Santee
     River, about forty miles below the confluence of the first
     mentioned rivers, which form the last, within sight of our present

     "Having got the enemy so low down the country, a great point is
     gained, and puts the laboring oar into their hands.

     "We shall not be under the necessity of fighting, neither shall we
     avoid it if a favorable opportunity offers. These large rivers,
     which have all extensive marshy shores and but few ferries,
     embarrass us on account of transporting our baggage, and will
     subject the army to some inconvenience, but our circumstances,
     taken altogether, are very different from what they were three
     months ago, and are indeed a perfect contrast to the adverse
     fortune that followed the heels of our retreating troops last
     winter. If Col. Stewart, who has commanded the army since Lord
     Rawdon's departure for Europe, thinks proper to risk an action, he
     will be beaten."

Here we have his account of the battle itself:

"The British army, being reinforced by the 3d regiment, contrary to my
expectations, advanced from Orangeburgh to Congaree, and encamped at
Col. Thompson's, about one mile from Fort Mott, which we had reduced
some time before. It is said they exultingly gave three cheers upon
regaining that position. The two armies remained neighbors, and were
separated by the Santee, from early in August till the 23d of that
month, when Gen. Greene took the resolution to remove Col. Stewart, (who
succeeded Gen. Rawdon in command,) or give him battle.

"It was impossible to pass the rivers Wateree and Congaree immediately
in front, and as their confluence is but a little to our left, it was
not considered eligible to cross the Santee below the enemy for obvious
reasons: we had a junction to form with the State troops and militia,
whose numbers were not ascertained, and without them we were greatly
inferior in force to the enemy. Therefore the General ordered us to
march by the right, and we passed the rivers above, which induced the
British army to retire to Eutaw Springs, about thirty-five miles from
Thompson's and about two from Nelson's Ferry over the Santee. Gen.
Greene did not approve of their holding that post, and as his forces
were now collected, he determined to prosecute his plan of giving battle
or removing them to a more peaceful distance. By easy marches we arrived
at Burdell's, seven miles from Eutaw, in the afternoon of the 7th inst.,
and orders were given for marching again next morning, at four o'clock,
to attack the enemy.

"At four o'clock next morning we were under arms, and moved in order of
battle about three miles, when we halted, and took a little of that
liquid which is not unnecessary to exhilarate the animal spirits upon
such occasions. Again we advanced, and soon afterwards our light troops
met the van of the enemy, who were marching out to meet us.

"Very serious, very important reflections began to obtrude. But liberty
or death; peace and independence; or glory and a grave. The enemy's van
was soon driven to their line, and our troops displayed. Our militia,
which composed the front line, seconded the attack, and behaved better
than usual. The North Carolina brigade of Continentals were next
engaged, and acquired honor by their firmness. The Virginians advanced
with impetuosity, and beat their foes wherever they found them. And the
little remnant of Maryland troops, with an intrepidity which was
particularly noticed by our gallant commander, advanced in good order,
with trailed arms, and without regarding or returning the enemy's fire,
charged and broke their best troops. Then, indeed, we fired and followed
them into their camp, near which is a thick wood, very unfavorable to
cavalry. But Col. Washington, impatient perhaps for a more favorable
opportunity, charged upon the enemy's right, where unluckily their flank
companies were posted. He received a very galling fire, by which his
horse fell in front of his dragoons. In an instant his breast was
pierced by a bayonet, which however wounded him but slightly. His
cavalry was repulsed, and that excellent officer became a captive.

"Our loss in officers killed and wounded was very considerable, and the
eagerness of the pursuit had thrown most of the troops into disorder,
which could not now be remedied. Some were taking prisoners, and others
plundering the enemy's camp, while they in despair sought refuge in and
about a strong brick house which stood in the midst of it, and from
whence their fire began to gall us exceedingly. About this time General
Greene had brought our two six pounders within one hundred yards of the
house, and I believe by accident or mistake, two others which we had
taken were brought to the same place. At this critical juncture the
enemy made a conclusive effort, which not only did them great honor,
but, in my opinion, was the salvation of their whole army. Major
Majoribanks sallied briskly from behind a picket garden, charged our
artillery, and carried the pieces, which they immediately secured under
the walls of their citadel.

"As our two three pounders and one which we had taken in the field, were
all dismounted, it was useless to attempt any thing further with the
small arms. The General, therefore, ordered the troops to retire, which
was done gradually, the enemy not presuming to follow. The cavalry of
the legion kept that of the enemy in awe, but found no good opportunity
to cut them.

"The Delaware battalion and legion infantry acted with their usual
vivacity, and were among those who did the most execution. As the Eutaw
Spring was within fifty yards of the house, and there was no other water
nearer than Burdell's, we retired in the afternoon to that place, which
gave the enemy an opportunity of burying as many of their dead as their
stay would admit. They abandoned the post early on the night of the 9th,
leaving upwards of sixty of their dead unburied, and sixty or seventy
wounded that could not be carried off. We pursued them about thirty-five
miles, and though their army was reinforced by Major McArthur's
detachment of 300 or 400 men from Monks' Corner, they thought proper to
retire to a strong position on the south side of Ferguson's swamp, in
the night of the 10th, when we lay at the Trout Spring, within five
miles of them.

"They retired to Fair Lawn, below Monks', and on the morning of the 13th
the General ordered the army to return to its former position at the
high hills of Santee. This expedition was made in the season of the year
which is most sickly in this country; and you cannot conceive how much
more lamentable it is to lose an officer in sick quarters, than to see
him fall in the field. There, there is no duration of that toilsome
anxiety which we suffer for a languishing friend, besides his exit is
glorious and, we believe, happy.

"Upon re-perusal of this circumstantial sheet, I do not think I have
said enough of the bravery of the American troops. To have an idea of
their vivacity and intrepidity, you must have shared their danger and
seen their charge, which exceeded any thing of the sort I ever saw

"The battle of Eutaw, was an example of what I conceive to be obstinate
fair field fighting, and it is worthy of remark, that it happened on the
same spot of ground where, according to the tradition of this country, a
very bloody, desperate battle was fought about a century ago, between
the savage natives and the barbarous Europeans who came to dispossess
them of their property, which, in soil, is as rich as any upon the
continent, or can be any where else. On the spot where the conflict of
bayonets decided the victory, is a monument or mound of earth, said to
have been erected over the bodies of the brave Indians who fell in
defence of their country. Will any such honorable testimony be erected
to the memory of our departed heroes?"

Both parties claimed the victory, and according to Gen. Tarlton's
narrative, it was a most brilliant triumph for the British. It had,
however, great weight in favor of the Americans. Williams' conduct in
this engagement was most distinguished, and won for him the entire
approbation and praise of General Greene and the army. Indeed, Greene
says: "I cannot help acknowledging my obligations to Col. Williams for
his great activity on this and many other occasions, in forming the
army, and for his uncommon intrepidity in leading on the Maryland troops
to the charge." Williams might, indeed, well be proud of such
commendation, but he now knew that he had done all in his power for the
country, and he yearned to return to the bosom of his family. A sense of
duty alone made him a soldier; there was in him no desire of mere
military distinction, but of

                                "that good fame,
  Without which glory's but a tavern song."

He would have chosen to live on the old homestead, had not the cry of
his country rung in his ears, and when he was at last free to set his
face homewards, how gladly did he depart. He writes to his brother:

"My disposition is wholly domestic; my feelings flow with excess of
tenderness whenever I indulge the thoughts of home. There I will be as
soon as I can quit the field with honor, and sooner you don't expect me.
The hope of terminating this tour of service with a little good fortune,
and of returning once more to my friends, supports me under all my
anxiety and danger. I am happy in my office, in my command, and in my
connections. My health is seldom impaired, though my feelings are
wounded every day by such circumstances as I have frequently related--so
that I have a mixture of pleasure and pain in the exercise of my
profession, which I ardently wish I may soon have an honorable
opportunity of changing for some silent, sweet domestic occupation. Then
will I take you and my fond sisters in my arms, and live with you in

The military career of Williams now drew rapidly to a close, and the
remainder of his days were passed in the repose he so ardently loved.
But toward the close of the war he was sent by Greene with despatches to
Congress, and became Brigadier General by brevet. Much as he merited the
honor, it caused some dissatisfaction among his brother officers, and
Greene writes to him on this subject, in connection with others, as

"I wrote you, my dear General, some time past, in answer to your letter.
In mine I congratulated you on your promotion, from which I felt a
singular happiness, but observed at the same time, that the manner was
more honorable to you, than satisfactory to the other Colonels of the
army. Your right of promotion, which took place from the United States
being formed into districts, was repealed before your promotion took
place, and being promoted upon a principle of merit, the Colonels feel
an injury in the comparison that their merit is less conspicuous than
yours. Col. Pinkney wrote me on the subject, and I believe has written
to Congress. I gave him copies of my letters to Congress, which were
satisfactory. I expect other Colonels will feel the same injury, and
very likely make the same application.

"The love of rank is so strong a principle in the breast of a soldier,
that he who has a right to promotion will never admit another over his
head upon a principle of merit. You are not to expect that every body
will subscribe to the justice of your promotion. You must content
yourself with having obtained it, and that no man is without his enemies
but a fool. I am glad to hear the sentiments of the public are so
flattering to the Southern army. The Southern States have acted
generously by me, and if I can close the business honorably here, I
shall feel doubly happy, happy for the people and happy for myself. I
think the public are not a little indebted for our exertions. The
Southern States were lost, they are now restored; the American arms were
in disgrace, they are now in high reputation. The American soldiery were
thought to want both patience and fortitude to contend with
difficulties: they are now remarkable for both. That sentiment had taken
deep root in Europe, but it is now totally changed. Indeed, the change
of British administration is in a great degree owing to our efforts, and
the consequences resulting from them.

"I hope I don't arrogate too much in saying this, and in saying we have
contributed not a little to the glory of the nation and the American
arms. I find by a Parliamentary Register, that there were 18,000 troops
and upwards, in the Southern department last year, besides the militia
which acted with the enemy, and those amounted to not less than 2,000,
exclusive of the negroes, and they had more than 1,000 of them on the
different military departments of the army. This includes Lord
Cornwallis' army in Virginia. At the time the battle of Eutaw was fought
by the enemy, from returns laid before Parliament, it appears they had
in Charleston and in their advanced army, 6,700 men fit for duty,
besides all the militia and negroes. What an amazing difference between
their force and ours! From these authorities, I find our operations were
much more glorious than ever we considered them."

Gen. Greene and Gen. Williams were equally zealous in defending each
other's reputation, and at a later period when Greene himself was made
the subject of animadversion, Williams defends him in a strain of
indignation and sarcasm, in the following letter to Maj. Edwards:

"The late revolution in South Carolina is owing not only to a change of
circumstances, but to a change of men in the government of that country.
How daringly impudent it is for those who have been rescued from misery
and dejection, to arraign the virtue that saved them. Gen. Greene
exercised a superior judgment, changed the system of military operations
in that country, and used the only possible means of recovering it--and
dare the ingrates now accuse him of any interested design, or any view
of ambition, other than that which receives its highest gratification
from the thanks and approbation of a free people? And do the devils dare
to treat with neglect and contempt that little corps of gallant men who
saved them from despair and slavery? Their ingratitude proves
manifestly, how well they deserved the chains which have been taken off
their necks. There are many sensible, amiable characters in Carolina,
but I always feared the majority were envious, jealous, malicious,
designing, unprincipled people. Come one, come all of you away and leave
them. I am glad to hear the Northern troops are returning. Though I
cannot flatter myself with the pleasure of seeing them rewarded as they
deserve, there will be something done for them, they will not starve on
the same fields in which they have bled."

It will not be of purpose to dwell much longer upon the subject before
us, for Gen. Williams did not live many years more to enjoy the fruits
of his hard toil. He settled in Baltimore and was appointed to the
collectorship of the port, by the Governor of the State, the duties of
which he discharged with the same exemplary fidelity which had attended
his military career. When the Federal Constitution was adopted, he was
re-appointed to the same office, which he continued to hold as long as
he lived. In 1786, he was happily married to the second daughter of Mr.
William Smith, a very wealthy and influential merchant, and his union
was productive of the complete felicity he so well deserved. His habits
of industry, economy and method, joined to the lucrative office he held,
enabled him among much other property, to buy the old home of his
father, on the banks of the Potomac, which in the midst of the battle
field's "dreadful array," he had so often fondly returned to in
imagination. Here he was pleasantly employed in improving the condition
of the farm, and in laying out the present town of "Williamsport,"
called after his own name. It was at one time thought that the seat of
government would be at Williamsport, and there are several letters from
the General's brother on the subject, and written in a very hopeful
strain: one of great length detailing an account of Gen. Washington's
visit to Springfield's farm, (for such is its name,) with speculations
on the site of the Federal seat. On this letter Gen. Williams has
endorsed the words "All a Hum," and Williamsport has remained to this
day, rather a village than a city of magnificent distances.

The health of Gen. Williams became much impaired, and disease attacked
his lungs, but he still continued his duties. He had many friends in and
out of the army, and he delighted to keep up a correspondence with them.
None thought more highly of him as a soldier and a man, than Washington,
and such names as Greene, Knox, Lincoln, Lee, Steuben, Kosciusko, and
many more, form those of intimate and tried associates. Nor was he less
solicitous to preserve unbroken friendship with many unknown to fame,
and with a large family circle. The wealth that he acquired was
liberally dispensed, and his bounty was always readily extended to the
deserving. To his brother he says in one of his letters--"Whatever is
mine in Maryland is yours, and I really don't know what you mean by my
money in your hands." So highly was he esteemed by Gen. Washington; that
in 1792, on the refusal of Gen. Morgan to accept the actual rank of
Brigadier General, Gen. Knox being then Secretary of War, wrote to
Williams that the President would be highly pleased to appoint him to
the post, which would make him the eldest Brigadier General, and second
in command, and he was accordingly actually so nominated. But this honor
he positively declined in several letters to the President and Secretary
Knox, on account of ill health and family duties; and he also adds that
it would be no stimulus to his ambition to be second in command. His
illness still increasing upon him, he was induced in 1793 to try the
effect of sea air, and a voyage to Barbadoes had some benefit, but of
very short duration.

And now the light which he created and shed around him, was to be
withdrawn from those who looked as upon the rainbow's glories after a
stormy day; for just as they were encircled by its arch of splendor, in
radiant promise of sunny skies, they beheld its brilliant hues melting
into air, as the luminary whence they emanated sunk solemnly from their
sight. In the next year, 1794, while on his way to the Sweet Springs, in
Virginia, on reaching the little town of Woodstock, he became too ill to
proceed farther, and on the 16th of July, at the early age of 45, he
died. He was prepared; he had lived the full measure of his fame; his
life had been glorious and happy; he had shrunk from no responsibility;
he had feared nothing but to do wrong; he had gained "honor, love,
obedience, troops of friends," and when at last he met the unconquerable
foe, it was with the same calm courage and reliance on a higher power,
that had been his trust when he had rushed into mortal battle.

He left an ample fortune to his four sons, and committed them to their
mother's father, saying in his will, that he could do so with entire
trust, "as soon as it should please Heaven to remove him from that
endearing office." In the eloquent language of the Spaniard, himself a
soldier as well as a poet,

  "As thus the dying warrior prayed,
  Without one gathering mist or shade
        Upon his mind;
  Encircled by his family,
  Watched by affection's gentle eye
        So soft and kind--

  "His soul to him who gave it, rose:
  God lead it to its long repose,
        Its glorious rest!
  And though the warrior's sun is set,
  Its light shall linger round us yet,
        Bright, radiant, blest."

On the banks of the lordly Potomac his remains repose, beneath a simple
monument crowning the summit of a hill, overlooking a wild expanse of
waving woods and pleasant fields, and distant mountains, which he once
delighted to look upon. The setting sun sheds its glories over that
peaceful landscape; the river flows calmly by many a pleasant village,
by the marble palaces of the busy Metropolis, and by the tomb of him who
has given it his name. Heroes, patriots and friends, both sleep by the
same river; both firm in love of peace but hatred of tyranny, and both
spared to be cheered by the smiles of their country, whose battles they
had fought while she pined in fetters and in tears.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A sketch of the life and services of Gen. Otho Holland Williams - Read before the Maryland historical society, on Thursday - evening, March 6, 1851" ***

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