Chapter 83. The Last of Sir George Prevost
The battle was over at Plattsburg
town, though it had not been fought; for the spirit
of MacDonough was on land and water, and it was felt
by the British general, as well as the Yankee riflemen,
as soon as the Union Jack had been hauled from the
mast of the Confiance.
Now Sir George Prevost had to face
a momentous decision: He could force the passage
of the Saranac and march on to Albany, but his communications
would be cut, and he must rely on a hostile country
for supplies. Every day drew fresh bands of riflemen
from the hills. Before he could get to Albany
their number might exceed his, and then what?
Unless Great Britain could send a new army or a fleet
to support him, he must meet the fate of Burgoyne.
Prevost proposed to take no such chances and the night
of the 11th eight hours after MacDonough’s victory,
he gave the order “Retire to Canada.”
To hide the move as long as possible,
no change was made till after sundown; no hint was
given to the beleaguered town; they must have no opportunity
to reap the enormous advantages, moral and material,
of harrying a retreating foe. They must arise
in the morning to find the enemy safely over the border.
The plan was perfect, and would have been literally
carried out, had not he had to deal with a foe as clever
How eagerly Rolf took in the scene
on Chazy Road; how much it meant! how he longed to
fly at his fastest famous speed with the stirring news.
In two hours and a half he could surely let his leader
know. And he gazed with a sort of superior pride
at the martial pomp and bravery of the invaders driven
Near the last was a gallant array
of gentlemen in gorgeous uniforms of scarlet and gold;
how warlike they looked, how splendid beside the ill-clad
riflemen of Vermont and the rude hunters of the Adirondacks.
How much more beautiful is an iron sword with jewels,
than a sword of plain gray steel.
Dame Hubbell stood in her door as
they went by. Each and all saluted politely;
her guard was ordered to join his regiment. The
lady waved her sun-bonnet in response to their courteous
good-bye, and could not refrain from calling out:
“How about my prophecy, Sir George, and those
Rolf could not see his hostess, but
he heard her voice, and he saw the astonishing effect:
The British general reined in his
horse. “A gentleman’s word is his
bond, madam,” he said. “Let every
officer now throw his purse at the lady’s feet,”
and he set the example. A dozen rattling thuds
were heard and a dozen officers saluting, purseless,
A round thousand dollars in gold the
lady gathered on her porch that morning, and to this
day her grand-kin tell the tale.