“I no longer possess influence with or the confidence of his Excellency,” replied Brereton, gravely; “but he is a generous man, and I predict will not push his advantage merely for your humiliation.”
“Will he not forbear making our surrender a spectacle?”
“If the talk of the camp be of value, my Lord, ’t is said you are to be granted the exact terms you allowed to General Lincoln at Savannah; and you yourself cannot but acknowledge the justice of such treatment.”
“’T was not I who dictated the terms of that surrender.”
“Your observation, my Lord, forces the reply that ’t is a nation, not an individual, we are fighting.”
The proud face of the British general worked for a moment in the intensity of his emotion. “We have no right to complain that we receive measure for measure,” he said; “and yet sir, though the lex talionis may be justified, it makes it none the less bitter.”
Colonel Brereton took the letter, his eyes were blindfolded again, and he was led back beyond the lines.
With the expiration of the two hours, the firing was not resumed; and all that day and the next flags were passing and repassing between the lines, with the result that on the afternoon of the latter, commissioners met at the Moore house and drew up the terms of capitulation, which were signed that evening.
At twelve o’clock on the 19th, the English colours were struck on the redoubts, and the American were hoisted in their stead. Two hours later the armies of the allies took up position opposite each other on the level ground outside the town, and the British troops, with shouldered arms, cased colours, and bands playing, as stipulated, an English air, “The World Turned Upside Down,” came marching out of their lines. As they advanced, Washington turned to an officer behind him and ordered, “Let the word be passed that the troops are not to cheer. They have fought too well for us to triumph over them.” In consequence not a sound came from the American ranks as the British regiments marched up and with tears in many a brave man’s eyes grounded their arms and colours. But the officers, through Washington’s generosity, were allowed to retain their swords, sparing Cornwallis the mortification of having to be present in person; and it was General O’Hara who spoke the formal words of surrender, and who led the disarmed and flagless regiments back into the town, once the formalities had been completed. By nightfall twenty-four standards and over eight thousand prisoners were in the possession of the allied forces.
But one had escaped them, for in a cellar, hidden behind a heap of refuse and boxes, his body already stripped of its clothes by pilfering negroes, his face horribly distorted, and with froth yet on his lips, lay the commissary, dead.