Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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town in safety j but the implacable rifle-




men had followed his flying footsteps till
the latest moment. Never had man been
more harassed ; and the complaint of the
British colonel, that Marion would not
"fight like a Christian and a gentleman? has
passed, from its ludicrous solemnity, into
a proverbial phrase of merriment in the

Colonel Doyle, the coadjutor of Wat
son, was encountered in like manner, and
with similar results. A single conflict
drove him back to Camden, with a con
siderable loss in men and a greater loss
in baggage.

This affair was followed, on the part of
the brigade, by a sharp rencontre with a
body of tories. These were routed, and
their captain slain. A nephew of Marion
also fell in the conflict. A second descent
which Marion made upon Georgetown,
about this time, was more successful than
the first. It fell into his hands, but was
afterward set on fire by an armed party
from a British vessel, and upward of forty
houses were reduced to ashes.

After the return of the command er-in-
chief of the southern department into the
state from his pursuit of Lord Cornwallis,
Marion ceased to act independently; and
the exploits of his brigade, no longer act
ing by itself, became merged in those of
the liberating army.*

General Greene s resolution to carry
the war into South Carolina had not been
taken without a consciousness of its haz
ards. " The manoeuvre will be critical
and dangerous," he wrote to Washington,

* For many interesting details connected with the guer
illa warfare in the Carolinas, during the campaigns of 1780
and 1781, we are indebted to Simins s admirable "History
of South Carolina," revised edition, 1859.

" but necessity obliges me to commit my
self to chance. The troops will be ex
posed to every hardship ; but I shall share
it with them." The scheme was bold and
full of peril, but its apparent temerity was
not without justification. Those active
partisans, Sumter, Marion, and Pickens,
had, by their successful guerilla warfare,
as we have already shown, prepared the
way, and Greene knew that he could al
ways calculate upon their energetic co
operation. It is true, he was turning his
back upon a weakened enemy; but Lord
Cornwallis was in such a position, that,
move as he might, he could hardly win
his game. If he followed the American
general into South Carolina, Virginia and
North Carolina would be relieved from
the pressure of British influence; and if
he carried the war into the latter states,
his possession of the first was endangered.

General Greene, accordingly,
broke up his encampment on the
Deep river, in Chatham county, North
Carolina, where he had given over the
pursuit of the British army, and, after a
tedious march for one hundred and thir
ty miles through an exhausted and hos

tile country, at length arrived


before Oamden. He had hoped

to take the place by surprise. While he
was detained, however, for several days
on the banks of the Pedee, for want of
boats, the active tory emissaries took care
to carry information of his approach to
Lord Kawdon at Camden. This is a beau
tiful village, situated on a plain covered
on the south and east sides by the Wa-
teree, and a creek which empties itself
into that river. On the western and north-

April 5,

April 19,



ern sides it was guarded by six strong re
doubts, and Earl Raw don s garrison num
bered about nine hundred choice troops.
His lordship, now on the alert, placed
Camden in such a posture of defence, that
General Greene found it futile to attempt
to assault it. He accordingly took post
on the Wexhaw road, within half a mile
of the British lines, with the hope of pro
voking the earl from his stronghold. The

o o

challenge, however, was not accepted, and
the American general thereupon moved
his troops to Hobkirk s hill, a mile and a
quarter farther away from Camden.

On his march from North Carolina, Gen
eral Greene had detached Colonel Henry
Lee, with his legion, to join Marion, and
co-operate with that partisan in an expe
dition against the British post of Fort
Watson, on the San tee. Lee having, with
no little difficulty, succeeded in
finding Marion "the Swamp-
fox" amid the cover of the morasses of
Black river, started out with him on the
proposed enterprise. The enemy were
posted in a stockade fort, erected on one
of the largest of the old Indian mounds
which skirt the San tee. It was elevated
about forty feet above the level of the
plain, and far from any eminence which
could command it. Its garrison consisted
of about eighty regulars and forty loyal
ists, commanded by Lieutenant M Kay of
the regular troops. Unprovided as were
Marion and Lee with artillery and in-
trenching-tools, it was impregnable to the
besiegers, who despaired of a successful
assault, since the steep sides and strong
palisades of the eminence discouraged any
attempt to storm it.

April 14,

One of the first efforts made to subdue
the fort was by cutting off the garrison
from Scott s lake, by which it was supplied
with water. From this danger M Kay re
lieved himself by sinking a well within
the stockade. Thus foiled, and without
cannon, the besiegers must finally have
been baffled, but for one of those ingeni
ous devices which are perhaps more read
ily found by a primitive than by an edu
cated people.

At a short distance from the fort there
grew a small wood, which suggested the
proper means of annoyance. From this,
Major Mayham, of South Carolina, sug
gested that they should "cut down a num
ber of suitable trees, and with them erect
a large, strong, oblong pen, to be covered
on the top with a floor of logs, and pro
tected on the side opposite to the fort
with a breastwork of light timber." The
expedient was adopted, and the "pen"
forthwith constructed during the night,
within a proper distance of the fort, and
dignified with the appellation of "May-
ham s tower." This enabled the assail
ants to command the fort. At earliest
dawn the next morning, a party
of riflemen took post in the tow
er ; and a detachment of musketeers, un
der the cover of the riflemen, advanced to
make a lodgment in the enemy s ditch,
supported by the infantry of Lee s legion
with fixed bayonets. When the light en
abled the riflemen from their lofty tower,
which overlooked the fort, to single out
their victims, a shower of bullets drove
the enemy from their works. Lieutenant
M Kay, being destitute of artillery, was
soon forced to capitulate ; and Marion,

April 23.




pushing his prisoners before him, hurried
forward to join Greene. Thus a contri
vance which the lion-hearted Richard had
used with such effect against the Saracens
at the siege of Acre, in the days of the
crusades, proved no less effective in the
hands of those equally chivalrous modern
soldiers, Marion and Lee.

Cblonel Watson, while on his march to
succor the fort of his name, had been re
called to Camden by Lord Rawdon, who
could ill spare any of his small force, now
that he was threatened by the energetic
Greene. Lee and Marion were on the
watch, and so manoeuvred that they them
selves were in a position to form a junc
tion with Greene long before Watson
could effect one with Rawdon. His lord
ship, thus discovering that delay would
probably benefit his enemy more than
himself, determined to give battle to the
American commander.

Hobkirk s hill, where General Greene
had taken post, was about a mile and a
half in advance of the British redoubts.
It is a narrow sand-ridge, of little eleva
tion, which divides the head-springs of
two small streams, the one emptying into
the Wateree river, the other into Pine-
tree creek.

A deserter having come in durin"- the

o o

night, with exact information of
the American position on Hob-
kirk s hill, and also with intelligence that
the expected artillery had not yet arrived
in the American camp, the British com
mander decided upon immediate action
on the coming day.

Accordingly, at nine o clock the next
morning, Lord Rawdon, having left Cam-

April 24,


den in charge of his convalescents, led out
his nine hundred men (which was all the
effective force he could muster) to the at
tack. The American camp was

1 J il L. xl

cheered that morning by the ar
rival of abundant supplies, and of the ar
tillery, upon the absence of which his
lordship was so greatly calculating. Pro
visions had been scarce, and now being
plentifully distributed, most of the troops
were busy in cooking or feasting; some
were washing their clothes, and others
were cleaning their muskets. General
Greene himself was breakfasting; and al
though, in the well-ordered camp, there
were all the usual precautions against
surprise, there was no suspicion of the
approach of the enemy (who had begun
their march at dawn, and silently pushed
on toward the American position by a cir
cuitous way, under the cover of a swamp-
forest), until the British vanguard fell up
on the republican pickets. These acted
with the utmost coolness, gathering in the
videttes, and forming with great deliber
ation under Colonel Kirk wood s Delaware
command. His position formed the Amer
ican advance, and met the first shock of
the enemy s charge. Here the conflict
was maintained for a while with singular
obstinacy ; and this little squad retired
slowly, fighting with resolute determina
tion, step by step, as they receded before
the accumulating pressure of the foe.

The noise of the firing aroused the en
tire American camp. The drums beat to
arms, and Greene sprang to his saddle,
and rapidly formed his army. The Vir
ginia brigade, with General linger at its
head, having under him Lieutenant-Colo-




nels Campbell and Hawes, was posted on
the right of the road ; the first regiment,
under the former, composing the extreme
right. The Maryland brigade, led by Colo
nel Otho Williams, seconded by Colonel
Gunby and Lieutenant-Colonels Ford and
Howard, took the left. The three field-
pieces, conducted by Colonel Harrison,
were placed in the centre ; and the cav
alry, under Colonel Washington, together
with two hundred and fifty North Carolina
militia, under Colonel Reade, were held
back as a reserve.

LordRawdon advanced with the royal
American regiment on his right, the New-
York volunteers in his centre, and the
sixty-third regiment on his left. His right
wing was supported by Robertson s corps,
and his left by the volunteers of Ireland.
The reserve consisted of the tory regi
ment raised in South Carolina, with a few
dragoons, who composed all the cavalry.
Neither force was large, but Greene s pre
ponderated, and the Americans felt con
fident of victory. The number of Euro
pean troops engaged in this conflict was
very small. Most of Rawdon s army was
composed of Americans by birth or im
migration. The front which he advanced
was comparatively small, nearly one half
of his troops being in reserve. He had,
besides, taken a lesson from the American
leaders, and employed flanking-parties of
picked tory riflemen, who moved abreast
of his wing among the trees, and did much
toward deciding the issue of the day.

"Greene," to use the words of Lee, an
historian as well as hero of the southern
campaign, " examining attentively the
British disposition, discovered the very


narrow front it presented ; and, gratified
as he was with the opportunity, so unex
pectedly offered, of completing by one
blow his first object, he determined to
avail himself of the advantage given by
the mode of attack.

" He directed the lieutenant-colonels
Campbell and Ford to turn the enemy s
flanks; he ordered the centre regiments
to advance upon him, ascending the height
(Hobkirk s hill, upon which Greene was
posted); and detached Lieutenant-Colo
nel Washington with his cavalry to gain
his rear. Rawdon no sooner cast his eyes
on our disposition, than he perceived the
danger to which his unequal front ex
posed him, and, bringing up the volun
teers of Ireland into line, he remedied the
defect seized by Greene in time to avert
the expected consequences.

" The battle opened from right to left
with a vigor which promised a keen and
sanguinary contest; but the superiority
of our fire, augmented by that of our well-
served artillery, must have borne down
all opposition, had the American line
maintained itself with becoming firmness.
On the right, Huger evidently gained
ground; Washington was carrying every
thing before him in the rear; and Lieu
tenant-Colonel Hawes, with fixed bayo
nets, conformable to order, was descend
ing the hill, ready to fall upon the New-
York volunteers.

"In this flattering moment, the veteran
regiment of Gunby, having first joined in
the fire, in violation of orders, paused, its
right falling back. Gunby unfortunately
directed the disordered battalion to rally
by retiring to its right company. Retro-



[PART n.

grade being the consequence of this order,
the British line, giving a shout, pressed
forward with redoubled ardor; and the
regiment of Gunby, considered as the bul
wark of the army, never recovered from
the panic with \\ hich it was unaccounta
bly seized."

In forming his line, before the engage
ment, Greene, conjecturing that the ene
my knew nothing of his having artillery,
had closed the two centre regiments, so
that it was completely masked. "The
effect may well be imagined," observes
Simms, " when these two regiments, sud
denly retiring from the centre, left (hem
free to vomit their showers of grape upon
the dense ranks of the enemy preparing
for the charge.

" The confusion and dismay were con
spicuous. The British squadrons sank,
and wheeled, and fled, beneath the terri
ble discharge ; and nothing more seemed
to be necessary than to give the command
to close upon their flanks with the regi
ments right and left, and cut them off
from escape. The order was given : Let
the cavalry make for their rear ; Colonel
Campbell will wheel upon their left; Colo
nel Ford upon their right; the whole cen
tre will charge charge with trailed arms !

"Such were the commands of Greene,
which his aids rushed to convey to the
several subordinate officers. The roll of
the drums announced their tenor; and
Washington, at the head of his cavalry,
disappeared among the trees which lay
between his troop and the rear of the

"The American general already be
lieved his victory to be secure. But he

had no ordinary adversary in Rawdon.
With the quickness of instinct, this com
mander threw out his supporting columns ;
and the Americans, but a moment before
in the fullest conviction that they had out
flanked the enemy, were themselves out
flanked. Their wings were enfiladed and
their rear threatened.

"At this crisis, when everything de
pended upon the greatest coolness, and a
composure which might look undaunted
upon the scene, the first Maryland regi
ment, by excellence esteemed, in the lan
guage of Roman eulogium, the tenth legion
of the American army that band to
which all eyes were turned for example ;
which had conquered the British with
their own weapon, the bayonet, at the
noble passage of valor at the Cowpens ;
which alone had fought half of the battle
at Guilford, and obtained more than half
of the triumph of that no less bloody day
now unaccountably shrank away from
the issue, in a panic which could not be
overcome !

"Greene, at this moment, was leading
on the Virginia regiment of Campbell in
person, on the extreme right, when he
was called away by the confusion of the
centre. Vainly, by voice and gesture, did
he seek to restore their confidence, and
bring them once more into the action.
They heard, and halted; but the day was
already lost. They were already at the
bottom of the hill, and the cheers and
clamors of the enemy now commanded
his attention in another quarter. Urging
his horse up the eminence, he saw for the
first time the utmost extent ot his mis
fortune. But a single regiment remained



entire. His artillery was uncovered on
the summit of the hill. To bring his
troops off in order, and to save the artil
lery, were the only remaining objects;
and, amid a shower of bullets, the Ameri
can general delivered his commands with
composure, to draw off the right and left
regiments and form them on that of Gun-
by, which was now rallied; while their
retreat should be covered by the second

" This order, well executed, left to
Greene the choice of deliberate retreat
or a renewal of the battle. During its
execution, the main efforts of the British
were to secure possession of the artillery.
Horse and foot were ascending the hill,
and the matrosses were about to fly,
when the American general applied his
own hand to the drag-ropes. This ex
ample was not to be withstood. A little
band rallied to their rescue, bearing their
loaded muskets in one hand while apply
ing the other to the ropes. The fight
was renewed in this endeavor.

" A British corps appeared on the hill,
moving to the charge. Dropping the
ropes, the little troop, forming in the rear
of the artillery, met them with a fire
which, repeated with deliberate resolu
tion until escape was impossible, was ter
ribly destructive. Thrice was the attempt
renewed, and with the same effect. The
assailants were driven off with loss, until
an overpowering force of infantry and ri
flemen came to their assistance, and every
man of this gallant little band, but forty-
five in number, was either killed or ta
ken. The artillery now seemed lost ; but
at this crisis, Colonel Washington charged

in upon the road, and put an end to the
strife around it.

" This officer, in addition to the rescue
of the artillery, captured more than two
hundred prisoners. His humanity is al
leged by the British to have been detri
mental to his objects. A severe military
judgment insists that he should have cut
down instead of making captives." This
would have been the course of the mer
ciless Tarleton under like circumstances.
Washington s prisoners encumbered his
movements, and the time lost in taking-

7 O

them might have been of lasting benefit
if it had been employed unsparingly upon
the British rear.

Lord Rawdon was not in a condition
to pursue the Americans far. The latter
halted at a distance of two miles, in order
to recover stragglers and take re
freshment. At noon, the retreat
was resumed, and the army finally en
camped at Saunders s creek, about four
miles from the scene of action, to which
place Colonel Washington was ordered
back to reconnoitre. As he proceeded in
obedience to this command, he was told
that Earl Rawdon had returned to Cam-
den, leaving Captain Coffin with his cav
alry and a body of mounted infantry in
charge of the field of battle.

This intelligence suggested to Colonel
Washington the prospect of anew achieve
ment. Retiring with his cavalry into a
thicket on the roadside, he pushed for
ward a small detachment, with orders to
approach under covert till within a short
distance of the enemy s position. His
stratagem produced the desired effect :
Coffin s whole troop pursued, and fell into

April 25.




the ambuscade. Washington rose from
liis hiding-place as they reached it, and
the entire party were either cut to pieces
or compelled to save themselves by flight.
The field of Ilobkirk thus actually re
mained in possession of the Americans.*
The loss of the two armies in the main
battle was about equal, although that of
the British, by reason of the field-pieces
which the Americans brought into the

action, was somewhat greater ; it amount
ed to nearly three hundred each. Two
.of the bravest of the American officers,
Colonel Ford and Captain Beattie, were
killed in the beginning of the fight, and
their fall was a principal cause of the un
fortunate disorder which followed among
the troops. The British escaped without
the death of a single officer of note, but
six were taken prisoners.


General Greene disappointed, but not discouraged. Junction of Colonel Watson with Lord Rawdon. Greene retires. -
Hot pursuit by Rawdon. His Lordship checked. Partisan warfare again. Back to the Mountains. A Gloomy In
terview. Good News Rawdon evacuates Camden. Its Destruction. Miserable Fate of the Loyalist Inhabitants.
Vigor of the Partisan Leaders. Fall of Posts. Lee and Pickens take Fort Griesson. Desperate Struggle. Honor
able Capitulation. Death of Griesson. Reward offered. Greene at Ninety-Six. New- York Loyalists. Judicious
Defences. Kosciusko s Parallels. The Star- Fort. A Sally. Its Success. Greene more cautious. Arrival of Lee.
The Summons to surrender. Defiant Answer of Cruger. Fire opened. Picking off the Gunners. Night-Sal
lies. Desperate Position of the Enemy. Naked Negroes. Flaming Arrows. Attempts to tire. Renewed Hope.
A Despatch from Earl Rawdon. His Lordship to the Rescue. Three Alternatives. Storming. The Assault. The
Ever-ready Cruger. Desperate Fighting. Greene withdraws from Ninety-Six.


GENERAL GREENE, after his unex
pected defeat at Hobkirk s hill, re
tired sadly disappointed, though not dis
couraged. Ever ready to act as the oc
casion demanded, he had hardly gathered
his scattered troops, when he prepared to
thwart the manoeuvres of his young and
spirited antagonist, and to deprive him of
the benefits of his victory.

Another disappointment soon came to
the American general, however, in news
of the successful junction of Colonel Wat
son and his force with Lord Rawdon, at
Camden. This union had been effected
notwithstanding the vigilance of Marion,

* Simins.

Lee, and Sumter, who were beating the
country around, and of Greene himself,
who, from his camp on the Wateree, was
eagerly on the watch.

Very soon after the battle of Hobkirk,
Greene detached a reinforcement to Ma
rion on the Nelson s-ferry road ;

A k A* W * Ma ? 3<

and he now crossed the Wateree
with his main body, and took such posi
tions as would enable him to prevent suc
cors from going into Camden from that

Earl Rawdon, being thus strengthened
by Watson and his four hundred men,
was emboldened to challenge the Ameri
cans to another battle. General Greene,



May 8,

however, disappointed in not receiving his
expected reinforcements from Virginia,
a.nd finding his troops fagged and discour
aged, thought it more expedient to retire
before the enemy. He accord
ingly moved several miles far
ther into the country. His impetuous
young antagonist, nevertheless, seemed
determined to provoke an engagement,
and, forcing the American pickets, pressed
on to strike Greene in his encampment.
The earl, however, finding his enemy too
firmly posted to be dislodged, prudently
withdrew at the last moment.

The boldly offensive attitude of Lord
Rawdon, now that he was reinforced, gave
the American commander great anxiety,
conscious as he was of the weakness of
his own troops. On the evening of the
day following his lordship s dar
ing demonstration, as the patriot
general sat at the table with a map be
fore him, Colonel Davie entered. " You
see," exclaimed Greene, "that we must
again resume the partisan war. Rawdon
has now a decided superiority of force.
He has pushed us to a sufficient distance
to leave him free to act on any object
within his reach. He will strike at Lee
and Marion, reinforce himself by all the
troops that can be spared from the sev
eral garrisons, and push me back to the

mountains You observe our dangerous

and critical situation. The regular troops
are now reduced to a handful, and I am
without militia to perform the convoy or
detachment service, or any prospect of

receiving any reinforcement We must

always calculate on the maxim that your
enemy will do what he ought to do. We

May 9,

will dispute every inch of ground in the
best manner we can ; but Rawdon will
push me back to the mountains. Lord
Cornwallis will establish a chain of posts
along James river; and the southern states,
thus cut off", will die like the tail of a snake !"

After this gloomy interview, Colonel
Davie, at the request of Greene, retired
to write to some of his friends in Phila
delphia, who were members of Congress,
and inform them of the imminent danger

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 111 of 126)