Robert Tomes.

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

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ty. When the American advance had ar
rived within four miles of the enemy s
camp, it was encountered by the detach
ment of horse and foot, about two hundred
strong, under Coffin, who charged it at
once with a confidence which showed his
ignorance of its strength, and of the great
er force of which it was the precursor.
He was quickly repulsed by the Ameri
cans, who charged briskly in turn, killed
several, took forty prisoners, and put the
rest to flight. The firing alarmed the po
tato-diggers, who all fell into the hands
of the Americans.

In the meantime, Stewart pushed for-




ward a detachment of infantry, in order
to keep the Americans employed while
he prepared for battle. But Greene, per
suaded by the audacity of Coffin that his
party formed the van of the British, im
mediately halted and formed his troops
for action, in two lines, which was readily
effected from the line of march. The col
umn of militia, when displayed, composed
the first ; the South-Carolinians, in equal
divisions, being on the right and left, and
the North-Carolinians in the centre. Ma
rion commanded the right, Pickens the
left, and Colonel de Malrnedy the centre.
The continentals formed the second line,
with the Virginians, under Lieutenant-
Colonel Campbell, on the right ; the Ma-
rylanders, under Williams and Howard,
on the left; and the North-Carolinians,
under Sumner, in the centre. Lee and
his legion covered the right flank ; and
Colonel Henderson, with the state troops,
including Sumter s brigade, the left. Colo
nel Washington, with his cavalry, and the
Delawares of Kirk wood, under cover of
the adjoining woods, formed the reserve.
Two three-pounders were posted in front
of the first line, and two sixes in the same
position in the second.

Thus formed, the troops marched for
ward, but slowly, as the ground was cov
ered with wood, until within a mile of
the enemy s camp, when they encount
ered a strong detachment of infantry.
The American van, however, spiritedly
attacked this advanced body, and drove
it back to the British line, which Stewart
in the meanwhile had drawn up for bat
tle about two hundred rods west of the
Eutaw springs.

The British troops were arrayed in a
single line, in a wood. Their right was
composed of the third regiment ( " the
Buffs"), resting on the Eutaw creek ; the
remnant of Cruger s brave royalists was
posted in the centre ; and the left, formed
of the veteran sixty-third and sixty-fourth
regiments, extended across the Charleston
road. Major Marjoribanks, with three hun
dred choice light-infantry, was posted in
the thickets which bordered the Eutaw
creek, so as to cover the right, and watch
the flank of the Americans, should it be
opened at any time to attack. The ar
tillery was distributed along the line ;
and a corps of reserve, consisting of Cof
fin s cavalry and a detachment of infantry,
was so posted, under cover of the wood,
as to support the left and command the
Charleston road.

At a few hundred paces in the rear of
the line were some cleared fields, where
the tents of the British encampment still
remained standing, and bounded on the
north by the creek flowing from Eutaw
springs. This creek is a bold one, having
a high bank, thickly bordered with brush
and undergrowth. From the dwellin -

o o

house on the premises to this bank ran a
garden enclosed with palisades ; and the
windows of the house, which was two sto
ries high, with garret-rooms, commanded
the entire adjoining fields. The house
was strongly built of brick, and surround
ed with the usual tenements of stables,
outhouses, and barn, the latter standing

7 O

at a short distance to the southeast of the

The Americans approached from the
west. Their large superiority in cavalry



[PART n.

made the house a point of great impor
tance to the British commander, who ac
cordingly gave orders to Major Sheridan
to occupy it at the first symptom of de
feat, and to cover the army from the up
per windows.

The American front line pressed on
with loud shouts after the enemy s re
tiring detachment which it had first met,
until it found itself engaged with the en
tire British line. The day was fair, and
intensely hot ; but the action opened in
a wood, the shade of which afforded some
relief to the combatants.

The battle was begun with great spirit,
and the carnage was severe. The field-
pieces on both sides were dismounted ;
and the struggle was manfully sustained
by the militia, whose valor and unflinch
ing perseverance, amid the continued fal
ling of their comrades around them, won
the admiration of both armies. Unfalter
ingly they stood their ground until they
had discharged seventeen rounds, when
they gave way before a general move
ment of the enemy in advance.

General Sumner now came up with the
North Carolina regulars of the second line,
who made such an impression by their
spirited onset upon the enemy, that Colo
nel Stewart was compelled to bring up
the infantry of his reserve on his left
The engagement between these two fresh
corps now became hot. At length, Sum-
ner s brigade, after sustaining the conflict
with numbers far superior to its own, also
fell back.

Elated at this result, and conceiving
the victory to be sure, the British rushed
forward in pursuit, and their line in con

sequence became deranged. At this im
portant crisis, the American commander
ordered up Williams and Campbell, with
the Marylanders and Virginians, to the
rescue, and to sweep the field with their
bayonets. This order was obeyed with
promptness ; the two brigades received
it with a shout, and advanced with a de
gree of impatience which scarcely heeded
the deliberate and measured guidance of
their officers. When within thirty yards
of the enemy, they delivered a destruc
tive fire, and the whole body, with trailed
arms, rushed forward to the charge, ap
parently unmoved by the stream of lire
that blazed incessantly before them.

Nothing could surpass the intrepidity
of both officers and men on the occasion.
They continued to press firmly on with
out flinching through a heavy shower of
cannon and musket balls, until they bore
down all before them. The enemy s ad
vanced left recoiled beneath the desper
ate resolution of this charge. Their dis
order became visible, and was confirmed
by the prompt movement of Colonel Lee.
Wheeling the legion infantry round from
its position on the extreme right flank, he
poured in upon the British left and rear
a close enfilading fire, and their confusion
became irretrievable.

Colonel Henderson was wounded early
in the action, and, while the command was
being shifted to Colonel Hampton, the
state troops became momentarily disor
dered, but soon recovered themselves and
made a spirited charge, in which they
took a hundred prisoners.

The British troops on the left were
now put to total rout, and, as their officers



strove to rally them, Colonel Washington
brought up his reserve and prevented
their efforts to reform. The centre and
right of the enemy still remained much
more numerous than the American, and
awaited the threatened charge with a con
stancy that seemed unshaken. But the
disorder and flight of the left had its ef
fect upon the other divisions of the army ;
and the pressure of the fugitives from the
left upon the centre, imparted a portion
of their panic to the rest of their compan
ions. The advance of the Marylanders,
at this lucky moment, helped to increase
the confusion of the foe. The former de
livered their fire with deliberation and
fatal effect, and the enemy yielded along
their whole front.

Completely triumphant, as they now
supposed themselves, the Americans pur
sued the enemy back through the open
fields, and strove to cut them off from the
brick house, to which the fugitives natu
rally turned their eyes. Successful in this,
the victory would have been complete; for
the great loss which the foe had sustained
must have compelled his surrender, unless
he could secure this shelter, which was
now his object. It was in striving to de
feat this object that the Americans sus
tained their greatest loss; and the affair,
which so far had promised a glorious vic
tory, ended in the complete disappoint
ment of the conquering army, and the
temporary defeat of its proudest hopes.

At this stage of the battle, Major Mar-
joribanks. from the cover of the thickets
on the borders of the creek, still showed
fight, and kept up a harassing fire upon
the Americans. General Greene saw that

he must be dislodged from this position,
and despatched Colonel Washington to
perform the duty ; but his cavalry got so
entangled and separated in the woods,
that it was impossible for it to charge, and
each horseman was thus left to defend
himself apart from his comrades against
the whole corps of infantry. An attempt
to gain the enemy s rear was still more
disastrous. This unequal struggle soon
proved fatal to Washington and his dra
goons. The colonel himself received the
thrust of a bayonet, and would have been
slain, had he not been saved by a British
officer and taken prisoner. Hardly one
of Washington s officers escaped death or
a wound ; while the ground was strewn
with the horses and troopers, either dead
or struggling in the last agonies. Mar-
joribanks still held his ground, although
Hampton had come up to the rescue of
the cavalry. Kirkwood s Delawares now
made an impetuous rush with the bayo
net, to revenge their fallen companions,
and succeeded in expelling the British
from this strong position. But Marjori-
banks retired slowly, still holding on to
the thickets, and making for a new posi
tion, of nearly equal strength, behind the
palisades of the garden.

Here the British army had partly ral
lied, though nothing could well exceed
the terror in its encampment. Every
thing was given up for lost. The com
missaries destroyed their stores ; and the
numerous retainers of the army, mostly
loyalists and deserters, who dreaded fal
ling into the hands of the American, seiz
ing the horses wherever they might be
found, lied in terror, carrying consterna-


[PART 11.

tion where they went, even down to the
gates of Charleston. Their alarm might
not have been groundless, had it not been
for the misfortunes of the Americans, in i
the losses of Washington s cavalry, and
the rash pursuit, by the infantry, of the
disordered British.

By the time that Marjoribanks had
gained the palisades, Major Sheridan had
thrown his troops into the house ; and
some of the routed companies from the
British left had made good their retreat
into the picketed garden, from the inter
vals of which they could fire with secu
rity and effect.

The whole British line was now in full
flight before the American bayonet. The
retreat of the enemy lay directly through
their own encampment, where their tents
were all standing, and a thousand objects
scattered around in grateful profusion,
which, to the famished troops of Greene,
were too tempting to be withstood. Fa
tigued, and almost naked, panting with
heat, and suffering from thirst at the
same time believing their victory to be
secure the pursuing Americans fell in
to acts of insubordination, to which the
fire of the British from the contiguous
buildings eminently contributed. The
shelter of the tents from this fire became
an excuse of which these brave men did
not scruple to avail themselves : and here
happened one of those miserable reverses
which so often baffle equally the calcula
tions of wisdom and the deeds of valor ;
here the American line got into irretriev
able confusion. Its officers, nearly aban
doned by their soldiers, became conspic
uous marks for the British in the house,

who now poured their fire with deadly
aim from its windows. In vain did they
seek to rescue their men from the bane
ful consequences which had folio wed their
entrance into the encampment : they had
dispersed without order among the tents,
had broken open the casks of rum, and
drunk so freely, that they became lost to
all sense of discipline, and utterly unman

The British officers promptly availed
themselves of this miserable condition of
things. Marjoribanks and Coffin made
simultaneous movements; the one from
his thicket on the left, the other with his
dragoons from the wood on the right of
the American line. General Greene saw
the danger which threatened him, and
strove to avert it by ordering Lee to fall
upon Coffin. That officer, however, not
being within reach, having probably dis
appeared in pursuit of fugitives, his subor
dinate, Major Eggleston, hurried up with
a few troopers of the legion, and made
an onset upon the enemy s cavalry ; but
his force was too small to make the de
sired impression, and he was driven back
by Coffin, who immediately after hastened
to charge the rear of the Americans, now
dispersed among the tents. Here, how
ever, he encountered Hampton, who was
advancing to the relief of Eggleston, and
by him was successfully charged and beat
en in turn. After a severe struggle, the
British cavalry was forced back to its cov
er within the wood.

A moment after, the command of Colo
nel Hampton was almost annihilated by a
fire from the picketed garden, where Mar
joribanks had concealed himself. This




skilful officer, to whom the British army
chiefly owed its safety, having dispersed
the cavalry of Hampton, proceeded to the
performance of another movement, which
was decisive of the strife.

The British artillery, which had been
captured by the Americans when they
swept the field, had been brought up and
opened upon the brick house, where the
enemy were strongly sheltered. Unfor
tunately, in the hurry of the fight, the
pieces had been brought too near the
house, and were commanded by its fire,
which very soon killed or disabled all the
artillerists. As soon as Marjoribanks had
scattered Hampton s cavalry, he sallied
into the field, recaptured the pieces, and
hurried them under cover. Then, being
reinforced by parties from the house and
garden, he charged the Americans, scat
tered among the tents, drove them before
him, and bayoneted some of the soldiers
who were still clinging to the rum-casks
lying about. The fugitives found safety
only in the cover of the wood, where the
army of Greene had rallied ; and the Brit
ish, too much crippled to venture into con
flict beyond the shelter of the house and
outbuildings, slowly fell back upon their

General Greene, having possessed him
self of the field of battle, left a strong
picket-guard there, and withdrew with
the rest of his troops to the encampment
(since there was no nearer place to find
water), some seven miles distant, whence
he marched in the morning.

Thus ended the severe engagement of
the ELI taw, in which both parties claimed
the victory. There is no diflicLilty, how-

ever, in settling the question of dispute
between them : the advantage remained
with the patriots. The British were driven
from the field of battle at the point of
the bayonet, and took refuge in a fortress.
So closely had they been pressed, and so
narrow was their escape, that a forward
party of the Americans was only prevent
ed from entering with them by a sudden
closing of the doors in the face of some
of their own officers and men, who were
taken prisoners in consequence, and inter
posed by the captors as shields for the
protection of their persons while retreat
ing under the mouths of the musketry
which lined the windows. The results of
the action are undoubtedly as we have
given them, but the details are subjects
of considerable question. " The partisans
of the South," says Siinms, " were espe
cially dissatisfied with the reports of the
affair. That they did their duty well is
undeniable. They make, however, an un
favorable report of the performances of
other parties of whom the official report
speaks favorably. It is very certain that,
in the management of the conflict, there
were many mistakes, if not much bun

The loss on both sides was very heavy.
The Americans lost about five hundred
(a fourth of their whole force), including
sixty officers ! Among the killed was the
brave Colonel Campbell, of Virginia, who
fell as he was leading on his brigade.
Like the great Wolfe at Quebec, under
similar circumstances, he asked with his
expiring breath, " Who flies ?" and when
told that the British were giving way, hn
exclaimed, " I die content "



[PART n,

The loss of the enemy was about eleven
hundred, comprising nearly one half of
their entire force ! The loss of British
officers was also very severe, but not so
great as that of the Americans. Colonel
Stewart himself was wounded, and Major
Marjoribanks, who had so highly distin
guished himself during the day, died of
fever during the march to Charleston.
The spot where he lies buried is still
shown by the roadside. To the descend
ants of his enemies he is indebted for a
tornb covering his remains.

General Greene carried off no less than
four hundred and fifty British prisoners.
Among these was Major Barry, " a dapper
little gallant," and the secretary of Bal-
four, the commandant of Charleston. His
capture is thus humorously related by the
biographer of Greene:

"Barry fell into the hands of Lieuten

ant Manning, of Lee s legion.


finding the upper windows [of the brick
house] to be full of British musketeers,
about to measure his person with their
muzzles, did not scruple to seize Barry,
and, before the astonished Briton could
conceive his purpose, to hoist him upon
his shoulders. Thus covered with the
scarlet of a British uniform, with the per
son of one of their officers completely cov
ering his own, the lieutenant reasonably
calculated that he should interpose a suf
ficient physical as well as moral reason
why he should not incur the penalty of
a shower of British bullets. It was in
vain that Barry interposed in the lan
guage of offended dignity : < Sir ! said he,
sir, I am Henry Barry; I am deputy-
adjutant of the British army; captain in


his majesty s fifty-second regiment; sec-
retary to the commandant of Charleston/
&c. ; major of, &c. The very man Iwaz
in search of, answered Manning. I am
delighted to make your acquaintance !
Fear nothing, Adjutant Barry, fear noth
ing. It is my policy to take care of you.
and I am determined you shall take care
of me : we must, in times like these, take
care of each other. And so saying, the
stalwart lieutenant strode off with his
captive to the American line."*

If further proof were needed to estab
lish the claim of the Americans to victo
ry, it was found in the events of
the day succeeding the engage
ment. Colonel Stewart, leaving his dead
unburied, and seventy of his wounded to
the humanity of General Greene, break
ing the stocks of one thousand muskets,
and destroying his stores, abandoned his
position, and retreated with precipitation
before his enemy.

The Americans advanced within five
miles of him to Ferguson s swamp, where
he made his first halt. It was Greene s
intention to have renewed the action the
next day ; and he despatched Marion and
Lee to watch the line of communication
between the Eutaws and Fairlawn, where
the British had a strong force, under Colo
nel M Arthur, so as to prevent the junc
tion of this body with the enemy s main
army. The simultaneous movement of
the two corps of Stewart and M Arthur
enabled them to meet at mid-distance, and
to outnumber the American detachment.
By this movement, their junction was se
cured on the evening of the day after the

* Simms.



battle, and their retreat immediately con

General Greene pressed the pursuit du
ring the whole of one day, but without

success. The escape of Stewart
Sept, 10,

was secured for the time, and

the American general was compelled to
forego his object, and yield his earnest
attention to the prisoners and wounded
in his hands.

The British wounded narrowly escaped
capture by Marion. This vigilant parti
san, learning that they had been shipped
at Fairlawn for Charleston, descended the
country rapidly by night, and would have
intercepted them, but for a slave of one
of the plantations, who gave intelligence
of his movements to the British. This
brought out a strong detachment against
him from the camp, and he was obliged
in turn to steal away and avoid intercep

Returning from the pursuit of Colonel
Stewart, Greene recrossed the San tee, and
resumed his position at the hills. His mi
litia soon left him. Only one hundred of
the North-Carolinians now remained, and
their term of service had nearly expired.
Marion, Pickens, and Hampton, with the
South-Carolina militia, were necessarily
detached to cover the country ; and with
his continentals alone he had to perform
all the painful and fatiguing services re
quired by six hundred wounded, half of
whom were prisoners. There was also

much sickness in camp : and ten
Sept, 18, _ _ J

days alter the battle or liditaw

the American general would have found
it impossible to muster, at headquarters,
a thousand men lit for action.

In the meanwhile, intelligence reached
the South that Cornwallis contemplated
a return from Virginia to the Carolinas
by land ; and Colonel Stewart, having re
cruited his army from below, and made
his cavalry far superior to that of his op
ponents, once more advanced to the Eu-
taws, driving Marion and Hampton across
the San tee. But in this movement the
enemy exhibited little vigor, and the de
tachments of the patriots soon presented
themselves tauntingly before their posts,
but failed to bring them forth. Subse
quently, while the British lay at Monk s
Corner, Captain Maham, of Marion s bri
gade, captured one of their positions, and
took eighty prisoners, in the face of their
whole army.

Dunns;; the illness of Colonel Stewart,

O s

who was still suffering from his wound re
ceived at Eutaw, the command devolved
upon Major Doyle (afterward a general
in the British service in India), who took
post at Fludd s plantation, three miles
above Nelson s ferry, with more than two
thousand men, exclusive of the three hun
dred under M Arthur at Fairlawn. This
force, so superior to that of Greene, gave
to the enemy the undivided command of
the country to the south of the Santee
and Congaree,and westward to theEdisto.
But this superiority did not long con
tinue. Greene s army was recruited by
Colonels Shelby and Sevier with five hun
dred riflemen from the mountain region,
and a hundred and sixty infantry came
from North Caroliiwa. The artillery de
stroyed at Eutaw had been replaced from
Virginia, and the cavalry (so essential in
such a country) was greatly augmented.



[PART n.

In two months from the battle of Eutaw,
the American general was in a capacity
to act. Marion, with Sevier, Shelby, Hor-
ry, and Mali am, was ordered to operate
between the San tee and Charleston; Suin-
ter, with his brigade of state troops, and
some companies of militia, was ordered to
take post at Orangeburg, and defend the
country against the loyalists from the
city; while Pickens, with two regiments,
maintained the frontier from the Indians,
and covered it against the predatory war
fare still raging in that quarter.

In the beginning of November, Sumter
and Marion crossed the rivers and moved
against the enemy. The former soon en
countered a strong body of tories, under
General Cunningham, who had advanced
upon Orangeburg ; and one of his officers,
a Major Morris, fell into an ambuscade, in
which he sustained some loss. The forces
of Sumter and Cunningham, being nearly
equal, operated as mutual checks upon
each other. The latter, who had issued
from Charleston on a predatory expedi
tion into the country, was obstructed in
his progress ; while the former,, to con
tinue this restraint upon his enemy, and
secure himself, fell back for the present
upon a strong and well-selected position.

About this period a foray was under
taken by William Cunningham, who, by
his savage ferocities, had acquired the nom
dc guerre of "Bloody Hill" which is gener
ally known in Carolina tradition as "The
Bloody Scout! Cunningham, with two or
three hundred men, made his way from

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 115 of 126)