Robert Tomes.

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

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blow against the invaders of their homes.
Among these was THOMAS SUMTER, one of
the most gallant of the southern patriots.
Though past the meridian of life, such
were the fighting qualities and resolute
spirit of the man, that he was popularly
known as " The Gamecock of Carolina" In
his youth he had fought against the Indi
ans, and had served as a soldier in Brad-
dock s unfortunate campaign. When the
Revolutionary War broke out,Sumter was
among the earliest in the field, and re
ceived the command of the South-Caro
lina riflemen, as their lieutenant-colonel.
He was a man of inflexible firmness and
daring courage. Large, strong, and ac
tive, his body was equal to all the trials
of endurance to which his enterprising
spirit constantly subjected it. " Deter
mined to deserve success, he risked his
own life and the lives of his associates
without reserve. Enchanted with the
splendor of victory, he would wade in tor
rents of blood to attain it."* He trusted,


however, more to personal prowess than
to military skill. He was far less inclined
to plan than to execute, and often under
took and succeeded in enterprises which
a more prudent officer would never have

* Lee.




Sumter s home, on the Santee river,
had been devastated by the enemy, his
house burned to the ground, and his wife
and children driven forth without shelter.
He now sought refuge in North Carolina,
where he soon gathered about him a band
of his fellow-exiles, who chose him as their
leader, and determined to vindicate the
rights of their country and avenge their
own wrongs.

FRANCIS MARION was another of those
dauntless partisan leaders, to whose en
ergetic courage the Carolinas were in-

O o

debted for their final rescue from the
thraldom of a triumphant enemy. The
youngest son of a wealthy planter, of
Huguenot extraction, his youth was en
couraged with the prospect of a life of
prosperity and ease, when his father be
coming impoverished, he was suddenly
made conscious that he was to rely upon
his own efforts for support. The youth
did not hesitate, but promptly sought em
ployment as a sailor. * On his first voyage
to the West Indies, the vessel was wrecked,
and young Marion took to the boat with
the rest of the crew, where for seven or
eight days they subsisted upon the raw
ilesh of a dog which, like themselves, had
escaped from the wreck.

After land ing, the yo ivthful Marion aban
doned the sea, and took to farming. In
the expedition against the Cherokees, he
was made a lieutenant under Moultrie,
and subsequently served as a captain in
a second Indian expedition. When the
Pievolutionan- War began, he was chosen
captain of a company, and assisted (hav
ing in the meantime been promoted to
the rank of major) in the gallant and suc

cessful defence of Fort Moultrie, in June,
1776. In the late siege of Charleston,
he commanded a regiment as lieutenant-
colonel ; but, having by accident broken
his leg, he became incapable of military
duty. Leaving the city before its sur
render, he fortunately escaped falling with
the rest of the garrison into the hands of
the enemy. He now took refuge in North
Carolina, and sought, like Sumter, an oc
casion to redeem his native land.

Marion was now forty-eight years of
age. Small in stature, meager in frame,
and of a sallow, hard visage, he had not
a very martial appearance. He was, nev
ertheless, a man of great powers of endu
rance, which were strengthened by his
severely abstemious habits. He drank
nothing but water, and ate sparingly.
"His dress was like his address plain,
regarding comfort and decency only: *
He was a reserved, cautious man, and,
though well informed, seldom disposed to
conversation. Trusting to his own fer
tility of expedient, he rarely sought coun
sel from others, and his success as a strat
egist seemed to justify his self-reliance.
He was a rigid disciplinarian, and he not
only made his men good soldiers, but took
care of them. Never avoid in u* danger,


he never rashly sought it ; and, acting
for all around him as he did for himself,
he risked the lives of his followers only
when it was necessary. He was so up
right, that, " during the difficult course of
warfare through which he passed, calum
ny never charged him with violating the
rights of person, property, or humanity .""j"
His fellow-countrymen, knowing him to

* Lee. t Ib.




be ft without fear and without reproach,"
styled him " The Bayard of the South ;" but
his British and tory enemies denominated
him "The Swamp-Fox."

ANDREW PICKENS, though born in Penn
sylvania, and a younger man, was hardly
less effective than Surnter and Marion in
the partisan warfare of South Carolina.
Governor Rutledge, with a shrewd judg
ment of character, had singled out these
three, and appointed them brigadier-gen
erals in the militia of the state.

Marion, Sumter, and Pickens, all made
themselves formidable in the guerilla war
fare in which they were engaged, and
greatly contributed to the final triumph
of the Americans in the South. Their
troops were at first few in number, and
made up of a miscellaneous assortment
of ill-dressed and poorly-equipped whites
and blacks. All were mounted, and most
of them armed with rifles. A few only
acted,how r ever,as cavalry, and brandished
old mill-saws converted into broadswords,
or knives at the ends of poles, until they
could supply themselves at the enemy s
expense with sabres and lances.* When
about making an attack, most of the men
dismounted, leaving their horses in some
hidden spot near by, in readiness to re
mount for either pursuit or flight. The
men were all hard riders and good marks
men ; they endured the longest and most
toilsome marches without fatigue, seldom
feeding more than once a day, and w r ere
prompt in action.-j-

Governor Rutledge had, fortunately,
left Charleston before the disastrous close
of the siege, the better to employ himself

* Irving. * Lee.

in other states for the benefit of his own.
He personally sought the several authori
ties and people of North Carolina, Vir
ginia, and finally Congress, and received
liberal promises from all. With these he
returned to South Carolina, full of hope,
to give vigor and concentrative energy
to all the efforts that might be employed
against the invader.

In the meanwhile, General Rutherford
had succeeded in raising fifteen hundred
men, whom he brought together at Char
lotte, in North Carolina, the well-known
"Hornet s Nest" as this whig region was
called by the royalists. This force w r as
sufficient to discourage the approach of
Tarleton in that quarter; and Lord Raw-
don, who had established a post at the
Wexhaws, now deemed it prudent to
abandon it.

But time was required to arouse the
country; and in the meantime, under Brit
ish auspices, the loyalists grew active and
audacious. A large force of these, raised
in North Carolina, had collected
at Ramsour s, under a Colonel
Moore. A detachment of General Ruth
erford s troops, under Colonel Locke, at
tacked and defeated them. Other par
ties of loyalists were growing in both the
states ; but they did not grow alone : their
rising sufficed to give new spirit to the
patriots. They, too, soon showed them
selves here and there in North and South
Carolina, in bodies more or less numer
ous, mostly small and badly armed at
first, but full of eagerness, and perhaps
vindictive passions. Such was the char
acter of the small troop which had re
treated before the British, from the low r

June 22,



or swamp regions, as the latter advanced
into the back-country ; and, strengthened
by volunteers from North Carolina, it was
now, under the brave Snniter, returning
to its native state at the very moment
when the cause of liberty seemed most
hopeless to the inhabitants.

" The attitude of this forlorn few," says
Simms, " was no less melancholy than gal
lant. The British were everywhere tri
umphant, the Americans desponding ; the
state without any domestic government,
and utterly unable to furnish supplies to
this little band, whether of arms, clothing,
or provisions. Never did patriotism take
the field with so few encouragements or
so many difficulties. The iron tools of
the neighboring farms, the ploughshare
and the saw, were worked up into rude
weapons of war by ordinary blacksmiths.
The partisans supplied themselves in part
with bullets by melting the pewter which
was given them by private housekeepers.
Sometimes they went into battle with less
than three rounds to a man ; and one half
were obliged to keep at a distance until
supplied by the fall of comrades or ene
mies with the arms which might enable
them to eniiragre in the conflict. When


victorious, they relied upon the dead for
the ammunition for their next campaign.
The readiness with which these brave men
resorted to the field, under such circum
stances, was the sufficient guaranty for
their ultimate success."

Sumter was the first of these partisan
warriors to cross the border into South
Carolina, and renew the war with the vic
torious British. With a hundred

July 12,

and thirty- three followers, this

[PAKT ii
irallant leader attacked and routed a de-


tachinent of royal troops posted on the
frontier. This was the first advantage
gained over the enemy in South Carolina

j since their landing in the beginning of

I the year.

The affair of the 12th of July took place
at Williamson s plantation, in the upper
part of the state. The enemy, consisting
of a large detachment of British militia
and tories, were under the command of
Colonel Ferguson (not the one already
described, in the British army) of the for
mer, and Captain Houck of the latter.
The royalists, not apprehending an ene
my, were posted at disadvantage in a lane,
both ends of which were entered at the
same time by the Carolinians. Ferguson
and Houck were both killed, and their
men completely routed and dispersed. At
the fortunate moment in which the attack
was made, a number of prisoners were on
their knees, vainly soliciting mercy for
themselves and families at the hands of
the British officers. Houck had become
notorious for his cruel atrocities, in the
very performance of which the retributive
Providence decreed that he should be
slain. On this occasion, Colonel Bratton
and Captain M Clure particularly distin
guished themselves. These two gallant
officers had already made their mark up
on a large body of marauding British and
tories, in an affair only a month previous,
at Moblev s meetinghouse, in Fairfield dis-

*/ O

trict (within a few weeks after the sur
render of Charleston), where they had
attacked the enemy, and, after a severe
handling, succeeded in dispersing them.
One of the gallant young partisans, in the




July 30,

August 6.

affair with Houck and Ferguson, became
well known long afterward as the distin
guished General Ad air.*

Sumter s success inspirited the inhabit
ants, who came forward with such alac
rity to join his standard, that in a few
days his force was increased to six hun
dred. Emboldened by this reinforcement,
an attack was made on the Brit
ish at Rocky mount, where the
patriots, however, were less successful ;
and Sumter, finding that, without artille
ry, he could make no impression on the
enemy s works of logs and earth, retired.

Ever active himself, and fearful lest
his militia might disband unless kept on
the move by constant enterprise, the dar
ing and spirited partisan leader attacked
a British regiment (the Prince of
Wales s) and a large body of to-
ries, posted at a place called Hanging
Rock, eastward of the Catawba.

The assault was prompt and effective.
The regiment of regulars was so com
pletely cut to pieces, that there was left
only the small remnant of nine out of
two hundred and seventy-eight men ; and
the North-Carolina, tories, under Colonel
Bryan, who had been so impatient to
show their loyalty, were, after suffering
severely, totally routed and dispersed.

In July, Colonel Clarke, with a hundred
and ninety men, proceeded to the neigh
borhood of Cedar springs, in the Spartan-
burg district. Here they were suddenly
warned by two women that they would
soon be attacked by a large force of Brit
ish and tories, commanded by Colonel
Dunlap. They prepared themselves ac-

* Simms.

cordingly, and were all in readiness when
the enemy came on, an hour before day
light. It was almost too dark to distin
guish friends from foes ; but the British,
expecting to surprise the Americans, were
in some degree themselves the subject of
surprise. They were met firmly, hand to
hand, and a fierce conilict took place, in
which they were defeated, and were pur
sued for nearly a mile. The enemy lost
twenty-eight dragoons and about a score
of loyalists. Most of the wounds given
were with the broadsword. On the re
treat, Dunlap was joined by Colonel Fer
guson, and their united forces amounted
to more than five hundred men. The
Americans retired without precipitation
or pursuit, and with the loss of only fivo
killed and thirty wounded.

These gallant enterprises of Sumter and
others had tended greatly to encourage
the desponding Carolinians, and to abate
the panic which had been occasioned by
the fall of their chief town. All that was
wanted by the scattered bands of patri
ots were good weapons, ample munitions,
and an able military leader, capable of
showing the way. Hence the continual
call upon the main army of Washington
for general officers. The patriots were
now still further inspirited by learning
that regular troops were marching from
the North to their succor.

While the siege of Charleston was im
pending, some fourteen hundred conti
nentals, consisting of the Delaware and
Maryland lines, and some Virginia troops,
had been ordered by Congress to rein
force General Lincoln in defence of the
beleagnred city. They were confided to




the command of Major-General Baron de
Kalb. After some delay from embarrass
ment in the commissariat department, the

brave and experienced German
April 10. , . , Ar

set out from the camp at Morris-

town on his long southern march. The
journey, by land, was tolerably expedi
tious for the first part of the route; but,
lacking means of transportation, without
cash or credit, and relying for facilities
of march upon states so thinly settled as
Virginia and North Carolina, the progress
of these troops had been too slow for the
succor of the besieged city. They were
still on the march when the tidings were
received of the fall of Charleston.

But the march was not arrested. De
Kalb led his men with a proper care, and
with due regard to their sufferings, which
were great, through a wild and almost
uninhabited region. He had pushed his
progress, to the South by the direct route
from Petersburg, in Virginia, for Camden,

in. South Carolina. When he had

j i. n -11 r>

arrived at Coxs mills, on Deep

river, in North Carolina, the baron was
brought to a halt for want of provisions,
and also by doubt as to his future course.
No supplies could be obtained from the
authorities of the state, and very little
by forced contributions from the inhab

De Kalb was obliged, nevertheless, to
continue his march, in order to keep his
trcops from starving, as he hoped to reach
a part of the country where there might
be found a better prospect of subsistence.
He accordingly moved along the Deep
river, and encamped near Buffalo ford.
whence he sent out his forajmiayparties.

O O J.


With all his activity, however, he could
hardly obtain a sufficient supply of grain
for the immediate subsistence of his army,
and the only meat that could be procured
was the lean beef of the wild cattle which
roamed in the pine-woods and the cane-
brakes. Major-General Caswell, in com
mand of the North-Carolina militia, was,
moreover, in advance ; and his hungry
troopers were skinning all the " fat of the
land," and leaving nothing but a meager
residue behind them.

The baron strove to induce Caswell to
join him, but he and his militia preferred
the independence of campaigning on their
own account. De Kalb remonstrated, but
in vain, and appealed to the state legisla
ture and to Congress. While thus per
plexed, and doubtful of the future, Gen
eral Gates presented himself in camp.

Although Congress relied with conli-


dence upon the patriotism and devotion
of Baron de Kalb, it was deemed best to
despatch a general commander to organ
ize a southern army who was better known
through the country, and the prestige of
whose name would induce the patriots of
the South to rally to his standard. Ear
ly in the spring, Washington, seeing the
necessity of more vigorous operations in
the Carol inas, had intended to recommend
General Greene as the fittest officer to
lead the destined reinforcements to the
aid of Lincoln, and to take the general
command of all the southern forces; but
after hearing of the fall of Charleston and
the capture of Lincoln, Congress, without
consulting the commander-in-chief in this
important matter, had appointed General
Gates to that momentous service. The




latter was then enjoying a brief repose
upon his estate in Virginia, where he and
his old friend, General Charles Lee, fre
quently discussed public affairs, and un
doubtedly in a spirit and temper most
unfriendly to Washington.

On his arrival, General Gates, of course,
superseded De Kalb. The baron gladly
yielded up his irksome authority,but mod

estly consented to remain in the subordi
nate command of the Maryland division.
Gates himself may have assumed his new
position with no very sanguine hopes,
when he recalled the parting words of
his friend Lee, who, on bidding him fare
well in Virginia, said, "Beware that your
northern laurels do not change to southern ivil-
lows !"


General Gates on the Move. Plenty of Rum and Rations. The Troops inspirited. Precipitation. A Suffering Army.
The Promised Land. Hope deferred. Green Corn and Lean Beef. Crossing of the Pedee River. Marion and Ins
Troopers. Disappointment. Junction with the Militia. Lord Rawdon at Camden. British Reinforcements. Earl
Cornwallis to the Rescue. His Promptitude. Order of Battle. Battle of Camden. Panic of the Militia. Flight.
Effects of Diet on Courage. Good Conduct of the Regulars. Victory of the British. Death of Baron de Kalb.
Gates goes with the Torrent. No Rally. Tarlcton and Sumter. A Sudden Burst. Pursuit. The Losses. A Sad
Train. A Mortifying Picture. Gates humbled.


THE ceremonies of his reception
being over the little park of ar
tillery having fired a continental salute,
and an interchange of courtesies having
passed between the polite De Kalb and
his successor General Gates promptly
ordered the troops to be in readiness to
move at a moment s warning. This cre
ated great surprise and much grumbling
in the army, as, from its long-suffering in
consequence of meager supplies, it was
in an ill condition for a march. The sol
diers, however, were encouraged by their
new general s assurances that an abun
dance of "rum and rations" was on the
route, and would soon overtake them.

The troops, inspirited by such

July 27

a prospect, hesitated no longer,

and accordingly began to move. General
Gates, eager to signalize his command by
a promptitude of action that might con
trast favorably with the Fabian policy of
other commanders whose slowness he was
wont so freely to censure, determined to
push right on, form a junction with Gen
eral Caswell, and strike at the enemy.
He therefore took the route over Deep
river, by Buffalo ford, leading to the ad
vanced post of the British at Lynch s
creek, on the road to Camden, at which
latter place, about one hundred and ten
miles northwest from Charleston, Lord
Rawdon was posted with his main army.
Colonel Otho Holland Williams, adju
tant-general, ventured to expostulate with
Gates upon " the seeming precipitate and




inconsiderate step he was taking." The
country through which he was about to
march, Williams declared, was naturally
barren, abounding in sandy plains, inter
sected by swamps, and but thinly inhab
ited ; while the scant supplies of provis
ions and forage produced on the banks
of its few streams had already been swept
away by the devastations of the enemy
and the hordes of tory freebooters. The
colonel advised with earnestness a north
west route, leading across the Pedee, to
the town of Salisbury, lying in the midst
of a fertile country, and inhabited by
warm friends of the patriot cause.

Gates, however, was not to be diverted
from his resolution, and persevered in the
route which he had begun. His men
were already reduced to the "scraps" in
their knapsacks, as their only food ; and,
as they continued their march, they found
that there was but little promise of plen
ty. The country proved even \vorse than
it had been represented. With its wide
stretches of sanely plain and deep moras
ses, there was but little cultivation ; and
those rare spots where the sparse settlers
had built here and there a log-house, and
raised a meager patch of corn, were found
devastated and abandoned. The soldiers
suffered greatly from the want of supplies,
but bore up manfully with the prospect
in advance of reaching the fertile banks
of the Pedee.

Even here, however, in the fatter land,
the sufferings of the army did not cease.
The fields, it is true, were rich with prom
ising crops; but the Indian corn was not
yet ripe, and, as the harvest of the previ
ous year was exhausted, the soldiers in

August 3.

their hunger were forced to pluck the
green ears. These, boiled with the lean
beef, and eaten with green peaches as a
substitute for bread, constituted their on
ly diet, which, though it satisfied the ap
petite, did not fail to produce severe dys
enteries. The officers were enabled to
thicken their soup with the hair-po\vder
left in their toilet-bags ; and thus congrat
ulated themselves upon a more whole
some repast.

The little army, however, continued to
move on, and, crossing the Pedee river,
General Gates w r as met on the
opposite (western) side by Lieu
tenant-Colonel Porterfield and his small
corps of Virginians, who, ever since the
fall of Charleston, had remained in South
Carolina, where they had continued roam
ing about the country, picking up what
food they could get by foraging. Colonel
Marion, too, had joined the march with
his few followers, " distinguished by small
black leather caps and the wretchedness
of their attire. Their number did not ex
ceed twenty men and boys, some white,
some black, and all mounted, but most of
them miserably equipped : their appear
ance was, in fact, so burlesque, that it was
with much difficulty the diversion of the
regular soldiery was restrained by the of
ficers ; and the general himself was glad
of an opportunity of detaching Colonel
Marion, at his own instance, toward the
interior of South Carolina, with orders to
watch the motions of the enemy and fur
nish intelligence."* It was not long, how
ever, before the sneering regulars would
have gladly welcomed back Marion and

* Williams s Narrative.



his men, to aid in saving them from im
pending destruction on the fatal field of

As the troops continued their march,
disappointment met them at every step.
On reaching May s mill, they had expect
ed Inrge supplies; but, not finding them,
the men began to murmur., and threaten
mutiny. The officers, however, by show
ing their own empty canteens and mess-
cases, satisfied the soldiers that all suffered
alike, and quieted them for the time by
promising that, if the expected supplies
did not arrive, detachments should be al
lowed to go out from each corps, and to
pick up what provisions they could get.

Fortunately, a small quantity of Indian
corn was soon brought into camp. The
mill was now set to work, and, as soon as
a mess of meal was ground, it was deliv
ered to a squad of men, and so on until
all were served, the general and field of
ficers taking their share, and not the most
abundant, among the last.

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 95 of 126)