Tarleton Brown.

Memoirs of Tarleton Brown : a captain of the revolutionary army online

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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in tlie year 1862, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the

Southern District of New York.

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where has there been so little contribu-
ted to the literature of American Kevo-
lutionary History, as in the Southern
States. The deeds of Southern patri-
ots, their valor and their sufferings, have been but
little credited, because they have been but • little
known. While almost every Northern town has
had its historian, and almost every Northern hero
has had some one to perpetuate his memory, the
South, though equally worthy of attention, has had,
unfortunately, but few chroniclers. Her writers
have been limited, her historians few and far aj)art.
The little that has appeared, is eminently worthy
of attention, and its value to the historian is greatly
enhanced, from the fact of its scanty representation
in the common stock. Every effort ought, there-


fore, to be made, not only to preserve what has
already appeared, but to add, as far as lies in our
power, to the store.

It is Avith these views, and to further these
objects, that we present the following narrative.
Appearing originally in 1843, in the Charleston
Kambler, a paper of limited circulation, it would,
in the usual course of events, soon have become ex-
tinct. In fact, even at the present time it would be
almost impossible to procure a copy. We have
therefore determined to reprint it, and it is accord-
ingly presented in the present form, with the ad-
dition of many historical notes and biographical

The author was a respectable inhabitant, for
many years, of Barnwell District, S. C, and en-
joyed the respect and esteem of all who knew him.
He died in the year 1846, at the age of 92 years.


EINGr 23ersnaded that a few hints in
relation to the scenes in which I bore
a part, in that glorious and memora-
ble straggle for independence, which
has signalized us among the nations of the earth,
would not be unacceptable to my friends and the
general reader, I have precipitately thrown together
the following facts, which are submitted without
further comment.


Y father, William Brown, was a planter in
Albemarle county, Virginia, where I was
born on the 5th day of April, lt5t. —
Flattering inducements being held forth
to settlers in the rich region of South Carolina, contig-
uous to the Savannah river ; and my uncle, Bartlet
Brown, having already moved, and settled himself two
miles above Matthew^s Bluff, on the Savannah river ;
my father brought out some negroes, and left them with
his brother to make a crop ; and in 1169, a year after-
wards, my father and family, consisting of eleven per-
sons, emigrated to thia country and settled on Brier^s


Creek, opposite to Berton'a ferry. We found the coun-
try, in the vicinity, very thinly inhabited. Our own
shelter for several weeks, to protect us from the
weather, was a bark tent, which served for our use
until we could erect a rude dwelling of logs.

Having cleared a piece of land, we planted, and
found the soil to be exceedingly fertile in the river
swamp, producing abundant crops. The country was
literally infested with wild beasts, which were very
annoying to the inhabitants ; killing the stock and
destroying the crops ; and were so bold, daring and
ravenous, that they would come into our yards, and
before our doors, take our sheep and poultry. Indeed,
it was dangerous to venture out at night, beyond the
precincts of our yards, unarmed. We used every device
to exterminate them, and ultimately effected our object
by setting traps and poisoned bait.

The forest abounded with all kinds of game, particu-
larly deer and turkeys — the former were almost as
gentle as cattle. I have seen fifty together, in a day's
ride in the woods. The latter were innumerable, and
so very fat, that I have often run them down on horse-
back. The range for cattle was excellent ; it was a
very common thing to sec two hundred in a gang in the

MEMomg. 9

large ponds. In any month in the year, beeves in the
finest order for butchering-, might be obtained from the
forest. It was customary then to have large pens or
enclosures, for cattle under the particular charge or
direction of some person or persons. I was informed
by one of those who kept a pen at King Creek, that
there had been marked that spring seven hundred
calves. Our produce for market was beef, pork, staves,
and shingles. There was but little corn planted in that
section then ; and indeed there was scarcely any in-
ducement to plant more than sufficed for our own con-
sumption, there being but few mills in the country, and
consequently very little demand for the article.

From the fact of the new and unsettled state of the
country, it may readily be inferred that the roads were
very inferior ; in truth they were not much better than
common bridle paths ; and I feel confident in asserting
that there were not, in the whole Barnwell District, any
conveyances superior to carts of common wood slides.
There were a great many wild horses running at large
in the forest when we first settled in the district, a
number of which were caught and sold by various in-
dividuals, who pursued exclusively, the business for a


In 1175 the war broke out in South Carolina, and
troops were required for the service — a draft was ao
cordingly ordered in our section, and being one among
the drawn number, we forthwith took up the line of
march for Pocotaligo, then under command of General
Bull, where we were stationed about seven weeks.
Nothing of importance requiring our attendance at
that place, our company was discharged, and we re-
turned to our homes, where we had scarcely arrived,
when another draft was ordered, for the first siege
of Savannah, Greorgia. On this occasion I escaped
being drawn, but was employed by William Bryant to
act in his place.

We embarked in an open boat, on the Savannah river,
Capt. Moore commanding our company. After three
days' passage down the river we arrived at Savannah,
in good health and in fine spirits, all eager to engage
in the contest, and to assert our rights as freemen
through the muzzles of our muskets, and at the points
of our swords. We passed some heavy and mortal
shots at the enemy, which were returned with equal
fierceness and more deadly effect. During the heat of
the battle, the iron hail pouring in torrents upon our
devoted heads, a ball struck me in the breast, but being
well nigh spent, it providentially did no other damage


than raise a blood blister. We stayed at Savannah
about seven weeks, and then returned to South Caro-
lina, under the command of Gen. Bull. (1)

Having now become greatly attached to the army, in
April, 1776, I enlisted in the regular service at Fort
Littleton, Beaufort District, commanded by that brave
and sagacious ofiQcer, Capt. William Harden. (2). There
were about eighty-five men stationed at Fort Littleton,
and I am the only one now remaining of that number.
The greater part of the rest, through the fortunes of war,
left their bones bleaching upon the battle plains ; the
few who survived the ravages of war, have long since
fallen beneath the cold and relentless hand of death.

In July, 1777, I left Capt, Harden, but immediately
joined Col. James Thompson's detachment on Pipe
Creek. While stationed there, I accompanied Capt.
John Mumford, and a few choice fellows, upon an expe-
dition to Georgia, to take a guard commanded by Capt.
Mott, a tory, near Hutson's P^erry. We thought to sur-
prise them ; but, through some unaccountable means,
they had discovered our intentions some time before we
reached the house where they were barricaded, and
snugly encasing themselves, were prepared for our at-
tack, and kept us at bay by firing at us through their


port holes. The enemy, from their favorable position,
could single out our men with deadly aim.

During the engagement, I screaned myself behind a
tree, with the two fold object of protecting myself
from danger and taking deliberate aim at the enemy.
Whilst in the act of shooting, a ball from the fort
struck the tree just above my head, and dashed the
bark into my face. I was rather cautious how I pro-
jected my head again beyond the necessary limits. As
our captain was now severely wounded in the knee, and
John Booth mortally, of which he soon died, we gath-
ered our wounded in blankets, and returned to South
Carolina, to Col. Thompson's camps. When Charleston
fell into the hands of the British, under the command of
Sir Henry Clinton (3) and Admiral Arbuthnot, (4) Cap-
tain Mumford, in attempting to make his way to the
American Army, was attacked at Morris's Ford, Salt-
ketchie, by old Ben John, and his gang of tories. In
this encounter, the poor fellow lost his life, and a truer
patriot and braver soldier never fell. He now sleeps at
the foot of a large pine, on the left hand side of the
main road to Barnwell C. H., a few rods south of the
bridge, just at the turn of the road from which you can
see the bridge.







4 lO

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A short time after these misfortunes, being stung to
the quick at our recent defeat and irretrievable loss,
and thirsting for justice, a company of fifty horse, led
on by Col. Thompson and Major Bourguoin, sallied forth
on a second expedition to take the formidable Captain.
Mott and his allies. In this instance, fortune favored
us. I took part of the company, and went between the
house and swamp. Our approach was so quiet and un-
expected by the tories that, making a charge upon them,
they, without the least effort to defend themselves, sur-
rendered. Taking our prisoners, we returned in triumph
to our headquarters, and from thence they were sent to
Charleston under a strong guard.

After this capture of Capt. Mott, and his band of
tories, I continued with Capt. Thompson but a short
time. Leaving him in conjunction with Joshua Inman
and John Green, I raised a company of horse, which
we called the " Rangers," with the view of scouting
those sections of the country adjacent to the Savannah
River, both in Georgia and Carolina, as occasion re-
quired. Our station was at Cracker's Neck, S. C.
Whilst there, our rude boys would go ^out in the back
swamp, and frolic with the inhabitants, and from the
great quantity of pinders they saw among them, said


they would give it the name of Pinder Town, by which
name it has gone ever since, as it is now well known
by the name of " Pinder Town." During our stay at
Cracker's Neck, we took two trips to Sunsburry, Mid-
way Settlement, Georgia, under the command of Gen-
erals Pickens, (5), and Twiggs. We had a fight with
the British and tories on Ogeechee Causeway ; but not
much damage was sustained on either side.

In one of our trips to Midway, a young man by the
name of Eichardson went ahead of us for the purpose
of advising the enemy of our approach, but there lived
a Mr. Cooper upon the road, directly in our route,
who had a pretty daughter named Jane ; and it was
well known that young Richardson was in love with
Miss Jane, and we suspected that he would call in to
see her, so I selected a few men, and by a shorter way
between the house and the swamp, intercepted him.
He waSj'as we conjectured, at Cooper's, and as soon as
he heard the approach of our men, he ran out — we fired
upon him, and left him dead. Cooper ran through an
old field, but we sent a few shots after him, one of
which entered his heel and stopped him, (I think the
distance was nearly two hundred yards) — we brought
him to the house, and left him with his family.


In our two trips to Georgia, we made a road in it,
which since has become a public road, and is now called
the " Rebel Road." Georgia, at this time, was com-
pletely in the hands of the British and tories. They
often crossed the river, and killed and plundered the
Whigs without mercy. On one occasion, I visited my
father and the family, with the view of remaining with
them all night. On arriving at home, I was pleased
to find my brother-in-law, John Joice, and a friend from
Augusta there, on a visit for a short time, for the times
were now dangerous, the tories having threatened my
life and the life of one of my brothers. I felt that in
case we were attacked they might render us essential
service. And it so came to pass that on this very night
they came to put into execution their threat. It was
about midnight when they arrived. I was sleeping in
the hall, and was awakened by the barking of the dogs.
In a few moments I was brought to my feet by a loud
rap at the door : — I asked, " Who's there ?" Several
voices together replied " friends," and said that they
were from Sister's Ferry, (6) Gen. Lincoln's (1) army —
that their term of enlistment had expired, and that they
were now on their return home — were greatly fatigued
from traveling, and would like to remain with us during


tbe night. I expressed to them my regret at our ina-
bility to accommodate them, as our house was filled
with company. After a few minutes' secret delibera-
tion, they asked for a torch of fire, and said they would
go to Brier's Creek (8) and encamp, I felt disposed to
accommodate them as far as practicable, yet I had some
misgivings with regard to the truth of the statement
they had made, but recollecting that the militia were
about to be discharged at that point, my doubts were
in a great measure removed. I therefore opened the
door and handed them a light, but, as if directed by a
supernatural agency, I instantly closed it again, and
looking through the crack above the door, I could dis-
tinctly see what passed among my friends without, by
the light of their torch, and to my astonishment I found
them to be tories. Here judge of the narrow escape I
made. With what ease could they have put an end to my
existence, entered our abode and massacred all within,
ere we could have been aroused to a sense of our danger,
Coming to the door a second time, they asked for water.
I had now discovered the true object of their mission,
and was upon my guard. Having made the door doubly
fast, I told them in a repulsive tone they might get it
out of the well in the yard. This exasperated them


exceedingly, and with loud voices they denounced me,
father, and all the family, threatening to visit vengeance
upon the whole household, and with fiendish fury and
united strength, endeavored to burst the door from its
hinges, but finding they could not, they endeavored to
shoot me through the crack, (it being a log house, as
before mentioned) and they had a tolerable fair chance
to do so, as the door of the room in which my father
and the family lay was open, and the light shining
through it from the room into the hall where I was.
They fired four or five times, but missed me and killed
my little brother, who was aroused by the uproar. By
this time we had gathered our arms, and they made off
some little distance from the house, still firing, but to
no effect. We were well supplied with powder and
ball, and if they had been men and stood their ground
like soldiers, (and not have skulked off into the dark
as all cowards and villains do when there is an opportu-
nity offered to fight on equal grounds) we would soon
have given them what they richly deserved. I have good
reason to be thankful to Almighty God for his kind care
and protection of me through so many dangers. I can
plainly discern a divine interposition in my deliver-
ance from the hands of those prowling murderers and


A few months subsequent to this period, 1 withdrew
from the " Rangers" at Cracker's Neck, and connected
myself with a company of militia keeping guard at
Burton's Ferry, We exchanged shots almost every day
with the British and tories, who were on the opposite
side, (Georgia.) A man moved over and joined our
party, who said he had buried three jugs of rum at
Hershman's Lake, and designated the spot. One of our
number (Benjamin Green) said he knew the place,
having once lived in the vicinity of the lake, — so being
in the right humor for an exploit, we soon devised, and
put into execution, a plan for visiting the premises.
Benjamin Green, Henry Best, John Colding, and myself,
took a small canoe, and proceeded down King Creek
to Savannah River ; while we were moving up the
stream of the river, with every prospect of success in
our enterprise, a gang of tories, numbering thirty-five,
suddenly appeared upon the bank, where they had been
lying in ambush awaiting our approach. They hailed
us, swearing that if we did not come to and surrender
they would kill every one of us. But we had too much
knowledge of these rascals and their duplicity to be
decoyed in that manner, and to trust ourselves to their
clemency. We well knew that if we submitted, death


would be the inevitable consequence, and therefore pre-
ferred risking our chance in the little canoe, as there
was a possibility of evading their shot. Immediately
turning our boat's head, with our united strength we
urged her forward toward the opposite shore. At this
instant they commenced a heavy firing at us. Best was
soon wounded, and instantly leaped into the water, and
clung to the side of the canoe ; Colding also received
several wounds, which disabled him from further assis-
tance, so he laid down in the canoe, and Green by his
side. All hopes of success seemed now centered in
myself ; with the rapidity of thought I seized the best
paddle, seated myself in the stern of the canoe, and
moved her forward with astonishing celerity, reaching
in a few minutes the land. Whilst paddling, I felt an
acute sensation across the back of my neck and shoul-
ders. On reaching the shore I examined myself, and
found that they had put three balls through my clothes,
two of which had slightly scarified my flesh. Return-
ing to the ferry we severally recovered from our
wounds, but never felt again a disposition to repeat
our expedition. Poor Best and Colding had scarcely
entered upon duty again before they were both killed
by some of these very tories.


On one occasion I was under the necessity of going"
home on some important business. Soon after m}^ arri-
val, a company of horse passed directly in front of our
residence. My first impression concerning them was
that they were a reinforcement of our guard at the
ferry. So soon as I had finished my business, I re-
turned with all possible speed, overjoyed at the pros-
pect of an accession to our numbers. On reaching the
fort, to my astonishment, I found it completely evacua-
ted My reinforcement turned out to be a gang of tories
from Jackson's Branch, on the Salt-katchie, commanded
by that famous old tory, Ned Williams. When they
rode up to the ferr^^, the guard took them to be friends,
and gave them a cordial reception, congratulating
themselves upon so large an addition to their force.
They thus unconsciously and ignorantly delivered them-
selves up to the enemy, and were taken across the river,
and placed in the hands of a large body of British and
tories, stationed at Harbard's store, about two miles
from the ferry. The intelligence of this capture reached
Col. Leroy Hammond (t) at Augusta, who, without de-
lay, marched down at the head of an effective force,
and slew nearly the whole of the enemy — releasing
and returning with the whig captives to Augusta, from


whence my father, who was one among the number
taken, came safel3^ home.

The country now seemed to be almost in complete
subjugation to the British. Yet had they not been
aided and abetted by those unprincipled and blood
thirsty tools ; those " fiends incarnate, whom it were a
base slander to term men ;" I say had the tories but
shown themselves the genuine sons of America, — the
uncompromising", unswerving, champions of liberty,
bound together by every social and national tie — the
enemy would never have gained a solid foot-hold upon
our shores, and tyranny and oppression would sooner
have been swept from our land. But bow sadly the
reverse ! They who had grown up *•' side by side, and
hand in hand together," father, son, and brother, were
arrayed in mortal and ferocious strife against each
other. The friends of liberty were beset on every hand,
and from every quarter, until drawn from their homes
and families, with stout hearts and strong arms they

" For their altars and their fires,
God, and their native land."

Eternal vigilance and action were indispensable, by
which, and with a firm reliance on the God of battles
they fought, bled, and conquered.


It was seldom indeed that I sought the peaceful
shades of my home, as a respite from the laborious
duties and toils of the service. The enchantments of
the family circle exercise an almost uncontrollable influ-
ence over the hearts and minds of men, and yet sweet
as are the voices of those we love, and strongly as do
cling our heart-strings around the objects of our affec-
tions, appealing to our sympathies in loud and soul-stir-
ring language, still louder and more imperative is the
call of our country to duty, and the soldier rushes precipi-
tately from the charms and delights of the family circle
to the call of his country, his heart burning with patri-
otic zeal for glory.

Such was the state of things at this crisis, and such
was the fire which burned in the breast of every Whig
of the Revolution. It was no time for supineness and
lamentation — every energy of the soul had to be exer-
cised, for it was the struggle of weakness against
strength, of the undisciplined against the disciplined,
and of the raw and untutored militia of an infant
country, with the well trained regulars of an old, ex
perienced, and skillful nation.

With these truths impressed upon my mind, I allowed
myself little or no leisure time, and was either engaged


in the performance of duty in the camp, or scouting, as
circumstances required. A short time after the capture
of our guard at the ferry, I accompanied Col. McCoy,
who took command of a small force on a trip to the
Ogeechee River, in Georgia, with the view of attack-
ing a little band of tories quartered in that vicinity.
These we overtook in the woods, before arriving at
the rendezvous ; a running fight ensued, but from the
denseness of the forest we were thwarted in our design,
and the tories made good their escape, — for if my mem-
ory serves me correctly, not one of them was killed.
Thus frustrated and baffled, we returned to Carolina,
On our arrival, we learnt that Capt. James Roberts,
who had been scouting with a company on the Edisto
River, had (whilst encamping for the night, by some
treachery of the tories) been delivered into the bands
of Col. Chaney and Williams, who cruelly butchered
many of his men, Capt. Roberts and the rest escaping
only with their lives. For this outrage we determined
to have satisfaction. So thirty-six men, myself among
the number, immediately volunteered under Capt.
Joseph Vince, a fine officer, and a brave soldier, to pur.
sue these scoundrels, and to avenge the blood of our
brave comrades. We overtook some of their number


in what is called the " Fork of Edisto Kiver," upon
whom we visited summary and immediate justice, kill-
ing five or six. From thence we proceeded to Captain
Sallcy's " Cowpens," a few miles distant. Whilst there,
our commander rode, unaccompanied, to a mill located
near the house of the Pens. Here he was fired upon
by several tories lying in ambush hard by, and seri-
ously wounded by musket shot — in consequence of

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Online LibraryTarleton BrownMemoirs of Tarleton Brown : a captain of the revolutionary army → online text (page 1 of 4)