William Hill.

Col. William Hill's memoirs of the revolution online

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Col.WilliamHill's memoirs of J,,'] ,«.„;■, f„lf°

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Edited by


Secretary of the Historical Commission of Sonth Carolina

Printed for


By Xhe State Company, Columbia, S. C.
193 1

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

Lyrasis Members and Sloan Foundation


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As will be seen by the certificate of Thomas Sumter, at the end
of this volume, Col. Hill placed his manuscript account of liis
experiences in the campai<;ns subsequent to the fall of Charles
Town in 1780 in the hand of Gen. Sumter, father of the si«rner
of the certificate, at some time prior to the death of Gen. Sumter
in 1832. (len Sumter made some corrections bj'' interlineations
and by striking; out words, and sometimes insertinjz others in
their stead. These corrections were only to improve the English
or to supply words that were evidently omitted; none of the
statements made was corrected.

It will also be seen by Mr. Sumter's statement that over two
j'ears after the death of Gen. Sumter the manuscript was returned
to a son of Col. Hill, but that before that was done Mr. J. W.
Brownfield, son-in-law of Mr. Sumter, had made a copy thereof.
Mr. Sumter and Thomas D. Sumter then compared the Brown-
field copy Avith the original and saw that they accorded before
the original was returned to the Hill famiW. This Brownfield
copy remained in the Brownfield family until a few 3'ears ago,
when it was presented to the Library of Congress bj' the surviv-
ing daughters of Mr. Brownfield who resided at Summerville.
Through the kindness of John R. Hart, Esq., of York, a photo-
static copy of the Brownfield manuscript was procured from the
Library of Congress, and the negative thereof was used as
printer's copy in setting this. Wherever Gen. Sumter interlined
or scratched out anything in the original text a foot note is given
to such interlineations or expurgations. We are uninformed as
to what became of the original manuscript of the memoirs which
was returned to Col. Hill's son in 1835.


For near 30 years, I have been waiting Avith hopes that some
person fitly qualified both in abilities and knowledge of facts,
would have undertaken to rectify some great mistakes, which
have beei^ made by the historians who have wrote on the revolu-
tion in So-Ca- Charity will oblige me to suppose that the mis-
representations that have been made was owing to correct infor-
mation being wanted, and not by design; but whatever was the
cause, the fact is that great misrepresentations have been made
and one in particular of the action of Kings Mountain in this
State, and as the result of that battle, was one grand link in the
great chain of Providence & events that broke the plans of the
enemy, to hold the Southern states as British provinces, it ought
to be handed down to posterity, and more especially as we are
now engaged in war, to support our independence — it is the
design of the author to rectify the mistakes that have unhappily
been made : and I do declare to the readers, that it is not from
any peculiar motiAe or design of the author to be known as a
historian (as I am conscious I am not qualified for the task) —
I can relate facts (which I know of my own certain knowledge)
in the naked dress of truth — and it hath so happened that there
is not now alive any other person, that can write so fully of so
many facts as I ran — and as no other has undertaken the task,
that hath the same knowledge. I have with reluctance taken it
upon myself — In the reading of both military & Civil, or Legis-
latixe transactions the designing eye (and more especially these
who are yet alive that had any agency in the transactions) will
see that there Avas a Providence that overruled the actions of
men, who brought forth means to carry forth the great work —
It will be seen that (xen'. Sumter who had the merit of first,
gen' officer, that made any opposition to the enemy after the fall
of Charleston, they having overrun the Country; and all So.
Ca. had submitted to their power except the' new acquisition,
now York district. — that Gen'. Sumter was prevented from being
with the party at Kings ^Mountain, and having then the chief
command, that he was necessarily absent by reason of the treach-
erous conduct of an officer, that is the only one of So. Co. that is
named by the historians, and at the same time the only officers
that was instrumental to bring about that great event, is iiot

^Interline<l above is : beinji the
2Interlined above is: the part called the

mentiond — and altho' it is disa<2:reeable to state facts that may
hurt the character of the dead or wound the feelings of the living
yet it is the duty of the Historian : — and the' duty of the living,
if their friends' acted improperly, is for them not to follow their
example — That the present generation may copy after the laud-
able example of their forefathers and make use of all the means
which God & nature hath given them: — and to hold that inde-
pendence purchased so so dearly by their fathers, and have a
proper trust in that Power who governs the affairs of nations,
is the Prayer and wish of the author- (Signed) Wm. Hill
Febv. 1815—

1 Interlined above is: only
-Interlined above is : have

Shortly after the fall of Charleston which happened the 12^'^-
of ]May 1780 the British had adA'anced above Camden to the
Waxsaw & fixed a post at Rock}^ Mount, and Granb}', on the
Congarees. Orangeburg & &"". At that time all the upper division
of the State Avas commanded by Gen^ Pickens, as Gen'. William-
son that had the chief command previous to that time, turned a
traitor to his country. & went to the enemy then in Savannah,
& made his peace with them — Previous to the fall of Charles-
ton, at that time there being a considerable quantity of arms &
ammunition deposited at a fort in Ninety Six District, the British
commander Earl CornAvallis, commissioned a certain Cap^ Par-
ris, that commanded about 80 tories, to go ahead of his troops
to take the submissions of all the Americans that was dispos*^.
to become British subjects, to this Parriss & his small party of
Tories, did Gen'. Pickens submit & surrender the beforemen-
tioned fort, together with all the military stores. And likewise
marched several hundred men with their arms. & surrendered

to the said Parriss When these events came to be known, to

the citizens in the new acquisition, now Y*^. D*^. the two CoP.
commanding that dis*. namely Watson & Bratton,^ as it was then
the custom to have two Col\ to a Regiment, they then appointed
a meeting of the Reg*, at a place called Bullocks creek meeting-
house At this meeting, they did not encourage the men, but
much" the reverse, by telling them that they had hitherto done
their duty. But it appeared to them that any further opposition
to the British would not avail & as for their parts could have
nothing more to say to them as officers but to advise each of them
to do the best they could for themselves — Upon this the meet-
ing broke up, but it Avas generally rumored about, that' a com-
missioner' was sent to Lord RaAvdon then in the Waxaw, so it was
that a man of a respectable character that had represented the
District in the Gen' Assembly (did go) l)ut whether employed by
the officers or not, the author cannot say- The anxiety of the
citizens to know the result of this mission was great & thev met
at the Iron works, at Avhich place the person from Lord RaAvdon
met them c*c exhibited his commission from under the great seal
of Lord Rawdon that he was empowered to take their submis-
sions & give paroles & protections to all that choose to become

^Samuel Watson aiul William Bratton.
-Interlined above is: to
"Interlined above is : time tliat
*The er added by Gen. Sumter.

British Subjects — he, the said commiss''. took his stand & pro-
ceeded to read a prochimation of his Lordships that begun lay
asserting that Congress has given up the two Southern states.
& Avould not contend further for them that as Gen'. AVashing-
ton's army was reduced to a small number of men. & that he,
with that small army had fled to the mountains — -Y'. author then
stopped the commiss"". from reading more of the proclamation
and took the stand himself, & addressed the citizens in the fol-
lowing language, "that he was happy to have it in his power
to inform them that both the facts stated in the s^. proclamation
was false and that, it was in order to intimidate & deceive the
citizens, so far from being a fact that Congress had come to a
resolution not to giA'e up any of the States, and that Gen'. Wasii-
ington was in a more prosperous way than he had been in for
some time, that he had actually appointed an officer Avith a con-
siderable army, and was then on their march to the relief of the
Southern States, and that we had all taken an oath to defend
& maintain the Independence of the state to the utmost of our
power and that if we could not raise a force to meet the foe, we
had one open side, we c''. keep in a body, go into Xo. Ca. meet
our friends & return with them to recover our State — After
savins: this and much more not necessarv to relate, there was a
visible animation in the countenances of the citizens and their
former state of despondency visibly reversed, and the poor Com-
miss''. was oblig^^ to disappear Avith his proclamation & protec-
tions for fear of the resentment of the audience

And here your Author wishes to remark that he by no means
wishes to arogate any thing to himself or to have it be sup-
posed that he had or possessed more public virtue or firmness
than other men who acted differently. And after these things
took place the men appeared very anxious to keep in a body
but they had no officers. — I then advised them to Ballot for two
Colonels and they did so and it appeared their choice fell upon
a young man bv the name of Xeel" and vour Author we then
proceeded to further arrangements and that was for the men
to choose all other of their officers to form into companies &c-
we then formed a camp and errected the American Standard.
And as soon as this was known there were men both of the
states of Georgia and South Carolina adding daily to our num-
bers that we soon became a respectable body and a few days after

^Andrew Neel.


these things happened we received information that there was
a tory colonel by the name of Floyd in the western part of the
District who much distressed the Inhabitants and was collect- '
ing men to go to the British post at Rocky Mount, upon this
Col- Neel with all the men but about 12 or 15- that was left to
keep the camp went in persuit of that party of Tories but unfor-
tunately before he got to their settlement they had marched to

Rocky Mount. And from there a certain captain Hook^ with

a company of Horse and about 500 Tories came to the Iron
works," destroyed all the property they could not carry away.
Burned the forge furnace, grist and saAv mills together with
all other buildings even to the negro huts, & bore away about
90 negroes all which was done before Col. Niel returned with
the army to camp — About this time I was informed that Col.
Sumter was then in Salisbury with a few men Avaiting for a
reinforcement — I then wrote to him, informing him of our sit-
uation & that there was a^ probability of our making a handsome
stand — and that we were about to form a junction with Gen'.
Rutherf*^. in X. Car^. that we were going to attack a large body
of Tories that had collected at a place called Ramsour's Mill —
But so it was that a detatched party of about 300 horse from
Gen' Ruth'', attacked the Tory camp said to be upwards of a
1000 men, killed & dispers^. the whole — and then it was that
Col. Sumter met with us from So. Ca. He then got authority
from the civil & military authority of that State to impress or
take waggons horses, provisions of all kinds, from the enemy
that was in that action — & to give a receipt to that state for the
same — This being done we returned to So. Ca. & formed a camp
on the East side of Catawba River at the place called Clems
branch — from this out all our proceedings of importance was
done by a convention of the whole — a commission of captains
appointed to take notice of all the property taken either from
the enemy or friends. & a commissioner to supply us with pro-
visions &c —

After we had been some time at this camp as before mentioned,
in order to prepare for actual service a number of men together

^Christian Huck. formerly a lawyer of Philadelphia. As a regular cap-
tain he ranked a militia tield officer.

=Hill's Iron Works, the property of Col. William Hill (author of these
Memoirs) and Isaac Hayne.

'Interlined ahove is : likely

^Interlined ahove is : the


with y''. author, being desirous to go into their own settlements
on the west side of the River, in order to get a reinforce as well
as other necessaries ^to enable ns to keep the field — shortly after
we crossed the River we were informed by our friends, that
Capt. Hook the same that had a few weeks before destroyed
the Iron works had sent to most of the houses in the settlement,
to notify the aged men, the young being in Camp, to meet him
at a certain place, that he desired to make terms with them, &
that he would put them in the King's peace accordingly they
met him, he undertook to harrangue them, on the certainty of
his majesty^ reducing all the Colonies, to obedience, and he
far exceeded the Assyrian Gen'^ who" we read of in ancient writ
in blasphemy by saying that God almighty had become a Rebel,
but if there were 20 Gods on that side, they would all be con-
quered, was his expression — Whilst he was employed in this
impious blasi)hemy" he had his officers & men taking all the
horses fit for his purpose, so that many of the aged men had to
walk many miles home afoot — This ill behaviour of the enemy
made an impression on the minds of the most serious* men in
this little band and raised their courage under the belief that
they would be made instruments^' in the hand of Heaven to
punish this enemy for his wickedness and blasphemy — and no
doubt the recent injuries that many of their families received
from the said Hook and his party had" an effect to stimulate
this little band to a proper courage — The number of the Ameri-
cans was 133, and many ^f them without arms Cap". Hook had
about 100 horse & Col. Forguson, at this time commander of the
Tory Militia, had about 300 men: they were encamp*^, in a Lane —
a strong fence on each side — the Horse picketed in the inside of a
field next to the lane, with tlieir furniture on the officers in a
nuinsion house in the field, in which was a number of women,
wh.ich the said Hook had brought there, and at the moment the
action commenced, he was then flourishing his sword over the
he;;d t)f these unfortunate women. & threatening them with death
if thev would not iret their husbands & sons to come in — and

iThe words in order stricken out here.

2The word who stricken out and that interlined above.

^The word blasphemy ehan.ired to blasi»lieuious and harangue interlined


^Interlined above is : of the

5The word instruments changed to instrumental

6Interliued above is: likewise


'marching all night, we made the attack about the break of
day — The plan was to attack both ends of the Lane at the same
time, but unfortunately the party sent to make the attack on the
east end of the lane met with some embarrassments, by fences,
brush, briars &c. that they coukf not get to the end of the lane
until the firing commenced at the west end — The probability is
that if that party"* had made good their march in time very few
of them w^. have escaped — However Cap. Hook was killed, and
also Col. Forguson of the Torj^ Militia- Hook's Luit*. was
wounded & died afterwards: considerable number of privates
the number not known, as there were many of their carcasses
found in the woods some days after- This happened about the.
10»'\. of July 1780 at Williamsons Plantation in Y^. D',, and it
was the first check the enemy had received after the fall of
Charleston; and was of greater consequence to the American
cause than can be well supposed from an affair of small a mag-
nitude — as it had the tendency to inspire the Americans with
courage & fortitude & to teach them that the enemy was not
invincible — And here in order to shew the present generation,
what a set of unprincepled officers, with a few exceptions, their
fathers had to deal with- Two very valuable young negroes,
l)elonging to yr. author were taken by the wounded Leu', already
mentioned, and were kept to wait upon him. He requested of me
to grant him a guard & a waggon to take him to the post at Rocky
Mount — Which request was granted to him. & while I Avas mak-
ing arrangements to send the guard the two negroes disappear^.
I then told the Liu', that I knew that they were gone to Eocln"
Mount. & that I s'^. should expect him to send them back with the
guard, he appeared to be very warm that I should have any

doubt of his doing so, and said, that he Avould be a D n

scoundrel to keep my property, after receiving such human treat-
ment from me — - But so it was. it turned out that he shewed him-
.self to be the person he mentioned; for the Cap^ of the guard,
knew the negroes. & found that he the said Liu* had them again
in his service, and when he was ready to leave the place applied
to him for the negroes; but he threatened him and the rest of

1 Interlined above is: after

-The word could stricken out and did written al:ove

SInterlined above is : at the East end


the guard with confinement, if he would say any thing about
them, & it was with a great difficulty he obtained a pass to return
back to me- These two negroes have jiever been recovered b}' me'
by any other for me


Shortly after this, being the 13*''. July 1780. Gen'. Sumter made
an unsuccessful attempt to reduce the British post at Rocky M'.
This was made under the impression that the Enemy' was in a
large framed house : the walls of which were only thin clap
boards, and we supposed that our balls w^. have the desired effect
by shooting through the wall, but so it was, that from the time
we rec"^. this information until the time the attack was made the
Enemy had Avrought day & night and had placed small logs
about a foot from the inside of the wall and rammed the cavity
with clay, and under this delusion we made the attack — ; but
soon found that we c^. injure them noway, but by shooting in
their port-holes And here the brave Col. Xeil was killed & 7
privates: upon this we were forced to retreat behind a ledge of
Rocks about a hundred y''^ from the house — Here the officers
held a council & it was discovered that there Avas a large rock,
and between this rock and the fort, stood a small house which
might be fired by throwing fire brands over the rock, & that this
house w^. communicate the fire to the house the Enemy was in
and as we had the command of the water they could not possibly
extinguish the flames — From this ledge of Rocks where the army
lay. to the rock near the house was about 100 y^'^ free of any
obstructions; & it is well known that when any object is going
from or coming to a marksman, the marksman had near as good
a chance as if the object was stationary it was then proposed by
the Gen'. & other officers for 2 men to endeavor to fire that small
house, but the undertaking appeared so hazardous, that no two
men of the army could be found to undertake it- After some
considerable time was spent, y'. author proposed that if any
other man w^ go with him he ^\^ : make the attempt : at length
a young man, brother to the Johnsons now living in Fairfield
D^ proposed to undertake with me — and we had every assistance
that c''. be obtained — Rich lightwood split & bound with cords
to cover the most vital parts of our bodies, as well as a largo
bundle of the same wood to carry in our arms, being thus equiped

^Interlined after me is : nor


Ave run the 100 Yd^ to the rock ; Mr. Johnson was to manajre the
fire i.*i; 3^''. author was to watch the enemys sallying out of the
house - but before the fire was sufficiently kindled the enemy
did sally out with fixed bayonets; the same race was run ao-ain,
fo Avhere the army lay, & under a heavy fire, not only from those
who had sallied out, but like wise from a large number of Port
holes in that end of the house — It was then proposed that the
whole of our rifie-men sh^. direct their fire to that space between
the small & great house, Avhich was about 15 ft.; we being equipt
as before mentioned, made the -I'K attempt. & the plan already
mentioned, prevented the Enemy from sallying a 2'^. time We
tlioii had an opportunity of making a large fire behind the rock,
i!v: throwing fire brands on the roof of the little house & we staid
until that roof was in flames. & the heat of it had caused the wall
of the great house to smoke — We then concluded the work was
done, & undei'took the 4"\ race, which was much more hazardous
than the iornier ones, as the Enemy during the interval, had
opened a great many more port-holes in that end of the build-
ing — And here I beg leave to remark that Providence so pro-
tected us both, that neither of us lost a drop of blood, altho" locks
of hair was cut from our heads and our garments riddled wit''
balls — & Scarcily had we time to look back irom behind the rock
where our men lay, in hopes to see the fire progressing, but to
our great mortification, A\hen the great house Avas beginning to
fiame — as heavy a storm of rain fell, as hath fallen from that
time to the present, & Avhich extinguished the flames — We Avere
then forced to retreat under as great mortification, as ever ai y
number of men endured

About the ^l'^*,. of July 1780. Gen'. Sumter made a successful
attack on the British post at the Hanging Eock at Avhich place
Avere about 500 Regulars & about 800 Tories from N. Ca. com-
manded by Col. Bryan — Genl Sumter had about 600 So Caro-
linians — ^Gen'. Sumter's men were so short of ammunition, that
Avhen they began this attack generally, no one of them had more
^ than 5 bullets — In the latter part of the action the arms & ammu-
nition, Avhich Avere taken from the British & Tories, Avho fell in
the commencement of it, Avere turned against their associates.
In this attack there Avas a number of men from ^[ecklenburir
County in Xo. Ca. commanded by Col. Ervin: the number not
knoAvn ; & likcAvise about 80 horse commanded by Col. DaAie—

'The words those couimaiuled by are intorluied before Genl. Sumter's
men and the iiossessive and men are stricken out.


these men behaved well, and are entitled to equal merit with the
So. Car.^. This action commenced under many ver}^ unfavorable
circumstances to the Americans, as they had to march across
a water course & climb a steep clitt'. beintr all this time under the
enemys fire & could not injure them until they "jot around the
side of their camp — But as soon as they got to their ground they
instantly drove them out of their camp & pursued them a con-
siderable distance. — In the mean time the British camp being
about one quarter of a mile from this Tory camp, advanced firing
in platoons before the one half of the Americans c^. be brought
otf from the pursuit of the Tories; these few took to trees &
rocks; whilst the British were advancing firing in platoons, and
they fell so fast by their unseen enemy that their officers were
obliged to push them forward bj'^ their sabers- The loss of the
British in the action, was great in killed & wounded - The Prince
of Wales' Regiment was almost anihilated — The Tories
& killed was considerable The Americans had about 40 killed,

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