While Marion, in person, proceeded against Georgetown, Col. Peter Horry was dispatched with a strong body of men against the loyalists on the Pedee, a wild and bloodthirsty band of borderers, under the conduct of Major Gainey, of whom we have had occasion to speak already. Horry succeeded in awing Gainey into submission, and in extorting from him a treaty by which he consented, with his officers and men, to maintain a condition of neutrality. This submission, though complete, was but temporary. It required subsequently the decisive proceedings of Marion, and his personal presence, to enforce its provisions. But of this hereafter.
While Greene, with the main American army, was proceeding against Ninety-Six, preparations were made by the British in Charleston, for ravaging the country on the south side of the Santee. The people of St. John's and St. Stephen's parishes, had shown too active a zeal in the cause of liberty, to escape punishment, and it was resolved that their country should be laid waste. The loyalists of Charleston, and that vicinity, had been embodied in a regiment, and, under Col. Ball, prepared to carry this design into execution. But Marion, apprised by his scouts and spies of every movement in the city, and unable with his present force to meet with that of Ball, determined, however painful the necessity, to anticipate his proceedings; and, with his usual celerity, he laid waste the country himself; removing across the Santee to places of safety, not only all the stock and cattle, but all the provisions, that could be collected. They were thus saved, as well for the subsistence of his men, as for the proprietor. Anxious to oppose himself more actively to the enemy, he sent pressing dispatches to Greene for assistance in covering the country. Col. Washington, with his admirable corps of cavalry, was accordingly dispatched to his assistance. We have seen that the commander-in-chief had proceeded in person against the British post at Ninety-Six. To Sumter and Marion had been entrusted the care of Rawdon. They were required to check and prevent his progress in the event of any attempt which he might make to relieve the post. They were unsuccessful in doing so. The arrival of a British fleet with reinforcements, comprising three fresh regiments from Ireland, enabled Rawdon to despise any attempts, which, with their inferior force, our partisans might make. Some idea of the diligence of Marion and the excellence of his plans for procuring intelligence, may be gathered from the fact that the Charleston paper of the 2d of June, announcing the arrival of these regiments, was in his possession the very day on which it was printed, and transmitted instantly, through Sumter's command, to Greene.* Greene was unsuccessful in his attempts on Ninety-Six. The place was relieved, after an obstinate defence, by Rawdon, who, with his new troops, by forced marches, arrived in time for its deliverance. Greene was compelled to retreat after much sanguinary fighting. He was pursued by Rawdon for a small distance; but the latter, contenting himself with having rescued, withdrew the garrison, and abandoned the place to the Americans. He was in no condition to pursue his enemy or to maintain his position. His Irish regiments were not to be trusted, and the maintenance of the city and the seaboard were paramount considerations. With such active and enterprising foes as Marion and Sumter, between his army and his garrison, he felt the insecurity of his hold upon the country. His posts in the interior had now everywhere fallen into the hands of the Americans. Augusta, with the three posts, Cornwallis, Grierson and Galphin, had just been yielded to the arms of Pickens and Lee. There were no longer any intermediate posts of defence, from Orangeburg to Ninety-Six, and the latter was now so thoroughly isolated, that prudence led to its abandonment. This necessity brought with it another, which was much more painful and humiliating to the unfortunate loyalists of that country, who had so long sided with the British arms against their countrymen. They were compelled to abandon their homes and share the fortunes of the retreating army. They were without refuge, and the spirit of the warfare had been such as to leave them hopeless of mercy in any encounter with the Whigs. A mournful cavalcade followed in the train of the British army, and retarded its progress. Greene, as he discovered Rawdon's movements to be retrograde, turned upon his retreating footsteps. His cavalry harassed the enemy and hastened his flight. At Ancrum's ferry on the Congaree, Greene, in advance of his army, joined Marion and Washington, the latter with his cavalry, the former with four hundred mounted militia; and, at the head of these two corps, pressing down the Orangeburg road, on the 6th of July, he succeeded in passing Lord Rawdon. Retaining command of Washington's cavalry, he dispatched Marion with his mounted militia to intercept a valuable convoy, freighted not only for relief of Rawdon's army, but with all the various supplies and material necessary for the establishment of the British post at Granby. Marion was unsuccessful. The convoy under Lieut.-Col. Stewart escaped without being conscious of its danger. He had taken one of two roads, while Marion watched for him upon the other. On the morning of the 8th, Stewart and Rawdon effected a junction in Orangeburg. The condition of the British army on that day is thus described in a letter of Marion to Greene:
* Johnson's Greene, vol. 2, p. 146.—
"Their troops are so fatigued they cannot possibly move. Three regiments were going to lay down their arms, and it is believed they will to-day, if they are ordered to march. They have no idea of any force being near them."
At Orangeburg, Rawdon was too strongly posted for any attempts of Greene. Here, with his own force and that of Stewart, numbering fifteen hundred men, he was joined by Col. Cruger from Ninety-Six, with thirteen hundred more. Orangeburg is situated on the east bank of the North Edisto, which half encircles it. North and south are swamps and ravines, which so nearly approach each other as to leave but a narrow and broken passage on the east side. The gaol, a strong brick building of two stories, not inferior to a strong redoubt, with some other buildings, commanded the approach. "The crown of the hill on which it stood, was sufficiently spacious for manoeuvering the whole British army, and the houses and fences afforded shelter against all attempts of the American cavalry or mounted militia," while, in case of defeat, the bridge in their rear afforded as secure means of retreat. An attempt upon such a position, with a force consisting chiefly of mounted infantry, would have been folly, and Greene, after a brief demonstration, determined to withdraw one half of his army towards the Congaree, while the other was sent forward upon that memorable incursion into the lower country, by which the enemy, from all quarters, were driven into Charleston; and, with the exception of the force at Orangeburg, for a brief period, every vestige of British power was swept away, down to the very gates of the former place. The command of this detachment was given to Sumter. Acting under him, were Marion, Lee, the Hamptons, Taylor, Horry, Mayham, and others of those active partisans who had kept alive the war from the beginning. The command consisted of all the State troops, Lee's legion, and a detachment of artillery, with one field piece; in all about a thousand men. The object of this movement was not only to strike at the British line of posts, but to divert the attention of Rawdon from the Congaree, where it was his policy to re-establish himself in force.
The force under Sumter, as it approached the scene of operations, was broken into separate detachments. Dorchester was yielded without resistance to the corps under Lee, while Col. Wade Hampton, pressing to the very lines of Charleston, captured the guard and patrol at the Quarter House, and spread terror through the city. Sumter and Marion then proceeded against the post at Biggin, held by Col. Coates of the British army, a spirited officer, with a garrison of five hundred infantry, one hundred and fifty horse, and one piece of artillery. The post at Biggin consisted of a redoubt at Monk's Corner, and the church, about a mile distant, near Biggin Bridge. This church was a strong brick building, which covered the bridge, and secured the retreat at that point, by way of Monk's Corner. Biggin Creek is one of many streams which empty into Cooper river. Of these, it is the most northwardly. On the east of this creek, the road to Charleston crosses Watboo and Quinby Creeks. The destruction of Watboo bridge rendered impracticable the retreat by the eastern route, and this bridge, accordingly, became an important object to both the British and Americans. A detachment of Marion's men, under Col. Mayham, was sent forward to destroy the Watboo bridge, and thus cut off the retreat of the enemy. But the position and force of Col. Coates prevented the approach of Mayham, and he waited the advance of the main body. On the 16th July, he was reinforced by a detachment under Col. Peter Horry, who, assuming the command, proceeded to the attempt upon the bridge. The enemy's cavalry opposed themselves to the attempt; a short action ensued; they were defeated, and driven back with loss. The mounted riflemen broke through them, and a number of prisoners were taken. Horry then dispatched a party to destroy the bridge, and remained to cover the men engaged in the work. But the enemy soon reappeared in force, and Horry, with his working party, was compelled to retire, in turn, upon the main body. Sumter, believing that Coates had marched out to give him battle, took post in a defile, and awaited him; but the purpose of the enemy was only to gain time—to wear out the day, amusing him, while they made secret preparations for flight. Their stores were accumulated in the church, which had been their fortress, and, at midnight, the flames bursting through the roof of the devoted building announced to the Americans the retreat of the foe. The pursuit was immediately commenced, and, in order that it might not be impeded, the only piece of artillery which Sumter had, was unfortunately left behind, under Lieut. Singleton. Lee and Hampton led the pursuit until, having passed the Watboo, they discovered that the cavalry of the enemy had separated from the infantry, taking the right hand route. Hampton then struck off in pursuit of the former, in hope to overtake them before they could reach the river; but he urged his panting horses in vain. They had completed their escape, and secured the boats on the opposite side, before he could come up with them.
Marion's cavalry, meanwhile, under Col. Mayham, had joined the Legion cavalry in pursuit of the infantry. About a mile to the north of Quinby Creek, the rearguard of the retreating army was overtaken. With this body, which consisted of one hundred men, under Capt. Campbell, was nearly all the baggage of the British army. Terrified by the furious charge of the Americans, they threw down their arms without firing a gun. Favored by this circumstance, the cavalry of Mayham, and the Legion, pressed forward. Coates had passed Quinby Bridge, and made dispositions for its demolition, as soon as the rear-guard and baggage should have passed. The planks which covered the bridge had been loosened from the sleepers, and a howitzer, at the opposite extremity, was placed to check the pursuit. But, as the rear-guard had been captured without firing a shot, their commander was unapprised of their fate, and unprepared for immediate defence. Fortunately for his command, he was present at the bridge when the American cavalry came in view. His main body, at this moment, was partly on the causeway, on the south side of the bridge, and partly pressed into a lane beyond it—in both situations so crowded as to be almost wholly incapable of immediate action. Coates, however, coolly took measures for his safety. Orders were dispatched to them to halt, form, and march up, whilst the artillerists were summoned to the howitzer, and the fatigue party to the destruction of the bridge.
The legion cavalry were in advance of Mayham's command. Captain Armstrong led the first section. Their approach to the bridge was marked by all the circumstances of danger. They were pressing upon each other into a narrow causeway, the planks of the bridge were fast sliding into the water, and the blazing port-fire hung over the howitzer. The disappearance of the fatigue party from the bridge would be the signal for it to vomit death upon the ranks of the approaching Americans. There was no time for deliberation. Armstrong, followed close by his section, dashed over the bridge and drove the artillerists from the gun. Lieutenant Carrington followed, but the third section faltered. Mayham, of Marion's cavalry, feeling the halt, charged by them; but the death of his horse arrested his career. Captain Macauley, who led his front section, pressed on and passed the bridge. The causeway was now crowded; the conflict was hand to hand. Some of the working party, snatching up their guns, delivered a single fire and fled. Two of the legion dragoons were slain at the mouth of the howitzer, several wounded. But the officers remained unhurt. Coates, with several of the British, covered by a wagon, opposed them with their swords, while their troops were hurrying forward to where they could display. Meanwhile, Lee, with the rest of the legion, had reached the bridge, which they proceeded to repair. A momentary pause for reflection, a glance before and around them, revealed to Armstrong and Macauley, the fact that they were almost alone, unsupported by their party, and with the British recovering themselves in front. They reflected that, only while the British officers were in their rear, should they be secure from the fire of the enemy in front; and, urging their way through the flying soldiers on the causeway, they wheeled into the woods on their left, and escaped by heading the stream. Had they been followed by the whole party, boldly charging across the bridge, the entire force of the enemy must have laid down their arms. The British were so crowded in the lane and causeway, in such inextricable confusion, without room to display or to defend themselves, that they must have yielded by spontaneous movement to avoid being cut to pieces. The reproach lies heavily against the halting cavalry, that could leave to their fate the brave fellows who had crossed the bridge.
Colonel Coates dared not longer trust himself in the open country in the face of a cavalry so active and powerful. Retiring to Shubrick's plantation, after destroying the bridge, he resolved to defend himself under cover of the buildings. These were situated on a rising ground, and consisted of a dwelling-house of two stories, with outhouses and fences. They afforded security against cavalry, and a good covering from the American marksmen.
It was not till 3 o'clock, P.M., that Sumter, with the main body of the Americans, reached the ground. He found the British drawn up in a square in front of the house, and ready to receive him. As he had very few bayonets, to march directly up to the attack would have been out of the question. He divided his force into three bodies. His own brigade, led by Cols. Middleton and Polk, Taylor and Lacy, advanced in front, under shelter of a line of negro houses, which they were ordered to occupy. Marion's brigade, thrown into two divisions, was ordered to advance on the right of the British, where there was no shelter but that of fences, and those within forty or fifty yards of the houses held by the enemy. The cavalry constituted a reserve, to cover the infantry from pursuit.
Sumter's brigade soon gained the negro houses, from whence they delivered their rifles with great effect. Col. Taylor with about forty-five men of his regiment, pressing forward to the fences on the enemy's left, drew upon him the bayonets of the British, before which they yielded. Marion's men, in the meantime, seeing the danger of Taylor's party, with a degree of firmness and gallantry which would have done honor to any soldiers, rushed through a galling fire and extricated them; and, notwithstanding the imperfect covering afforded them by the rail fence along which they ranged themselves, they continued to fight and fire as long as a single charge of ammunition remained with the corps. The brunt of the battle fell upon them, and they maintained in this, the reputation acquired in many a border struggle. More than fifty men, all of Marion's, were killed or wounded in this affair, but the loss did not dispirit the survivors. They were drawn off in perfect order, only when their ammunition was expended.
The fight lasted three hours, from four o'clock until dark. Seventy of the British fell. But the want of the field-piece left behind with Singleton, and the failure of their ammunition, not a charge of which remained with the Americans at the close of the fight, saved the enemy, whose infantry alone, according to Sumter, was superior to his whole force. The Americans attacked them with half their number. But Coates held his position, and tidings of the approach of Rawdon, who had left Orangeburg, prompted Sumter to retreat across the Santee. His expedition had not been successful. It does not concern us to inquire by whose errors or defects it failed. Enough, that, in all things, where Marion and his men were concerned, they acquitted themselves in a manner calculated to sustain their former reputation. The attack upon Coates at the house, we are told, was made against Marion's opinion, who blamed Sumter for wasting the lives of his men. Without a field-piece, it was scarcely possible that an inferior should have succeeded against a superior force, in a strong position. Sumter was courageous to rashness. His spirit could not be restrained in sight of the enemy. With a brave force at his command, he was not satisfied to be idle, and his courage was frequently exercised at the expense of his judgment. The men of Marion complained that they had been exposed unnecessarily in the conflict. It is certain that they were the only sufferers. Had Sumter but waited for his artillery, and simply held the enemy in check, the victory must have been complete, and this victory was of the last importance to the Americans. It would have involved the loss of one entire British regiment, at a moment when, two others having been required at New York from South Carolina, the force remaining with Rawdon would have been barely adequate to the retention of Charleston. This necessity would have withdrawn the latter general at once from Orangeburg, and the subsequent bloody battle of Eutaw would have been averted accordingly. Greene, speaking of this combat, writes:—"The affair was clever, but by no means equal to what it ought to have been. The whole regiment of six hundred men would have been captured, if General Sumter had not detailed too much, and had not mistaken a covering party for an attack." It may be added, that the party actually engaged in the attack on Coates, were almost exclusively South Carolina militia. Under favorite leaders they had betrayed no such apprehensions as are natural enough to men who lack confidence in themselves and captains. They had shown the courage of veterans, though they may have failed of that entire success which is usually supposed to follow from a veteran experience.
Marion moves secretly to Pon-Pon—Rescues Col. Harden— Defeats Major Frazier at Parker's Ferry—Joins the main Army under Greene—Battle of Eutaw.
After the battle of Quinby the joint forces of Sumter and Marion were separated. The former retired up the Congaree; the latter took charge of the country on the Santee; while Greene placed himself in a camp of rest at the High Hills in the district which has since taken the name of Sumter. His troops were in a wretched state of incapacity, in consequence of sickness. The region to which he retired was famous for its salubrity, and the intense heat of the season effectually forbade much military activity. The opposing generals were content to watch each other. It was while he held this position that Col. Hayne, of the militia, was executed as a traitor by the British. The case of this gentleman was that of many in the State. He had taken parole at a time when the country was overrun by the enemy. This parole was subsequently withdrawn by the conquerors, when they supposed the people to have been subdued, and desired their services as militia. But the British were in turn driven from the field. The Americans acquired the ascendant. The section of the country in which Hayne resided was overrun by a detachment of Marion, under Col. Harden, and Hayne availed himself of the occasion to take up arms for his country. He was a popular gentleman, and soon gathered a strong party of militia. His career was distinguished by some small successes, and, with a party of Col. Harden's horse, by a sudden dash in the vicinity of Charleston, he succeeded in taking prisoner General Williamson, formerly of the Americans, whose life was forfeited to the country. The capture of Williamson put all the available cavalry of the British into activity, and by an unfortunate indiscretion, Hayne suffered himself to be overtaken. His execution soon followed his capture. This was a proceeding equally barbarous and unjustifiable—neither sanctioned by policy nor propriety. It took place after a brief examination, and without any trial. The proceeding was equally unauthorized by civil and martial law. It was not long before this, as the reader will remember, that Marion, in consequence of the execution of some of his men by the British, had threatened them with retaliation. Greene, who knew the decisive character of Marion, and was apprehensive that this wanton crime would render him as prompt as he was fearless, in avenging it, thus writes to prevent him: "Do not take any measures in the matter towards retaliation, for I do not intend to retaliate upon the TORY officers, but the BRITISH. It is my intention to demand the reasons of the Colonel's being put to death; and if they are unsatisfactory, as I am sure they will be, and if they refuse to make satisfaction, as I expect they will, to publish my intention of giving no quarter to British officers, of any rank, that fall into our hands. Should we attempt to retaliate upon their militia officers, I am sure they would persevere in the measure, in order to increase the animosity between the Whigs and Tories, that they might stand idle spectators, and see them butcher each other. As I do not wish my intentions known to the enemy but through an official channel, and as this WILL BE DELAYED FOR SOME FEW DAYS TO GIVE OUR FRIENDS IN ST. AUGUSTINE TIME TO GET OFF, I wish you not to mention the matter to any mortal out of your family."
Weems represents Marion as being greatly averse to this measure of retaliation, and as having censured those officers of the regular army who demanded of Greene the adoption of this remedy. But the biographer wrote rather from his own benevolent nature than from the record. Marion had no scruples about the necessity of such a measure in particular cases; and, however much he might wish to avoid its execution, he was yet fully prepared to adopt it whenever the policy of the proceeding was unquestionable. Fortunately, the decisive resolutions which were expressed by the Americans, their increasing successes, the fact that they had several British officers of reputation in their hands,—all conspired to produce, in the minds of the enemy, a greater regard to the rights of justice and humanity. As retaliation in such cases is justifiable only as a preventive and remedial measure, it now ceased to be necessary; and, with proper views of the affair, the resolves of Greene and Marion were suffered to remain unexpunged, in proof of their indignation, rather than their purpose. But a few days had elapsed after the execution of Hayne when a party of Marion's men, under Captain Ervine, fell in with and captured a favorite British officer, Captain Campbell, with two subalterns, in charge of a convoying detachment. They were at once committed to the provost guard, and soon communicated their apprehensions to Charleston. A meeting of British officers was held, and their dissatisfaction at this new feature, introduced into the warfare of the country, was expressed in such terms, as contributed, along with the prompt proceedings of the Americans, to bring Balfour, the commandant of Charleston, under whose authority the execution of Hayne had taken place, to a better sense of mercy and prudence. We shall have no farther occasion to refer to these proceedings. It is enough that the threat of retaliation, followed up by such decided movements as left no doubt of the resolution of the Americans, produced all the beneficial effects which could have accrued from its execution.
The incursion of Sumter and Marion into the low country, drew Lord Rawdon from Orangeburg, with five hundred men, to Charleston, from which place, after lingering just long enough to witness the death of Hayne, he sailed for New York. He left Lieut.-Col. Stewart in command at Orangeburg. From this post, Stewart moved to McCord's ferry, on the Congaree, on the south side of which he took post, amidst the hills near the confluence of the Wateree and Congaree. Greene's camp lay directly opposite, and the fires of the mutual armies were distinctly seen by each other. The heat of the weather suspended all regular military operations. Two large rivers intervening secured each from sudden attack, and their toils were confined to operating in small detachments, for foraging or convoy. In this service, on the American side, Col. Washington was detached—as soon as the course of Stewart was ascertained—down the country across the Santee; Lee was sent upward, along the north bank of the Congaree; the latter to operate with Col. Henderson, then in command of Sumter's brigade, at Fridig's ferry, and the former to strike at the communication between the enemy and Charleston, and to cooperate with Marion and Mayham, in covering the lower Santee. Col. Harden, at the same time, with a body of mounted militia, had it in charge to straiten the enemy upon the Edisto.
The activity of these several parties and their frequent successes, were such that Stewart was compelled to look for his supplies to the country below him. This necessity caused him to re-establish and strengthen the post at Dorchester, in order to cover the communication by Orangeburg; and to place a force at Fairlawn, near the head of the navigation of Cooper river, from which supplies from Charleston were transported to headquarters over land. As this route was watched by Marion, Washington and Mayham, the British commander was compelled, in order to secure the means of communication with the opposite bank of the Congaree and to draw supplies from thence, to transport boats adapted to the purpose, on wagon-wheels, from Fairlawn to the Congaree.
Such were the relative positions of the two armies until the 22d of August, when Greene, calling in all his detachments except those under Marion, Mayham and Harden, broke up his camp at the High Hills and proceeded to Howell's ferry, on the Congaree, with the intention immediately to cross it and advance upon Stewart. That officer, on hearing of the movement of the Americans, fell back upon his reinforcements and convoys, and took up a strong position at the Eutaw Springs.
Meanwhile, Marion disappeared from the Santee on one of those secret expeditions in which his wonderful celerity and adroit management conducted his men so frequently to success. His present aim was the Pon-Pon. Col. Harden was at this time in that quarter, and closely pressed by a superior British force of five hundred men. Detaching a party of mounted militia to the neighborhood of Dorchester and Monk's Corner, as much to divert the enemy from his own movements as with any other object, he proceeded with two hundred picked men on his secret expedition.
By a forced march, he crossed the country from St. Stephen's to the Edisto—passing through both lines of the enemy's communication with Charleston, and reached Harden—a distance of one hundred miles—in season for his relief. His approach and arrival were totally unsuspected by the enemy, for whom he prepared an ambush in a swamp near Parker's ferry. A small body of his swiftest horse were sent out to decoy the British into the snare. A white feather, rather too conspicuously worn by one of his men in ambush, had nearly defeated his design. Some Tories passing, discovered this unnecessary plumage, and one of them fired upon the wearer. This led to an exchange of shots; but Major Frazier, by whom the British were commanded, assuming the party thus concealed to be that of Harden, whom it was his aim to find, pursued the horsemen whom Marion had sent out to entice him to the ambuscade. His cavalry was led at full charge within forty yards of the concealed riflemen. A deadly fire was poured in, under which the British recoiled; attempting to wheel and charge the swamp, they received a second; and, closely wedged as their men were upon the narrow causeway over which they came, every shot bore its warrant. There was no retreating, no penetrating the ambush, and the British cavalry had but to go forward, along the road to the ferry, thus passing the entire line of the ambuscade. The corps was most effectually thinned by the time it got beyond rifle reach; and still more fatal would have been the affray to the advancing infantry of Frazier—a large body, with a field-piece—but for one of those lamentable deficiencies of materiel, which so frequently plucked complete success from the grasp of the Americans. The ammunition of our partisan failed him, and he was compelled to yield the ground to the enemy, who was otherwise wholly in his power. The British loss was unknown. Twenty-seven dead horses were counted on the field the day after; the men had all been buried. As Marion's men fired with either a ball or heavy buck-shot, and as none would aim at horses, the loss of the British must have been very great. Nine days after, at the battle of Eutaw, they had few cavalry in the field.
But, though the victory was incomplete, Marion had attained his object. He had rescued Harden, without loss to himself. He had traversed more than two hundred miles of country, through a region held by the enemy; returned by the same route,—delivered his prisoners to the care of Mayham,—returned twenty miles below the Eutaw, in order to watch the communication between that place and Fairlawn—then, at the call of Greene, made a circuit and passed the British army, so as to reach a position on the south side of the Santee, in the track of Greene's advance; and all this in the brief compass of six days. Yet, of these movements, which merited and received the particular thanks of Congress, we are without any data in our records. The complimentary resolution of Congress fixes the battle at Parker's ferry on the 31st August.
Seventeen miles from Eutaw Springs, at Lauren's plantation, Marion effected a junction with the commander-in-chief. Greene was pressing forward to a meeting with Stewart. Of this object the latter seemed to have been profoundly ignorant up to this moment. But the day before, he knew that Marion was twenty miles below him, and did not conjecture that, by marching the whole night, he had thrown himself above him to join with Greene. Without this junction he had no apprehension that the latter, with an inferior force, would venture an attack upon him, in the strong position which he held. On the afternoon of the 7th September, the army reached Burdell's tavern on the Congaree road, seven miles from the Eutaws. The force under Greene amounted to two thousand men, all told. That under General Stewart was probably about the same. It is estimated to have been two thousand three hundred. These were all disciplined troops, and a large proportion of the old regiments consisted of native marksmen from the ranks of the loyalists. In cavalry, Greene had the advantage, but a great portion of his men were militia. In artillery the two armies were equal. The British had five and the Americans four pieces.
The memorable battle of the Eutaw Springs was fought on the 8th September. At four o'clock in the morning the Americans moved from their bivouac down to the attack. The day was fair, but intensely hot; but the combatants at the commencement of the battle were relieved by the shade of the woods. The South Carolina State troops and Lee's legion formed the advance under Colonel Henderson. The militia, both of South and North Carolina, moved next, under Marion. Then followed the regulars under Gen. Sumner; and the rear was closed by Washington's cavalry, and Kirkwood's Delawares, under Col. Washington. The artillery moved between the columns. The troops were thus arranged in reference to their order of battle.
Of the approach of the Americans Stewart was wholly ignorant on the evening of the 7th. The only patrol which had been sent up the Congaree road had been captured during the night, and Stewart himself says, in excuse, that "the Americans had waylaid the swamps and passes in such a manner as to cut off every avenue of intelligence." So entirely secure had he felt himself in his position, which was a strong one, that he had sent out an unarmed party of one hundred men, in the very direction of Greene's advance, to gather sweet potatoes. This party, called a rooting party, after advancing about three miles, had pursued a road to the right, which led to the river plantations. Advised, by two deserters from the North Carolina militia, of Greene's approach, Stewart dispatched Captain Coffin, with his cavalry, to recall the rooting party, and to reconnoitre the Americans. Before Coffin could effect either object, he encountered the American advance, and, in total ignorance of its strength, charged it with a degree of confidence, which led Greene to imagine that Stewart with his whole army was at hand. Coffin was easily repulsed; the rooting party, alarmed by the firing, hurried from the woods, and were all made prisoners. Meanwhile, Stewart, now thoroughly aware of the proximity of his enemy, pushed forward a detachment of infantry, a mile distant from the Eutaw, with orders to engage and detain the American troops while he formed his men and prepared for battle. But Greene, whom the audacity of Coffin had deceived, halted his columns where they stood, and proceeded to display them. The column of militia formed the first line; the South Carolina militia in equal divisions on the right and left, and the North Carolinians in the centre. General Marion commanded the right, General Pickens the left, and Col. Malmedy the centre. Col. Henderson, with the State troops, including Sumter's brigade, covered the left of this line, and Col. Lee, with his legion, the right. The column of regulars also displayed in one line. The North Carolinians, under Gen. Sumner, occupied the right; the Marylanders, under Col. Williams, the left; the Virginians, under Col. Campbell, the centre. Two pieces of artillery were assigned to each line. Col. Washington moved in column in the rear, keeping himself in reserve. In this order, the troops pressed forward slowly, as the country on both sides of the road was in wood, and prevented much expedition. Moving thus, the first line encountered the advance parties of Stewart, and drove them before it, until the entire line of the British army, displayed in order of battle, received, and gave shelter to, the fugitives.
The troops of Stewart were drawn up in one line at about two hundred yards west of the Eutaw Springs; the Buffs on the right, Cruger's corps in the centre, and the 63d and 64th on the left. Major Marjoribanks, with three hundred of his best troops, was strongly posted, so as to flank the Buffs, under shelter of a thick wood on the Eutaw Creek, which covered the right of the whole line; the left was, in military 'parlance', 'in air'—resting in the wood, and supported by Coffin's cavalry—reduced to a very small number—and a respectable detachment of infantry. His ground was altogether in wood, but, at a small distance, in the rear of his line, was an open field, on the edge of which stood a strong brick dwelling, with offices, out-houses, and a palisadoed garden, in all of which a stout resistance might be made. On this brick house, Stewart had already cast his eyes, as the means of saving his army in any 'dernier' necessity. The house was of two stories, and abundantly strong to resist small arms. Its windows commanded all the open space around. Major Sheridan was ordered to throw himself into it, with his command, in case of an unfavorable issue to the fight; and in this position to overawe the Americans, and cover the army. Feeble in cavalry, in which the Americans were strong, there was no other means for retreat and support in the event of a capital misfortune.
The American approach was from the west. The first line, consisting wholly of militia, went into action, and continued in it with a coolness and stubbornness which, says Greene, "would have graced the veterans of the great king of Prussia." Such conduct was almost invariable on their part, wherever Marion or Pickens commanded. Steadily and without faltering, they advanced into the hottest of the enemy's fire, with shouts and exhortations, which were not lessened by the continual fall of their comrades around them. Their line was all the while receiving the fire of double their number—they were opposed to the entire line of the British. The carnage was severe, and very equal on both sides. The two pieces of artillery were at length disabled, and after exchanging seventeen rounds with the enemy, the militia began to falter. Gen. Sumner was ordered up to their support, with the North Carolina Continentals. With the advance of Sumner, Stewart brought into line on his left, the infantry of his reserve, and the battle, between fresh troops on both sides, raged with renewed fury. From the commencement of the action, the infantry of the American covering parties, right and left, had been steadily engaged. The State troops, under Henderson, had suffered greatly. The American left, which they flanked, falling far short of the British right in length, they were exposed to the oblique fire of a large proportion of the British left, and particularly of the battalion commanded by Marjoribanks. Henderson himself was disabled, and his men, denied to charge the enemy under whose fire they were suffering—for they were necessary to the safety of the artillery and militia—were subjected to a trial of their constancy, which very few soldiers, whatever may have been their training, would have borne so well.
Meanwhile, the brigade of Sumner recoiled from the fire of the greater numbers opposed to them in front. At this sight, the exultation of the British Left hurried them forward, assured of certain victory. Their line became deranged, and the American general, promptly availing himself of the opportunity, issued his command to Col. Williams, who had in charge the remaining portion of his second line, to "advance, and sweep the field with his bayonets." The two battalions obeyed the order with a shout. The Virginians, when within forty yards of the enemy, poured in a destructive fire, and the whole second line with trailed arms pressed on to the charge. The advanced left of the British recoiled, and, just at this juncture, the legion infantry delivered an enfilading fire, which threw them into irretrievable disorder. The British centre, pressed upon by the fugitives, began to give way from left to right, and the fire of the Marylanders, poured in at the proper moment, completed their disaster. Their whole front yielded, and the shouts of the Americans declared their exultation, as at a victory already won. Unquestionably, the day was theirs. The enemy had fled from the battle. But a new one was to begin, in which victory, at present so secure, was taken from their grasp. In the effort to prevent the enemy from rallying, and to cut him off from the brick dwelling, into which Sheridan, obeying the commands of Stewart, had thrown himself as soon as the necessity became apparent, the greatest loss of the Americans was sustained. Marjoribanks still held his ground, with his entire battalion, in the thick woods which skirted Eutaw Creek, and so well covered was he that, in an attempt to penetrate with his cavalry, Col. Washington became entangled in the thicket, and fell into the hands of the enemy, while his men suffered severely from their fire, and his troop was routed. A second time were they brought to the charge, but with no better success than before. Marjoribanks still maintained his position, watching the moment when to emerge from the thicket with the best prospect of safety to himself, and hurt to the Americans. He was soon to have an opportunity.
The British line had yielded and broken before the American bayonet. The latter pressed closely upon their heels, made many prisoners, and might have cut them off, and, by isolating Marjoribanks, forced him to surrender, but for one of those occurrences which so frequently in battle change the fortunes of the day. The course of the fugitives led them directly through the British encampment. There everything was given up for lost. The tents were all standing, the commissaries had abandoned their stores, and the numerous retainers of the army were already in full flight for Charleston. When the pursuing Americans penetrated the encampment, they lost sight of the fugitives in the contemplation of various objects of temptation which, to a half-naked and half-starved soldiery, were irresistible. The pursuit was forborne; the Americans fastened upon the liquors and refreshments scattered among the tents; and the whole army, with the exception of one or two corps, then fell into confusion. Yet, so closely had the British been pursued to the shelter of the house, and so narrow was their escape, that some of the Americans had nearly obtained entrance with them. It was only by shutting the door against some of their own officers, that they made it secure against the enemy; and in retiring from the house, now a citadel, the Americans only found safety by interposing the bodies of the officers, thus made captive at the entrance, between themselves and the fire from the windows. One ludicrous incident is told of Major Barry, who was taken in this manner, and made use of as a shield by Lieut. Manning, as he retreated from before the house, which otherwise he could not have left in safety. Without struggling or making the slightest effort for his extrication, Barry only enumerated his own titles with a profound solemnity. "Sir, I am Henry Barry, Deputy Adjutant General of the British army, Secretary to the Commandant of Charleston, Captain in the 52d regiment," &c. "Enough, enough, sir," answered Manning. "You are just the man I was looking for. Fear nothing: you shall SCREEN ME from danger, and I shall take special care of you." Manning escaped in safety with his prisoner. But there were many brave officers far less fortunate. Many were destined to perish in the miserable after struggle, who had gone gloriously through the greater dangers of the fight. The British tents had done what the British arms had failed to do. Victory was lost to the Americans. Scattered throughout the encampment, the soldiers became utterly unmanageable. The enemy, meanwhile, had partially recovered from their panic. The party of Sheridan were in possession of the house. Another party held possession of the palisaded garden. Coffin was active with his remnant of cavalry, and Marjoribanks still held a formidable position in the thicket on Eutaw Creek. From the upper windows of the house, the musketry of Sheridan traversed the encampment, which the Americans now trembled to leave, lest they should suffer from their fire. Every head that emerged from a tent was a mark for their bullets. Aware, by this time, of the extent of his misfortune, Greene ordered a retreat, which Hampton's cavalry was commanded to cover. In the execution of this duty Hampton encountered the British cavalry. A sharp action ensued; the latter fled, and in the ardor of pursuit, the American horse approached so near to the position of Marjoribanks as to receive a murderous fire, which prostrated one-third of their number and scattered the rest. Before they could again be brought together, Marjoribanks, seizing upon the chance afforded by a temporary clearing of the field, emerged from the wood, at a moment which enabled him to put a successful finish to the labors of the day. Two six-pounders, which had been abandoned by the British, had been turned upon the house by the Americans; but in their eagerness they had brought the pieces within the range of fire from the windows of the house. The artillerists had been shot down; and, in the absence of the American cavalry, Marjoribanks was enabled to recover them. Wheeling them under the walls of the house, he took a contiguous position, his own being almost the only portion of the British army still in a condition to renew the action. The Americans yielded the ground about the house, but were promptly rallied in the skirts of the wood. The British were too much crippled to pursue; and the respite was gladly seized upon by the Americans to plunge headlong into the neighboring ponds, to cool the heat and satisfy the intense thirst occasioned by such efforts under the burning sun of a Carolina September. Both sides claimed the victory, and with equal reason. In the first part of the day it was clearly with the Americans. They had driven the enemy from the field, in panic and with great loss. They were in possession of five hundred prisoners, nearly all of whom they retained. They had taken two out of the five pieces of artillery which the British had brought into the action; and, something more to boast, considering the proverbial renown of the British with this weapon, it was at the point of the bayonet that they had swept the enemy from the ground. The British took shelter in a fortress from which the Americans were repulsed. It is of no consequence to assert that the latter might have taken it. They might—it was in their power to have done so,—but they did not; and the promptitude with which the British availed themselves of this security, entitles them to the merit which they claim. We are constrained to think that the business of the field was strangely blundered by the Americans at the sequel. This may have arisen from the carnage made at this period among their officers, particularly in their persevering, but futile endeavors, to extricate the soldiers from their tents. Under cover of a contiguous barn, the artillery presented the means of forcing the building and reducing the garrison to submission. The attempts made at this object, by this arm of the Americans, were rash, badly counselled, and exposed to danger without adequate protection. The British were saved by this error, by the luxuries contained within their tents, by the spirited behavior of Coffin, and the cool and steady valor of Marjoribanks.
Retreat of the British from Eutaw—Pursuit of them by Marion and Lee—Close of the Year.
That the results of victory lay with the Americans, was shown by the events of the ensuing day. Leaving his dead unburied, seventy of his wounded to the enemy, breaking up a thousand stand of arms, and destroying his stores, General Stewart commenced a precipitate retreat towards Fairlawn. The British power in Carolina was completely prostrated by this battle. Five hundred prisoners fell into the hands of the Americans, and it was Greene's purpose to have renewed the fight on the next day; but the flight of Stewart anticipated and baffled his intentions. He commenced pursuit, and detached Marion and Lee, by a circuitous route, to gain the enemy's front, and interpose themselves between him and the post at Fairlawn, from which Major M'Arthur had been summoned, with five hundred men, to cover the retreat. But this plan was unsuccessful. So precipitate was the march of Stewart, and so happily concerted the movements of the two British officers, that they effected a junction before Marion and Lee could reach Ferguson's Swamp, their place of destination. The cavalry of the enemy's rear-guard fell into the hands of the Americans, but Stewart was beyond pursuit. In this flight, amongst others, the British lost the brave Major Marjoribanks, who died of a fever, and was buried on the road. While they admitted a loss, in killed, wounded, and missing, of half the number brought into the field, that of the Americans was nearly equally severe, and fell with particular severity upon the officers. Sixty-one of these were killed or wounded; twenty-one died upon the field. The returns exhibit a loss of one hundred and fourteen rank and file killed, three hundred wounded, and forty missing—an aggregate exceeding a fourth of all who marched into battle. Many of Marion's men were killed, though not so many as he lost in the affair of Quinby. Among his officers, Capt. John Simons, of Pedee, was slain, and Col. Hugh Horry wounded.
Greene retired to the high hills of Santee, while Marion proceeded to encamp at Payne's plantation, on Santee river swamp. This was one of his favorite places of retreat. Here, in the depths of a cane-brake, within a quarter of a mile from the Santee, he made himself a clearing, "much," says Judge James, "to his liking," and, with the canes, thatched the rude huts of his men. The high land was skirted by lakes, which rendered the approach difficult; and here, as in perfect security, he found forage for his horses, and provisions in abundance for his men. Such a place of encampment, at such a season, would hardly commend itself now to the citizen of Carolina. The modes and objects of culture, and probably the climate, have undergone a change. The time was autumn, the most sickly period of our year; and, to sleep in such a region now, even for a single night, would be considered certain death to the white man. It does not seem, at that period, that much apprehension of malaria was felt.*
* Judge James refers to this place as Peyre's, not Payne's, plantation, and notes "It appears now there was very little sickness at that day." In a footnote, he goes on to say: "Very soon after the revolutionary war, this scene was entirely changed. Planters, in clearing their land, had rolled logs and other rubbish from their fields, into the lakes and creeks leading from the river, and many threw trees into it to get them quickly out of the way.... The waters below being obstructed, they flooded the low grounds. ..." This would explain the early absence, and later presence, of malaria, as the mosquitoes necessary for transmitting it would thrive in the still waters created by the planters.—A. L., 1996.—
But Marion did not linger long in any one situation. Hearing that the British were about to send their wounded from Fairlawn to Charleston, his restless enterprise prompted him to aim at the capture of the detachment. Moving rapidly by night, he threw himself below the former place, on the opposite bank of the river, and would certainly have intercepted them, but for a slave of one of the plantations, who, hastening to the British camp, reported his proximity. The arrival of a superior force compelled him to steal away with a caution like that which marked his approach.
The command of the British army, in consequence of a wound received by General Stewart at Eutaw, had devolved on Major Doyle. This army, recruited by the force of M'Arthur, was still, after all its losses, fully two thousand men. That of Greene, reduced by wounds and sickness, could not muster one thousand fit for duty. His cavalry had been greatly thinned by the late battle, and it was not until the cavalry of Sumter's brigade could be brought together, with Marion's mounted infantry, and the horse of Horry and Mayham, that the superiority of the American general could be restored. Doyle had taken post at Fludd's plantation, three miles above Nelson's Ferry, on the Santee, with the main body of the British; M'Arthur held the post at Fairlawn, with a detachment of three hundred. Doyle, with some instinctive notion that his time was short, busied himself in a career of plunder which threatened to strip the plantations south of the Santee and Congaree, and westward to the Edisto, not only of every negro which they contained, but of all other kinds of property. Over this region, the feebleness of the American forces, and their present deficiency in cavalry, gave him almost entire control. The opposite banks were guarded by Marion and Hampton, who afforded protection to everything that could be moved across, and presented themselves at every point to the enemy, whenever he attempted the passage of the river. Marion was at this time an invalid, but, however much he might need, he asked for no repose or exemption from service when the enemy was in the field. His force was also reduced by sickness. Col. Mayham alone had no less than one hundred men unfit for duty. Other circumstances kept the militia from coming to the summons of Marion. Those on the borders of North Carolina were detained to meet and suppress a rising of the loyalists of that State under Hector M'Neil, and even those in his camp were unprovided with ammunition. Early in October, we find him writing pressingly to General Greene and Governor Rutledge for a supply. Rutledge answers, on the 10th of that month, "I wish to God it was in my power to send you ammunition instantly, but it is not." Col. Otho Williams, in the temporary absence of Greene, writes, in answer: "Our stock of ammunition is quite exhausted—we have not an ounce of powder, or a cartridge, in store." And yet, it was under similar deficiencies that the men of Marion had labored from the beginning; and half the time had they gone into battle with less than three rounds of powder to a man. Williams further writes: "His Excellency, Governor Rutledge, has intimated that you meditate an expedition over the Santee. In making your determination, if it is not settled, permit me to recommend to your consideration, that THE GENERAL DEPENDS UPON YOU ENTIRELY FOR INTELLIGENCE OF THE ENEMY'S MOTIONS." The activity of our partisan, his elasticity of character, his independence of resources, and usefulness to others, are all to be gathered from these two extracts.
Late in September of this year, Governor Rutledge issued a proclamation, requiring that the disaffected should come in within thirty days, and perform a six months tour of duty. The condition of pardon for all previous offences was attached to this requisition. The idea of this proclamation was borrowed from similar ones of the British generals, when they first overran the country. The object was to secure those persons, of whom there were numbers, who, in the declining fortunes of the British, were not unwilling to turn upon and rend their old friends, no longer capable of protecting or providing for them. The measure was of doubtful policy, since it appealed to the basest feelings of humanity. Its effects were considerable, however; numbers presented themselves in the ranks of Marion, showing finely in contrast with his ancient and half-naked veterans. "Their new white feathers," says James, "fine coats, new saddles and bridles, and FAMISHED horses, showed that they had lately been in the British garrison." Their appearance, not to speak of their previous career, naturally inspired distrust in the minds of those whose scars and nakedness were the proofs of their virtue; and another measure, which was adopted about this time, had the further effect of impairing the value of that efficient brigade upon which Marion had been accustomed to rely. In order to promote the growth of the new regiments, it was permitted to all such persons as could hire a substitute, to claim exemption from military duty. This was a temptation too great to be resisted by those old soldiers who had served from the first, who had left their families in wretched lodgings, in poverty and distress, and from whose immediate neighborhood the presence of the war was withdrawn. The six months men were easily bought up to fill their places. The result was very injurious to the 'morale' of the brigade, and the evil effects of the measure were soon felt in the imperfect subordination, the deficient firmness, and the unprincipled character of the new recruits. It was productive also of differences between two of Marion's best officers, Horry and Mayham, which wrought evil consequences to the country. Being commissioned on the same day as colonels of the new regiments, they quarrelled about precedency. The fruits of this difference will be seen hereafter.
As the winter set in, the army began to recruit, and the militia to embody under their several commanders. Greene was joined by Cols. Shelby and Sevier, with five hundred mountaineers, and these, with Horry and Mayham, were ordered to place themselves under Marion, to operate in the country between the Santee and Charleston. Sumter, at the same time, with a brigade of State troops and some companies of militia, was ordered to take post at Orangeburg, to cover the country from the inroads of the loyalists from Charleston. Pickens, in the meantime, with his regiments, traversed the border country, keeping in awe the Indians, and suppressing the predatory movements of the Tories. About the 1st November, the separate commands of Marion and Sumter crossed the rivers, and advanced in the direction of the enemy. The latter soon fell in with Cunningham's loyalists in force, and found it prudent to fall back. But he kept Cunningham in check with a body of men fully equal to his own. Marion, also, was compelled to come to a halt, by encountering General Stewart, posted at Wantoot, with nearly two thousand men. Stewart was at this time following up the peculiar labors which had been undertaken by Major Doyle when in temporary charge of the army. He was collecting slaves and laying in provisions, preparing for siege in, and subsequent flight from, Charleston. The fall of Cornwallis, at Yorktown, was known in the American camp on the 9th of November. It had been anticipated in the British some time before. With the fate of that commander, virtually terminated the British hope of re-conquering the country, and the proceedings of their officers in the south, as elsewhere, looked forward to the approaching necessity of flight. It was only becoming that they should spoil the Egyptians previous to their departure.
The capture of Cornwallis produced a jubilee in the American camp. In that of Marion the ladies of Santee were permitted to partake. He gave them a fete—we are not told what were the refreshments—at the house of Mr. John Cantey. "The General," says James, "was not very susceptible of the gentler emotions; he had his friends, and was kind to his inferiors, but his mind was principally absorbed by the love of country;" and the Judge rather insinuates that the pleasure he felt on this occasion arose more from the fall of Cornwallis than from the presence of the ladies.
On the same day, the 9th October,* he received the thanks of Congress for "his wise, decided, and gallant conduct, in defending the liberties of his country, and particularly for his prudent and intrepid attack on a body of British troops on the 31st August last; and for the distinguished part he took in the battle of the 8th September."
* This date is given in both Simms's and James's accounts— both say that Marion received the thanks of Congress on the 9th October, while celebrating the defeat of Cornwallis. But Cornwallis was defeated on the 19th of that month. This date should probably be the 9th November, and is most likely a repetition of James's error.—A. L., 1996.—
On the 18th November, the camp of the Hills was broken up, and General Greene advanced with his army to the Four Holes, on the Edisto, in full confidence that the force under Marion would be adequate to keep General Stewart in check. But, by the 25th of the same month, our partisan was abandoned by all the mountaineers under Shelby and Sevier, a force of five hundred men. This was after a three weeks' service. This miserable defection was ascribed to the withdrawal of Shelby from the army on leave of absence. But, in all probability, it was due to their impatience of the wary sort of warfare which it was found necessary to pursue. The service was not sufficiently active for their habits. Marion had been warned that he must keep them actively employed, but all his efforts to do so had been unsuccessful. He had approached Stewart at Wantoot, but, though the force of the latter was nominally far superior to that of the partisan, he could not be drawn out of his encampment. This was a subject of equal surprise and chagrin to Marion. Subsequently, the reason of this timidity on the part of the British general was discovered. A return, found on an orderly-sergeant who fell into Marion's hands, showed that, out of two thousand two hundred and seventy-two men, Stewart had nine hundred and twenty-eight on the sick list. The only services in which the mountaineers were employed, while with Marion, were in attacks on the post at Fairlawn, and the redoubts at Wappetaw; and these required detachments only. The movement against the latter was instantly successful—the enemy abandoned it on the approach of the Americans. But the post at Fairlawn was of more value, in better condition of defence, a convenient depot, and, being in the rear of the British army, then stationed at Wantoot, promised a stout resistance. The American detachment against this place was led by Mayham. In passing the post at Wantoot, he was ordered to show himself, and, if possible, to decoy the British cavalry into the field. The manoeuvre did not succeed, but it brought out a strong detachment, which followed close upon his heels, and required that what he should undertake should be done quickly. On approaching Fairlawn, he found everything prepared for defence. He lost no time in making his advances. A part of his riflemen were dismounted, and, acting as infantry, approached the abbatis, while his cavalry advanced boldly and demanded a surrender. The place, with all its sick, three hundred stand of arms, and eighty convalescents, was yielded at discretion.
With these small affairs ended the service of the mountaineers in Marion's army. They retired to their native hills, leaving Marion and Greene enmeshed in difficulties. It was on the strength of this force, chiefly, that the latter had descended from the hills, and he was now unable to recede. Marion, too, relying upon their support, had crossed the Santee and placed himself in close proximity on the right of the enemy. But the feebleness and timidity of Stewart, and his ignorance of the state of affairs in Marion's camp, saved these generals from the necessity of a retreat which would have been equally full of danger and humiliation. The movement of Greene across the Congaree induced him to draw towards Charleston, and Marion was left in safety. The timidity shown by the enemy encouraged Greene, and, dispatching a select party of horse under Wade Hampton, he followed hard upon their steps with as many chosen infantry. His purpose was the surprise of Dorchester. Stewart was descending to the city by another route. Hampton's advance fell in with a reconnoitring party of fifty men, and suffered few to escape; and though Greene did not succeed in surprising the post at Dorchester, his approach had the effect of producing its abandonment. During the night, the garrison destroyed everything, threw their cannon into the river, and retreated to Charleston. Greene did not venture to pursue, as the enemy's infantry exceeded five hundred men. Meanwhile, Stewart had hurried on by Goose Creek Bridge, and, joining the fugitives from Dorchester, halted at the Quarter House, and prepared to encounter the whole army of Greene, which, in their panic, was supposed to be upon their heels. Such was the alarm in Charleston that General Leslie, who now succeeded Stewart, proceeded to embody the slaves, in arms, for the defence of that place,—a measure which was soon repented of, and almost as soon abandoned.
Greene fell back upon his main army, which had now advanced to Saunders' plantation on the Round O., while Marion, pressing nearer to Charleston, kept the right of the enemy in check. The movements of our partisan were left to his own discretion. Greene, in all cases, not only suffers the judgment of the former to determine for himself his course, giving him a thoroughly independent command, but he betrays the most respectful desire on frequent occasions to have his opinion. Thus, on the 5th of November, he writes to him:—"Gen. Sumter has orders to take post at Orangeburgh, to prevent the Tories in that quarter from conveying supplies to town, and his advanced parties will penetrate as low as Dorchester; therefore, you may act in conjunction with him, or employ your troops on the enemy's left, as you may find from information they can be best employed. Please to give me your opinion on which side they can be most useful." On the 15th of the same month, he writes again: "You are at liberty to act as you think advisedly. I have no particular instructions to give you, and only wish you to avoid surprise." The latter caution to a soldier of Marion's character and prudence was scarcely necessary, but he was so near the enemy, and the latter in such superior force, that the suggestion, on the part of Greene, was only natural. Where Greene himself lay, two rivers ran between his army and that of the British. Without ammunition himself, and informed of reinforcements which the enemy had received, to preserve a respectful distance between them, was, on the part of the American commander, only a becoming caution. It was now December, and the troops, both of Greene and Marion, were without the necessary clothing. They had neither cloaks nor blankets. On the 14th of that month, Greene received a supply of ammunition, ALL of which he sent to Marion—no small proof of the confidence which he felt that, in such hands, it would not be thrown away.
Thus closed the campaign of 1781. By manoeuvre, and a successful combination of events, the British troops had been driven down the country and restrained within the narrow neck of land contiguous to Charleston. The encampment of the main army continued at the Round O. Marion was at Watboo on Cooper river, watching the enemy's right; Sumter held Orangeburg and the bridge at Four Holes; Hampton with fifty State cavalry kept open the communication between Marion and the commander-in-chief; Cols. Harden and Wilkinson watched the enemy's movements on the south between Charleston and Savannah: and Col. Lee, posted in advance, with a light detachment, kept him from prying into the real weakness of the American army. In the ignorance of the British general, lay the security of the American; for, at this particular time, there were not eight hundred men at Greene's headquarters. A glance at any map of South Carolina will show the judgment with which these several posts were taken, at once for easy cooperation of the Americans, as for the control of all the country above the positions actually held by the British. The territory of the State, with the exception of that neck of land which lies twelve or fifteen miles up from Charleston, between the approaching rivers Ashley and Cooper, had all been recovered from the enemy. But the necessities of the Americans, the want of military 'materiel', the thinness of the regiments, and the increasing strength of the British, derived from foreign troops and accessions from other posts in America, left it doubtful, under existing circumstances, whether it could be long retained. But this misgiving was not allowed to prejudice or impair the popular hope, resulting from the apparent successes of their arms; and one of the modes adopted for contributing to this conviction was the formal restoration of the native civil authority. The members of the State Assembly, of whom Marion was one, were accordingly required by the proclamation of Governor Rutledge—who had held almost dictatorial powers from the beginning of the war—to convene at Jacksonborough at an early day of the ensuing year.
Marion summoned to the Camp of Greene—Defeats the British Horse at St. Thomas—Leaves his Command to Horry, and takes his Seat in the Assembly at Jacksonborough, as Senator from St. John's, Berkeley—Proceedings of the Assembly— Confiscation Act—Dispute between Cols. Mayham and Horry— The Brigade of Marion surprised, during his absence, by a Detachment from Charleston—Marion's Encounter with the British Horse—Conspiracy in the Camp of Greene.
While the army of Greene lay at Round O., considerable alarm was excited in the American camp by tidings of large reinforcements made to the British strength in Charleston. General Leslie was now in command of the latter. The contraction of the American military 'cordon' had very greatly straitened the resources and comforts of the British general. The numerous refugees who had taken shelter in the city with their families, the great accumulation of horses within the lines, and the vigilant watch which was maintained over the islands and the neck by the American light detachments, soon contributed to lessen the stock of provisions in the capital, and to cut off its supplies. One consequence of this condition was to compel Leslie to put two hundred of his horses to death; while, by all other possible means, he collected his provisions from the surrounding country. Considerable parties were kept upon the alert for this object, and, to facilitate the movements of these parties, strong posts were established at Haddrel's Point and Hobcaw. The situation of these posts, on the extremities of tongues of land, to which assistance might easily be conveyed by water, and from which retreat, to an attacking enemy, was difficult, rendered them comparatively safe, for the present, against the Americans. But the situation of Leslie was one of uncomfortable constraint, and it was natural that he should avail himself of any prospect which might promise him relief. It was readily believed, therefore, in the American camp, that, with the acquisition of new strength, by the arrival of reinforcements from abroad, Leslie would seek to break through the cordon put around him. The rumor of his approach, in strength, caused Greene to issue his orders to Marion to repair to headquarters with all the force he could draw after him. Our partisan promptly obeyed the summons; but, on his way to join with Greene, he left a detachment of mounted infantry in the neighborhood of Monk's Corner, to watch the motions of the enemy.
But Leslie's purpose was mistaken. His strength had been exaggerated. He had no designs upon the camp of Greene, being no doubt quite as ignorant of his weakness as the latter was of the British strength. But the detachment left by Marion near Monk's Corner caught the attention of the enemy, and, in the absence of the partisan, it was thought accessible to a proper attempt from Charleston. In all the movements of the British, it is very evident that they attached no small importance to the presence of this chief. A detachment of three hundred men, cavalry and infantry, was transported by water to the north bank of the Wando river. This body moved with equal secrecy and celerity. But they were disappointed in their aim. Marion had returned from the Continental camp to his own. The storm which threatened the former was overblown, and he was in season to avert that by which the latter was threatened. His force was scarcely equal to that of the enemy. He nevertheless resolved upon attacking them. In order to keep them in play, while he advanced with his main body, Cols. Richardson and Scriven, with a part of Mayham's horse, were dispatched with orders to throw themselves in front of the British, and engage them until he could come up. This order was gallantly executed. They encountered the enemy's advance near the muster-house of St. Thomas, charged them vigorously, and succeeded in putting them to flight, with some slaughter. Capt. Campbell, of the British, and several others, were killed. But the pursuit was urged too far. The cavalry of Mayham, by which this success had been obtained, was of new organization. Their training had been partial only. It was seen that, though they drove the British horse before them, their own charge was marked by disorder. Hurried forward by success, they rushed into the jaws of danger, and were only brought to their senses by an encounter with the whole of the British infantry. A volley from this body drove them back in confusion, while the cavalry, which had been flying before them, encouraged by the presence of the infantry, rallied upon the steps of the pursuers, and drove them in turn. They suffered severely, wedged upon a narrow causeway, which gave them as little room for escape as evolution. Twenty-two fell upon the spot, by the fire of the infantry. The rest were rallied when sufficiently far from the more formidable enemy, and, turning upon the British cavalry, once more put them to flight. But the event left Marion too weak to press the encounter. He contented himself with watching the motions of the British, and they were sufficiently respectful not to press him to any less pacific performance. They were satisfied to pursue their march, and, gathering a few head of cattle, to retire to Haddrell's, foregoing the more important object of their incursion. The field clear, Marion left his brigade in charge of Horry, and repaired to Jacksonborough, to attend the Assembly, to which he had been elected a member from St. John, Berkeley, the same parish which he represented in the Provincial Congress at the beginning of the war. This was early in the year 1782. The Legislature met at Jacksonborough, a little village on the Edisto or Pon-Pon river, on the 18th January of this year. This position, almost within striking distance of the British army at Charleston, was chosen with particular reference to the moral influence which the boldness of such a choice would be likely to have upon the people, and the confidence which it seemed to declare in the ability of the American army to render the place secure. To make it so, Greene moved his troops across the Edisto, and took post at Skirving's plantation, six miles in advance of Jacksonborough, and on the road which leads to Charleston. There was yet another step necessary to this object. The British, in addition to Charleston and the "Neck", held possession of two islands, James and John, which belong to that inner chain of isles which stretches along the coast from Charleston to Savannah, separated from the main by creeks and marshes, and from one another by the estuaries of rivers, sounds, or inlets. On John's Island, which is fertile, extensive, and secure, the enemy held a very respectable force under Col. Craig. Jacksonborough was within striking distance of this force. It could be approached by boats or galleys, in a single tide. It was equally assailable from this point by land. As a matter of precaution, it was considered necessary to disperse this force, and it was soon ascertained, not only that the island was accessible, but that the enemy, relying upon the protection of his armed galleys, was unapprehensive of attack. The attempt was entrusted to Cols. Lee and Laurens, who, with separate parties, were to reach the point of destination by different routes. One of the parties lost the road, and failed to cooperate with the other. The movement was only partially successful. A second was designed, and succeeded. The galleys were driven from their station by the artillery, and Laurens penetrated to Craig's encampment. But the latter had already abandoned it. A few stragglers fell into the hands of the Americans, but nothing more. The preceding attempt had just sufficed to convince Craig of the insecurity of the place, and he had taken timely precautions against suffering from a repetition of the attempt.
The Legislature assembled according to appointment. The proclamation of the Governor, to whom, from the beginning of the war, had been accorded almost dictatorial powers, precluded from election and suffrage all persons who had taken British protections; and, as those who were true to the State had been very generally active in the ranks of her military, it followed, as a matter of course, that a great proportion of the members were military men. Among these were Sumter and Marion. The former, about this time, yielded his commission to the authorities, on account of some slight or injustice to which he had been subjected, and left the army when he took his seat in the Assembly. General Henderson succeeded to his command. The Jacksonborough Assembly was highly distinguished, as well for its talent as for its worth and patriotism. Its character was, perhaps, rather military than civil. Constituting as they did, in a slave community, a sort of feudal aristocracy, and accustomed, as, for so long a time they had been, to the use of the weapons of war, its members wore the deportment of so many armed barons, gathered together quite as much for action as resolve. It was not only unavoidable, but highly important at this juncture, that such should be the character of this body. Who could so well determine what were the necessities of the country—what the exigencies of the people—what the local resources and remedies—as those who had fought its battles, traversed every acre of its soil, and represented its interests and maintained its rights when there was no civil authority? What legislators so likely to wield the popular will, as men who, like Marion and Sumter, had become its rallying leaders—whom the people had been accustomed to obey and follow, and by whom they had been protected. It was equally important that the legislation should come from such sources, when we consider the effect upon the enemy, still having a foothold in the State. They might reasonably apprehend that the laws springing from such a body would be marked by a stern directness and decision of purpose which would leave nothing to be hoped by disaffection or hostility; and their proceedings did not disappoint the expectations of friend or foe.
The measures of this Assembly were marked by equal prudence and resolve. They passed a new act respecting the militia, and one for raising the State quota of Continental troops. One of their measures has been questioned as unwise and impolitic—that, namely, for amercing and confiscating the estates of certain of the loyalists, and for banishing the most obnoxious among them. Something, certainly, is to be said in favor of this act. If vindictive, it seems to have been necessary. It must be remembered that, in consequence of a previous proclamation of the Governor, none but the most implacable and virulent of the Tories were liable to its operation—none but those who had rejected very liberal offers of indulgence and conciliation. This proclamation had opened the door to reconciliation with the State, on very easy terms to the offenders. It gave them timely warning to come in, enrol themselves in the American ranks, and thus assure themselves of that protection and safety which they had well forfeited. Their neglect or refusal to accept this proffer of mercy, properly incurred the penalties of contumacy. These penalties could be no other than confiscation of property and banishment of person. Reasons of policy, if not of absolute necessity, seemed to enforce these penalties. How was the war to be carried on? Marion's men, for example, received no pay, no food, no clothing. They had borne the dangers and the toils of war, not only without pay, but without the hope of it. They had done more—they had yielded up their private fortunes to the cause. They had seen their plantations stripped by the enemy, of negroes, horses, cattle, provisions, plate—everything, in short, which could tempt the appetite of cupidity; and this, too, with the knowledge, not only that numerous loyalists had been secured in their own possessions, but had been rewarded out of theirs. The proposed measure seemed but a natural and necessary compliance with popular requisition. Besides, the war was yet to be carried on. How was this to be done? How long was it yet to last? What was to be its limit? Who could predict? Congress was without money—the State without means. For a space of three years, South Carolina had not only supported the war within, but beyond her own borders. Georgia was utterly destitute, and was indebted to South Carolina for eighteen months for her subsistence; and North Carolina, in the portions contiguous to South Carolina, was equally poor and disaffected. The Whigs were utterly impoverished by their own wants and the ravages of the enemy. They had nothing more to give. Patriotism could now bestow little but its blood. It was with an obvious propriety resolved, by the Jacksonborough Assembly, that those who had proved false to the country should be made to suffer in like degree with those who had been true, and who were still suffering in her defence. As a measure of prolonged policy—contemplated beyond the emergency—there may be objections to the Confiscation Act; but the necessities of the time seemed to demand it, and it will be difficult for any judgment, having before it all the particulars of the cruel civil war through which the country had gone—not to speak of the army, and the present and pressing necessity for maintaining it—to arrive at any other conclusion, or to censure the brave men who urged and advocated the measure. The proceeding seems perfectly defensible on general principles, though in particular instances—as in the application of all general principles—it may have been productive of injury. The estates of the loyalists, by this measure, were seized upon as a means for building up the credit of the State, supplying it with the necessary funds for maintaining order as well as war, and for requiting and supporting that army which was still required to bleed in its defence.
What part was taken in this act by Marion, is not known. Though kind and indulgent in his nature, he was stern and resolute in war. We have no reason to suppose that he entertained any scruples about a proceeding, the necessity of which, at the time, seems to have been beyond all dispute.
The absence of our partisan from his brigade, was almost fatal to it. He left it with reluctance, and only with the conviction that his presence in the Senate was important to the interests equally of the army and the country. Indeed, without him there would not have been a quorum. There were only thirteen Senators present. He was interested, besides, in the passage of the new Militia Act, and in one designed to raise the State quota of Continental troops. These were sufficient to compel his presence. But he remained with reluctance. His letters from Jacksonborough betray the most constant anxiety about his brigade. He had yielded it to Horry with the most earnest exhortations to caution. By his orders, the latter, the more completely to ensure its safety, removed to a position on the north side of Wambaw, a creek emptying into the Santee. Here, in an angle formed by the two roads which pass from Lenud's Ferry road to Horry's plantation, about a quarter of a mile from the bridge, Horry occupied a post which caution might have rendered safe. In his rear was a wood. His newly raised regiment, not half complete, lay at Durant's plantation, about a mile above, under the command of Major Benson. Horry does not seem to have been remiss in his duties, but about this time he fell sick, and, for some time before, he had been, and still was, somewhat wilful. There was an unhappy dispute between himself and Col. Mayham, touching rank and precedence. The latter refused to be commanded by the former, claiming to be equal in commission, and, when Marion went to Jacksonborough, separated his corps from the brigade, posted them higher up the river, and, being a member of the Legislature, proceeded to Jacksonborough also. Greene was not unwilling, in the present juncture of affairs, that the native officers should be present at the deliberations of this body. The civil objects were just then even more important than the military.
The contumacy of Mayham was a subject of the most earnest discussion. Both Marion and Greene decided against him; yet both were reluctant to offend him, as they knew his value as a cavalry officer. Mayham seems to have acted under some erroneous impressions of the independence of a legionary brigade, as he claimed his to be. He also complained of the free use which Marion made of his cavalry, and the severe duties he was required to perform. To this, Greene replies: "You are to consider how extensive the country he has to guard, and how much he depends upon your corps. This will account for the hard service you have been put to. The general is a good man, and when you consider his difficulties, and make just allowances, perhaps you will have little to complain of but the hard necessity of the service."
But this reply did not produce its effect, and Mayham certainly erred, as a soldier, in complaining of the severity of his tasks. In the old chivalrous periods, the peculiar severity of the duties assigned to knighthood was recognized gratefully, as a matter of compliment and trust. He still held off; and Marion promptly demanded, that, if Mayham had any independent right of command, while nominally under him, he might be at once withdrawn from the brigade. Mayham's manner and tone were quite respectful, but tenacious; and while the discussion was in progress, and he holding off from Horry, events were brewing which were destined to terminate the unfortunate dispute by a capital misfortune.
Again taking advantage of the absence of Marion, an expedition was set on foot in Charleston, against Horry. A detachment of two hundred horse, five hundred infantry, and two pieces of artillery, under Col. Thomson (better known in after-times as Count Rumford), prepared to ascend Cooper river. Its preparations were not conducted with such caution, however, but that they became known to the vigilant friends of the Americans in and about the city. The army was warned of their preparations. Greene hinted to Marion the necessity of returning to his command. The latter replies, by declaring his great anxiety to do so, but urges the impossibility of leaving the Senate, lest the Assembly should be broken up—an event which might be of fatal importance to the cause, unless the great business of the session were first disposed of. He promises to move as soon as this should be the case. The actual movement of the British detachment made it impossible that Marion should longer delay to rejoin his brigade, and, accompanied by Col. Mayham, he reached the ground on which the regiment of the latter was encamped, by a circuitous route and rapid riding, on the 24th February. Here they were unhappily told that the enemy was retiring. Marion, accordingly, remained to rest and refresh himself, while Mayham paid a visit to his own plantation. In a few hours after Mayham's departure, an express arrived with the mortifying intelligence that the brigade had been surprised and dispersed. Marion, instantly putting himself at the head of Mayham's regiment, hurried on toward Wambaw, the scene of the event, to check pursuit and collect and save the fugitives.
We have seen the position of Horry. He had sent out his scouts on all the roads by which the approach of an enemy might be apprehended. Feeling himself secure, and being sick, he went over the river on the 24th, the day of the catastrophe, to his plantation, leaving the brigade under the command of Col. M'Donald. Major Benson, as will be remembered, held a position, with the incomplete regiment of Horry, at Durant's plantation, about a mile above that of the brigade. By some unaccountable remissness of patrols or videttes, the British cavalry, under Coffin, surprised the latter post. Benson, it is said, had been told by Capt. Bennett, who commanded the scouts in St. Thomas's, that the enemy was approaching; but the information was brought to him while at dinner, and a keen appetite made him slow to believe tidings which might have lessened the enjoyment of the meal. Bennett proceeded to Horry's headquarters, where Col. M'Donald happened to be at dinner also. He proved equally incredulous, but desired Major James, who had just arrived in camp, to take command of his regiment. The surprise of Benson was complete, and he paid for his remissness or indifference with his life. The firing at Durant's convinced M'Donald of his error; but, in all probability, the surprise was quite as complete in the one command as in the other. There were two regiments of "six-months' men"—that is to say, "reformed Tories"—persons who had come in under the proclamation issued by Governor Rutledge. These broke at the first encounter with the enemy. In their flight, and to prevent pursuit, they threw off the planks from Wambaw bridge. Fortunately, a strong body, under Major James, checked the pursuit for a space, and gave an opportunity for the fugitives to save themselves. Many of them crossed the river by swimming, but some were drowned in the attempt. The thickets saved the infantry. No prisoners were taken. The British gave no quarter. Successful against Benson and M'Donald, the enemy pressed forward in the direction of Marion's approach, but without having any knowledge of his proximity. He had halted with the cavalry of Mayham, at the house of Mrs. Tydiman, about four miles from the scene of the disaster, to refresh his men and horses. The latter were unbitted and feeding, when the whole of the enemy's cavalry made their appearance. It would seem, from the indecision of their commander, that he was no less surprised at falling in with this body of Marion's men, than was our partisan at his sudden appearance. His hesitation under this surprise gave the Americans an opportunity to recover themselves. It was the opinion of Mayham, that, had the charge been sounded the moment that he came in view, the whole regiment must have been lost. There was no retreat, save by the river, and by the lane through which they had entered the plantation, and of this the enemy had full command. The halt and hesitation of the British—their seeming alarm—at once afforded Marion the means of extrication from his predicament. To bit and mount their horses, was, for his cavalry, the work of a moment. Though not counting half the numbers of the enemy, Marion's instant resolution was to issue forth by the lane, and attack them. They had displayed themselves in front of it. Just before the lane was an old field, and a little to the right a pond of water. Marion, placing a small body of infantry to great advantage along the fence, ordered his column of cavalry to advance through the lane to the attack. His men were well mounted; in this respect, if inferior in numbers, they had a manifest advantage over the British. The latter had been too long cooped up in the walls of Charleston, on short commons, to be very serviceable; and the cavalry of Mayham, though somewhat too much crowded with the "new-made Whigs", were yet confident, from long experience, in their ability to contend with the enemy. Marion himself was confident, but was destined, in this instance, to lose, what he himself, in his dispatches, has styled, "a glorious opportunity of cutting up the British cavalry." His men moved to the extremity of the lane, before which the enemy had halted, with a firm and promising countenance. The front section was led by Capt. Smith, an officer of approved courage, who, in a very recent affair at St. Thomas' muster-house, had signally distinguished himself. Yet, seized with a sudden panic, the moment that he reached the end of the lane, he dashed into the woods on the right, and drew after him the whole regiment. Marion himself, who was near the head of the column, was borne away by the torrent, which he in vain struggled to withstand. The rush was irresistible—the confusion irretrievable. All efforts to restrain or recover the fugitives were idle, until they had reached the woods. There Marion succeeded in rallying a party, and at this point the pursuit of the enemy was checked, and the fugitives partly rallied. They had sustained but little loss in lives; but the shame, the disgrace of such a panic, were immeasurably humiliating. The British showed no eagerness in the pursuit. They seemed to doubt the bloodless victory which they had won, and, content with their own escape, were not unreasonably urgent with fortune to make their victory complete. They subsequently, after they had fully recovered from their panic, contrived greatly to exaggerate the importance of the event. One of the newspapers of the day has the following:—"Things bear a better prospect than they did. Colonel Thomson has defeated General Marion in South Carolina, killed one hundred men, and Marion was drowned, attempting to escape." The only officer drowned in the flight, was Lieut. Smyzer of Horry's cavalry.