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Hobkirk's Hill, battle of.

When (in 1781) Greene heard of the retreat of Cornwallis, he pursued him as far as the Deep River, when he turned back and moved southward towards Camden to strike a blow for the recovery of South Carolina. Lord Rawdon was in command at Camden. On April 19 Greene encamped at Hobkirk's Hill, about a mile from Rawdon's intrenchments, where, six days afterwards, he was surprised by the British and defeated, after a sharp battle of several hours. Greene's force was too weak to assail Rawdon's intrenchments with any prospect of success, and he encamped on a wooded eminence and awaited reinforcements under Sumter. On the night of the 24th a drummer deserted to the British and informed Rawdon of Greene's weakness and his expectation of strength. As his provisions were almost exhausted, Rawdon saw no chance for success in battle unless he should strike immediately, so he prepared to fall upon Greene early on the morning of the 25th. Unsuspicious of danger, Greene's army was unprepared for an attack. The cavalry horses were unsaddled, some of the soldiers were washing their clothes, and Greene and his staff were at a spring on a slope of Hobkirk's Hill taking breakfast. Rawdon had gained the left flank of the Americans by marching stealthily along the margin of a swamp. Partially surprised, Greene quickly formed his army in battleline. His cavalry were soon mounted. The Virginia brigade, under General Huger, with Lieutenant-Colonels Campbell and Hawes, formed the right; the Maryland brigade, with Delaware troops under Kirkwood, led by Col. Otho H. Williams, with Colonel Gunby and Lieutenant-Colonels Ford and Howe, occupied the left; and the artillery, under Colonel Harrison, were in the centre; North Carolina militia were held in reserve; and in this position Greene was prepared to receive the oncoming Rawdon, whose forces ascended the slope with a narrow front. The regiments of Ford and Campbell endeavored to turn their flank, while Gunby's [395]

Map: battle of Hobkirk's Hill.

Marylanders assailed the front with bayonets without firing. The battle was thus opened with great vigor, Greene commanding the Virginians in person.

At the moment when the Americans felt sure of victory, Captain Beatty, commanding a company of Gunby's veterans, was killed, and his followers gave way. An unfortunate order was given for the whole regiment to retire, when the British broke through the American centre, pushed up to the brow of the hill, and forced Greene to retreat. Meanwhile Washington had fallen on the British rear and captured about 200 soldiers, whose officers he quickly paroled, and in the retreat carried away fifty of the captives. The Americans were chased a short distance, when Washington turned upon the pursuers, made a gallant charge, and checked them. By this movement Greene was enabled to save all his artillery and baggage. He rallied his men, crossed the Wateree above Camden, and rested in a strong position before moving on Fort Ninety-Six. The loss of each army in the battle was about the same—less than 270. This defeat disconcerted Greene at first, but his genius triumphed.

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