Cornwallis and the men of the South and West.
from the moment of his victory near Camden
Cornwallis became the principal figure in the British
service in America
,—the pride and delight of Germain
, the desired commander-in-chief, the one man on whom rested the hopes of the ministry for the successful termination of the war. His friends disparaged the ability of Sir Henry Clinton
, accused him of hating his younger and more enterprising compeer, and censured him for leaving at the south forces disproportioned to the service for which they were required.
We are come to the series of events which closed the American
contest and restored peace to the world.
the sovereigns of Prussia
, of Austria
, of Russia
, were offering their mediation; the united Netherlands
were struggling to preserve their neutrality; France
was straining every nerve to cope with her rival in the four quarters of the globe;
was exhausting her resources for the conquest
; but the incidents which overthrew the ministry of North
, and reconciled Great Britain
, had their springs in South Carolina
Cornwallis, elated with success and hope, prepared for the northward march which was to conduct him from victory to victory, till he should restore all America
south of Delaware
to its allegiance.
He was made to believe that North Carolina
would rise to welcome him, and, in the train of his flatterers, he carried Martin
, its former governor, who was to re-enter on his office.
He requested Clinton
to detach three thousand men to establish a post on the Chesapeake bay
; and Clinton
knew too well the wishes of the British
government to venture to refuse.
In carrying out his plan, the first measure of Cornwallis was a reign of terror.
Professing to regard South Carolina
as restored to the dominion of George the Third, he accepted the suggestions of Martin
, and the like, that severity was the true mode to hold the recovered province.
He therefore addressed the most stringent orders to the commandants at Ninety-Six and other posts, to imprison all who would not take up arms for the king, and to seize or destroy their whole property.
He most positively enjoined that every militia-man who had borne arms with the British
and had afterwards joined the Americans
should be hanged immediately.
He set up the gallows at Camden
for the indiscriminate execution of those among his prisoners who had formerly given their parole, even when it had been kept till it was cancelled by the proclamation of
To bring these men to the gibbet was an
act of military murder.
The destruction of property and life assumed still more hideous forms, when the peremptory orders and example of Cornwallis were followed by subordinates in remote districts away from supervision.
Cruel measures seek and are sure to find cruel executive agents; officers whose delight was in blood patrolled the country, burned houses, ravaged estates, and put to death whom they would.
The wives and daughters of the opulent were left with no fit clothing, no shelter but a hovel too mean to attract the destroyer.
Of a sudden, the woodman in his cabin would find his house surrounded, and he himself or his guest might be shot, because he was not in arms for the king.
There was no question of proofs and no trial.
For two years cold-blooded assassinations, often in the house of the victim and in the presence of his wife and little children, were perpetrated by men holding the king's commission, and they obtained not indemnity merely, but rewards for their zeal.
The enemy were determined to break every man's spirit, or to ruin him. No engagement by proclamation or by capitulation was respected.
The ruthless administration of Cornwallis met the hearty and repeated applause of Lord George Germain
, who declared himself convinced that ‘to punish rebellion would have the best consequences.’
As to the rebels, his orders to Clinton
and Cornwallis were:1
‘No good faith or justice is to be expected from them, and we ought in all our transactions with them to act upon that supposition.’
In this manner
the minister released his generals from their pledges
to those on whom they made war.
In violation of agreements, the continental soldiers who capitulated at Charleston
, nineteen hundred in number, were transferred from buildings in the town to prison-ships, where they were joined by several hundred prisoners from Camden
In thirteen months one-third of the whole number perished by malignant fevers; others were impressed into the British
service as mariners; several hundred young men were taken by violence on board transports, and forced to serve in a British regiment in Jamaica
, leaving wives and young children to want.
Of more than three thousand confined in prison-ships, all but about seven hundred were made away with.
On the capitulation of Charleston
, eminent patriots remained prisoners on parole.
Foremost among these stood the aged Christopher Gadsden
, whose unselfish love of country was a constant encouragement to his countrymen never to yield.
Before his majesty of character, the timid good were abashed and their oppressors were rebuked.
His persuasive example of republican virtue could not be endured; and, therefore, eleven days after the American
defeat, he and the equally inflexible Arthur Rutledge
and many others were early in the morning taken from their houses by armed parties, and transported to St. Augustine
in violation of their stipulated rights.
and others refused to give a new parole, and were immured in the castle of St. Mark
The system of slaveholding kept away from defensive service not only more than half the population, whom the planters would not suffer to be armed, but
the numerous bodies who must watch the black men,
if they were to be kept in bondage while war was raging.
Moreover, the moral force of their owners was apt to become enervated.
Men deriving their livelihood from the labor of slaves ceased to respect labor, and shunned it as a disgrace.
Some had not the courage to face the idea of poverty for themselves, still less for their wives and children.
Many fainted at the hard option between submission and ruin.
, lately president of the South Carolina
senate, classing himself among those who from the hurry and confusion of the times had been misled, desired to show every mark of allegiance.
, who but a few months before had been president of the state of South Carolina
, excused himself for having reluctantly given way to necessity, and accepted any test that might be required to prove that, with the unrestrained dictates of his own mind, he now attached himself to the royal government.
, president of the first American congress, though still ‘partial to a cause for which he had been so long engaged,’ promised to do nothing to keep up the spirit of independence, and to demean himself as a faithful subject.
But the people of South Carolina
were never conquered.
From the moment of the fall of Charleston
, Colonel James Williams
, of the district of Ninety-Six, did not rest in gathering the armed friends of the union.
From the region above Camden
and his band hovered over all British movements.
certainly has been our greatest plague in this country,’ writes Cornwallis.
In the swamps between the Pedee
and the Santee
and his men kept watch.
Of a delicate organization, sensitive to truth and honor and right, humane, averse to bloodshed, never wreaking vengeance nor suffering those around him to do so, scrupulously respecting private property, he had the love and confidence of all people in that part of the country.
's legion had laid it waste to inspire terror; and, in unrestrained freedom of motion, partisans gathered round Marion
to redeem their land.
A body of three hundred royalist militia and two hundred regular troops had established a post at Musgrove's Mills on the Enoree river
On the eighteenth
of August they were attacked by inferior numbers under Williams
of Ninety-Six, and routed with sixty killed and more than that number wounded.
lost but eleven.2
At dawn of the twentieth, a party, convoying a
hundred and fifty prisoners of the Maryland
line, were crossing the great Savannah
's ferry on the Santee
, on the route from Camden
, when Marion
and his men sprang upon the guard, liberated the prisoners, and captured twenty-six of the escort.
,’ wrote Cornwallis, ‘so wrought on the minds of the people, that there was scarcely an inhabitant between the Pedee
and the Santee
that was not in arms against us. Some parties even crossed the Santee
and carried terror to the gates of Charleston
, the commandant of Charleston
, wrote home: ‘In vain we expected loyalty and attachment from the inhabitants; they are the same
stuff as compose all Americans
torian of the war, who was then in South Carolina
, relates that ‘almost the whole country seemed upon the eve of a revolt.’
In the second week of September, when the heats
of summer had abated, the earlier cereal grains had been harvested and the maize was nearly ripe, Cornwallis began his projected march.
He relied on the loyalists of North Carolina
to recruit his army.
On his left, Major Patrick Ferguson
, the ablest British partisan, was sent with two hundred of the best troops to the uplands of South Carolina
, where he enlisted young men of that country, loyalists who had fled to the mountains for security, and fugitives of the worst character who sought his standard for safety and the chances of plundering with impunity.
had been encouraged during the summer to join insurgent loyalists in ravaging the American
settlements west of the mountains as far as Chiswell's lead mines.
Against this danger, Jefferson
organized, in the south-western counties of the state of which he was the governor, a regiment of four hundred backwoodsmen under the command of Colonel William Campbell
, brother-in-law of Patrick Henry
; and in an interview with William Preston
, the lieutenant of Washington county
, as the southwest of Virginia
was then called, he dwelt on the resources of the country, the spirit of congress, and the character of the people; and for himself and for his state would admit no doubt that, in spite of all disasters, a continued vigorous resistance would bring the war to a happy issue.
, Cornwallis halted for a few days, and,
Chap. XVI.} 1780 Sept. 16.
that he might eradicate the spirit of patriotism from South Carolina
before he passed beyond its borders, he, on the sixteenth day of September, sequestered by proclamation all estates belonging to the friends of America
, and appointed a commissioner for the seizure of such estates, both real and personal.
The concealment, removal, or injury of property doomed to confiscation, was punishable as an abetting of rebellion.
The sequestration extended to debts due to the person whose possessions were confiscated; and, to prevent collusive practices, a great reward was offered to those who should make discovery of the concealment of negroes, horses, cattle, plate, household furniture
, books, bonds, deeds, and other property.
To patriots no alternative was left but to fight against their country and their consciences, or to encounter exile and poverty.
The custom of military executions of Carolinians taken in arms was vigorously maintained, and the chiefs of the Cherokees were at that very time on their way to Augusta
to receive the presents which were to stimulate their activity.
Aware of their coming, Clark
, a fugitive from Georgia
, forced his way back with one hundred riflemen; having joined to them a body of woodsmen, he defeated the British
garrison under Colonel Brown
, and captured the costly presents designed for the Cherokees.
The moment was critical; for Cornwallis, in his eagerness to draw strength to his own army, had not left a post or a soldier between Augusta
, and the alienated people had returned most reluctantly to a state of obedience.
corps of one hundred provincials and one hundred
maintained a position on Garden Hill
for nearly a week, when he was rescued by Cruger
At his approach, the Americans
On the pursuit some of them were scalped and some taken prisoners.
Of the latter, Captain Ashby
and twelve others were hanged under the eyes of Brown
; thirteen who were delivered to the Cherokees were killed by tortures, or by the tomahawk, or were thrown into fires.
Thirty in all were put to death by the orders of Brown
desired to waylay and capture the retreating party, and Ferguson
eagerly accepted his invitation to join in the enterprise.
moved with circumspection, taking care not to be led too far from the fortress of Ninety-Six; Ferguson
was more adventurous, having always the army of Cornwallis on his right.
On the waters of Broad river
his party encountered Macdowell with one hundred and sixty militia from Burk and Rutherford counties
in North Carolina
, pursued them to the foot of the mountains, and left them no chance of safety but in fleeing beyond the Alleghanies
During these events, Cornwallis encountered no serious impediment till he approached Charlotte
There his van was driven back by the fire of a small body of mounted men, commanded by Colonel William Richardson Davie
of North Carolina
The general rode up in person, and the American
party was dislodged by Webster
's brigade; but not till the little band of mounted Americans
, scarcely forty in number, had for several minutes kept the British
army at bay.
From Charlotte Cornwallis
pursued his course
Meantime, the fugitives under Macdowell recounted the sorrows of their families to the emigrant freemen on the Watauga
, among whom slavery was scarcely known.
The backwoodsmen, though remote from the world, love their fellow-men.
In the pure air and life of the mountain and the forest, they join serenity with courage.
They felt for those who had fled to them; with one heart they resolved to restore the suppliants to their homes, and for that purpose formed themselves into regiments under Isaac Shelby
and John Sevier
despatched a messenger to William Campbell
on the forks of Holston
; and the field-officers of southwestern Virginia
unanimously resolved that he, with four hundred men, should join in the expedition.
An express was sent to Colonel Cleaveland
of North Carolina
; and all were to meet at Burk county court-house, on the waters of the Catawba
The three regiments from the west of the Alleghanies
, and Sevier
, and the North Carolina
fugitives under Macdowell, assembled on the twenty-fifth of September at Watauga
On the next
day—each man mounted on his own horse, armed
with his own rifle, and carrying his own store of provisions—they began the ride over the mountains, where the passes through the Alleghanies
are the highest.
Not even a bridle-path led through the forest, nor was there a house for forty miles between the Watauga
and the Catawba
The men left their families in secluded valleys, distant one from the other, exposed not only to parties of royalists, but of Indians
In the evening of the thirtieth, they
formed a junction with the regiment of Colonel Ben
Chap. XVI.} 1780. Oct. 1.
, consisting of three hundred and fifty men from the North Carolina
counties of Wilkes
The next day Macdowell was despatched to request Gates
to send them a general officer; ‘till he should arrive, Campbell
was chosen to act as commandant.’
, who had pursued the party of Macdowell to the foot of the Alleghanies
, and had spread the terror of invasion beyond them, moved eastwardly towards Cornwallis by a road from Buffalo ford
to King's Mountain
, which offered ground for a strong encampment.
Of the parties against him he thus wrote to Cornwallis: ‘They are become an object of consequence.
I should hope for success against them myself; but, numbers compared, that must be doubtful.
Three or four hundred good soldiers, part dragoons, would finish the business.
Something must be done soon.
This is their last push in this quarter.’
On receiving this letter, Cornwallis ordered Tarleton
to march with the light infantry, the British
legion, and a three-pounder to his assistance.
At that time Colonel James Williams
was about seventy miles from Salisbury
, in the forks of the Catawba
, with nearly four hundred and fifty horsemen, in pursuit of Ferguson
and vigilant, he kept out scouts on every side, scorning surprise; and on the second of October one of them brought him news
that ‘rejoiced his heart,’ that one-half of the whole population beyond the mountains were drawing near.
Following a path between King's Mountain
and the main ridge of the Alleghanies
, ‘the western army,’ so they called themselves, under Campbell
already more than thirteen hundred strong, marched
Chap. XVI.} 1780. Oct. 6.
to the Cowpens on Broad river
, where, on the evening of the sixth, they were joined by Williams
with four hundred men. From Williams
they learned nearly where Ferguson
's party was encamped; and a council of the principal officers decided to go that very night to strike them by surprise.
For this end they picked out nine hundred of their best horsemen; at eight o'clock on that same evening they began their march.
Riding all night, with the moon two days past its first quarter, on the afternoon of the seventh they were at the foot of King's Mountain
The little brook that ripples through the narrow valley flows in an easterly direction.
The mountain, which rises a mile and a half south of the line of North Carolina
, is the termination of a ridge that branches from the north-west to the south-east from a spur of the Alleghanies
, in number eleven hundred and twenty-five, of whom one hundred and twenty-five were regulars, were posted on its summit, ‘confident that they could not be forced from so advantageous a post,’ to which the approach was precipitously steep, the slaty rock cropping out in craggy cliffs and forming natural breastworks along its sides and on its heights.
dismounted, and, though inferior in numbers, formed themselves into four columns.
A part of Cleaveland
's regiment headed by Major Winston
, and Colonel Sevier
's regiment, formed a large column on the right wing.
The other part of Cleaveland
's regiment, headed by Cleaveland
himself, and the regiment of Williams
, composed the left wing.
The post of extreme danger was assigned to the
column formed by Campbell
's regiment on the right
centre, and Shelby
's regiment on the left centre; so that Sevier
's right nearly adjoined Shelby
The right and left wings were to pass the position of Ferguson
, and from opposite sides climb the ridge in his rear, while the two central columns were to attack in front.
In this order ‘the western army’ advanced to within a quarter of a mile of the enemy before they were discovered.
The two centre columns, headed by Campbell
, climbing the mountain, began the attack.
, a man of the hardiest make, stiff as iron, among the dauntless singled out for dauntlessness, went right onward and upward like a man who had but one thing to do, and but one thought,—to do it. The British regulars with fixed bayonets charged Campbell
; and his riflemen, who had no bayonets, were obliged to give way for a short distance; but ‘they were soon rallied by their gallant commander and some of his active officers,’4
and ‘returned to the attack with additional ardor.’
The two centre columns, with no aid but from a part of Sevier
's regiment, kept up a furious and bloody battle5
with the British
for ten minutes,6
when the right and left wings of the Americans
, advancing upon their flank and rear, ‘the fire became general
For fifty-five minutes longer the fire
on both sides was heavy and almost incessant.
The regulars with bayonets could only make a momentary impression.
At last, the right wing gained the summit of the eminence, and the position of the British
was no longer tenable.
having been killed, the enemy attempted to retreat along the top of the ridge; but, finding themselves held in check by the brave men of Williams
, Captain Depeyster
, the commanding officer
of the British
, hoisted a flag.
The firing immediately ceased; the enemy laid down their arms and surrendered themselves prisoners at discretion.
The loss of the British
on that day was at least eleven hundred and four. Four hundred and fifty-six of them were either killed, or too severely wounded to leave the ground; the number of prisoners was six hundred and forty-eight.
On the American
side the regiment of Campbell
suffered more than any other in the action; the total loss was twenty-eight killed and sixty wounded. But among those who fell was Colonel James Williams
of Ninety-Six, a man of an exalted character, of a career brief but glorious.
An ungenerous enemy revenged themselves for his virtues by nearly extirpating his family; they could not take away his right to be remembered by his country with honor and affection to the latest time.
Among the captives there were house-burners and assassins.
soldiers—who had witnessed the sorrows of women and children, robbed and wronged, shelterless, stripped of all clothes but what they wore, nestling about fires kindled on the ground, and mourning for their fathers and husbands—executed nine or
ten in retaliation for the frequent and barbarous use
of the gallows at Camden
, Ninety-Six, and Augusta
At once Campbell
intervened, and in general orders, by threatening the delinquents with certain and effectual punishment, secured protection to the prisoners.7
Just below the forks of the Catawba
the tidings of the defeat reached Tarleton
; his party in all haste rejoined Cornwallis.
The victory at King's Mountain
, which in the spirit of the American
soldiers was like the rising at Concord
, in its effects like the successes at Bennington
, changed the aspect of the war. The loyalists of North Carolina
no longer dared rise.
It fired the patriots of the two Carolinas with fresh zeal.
It encouraged the fragments of the defeated and scattered American army to seek each other and organize themselves anew.
It quickened the North
Carolina legislature to earnest efforts.
It encouraged Virginia
to devote her resources to the country south of her border.
The appearance on the frontiers of a numerous enemy from settlements beyond the mountains, whose very names had been unknown to the British
, took Cornwallis by surprise, and their success was fatal to his intended expedition.
He had hoped to step with ease from one Carolina to the other, and from these to the conquest of Virginia
; and he had now no choice but to retreat.
On the evening of the fourteenth, his troops began
their march back from Charlotte
to the Catawba ford
The men of Mecklenburg
and Rowan counties
had disputed his advance; they now harassed his foraging parties, intercepted his despatches, and cut
off his communications.
Soldiers of the militia.
hung on his rear.
Twenty wagons were captured, laden with stores and the knapsacks of the light infantry legion.
Single men would ride within gunshot of the retreating army, discharge their rifles, and escape.
The Catawba ford
was crossed with difficulty on account of a great fall of rain.
For two days the royal forces remained in the Catawba
settlement, Cornwallis suffering from fever, the army from want of forage and provisions.
The command on the retreat fell to Rawdon
The soldiers had no tents.
For several days it rained incessantly.
Waters and deep mud choked the roads.
At night the army bivouacked in the woods in unwholesome air. Sometimes it was without meat; at others without bread.
For five days it lived upon Indian-corn gathered from the fields, five ears being the day's allowance for two soldiers.
But for the personal exertions of the militia, most of whom were mounted, the army would not have been supported in the field; and yet, in return for their exertions, they were treated with derision and even beaten by insolent British officers.
After a march of fifteen days, the army encamped at Winnsborough
, an intermediate station between Camden
All the while Marion
had been on the alert.
hundred tories had been sent in September to sur-
prise him; and with but fifty-three men he first surprised a part of his pursuers, and then drove the main body to flight.
At Black Mingo
, on the twenty-eighth, he made a
successful attack on a guard of sixty militia, and took
prisoners those who were under its escort.
ish were burning houses on Little Pedee, and he permitted his men of that district to return to protect their wives and families; but he would not suffer retaliation, and wrote with truth: ‘There is not one house burned by my orders or by any of my people.
It is what I detest, to distress poor women and children.’
‘I most sincerely hope you will get at Mr. Marion
,’ wrote Cornwallis on the fifth of November, as he de-
in pursuit of him. This officer and his corps set fire to all the houses, and destroyed all the corn from Camden
down to Nelson
's ferry; beat the widow of a general officer because she could not tell where Marion
was encamped, burned down her dwelling, laid waste everything about it, and did not leave her a change of raiment.
The line of his march could be traced by groups of houseless women and children, once of ample fortune, sitting round fires in the open air.
As for Marion
, after having kept his movements secret, and varied his encampment every night, his numbers increased; then, selecting a strong post ‘within the dark morass,’ he defied an attack.
But just at that moment Tarleton
was recalled in haste to repel new dangers impending from another quarter.
had rallied the patriots in the country above Camden
, and in frequent skirmishes kept the field.
Mounting his partisans, he intercepted British supplies of all sorts, and sent parties within fourteen miles of Winnsborough
Having ascertained the number and position of his troops, Cornwallis despatched a party under Major Wemyss
After a march of twenty-four miles with mounted
reached Fishdam on Broad river
, the camp of General Sumpter
, and at the head of his corps charged the picket.
The attack was repelled; he himself was wounded and taken prisoner.
A memorandum was found upon him of houses burned by his command.
He had hanged Adam Cusack
, a Carolinian, who had neither given his parole nor accepted protection nor served in the patriot army; yet his captors would not harm a man who was their prisoner.
The position of the British
in the upper country became precarious.
passed the Broad river
, formed a junction with Clark
, and threatened Ninety-Six.
was therefore suddenly recalled from the pursuit of Marion
, and ordered to take the nearest path against Sumpter
One regiment was sent forward to join him on his march; another followed for his support.
Apprised of Tarleton
's approach, Sumpter
posted himself strongly on the plantation of Blackstock.
At five in the afternoon of the twentieth of November, Tarleton
near in advance of his light infantry; and with two hundred and fifty mounted men he made a precipitate attack on Sumpter
's superior force.
The hill-side in front of the Americans
was steep; their rear was protected by the rapid river Tyger; their left was covered by a large barn of logs, between which the riflemen could fire with security.
The sixty-third British regiment having lost its commanding officer, two lieutenants, and one-third of its privates, Tarleton
retreated, leaving his wounded to the mercy of the victor.
The loss of Sumpter
was very small; but being himself disabled by a severe wound, he
crossed the Tyger
, taking his wounded men with
By the lavish distribution of presents, the Indian
agents obtained promises from the chiefs of twentyfive hundred Cherokees, and a numerous body of Creeks to lay waste the settlements on the Watauga
, Kentucky, and Nolachuckie, and even to extend their ravages to the Cumberland
and Green rivers
; so that the attention of the mountaineers might be diverted to their own immediate concerns.
Moreover, Cornwallis gave orders to the reenforce-ment of three thousand sent by Clinton
into the Chesapeake
to embark for Cape Fear river
So ended the first attempt of Cornwallis to penetrate to Virginia
He was driven back by the spontaneous risings of the southern and south-western people; and the unwholesome exhalations of autumn swept men from every garrison in the low country faster than Great Britain
could replace them.