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Chapter 24:

The southern campaign. Greene in South Carolina.


on the seventh of April, Cornwallis brought the
Chap. XXIV.} 1781. April 7.
relics of his army to Wilmington, where a party sent by his orders from Charleston awaited him. He could not move by land towards Camden without exposing his troops to the greatest chances of being lost.1 He should have sped to Charleston by water, to retain possession of South Carolina; but such a movement would have published to the world that all his long marches and victories had led only to disgrace. A subordinate general, sure of the favor and approval of Germain, he forced his plans on his commander-in-chief,2 to whom he wrote: ‘I cannot help expressing my wishes that the Chesapeake may become the seat of war, even, if necessary, at the expense of abandoning New York.’ And without waiting for an answer, in the [484] last days of April, with a force of fourteen hundred
Chap. XXIV.} 1781. May.
and thirty-five men, all told, he left Wilmington for Virginia. Clinton replied:3 ‘Had you intimated the probability of your intention, I should certainly have endeavored to have stopped you; as I did then as well as now consider such a move likely to be dangerous to our interests in the southern colonies.’ He had just received from the secretary this mes-
sage: ‘Lord George Germain strongly recommends it to Sir Henry Clinton either to remain in good humor, in full confidence to be supported as much as the nature of the service will admit of, or avail himself of the leave of coming home; as no good can arise to the service if there is not full confidence between the general and the minister.’4 But, instead of resigning, he hastened to warn Germain: ‘Operations in the Chesapeake are attended with great risk, unless we are sure of a permanent superiority at sea. I cannot agree to the opinion given me by Lord Cornwallis.’5 ‘I tremble for the fatal consequences which may ensue.’6

But the subordinate general had from Wilmington written to the secretary, ‘that a serious attempt upon Virginia would be the most solid plan;’7 and Germain hastened to instruct Clinton: ‘Lord Cornwallis's opinion entirely coincides with mine of the great importance of pushing the war on the side of Virginia with all the force that can be spared.’8 [485]

In his march from Wilmington, Cornwallis met

Chap. XXIV.} 1781. April.
little resistance. At Halifax, his troops were let loose to commit enormities that were a disgrace to the name of man.9 For the place of junction with the British army in Virginia, he fixed upon Petersburg on the Appomatox.

So soon as Cornwallis had escaped beyond pursuit,

March 29.
Greene ‘determined to carry the war immediately into South Carolina.’ Dismissing those of the militia whose time was about to expire, he retained nearly eighteen hundred men, with small chances of re-enforcements or of sufficient subsistence. He knew the hazards which he was incurring; but, in case of untoward accidents, he believed that Washington and his other friends would do justice to his name.

The possession of the interior of South Carolina depended on the posts at Camden and Ninety-Six in that state, and at Augusta in Georgia. On the sixth

April 6.
of April, Greene detached a force under Lee, which joined Marion, and threatened the connections between Camden and Charleston; Sumpter, with three small regiments of regular troops of the state, had in charge to hold the country between Camden and Ninety-Six, and Pickens with the western militia to intercept supplies on their way to Ninety-Six and Augusta.10

After these preparations, Greene on the seventh

began his march from Deep river, and on the twen-
tieth encamped, his army a half mile from the strong and well-garrisoned works of Camden. In the hope [486] of intercepting a party whom Rawdon had sent out,
Chap. XXIV.} 1781. April 24.
Greene moved to the south of the town; but, finding that he had been misled, his army, on the twentyfourth, took a well-chosen position on Hobkirk's hill. The eminence was covered with wood, and flanked on the left by an impassable swamp. The ground towards Camden, which was a mile and a half distant, was protected by a forest and thick shrubbery.

On the twenty-eighth, the men, having been under

arms from daylight, were dismissed to receive provisions and prepare their morning repast. The horses were unsaddled and feeding; Greene was at breakfast.

By keeping close to the swamp, Rawdon, with about nine hundred men, gained the left of the Americans, ‘in some measure by surprise,’11 and opened a fire upon their pickets. The good discipline which Greene had introduced now stood him in stead. About two hundred and fifty North Carolina militia, who had arrived that morning, did nothing during the day; but his cavalry was soon mounted, and his regular troops, about nine hundred and thirty in number, were formed in order of battle in one line without reserves. Of the two Virginia regiments, that under Hawes formed the extreme right, that of Campbell the right centre; of the two Maryland regiments, that of Ford occupied the extreme left, that of Gunby the left centre. The artillery [487] was placed in the road between the two bri-

Chap. XXIV.} 1781. April 28.
gades.12 In this disposition he awaited the attack of Rawdon.

Perceiving that the British advanced with a narrow front, Greene, with full confidence in gaining the victory, ordered Ford's regiment on the left and Campbell's on the right to wheel respectively on their flanks, the regiments of Hawes and Gunby to charge with bayonets without firing, and Washington with his cavalry to double the right flank and attack the enemy in the rear. Had every one of these movements succeeded, the army of Rawdon would have been ruined; but they were not executed with the promptness of veteran troops. Rawdon had time to extend his front by ordering up his reserves. Colonel Ford, in leading on his men, was disabled by a severe wound; and his regiment, without executing their orders, only replied by a loose scattering fire. On the other flank, the regiment of Campbell, composed of new troops, could not stand the brunt of the enemy, though they could be rallied and formed anew. Exposing himself greatly, Greene led up the regiment several times in person. Meantime the regiments under Hawes and Gunby advanced in front with courage, while the artillery played effectively on the head of the British column. But, on the right of Gunby's regiment, Captain Beatty, an officer of the greatest merit, fell mortally wounded; his company, left without his lead, began to waver, and the wavering affected the next company. Seeing this, Gunby absurdly ordered the regiment to retire, that they might form again. The British troops [488] seized the opportunity, broke through the American

Chap. XXIV.} April 28.
centre, advanced to the summit of the ridge, and brought their whole force into action on the best ground; so that Greene was forced to a retreat. Each party lost about three hundred men. The battle was over before Washington with his cavalry could make the circuit through the forest and attack their rear.

‘Had we defeated the enemy,’ wrote Greene, ‘not a man of the party would have got back into town. The disgrace is more vexatious than any thing else.’ The Americans lost no more than the British; Rawdon was compelled to leave the field and return to Camden; Greene saved his artillery and collected all his men. Receiving a reenforce-ment of five hundred, Rawdon crossed the Wateree in pursuit of him; but he skilfully kept his enemy at bay.

No sooner had Marion been re-enforced by Lee, than they marched against the fort on Wright's bluff below Camden, the principal post of the British on the Santee, garrisoned by one hundred and fourteen men. The Americans were without cannon, and the bluff was forty feet high; but the forest stretched all around them; in the night the troops cut and hauled logs, and erected a tower so high that the garrison could be picked off by riflemen. Two days before the battle of Hobkirk's hill, it capitulated.


The connection of Camden with Charleston being thus broken, the post became untenable. On the tenth of May, after destroying all public buildings

May 10.
and stores and many private houses, the British abandoned it, and they never held it again. On the eleventh, the post at Orangeburgh, held by sixty British
[489] militia and twelve regulars, surrendered to Sumpter.
Chap. XXIV.} 1781. May 11.
Meantime Rawdon marched down the Santee on the north side, anxious to save the garrison of Fort Motte, to which Marion had laid siege. To hasten its surrender, Rebecca Motte, the owner of the house in which they were quartered, on the twelfth brought
into camp a bow and a bundle of Indian arrows; and when the arrows had carried fire to her own abode, the garrison of a hundred and sixty-five men surrendered. Two days later, the British evacuated their
post at Nelson's ferry. On the fifteenth, Fort Granby
with three hundred and fifty-two men surrendered by capitulation. General Marion turned his arms against Georgetown; and, on the first night after the Americans had broken ground, the British retreated to Charleston. The troops under Rawdon did not halt until they reached Monk's corner.

The north-western part of South Carolina was thus recovered, but the British still held Ninety-Six and Augusta. Conforming to the plan which Greene had forwarded from Deep river, General Pickens and Colonel Clarke with militia kept watch over the latter. On the twentieth of May, they were joined by Lieu-

tenant-Colonel Lee. The outposts were taken one after another, and on the fifth of June the main fort
June 5.
with about three hundred men capitulated. One officer, obnoxious for his cruelties, fell after the surrender by an unknown hand. Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, the commander, had himself hanged thirteen American prisoners, and delivered citizens of Georgia to the Cherokees to suffer death with all the exquisite tortures which savage barbarity could contrive; but on his way to Savannah an escort protected him from [490] the inhabitants whose houses he had burned, whose
Chap. XXIV.} 1781. May 22.
relations he had hanged.

On the twenty-second of May, Greene, with Kosciuszko for his engineer, and nine hundred and eighty-four men, began the siege of Ninety-Six. The post, though mounting but three pieces of artillery, was strongly fortified; the garrison of five hundred and fifty was ample for the place; and the commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Cruger, was an officer of ability and enterprise.

A fleet from Ireland having arrived at Charleston with re-enforcements, Rawdon on the seventh of June marched with two thousand men to the relief

June 7.
of Ninety-Six. Loath to be baffled, Greene, on the eighteenth, ordered a party of Marylanders and of
Virginians to make a lodgement in the fort, in which no justifying breach had been made. Of the brave men who were sent into the ditch, one-third were killed, and but one in six came out of it unwounded. The next day the general raised the siege and withdrew to the north, complaining of fortune which had neither given him victory at Guilford, nor at Camden, nor now at Ninety-Six. But his fortitude always rose above disasters, and his resources did not fail him. He retreated as far as the Enoree.

Giving over pursuit, the British commander returned to Ninety-Six. That insulated post could no longer be maintained. Leaving the largest part of his force to assist in removing the loyalists, he marched with a thousand men to establish a detachment on the Congaree. Greene followed; and his cavalry, detached to watch the enemy's motions, [491] made prisoners of forty-eight British dragoons within

Chap. XXIV.} 1781. June 18.
one mile of their encampment.

Avoiding an encounter, Lord Rawdon retired to Orangeburgh, where he was re-enforced. On the other side, Greene, after forming a junction with the men of Sumpter and Marion, pursued him, and on the twelfth of July offered him battle. The offer

July 12.
was refused. On the thirteenth, Greene detached the
cavalry of the legion, the state troops, and militia of South Carolina to compel the evacuation of Orangeburgh by striking at the posts around Charleston; the rest of the army was ordered to the high hills of the Santee, famed for pure air and pure water. On the same day, Cruger, who had evacuated Ninety-Six, joined Rawdon with his troops. He had called around him the royalists in the district of Ninety-Six, avowed to them that the post from its insulation could no longer be maintained, and set before them the option of making their peace with the Americans or fleeing under his escort to Charleston. Those who had signalized themselves by devoted service to the king now learned from his officer that he could no longer protect them in their own homes; and, forced to elect the lot of refugees, they brought into the camp of Cruger their wives, children, and slaves, wagons laden with the little of their property that they could carry away, sure to be thrust aside by the English at Charleston as troublesome guests, and left to wretchedness and despair.

The British when united were superior in number; but their detachments were attacked with success. They could not give the protection which they had promised, and the people saw no hope of peace [492] except in driving them out of the land. Weary of

Chap. XXIV.} 1781. July 13.
ceaseless turmoil, Rawdon repaired to Charleston, and, pretending ill health, sailed for England, but not till after a last act of vengeful inhumanity. Isaac Hayne, a planter in the low country whose affections were always with America, had, after the fall of Charleston, obtained a British protection. When the British lost the part of the country in which he resided and could protect him no longer, he resumed his place as an American citizen, and led a regiment of militia against the British. Taken prisoner, Balfour hesitated what to do with him; but Rawdon, who was Balfour's superior in command, had no sooner arrived in Charleston than, against the entreaties of the children of Hayne, of the women of Charleston, of the lieutenant-governor of the province, he sent him to the gallows. The execution was illegal; for
Aug. 4.
the loss of power to protect forfeited the right to enforce allegiance. It was most impolitic; for it uprooted all remaining attachment of moderate men for the English government. It roused the women of Charleston to implacable defiance. The American army demanded retaliation; but after the departure of Rawdon there remained in South Carolina no British officer who would have repeated the act of revenge. His first excuse for the execution was that same order of Cornwallis which had filled the woods of Carolina with assassins. Feeling the act as a stain upon his name, he attempted at a later day, but only after the death of Balfour, to throw on that officer the blame that belonged especially to himself. The ship in which Rawdon embarked was captured by the French [493] at sea, but his rights as a prisoner of war were
Chap. XXIV.} 1781. Aug.

After a short rest, Greene moved his army from the hills of Santee in a roundabout way to attack the British at their post near the junction of the Wateree and Congaree. They retreated before him and halted at Eutaw springs. He continued the pursuit with so much skill that the British remained ignorant of his advance. At four o'clock on the morning of the eighth of September, his army was in motion to

Sept. 8.
attack them. The centre of the front line was composed of two small battalions from North Carolina, and of one from South Carolina on each wing, commanded respectively by Marion and Pickens. The second line was formed of three hundred and fifty continentals of North Carolina, led by General Sumner; of an equal number of Virginians, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell; and of two hundred and fifty Marylanders, under Otho Williams. Long and gallantly did the militia maintain the action, those with Marion and Pickens proving themselves equal to the best veterans. As they began to be overpowered by numbers, they were sustained by the North Carolina brigade under Sumner; and the Virginians under Campbell, and the Marylanders under Williams, charged with the bayonet. The British were routed. On a party that prepared to rally, Washington bore down with his cavalry and a small body of infantry, and drove them from the field. The victory was complete. Great numbers of the British had fallen, or were made prisoners.

Many of the Americans who joined in the shouts of triumph were doomed to bleed. A brick house [494] sheltered the British as they fled. Against the

Chap. XXIV.} 1781. Sept. 8.
house Greene ordered artillery to play; but the gunners were shot down by riflemen, and the fieldpieces abandoned to the enemy. Upon a party in an adjacent wood of barren oaks, Washington was ordered to charge with his horsemen; and the close, stiff branches of the stubborn trees made the cavalry useless. Colonel Washington himself, after his glorious share in the campaign, at the last moment of this last encounter, was wounded, disabled, and taken prisoner. So there were at Eutaw two successive engagements. In the first, Greene won brilliantly and with little loss; in the second, he sustained a defeat, with the death or capture of many of his bravest men.13 In the two engagements, the Americans lost in killed, wounded, and missing, five hundred and fifty-four men; they took five hundred prisoners, including the wounded; and the total loss of the British approached one thousand. The cause of the United States was the cause of Ireland. Among the fruits of the battles of the former was the recovery for the latter of her equal rights in trade and legislation. Yet such is the sad complication in human affairs that the people who of all others should have been found taking part with America sent some of their best troops and their ablest men to take the field against the defenders of their own rights. Irishmen fought in the British ranks at Eutaw. Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who received on this day wounds that were all but mortal, had in later years no consolation [495] for his share in the conflict; ‘for,’ said he,
Chap. XXIV.} 1781. Sept. 8.
‘I was then fighting against liberty.’

Occupying the field of battle by a strong picket, Greene drew off for the night to his morning's camp, where his troops could have the refreshment of pure water, and prepare to renew the attack. But the British in the night, after destroying stores and breaking in pieces a thousand muskets, retreated to Charleston, leaving seventy of their wounded. Resting one or two days, Greene with his troops, which were wasted not only by battle, but by disease, regained his old position on the heights of Santee. He had been in command less than nine months, and in that short time the three southern states were recovered excepting only Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah. His career had not been marked by victories, but he always gained the object for which he risked an engagement. He says of himself that he would ‘fight, get beaten, and fight again.’ He succeeded in driving Cornwallis out of the southern states, and in breaking up every British post in South Carolina outside of Charleston; having had, like the commander-in-chief, to contend with every evil that could come from the defects in government, and from want of provisions, clothes, and pay for his troops. Morris, the financier,14 neglected him, sending him good words and little else. Yet while he saw clearly all the perils and evils against which he had to struggle, cheerful activity and fortitude never failed him. His care extended to everything [496] in the southern department. It is the peculiar

Chap. XXIV.} 1781.
character of his campaign, that whatever was achieved was achieved by Americans alone, and by Americans of the south: In the opinion of his country, he gained for himself as a general in the American army the place next to Washington.

1 Cornwallis to Phillips, and Cornwallis to Clinton, 4 April, 1781.

2 Cornwallis to Clinton, Wilmington, 10 April, 1781, in Washington's Writings, VII. 458.

3 Clinton to Cornwallis, 29 May, 1781.

4 Quoted in Clinton's Private Despatch of 30 April, 1781.

5 Clinton to Germain, 23 April, 1781.

6 Ibid., 30 April, 1781. Private.

7 Cornwallis to Germain, 18 April, 1781, in Tarleton, 385.

8 Germain to Clinton, 6 June, 1781, in Commis. Clinton, Cornwallis, 53.

9 Stedman, II. 385, note.

10 Ramsay, II. 227; differing a little from Johnson, II. 68, and Marshall, II. 4.

11 ‘After viewing the British works about Camden, I set out for Charlotte. On my way, two miles from town, I examined the ground on which General Greene and Lord Rawdon had their action. The ground had but just been taken by the former, was well chosen, but he not well established in it before he was attacked, which, by capturing a vedette, was in some measure by surprise.’—Washington's Diary, Thursday, 26 May, 1790.

12 Davy in Johnson, II. 94.

13 ‘C'est une grande science de savoir s'arreter à temps.’ Vergennes to Lafayette, 1 Oct., 1781, commenting on the events of the day.

14 The story which, according Marshall, Robert Morris told of to his keeping an agent near Greene with means to assist him, is not found to stand the test of historic criticism.

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