Monday, January 16, 2017

Elder Miller's Prayer

"Good Lord, Our God that art in Heaven, we have great reason to thank Thee for the many battles we have won. There is the great and glorious battle of King's Mountain, where we kilt the great Gineral Ferguson and took his whole army ; and the great battle at Ramseur's and Williamson's : and the iver memorable and glorious battle of the Coopens, where we made the proud Gineral Tarleton run doon the road healter-skelter, and Good Lord, if ye had na suffered the cruel Tories to burn Billy Hill's iron works, we would na have asked any mair favors at Thy hands. Amen." 
—John Miller, civilian and Presbyterian elder, Rutherford County, North Carolina

Cowpens, Greene, Morgan & SnailMail

General Nathanael Greene, unaware that the Battle of Cowpens had already taken place two days prior, wrote to General Daniel Morgan on 19 January 1781 regarding taking on British commander Banastre Tarleton and his legion:
"I do not wish you should come to action unless you have a manifest superiority, and a moral certainty of succeeding. Put nothing to the hazard. A retreat may be disagreeable, but not disgraceful. Regard not the opinions of the day. It is not our business to risk too much. Our affairs are in too critical a situation, and require time and nursing to give them a better tone."

That very same day, 19 January 1781, Daniel Morgan had been writing his post-battle report to Nathanael Greene:
"On the evening of the 16th the enemy occupied the ground we had removed from in the morning. An hour before daylight one of my scouts informed me that they had advanced within five miles of our camp. On this information the necessary dispositions were made, and, from the alacrity of the troops, we were soon prepared to receive them. The light infantry, commanded by Lieut. Col. Howard, and the Virginia militia under Major Triplett, were formed on a rising ground; the third regiment of dragoons, consisting of about 80 men, under the command of Lieut. Col. Washington were so posted in their rear, as not to be injured by the enemy fire, and yet to be able to charge them, should an occasion offer; the volunteers from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, under the command of Colonel Pickens, were posted to guard the flanks; Major Mc Dowal [sic, McDowell], of the North Carolina volunteers was posted on the right flank, in front of the line 150 yards; Major Cunningham, of the Georgia volunteers, on the left, at the same distance in front; Colonels Brannons and Thomas, of the South Carolina volunteers, on the right of Major Mc Dowal; and Colonels Hayes and McCall, of the same corps, on the left of Major Cunningham; Captains Tate and Buchanan, with the Augusta riflemen, were to support the right of the line."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Battle of Kings Mountain: recollections

The Battle of Kings Mountain, South Carolina, occurred on the 7th day of October, 1780, and resulted in the defeat of Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson, who commanded the royal forces, and the loss of his command, not one man escaping from the battle field. The thoroughness of the disaster, and the death of the brave and highly trusted leader, was by far the most serious blow to which the British forces operating in the Southern Provinces had been subjected. The immediate effect upon Cornwallis was to put an end, for the time being, to the further subjugation of the Province of North Carolina. His contemplated advance from Charlotte Town to Salisbury was menaced by a new and unheard of enemy—the men under Campbell, Shelby, Sevier, and others—who came from the region of the mountains, and the back waters that flow to the west; from places so remote and unknown to the British leaders as to be almost mythical. 
—Historical Section of the Army War College*
Lieutenant Anthony Allaire (Loyalist):
Friday, [October] 6th. Got in motion at four o'clock in the morning, and marched sixteen miles to Little King's Mountain, where we took up our ground.
[Diary of Lieut. Anthony Allaire, of Ferguson's Corps, 5 Mar - 29 Nov 1780]

Colonels William Campbell, Isaac Shelby, and Benjamin Cleveland (Patriots):
We reached the Cow Pens, on the Broad River, in South Carolina, where we were joined by Col. James Williams, on the evening of the 6th October, who informed us that the enemy lay encamped somewhere near the Cherokee Ford of Broad River, about thirty miles distant from us. By a council of the principal officers, it was then thought advisable to pursue the enemy that night with nine hundred of the best horsemen, and leave the weak horses and footmen to follow as fast as possible. We began our march with nine hundred of the best men about eight o'clock the same evening, marched all night, and came up with the enemy about three o'clock P.M. of the 7th, who lay encamped on the top of King's Mountain, twelve miles north of the Cherokee Ford, in the confidence they could not be forced from so advantageous a post.
[Colonels William Campbell, Isaac Shelby, and Benjamin Cleveland, Official Report, Battle of Kings Mountain, addressed to General Horatio Gates, published in the Virginia Gazette 18 November 1780]

Colonel Robert Gray (Loyalist):
[Lord Cornwallis] marched from Camden to Charlotte with his army and at the same time directed Major Ferguson, who although he knew his danger and was ordered to join the army, yet after retreating 60 miles he loitered away two days most unaccountably at Kings Mountain and thereby gave time to the rebel militia under the command of Gen. [James] Williams to come up with him, the rebels were greatly superior in number.
He had about 600 militia and 60 regulars, and action ensued in which our militia behaved with a degree of steadiness and spirit that would not have disgraced any regular troops. And the rebels were repulsed three times, but having changed their mode of attack and made an attempt on a small party of North Carolinians on our flank who were not so well disciplined as the South Carolinians succeeded in breaking them. They communicated the disorder to the others and at this critical moment Major Ferguson fell. A total rout ensued.
This unfortunate affair gave a new turn to the war. All the country on Lord Cornwallis' rear was laid open to the incursions of the enemy, who, if they had made a proper use of their victory might have taken both Ninety Six and Augusta, nevertheless the consequences were very important.
[Colonel Robert Gray's Observations on the War in Carolina, published July 1910 in South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. XI, No. 3]

Colonel William Hill (Patriot):
There was very little military subordination as all that was required or expected was that every Officer & man should ascend the mountain so as to surround the enemy on all quarters which was promptly executed.
[Col. William Hill's Memoirs of the Revolution, edited by A.S. Salley, published 1921, The State Company, Columbia, South Carolina]

Captain Abraham DePeyster (Loyalist):
This is ominous. These are the damned yelling boys.
[Source: Archibald Henderson, The Conquest of the Old Northwest, published 1920, The Century Company, New York]

Major Thomas Young (Patriot):
Major Ferguson had taken a very strong position upon the summit of the mountain, and it appeared like an impossibility to dislodge him, but we had come there to do it, and we were determined, one and all, to do it, or die trying. The attack was begun on the north side of the mountain. The orders were at the firing of the first gun, for every man to raise a whoop, rush forward, and fight his way as he best could.
... I recollect I stood behind one tree and fired til the bark was nearly all knocked off, and my eyes pretty well filled with it. One fellow shaved me pretty close, for his bullet took a piece out of my gun-stock. Before I was aware of it, I found myself apparently between my own regiment and the enemy, as I judged, from seeing the paper which the Whigs wore in their hats, and the pine knots the Tories wore in theirs, these being the badges of distinction.
[Thomas Young, "Memoir of Major Thomas Young," published 1843, Orion Magazine]

Lieutenant Anthony Allaire (Loyalist):
Saturday, 7th. About two o'clock in the afternoon twenty-five hundred Rebels, under the command of Brig.-Gen. Williams, and ten Colonels, attacked us. Maj. Ferguson had eight hundred men. The action continued an hour and five minutes; but their numbers enabled them to surround us. The North Carolina regiment seeing this, and numbers being out of ammunition, gave way, which naturally threw the rest of the militia into confusion. Our poor little detachment, which consisted of only seventy men when we marched to the field of action, were all killed and wounded but twenty; and those brave fellows were soon crowded as close as possible by the militia. Capt. DePeyster, on whom the command devolved, saw it impossible to form six men together; thought it necessary to surrender to save the lives of the brave men who were left....

Colonel William Campbell (Patriot):
Col. Shelby's regiment and mine began the attack, and sustained the whole fire of the enemy for about ten minutes, while the other troops were forming around the height upon which the enemy were posted. The firing then became general, and as heavy as you can conceive for the number of men. The advantageous situation of the enemy, being the top of a steep ridge, obliged us to expose ourselves exceedingly; and the dislodging of them was almost equal to driving men from strong breast-works; though in the end we gained the point of the ridge, where my regiment fought, and drove them along the summit of it nearly to the other end, where Col. Cleveland and his countrymen were. They were driven into a huddle, and the greatest confusion; the flag for a surrender was immediately hoisted, and as soon as our troops could be notified of it, the firing ceased, and the survivors surrendered themselves prisoners at discretion.
[Excerpt from a letter, dated 20 October 1780, from Colonel William Campbell to Colonel Arthur Campbell]

Lieutenant Anthony Allaire (Loyalist):
... The action commenced about two o'clock in the afternoon, and was very severe for upwards of an hour, during which the Rebels were charged and drove back several times, with considerable slaughter.
When our detachment charged, for the first time, it fell to my lot to put a Rebel Captain to death, which I did most effectually, with one blow of my sword; the fellow was at least six feet high, but I had rather the advantage, as I was mounted on an elegant horse, and he on foot.
But their numbers enabled them to surround us and the North Carolina regiment, which consisted of about three hundred men.
Seeing this, and numbers being out of ammunition which naturally threw the rest of the militia into confusion, our gallant little detachment, which consisted of only seventy men, exclusive of twenty who acted as dragoons, and ten who drove wagons, etc., when we marched to the field of action, were all killed and wounded but twenty, and those brave fellows were soon crowded into an heap by the militia.
Capt. DePEYSTER, on whom the command devolved, seeing it impossible to form six men together, thought it necessary to surrender, to save the lives of the brave men who were left.
We lost in this action, Maj. FERGUSON, of the Seventy-first regiment, a man strongly attached to his King and country, well informed in the art of war, brave, humane, and an agreeable companion-in short, he was universally esteemed in the army, and I have every reason to regret his unhappy fate.
We lost eighteen men killed on the spot-Capt. RYERSON and thirty-two Sergeants and privates wounded, of Maj. FERGUSON's detachment.
Lieutenant M'GINNIS of ALLEN's regiment, Skinner's brigade, killed; taken prisoners, two Captains, four Lieutenants, three Ensigns, one Surgeon, and fifty-four Sergeants and privates, including the wounded, wagoners, etc.
The militia killed, one hundred, including officers; wounded, ninety; taken prisoners about six hundred; our baggage all taken, of course.
The Rebels lost Brig.-Gen. Williams, and one hundred and thirty-five, including officers, killed; wounded nearly equal to ours.
[Excerpt from a letter written by Anthony Allaire, dated "January 30th 1781," published in Rivington's Royal Gazette, New York, 24 February 1781. It was prefaced with: "This gentleman went from New York with a detachment drawn from the Provincial Brigade, which was commanded by the brave Major Patrick Ferguson. This letter gives the most circumstantial account yet received of the action at Kings Mountain, in South Carolina, Oct. seventh."]

Colonel William Campbell (Patriot):
We fought an hour and five minutes, in which time two hundred and twenty-five of the enemy were killed, and one hundred and thirty wounded; the rest, making about seven hundred regulars and Tories, were taken prisoners. Ferguson was killed near the close of the action. The victory was complete to a wish; and I think it was won by about seven hundred men, who fought bravely. I have lost several of my brave friends, whose death I much lament.

Sir Henry Clinton (British Commander):
[The Battle of Kings Mountain was] an event which was immediately productive of the worst consequences to the King's affairs in South Carolina, and unhappily the first link in a chain of evils that followed in regular succession until they at last ended in the loss of America.
[Henry Clinton, edited by William Wilcox, The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton's Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775-1782, published 1954, Yale University Press]

Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States):
I remember well the deep and grateful impression made on the minds of every one by that memorable victory. It was the joyful annunciation of that turn of the tide of success which terminated the Revolutionary War, with the seal of our independence.
[Excerpt from a letter dated Monticello, 10 November 1822, to John Campbell, son of Colonel William Campbell]

* 70th Congress, 1st Session House Document No. 328, compiled by the Historical Section of the Army War College, Historical Statements Concerning the Battle of Kings Mountain and the Battle of Cowpens South Carolina, United States Government Printing Office, 1928

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Prelude to Kings Mountain, August 1780

The disparaging news of Thomas Sumter's embarrassing defeat by Banastre Tarleton and his legion at Fishing Creek on 18 August 1780 did not stop the strategic movements of the backcountry militia. On the upside, for the patriot rebels, August 18th was the day two hundred horsemen rode forth from Colonel Charles McDowell's rebel camp on the Broad River. They were headed for Musgrove's Mill on the Enoree.
Having obtained information that a party of four or five hundred tories were encamped at Musgrove's Mill, on the south side of Enoree River, about forty miles distant, Col. McDowell again detached Shelby and Cols. Williams and Clarke to surprise and disperse them.
—John Haywood*
As battle at Musgrove's was winding down after a strategically arduous, yet ultimately decisive victory for the rebels, news of Horatio Gates's defeat at Camden on the 16th of August arrived. Retreat was rapid and long, but timely. Isaac Shelby returned to the western side of the mountains as Colonel Elijah Clarke escorted their seventy prisoners to a northern "place of safety."
It was after this, the Loyalist defeat at Musgrove's Mill, but, moreover, the unabashed British victory at Camden, that British commander Patrick Ferguson sent forth Samuel Phillips, a prisoner-of-war, to deliver a message to the “officers on the Western waters,” that if they did not: 
“...desist from their opposition to the British army, and take protection under his standard, he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword.”
—Isaac Shelby**
Word was sent out for the western militia to muster at Sycamore Shoals. Momentum was about to gather again. 
*John Haywood, The Civil and Political History of the State of Tennessee, published 1823 by W. H. Haywood; reprinted 1891, Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; Nashville, Tennessee
** Isaac Shelby, Gov. Shelby's Pamphlet. Battle of Kings Mountain. To the Public., published 1823, excerpt

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fishing Creek, 18 August 1780

While the humiliating Camden defeat of 16 August 1780 was unravelling for General Horatio Gates and his troops, General Thomas Sumter, who had successfully detached himself from the fiasco, achieved success in taking control of a strategic ferry crossing on Carolina's Wateree River between Camden and Charlotte. A surprise attack totally subdued the British garrison there, and a bounty of war matériel was gained, along with 250 or so prisoners. Sumter, in no hurry to return to Camden, learned, by dispatch from William Davie, of Gates's demise and flight from the disaster that was Camden. 
Lord Cornwallis, in the meantime, learned of Thomas Sumter's raid and gain of valued British supplies and troops, and, in the aftermath of Camden, set Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton on Sumter's trail. It didn't take long.
The day after Camden, Tarleton spotted Thomas Sumter and his men alongside the riverbank of the Catawba River. The following morning, August 18th, Tarleton and his legion tracked Sumter to the junction of Fishing Creek with the river. Here the rebel troops stopped for lunch, along with some rest and relaxation. Sumter enforced no security precautions. "Sentries" enjoyed the afternoon along with their comrades. Tarleton and his men attacked the patriot rebels in total surprise, many, including Sumter, half-dressed and disarmed. Those who could, like Sumter, escaped by any means available. A huge number were casualties, and more than 300 were taken prisoner. More importantly, to the British, their men were rescued, and maybe most importantly: their matériel was recovered. The Americans gained nothing but another huge dose of humiliation as a coda to the Camden defeat.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Battle of Camden, 16 August 1780

In May 1780 the regular Continental army, those not imprisoned, had retreated northward to Hillsborough, North Carolina, above Durham, and even as far as Virginia, in the aftermath of Charleston's surrender to the British. The Waxhaw Massacre of Abraham Buford's troops that month also signaled retreat for anyone lucky enough to survive.
Late in July, though, with Major General Horatio Gates at the helm, the Continental army returned southward into the Carolinas. They gathered at Charlotte to regroup, calling in the local militia to meet with Continental Army officers. Gates was intent upon taking on Lord Cornwallis and regaining South Carolina. 
He was targeting Camden in particular, a key crossroads which had become a Loyalist stronghold of about a thousand men under British commander Lord Francis Rawdon. Lord Cornwallis was advised of Gates's movement days earlier and arrived on the scene to support Rawdon with additional troops, including Banastre “Butcher” Tarleton and his notorious dragoons.
Soon after your Lordship had first taken possession of Camden, you detached me to Waxhaw with my own regiment, thinking that as it was an Irish corps it would be received with the better temper by the settlers of that district, who were universally Irish and universally disaffected. My conduct towards the inhabitants, and the extraordinary regularity of the troops under my command, I must assert to have been such as ought to have conciliated their firmest attachment; yet I had the fullest proofs that the people who daily visited my camp, not only held constant correspondence with the rebel militia then assembling at Charlotteburg, and with those who were harassing Lieut.-Colonel Turnbull's detachment, but also used every artifice to debauch the minds of my soldiers, and persuade them to desert from their colours. The encouragement which they gave to the men, and the certain means of escape with which they furnished them, succeeded to a very alarming degree, and the rage of desertion was not stopped by our return to Camden.
When your Lordship left me to command in the Back Country, you left me in the territory of an enemy, awed solely by apprehension of our force from open opposition. I soon found (as your Lordship's experience since will readily lead you to believe) that I was betrayed on every side by the inhabitants. Several small detachments from me, were attacked by persons who had the hour before been with them as friends in their camp. As the rebels, however, had not strength to assail the body of the army, they endeavoured to weaken it by treachery. I had the clearest conviction that the militia who swarmed daily in our camp, not only held forth every allurement that could entice the soldiers to desert, but actually furnished horses to such as would go off, and forwarded them from house to house till they were beyond the reach of pursuit.
—Letter from Lord Francis Rawdon to Lord Charles Cornwallis, excerpt
(It is not indicated nor probable that any of the Burke County, North Carolina, McDowells or their overmountain colleagues participated in the Battle of Camden. Thomas Sumter, William Davie, and Francis Marion were more likely to be leading the South Carolina militia. Gates had even reduced his own regular army numbers by sending support troops to Sumter and Marion, who had been sent back to the swamps by Gates. The battle is, however, important in context of what followed for those men.)
Horatio Gates made some questionable choices, especially the choice to hold a large portion of his regular army in reserve. Despite his known lack of faith in militia, he chose to create the entire left  flank from them, while the opposite flank was regular army helmed by Baron Johann de Kalb. In sum, early morning 16 August 1780, within an hour of the first volley, the Continental Army was totally routed by Lord Rawdon and his men. The militia dropped their arms and fled. Baron de Kalb suffered three bullets and eight bayonet wounds, then took three days to die. The battle was still playing out when General Gates mounted his horse and galloped for Charlotte. There, he procured a fresh horse and fled another 120 miles north to Hillsborough. He ran. His troops that were able to flee, aimed for the safety of Charlotte. 
General Gates fled & left his army a great many of whom was killed & taken prisoner and the balance thrown into utter confusion.
–Pension application of Richard Crabtree, excerpt
Errors were made by an overconfident General Gates, and the total collapse of his left flank left about 800 Continentals facing over 2000 British troops. Cornwallis sent in a charge by Tarleton  and his legion. The Continentals turned tail and fled. 
Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford of the Carolina militia had accompanied commander Horatio Gates to Camden. Rutherford was wounded, captured, and ultimately incarcerated in the British prison at St Augustine, Florida, until his exchange in summer of 1781. Gates's regular army and its officers ultimately retreated to Hillsborough, leaving no provision for the patriot militia. 
…and the mortified militia, were left to depend upon their own exertions, and their own fortitude; which, notwithstanding the discouragements they had met with, did not fail. They assembled—formed themselves into small partisan corps—and actually combated successfully, the first detachments of the enemy that came afterwards into their country. These are facts which entitle the patriots of Mecklenburg and Waxsaws, [sic] to a whole page of eulogium, in the best history that shall record the circumstances of the revolution.
—Otho Holland Williams, Adjutant to General Horatio Gates*
In the meantime, militias on the county and local levels, if not casualties or prisoners, disappeared back into the countryside to regroup and continue to strategize. Colonel Charles McDowell and his militia withdrew to the west of the mountains.

* Otho Holland Williams, A Narrative of the Campaign of 1780, transcribed by William Johnson, included in Johnson's Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene, published 1822 by A.E. Miller, Charleston, South Carolina

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Skirmishes & Huck's Defeat, Summer 1780

Ramsour's Mill set the stage as July and early August of 1780 played out as a series of skirmishes traversing the Carolina backcountry. The absence of regular Continental army and any real general command structure allowed the rise of notable, innovative militia leaders such as Francis Marion, Andrew Pickens, Thomas Sumter (apart from his Fishing Creek episode), William Davie, and others. (Continental Line General Horatio Gates would not arrive in the Carolinas until late July.) Innovation and spontaneity were key factors within the geography of swamps, dense forests, thick underbrush, along with fickle weather patterns, which created challenges not traditionally experienced by British officers. The locals, both Patriot and Loyalist, knew the environment and how to best exploit it to advantage. Loyalists, however, had mostly British commanders who hadn't a clue as to the local terrain, but had to trust the locals for guidance. 
The men of the backcountry had been militarily seasoned, if not trained, by their "savage neighbors."* The Indian tactics they learned, out of necessity, were tree-to-rock, rock-to-tree, rifle, knife, and hatchet. They became experts of the surprise raid and hasty retreat, the silent disappearance into woods and swamps. These were precursors of modern guerrilla warfare.
Incidents at militia outposts such as Earle's Ford, Thicketty Fort, Rocky Mount, Cedar Creek, and Hanging Rock kept the game on, but the most pivotal encounter took place as a side effect of British Commander George Turnbull's order to apprehend backcountry rebel commanders John McClure and William Bratton. Colonel Turnbull was under the impression that Captain McClure and Colonel Bratton had returned home to oversee their wheat harvests. Captain Christian Huck, a fervent Loyalist, was on the receiving end of Turnbull's order and set out from Rocky Mount July 10th with a company of thirty-five British dragoons, twenty New York volunteers, and about fifty mounted Loyalist militia. 
"You are hereby ordered, with the Cavalry under your command, to proceed to the frontier of the province, collecting all the royal militia with you on your march, And with said force to push the rebels as far as you may deem convenient."
—Colonel George Turnbull to Captain Christian Huck, excerpt
Huck and his troops descended upon both the McClure and Bratton households, invoking terror as they might. McClure's brother and brother-in-law were captured and sentenced to hang. The McClure house was set afire. Mrs Bratton put up a good fight, despite being physically threatened with a reaping hook. She stood her ground and refused to give up any information. Huck, frustrated, moved along in his search to James Williamson's plantation. Bratton and McClure, in the meantime, had gotten wind of Captain Huck's pursuit and tactics, and devised a strategy to intercept Huck at Williamson's. They amassed a sizeable militia force from the surrounding countryside. At sunrise on July 12th, the patriot forces managed to trap the Loyalists in a fenced-in lane which ran from the main road to the Williamson home. The attack was a total surprise. Huck tried to rally his dragoons, but a single bullet from a sharpshooter killed the captain instantly. This was Huck's Defeat. The battle lasted only about ten minutes, but its implications would resonate far longer.
[Huck's Defeat] was the first check the enemy had received after the fall of Charleston; and was of greater consequence to the American cause than can be well supposed from an affair of small a magnitude as it had the tendency to inspire the Americans with courage & fortitude & to teach them that the enemy was not invincible. 
—Colonel William Hill*
* A nod to Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors, published 2008, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, N.Y.
* William Hill, Colonel William Hill's Memoirs of the Revolution, Columbia, South Carolina

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Battle of Ramsour's Mill, 20 June 1780

Derick Ramsaur, who was among the first Germans (generally called Dutch [mistakenly for Deutsch]) emigrants to Tryon County, [North Carolina,] erected his mill prior to 1770 on the west bank of Clark's Creek, where the Morganton road bridge at Lincolnton now spans the stream. 
… After the battle of Alamance, Governor Tryon wrote the Secretary of State that the counties of Mecklenburg, Tryon, and western Rowan beyond the Yadkin River were contemplating hostilities and that he had sent General Wadell with the militia of those counties and some other troops to require the inhabitants to take the oath of allegiance. One of the points at which they were assembled for this purpose was Ramsaur's Mill.
—William A. Graham*
By mid-June of 1780, about 1300 Loyalist troops, under the commands of Lieutenant Colonel John Moore and Major Nicholas Welch, gathered at Ramsour's Mill near present-day Lincolnton, North Carolina. Colonel Charles McDowell was advised of their proximity and numbers. His brother Major Joseph McDowell, of Quaker Meadows, and cousin Captain Joseph McDowell, of Pleasant Gardens, were also on point regarding the situation. 
The friends of Britain in Tryon County were not confined to the Germans; there were probably as large a percent of the English Tories. Neither Moore nor Welch were German. Colonel Moore returned to the vicinity and appointed a meeting for June 10th at his father's (Moses Moore) residence on Indian Creek, seven miles from Ramsaur's. The place of the "Tory Camp" is still pointed out, and is on the Gaston side of the county line on the plantation which was owned by the late Captain John II Roberts. Forty men met him on that day. He delivered Lord Cornwallis' message, but before they dispersed a messenger informed them that Major Joseph McDowell [of Quaker Meadows] (who was one of the most ubiquitous officers of the North Carolina Patriot Militia during the Revolution) was in the neighborhood endeavoring to capture some of the men who were present. Moore, having a force double in number to that of McDowell, sought him and followed him to South Mountains, but did not overtake him. He then dismissed the men with directions to meet at Ramsaur's Mill on the 13th of the month.
—William A. Graham*
Colonel Charles McDowell dispatched Isaac Shelby and a number of his men to assist North Carolina militia from Mecklenburg, Tryon, and Rowan counties. Colonel Francis Locke led the approximately 400 patriot troops in their goal to dislodge Moore, Welch, and their troops. (General Rutherford, with Colonel William Davidson's infantry and Major Daire's cavalry, arrived from Charlotte too late to participate in the action.) The Loyalists had encamped at a strategically important position seated on a high ridge that sloped about 300 yards down to the mill on Clarke's Creek, and a similar distance to a creek branch at the bottom of the eastern slope.
Captain Joseph McDowell (of Pleasant Gardens) served as commander of one of Locke's companies. On 20 June 1780, he led the initial cavalry charge along Old Sherrill’s Ford Road which drove Moore's pickets back into their camp. Colonel Locke moved infantry into position in concert with the cavalry maneuver. 
The contest eventually became one of sharpshooting, as not much ground was gained in either direction. The patriots successfully picked off the enemy's officers one by one; the leaderless Loyalists eventually ceased firing and abandoned the ridge. As Locke's troops stood atop the ridge, a white flag was seen flying down by the far creek. About fifty prisoners were taken, those who had been unable to reach the bridge. Those who had successfully crossed, dispersed and escaped. 
The Battle of Ramsour's Mill exemplified the degree to which the summer's southern backcountry battles constituted civil war. Not a single British soldier or officer was present. Neither was there any regular army from either side. It was a battle of Patriot militia versus Loyalist militia. They were locals, for the most part, and many were related by blood and/or marriage.
*William A. Graham, The Battle of Ramsaur's Mill, June 20, 1780; booklet, volume 4, published 1904, E.M. Uzell, Printers; Raleigh, North Carolina

Monday, January 9, 2017

Clinton's 3rd Proclamation rallies the Backcountry

… that unfortunate Proclamation of the 3d of June has had very unfavorable consequences. The majority of the Inhabitants in the Frontier Districts, tho’ ill disposed to us, from the circumstances were not actually up in arms against us; they were therefore freed from the Paroles imposed by Lt. Colonel Turnbull and myself; and nine out of ten of them are now embodied on the part of the Rebels.
Letter from Lord Francis Rawdon to Lord Charles Cornwallis dated 7 July 1780, excerpt
On 3 June 1780 Sir Henry Clinton inadvertently (and figuratively) shot himself in the foot. On that day he issued the third of his "Proclamations" in the aftermath of the Continental Army's surrender of Charleston. It was well and good that the proclamation released from parole all prisoners, excepting those taken during the British siege of Charleston, and restored to them their full rights as citizens. The stray bullet, so to speak, was the stipulation that all released parolees were required to take an oath of allegiance to the British empire, or else to be considered in rebellion. In other words, there was no such thing as neutrality subsequent to parole.
Sir Henry Clinton, with one piece of paper, guaranteed the continuance of the American Revolution in the Southern theatre. Not long afterward, Clinton and his fleet returned northward, to New York, and left the Carolinas to the jurisdiction of Charles, Earl of Cornwallis, aka Lord Cornwallis. The Loyalist troops of the Southern theater were his to command, and the Carolinas his to secure. 
The Continental regular army was either imprisoned or headed northward, so any Carolina patriot action in the aftermath of Benjamin Lincoln's surrender of Charleston was left to local and county militias. Paroled prisoners, not wishing to abide by Clinton's ultimatum, rallied to the patriot cause. As Cornwallis dispersed forces northward from Charleston into the Carolina backcountry to subdue remaining belligerents, patriot Colonel Charles McDowell, with networked knowledge of the advancing enemy, gathered his growing militia at a position at Smith's Ford on Broad River between Spartanburg and Rock Hill, South Carolina. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Waxhaw Massacre, 29 May 1780

Upon the outbreak of war in 1775, Abraham Buford, a native of Culpeper County, Virginia, organized a company of minutemen. By May 1778 he had achieved the rank of Colonel in the Continental Army, and assumed command of the 11th Virginia Regiment in September the same year. In April 1780 Buford was reassigned to lead the 3rd Virginia Regiment southward into the Carolinas. He was to relieve General Benjamin Lincoln in Charleston while that port city continued under British siege. After Buford entered the South Carolina backcountry of the Waxhaws, however, he received news of Lincoln’s surrender to the British, and he turned his Virginia troops northward again, as ordered. 
The Waxhaws, a geographic region in the Piedmont of the Catawba River valley, was named for its earliest known inhabitants—the Waxhaw Indians. The tribe had been decimated by war and disease, and by 1715 the area was essentially uninhabited. By 1740 Scots-Irish and other immigrants had entered the land and established settlements. The fertile hunting ground of the Waxhaws spanned, after the border was eventually drawn, the North and South Carolina state lines. 
Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton was a British cavalry officer with a reputation for ruthless brutality that earned him the nicknames “Bloody Ban” and “Butcher.” On 29 May 1780 Tarleton’s force of about 130 cavalry, 100 infantry, and 40 British “Green Dragoons” overtook Colonel Buford’s 350 (or 380, per Tarleton) Virginia Continentals in the woods near Lancaster, South Carolina. As evidenced in their exchanged dispatches, Buford, at the outset, declined Tarleton’s option to surrender. Only after an early onset of heavy casualties did Buford order his troops to raise a flag of surrender. 
Buford now perceiving that further resistance was hopeless, ordered a flag to be hoisted and the arms to be grounded, expecting the usual treatment sanctioned by civilized warfare. This, however, made no part of Tarleton’s creed. His ostensible pretext, for the relentless barbarity that ensued, was, that his horse was killed under him just as the flag was raised. He affected to believe that this was done afterwards, and imputed it to treachery on the part of Buford; but, in reality, a safe opportunity was presented to gratify that thirst for blood which marked his character in every conjuncture that promised probable impunity to himself. Ensign Cruit, who advanced with the flag, was instantly cut down. Viewing this as an earnest of what they were to expect, a resumption of their arms was attempted, to sell their lives as dearly as possible; but before this was fully effected, Tarleton with his cruel myrmidons was in the midst of them, when commenced a scene of indiscriminate carnage never surpassed by the ruthless atrocities of the most barbarous savages. 
The demand for quarters, seldom refused to a vanquished foe, was at once found to be in vain; —not a man was spared—and it was the concurrent testimony of all the survivors, that for fifteen minutes after every man was prostrate. They went over the ground plunging their bayonets into every one that exhibited any signs of life, and in some instances, where several had fallen one over the other, these monsters were seen to throw off on the point of the bayonet the uppermost, to come at those beneath.
—Letter from Dr Robert Brownfield* to William Dobein James, excerpt
Local residents who had not fled tended to the casualties. The same afternoon of the battle 84 dead were buried together in a mass grave. The following day 25 more were buried in a second mass grave. The wounded were taken to nearby Waxhaws Church for care. Mrs Elizabeth Jackson served there as a nurse along with her sons, 16-year-old Robert and 13-year-old Andrew, who would carry these memories with him as a commander into the War of 1812.
“Tarleton’s Quarter” became a rallying cry among the Patriots, albeit a sarcastic one, which translated to: no quarter whatsoever. The slogan gained a motivational momentum, driving many much-needed new recruits into the partisan militia. The backcountry Scots-Irish communities were particularly responsive. Loyalist recruitment declined in inverse proportion. Loyalist desertions increased in step.
The Waxhaws battle became historically controversial. After breaking Buford’s line Tarleton’s dragoons slaughtered many partisans that reportedly had surrendered and asked for quarter, literally hacking them down and apart with their sabres. Some sources, such as partisan Surgeon’s Mate Robert Brownfield and Buford’s Adjutant Henry Bowyer, claimed that Buford raised a white flag, however belated, that was ignored by Tarleton. 
“The officers commanding platoons on Beaufort’s left, being all killed, and the command thrown into confusion, Adjutant Bowyer was ordered to advance with a flag, and to say to Tarleton, that he was willing to accept the terms offered before the action began. The Adjutant remonstrated by saying, that as the firing still continued, the execution of the order would be impracticable, exposing the bearer of the flag to the shot of both parties. Beaufort repeated his orders, in positive terms, and the Adjutant rode forward, with a handkerchief displayed on the point of his sword. When close to the British commander, he delivered Beaufort's message, but a ball at the moment striking the forehead of Tarleton’s horse, he plunged and both fell to the ground, the horse being uppermost. Extricated by his men from so perilous a position, the exasperated Colonel rose from the ground, and ordered the soldiers to despatch him. They immediately gathered round, and several cuts were made at him, which he had the good fortune to parry and avoid. By this time, Captain John Stokes and Lieut. Willison, who occupied a position opposite to that where the Adjutant was surrounded by the British Dragoons, and saw the danger impending over him, directed their platoons to fire at the group. They were well obeyed, and the bullets thrown among the party around the Adjutant, frightening the horses, gave him an opportunity of dashing through them, and effecting his escape unhurt. His horse was seriously wounded, but not sufficiently so to prevent his carrying his master to a place of security. The overwhelming force of the British then prevailed, and a dreadful massacre of the detachment followed. The rage of the British soldiers, excited by the continued fire of the Americans, while a negotiation was offered by flag, impelled them to acts of vengeance that knew no limits."
—Adjutant Henry Bowyer
Banastre Tarleton’s 1787 account set the scene for a massacre. His horse had been shot from under him during the initial volley. While Tarleton was briefly pinned beneath the horse, word rapidly, and most mistakenly, spread among his men that their commander had been killed.
“The loss of officers and men was great on the part of the Americans, owing to the dragoons so effectually breaking the infantry, and to a report amongst the cavalry, that they had lost their commanding officer, which stimulated the soldiers to a vindictive asperity not easily restrained.”
—Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton
The vengeful slaughter was not restrained. Of Colonel Buford’s approximately 350 men, 113 were killed and 203 captured, 150 of whom were so badly wounded that they were left behind. Tarleton’s casualties were 5 killed and 12 wounded. The affair became known as the Waxhaw Massacre. “Buford” would become the countersign at Kings Mountain later the same year. In January 1781, the patriot watchword for the Battle of Cowpens would be “Buford's Play.”

* Dr Robert Brownfield served as a Surgeon’s Mate in the regiment of Colonel Abraham Buford.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Isaac Shelby, re: Charles McDowell, per Draper

From King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain, by Lyman Copeland Draper, pub. 1881, P.G. Thomson, pp. 188-190:

    [Isaac] Shelby's object in suggesting Colonel [William] Campbell's appointment [to command at Kings Mountain], is best explained by himself. "I made the proposition," says Shelby in his pamphlet, in 1823, "to silence the expectations of Colonel [Charles] McDowell to command us—he being the commanding officer of the district we were then in, and had commanded the armies of militia assembled in that quarter all the summer before against the same enemy. He was a brave and patriotic man, but we considered him too far advanced in life, and too inactive for the command of such an enterprise as we were engaged in. I was sure he would not serve under a younger officer from his own State, and hoped that his feelings would, in some degree, be saved by the appointment of Colonel Campbell." In his narrative, in the American Review, December, 1848, Governor Shelby makes no reference to McDowell's age, but simply states, that he "was too slow an officer" for the enterprise. 
Though Colonel Shelby speaks of McDowell's age as objectionable for such a service, it really deserved little, if any, consideration. He was then only some thirty-seven years of age—Colonel Cleveland was some years older, and Shelby himself, the youngest of the Colonels, was only seven years his junior. It may be curious to note, that "Old Put," then in active service, was twenty-five years older than McDowell, General Evan Shelby, the Colonel's father, who, the year before, commanded an important expedition against the Chicamauga Indian towns, was twenty-three years older, General Stark fifteen, Washington eleven, Marion ten, Sumter at least four, and General Greene one. The real objection to Colonel McDowell was not so much his age, as his lack of tact and efficiency for such a command; and, it has been hinted, moreover, that his conduct at the Cane creek affair was not without its influence in producing the general distrust entertained of his fitness to lead the mountain men on this important service. The expression was quite general, that General Morgan or General Davidson should be sent to take the command; the former, especially, who had gained such renown at Saratoga, and had recently joined General Gates, was highly esteemed by the mountaineers.

    Colonel McDowell, who had the good of his country at heart more than any title to command, submitted gracefully to what was done; but observed, that as he could not be permitted to command, he would, if agreeable, convey to head-quarters the request for a general officer. This was warmly approved, as it was justly declared that he was well acquainted with the situation of the country, and could, better than any other, concert with General Gates a plan of future operations, and they would await his return. The manner in which this was presented gratified McDowell, who at once set off on his mission, leaving his men under the command of his brother, Major Joseph McDowell. Passing through Burke county, McDowell's command, particularly, was considerably increased by relatives, friends and neighbors; and there John Spelts, or Continental Jack, as he was familiarly called by his associates, first joined Shelby's regiment, but fought under McDowell. Colonel Campbell now assumed the chief command; in which, however, he was to be directed and regulated by the determination of the Colonels, who were to meet every day for consultation.
    Everything was now arranged quite satisfactorily to the Whig chiefs; and their men were full of martial ardor, anxious to meet the foe, confident of their ability, with their unerring rifles, to overthrow Ferguson and his Loyalist followers, even were their numbers far greater than they 
were represented.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Col. Joseph "P.G." McDowell, per John Wheeler

From Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians, by John H. Wheeler, published Columbus, Ohio: Columbus Printing Works, 1884:

Colonel Joseph McDowell was born on 25th February, 1758, at Pleasant Gardens, in Burke County. He was always called Colonel Joe of the Pleasant Gardens, to distinguish him from General Joe of Quaker Meadows.
He was a soldier and a statesman, and the most distinguished of the name.
He early entered the profession of arms. At the age of 18 he joined General Rutherford in an expedition, in 1776, against the Cherokee Indians, in which he displayed much gallantry and desperate courage. It is known that in a hand-to-hand fight he killed an Indian chief with his sword.
He was active in repressing the Tories, and took part in the battle at Ramsour's Mill, on 20th June, 1780, near Lincolnton, as mentioned by General Graham in eulogistic terms, for his conduct on that occasion, and materially aided in achieving a complete victory over a superior force.
At Cane Creek, in Rutherford County, with General Charles McDowell, he led the militia, chiefly of Burke County, and had a severe skirmish with a strong detachment of Ferguson's army, then stationed at Gilbert Town, and drove them back.
Immediately afterward he aided in measures which culminated in the glorious victory of Kings Mountain.
This was the darkest period of the dubious conflict. Gates was defeated at Camden; Savannah and Charleston surrendered to the British; Sumter, at Fishing Creek, (18th August, 1780;) Cornwallis, in all the pride and circumstance of a conqueror, held the undisputed possession of Charlotte and its vicinity.
Ferguson, with strong force, was winning the attachment of the people from liberty to loyalty; while the Tories ravaged the whole country with vindictive fury.
There was not a regular soldier south of Virginia, and every organized force was scattered or disbanded. The time had come, and these brave men felt that they must do or die.
Amid all these disastrous circumstances, the patriotic spirits of Cleaveland, Campbell, Sevier, and McDowell did not despair. They determined to attack the forces of Ferguson. They were all of equal rank, and as the troops were in the district of Charles McDowell, he was entitled to the command.
From a manuscript letter of Shelby, in my possession, he says:

    Colonel [Charles] McDowell was the commanding officer of the district we were in, and had commanded the armies of the militia all the summer before, against the same enemy. He was brave and patriotic, but we considered him too far advanced in life and too inactive to command the enterprise.
    It was decided to send to headquarters [between Charlotte and Salisbury] for some general officer to command the expedition.
    Colonel McDowell, who had the good of his country more at heart than any title of command, submitted, and stated that he would be the messenger to go to headquarters. He accordingly started immediately, leaving his men under his brother, Major Joseph McDowell.
The next day Shelby urged that time was precious and delays dangerous. The advance was made. Colonel Joseph McDowell [of Pleasant Gardens], the subject of our present sketch, led the boys of Burke and Rutherford Counties to battle and to victory, (7th October, 1780,) and his command was on the right wing of the attacking forces, and aided greatly in insuring victory. Ferguson fell bravely fighting and his army completely routed.