Monday, December 17, 2007

Brig. Gen. Andrew Pickens (1739-1817)

Andrew Pickens was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on September 19, 1739. Like many early Scots-Irish immigrants, Andrew's family moved south, traveling the Great Wagon Road in search of new land. Records show they lived first in Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, later in the Waxhaws along the North Carolina-South Carolina border, and, eventually, in the Long Cane settlement in Abbeville County, South Carolina, bordering Georgia.
In the Long Canes, Pickens married and started a family. He not only farmed and raised cattle, he became acquainted with his Indian neighbors through a prosperous trading business. As the American Revolution approached, Pickens, as many of his Scots-Irish neighbors, became an ardent Patriot.
It was in the Long Canes, too, that he emerged as a military leader, first in expeditions against the Cherokee, who had allied with the Loyalists in hopes of retaining their lands. In 1779, Pickens would distinguish himself in a Revolutionary War battle. That year, British commander Sir Henry Clinton sent British soldiers to South Carolina and North Georgia to encourage Loyalist support. Colonel Pickens and his three-hundred man militia, in efforts to aid the Patriot cause, overtook and defeated a much larger force of 700-800 men under Colonel James Boyd at Kettle Creek in North Georgia just south of the Long Canes.
The victory at Kettle Creek slowed the recruitment of Loyalists, but by 1780, the British dominated as they took Charleston, captured the southern continental army, and swept inland from coastal Carolina. The situation looked so gloomy, that Pickens and other militia leaders surrendered to the British, and, on oath, agreed to sit out the war under British protection.
Pickens’ parole did not last. When Tory raiders destroyed much of his property and terrorized his family, Pickens gathered his militia again and resumed guerrilla activities against the British. He played a key role in defeating British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1781. The victory came at a crucial time for Patriots in the South who had been repeatedly forced to retreat. Pickens, who with his militia arrived as reinforcements, urged Major General Daniel Morgan to make a stand. According to one source, Pickens offered to stand alone with his militia if necessary. Morgan was convinced to make a stand and relied heavily on Pickens’ militia in the ensuing battle. The militia, in fact, got off two shots before their planned retreat, something not done in previous battles, and re-formed to help envelop the enemy. The bravery of the militia, combined with the well-disciplined Continental troops and Colonel William Washington’s cavalry, won the day in this pivotal battle.
After the Revolution, Pickens acquired land in frontier South Carolina on the banks of the Keowee River, across from the old Cherokee town of Seneca. There, he built a house he called Hopewell and lived the life of the backcountry elite. There, too, he served as a political middleman between the Cherokees and the new American nation. Pickens had borrowed heavily from Cherokee warfare skills, and applied those skills in partisan warfare, including the victory at Cowpens. For his "spirited conduct" at Cowpens, the Continental Congress presented Pickens with a sword, and the State of South Carolina promoted him to Brigadier-General in the state militia.

(Source: "Andrew Pickens," by G. Scott Withrow,