Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lord Rawdon in the Backcountry

Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, was a British politician and military officer. He was born in County Down, Ireland, the son of John Rawdon, 1st Earl of Moira and Elizabeth Rawdon, 13th Baroness Hastings.
He joined the British Army in 1771 and served in the American Revolutionary War, particularly at the battles of Bunker Hill, Brooklyn, White Plains, Monmouth and Camden, at the attacks on Forts Washington and Clinton, and at the siege of Charleston. Hastings commanded the "Volunteers of Ireland", a Tory regiment raised by General Sir Henry Clinton. In the aftermath of the Battle of Camden, Lord Rawdon wrote to General Cornwallis:

    "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."