Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Cunningham Mess, part 4:
A Defection, A Lie & First Blood

From The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1775-1780, by Edward McCrady, published 1901, Macmillan & Co., ltd., South Carolina, pp. 89-92:

    In the meanwhile the Congress men under Williamson and the King's men under Cuningham continued embodying their forces. Williamson lay almost a fortnight at Ninety-Six Court House, receiving those who came in and waiting for Colonel Thomson with the Rangers. Captain Richard Pearis, who, then acting with the Revolutionary party, had accompanied Mr. Drayton on his visit to the Indians, disappointed that he had not received the military position he desired, now changed sides and joined the King's party. He charged the Council of Safety with the design of bringing down the Cherokees upon the settlements to cut off all the King's men. He went so far as to make affidavit that the ammunition taken by Patrick Cuningham was on the way to the Cherokee Nation for that purpose. As it was known that he had brought the Indians who had met Mr. Drayton in September, it was naturally supposed that he was acquainted with the intentions of the Council, and his assertions were readily believed. The King's party was thus speedily swelled in numbers, while Williamson's militia came in but slowly. Williamson, however, could not believe that the Loyalists would dare to attack him, until the 18th of November, when he received certain information that they were in full march upon him and had actually crossed the Saluda River for the purpose. Major Mayson now joined him with a small party of Rangers and proposed to march at once, themselves assume the offensive, and attack their opponents in camp. A council of war was called which, as councils of war usually do, overruled this vigorous plan of operations. On the contrary, Williamson with his forces fell back to a position near the Court House, where they fortified themselves as far as they could before the appearance of the opposing forces. They had hardly closed their slight fortification when on Sunday, the 19th of November, Major Robinson and Captain Patrick Cuningham appeared with their party. A conference was called, and a meeting took place between Major Mayson and Captain Bowie on the one side, and Robinson, Cuningham, and Evan McLaurin on the other. Robinson and his party demanded that Major Williamson's militia should surrender their arms and disband. While Williamson was considering this demand two of his men were seized by the other party, whereupon he gave orders to rescue them, and thus brought on a conflict, the first bloodshed in the Revolution in South Carolina. For two hours and a half the firing on both sides was incessant. The garrison including officers consisted of 562 men, while the number of besiegers was about 1890. The siege lasted two days, during which Major Williamson's men suffered great hardship, though but one man was killed and twelve wounded; while on the other side several were killed and about twenty wounded. On Tuesday, the 21st, at sunset the King's party displayed a white flag and called a parley, in which Major Robinson renewed his former demand, allowing only one hour for answer. Captain Bowie was sent at once with the joint answer of Majors Williamson and Mayson, that they were determined never to resign their arms. In two hours Major Robinson returned with Captain Patrick Cuningham, and upon their withdrawing the peremptory demand for surrender it was agreed that a conference should take place the next morning. Accordingly, at the appointed hour, Majors Williamson and Mayson with Captains Pickens and Bowie met Major Robinson, Captain Cuningham, Evan McLaurin, and Pearis, when it was agreed that hostilities should immediately cease, that the garrison should be marched out of their improvised fort and their swivels given up, which by a secret agreement for that purpose were in a day or two privately restored. This mock surrender of the swivels was agreed upon by the leaders to appease a large party of the besiegers who, while the negotiation was progressing, demanded their surrender. The treaty further stipulated that the public differences should be submitted to Lord William Campbell the Governor on the part of the King's men, and to the Council of Safety on the part of Major Williamson and those under his command; that each party should send messengers to their principals, and twenty days be allowed for their return; that Major Robinson should withdraw his men over the Saluda River, and keep them there or disperse them as he pleased until he should receive his Excellency's orders; that no person of either party should be molested in returning home; that should reinforcements arrive, they should be bound by the treaty; that all prisoners should be set at liberty, the fortifications levelled, and the well which had been dug in the forts filled up.