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.