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.