Part 2 out of 6
This temporizing policy continued to prevail until the 9th November, 1775,
when the Provincial Congress resolved, "by every military operation,
to oppose the passage of any British Armament." Such were the orders
issued to the officer commanding at Fort Johnson. This fort had now been
in possession of the popular party for nearly two months.
It was in some degree prepared for use. It was well manned
with a portion of those brave fellows who afterwards fought
the good fight of Fort Sullivan. They would have done as good service here.
The resolution of the Province once adopted, it was communicated as well
to the commanders of the British vessels, as to the officers of the fort.
There was still an open passage, through Hog-Island channel,
by which the British vessels might approach the town without incurring
any danger from the Fort. This passage it was determined to obstruct;
and an armed schooner, called the Defence, fitted up for the occasion,
was ordered to cover and protect a party which was employed to sink
a number of hulks in that narrow strait. This drew upon them
the fire of the British. It was returned by the "Defence",
but with little injury to either side. The garrison at Fort Johnson
endeavored to take part in this little action, but the distance was too great
for any decisive results from its fire. Some of the shots took effect,
but after a few rounds the fire was discontinued. Meanwhile,
the alarm was beat in Charleston, where the troops stood to their arms,
and every heart throbbed with the expectation of a close and bloody fight.
But the time was not yet. Indecisive in itself, this brief combat
was of great importance in one point of view. It was the beginning
of the game. The blow for which all parties had been waiting,
was now fairly struck. The sword had been drawn from the scabbard,
not again to be sheathed, till the struggle was concluded. The local Congress
proceeded vigorously. Ships were impressed for the purpose of war,
new troops were enlisted and armed, and bills of credit issued.
The British vessels, meanwhile, became more than ever troublesome,
and, carrying out the menace of Captain Thornborough,
proceeded to the seizure of all vessels within their reach,
whether going from or returning to the port. It became necessary
to drive them from the roadstead. To effect this, Col. Moultrie,
with a party of newly raised Provincials and the Charleston Artillery,
took post on Haddrill's Point, and, mounting a few pieces of heavy artillery,
opened upon them with a well-directed fire, which drove them out to sea.
This step was followed by one of preparation. The fortifications at
Fort Johnson and Haddrill's Point were completed -- the city was fortified --
a new fort was raised on James', and another begun on Sullivan's Island.
The militia were diligently trained, the provincial troops
augmented and disciplined, and all means within the power of the Colony
were put in requisition to prepare it for defence. Among other preparations,
a military post was established at the town of Dorchester,
and strongly fortified. This post was nearly at the head of navigation,
on Ashley river, about twenty miles from Charleston. Though now
utterly desolate, Dorchester was, prior to the Revolution,
a town of considerable population and importance. Its abandonment
may be ascribed to the Revolution, during which it was maintained
as a military post by the Americans or British. To this place
the public stores and records were in great part transferred from Charleston,
as to a place of safe-keeping. The command was given to Marion.
While in this command we do not find the occurrence of
any events of importance. A couple of his original letters,
dated from this post, lie before us. They refer only to ordinary events,
but contain some expressions which denote the ardency of his patriotism,
and the disappointments to which it was not unfrequently subjected
in consequence of the apathy of others. Referring to the reluctance
shown by many, of whom the utmost patriotism was expected,
to rally around the flag of the country, he exclaims --
in a partial perversion of Scripture language, but without irreverence,
"Tell this not in the streets of Charleston," &c.
From this post Marion was removed to Charleston, very probably
at his own solicitation. Events were ripening in that quarter,
of a nature calculated to give becoming employment to a mind always active,
and desiring nothing more than to serve his country. From Charleston,
he was dispatched to Fort Johnson, where he was busily employed
in completing the defences of that place. Weems preserves an anecdote of him,
while in command of this fort, in January, 1776, which pleasantly describes
the quiet and not unamiable sort of humor in which Marion
was frequently said to indulge. While exceedingly busy in his preparations
for defence, there came to him a thoughtless young officer,
who loved the cockpit much better than consisted entirely with his duties.
Christmas and New Year's Holidays were famous at that early period,
for the exercise of this cruel sport in some parts of Carolina.
To obtain leave of absence, however, on any holiday pretence,
the young officer very well knew was impossible. Approaching his Commander
with a lie in his mouth, he obtained the desired permission,
in order to receive the last blessing of a dying father;
and, exulting in the unworthy artifice, he hurried to Dorchester,
which, on that occasion, was to be the scene of his recreation.
During his absence, Marion arrived at the truth of the story,
but said nothing. When the youth returned, which he did
after two weeks' absence, he proceeded to the marquee of his Commander,
to report himself, and began a tedious apology for having stayed, so long.
Marion gently interrupted him, and, with a smile, in the presence
of all the officers, replied -- "Never mind it, Lieutenant --
there's no harm done -- we never missed you." The effect of this sarcasm
is said to have been admirable; and to have resulted in the complete reform
of the offender, who, from being a trifling, purposeless, and unscrupulous
young man, grew considerate equally of his duties and his word,
and, by a career of industry, sobriety and modesty, made ample amends,
in future days, for all the errors of the past.
With the formation of new regiments, under the resolves
of the Council of Safety, Marion was promoted to a Majority.
This appointment materially enlarged the sphere of his duties.
But he was one of those remarkable men, who, without pretension,
prove themselves equal to any trust which may be imposed upon them.
Without the presence of an actual enemy, he addressed himself
to the task of preparing his men for the encounter with them.
He was constantly on parade, at the drill, closely engaged
in the work of training, in which business, while very gentle,
he was very exact; and, in such a degree had he improved the officers and men
immediately under his charge, that they were very soon regarded as a model
for all the rest. He was called the "architect of the Second Regiment".
Weems, speaking for Col. Horry, says, "Indeed, I am not afraid to say
that Marion was the ARCHITECT of the Second Regiment, and laid
the foundation of that excellent discipline and confidence in themselves,
which gained them such reputation whenever they were brought to face
their enemies." The value of this training was very soon to be subjected
to the most thorough of all possible tests. He was ordered with his Regiment,
under command of Col. Wm. Moultrie, to take post at Fort Sullivan,
on the island of that name, which stands at the entrance of Charleston harbor,
and within point blank shot of the channel. The difficulties and deficiencies
of this post, furnished some admirable preparatory lessons
for the great conflict which was to follow. They imposed the necessity
of diligent industry and hard labor, equally on men and soldiers.
This was one of the famous schools of Roman discipline.
Fort Sullivan, better known as Fort Moultrie -- was yet to be built.
When the Second Regiment entered it, it was little more than an outline.
Its shape was described upon the sand, and the palmetto rafts lay around it,
waiting to be moulded into form. The structure was an inartificial one --
a simple wall, behind which young beginners might train guns to do mischief
to a veteran enemy in front. Its form was square, with a bastion
at each angle, sufficiently large, when finished, to cover a thousand men.
It was built of logs, laid one upon another in parallel rows,
at a distance of sixteen feet, bound together at frequent intervals
with timber, dovetailed and bolted into the logs. The spaces between
were filled up with sand. The merlons were walled entirely by palmetto logs,
notched into one another at the angles, well bolted together and strengthened
with pieces of massy timber. Such was the plan of the work;
but, with all the diligence of the officers, and all the industry of the men,
it remained unfinished at the perilous moment when a powerful British fleet
appeared before its walls. The defence was confided to Col. Moultrie.
The force under his command was four hundred and thirty-five men,
rank and file, comprising four hundred and thirteen of the Second Regiment
of Infantry, and twenty-two of the Fourth Regiment of Artillery.
The whole number of cannon mounted on the fortress was thirty-one,
of these, nine were French twenty-sixes; six English eighteens;
nine twelve and seven nine pounders.*
* Weems, in his Life of Marion, represents the cannon as made up principally
of TWENTY-FOUR and THIRTY-SIX pounders; but the official accounts
are as I have given them. See Drayton's Memoirs, vol. 2, pp. 290-1.
General Charles Lee, who had been dispatched by the Continental Congress,
to take command of the Army of the South, would have abandoned the fortress
even before the appearance of the enemy. He was unwilling,
in such a position, to abide the conflict. He seems,
naturally enough for an officer brought up in a British Army,
to have had an overweening veneration for a British fleet,
in which it is fortunate for the country that the Carolinians did not share.
In the unfinished condition of the fort, which really presented little more
than a front towards the sea, his apprehensions were justifiable,
and, could the fort have been enfiladed, as the British designed,
it certainly would have been untenable. From the moment of his arrival,
to the very moment when the action was raging, his chief solicitude
seems to have been to ensure the defenders of the fortress a safe retreat.
It is to their immortal honor that this mortifying measure was unnecessary.
On the 20th of June, 1776, a day ever memorable in the annals of Carolina,
the British ships of war, nine in number,*1* commanded by Sir Peter Parker,
drew up abreast of the fort, let go their anchors, with springs
upon their cables, and commenced a terrible bombardment.
The famous battle which followed makes one of the brightest pages
in our history. Its events, however, are too generally known
to make it necessary that we should dwell upon them here. A few, however,
belong properly and especially to our pages. The subject of this memoir
was a conspicuous sharer in its dangers and in its honors.
The fire of the enemy was promptly answered, and with such efficiency of aim
as to be long remembered by the survivors. Having but five thousand pounds
of powder, with which to maintain a conflict that raged for eleven hours,
with unabated violence, it became necessary, not only that
the discharge from the fort should be timed, but that every shot
should be made to do execution. In order to do this the guns were trained
by the field-officers in person; hence, perhaps, the terrible fatality
of their fire. The Bristol, 50 gun ship, Commodore Sir Peter Parker,
lost 44 men killed and thirty*2* wounded. Sir Peter himself lost an arm.
The Experiment, another 50 gun ship, had 57 killed and 30 wounded.*3*
To these two vessels in particular, the attention of the fort was directed.
The words, passed along the line by officers and men, were --
"Look to the Commodore -- look to the fifty gun ships."*4*
The smaller vessels suffered comparatively little. Their loss of men
was small. The injury to the vessels themselves was greater,
and one of them, the Acteon, run aground, and was subsequently burnt.
The Carolinians lost but twelve men killed and twice that number wounded.
One of the former was the brave fellow Macdonald, of whom we have
already spoken. When borne from the embrasure where he received
his mortal wound, he cried out to those around him -- "Do not give up --
you are fighting for liberty and country." The want of powder
was severely felt. But for this, judging from the effects of the fire
from the fort, the British Commodore must have struck, or his fleet
must have been destroyed. So slow, at one time, were the discharges --
so great the interval of time between them, -- that the British
were of opinion that the place was abandoned. But a new supply of powder
was obtained by Marion, who, with a small party, leaving the fort,
proceeded to the armed schooner Defence, lying in Stop Gap Creek,
and seized upon her powder, by which the fire was kept up
until a supply of five hundred weight was received from the city.*5*
This caused a renewal of the conflict in all its fury.
The garrison fought with a coolness which would have done honor to veterans.
The day was very warm, and the men partially stripped to it.
Moultrie says, "When the action begun (it being a warm day), some of the men
took off their coats and threw them upon the top of the merlons.
I saw a shot take one of them and throw it into a small tree
behind the platform. It was noticed by our men, and they cried out,
"look at the coat!" A little incident that speaks volumes for their coolness.
Moultrie himself and several of his officers smoked their pipes during
the action, only removing them when it became necessary to issue orders.
In the hottest fire of the battle the flag of the fort was shot away,
and fell without the fort. Jasper, with whom we have already brought
the reader acquainted as one of Marion's men, instantly sprang after it
upon the beach, between the ramparts and the enemy, and binding it
to a sponge staff, restored it to its place, and succeeded
in regaining his own in safety. We shall hear more hereafter,
of this gallant fellow.*6* The coolness -- nay the cavalier indifference --
displayed by the Carolinians throughout the combat, is not its least
remarkable feature. There is something chivalric in such deportment,
which speaks for larger courage than belongs to ordinary valor.
Mere bull-dog resolution and endurance is here lifted,
by a generous ardor of soul, into something other than a passive virtue.
The elasticity of spirit which it shows might be trained to any performance
within the compass of human endowment.
*1* Two ships of fifty guns; five of twenty-eight; 1 of twenty-six
and a bomb-vessel. Moultrie, vol. 1 pp. 174-5.
*2* Weems says 100.
*3* British account.
*4* Moultrie, Memoirs, Vol. 1, NOTE, p. 177.
*5* MS. Life of Brig.-Gen. Peter Horry, p. 21.
*6* Gen. Horry (then a captain) thus relates the incident:
"I commanded an eighteen pounder in the left wing of the fort.
Above my gun on the rampart, was a large American flag
hung on a very high mast, formerly of a ship; the men of war directing
their fire thereat, it was, from their shot, so wounded, as to fall,
with the colors, over the fort. Sergeant Jasper of the Grenadiers
leapt over the ramparts, and deliberately walked
the whole length of the fort, until he came to the colors
on the extremity of the left, when he cut off the same from the mast,
and called to me for a sponge staff, and with a thick cord
tied on the colors and stuck the staff on the rampart in the sand.
The Sergeant fortunately received no hurt, though exposed
for a considerable time, to the enemy's fire. Governor Rutledge
[after the battle], as a reward, took his small sword from his side,
and in presence of many officers, presented it to Sergeant Jasper,
telling him to wear it in remembrance of the 28th June,
and in remembrance of him. He also offered Jasper
a Lieutenant's commission, but as he could neither read nor write,
he modestly refused to accept it, saying, `he was not fit
to keep officers' company, being only bred a Sergeant.'"
-- MS. Life of Brig.-Gen. Peter Horry, pp. 19-20.
Tradition ascribes to the hand and eye of Marion, the terrible effect
of the last shot which was fired on this bloody day. It was aimed
at the Commodore's ship, which had already received something more
than her due share of the attention of the fort. This shot,
penetrating the cabin of the vessel, cut down two young officers
who were drinking, we may suppose, to their fortunate escape
from a conflict which seemed already over -- then ranging forward,
swept three sailors from the maindeck into eternity, and finally
buried itself in the bosom of the sea. This curious particular
was derived from five sailors who deserted from the fleet that very night.
From the Battle of Fort Moultrie to that of Savannah --
Anecdote of Jasper -- His Death.
The battle of Fort Sullivan was of immense importance, not merely to Carolina,
but to all the confederated colonies. It saved the former, for three years,
from the calamities of invasion; a respite of the last value to a country
so greatly divided in public feeling and opinion. The battle preceded
the declaration of Independence, and, though not generally known
to have taken place before that decisive measure was resolved upon,
it came seasonably to confirm the patriots in those principles which
they had so solemnly and recently avowed. Its farther effect was to dissipate
that spell of invincibility, which, in the minds of the Americans,
seemed to hover about a British armament; -- to heighten the courage
of the militia, and to convince the most sceptical, that it needed
only confidence and practice, to make the American people as good soldiers
as any in the world. The Carolina riflemen were not a little elated
to discover that they could handle twenty-six pounders as efficiently as
the smaller implements of death, to which their hands were better accustomed.
To the defenders of the fortress, their victory brought imperishable laurels.
They had shown the courage and the skill of veterans, and their countrymen
gloried in the reputation in which they necessarily shared.
Moultrie received the thanks of Congress, of the Commander-in-Chief,
and of his fellow citizens. The fort was thenceforth called by his name,
and he was made a Brigadier-General. His Major, Marion,
necessarily had his share in these public honors, and was raised by Congress
to the rank of Lieut.-Colonel in the regular service.
Two days after the battle, General Lee reviewed the garrison at Fort Moultrie,
and thanked them "for their gallant defence of the fort against
a fleet of eight men-of-war and a bomb, during a cannonade of eleven hours,
and a bombardment of seven." At the same time, Mrs. Barnard Elliott
presented an elegant pair of embroidered colors to the Second Regiment,
with a brief address, in which she expressed her conviction that
they would "stand by them as long as they can wave in the air of liberty."
It was in fulfilling the pledge made by General Moultrie, on this occasion,
in behalf of the regiment, that the brave Jasper lost his life
before the walls of Savannah.
The three years' respite from the horrors of war, which this victory
secured to Carolina, was not, however, left unemployed
by her citizen soldiery. The progress of events around them
kept their services in constant requisition. While a part of them,
in the interior, were compelled to take arms against the Cherokee Indians,
the troops of the lower country were required against the Tories
in Florida and Georgia. Governor Tonyn of the former, an active loyalist,
proved a formidable annoyance to the patriots of the latter province.
Florida, under his administration, was the secure refuge and certain retreat
for all the malcontents and outlaws of the neighboring colonies.
He gave them ample encouragement, put arms into their hands,
and even issued letters of marque against the property of the colonists,
in anticipation of the act for that purpose, in the British parliament.
General Lee marched upon Florida with the Virginia and North Carolina troops.
He was subsequently joined by those of South Carolina;
but, owing to his own ill-advised and improvident movements,
the expedition was a total failure.* This result necessarily
gave encouragement to the Tories; and, though in too small numbers
to effect any important objects without the cooperation of a British force,
they were yet sufficiently active to invite the presence of one.
They formed themselves into little squads, and, moving through the country
with celerity, pursued their marauding habits at little risk,
as they sought only unsuspecting neighborhoods, and promptly fled
to the fastnesses of Florida on the approach of danger.
To direct and properly avail themselves of these parties,
the British commanders in America addressed their attention to Georgia.
The infancy of that colony necessarily led them to hope for an easy conquest
in attempting it. In February, 1777, General Howe, then commanding the troops
in North Carolina and Georgia, was advised of the approach of Colonel Fuser,
to the invasion of Georgia. He hurried on immediately to prepare Savannah
for defence; while Marion, with a force of 600 men, in several vessels,
provided with cannon and ammunition, was dispatched, by the inland passage,
to his assistance. Marion left Charleston on the 28th of February,
but his approach had no farther effect than to precipitate the flight
of the enemy, who, meeting with a stout opposition from Colonel Elbert,
at Ogechee ferry, had already desisted from farther advance.
The British attempts on Georgia were deferred to a later period.
But the loyalists were busy, particularly that portion of them,
which took the name of Scopholites, after one Scophol, a militia Colonel,
whom Moultrie describes as an "illiterate, stupid, noisy blockhead".
He proved not the less troublesome because of his stupidity.
* Drayton's Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 336.
Marion was more or less employed during this period, in various situations.
He was never unemployed. We find him at length in command of the fort
which he had formerly contributed to defend and render famous.
He was placed in charge of the garrison at Fort Moultrie.
The value of this fort was estimated rather according to its celebrity,
than its real usefulness. Subsequent events have shown that its capacity
was not great in retarding the approach of an enemy's fleet to the city.
It was the error of Sir Peter Parker -- obeying an old but exploded
military maxim, not to leave an armed post of the enemy in his rear --
to pause before a fortress, the conquest of which could in no wise
contribute to his success, -- and defeat before which,
must necessarily endanger his final objects. It was still
the impression of the Carolinians that Fort Moultrie must be assailed
as a preliminary step to the conquest of Charleston, and the post,
as one of the highest honor and danger, was conferred upon Marion.*
It was not known, indeed, at what moment the gallantry of the garrison
might be put to the proof. The British were known to be making
large marine and military preparations at New York, intended,
as it was generally understood, for the south. Charleston or Savannah,
were supposed indifferently to be the places of its destination.
It might be very well supposed that the enemy would seek, at the former place,
to recover those honors of war of which its gallant defenders
had deprived him.
* When the British under Prevost, were in possession of
the neighboring islands, Moultrie writes, "we were apprehensive
the enemy would attempt to surprise Fort Moultrie; we, therefore,
always kept a strong garrison there under General Marion."
But, any doubt as to the destination of the British fleet was soon removed.
In December, 1778, thirty-seven sail appeared before Savannah,
and four thousand British regulars were disembarked. The American force
left in defence of Savannah was a feeble one, of six or seven hundred men,
under General Howe. General Howe was but little of a soldier.
Instead of withdrawing this force, he suffered it to be sacrificed.
Badly posted, he was surprised, and his troops beaten and dispersed
with little difficulty. Savannah fell at once into the hands of the enemy,
and the whole colony very shortly after. General Prevost
was in command of the British. Opposed to him was Major-General Lincoln,
of the Continental army. While Prevost occupied the posts of Savannah,
Ebenezer, Abercorn, and other places, he was active in pushing select parties
forward to Augusta, and other commanding points in the interior.
The force under Lincoln did not enable him to offer any active opposition
to their progress. His headquarters were at Purysburg, on the Savannah river,
but a few miles from Abercorn, where Colonel Campbell lay
with the main body of the enemy. General Ashe, of the Americans,
occupied the post at Brier Creek, and, thus placed, the opposing commanders
seemed disposed for a while to rest upon their arms,
waiting events and reinforcements.
It was while the second South Carolina regiment lay at Purysburg,
that an adventure occurred, which has so often been repeated in connection
with the name and life of Marion, that we should scarcely be excused
from introducing it here, as properly in place in this memoir. Weems asserts
that Marion was present at this time with his regiment at Purysburg.
It is impossible to say whether he was or not. It is not improbable
that he was with his regiment, and yet the weight of evidence
inclines us to the opinion that he was still at Fort Moultrie.
It is not unlikely, however, that, when the direction of the British fleet
was known, and it was ascertained that Savannah and not Charleston
was its object, he immediately joined his regiment at Purysburg,
leaving Fort Moultrie in the charge of some less distinguished officer.
At all events the point is not of importance to the anecdote
we have to relate. Personally, Marion had nothing to do with it.
It was only because the actors in the adventure belonged to his regiment,
and were of "Marion's men", that tradition has insisted on associating
his name with theirs. It is not for us to have it otherwise.
The reader is already somewhat acquainted with the name of William Jasper --
perhaps Sergeant Jasper is the better known. This brave man
possessed remarkable talents for a scout. He could wear all disguises
with admirable ease and dexterity. Garden styles him "a perfect Proteus".*
He was equally remarkable for his strategy as for his bravery;
and his nobleness and generosity were, quite as much as these,
the distinguishing traits of his character. Such was the confidence
in his fidelity and skill that a roving commission was granted him,
with liberty to pick his associates from the Brigade.
Of these he seldom chose more than six. "He often went out," says Moultrie,
"and returned with prisoners, before I knew that he was gone.
I have known of his catching a party that was looking for him.
He has told me that he could have killed single men several times,
but he would not; he would rather let them get off. He went into
the British lines at Savannah, as a deserter, complaining, at the same time,
of our ill-usage of him; he was gladly received (they having heard
of his character) and caressed by them. He stayed eight days,
and after informing himself well of their strength, situation and intentions,
he returned to us again; but that game he could not play a second time.
With his little party he was always hovering about the enemy's camp,
and was frequently bringing in prisoners."** We have seen what reason
was alleged by this brave fellow for not accepting the commission
tendered to him by Governor Rutledge, for his gallantry
in the battle of Fort Moultrie. The nature of his services
was no less a reason why he should reject the commission.
The fact that he seldom allowed himself a command of more than six men
declared sufficiently the degree of authority to which he thought
his talents were entitled.
* "He was a perfect Proteus, in ability to alter his appearance;
perpetually entering the camp of the enemy, without detection,
and invariably returning to his own, with soldiers he had seduced,
or prisoners he had captured."
** Moultrie's Mem., vol. 2, p. 24.
It was while in the exercise of his roving privileges that Jasper prepared
to visit the post of the enemy at Ebenezer. At this post he had a brother,
who held the same rank in the British service, that he held in the American.
This instance was quite too common in the history of the period and country,
to occasion much surprise, or cause any suspicion of the integrity
of either party. We have already considered the causes
for this melancholy difference of individual sentiment in the country,
and need not dwell upon them here. William Jasper loved his brother
and wished to see him: it is very certain, at the same time,
that he did not deny himself the privilege of seeing all around him.
The Tory was alarmed at William's appearance in the British camp,
but the other quieted his fears, by representing himself as no longer
an American soldier. He checked the joy which this declaration
excited in his brother's mind, by assuring him that, though he found
little encouragement in fighting for his country, "he had not the heart
to fight against her." Our scout lingered for two or three days
in the British camp, and then, by a `detour', regained that of the Americans;
reporting to his Commander all that he had seen. He was encouraged
to repeat his visit a few weeks after, but this time he took with him
a comrade, one Sergeant Newton, a fellow quite as brave in spirit,
and strong in body as himself. Here he was again well received
by his brother, who entertained the guests kindly for several days.
Meanwhile, a small party of Americans were brought into Ebenezer as captives,
over whom hung the danger of "short shrift and sudden cord".
They were on their way to Savannah for trial. They had taken arms
with the British, as hundreds more had done, when the country
was deemed reconquered; but, on the approach of the American army,
had rejoined their countrymen, and were now once more
at the mercy of the power with which they had broken faith.
"It will go hard with them," said the Tory Jasper to his Whig brother;
but the secret comment of the other was, "it shall go hard with me first."
There was a woman, the wife of one of the prisoners, who, with her child,
kept them company. William Jasper and his friend were touched
by the spectacle of their distress; and they conferred together,
as soon as they were alone, as to the possibility of rescuing them.
Their plan was soon adopted. It was a simple one, such as naturally
suggests itself to a hardy and magnanimous character. The prisoners
had scarcely left the post for Savannah, under a guard of eight men,
a sergeant and corporal, when they took leave of their host,
and set forth also, though in a different direction from the guard.
Changing their course when secure from observation, they stretched
across the country and followed the footsteps of the unhappy captives.
But it was only in the pursuit that they became truly conscious
of the difficulty, nay, seeming impossibility, of effecting their object.
The guard was armed, and ten in number; they but two and weaponless.
Hopeless, they nevertheless followed on. Two miles from Savannah
there is a famous spring, the waters of which are well known to travellers.
The conjecture that the guard might stop there, with the prisoners,
for refreshment, suggested itself to our companions;
here, opportunities might occur for the rescue, which had nowhere before
presented themselves. Taking an obscure path with which they were familiar,
which led them to the spot before the enemy could arrive,
they placed themselves in ambush in the immediate neighborhood of the spring.
They had not long to wait. Their conjecture proved correct.
The guard was halted on the road opposite the spring.
The corporal with four men conducted the captives to the water,
while the sergeant, with the remainder of his force,
having made them ground their arms near the road, brought up the rear.
The prisoners threw themselves upon the earth -- the woman and her child,
near its father. Little did any of them dream that deliverance was at hand.
The child fell asleep in the mother's lap. Two of the armed men kept guard,
but we may suppose with little caution. What had they to apprehend,
within sight of a walled town in the possession of their friends?
Two others approached the spring, in order to bring water to the prisoners.
Resting their muskets against a tree they proceeded to fill their canteens.
At this moment Jasper gave the signal to his comrade. In an instant
the muskets were in their hands. In another, they had shot down
the two soldiers upon duty; then clubbing their weapons, they rushed out
upon the astonished enemy, and felling their first opponents each at a blow,
they succeeded in obtaining possession of the loaded muskets.
This decided the conflict, which was over in a few minutes.
The surviving guard yielded themselves to mercy before the presented weapons.
Such an achievement could only be successful from its audacity
and the operation of circumstances. The very proximity of Savannah
increased the chances of success. But for this the guard would have taken
better precautions. None were taken. The prompt valor, the bold decision,
the cool calculation of the instant, were the essential elements
which secured success. The work of our young heroes was not done imperfectly.
The prisoners were quickly released, the arms of the captured British
put into their hands, and, hurrying away from the spot
which they have crowned with a local celebrity not soon to be forgotten,
they crossed the Savannah in safety with their friends and foes.
This is not the last achievement of the brave Jasper which we shall have
occasion to record. The next, however, though not less distinguished
by success, was unhappily written in his own blood.
The campaign which followed was distinguished by several vicissitudes,
but the general result was the weakening and dispiriting
of the American forces. Brigadier General Ashe was surprised in his camp
and utterly defeated, and the British army not only penetrated into Georgia,
but made its appearance at Beaufort in South Carolina. Here it was met
by Moultrie in a spirited encounter, which resulted in a drawn battle.
Meanwhile, General Lincoln found the militia refractory.
They refused to submit to the articles of war, and desired to serve
only under those laws by which the militia was governed.
Chagrined with this resistance, Lincoln transferred the militia to Moultrie,
and, at the head of about 2000 troops of the regular service,
he marched up the country to Augusta, proposing by this course to circumscribe
the progress of the enemy in that quarter. Taking advantage of this movement,
by which the regular troops were withdrawn from the seaboard,
the British General, Prevost, immediately crossed the Savannah
with the intention of surprising Moultrie, who, with 1200 militia-men,
lay at Black Swamp. But Moultrie, advised of his enemy,
retired to Coosawhatchie, where he placed his rear guard;
his headquarters being pitched on the hill, east of Tuliffinnee,
two miles in advance, and on the route to Charleston. Here the rear-guard,
under Colonel Laurens, engaged the enemy's advance, and was driven before it.
Moultrie gradually retired as Prevost advanced, and the contest which followed
between the two, seemed to be which should reach Charleston first.
The defenceless condition of that city was known to the British General,
whose object was to take it by `coup de main'. Moultrie erred
in not making continued fight in the swamps and strong passes,
the thick forests and intricate defiles, which were numerous along
the route of the pursuing army. His policy seems to have been dictated by
an undue estimate of the value of the city, and the importance of its safety
to the state. But for this, even an army so much inferior as his,
could have effectually checked the enemy long before the city
could have been reached. Moultrie continued in advance of Prevost,
and reached Charleston a few hours before him; just in season to establish
something like order, and put the place in a tolerable state of defence.
The fire from the lines arrested the British advance. The place was summoned,
and defiance returned. Night followed, and the next morning
the enemy had disappeared. His object had been surprise.
He was unprepared for the assault, having no heavy artillery,
and his departure was hastened by intercepted advices
from Lincoln and Governor Rutledge, which announced to the garrison
the approach of the regular troops and the country militia.
Prevost retired to the neighboring islands, and established himself
in a strong fort at Stono ferry. Here he was attacked by General Lincoln
in a spirited but unsuccessful affair, in which the latter was compelled
to retreat. The attack of Lincoln was followed by one of Moultrie,
in galleys. The situation of the British became unpleasant,
and they did not wait a repetition of these assaults, but retreated along
the chain of islands on the coast, until they reached Beaufort and Savannah.
Both of these places they maintained; the latter with their main army,
the former with a strong body of troops, apart from their sick,
wounded and convalescent. Here they were watched by General Lincoln,
in a camp of observation at Sheldon, until the appearance of a French fleet
on the coast led to renewed activity, and hopes, on the part of the Americans,
which were destined to bitter disappointment.
Marion was certainly with his regiment at Sheldon, and when it became probable
that there was some prospect of battle, we find him at Fort Moultrie,
when Prevost was in possession of the contiguous islands.
But a junction of the French and American forces, necessarily compelling
the concentration of the whole of the southern invading army at Savannah,
lessened the necessity of his remaining at a post which stood
in no manner of danger.
Early in September, 1779, the French admiral, Count D'Estaign,
with a fleet of twenty sail, appeared upon the coast.
As soon as this was certainly known, General Lincoln put his army
in motion for Savannah. But the French forces had disembarked
before his arrival, and the impatience and imprudence of their admiral
did not suffer him to wait the coming of the American. He was a rash man,
and, as it appears, on bad terms with his subordinate officers,
who were, indeed, not subordinate.* He proceeded to summon the place.
The answer to his demand was, a request of twenty-four hours
for consideration. By a singular error of judgment the French admiral
granted the time required. His only hope had been in a `coup de main'.
He had neither the time nor the material necessary for regular approaches;
nor, had he acted decisively, do these seem to have been at all necessary.
The place was not tenable at the period of his first summons.
The prompt energies of the British commander soon made it so.
Instead of considering, he consumed the twenty-four hours in working.
The arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Cruger, with a small command, from Sunbury,
and the force of Lieutenant-Colonel Maitland, from Beaufort, soon put
the fortress in such a condition of defence as to enable its commander
to return his defiance to the renewed summons of the combined armies.
There seems to have been but one opinion among the Americans
as to the mistake of D'Estaign, in granting the required indulgence.
Weems, speaking for General Horry, says, "I never beheld Marion
in so great a passion. I was actually afraid he would have broken out
on General Lincoln. `My God!' he exclaimed, `who ever heard of anything
like this before? First allow an enemy to entrench, and then fight him!
See the destruction brought upon the British at Bunker's Hill --
yet our troops there were only militia; raw, half-armed clodhoppers,
and not a mortar, or carronade, not even a swivel -- only their ducking-guns!
What, then, are we to expect from regulars, completely armed,
with a choice train of artillery, and covered by a breastwork.'"
* Major-General T. Pinckney's account of the siege of Savannah,
quoted by Garden.
The anticipations of Marion were fully realized. When the junction
of the French and American armies was effected, it was determined
to reduce the place by siege. Batteries were to be erected,
and cannon brought from the ships, a distance of several miles.
Meanwhile, the works of the besieged were undergoing daily improvements,
under an able engineer. Several hundred negroes were busy,
day and night, upon the defences, stimulated, when necessary,
to exertion, by the lash. On the 4th of October the besiegers opened
with nine mortars and thirty-seven pieces of cannon from the land side,
and sixteen from the water. They continued to play for several days,
with little effect, and the anxiety of the French admiral to leave the coast,
at a season of the year when it is particularly perilous to shipping
to remain, determined the besiegers to risk everything upon an assault.
The morning of the 9th October was fixed upon for the attack.
The American army was paraded at one o'clock that morning,
but it was near four before the head of the French column reached the front.
"The whole army then marched towards the skirt of the wood in one long column,
and as they approached the open space, was to break off
into the different columns, as ordered for the attack.
But, by the time the first French column had arrived at the open space,
the day had fairly broke; when Count D'Estaign, without waiting
until the other columns had arrived at their position, placed himself
at the head of his first column, and rushed forward to the attack."*
This was creditable to his gallantry, if not to his judgment.
But it was valor thrown away. "The column was so severely galled
by the grape-shot from the batteries, as they advanced,
and by both grape-shot and musketry, when they reached the abbatis,
that, in spite of the efforts of the officers, it got into confusion,
and broke away to their left, toward the wood in that direction;
the second and third French columns shared, successively, the same fate,
having the additional discouragement of seeing, as they marched to the attack,
the repulse and loss of their comrades who had preceded them. Count Pulaski,
who, with the cavalry, preceded the right column of the Americans,
proceeded gallantly, until stopped by the abbatis; and before
he could force through it received his mortal wound."**
The American column was much more successful. It was headed
by Colonel Laurens, with the Light Infantry, followed by
the Second South Carolina Regiment, of which Marion was second in command,
and the first battalion of Charleston militia. This column pressed forward,
in the face of a heavy fire, upon the Spring Hill redoubt,
succeeded in getting into the ditch, and the colors of the second regiment
were planted upon the berm. But the parapet was too high to be scaled
under such a fire as proceeded from the walls, and, struggling bravely
but vainly, the assailants were, after suffering severe slaughter,
driven out of the ditch. This slaughter was increased in the effort
to retain and carry off in safety the colors of the regiment.
* Major-General Thomas Pinckney, in a letter quoted by Garden.
** Major-General Thomas Pinckney. See Garden.
These colors, as we have seen, were the gift of a lady. Moultrie,
in the name of the regiment, had promised to defend them to the last.
The promise was faithfully remembered in this moment of extremity.
One of them was borne by Lieutenant Bush, supported by Sergeant Jasper;
the other by Lieutenant Grey, supported by Sergeant M'Donald. Bush being
slightly wounded early in the action delivered his standard to Jasper,
for better security. Jasper a second time and now fatally wounded,
restored it to the former. But at the moment of taking it, Bush received
a mortal wound. He fell into the ditch with his ensign under him,
and it remained in possession of the enemy. The other standard
was more fortunate. Lieutenant Grey, by whom it was borne, was slain,
but M'Donald plucked it from the redoubt where it had been planted,
the moment the retreat was ordered, and succeeded in carrying it off
in safety. The repulse was decisive. The slaughter,
for so brief an engagement, had been terrible, amounting to
nearly eleven hundred men; 637 French, and 457 Americans. Of the former,
the Irish Brigade, and of the latter the 2d South Carolina Regiment,
particularly distinguished themselves and suffered most.
The loss of the British was slight; the assailants made no impression
on their works. "Thus was this fine body of troops sacrificed
by the imprudence of the French General, who, being of superior grade,
commanded the whole.* In this battle Jasper was mortally wounded.
He succeeded in regaining the camp of the Americans. The fatal wound
was received in his endeavor to secure and save his colors.
Another distinguished personage who fell in this fatal affair,
was Col. Count Pulaski, a brave and skilful captain of cavalry,
better known in history for his attempt upon the life
of Stanislaus Poniatowski, King of Poland.
* Major-General T. Pinckney.
From the Battle of Savannah to the Defeat of Gates at Camden.
The failure of the combined forces of France and America
before the walls of Savannah, left the cause of the latter, in the South,
in much worse condition than before. The event served to depress
the Carolinians, and in the same degree, to elevate and encourage the enemy.
The allies withdrew to their ships, and, shortly after, from the coast.
General Lincoln, with the American army, retreated to the heights of Ebenezer,
and thence to Sheldon. Proceeding from this place to Charleston,
he left Marion in command of the army. On the thirty-first of January, 1780,
he writes to the latter as follows: "The state of affairs is such
as to make it necessary that we order our force to a point
as much and as soon as possible. No troops will be kept in the field
except two hundred Light Infantry and the Horse (Washington's).
You will therefore please to select from the three regiments with you,
two hundred of your best men, and those who are best clothed,
and organize them into corps, with proper officers. All the remainder,
with the baggage of the whole (saving such as is absolutely necessary
for light troops), will march immediately for this town. You will please
take command of the light infantry until Lieut. Col. Henderson arrives,
which I expect will be in a few days. After that, I wish to see you
as soon as possible in Charleston."
In the February following, Marion was dispatched to Bacon's Bridge
on Ashley river, where Moultrie had established a camp
for the reception of the militia of the neighborhood, as well as those
which had been summoned from the interior. It was to Marion
that Lincoln chiefly looked for the proper drilling of the militia.
In his hands they lost the rude and inefficient character,
the inexpert and spiritless manner, which, under ordinary commanders,
always distinguish them. Feeling sure of their Captain, he, in turn,
rendered them confident of themselves. Speaking of Marion's
"PATIENCE with the militia" -- a phrase of great importance
in this connection -- Horry, in his own memoirs, which now lie before us,
adds, "No officer in the Union was better calculated to command them,
and to have done more than he did."* Lincoln knew his value.
The admirable training of the Second South Carolina Regiment
had already done high honor to his skill as a disciplinarian.
He discovered the secret which regularly bred military men are slow
to discern, that, without patience, in the training of citizen soldiers
for immediate service, they are incorrigible; and patience with them,
on the part of a commanding officer, is neither inconsistent with their claims
nor with their proper efficiency.
* MS. Memoir of Gen. Horry, p. 55.
The accumulation of troops at Bacon's Bridge was made with the view
to the defence of Charleston, now threatened by the enemy.
Many concurring causes led to the leaguer of that city. Its conquest
was desirable on many accounts, and circumstances had already shown
that this was not a matter of serious difficulty. The invasion of Prevost
the year before, which had so nearly proved successful; the little resistance
which had been offered to him while traversing more than one hundred miles
of country contiguous to the Capital; and the rich spoils which,
on his retreat, had been borne off by his army, betrayed at once
the wealth and weakness of that region. The possession of Savannah,
where British Government had been regularly re-established,
and the entire, if not totally undisturbed control of Georgia,
necessarily facilitated the invasion of the sister province.
South Carolina was now a frontier, equally exposed to the British
in Georgia, and the Tories of Florida and North Carolina.
The means of defence in her power were now far fewer
than when Prevost made his attempt on Charleston. The Southern army was,
in fact, totally broken up. The Carolina regiments had seen hard service,
guarding the frontier, and contending with the British in Georgia.
They were thinned by battle and sickness to a mere handful.
The Virginia and North Carolina regiments had melted away,
as the term for which they had enlisted, had expired. The Georgia regiment,
captured by the British in detail, were perishing in their floating prisons.
The weakness of the patriots necessarily increased the audacity,
with the strength, of their enemies. The loyalists, encouraged by
the progress of Prevost, and the notorious inefficiency of the Whigs,
were now gathering in formidable bodies, in various quarters, operating in
desultory bands, or crowding to swell the columns of the British army.
All things concurred to encourage the attempt of the enemy on Charleston.
Its possession, with that of Savannah, would not only enable them to complete
their ascendency in the two provinces to which these cities belonged,
but would probably give them North Carolina also. Virginia then,
becoming the frontier, it would be easy, with the cooperation of an army
ascending the Chesapeake, to traverse the entire South with their legions,
detaching it wholly from the federal compact. Such was the British hope,
and such their policy. There was yet another motive
for the siege of Charleston, considered without reference
to collateral or contingent events. Esteemed erroneously
as a place of great security -- an error that arose in all probability
from the simple fact of the successful defence of Fort Moultrie --
it was crowded with valuable magazines. As a trading city,
particularly while the commerce of the North remained interrupted,
it had become a place of great business. It was a stronghold
for privateers and their prizes, and always contained
stores and shipping of immense value.
The temptations to its conquest were sufficiently numerous.
Ten thousand choice troops, with a large and heavy train of artillery,
were accordingly dispatched from New York for its investment,
which was begun in February, 1780, and conducted by the Commander-in-Chief
of the British forces, Sir Henry Clinton, in person. He conducted
his approaches with a caution highly complimentary to the besieged.
The fortifications were only field works, and might have been overrun
in less than five days by an audacious enemy. The regular troops
within the city were not above two thousand men. The citizen militia
increased the number to nearly four thousand. For such an extent of lines
as encircled the place, the adequate force should not have been less
than that of the enemy. The fortifications, when the British
first landed their `materiel', were in a dilapidated and unfinished state,
and, at that time, the defenders, apart from the citizens,
scarcely exceeded eight hundred men; while the small pox,
making its appearance within the walls, for the first time for twenty years --
an enemy much more dreaded than the British, -- effectually discouraged
the country militia from coming to the assistance of the citizens.
Under these circumstances, the conquest would have been easy
to an active and energetic foe. But Sir Henry does not seem to have been
impatient for his laurels. He was willing that they should mature gradually,
and he sat down to a regular and formal investment.
It was an error of the Carolinians, under such circumstances,
to risk the fortunes of the State, and the greater part
of its regular military strength, in a besieged town;
a still greater to do so in defiance of such difficulties
as attended the defence. The policy which determined the resolution
was a concession to the citizens, in spite of all military opinion.
The city might have been yielded to the enemy, and the State preserved,
or, which was the same thing, the troops. The loss of four thousand men
from the ranks of active warfare, was the great and substantial loss,
the true source, in fact, of most of the miseries and crimes by which
the very bowels of the country were subsequently torn and distracted.
It was the great good fortune of the State that Francis Marion
was not among those who fell into captivity in the fall of Charleston.
He had marched into the city from Dorchester, when his active services
were needed for its defence; but while the investment was in progress,
and before it had been fully completed, an event occurred to him,
an accident which was, no doubt, very much deplored at the time,
by which his services, lost for the present, were subsequently secured
for the country. Dining with a party of friends at a house in Tradd-street,
the host, with that mistaken hospitality which has too frequently
changed a virtue to a vice, turned the key upon his guests,
to prevent escape, till each individual should be gorged with wine.
Though an amiable man, Marion was a strictly temperate one.
He was not disposed to submit to this too common form of social tyranny;
yet not willing to resent the breach of propriety by converting the assembly
into a bull-ring, he adopted a middle course, which displayed equally
the gentleness and firmness of his temper. Opening a window,
he coolly threw himself into the street. He was unfortunate in the attempt;
the apartment was on the second story, the height considerable,
and the adventure cost him a broken ankle. The injury was a severe
and shocking one, and, for the time, totally unfitted him for service.
He left the city in a litter, while the passage to the country
still remained open for retreat, in obedience to an order of General Lincoln
for the departure of all idle mouths, "all supernumerary officers,
and all officers unfit for duty." Marion retired to his residence
in St. John's parish. Here, suffering in mind and body,
he awaited with impatience the progress of events, with which,
however much he might sympathize, he could not share.
His humiliation at this unavoidable but melancholy inaction, may be imagined
from what we know of his habits and his patriotism.
The siege of Charleston, in consequence of the firm bearing of the besieged,
and the cautious policy of the British Government, was protracted long after
the works had been pronounced untenable. It was yielded unwillingly
to the conqueror, only after all resistance had proved in vain.
It fell by famine, rather than by the arms of the enemy.
The defence was highly honorable to the besieged. It lasted six weeks,
in which they had displayed equal courage and endurance.
The consequences of this misfortune leave it somewhat doubtful,
whether the determination to defend the city to the last extremity,
was not the result of a correct policy; considering less its own loss,
and that of the army, than the effect of the former
upon the rustic population. Certainly, the capture of the army
was a vital misfortune to the southern States; yet the loss of the city itself
was of prodigious effect upon the scattered settlements of the country.
The character and resolve of the capital cities, in those days,
were very much the sources of the moral strength of the interior.
Sparsely settled, with unfrequent opportunities of communion
with one another, the minds of the forest population
turned naturally for their tone and direction to the capital city.
The active attrition of rival and conflicting minds, gives, in all countries,
to the population of a dense community, an intellectual superiority
over those who live remote, and feel none of the constant moral strifes
to which the citizen is subject. In South Carolina, Charleston had been
the seat of the original `movement', had incurred the first dangers,
achieved the first victories, and, in all public proceedings where action
was desirable, had always led off in the van. To preserve intact,
and from overthrow, the seat of ancient authority and opinion,
was surely a policy neither selfish nor unwise. Perhaps, after all,
the grand error was, in not making the preparations for defence
adequate to the object. The resources of the State were small,
and these had been diminished wofully in succoring her neighbors,
and in small border strifes, which the borderers might have been taught
to manage for themselves. The military force of the State,
under any circumstances, could not have contended on equal terms
with the ten thousand well-appointed regulars of Sir Henry Clinton.
The assistance derived from Virginia and North Carolina was little more
than nominal, calculated rather to swell the triumph of the victor
than to retard his successes.
If the movements of the British were slow, and deficient
in military enterprise, where Sir Henry Clinton commanded in person,
such could not be said of them, after the conquest of Charleston was effected.
The commander-in-chief was succeeded by Earl Cornwallis,
and his career was certainly obnoxious to no such reproaches.
We shall have more serious charges to bring against him.
Of the gross abuse of power, wanton tyrannies, cruel murders,
and most reckless disregard of decency and right, by which
the course of the British was subsequently distinguished,
we shall say no more than will suffice to show, in what dangers,
through what difficulties, and under what stimulating causes,
Francis Marion rose in arms, when everything appeared to be lost.
Charleston in possession of the enemy, they proceeded with wonderful activity
to use all means in their power, for exhausting the resources,
and breaking down the spirit of the country. Their maxim was that
of habitual tyranny -- "might is right". They seemed to recognize
no other standard. The articles of capitulation, the laws of nations,
private treaty, the dictates of humanity and religion,
were all equally set at naught. The wealth of private families, --
slaves by thousands, -- were hurried into the waists of British ships,
as the legitimate spoils of war. The latter found a market
in the West India islands; the prisoners made by the fall of Charleston were,
in defiance of the articles of capitulation, crowded into prison-ships,
from whence they were only released by death, or by yielding
to those arguments of their keepers which persuaded them to enlist
in British regiments, to serve in other countries. Many yielded
to these arguments, with the simple hope of escape from the horrors
by which they were surrounded. When arts and arguments failed to overcome
the inflexibility of these wretched prisoners, compulsion was resorted to,
and hundreds were forced from their country, shipped to Jamaica,
and there made to serve in British regiments.* Citizens of distinction,
who, by their counsel or presence, opposed their influence over the prisoners,
or proved themselves superior to their temptations, were torn from their homes
without warning, and incarcerated in their floating dungeons.
Nothing was forborne, in the shape of pitiless and pitiful persecution,
to break the spirits, subdue the strength, and mock and mortify the hopes,
alike, of citizen and captive.
* Moultrie's Memoirs, Vol. 2, `Correspondence'.
With those who kept the field the proceedings were more summary,
if not more severe. The fall of Charleston seems necessarily
to have involved the safety of the country from the Savannah to the Pedee.
In a few weeks after the capture of the city, the British were
in peaceable possession of the space between these limits,
from the seaboard to the mountains. They had few opponents --
an isolated body of continentals, a small squad of militia,
for the first time drilling for future service, or a little troop of horse --
and these were quickly overcome. On these occasions
the British were generally led by Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton.
This officer acquired for himself an odious distinction in his progress
through the South in the campaigns which followed. He was rather an active
than a skilful commander. Rapid in his movements, he gave little heed
to the judicious disposition of his troops, and aiming more at impressing
the fears of his enemy, than overcoming him by science, his chief successes
were the result of the panic which his surprises and his butcheries inspired.
He seems never to have been successful against an equal and resolute foe.
But, as courage and activity are, perhaps, after all, and before all,
the most necessary requisites for a soldier, Tarleton's services
were inappreciable to the invading army. In one month after its arrival,
his legion was mounted and began its career of slaughter.
While yet the city was sustaining the siege, he penetrated the country,
in pursuit of those bands of militia horse, which, by direction of
the American commander, still kept the open field. On the 18th of March,
he surprised a company of militia at Salkehatchie Bridge,
killed and wounded several and dispersed the rest. Five days after,
another party at Pon-Pon shared the same fortune. He was not so successful
at Rantowles on the 23d of the same month, where in a rencounter
with Col. Washington, his dragoons were roughly handled,
and retreated with loss. He avenged himself, however, on Washington,
in less than a month after, by surprising him at Monk's Corner.
Col. White soon after took command of the southern cavalry,
and obtained some trifling successes, but suffered himself to be surprised
at Lenud's ferry on the Santee. These events all took place
prior to the surrender of the city. The activity of Tarleton,
with the general remissness, and want of ordinary military precautions
on the part of the militia which opposed itself to him,
made his progress easy, and thus enabled him to cut off every party
that was embodied in the field. He was now to succeed
in a much more important and much more bloody enterprise.
A Continental force from Virginia of four hundred men, under Col. Beaufort,*
had been dispatched to the relief of Charleston. Beaufort had reached Camden
before he was apprised of the surrender of that city. This event
properly determined him to retreat. Earl Cornwallis, meanwhile,
had taken the field with a force of twenty-five hundred men, and was then
in rapid progress for the Santee. Hearing of the advance of Beaufort,
he dispatched Tarleton in quest of him, with a select body
of infantry and cavalry, in all, seven hundred men. Beaufort was overtaken
near the Waxhaw settlements, and summoned to surrender. This person
does not seem to have been designed by nature for military operations.
He halted at the summons, hesitated awhile, sent his wagons ahead,
consulted with his officers, and did little or nothing farther,
either for flight or conflict. While thus halting and hesitating
he was attacked by the impetuous Tarleton, offered a feeble resistance,
unmarked by conduct or spirit, suffered the enemy to gain his rear,
and finally grounded his arms. He either did this too soon or too late.
His flag was disregarded in the flush of battle, the bearer of it cut down
by the hand of Tarleton, and the British infantry, with fixed bayonets,
rushed upon the inactive Americans. Some of Beaufort's men,
seeing that their application for quarter was disregarded,
resolved to die like men, and resumed their arms. Their renewed fire
provoked the massacre of the unresisting. A terrible butchery followed.
The British gave no quarter. From that day, "Tarleton's Quarters",
implying the merciless cutting down of the suppliant,
grew into a proverbial phrase, which, in the hour of victory,
seemed to embitter the hostility with which the American strove
to avenge his slaughtered comrades.
* Generally given as Buford in other documents. Simms also states
"the Warsaw settlements" in the original text, but Waxhaw is correct.
According to local tradition, the mother of Andrew Jackson,
the future president, was one of those who aided the survivors.
Jackson himself later served, at the age of 13, in Davie's cavalry,
as a messenger, and was the only member of his family to survive the war.
-- A. L., 1996.
The defeat of Beaufort, with the only regular force remaining in the State,
following so close upon the fall of Charleston, paralyzed the hopes
of the patriots. The country seemed everywhere subdued.
An unnatural and painful apathy dispirited opposition.
The presence of a British force, sufficient to overawe the neighborhood,
at conspicuous points, and the awakened activity of the Tories
in all quarters, no longer restrained by the presence in arms of their
more patriotic countrymen, seemed to settle the question of supremacy.
There was not only no head against the enemy, but the State, on a sudden,
appeared to have been deprived of all her distinguished men.
Moultrie and others who might have led, were prisoners of war.
Governor Rutledge, a noble spirit and famous orator --
the Patrick Henry of Carolina, -- had withdrawn to the North State,
to stimulate the energies of the people in that quarter and gain recruits.
His example was followed by Sumter, Horry and others, --
by all, in fact, who, escaping captivity, were in condition to fly.
The progress of Cornwallis and Tarleton left mere distinction,
unsupported by men, with few places of security. Marion, meanwhile,
incapable of present flight, was compelled to take refuge
in the swamp and forest. He was too conspicuous a person,
had made too great a figure in previous campaigns, and his military talents
were too well known and too highly esteemed, not to render him
an object of some anxiety as well to friends as foes. Still suffering
from the hurts received in Charleston, with bloody and malignant enemies
all around him, his safety depended on his secrecy and obscurity alone.
Fortunately he had "won golden opinions from all sorts of people."
He had friends among all classes, who did not permit themselves to sleep
while he was in danger. Their activity supplied the loss of his own.
They watched while he slept. They assisted his feebleness.
In the moment of alarm, he was sped from house to house, from tree to thicket,
from the thicket to the swamp. His "hair-breadth 'scapes"
under these frequent exigencies, were, no doubt, among the most interesting
adventures of his life, furnishing rare material, could they be procured,
for the poet and romancer. Unhappily, while the chronicles show
the frequent emergency which attended his painful condition, they furnish
nothing more. We are without details. The melancholy baldness and coldness
with which they narrate events upon which one would like to linger
is absolutely humbling to the imagination; which, kindled by
the simple historical outline, looks in vain for the satisfaction of those
doubts and inquiries, those hopes and fears, which the provoking narrative
inspires only to defraud. How would some old inquisitive Froissart
have dragged by frequent inquiry from contemporaneous lips,
the particular fact, the whole adventure, step by step, item by item, --
the close pursuit, the narrow escape, -- and all the long train of little,
but efficient circumstances, by which the story would have been made unique,
with all its rich and numerous details! These, the reader must supply
from his own resources of imagination. He must conjecture for himself
the casual warning brought to the silent thicket, by the devoted friend,
the constant woman, or the humble slave; the midnight bay of the watch dog
or the whistle of the scout; or the sudden shot, from friend or foe,
by which the fugitive is counselled to hurry to his den. A thousand events
arise to the imagination as likely to have occurred to our partisan,
in his hours of feebleness and danger, from the rapid cavalry of Tarleton,
or the close and keen pursuit of the revengeful Tories.
To what slight circumstances has he been indebted for his frequent escape!
What humble agents have been commissioned by Providence to save a life,
that was destined to be so precious to his country's liberties!
How long he remained in this situation is not exactly known, --
probably several months. As soon as he was able to mount his horse,
he collected a few friends, and set out for North Carolina.
A Continental force was on its way from Virginia under Baron De Kalb.
His purpose was to join it. It was while on this route, and with this object,
that he encountered his old friend and long tried associate in arms,
Col. P. Horry.*
* There were two Horrys, brothers, both of whom were
very brave and distinguished adherents of our partisan.
Peter Horry held a captain's commission in the same regiment with Marion,
at the battle of Fort Moultrie. Hugh Horry was the particular favorite
of his General. A life of Marion, purporting to be in part by the former,
but really composed entirely by the Rev. M. L. Weems,
from facts furnished by Horry, is already well known to the public.
A MS. life of Peter Horry is now before me, and has furnished me
with several illustrations of the war, during this narrative.
Both of these brothers served under Marion, to the close of the war,
with equal courage and fidelity.
Horry describes his ankle, at this meeting, as still "very crazy" --
so much so that it required his help and that of Marion's servant to lift him
from his horse. But his spirits were good. He was still cheerful,
and possessed that rare elasticity of character which never loses its tone
under privations and disappointments. Weems, who, we are compelled to admit,
very frequently exercised the privilege of the ancient historian,
of putting fine speeches into the mouth of his hero, tells us
that he jeered at the doleful expressions of his companion, Horry,
who, discussing the condition of the country, lamented that
their "happy days were all gone." "Our happy days all gone, indeed!"
answered Marion -- "on the contrary, they are yet to come.
The victory is still sure. The enemy, it is true, have all the trumps,
and if they had but the spirit to play a generous game,
they would certainly ruin us. But they have no idea of that game.
They will treat the people cruelly, and that one thing
will ruin them and save the country." Weems, speaking for Horry,
describes in ludicrous terms, their journey through North Carolina, --
through a region swarming with Tories, but, fortunately for our travellers,
who were venomous without being active. Our fugitives were without money
and without credit, and "but for carrying a knife, or a horse fleam,
or a gun-flint, had no more use for a pocket than a Highlander has
for a knee-buckle. As to hard money we had not seen a dollar for years."
In this resourceless condition -- a condition, which, it may be well
to say in this place, continued throughout the war, they made their way
with difficulty until they joined the Continental army.
Gates had superseded De Kalb in its command, and was pressing forward,
with the ambition, seemingly, of writing a dispatch like Caesar's,
announcing, in the same breath, the sight and conquest of his enemy.
Marion and his little troop of twenty men, made but a sorry figure
in the presence of the Continental General. Gates was a man
of moderate abilities, a vain man, of a swelling and ostentatious habit,
whose judgment was very apt to be affected by parade, and the external
show of things. Some of his leading opinions were calculated to show
that he was unfit for a commander in the South. For example,
he thought little of cavalry, which, in a plain country, sparsely settled,
was among the first essentials of success, as well in securing intelligence,
as in procuring supplies. It was not calculated therefore
to raise the troop of our partisan in his esteem, to discover
that they were all good riders and well mounted. Marion, himself,
was a man equally modest in approach and unimposing in person.
His followers may have provoked the sneer of the General, as it certainly
moved the scorn and laughter of his well-equipped Continentals.
We have a description of them from the pen of an excellent officer,
the Adjutant General of Gates' army. He says, "Col. Marion,
a gentleman of South Carolina, had been with the army a few days,
attended by a very few followers, distinguished by small leather caps,
and the wretchedness of their attire; their number did not exceed
twenty men and boys, some white, some black, and all mounted, but most of them
miserably equipped; their appearance was in fact so burlesque,
that it was with much difficulty the diversion of the regular soldiery
was restrained by the officers; and the General himself
was glad of an opportunity of detaching Col. Marion, at his own instance,
towards the interior of South Carolina, with orders to watch
the motions of the enemy and furnish intelligence."*
* Narrative of the Campaign of 1780, by Col. Otho Williams.
From such small and insignificant beginnings flow greatness and
great performances. We, who are in possession of all the subsequent events --
who see this proud, vain Commander, hurrying on with the rapidity of madness
to his own ruin -- can but smile in the perusal of such a narrative,
not at the rags of Marion's men, but at the undiscerning character of those
who could see, in the mean equipment, the imperfect clothing, the mixture
of man and boy, and white and black, anything but a noble patriotism,
which, in such condition, was still content to carry on a war
against a powerful enemy. The very rags and poverty of this little band,
which was afterwards to become so famous, were so many proofs
of their integrity and virtue, and should have inspired respect
rather than ridicule. They were so many guarantees of good service
which they were able and prepared to render. It was in defiance of
the temptations and the power of the foe, that these men had taken the field
against him, and had Gates been a wise commander, he would have seen even
through their rags and destitution, the small but steady light of patriotism;
which, enkindled throughout the State by the example of Marion, Sumter,
and a few others, was to blaze out finally into that perfect brightness
before which the invader was to shrink confounded.
Gates was wise enough to take counsel of Marion, if nothing more;
and even this might not have been done, but for the suggestions
of Governor Rutledge, who, at that time in the camp of the Continentals,
might very well have informed him of the value of the man whose followers
inspired only ridicule. It was with Marion that the plan was concerted,
and not improbably at his suggestion, for moving into
the very heart of the State. This, subsequently, was the policy of Greene,
and had Gates adopted the deliberate caution of that commander,
his successes would unquestionably have been the same.
The object of such a movement was to give an opportunity
to the native patriots to rally -- to compel the British
to concentrate their scattered forces, call in their detached parties,
and thus circumscribe their influence, within the State,
to the places where they still remained in force. To effect these objects,
the Fabian maxims of warfare should have been those of the American General.
Few of his militia had ever seen an enemy. He had but recently
joined his troops, knew nothing of them, and they as little of him.
Their march had been a fatiguing one. Time and training
were necessary pre-requisites for their improvement and his success.
Unhappily, these were the very agents with which the vanity
of the unfortunate commander made him most willing to dispense.
The victory at Saratoga had spoiled him for ever, and thinking
too much of himself, he committed the next great error of a military man,
of thinking too lightly of his foe. It would be idle and perhaps impertinent,
to suggest that if Marion had been suffered to remain with him,
the issue of this march might have been more fortunate. Gates was quite
too vain-glorious to listen and Marion quite too moderate to obtrude
his opinions; and yet Marion was a man of equal prudence and adroitness.
He could insinuate advice, so that it would appear to self-conceit
the very creature of its own conceptions. Had Marion remained,
could Gates have listened, we are very sure there would have been
no such final, fatal disaster as suddenly stopped the misdirected progress
of the Continental army. There would have been some redeeming circumstances
to qualify the catastrophe. All would not have been lost. At all events,
with Marion at their head, the militia would have fought awhile, --
would have discharged their pieces, once, twice, thrice, before they fled.
They would have done for the born-leader of militia, what they refused to do
for a commander who neither knew how to esteem, nor how to conduct them.
It was while Marion was in the camp of Gates, that a messenger
from the Whigs of Williamsburg, then newly risen in arms,
summoned him to be their leader. It was in consequence of this invitation,
and not because of the awkwardness of his position there, that he determined
to penetrate into South Carolina, in advance of the American army.
Such an invitation was not to be neglected. Marion well knew its importance,
and at once accepted the commission conferred upon him by Governor Rutledge.
He took leave of Gates accordingly, having received, as is reported,
certain instructions from that unhappy commander, to employ his men
in the destruction of all the scows, boats, ferry-flats and barges
on the route, by which the enemy might make his escape.
The fancy of the American General already beheld the army of Lord Cornwallis
in full flight. His great solicitude seems to have been
how to secure his captives. He had, strangely enough for a military man,
never taken counsel of the farm-yard proverb, which we need not here repeat
for the benefit of the reader.* With the departure of Marion,
his better genius left him, -- the only man, who, in command of the militia,
might have saved him from destruction. Leaving our partisan,
with his little squad, to make his way cautiously through a country infested
with Tories, we follow for the present the progress of the Continental army.
On the night of the fifteenth of August, 1780, the Americans moved
from Rugely's Mills. At midnight, without dreaming of an enemy,
they encountered him. The first intelligence communicated to either army
of the presence of the other, was from the fire of the British advance
upon the Americans. The two armies recoiled and lay upon their arms
the rest of the night. So far the affair was indecisive.
The Americans had sustained themselves in the face of some disadvantages,
chiefly the result of their leader's imprudence. A night march of raw militia
in the face of a foe, and in column of battle, was itself an error
which a sagacious commander would never have made. It is not to be denied,
that the Americans were not satisfied with their situation.
Some of their officers openly declared their discontent.
But it was too late for a retrograde movement, nor is it likely,
feeling as he did and sanguine as he was, that Gates would have believed
any such movement necessary. The ground was equally unknown
to both commanders; but Cornwallis had one advantage: he was in the command
of veterans, who are generally cool enough in such situations
to look about them, and make the most of their exigencies.
The American line was soon formed and in waiting for the dawn and the enemy.
The first Maryland division, including the Delawares under De Kalb,
was posted on the right; the Virginia militia under Stevens on the left;
the North Carolinians, led by Caswell in the centre; and the artillery,
in battery, upon the road. Both wings rested on morasses,
and the second Maryland brigade was posted as a reserve, a few hundred yards
in the rear of the first. The British formed a single line,
with each wing covered and supported by a body in reserve.
They were much less numerous than the Americans, but they were picked men,
the choice of the regiments in Charleston and Camden. The American militia,
of which the greater part of Gates' army consisted, had never felt
an enemy's fire. The Maryland and Delaware troops were good soldiers,
well trained and in confidence of their leaders. With the break of day,
and the advance of the American left, the action began.
This division of the army consisted of Virginia militia under Stevens.
Handled with unexpected severity by the British fire, they yielded before it
and fled in panic, many of them without even discharging their pieces.
The wretched example was followed by the North Carolina militia,
with the exception of a single corps, commanded by Major Dixon.
The cavalry under Armand, a foreign adventurer, broke at nearly
the same moment; and a charge of the British cavalry, happily timed,
put an end to all hope of rallying the terror-stricken fugitives.
The devoted Continentals alone kept their ground and bore the brunt
of the action. They were led by the veteran De Kalb -- the Commander-in-Chief
having hurried from the field in a vain attempt to bring the militia back.
The artillery was lost, the cavalry dispersed; -- the regulars,
numbering but nine hundred men, were required to bear the undivided pressure
of two thousand of the best troops in the British service. With the example
before them, the desertion of their General, and their own perfect isolation,
they would have been justified by the necessity of the case,
in instant flight. But, as if the cowardice of their countrymen
had stung them into a determination to show, at all hazards,
that they, at least, were made of very different stuff, they not only
resisted the attack of the enemy, but carried the bayonet into his ranks.
The combatants rushed and reeled together with locked weapons.
But this struggle could not last. The conflict was prolonged
only until the British cavalry could return from pursuing the fugitives.
Their sabres gave the finishing stroke to the affair.
De Kalb had fallen under eleven wounds, and nothing remained, but flight,
to save this gallant body from the mortification of surrender
on the field of battle. It was no consolation to Gates,
while fleeing to North Carolina, to be overtaken by messengers from Sumter,
announcing a gallant achievement of that brave partisan,
by which forty wagons of booty and nearly three hundred prisoners
had fallen into his hands. Such tidings only mocked his own disaster.
He could only, in reply, relate his own irretrievable defeat,
point to his fugitives, and counsel Sumter to immediate retreat
from his triumphant and now returning enemy. Unhappily,
ignorant of Gates' disaster, and of a bold, incautious temper,
Sumter was approaching, rather than hastening from, danger.
His flight, when he did retire, was not sufficiently rapid,
nor sufficiently prudent. He was one of those men who too quickly
feel themselves secure. He was surprised by Tarleton, but two days after,
his troops utterly dispersed, he, too, a fugitive like Gates,
with all the fruits of his late victory taken from his grasp.
In almost every instance where the Americans suffered defeat,
the misfortune was due to a want of proper caution -- an unobservance
of some of the simplest rules of military prudence. In a brilliant sortie,
a manful charge, a sudden onslaught, no troops could have surpassed them --
nay, we find as many examples of the sternest powers of human endurance,
under the severest trials of firmness, in their military history,
as in that of any other people. But to secure what they had won --
to be consistently firm -- always on their guard and beyond surprise, --
were lessons which they were slow to acquire -- which they learned at last
only under the heaviest penalties of blood. Marion was one of the few
Captains of American militia, that never suffered himself to be taken napping.
* As farm-yards are becoming rare, it may benefit future readers to know
that this proverb is almost certainly, "Don't count your chickens
before they hatch." -- A. L., 1996.
Organization of "Marion's Brigade" -- Surprise of Tories under Gainey --
Defeat of Barfield -- Capture of British Guard with Prisoners
at Nelson's Ferry.
The people of Williamsburg, by whom Marion was summoned
from the camp of Gates, were sprung generally from Irish parentage.
They inherited, in common with all the descendants of the Irish in America,
a hearty detestation of the English name and authority.
This feeling rendered them excellent patriots and daring soldiers,
wherever the British Lion was the object of hostility.
Those of whom we are now to speak, the people of Williamsburg,
were men generally of fearless courage, powerful frame, well-strung nerves,
and an audacious gallantry that led them to delight in dangers,
even where the immediate objects by no means justified the risk.
They felt that "rapture of the strife", in which the Goth exulted.
In addition to these natural endowments for a brave soldiery,
they were good riders and famous marksmen -- hunters, that knew the woods
almost as well by night as by day -- could wind about and through
the camp of an enemy, as free from suspicion as the velvet-footed squirrel,
who, from the lateral branches of the pine, looks over their encampment.
They possessed resources of knowledge and ingenuity,
while in swamp and thicket, not merely to avoid the danger,
but, in not unfrequent instances, to convert it to their own advantage.
Nothing but the training and direction of such a mind as Marion's was needed
to make, of these men, the most efficient of all partisan soldiery.
The formation of the brigade of which he now prepared to take command,
has a history of its own which is worth telling. The fame which
it subsequently acquired in connection with its leader's name,
and which the local traditions will not willingly let die, will justify us
in the narration. Some few preliminary facts are necessary.
The fall of Charleston, and the dispersion or butchery of those parties
which had kept the field after that event, necessarily depressed the spirits
and discouraged the attempt of the scattered patriots who still yearned
to oppose the invaders. The captivity of many of the leaders
to whom they were accustomed to look for counsel and direction,
and the flight of others, served still further to dissipate
any hopes or purposes which they might have had of concentration.
Thousands fled to the North, and embodied themselves under Washington
and other American Generals, despairing of the cause at home.
Everything appeared to be lost, and a timely proclamation
of Sir Henry Clinton, a few days after the surrender of Charleston,
tended yet more to subdue the spirit of resistance. The proclamation
proffered "pardon to the inhabitants" with some few exceptions,
"for their past treasonable offences, and a reinstatement
in their rights and immunities heretofore enjoyed, exempt from taxation,
except by their own legislature." This specious offer, made at a moment
when his power was at its height, everywhere unquestioned and unopposed,
indicated a degree of magnanimity, which in the case of those thousands
in every such contest, who love repose better than virtue,
was everywhere calculated to disarm the inhabitants. To many indeed
it seemed to promise all for which they had been contending.
It offered security from further injury, protection against the Tories
who were using the authority of the British for their own purposes
of plunder and revenge, a respite from their calamities,
and a restoration of all their rights. With the immunities thus proffered,
with the further conviction that further struggle against British power
was hopeless, with the assurance, indeed, which was industriously
conveyed to them from all quarters, that Congress, not able to assist,
had resolved upon yielding the provinces of South Carolina and Georgia
to the enemy, as considerations for the independence of the other colonies --
they accepted the terms thus offered them by the British commander,
and, in great numbers, signed declarations of allegiance,
received protection as subjects of the crown, or, as prisoners of war,
were paroled to their plantations. Could the British have persevered
in this policy, had they kept faith with the inhabitants,
they might much longer have held possession of the country.
But, either they were not sincere in their first professions,
or their subsequent necessities compelled them to adopt
a less rational policy. Twenty days had not elapsed from
the publication of the first proclamation when it was followed by another,
which so entirely qualified and impaired the character of the former,
as to revolt the people whom it had invited, and to impress them
with the conviction that they had been imposed upon --
that the first measure was a mere decoy, -- a trap involving their pledges,
yet withholding the very securities for which they had been given.
This second proclamation, premising that it was necessary
for all good citizens to uphold his Majesty's Government,
proceeded to discharge from protection and parole all persons to whom
such papers had been accorded. All persons not absolutely prisoners of war,
taken in arms, were to be reinstated in their former positions as citizens --
but, as citizens of the British Empire. In this relation
the farther inferences were inevitable. They were now actually to support
his Majesty's Government. The proclamation ended with the usual penalties --
all who neglected to return to their allegiance were to be treated as rebels.
The policy thus adopted by the British commander soon made them so.
The object of the Carolinians, in taking protections and paroles,
was to avoid further warfare. The second proclamation of the British General
required them to take up arms for his Majesty, and against their countrymen.
This was a hopeful plan by which to fill the British regiments,
to save farther importations of Hessians, farther cost of mercenaries,
and, as in the case of the Aborigines, to employ the Anglo-American race
against one another. The loyalists of the South were to be used
against the patriots of the North, as the loyalists of the latter region
had been employed to put down the liberties of the former.
It was a short and ingenious process for finishing the rebellion;
and, could it have entirely succeeded, as in part it did,
it would have entitled Sir Henry Clinton to very far superior laurels,
as a civilian, than he ever won as a soldier. The value of the Americans,
as soldiers, was very well known to the British General.
Some of the most sanguinary battles of the Revolution were those
in which the combatants on both sides were chiefly natives of the soil,
upon which a portion of them but too freely shed their blood
in a sincere desire to bolster up that foreign tyranny
that mocked the generous valor which it employed.
The effect of this second proclamation of the British commander
was such as he scarcely anticipated. The readiness with which
numbers of the people had accepted paroles and protections, declared, at most,
nothing but their indifference to the contest -- declared no preference
for British domination. In this lay the error of the conqueror.
The natural feeling of the people, thus entrapped, was that of indignation.
Their determination might have been conjectured by any reasoning mind.
Compelled to take up arms -- not permitted to enjoy that repose
with their families, for which they sought the offered immunities
of the British -- it was more easy to espouse the cause of their countrymen,
to which their affections were really given, than that of the invader.
They had committed a great and humbling error in the endeavor
to escape the conflict -- in taking the proffered protection of a power
which had seized with violence upon their native land.
It was with some eagerness, therefore, that they threw aside its obligations,
and, as opportunity presented itself, girded on their armor,
and sallied forth to join their countrymen. Among the first to do so
were the men by whom Marion was summoned from the camp of Gates.
These brave fellows, occupying a portion of the country
stretching from the Santee to the Pedee, including the whole
of the present district of Williamsburg, and a part of Marion,
were not altogether prepared to understand these British proclamations.
They were no great politicians, had no love of blind vassalage,
and naturally suspected all liberality of British origin.
They wished for certain explanations before they sent in their adhesion.
Not that they calculated upon resistance. This, no doubt,
seemed to them as hopeless as it appeared in all other parts of the State.
But their insulated position, which left them uninformed
as to the true condition of things, was, at the same time,
a source of their courage and indifference. As yet, the arms of the British
had not penetrated into their settlements. They were naturally anxious
to prevent their doing so. Under these circumstances, they held a gathering
of their best men for the purpose of consulting upon their affairs.
The twin proclamations -- how unlike! -- of the British commander,
were before them: and, in their primitive assembly, they sat down to discuss
their separate merits. These confused rather than enlightened them,
and it was resolved to send one of their number, in whom they had
most confidence, to the nearest British authority, in order that
their difficulties should be explained and their doubts satisfied.
There was one sterling family among them of the name of James.
Of this family there were five brothers, John, William, Gavin,
Robert and James. No men under Marion were braver or truer than these.
Fearless, strong and active, they were always ready for the foe;
the first in attack, the last in retreat. There were other branches
of this family who partook largely of the qualities of the five brothers.
Of these, the eldest, Major John James, was chosen the representative
of the men of Williamsburg. This gentleman had been their representative
in the provincial assembly -- he was in command of them as State militia.
They gave him their fullest confidence, and he deserved it.
Under this appointment, Major James repaired to Georgetown, the nearest
British post, which was then under the command of one Captain Ardesoif.
Attired as a plain backwoodsman, James obtained an interview with Ardesoif,
and, in prompt and plain terms, entered at once upon the business for which
he came. But when he demanded the meaning of the British protection,
and asked upon what terms the submission of the citizens was to be made,
he was peremptorily informed that "the submission must be unconditional."
To an inquiry, whether the inhabitants were to be allowed
to remain upon their plantations, he was answered in the negative.
"His Majesty," said Ardesoif, "offers you a free pardon,
of which you are undeserving, for you all ought to be hanged;
but it is only on condition that you take up arms in his cause."
James, whom we may suppose to have been very far from relishing
the tone and language in which he was addressed, very coolly replied,
that "the people whom he came to REPRESENT, would scarcely submit
on such conditions." The republican language of the worthy Major
provoked the representative of Royalty. The word `represent', in particular,
smote hardly on his ears; something, too, in the cool,
contemptuous manner of the Major, may have contributed to his vexation.
"REPRESENT!" he exclaimed in a fury -- "You d----d rebel,
if you dare speak in such language, I will have you hung up at the yard-arm!"
Ardesoif, it must be known, was a sea captain. The ship which he commanded
lay in the neighboring river. He used only a habitual form of speech
when he threatened the "yard-arm", instead of the tree. Major James
gave him no time to make the correction. He was entirely weaponless,
and Ardesoif wore a sword; but the inequality, in the moment of his anger,
was unfelt by the high-spirited citizen. Suddenly rising,
he seized upon the chair on which he had been sitting,
and floored the insolent subordinate at a blow; then hurrying forth
without giving his enemy time to recover, he mounted his horse,
and made his escape to the woods before pursuit could be attempted.
His people were soon assembled to hear his story. The exactions
of the British, and the spirit which James had displayed,
in resenting the insolence of Ardesoif, at once aroused their own.
Required to take the field, it did not need a moment to decide
"under which king". The result of their deliberations
was the formation of "Marion's Brigade". Four captains were chosen
for as many companies. These were, Captains William M`Cottry, Henry Mouzon,
John James (of the Lake, a cousin of Major James), and John M`Cauley.
These were all under the one command of our representative to Ardesoif.
He instantly put them into motion, and, after some petty successes against
small parties of British and Tories, he advanced one of the four companies,
M`Cottry's, to the pass of Lynch's Creek, at Witherspoon's Ferry.
Here M`Cottry heard of Col. Tarleton, and proceeded to encounter him.
Tarleton had been apprised of the gatherings at Williamsburg,
and, at the head of some seventy men, was pressing forward
with the hope of surprising James. M`Cottry, more brave perhaps than prudent,
after sending back to James for a reinforcement, set forward
to give Tarleton battle. The British Colonel had taken post at Kingstree.
M`Cottry approached him at midnight. It happened, perhaps fortunately
for the former, that Tarleton had received some very exaggerated accounts
of M`Cottry's force, which the boldness of his approach seemed to confirm.
Taking the alarm accordingly, he disappeared in season,
leaving to M`Cottry the `eclat' which necessarily attended his attempt.
The excesses of Tarleton, while on this progress, and the crimes committed
in the same neighborhood by other British captains about the same time,
completed the movement which the native spirit of patriotism
in the men of Williamsburg had so happily begun. The whole country
was soon awakened -- individuals and groups everywhere
beginning to show themselves in arms, and nothing was needed
but an embodied force of the Americans, upon which they could
concentrate themselves and rally with effect.
It was on the 10th or 12th of August, some four days before
the defeat of Gates, that Marion reached the post at Lynch's Creek,
where M`Cottry had taken his position. He was commissioned
by Governor Rutledge to take command of the country in this quarter,
and we will henceforth distinguish him as General Marion,
although it is not so certain at what period he actually received
this promotion; -- we find him in possession of it in the following December.
Of his personal appearance at this time we have a brief but striking account
from the hands of the venerable Judge James -- a son of the Major --
who had the honor to serve under Marion at the age of fifteen.
"He was a stranger," says the Judge, "to the officers and men,
and they flocked about him to obtain a sight of their future commander.
He was rather below the middle stature, lean and swarthy.
His body was well set, but his knees and ankles were badly formed,
and he still limped upon one leg. He had a countenance remarkably steady;
his nose was aquiline, his chin projecting; his forehead large and high,
and his eyes black and piercing. He was then forty-eight years of age,
with a frame capable of enduring fatigue and every privation."
Of his dress, by which we may form some idea of that costume which
had provoked the laughter of Gates' veterans, we have a description also,
furnished us by the same excellent authority. We know not but that
this description will provoke the smile of the reader. But, of such persons,
in the language of the Judge, "even trifles become important."
"He (Marion) was dressed in a close round-bodied crimson jacket,
of a coarse texture, and wore a leather cap, part of the uniform
of the second regiment, with a silver crescent in front,
inscribed with the words, `Liberty or Death!'"
Such regimentals show rather the exigencies than the tastes of our partisan.
This scarlet cloth, of which his vest was made, was almost
the only kind of color which the Carolinians could procure
after the conquest of Charleston. The British seemed to distribute it
with the protections and pardons, perhaps as a popular mode
of disseminating their principles. Moultrie somewhere tells
a ludicrous anecdote of some Americans (prisoners on parole)
who were nearly cut to pieces by a party of their countrymen,
in consequence of their scarlet jackets. They had taken the precaution
to dye them with some native roots, but the dye had disappeared,
leaving the original color nearly as vivid as before.
According to Weems, Marion made rather a theatrical display
on taking command of his brigade. He swore them in a circle
upon their swords, never to yield the contest until they had secured
their own and the liberties of their country. There is no authority
for this statement, either in the work of James, in the MS. of Horry,
or in any of the authorities. There is no doubt that such were
his own sentiments, and such the sentiments which he strove to impart
to all his followers; but the scene as described by the reverend historian
was quite too artificial and theatrical for the tastes of Marion.
It does not accord with what we know of his modesty, his unaffected nature,
and the general simplicity of his manners. He instilled his lessons
by examples rather than by speeches. His words were usually very few.
He secured the fidelity of his men by carrying them bravely into action,
and bringing them honorably out of it.
Marion's career of activity commenced with his command.
Though always prudent, he yet learned that prudence in military life
must always imply activity. The insecurity of the encampment,
with a militia force, is always greater than that of battle.
The Roman captains of celebrity were particularly aware of this truth.
But the activity of Marion was necessarily straitened by the condition
in which he found his men. They were wretchedly deficient in all
the materials of service. His first effort to supply some of their wants,
was in sacking the saw-mills. The saws were wrought and hammered
by rude blacksmiths into some resemblance to sabres, and thus provided,
Marion set his men in motion, two days after taking the command.
Crossing the Pedee at Port's Ferry, he advanced upon a large body of Tories
commanded by Major Gainey, who held a position upon Britton's Neck.
Gainey was considered by the British an excellent partisan officer,
but he was caught napping. Marion moved with equal secrecy and celerity.
After riding all night, he came upon the enemy at dawn in the morning.
The discovery and the attack were one. The surprise was complete.
A captain and several privates were slain, and the party dispersed.
Marion did not lose a man, and had but two wounded. In this engagement,
our representative, Major James, distinguished himself,
by singling out Major Gainey for personal combat. But Gainey shrank
from his more powerful assailant, and sought safety in flight.
James pursued for a distance of half a mile. In the eagerness of the chase
he did not perceive that he was alone and unsupported. It was enough
that he was gaining upon his enemy, who was almost within reach of his sword,
when the chase brought them suddenly upon a body of Tories
who had rallied upon the road. There was not a moment to be lost.
Hesitation would have been fatal. But our gallant Major
was not to be easily intimidated. With great coolness and presence of mind,
waving his sword aloft, he cried out, "come on, boys! here they are!"
and rushed headlong upon the group of enemies, as if perfectly
assured of support. The ruse was successful. The Tories broke once more,
and sought safety from their individual enemy in the recesses of Pedee swamp.
Marion did not suffer the courage of his men to cool.
In twenty-four hours after this event, he was again in motion.
Hearing of the proximity of another body of Tories, under Captain Barfield,
he advanced against him with as much celerity and caution as before.
But he found Barfield strongly posted, in greater force than he expected;
warned of his approach and waiting for him. It was no part
of Marion's practice to expose his men unnecessarily. He had too few,
to risk the loss of any precious lives, where this was to be avoided.
He determined upon a different mode of managing his enemy,
and resorted to a stratagem, which, subsequently, he frequently made use of.
Putting a select party of his men in ambush near the Blue Savannah,
he feigned retreat with another, and thus beguiled his enemy
from his strong position. The result accorded with his wishes.
Barfield followed and fell into the snare. The defeat was equally complete
with that of Gainey.
The conduct and skill, in managing his raw militia-men,
which these two achievements displayed, naturally inspired his followers
with confidence in themselves and their leader. They produced
a corresponding effect upon the people of the country,
and were productive of no small annoyance to the Tories,
who were thus suddenly reminded that there might be retribution for crime
even when sheltered under the dragon folds of England.
Another benefit from these occurrences was in better providing the brigade
with some of the proper weapons and munitions of war.
Among the recent captures of Marion were two old field-pieces.
Returning to Port's Ferry, he threw up a redoubt on the east bank
of the Pedee, upon which he mounted them. He seldom troubled himself
with such heavy baggage, and probably disposed of them in this way,
quite as much to disencumber himself of them, as with any such motive,
as was alleged, when placing them in battery, of overawing the Tories
by their presence. Movements of so rapid a kind, and so frequently made
as his, requiring equal dispatch and secrecy, forbade the use of artillery;
and he very well knew, that, to employ men for the maintenance
of isolated posts -- such posts as he could establish, --
would have no other effect than to expose his brigade
to the chances of being cut up in detail.
On the 17th August, the day following the defeat of Gates, -- of which event
he was as yet wholly ignorant -- he dispatched Col. Peter Horry,
with orders to take command of four companies, Bonneau's, Mitchell's,
Benson's and Lenud's, near Georgetown, on the Santee; to destroy
all the boats and canoes on the river from the lower ferry to Lenud's --
to break up and stop all communications with Charleston, and to procure,
if possible, supplies of gunpowder, flints and bullets.
"Twenty-five weight of gunpowder, ball or buckshot,"
is the language of his orders. This will show how scanty were the supplies
which were to be procured of the material upon which everything depended.
Marion frequently went into action with less than three rounds to a man --
half of his men were sometimes lookers on because of the lack
of arms and ammunition -- waiting to see the fall of friends or enemies,
in order to obtain the necessary means of taking part in the affair.
Buck-shot easily satisfied soldiers, who not unfrequently
advanced to the combat with nothing but swan-shot in their fowling-pieces.
While Horry proceeded towards Georgetown, Marion marched to the upper Santee.
On this march he was advised of the defeat of Gates; but, fearing its effect
upon his men, without communicating it, he proceeded immediately
toward Nelson's Ferry. This was a well known pass on the great route,
the "war-path", from Charleston to Camden. Here his scouts advised him
of the approach of a strong British guard, with a large body of prisoners
taken from Gates. The guards had stopped at a house
on the east side of the river. Informed of all necessary particulars,
Marion, a little before daylight, detached Col. Hugh Horry, with sixteen men,
to gain possession of the road, at the pass of Horse Creek, in the swamp,
while the main body under himself was to attack the enemy's rear. The attempt
was made at dawn, and was perfectly successful. A letter from Marion himself,
to Col. P. Horry, thus details the event: -- "On the 20th inst.
I attacked a guard of the 63d and Prince of Wales' Regiment,
with a number of Tories, at the Great Savannah, near Nelson's Ferry;
killed and took twenty-two regulars, and two Tories prisoners,
and retook one hundred and fifty Continentals of the Maryland line,
one wagon and a drum; one captain and a subaltern were also captured.
Our loss is one killed, and Captain Benson is slightly wounded on the head."
It will scarcely be believed that, of this hundred and fifty Continentals,
but three men consented to join the ranks of their liberator.
It may be that they were somewhat loth to be led, even though
it were to victory, by the man whose ludicrous equipments and followers,
but a few weeks before, had only provoked their merriment.
The reason given for their refusal, however, was not deficient in force.
"They considered the cause of the country to be hopeless.
They were risking life without an adequate object." The defeat of Gates,
and his bad generalship, which they had so recently witnessed,
were, perhaps, quite sufficient reasons to justify their misgivings.
This disastrous event did not produce like despondency in our partisan
or his followers, though it furnished reasons for the greatest circumspection.
At this moment Marion's was the only body of American troops in the State,
openly opposed to the triumphant progress of the British. The Continentals
were dispersed or captured; the Virginia and North Carolina militia
scattered to the four winds; Sumter's legion cut up by Tarleton,
and he himself a fugitive, fearless and active still, but as yet seeking,
rather than commanding, a force. Though small and seemingly insignificant,
the force of Marion had shown what might be done, with the spirit
and the personnel of the country, under competent leaders.
The cruelties of the British, who subjected the vanquished
to the worst treatment of war, helped his endeavors.
Shortly after the victory over Gates, Lord Cornwallis addressed an order
to the British commandants at the several posts throughout the country,
of which the following are extracts:
"I have given orders that all of the inhabitants of this province
who have subscribed, and have taken part in this revolt, should be punished
with the greatest rigor; and also those who will not turn out, that they
may be imprisoned and their whole property taken from them or destroyed. . . .
I have ordered in the most positive manner that every militia man,
who has borne arms with us, and afterwards joined the enemy,
shall be immediately hanged!"
This gentleman has been called, by some of the American writers,
the "amiable Cornwallis". It is rather difficult to say
for which of his qualities this dulcet epithet was bestowed.
The preceding may well justify us in the doubt we venture to express,
whether it was not given as much in mockery as compliment.
But, lest his commands should not be understood, as not sufficiently explicit,
his Lordship proceeded to furnish examples of his meaning,
which left his desires beyond reasonable question. Immediately after
his return to Camden, he stained the laurels of his recent victory,
and celebrated his triumph over Gates, by hanging some twelve or fifteen
wretched prisoners, old men and boys, who were only suspected
of treachery to the royal cause. Similar barbarities were practised
by subordinate officers, emulative of this example of their superior,
or in obedience to his orders. But, fortunately for the country,
even this brutality, which was intended to alarm the fears of the people,
and do that which the arts of their conqueror had failed to effect,
was not productive of the desired results. It drove the indignant
into the field -- it shamed the unwilling into decision -- it spurred on
the inert and inactive to exertion, and armed the doubtful and the timid
with resolution. It sent hundreds, whom nothing had moved before,
into the ranks of Marion and Sumter. The moment of defeat
and greatest despondency -- the dark before the dawn --
was that when the people of the country were preparing to display
the most animating signs of life. The very fact that the force of Marion
was so insignificant, was something in favor of that courage and patriotism,
that confidence in his own resources and his men, which,
defying all the inequalities of force, could move him to traverse
the very paths of the conqueror, and pluck his prisoners from his very grasp.
The audacity and skill of Marion, exhibited in numerous small achievements
of which history furnishes no particulars, extorted a reluctant confession
from the enemy, whose unwilling language will suffice for our own.
Tarleton writes: "MR. Marion,* by his zeal and abilities,
showed himself capable of the trust committed to his charge.
He collected his adherents at the shortest notice, and, after making
excursions into the friendly districts, or threatening the communications,
to avoid pursuit he disbanded his followers. The alarms occasioned
by these insurrections, frequently retarded supplies on their way to the army;
and a late report of Marion's strength delayed the junction of the recruits
who had arrived from New York for the corps in the country."
The 64th Regiment of Infantry was ordered to Nelson's Ferry from Charleston,
and directions were given to Lieut. Col. Tarleton to pass the Wateree
to awe the insurgents.** Cornwallis writes to Tarleton:
"I most sincerely hope that you will get at MR. Marion."
In short, to use the further language of the British Colonel,
Marion completely overran the lower districts. He cut off supplies
from the army, broke up the Tories, destroyed recruiting parties,
intercepted and interrupted communications, and, darting to and fro
between the British posts, which he had not the power to overcome,
showed that nothing but that power was necessary to enable him
to challenge with them the possession of the soil. That he should
disband his men at one moment, and be able by a word to bring them together
when they were again wanted, proves a singular alliance
between the chieftain and his followers, which is characteristic
only of the most romantic history. It shows a power, on the part
of the former, such as we ascribe to the winding of the magic horn of Astolfo,
which few commanders of militia have ever had the skill to produce.
Evidently, the personal and patriotic influences were very equally strong,
to occasion such prompt fidelity, in his case, on the part of his followers.
* The British officers betrayed a singular reluctance
to accord to the Americans their military titles.
The reader will recollect the letter of General Gage to MR. Washington,
which the latter very properly refused to receive.
The very attempt here made to sneer away the official,
adds to the personal importance of the individual;
and we yield to plain Mr. Marion, with his ragged followers,
who, untitled, could give such annoyance to His Majesty's officers,
a degree of respect which his title might not otherwise have commanded.
** Tarleton's Campaigns, 4to ed. p. 171.
Marion retreats before a superior Force -- Defeats the Tories at Black Mingo
-- Surprises and disperses the Force of Colonel Tynes at Tarcote --
Is pursued by Tarleton.
The solicitude manifested by the British commander in the South
to get Marion from his path, soon set the legion of Tarleton,
and a strong force under Major Wemyss, in motion for his retreats.
The progress of Tarleton was somewhat delayed, and his cooperation
with Wemyss prevented. The latter pushed his advance with equal
spirit and address. Marion had with him but one hundred and fifty men,
when he heard of the approach of his enemies. His force,
it must be remembered, was of a peculiar kind, and was constantly fluctuating.
His men had cares other than those of their country's liberties.
Young and tender families were to be provided for and guarded
in the thickets where they found shelter. These were often threatened
in the absence of their protectors by marauding bands of Tories,
who watched the moment of the departure of the Whigs, to rise upon the weak,
and rob and harass the unprotected. The citizen soldiery were thus
doubly employed, and had cares to endure, and duties to perform,
from which regular troops are usually exempt, and for which regular officers
seldom make allowance. The good judgment of Marion, taking these necessities
into consideration, exercised that patience with the militia
which secured their fidelity. When he found this or that body of men
anxious about their families, he yielded most generally without reluctance
to their wishes. This indulgence had its effects. Their return was certain.
They seldom lingered beyond the time at which they had pledged themselves
It was in consequence of this indulgence that his force was thus reduced when
the British approach was known. Wemyss was in command of the 63d regiment.
He was accompanied by a large body of Tories under Major Harrison.
They moved with caution and speed, but the American General was on the alert.
He dispatched Major James with a select body of volunteers to reconnoitre.
His various outposts were called in, and with his whole present strength,
thus united, Marion followed on the footsteps of James, prepared,
if the chances promised him success, for doing battle with his enemy.
Major James, meanwhile, who was equally bold and skilful,
pressed forward fearlessly till he became aware of the proximity
of the British. He was resolved to make sure of his intelligence.
He placed himself in a thicket on their line of march,
and by a bright moon, was readily enabled to form a very correct notion
of their character and numbers. But as the rear-guard passed by,
his courageous spirit prompted further performances. He was not content
to carry to his general no other proofs of his vigilance
but the tidings which he had obtained. His perfect knowledge of the ground,
his confidence in the excellent character of his men,
and the speed of their horses, moved him to greater daring;
and, bursting from his hiding-place, with a terrible shout,
he swooped down with his small party upon the startled stragglers
in the rear of the Tory march, carrying off his prisoners
in the twinkling of an eye, without stopping to slay, and without suffering
the loss of a man. Before the enemy could rally, and turn upon his path,
the tread of the partisan's horse no longer sounded in his ears.
The intelligence which James bore to his commander was scarcely
so encouraging. He reported the British regulars to be double their own force
in number, while the Tories in the rear were alone estimated
at five hundred men. Retreat, perhaps dispersion, was now inevitable.
This was the sort of game, which, in his feebleness, and under the pressure
of a very superior foe, our partisan was compelled to play.
It was sometimes a humiliating one, and always attended
with some discouragements. The evil effects, however, were only temporary.
His men never retired beyond his reach. They came again at a call,
refreshed by the respite, and assured by the conviction that their commander
was quite as careful of their lives as themselves. Such a game was not
without its interest, and its peculiarities were such as to give animation
to the valor which it exercised. In these peculiarities of his warfare,
lies that secret charm which has made tradition, in the southern country,
linger so long and so fondly upon the name of Marion.
Judge James gives us, in few words, a lively idea of the consultation
which followed the return and the report of Major James. "About an hour
before day, Marion met the Major half a mile from his plantation.
The officers immediately dismounted and retired to consult;
the men sat on their horses in a state of anxious suspense.
The conference was long and animated. At the end of it, an order was given
to direct the march back to Lynch's Creek (the route to North Carolina),
and no sooner was it given than a bitter groan might have been heard
along the whole line. A bitter cup had now been mingled
for the people of Williamsburg and Pedee, and they were doomed
to drain it to the dregs, but in the end it proved a salutary medicine."
The evil here deplored was the temporary abandonment, for the first time,
of this particular section of country. Hitherto, the enemy had never appeared
in their neighborhood with such a force as enabled them to overrun it
without fear of opposition. Now, they were destined to suffer from
those tender mercies of British and Tories, which had written their chronicles
in blood and flame, wherever their footsteps had gone before.
Bitter, indeed, was the medicine, to whom its taste was new.
But, as writes the venerable biographer, it was salutary in the end.
It strengthened their souls for the future trial. It made them
more resolute in the play. With their own houses in smoking ruins,
and their own wives and children homeless and wandering,
they could better feel what was due to the sufferings of their common country.
It was at sunset the next evening that Marion commenced his flight
to North Carolina. He kept with him only sixty men. The rest dropped off
by degrees as they approached their several hiding-places,
lying snug, until they again heard the signal of their commander, --
frequently nothing but a whisper, -- which once more brought them forth,
to turn the pursuit upon their enemies and avenge themselves
by sudden onslaught for the ruin of their homesteads. On this retreat,
Marion took with him the two field-pieces which we found him placing
in battery on the Pedee a short time before. His desire to save these pieces
was due rather to the supposed effect which their possession had
upon the minds of the Tories, than because of any real intrinsic use
which they possessed in his hands. They encumbered his flight, however,
and he disposed of them, finally, without compunction.
Wheeling them into a swamp he left them, where, possibly,
they remain to this day, the object of occasional start and wonderment
to the stalking deer-hunter. This, says Judge James,
"was the last instance of military parade evinced by the General."
Marching day and night he arrived at Amy's Mill, on Drowning Creek.
From this place, he sent forth his parties, back to South Carolina,
to gain intelligence and rouse the militia. He himself continued his march.
He pitched his camp finally, on the east side of the White Marsh,