Retreat of the British from Eutaw -- Pursuit of them by Marion and Lee --Close of the Year.
That the results of victory lay with the Americans, was shown by the events of the ensuing day. Leaving his dead unburied, seventy of his wounded to the enemy, breaking up a thousand stand of arms, and destroying his stores, General Stewart commenced a precipitate retreat towards Fairlawn. The British power in Carolina was completely prostrated by this battle. Five hundred prisoners fell into the hands of the Americans, and it was Greene's purpose to have renewed the fight on the next day; but the flight of Stewart anticipated and baffled his intentions. He commenced pursuit, and detached Marion and Lee, by a circuitous route, to gain the enemy's front, and interpose themselves between him and the post at Fairlawn, from which Major M`Arthur had been summoned, with five hundred men, to cover the retreat. But this plan was unsuccessful. So precipitate was the march of Stewart, and so happily concerted the movements of the two British officers, that they effected a junction before Marion and Lee could reach Ferguson's Swamp, their place of destination. The cavalry of the enemy's rear-guard fell into the hands of the Americans, but Stewart was beyond pursuit. In this flight, amongst others, the British lost the brave Major Marjoribanks, who died of a fever, and was buried on the road. While they admitted a loss, in killed, wounded, and missing, of half the number brought into the field, that of the Americans was nearly equally severe, and fell with particular severity upon the officers. Sixty-one of these were killed or wounded; twenty-one died upon the field. The returns exhibit a loss of one hundred and fourteen rank and file killed, three hundred wounded, and forty missing -- an aggregate exceeding a fourth of all who marched into battle. Many of Marion's men were killed, though not so many as he lost in the affair of Quinby. Among his officers, Capt. John Simons, of Pedee, was slain, and Col. Hugh Horry wounded.
Greene retired to the high hills of Santee, while Marion proceeded to encamp at Payne's plantation, on Santee river swamp. This was one of his favorite places of retreat. Here, in the depths of a cane-brake, within a quarter of a mile from the Santee, he made himself a clearing, "much," says Judge James, "to his liking," and, with the canes, thatched the rude huts of his men. The high land was skirted by lakes, which rendered the approach difficult; and here, as in perfect security, he found forage for his horses, and provisions in abundance for his men. Such a place of encampment, at such a season, would hardly commend itself now to the citizen of Carolina. The modes and objects of culture, and probably the climate, have undergone a change. The time was autumn, the most sickly period of our year; and, to sleep in such a region now, even for a single night, would be considered certain death to the white man. It does not seem, at that period, that much apprehension of malaria was felt.*
-- * Judge James refers to this place as Peyre's, not Payne's, plantation, and notes "It appears now there was very little sickness at that day." In a footnote, he goes on to say: "Very soon after the revolutionary war, this scene was entirely changed. Planters, in clearing their land, had rolled logs and other rubbish from their fields, into the lakes and creeks leading from the river, and many threw trees into it to get them quickly out of the way. . . . The waters below being obstructed, they flooded the low grounds. . . ." This would explain the early absence, and later presence, of malaria, as the mosquitoes necessary for transmitting it would thrive in the still waters created by the planters. -- A. L., 1996. --
But Marion did not linger long in any one situation. Hearing that the British were about to send their wounded from Fairlawn to Charleston, his restless enterprise prompted him to aim at the capture of the detachment. Moving rapidly by night, he threw himself below the former place, on the opposite bank of the river, and would certainly have intercepted them, but for a slave of one of the plantations, who, hastening to the British camp, reported his proximity. The arrival of a superior force compelled him to steal away with a caution like that which marked his approach.
The command of the British army, in consequence of a wound received by General Stewart at Eutaw, had devolved on Major Doyle. This army, recruited by the force of M`Arthur, was still, after all its losses, fully two thousand men. That of Greene, reduced by wounds and sickness, could not muster one thousand fit for duty. His cavalry had been greatly thinned by the late battle, and it was not until the cavalry of Sumter's brigade could be brought together, with Marion's mounted infantry, and the horse of Horry and Mayham, that the superiority of the American general could be restored. Doyle had taken post at Fludd's plantation, three miles above Nelson's Ferry, on the Santee, with the main body of the British; M`Arthur held the post at Fairlawn, with a detachment of three hundred. Doyle, with some instinctive notion that his time was short, busied himself in a career of plunder which threatened to strip the plantations south of the Santee and Congaree, and westward to the Edisto, not only of every negro which they contained, but of all other kinds of property. Over this region, the feebleness of the American forces, and their present deficiency in cavalry, gave him almost entire control. The opposite banks were guarded by Marion and Hampton, who afforded protection to everything that could be moved across, and presented themselves at every point to the enemy, whenever he attempted the passage of the river. Marion was at this time an invalid, but, however much he might need, he asked for no repose or exemption from service when the enemy was in the field. His force was also reduced by sickness. Col. Mayham alone had no less than one hundred men unfit for duty. Other circumstances kept the militia from coming to the summons of Marion. Those on the borders of North Carolina were detained to meet and suppress a rising of the loyalists of that State under Hector M`Neil, and even those in his camp were unprovided with ammunition. Early in October, we find him writing pressingly to General Greene and Governor Rutledge for a supply. Rutledge answers, on the 10th of that month, "I wish to God it was in my power to send you ammunition instantly, but it is not." Col. Otho Williams, in the temporary absence of Greene, writes, in answer: "Our stock of ammunition is quite exhausted -- we have not an ounce of powder, or a cartridge, in store." And yet, it was under similar deficiencies that the men of Marion had labored from the beginning; and half the time had they gone into battle with less than three rounds of powder to a man. Williams further writes: "His Excellency, Governor Rutledge, has intimated that you meditate an expedition over the Santee. In making your determination, if it is not settled, permit me to recommend to your consideration, that THE GENERAL DEPENDS UPON YOU ENTIRELY FOR INTELLIGENCE OF THE ENEMY'S MOTIONS." The activity of our partisan, his elasticity of character, his independence of resources, and usefulness to others, are all to be gathered from these two extracts.
Late in September of this year, Governor Rutledge issued a proclamation, requiring that the disaffected should come in within thirty days, and perform a six months tour of duty. The condition of pardon for all previous offences was attached to this requisition. The idea of this proclamation was borrowed from similar ones of the British generals, when they first overran the country. The object was to secure those persons, of whom there were numbers, who, in the declining fortunes of the British, were not unwilling to turn upon and rend their old friends, no longer capable of protecting or providing for them. The measure was of doubtful policy, since it appealed to the basest feelings of humanity. Its effects were considerable, however; numbers presented themselves in the ranks of Marion, showing finely in contrast with his ancient and half-naked veterans. "Their new white feathers," says James, "fine coats, new saddles and bridles, and FAMISHED horses, showed that they had lately been in the British garrison." Their appearance, not to speak of their previous career, naturally inspired distrust in the minds of those whose scars and nakedness were the proofs of their virtue; and another measure, which was adopted about this time, had the further effect of impairing the value of that efficient brigade upon which Marion had been accustomed to rely. In order to promote the growth of the new regiments, it was permitted to all such persons as could hire a substitute, to claim exemption from military duty. This was a temptation too great to be resisted by those old soldiers who had served from the first, who had left their families in wretched lodgings, in poverty and distress, and from whose immediate neighborhood the presence of the war was withdrawn. The six months men were easily bought up to fill their places. The result was very injurious to the `morale' of the brigade, and the evil effects of the measure were soon felt in the imperfect subordination, the deficient firmness, and the unprincipled character of the new recruits. It was productive also of differences between two of Marion's best officers, Horry and Mayham, which wrought evil consequences to the country. Being commissioned on the same day as colonels of the new regiments, they quarrelled about precedency. The fruits of this difference will be seen hereafter.
As the winter set in, the army began to recruit, and the militia to embody under their several commanders. Greene was joined by Cols. Shelby and Sevier, with five hundred mountaineers, and these, with Horry and Mayham, were ordered to place themselves under Marion, to operate in the country between the Santee and Charleston. Sumter, at the same time, with a brigade of State troops and some companies of militia, was ordered to take post at Orangeburg, to cover the country from the inroads of the loyalists from Charleston. Pickens, in the meantime, with his regiments, traversed the border country, keeping in awe the Indians, and suppressing the predatory movements of the Tories. About the 1st November, the separate commands of Marion and Sumter crossed the rivers, and advanced in the direction of the enemy. The latter soon fell in with Cunningham's loyalists in force, and found it prudent to fall back. But he kept Cunningham in check with a body of men fully equal to his own. Marion, also, was compelled to come to a halt, by encountering General Stewart, posted at Wantoot, with nearly two thousand men. Stewart was at this time following up the peculiar labors which had been undertaken by Major Doyle when in temporary charge of the army. He was collecting slaves and laying in provisions, preparing for siege in, and subsequent flight from, Charleston. The fall of Cornwallis, at Yorktown, was known in the American camp on the 9th of November. It had been anticipated in the British some time before. With the fate of that commander, virtually terminated the British hope of re-conquering the country, and the proceedings of their officers in the south, as elsewhere, looked forward to the approaching necessity of flight. It was only becoming that they should spoil the Egyptians previous to their departure.
The capture of Cornwallis produced a jubilee in the American camp. In that
of Marion the ladies of Santee were permitted to partake. He gave them a
fete -- we are not told what were the refreshments -- at the house of Mr.
John Cantey. "The General," says James, "was not very susceptible of the
gentler emotions; he had his friends, and was kind to his inferiors, but
his mind was principally absorbed by the love of country;" and the Judge
rather insinuates that the pleasure he felt on this occasion arose more from
the fall of Cornwallis than from the presence of the ladies.
On the same day, the 9th October,* he received the thanks of Congress for "his wise, decided, and gallant conduct, in defending the liberties of his country, and particularly for his prudent and intrepid attack on a body of British troops on the 31st August last; and for the distinguished part he took in the battle of the 8th September."
-- * This date is given in both Simms's and James's accounts -- both say that Marion received the thanks of Congress on the 9th October, while celebrating the defeat of Cornwallis. But Cornwallis was defeated on the 19th of that month. This date should probably be the 9th November, and is most likely a repetition of James's error. -- A. L., 1996. --
On the 18th November, the camp of the Hills was broken up, and General Greene advanced with his army to the Four Holes, on the Edisto, in full confidence that the force under Marion would be adequate to keep General Stewart in check. But, by the 25th of the same month, our partisan was abandoned by all the mountaineers under Shelby and Sevier, a force of five hundred men. This was after a three weeks' service. This miserable defection was ascribed to the withdrawal of Shelby from the army on leave of absence. But, in all probability, it was due to their impatience of the wary sort of warfare which it was found necessary to pursue. The service was not sufficiently active for their habits. Marion had been warned that he must keep them actively employed, but all his efforts to do so had been unsuccessful. He had approached Stewart at Wantoot, but, though the force of the latter was nominally far superior to that of the partisan, he could not be drawn out of his encampment. This was a subject of equal surprise and chagrin to Marion. Subsequently, the reason of this timidity on the part of the British general was discovered. A return, found on an orderly-sergeant who fell into Marion's hands, showed that, out of two thousand two hundred and seventy-two men, Stewart had nine hundred and twenty-eight on the sick list. The only services in which the mountaineers were employed, while with Marion, were in attacks on the post at Fairlawn, and the redoubts at Wappetaw; and these required detachments only. The movement against the latter was instantly successful -- the enemy abandoned it on the approach of the Americans. But the post at Fairlawn was of more value, in better condition of defence, a convenient depot, and, being in the rear of the British army, then stationed at Wantoot, promised a stout resistance. The American detachment against this place was led by Mayham. In passing the post at Wantoot, he was ordered to show himself, and, if possible, to decoy the British cavalry into the field. The manoeuvre did not succeed, but it brought out a strong detachment, which followed close upon his heels, and required that what he should undertake should be done quickly. On approaching Fairlawn, he found everything prepared for defence. He lost no time in making his advances. A part of his riflemen were dismounted, and, acting as infantry, approached the abbatis, while his cavalry advanced boldly and demanded a surrender. The place, with all its sick, three hundred stand of arms, and eighty convalescents, was yielded at discretion.
With these small affairs ended the service of the mountaineers in Marion's army. They retired to their native hills, leaving Marion and Greene enmeshed in difficulties. It was on the strength of this force, chiefly, that the latter had descended from the hills, and he was now unable to recede. Marion, too, relying upon their support, had crossed the Santee and placed himself in close proximity on the right of the enemy. But the feebleness and timidity of Stewart, and his ignorance of the state of affairs in Marion's camp, saved these generals from the necessity of a retreat which would have been equally full of danger and humiliation. The movement of Greene across the Congaree induced him to draw towards Charleston, and Marion was left in safety. The timidity shown by the enemy encouraged Greene, and, dispatching a select party of horse under Wade Hampton, he followed hard upon their steps with as many chosen infantry. His purpose was the surprise of Dorchester. Stewart was descending to the city by another route. Hampton's advance fell in with a reconnoitring party of fifty men, and suffered few to escape; and though Greene did not succeed in surprising the post at Dorchester, his approach had the effect of producing its abandonment. During the night, the garrison destroyed everything, threw their cannon into the river, and retreated to Charleston. Greene did not venture to pursue, as the enemy's infantry exceeded five hundred men. Meanwhile, Stewart had hurried on by Goose Creek Bridge, and, joining the fugitives from Dorchester, halted at the Quarter House, and prepared to encounter the whole army of Greene, which, in their panic, was supposed to be upon their heels. Such was the alarm in Charleston that General Leslie, who now succeeded Stewart, proceeded to embody the slaves, in arms, for the defence of that place, -- a measure which was soon repented of, and almost as soon abandoned.
Greene fell back upon his main army, which had now advanced to Saunders' plantation on the Round O., while Marion, pressing nearer to Charleston, kept the right of the enemy in check. The movements of our partisan were left to his own discretion. Greene, in all cases, not only suffers the judgment of the former to determine for himself his course, giving him a thoroughly independent command, but he betrays the most respectful desire on frequent occasions to have his opinion. Thus, on the 5th of November, he writes to him: -- "Gen. Sumter has orders to take post at Orangeburgh, to prevent the Tories in that quarter from conveying supplies to town, and his advanced parties will penetrate as low as Dorchester; therefore, you may act in conjunction with him, or employ your troops on the enemy's left, as you may find from information they can be best employed. Please to give me your opinion on which side they can be most useful." On the 15th of the same month, he writes again: "You are at liberty to act as you think advisedly. I have no particular instructions to give you, and only wish you to avoid surprise." The latter caution to a soldier of Marion's character and prudence was scarcely necessary, but he was so near the enemy, and the latter in such superior force, that the suggestion, on the part of Greene, was only natural. Where Greene himself lay, two rivers ran between his army and that of the British. Without ammunition himself, and informed of reinforcements which the enemy had received, to preserve a respectful distance between them, was, on the part of the American commander, only a becoming caution. It was now December, and the troops, both of Greene and Marion, were without the necessary clothing. They had neither cloaks nor blankets. On the 14th of that month, Greene received a supply of ammunition, ALL of which he sent to Marion -- no small proof of the confidence which he felt that, in such hands, it would not be thrown away.
Thus closed the campaign of 1781. By manoeuvre, and a successful combination of events, the British troops had been driven down the country and restrained within the narrow neck of land contiguous to Charleston. The encampment of the main army continued at the Round O. Marion was at Watboo on Cooper river, watching the enemy's right; Sumter held Orangeburg and the bridge at Four Holes; Hampton with fifty State cavalry kept open the communication between Marion and the commander-in-chief; Cols. Harden and Wilkinson watched the enemy's movements on the south between Charleston and Savannah: and Col. Lee, posted in advance, with a light detachment, kept him from prying into the real weakness of the American army. In the ignorance of the British general, lay the security of the American; for, at this particular time, there were not eight hundred men at Greene's headquarters. A glance at any map of South Carolina will show the judgment with which these several posts were taken, at once for easy cooperation of the Americans, as for the control of all the country above the positions actually held by the British. The territory of the State, with the exception of that neck of land which lies twelve or fifteen miles up from Charleston, between the approaching rivers Ashley and Cooper, had all been recovered from the enemy. But the necessities of the Americans, the want of military `materiel', the thinness of the regiments, and the increasing strength of the British, derived from foreign troops and accessions from other posts in America, left it doubtful, under existing circumstances, whether it could be long retained. But this misgiving was not allowed to prejudice or impair the popular hope, resulting from the apparent successes of their arms; and one of the modes adopted for contributing to this conviction was the formal restoration of the native civil authority. The members of the State Assembly, of whom Marion was one, were accordingly required by the proclamation of Governor Rutledge -- who had held almost dictatorial powers from the beginning of the war -- to convene at Jacksonborough at an early day of the ensuing year.
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