Marion summoned to the Camp of Greene -- Defeats the British Horse at St. Thomas -- Leaves his Command to Horry, and takes his Seat in the Assembly at Jacksonborough, as Senator from St. John's, Berkeley -- Proceedings of the Assembly -- Confiscation Act -- Dispute between Cols. Mayham and Horry -- The Brigade of Marion surprised, during his absence, by a Detachment from Charleston -- Marion's Encounter with the British Horse -- Conspiracy in the Camp of Greene.
While the army of Greene lay at Round O., considerable alarm was excited in the American camp by tidings of large reinforcements made to the British strength in Charleston. General Leslie was now in command of the latter. The contraction of the American military `cordon' had very greatly straitened the resources and comforts of the British general. The numerous refugees who had taken shelter in the city with their families, the great accumulation of horses within the lines, and the vigilant watch which was maintained over the islands and the neck by the American light detachments, soon contributed to lessen the stock of provisions in the capital, and to cut off its supplies. One consequence of this condition was to compel Leslie to put two hundred of his horses to death; while, by all other possible means, he collected his provisions from the surrounding country. Considerable parties were kept upon the alert for this object, and, to facilitate the movements of these parties, strong posts were established at Haddrel's Point and Hobcaw. The situation of these posts, on the extremities of tongues of land, to which assistance might easily be conveyed by water, and from which retreat, to an attacking enemy, was difficult, rendered them comparatively safe, for the present, against the Americans. But the situation of Leslie was one of uncomfortable constraint, and it was natural that he should avail himself of any prospect which might promise him relief. It was readily believed, therefore, in the American camp, that, with the acquisition of new strength, by the arrival of reinforcements from abroad, Leslie would seek to break through the cordon put around him. The rumor of his approach, in strength, caused Greene to issue his orders to Marion to repair to headquarters with all the force he could draw after him. Our partisan promptly obeyed the summons; but, on his way to join with Greene, he left a detachment of mounted infantry in the neighborhood of Monk's Corner, to watch the motions of the enemy.
But Leslie's purpose was mistaken. His strength had been exaggerated. He had no designs upon the camp of Greene, being no doubt quite as ignorant of his weakness as the latter was of the British strength. But the detachment left by Marion near Monk's Corner caught the attention of the enemy, and, in the absence of the partisan, it was thought accessible to a proper attempt from Charleston. In all the movements of the British, it is very evident that they attached no small importance to the presence of this chief. A detachment of three hundred men, cavalry and infantry, was transported by water to the north bank of the Wando river. This body moved with equal secrecy and celerity. But they were disappointed in their aim. Marion had returned from the Continental camp to his own. The storm which threatened the former was overblown, and he was in season to avert that by which the latter was threatened. His force was scarcely equal to that of the enemy. He nevertheless resolved upon attacking them. In order to keep them in play, while he advanced with his main body, Cols. Richardson and Scriven, with a part of Mayham's horse, were dispatched with orders to throw themselves in front of the British, and engage them until he could come up. This order was gallantly executed. They encountered the enemy's advance near the muster-house of St. Thomas, charged them vigorously, and succeeded in putting them to flight, with some slaughter. Capt. Campbell, of the British, and several others, were killed. But the pursuit was urged too far. The cavalry of Mayham, by which this success had been obtained, was of new organization. Their training had been partial only. It was seen that, though they drove the British horse before them, their own charge was marked by disorder. Hurried forward by success, they rushed into the jaws of danger, and were only brought to their senses by an encounter with the whole of the British infantry. A volley from this body drove them back in confusion, while the cavalry, which had been flying before them, encouraged by the presence of the infantry, rallied upon the steps of the pursuers, and drove them in turn. They suffered severely, wedged upon a narrow causeway, which gave them as little room for escape as evolution. Twenty-two fell upon the spot, by the fire of the infantry. The rest were rallied when sufficiently far from the more formidable enemy, and, turning upon the British cavalry, once more put them to flight. But the event left Marion too weak to press the encounter. He contented himself with watching the motions of the British, and they were sufficiently respectful not to press him to any less pacific performance. They were satisfied to pursue their march, and, gathering a few head of cattle, to retire to Haddrell's, foregoing the more important object of their incursion. The field clear, Marion left his brigade in charge of Horry, and repaired to Jacksonborough, to attend the Assembly, to which he had been elected a member from St. John, Berkeley, the same parish which he represented in the Provincial Congress at the beginning of the war. This was early in the year 1782. The Legislature met at Jacksonborough, a little village on the Edisto or Pon-Pon river, on the 18th January of this year. This position, almost within striking distance of the British army at Charleston, was chosen with particular reference to the moral influence which the boldness of such a choice would be likely to have upon the people, and the confidence which it seemed to declare in the ability of the American army to render the place secure. To make it so, Greene moved his troops across the Edisto, and took post at Skirving's plantation, six miles in advance of Jacksonborough, and on the road which leads to Charleston. There was yet another step necessary to this object. The British, in addition to Charleston and the "Neck", held possession of two islands, James and John, which belong to that inner chain of isles which stretches along the coast from Charleston to Savannah, separated from the main by creeks and marshes, and from one another by the estuaries of rivers, sounds, or inlets. On John's Island, which is fertile, extensive, and secure, the enemy held a very respectable force under Col. Craig. Jacksonborough was within striking distance of this force. It could be approached by boats or galleys, in a single tide. It was equally assailable from this point by land. As a matter of precaution, it was considered necessary to disperse this force, and it was soon ascertained, not only that the island was accessible, but that the enemy, relying upon the protection of his armed galleys, was unapprehensive of attack. The attempt was entrusted to Cols. Lee and Laurens, who, with separate parties, were to reach the point of destination by different routes. One of the parties lost the road, and failed to cooperate with the other. The movement was only partially successful. A second was designed, and succeeded. The galleys were driven from their station by the artillery, and Laurens penetrated to Craig's encampment. But the latter had already abandoned it. A few stragglers fell into the hands of the Americans, but nothing more. The preceding attempt had just sufficed to convince Craig of the insecurity of the place, and he had taken timely precautions against suffering from a repetition of the attempt.
The Legislature assembled according to appointment. The proclamation of the Governor, to whom, from the beginning of the war, had been accorded almost dictatorial powers, precluded from election and suffrage all persons who had taken British protections; and, as those who were true to the State had been very generally active in the ranks of her military, it followed, as a matter of course, that a great proportion of the members were military men. Among these were Sumter and Marion. The former, about this time, yielded his commission to the authorities, on account of some slight or injustice to which he had been subjected, and left the army when he took his seat in the Assembly. General Henderson succeeded to his command. The Jacksonborough Assembly was highly distinguished, as well for its talent as for its worth and patriotism. Its character was, perhaps, rather military than civil. Constituting as they did, in a slave community, a sort of feudal aristocracy, and accustomed, as, for so long a time they had been, to the use of the weapons of war, its members wore the deportment of so many armed barons, gathered together quite as much for action as resolve. It was not only unavoidable, but highly important at this juncture, that such should be the character of this body. Who could so well determine what were the necessities of the country -- what the exigencies of the people -- what the local resources and remedies -- as those who had fought its battles, traversed every acre of its soil, and represented its interests and maintained its rights when there was no civil authority? What legislators so likely to wield the popular will, as men who, like Marion and Sumter, had become its rallying leaders -- whom the people had been accustomed to obey and follow, and by whom they had been protected. It was equally important that the legislation should come from such sources, when we consider the effect upon the enemy, still having a foothold in the State. They might reasonably apprehend that the laws springing from such a body would be marked by a stern directness and decision of purpose which would leave nothing to be hoped by disaffection or hostility; and their proceedings did not disappoint the expectations of friend or foe.
The measures of this Assembly were marked by equal prudence and resolve. They passed a new act respecting the militia, and one for raising the State quota of Continental troops. One of their measures has been questioned as unwise and impolitic -- that, namely, for amercing and confiscating the estates of certain of the loyalists, and for banishing the most obnoxious among them. Something, certainly, is to be said in favor of this act. If vindictive, it seems to have been necessary. It must be remembered that, in consequence of a previous proclamation of the Governor, none but the most implacable and virulent of the Tories were liable to its operation -- none but those who had rejected very liberal offers of indulgence and conciliation. This proclamation had opened the door to reconciliation with the State, on very easy terms to the offenders. It gave them timely warning to come in, enrol themselves in the American ranks, and thus assure themselves of that protection and safety which they had well forfeited. Their neglect or refusal to accept this proffer of mercy, properly incurred the penalties of contumacy. These penalties could be no other than confiscation of property and banishment of person. Reasons of policy, if not of absolute necessity, seemed to enforce these penalties. How was the war to be carried on? Marion's men, for example, received no pay, no food, no clothing. They had borne the dangers and the toils of war, not only without pay, but without the hope of it. They had done more -- they had yielded up their private fortunes to the cause. They had seen their plantations stripped by the enemy, of negroes, horses, cattle, provisions, plate -- everything, in short, which could tempt the appetite of cupidity; and this, too, with the knowledge, not only that numerous loyalists had been secured in their own possessions, but had been rewarded out of theirs. The proposed measure seemed but a natural and necessary compliance with popular requisition. Besides, the war was yet to be carried on. How was this to be done? How long was it yet to last? What was to be its limit? Who could predict? Congress was without money -- the State without means. For a space of three years, South Carolina had not only supported the war within, but beyond her own borders. Georgia was utterly destitute, and was indebted to South Carolina for eighteen months for her subsistence; and North Carolina, in the portions contiguous to South Carolina, was equally poor and disaffected. The Whigs were utterly impoverished by their own wants and the ravages of the enemy. They had nothing more to give. Patriotism could now bestow little but its blood. It was with an obvious propriety resolved, by the Jacksonborough Assembly, that those who had proved false to the country should be made to suffer in like degree with those who had been true, and who were still suffering in her defence. As a measure of prolonged policy -- contemplated beyond the emergency -- there may be objections to the Confiscation Act; but the necessities of the time seemed to demand it, and it will be difficult for any judgment, having before it all the particulars of the cruel civil war through which the country had gone -- not to speak of the army, and the present and pressing necessity for maintaining it -- to arrive at any other conclusion, or to censure the brave men who urged and advocated the measure. The proceeding seems perfectly defensible on general principles, though in particular instances -- as in the application of all general principles -- it may have been productive of injury. The estates of the loyalists, by this measure, were seized upon as a means for building up the credit of the State, supplying it with the necessary funds for maintaining order as well as war, and for requiting and supporting that army which was still required to bleed in its defence.
What part was taken in this act by Marion, is not known. Though kind and indulgent in his nature, he was stern and resolute in war. We have no reason to suppose that he entertained any scruples about a proceeding, the necessity of which, at the time, seems to have been beyond all dispute.
The absence of our partisan from his brigade, was almost fatal to it. He left it with reluctance, and only with the conviction that his presence in the Senate was important to the interests equally of the army and the country. Indeed, without him there would not have been a quorum. There were only thirteen Senators present. He was interested, besides, in the passage of the new Militia Act, and in one designed to raise the State quota of Continental troops. These were sufficient to compel his presence. But he remained with reluctance. His letters from Jacksonborough betray the most constant anxiety about his brigade. He had yielded it to Horry with the most earnest exhortations to caution. By his orders, the latter, the more completely to ensure its safety, removed to a position on the north side of Wambaw, a creek emptying into the Santee. Here, in an angle formed by the two roads which pass from Lenud's Ferry road to Horry's plantation, about a quarter of a mile from the bridge, Horry occupied a post which caution might have rendered safe. In his rear was a wood. His newly raised regiment, not half complete, lay at Durant's plantation, about a mile above, under the command of Major Benson. Horry does not seem to have been remiss in his duties, but about this time he fell sick, and, for some time before, he had been, and still was, somewhat wilful. There was an unhappy dispute between himself and Col. Mayham, touching rank and precedence. The latter refused to be commanded by the former, claiming to be equal in commission, and, when Marion went to Jacksonborough, separated his corps from the brigade, posted them higher up the river, and, being a member of the Legislature, proceeded to Jacksonborough also. Greene was not unwilling, in the present juncture of affairs, that the native officers should be present at the deliberations of this body. The civil objects were just then even more important than the military.
The contumacy of Mayham was a subject of the most earnest discussion. Both Marion and Greene decided against him; yet both were reluctant to offend him, as they knew his value as a cavalry officer. Mayham seems to have acted under some erroneous impressions of the independence of a legionary brigade, as he claimed his to be. He also complained of the free use which Marion made of his cavalry, and the severe duties he was required to perform. To this, Greene replies: "You are to consider how extensive the country he has to guard, and how much he depends upon your corps. This will account for the hard service you have been put to. The general is a good man, and when you consider his difficulties, and make just allowances, perhaps you will have little to complain of but the hard necessity of the service."
But this reply did not produce its effect, and Mayham certainly erred, as a soldier, in complaining of the severity of his tasks. In the old chivalrous periods, the peculiar severity of the duties assigned to knighthood was recognized gratefully, as a matter of compliment and trust. He still held off; and Marion promptly demanded, that, if Mayham had any independent right of command, while nominally under him, he might be at once withdrawn from the brigade. Mayham's manner and tone were quite respectful, but tenacious; and while the discussion was in progress, and he holding off from Horry, events were brewing which were destined to terminate the unfortunate dispute by a capital misfortune.
Again taking advantage of the absence of Marion, an expedition was set on foot in Charleston, against Horry. A detachment of two hundred horse, five hundred infantry, and two pieces of artillery, under Col. Thomson (better known in after-times as Count Rumford), prepared to ascend Cooper river. Its preparations were not conducted with such caution, however, but that they became known to the vigilant friends of the Americans in and about the city. The army was warned of their preparations. Greene hinted to Marion the necessity of returning to his command. The latter replies, by declaring his great anxiety to do so, but urges the impossibility of leaving the Senate, lest the Assembly should be broken up -- an event which might be of fatal importance to the cause, unless the great business of the session were first disposed of. He promises to move as soon as this should be the case. The actual movement of the British detachment made it impossible that Marion should longer delay to rejoin his brigade, and, accompanied by Col. Mayham, he reached the ground on which the regiment of the latter was encamped, by a circuitous route and rapid riding, on the 24th February. Here they were unhappily told that the enemy was retiring. Marion, accordingly, remained to rest and refresh himself, while Mayham paid a visit to his own plantation. In a few hours after Mayham's departure, an express arrived with the mortifying intelligence that the brigade had been surprised and dispersed. Marion, instantly putting himself at the head of Mayham's regiment, hurried on toward Wambaw, the scene of the event, to check pursuit and collect and save the fugitives.
We have seen the position of Horry. He had sent out his scouts on all the roads by which the approach of an enemy might be apprehended. Feeling himself secure, and being sick, he went over the river on the 24th, the day of the catastrophe, to his plantation, leaving the brigade under the command of Col. M`Donald. Major Benson, as will be remembered, held a position, with the incomplete regiment of Horry, at Durant's plantation, about a mile above that of the brigade. By some unaccountable remissness of patrols or videttes, the British cavalry, under Coffin, surprised the latter post. Benson, it is said, had been told by Capt. Bennett, who commanded the scouts in St. Thomas's, that the enemy was approaching; but the information was brought to him while at dinner, and a keen appetite made him slow to believe tidings which might have lessened the enjoyment of the meal. Bennett proceeded to Horry's headquarters, where Col. M`Donald happened to be at dinner also. He proved equally incredulous, but desired Major James, who had just arrived in camp, to take command of his regiment. The surprise of Benson was complete, and he paid for his remissness or indifference with his life. The firing at Durant's convinced M`Donald of his error; but, in all probability, the surprise was quite as complete in the one command as in the other. There were two regiments of "six-months' men" -- that is to say, "reformed Tories" -- persons who had come in under the proclamation issued by Governor Rutledge. These broke at the first encounter with the enemy. In their flight, and to prevent pursuit, they threw off the planks from Wambaw bridge. Fortunately, a strong body, under Major James, checked the pursuit for a space, and gave an opportunity for the fugitives to save themselves. Many of them crossed the river by swimming, but some were drowned in the attempt. The thickets saved the infantry. No prisoners were taken. The British gave no quarter. Successful against Benson and M`Donald, the enemy pressed forward in the direction of Marion's approach, but without having any knowledge of his proximity. He had halted with the cavalry of Mayham, at the house of Mrs. Tydiman, about four miles from the scene of the disaster, to refresh his men and horses. The latter were unbitted and feeding, when the whole of the enemy's cavalry made their appearance. It would seem, from the indecision of their commander, that he was no less surprised at falling in with this body of Marion's men, than was our partisan at his sudden appearance. His hesitation under this surprise gave the Americans an opportunity to recover themselves. It was the opinion of Mayham, that, had the charge been sounded the moment that he came in view, the whole regiment must have been lost. There was no retreat, save by the river, and by the lane through which they had entered the plantation, and of this the enemy had full command. The halt and hesitation of the British -- their seeming alarm -- at once afforded Marion the means of extrication from his predicament. To bit and mount their horses, was, for his cavalry, the work of a moment. Though not counting half the numbers of the enemy, Marion's instant resolution was to issue forth by the lane, and attack them. They had displayed themselves in front of it. Just before the lane was an old field, and a little to the right a pond of water. Marion, placing a small body of infantry to great advantage along the fence, ordered his column of cavalry to advance through the lane to the attack. His men were well mounted; in this respect, if inferior in numbers, they had a manifest advantage over the British. The latter had been too long cooped up in the walls of Charleston, on short commons, to be very serviceable; and the cavalry of Mayham, though somewhat too much crowded with the "new-made Whigs", were yet confident, from long experience, in their ability to contend with the enemy. Marion himself was confident, but was destined, in this instance, to lose, what he himself, in his dispatches, has styled, "a glorious opportunity of cutting up the British cavalry." His men moved to the extremity of the lane, before which the enemy had halted, with a firm and promising countenance. The front section was led by Capt. Smith, an officer of approved courage, who, in a very recent affair at St. Thomas' muster-house, had signally distinguished himself. Yet, seized with a sudden panic, the moment that he reached the end of the lane, he dashed into the woods on the right, and drew after him the whole regiment. Marion himself, who was near the head of the column, was borne away by the torrent, which he in vain struggled to withstand. The rush was irresistible -- the confusion irretrievable. All efforts to restrain or recover the fugitives were idle, until they had reached the woods. There Marion succeeded in rallying a party, and at this point the pursuit of the enemy was checked, and the fugitives partly rallied. They had sustained but little loss in lives; but the shame, the disgrace of such a panic, were immeasurably humiliating. The British showed no eagerness in the pursuit. They seemed to doubt the bloodless victory which they had won, and, content with their own escape, were not unreasonably urgent with fortune to make their victory complete. They subsequently, after they had fully recovered from their panic, contrived greatly to exaggerate the importance of the event. One of the newspapers of the day has the following: -- "Things bear a better prospect than they did. Colonel Thomson has defeated General Marion in South Carolina, killed one hundred men, and Marion was drowned, attempting to escape." The only officer drowned in the flight, was Lieut. Smyzer of Horry's cavalry.
The loss of the brigade in horses and accoutrements was greater than in men. Their greater loss, however, was of that confidence in themselves and one another, which it was one of the greatest objects of Marion's training to inspire. The true secret of the superiority of regulars over militia-men lies in the habit of mutual reliance. They feel each other's elbows, in military parlance -- they are assured by the custom of mutually depending one upon the other. This habit impresses them with a conviction, which the terrors of conflict do not often impair, that they will not be deserted; and, thus assured, they hurry into the battle, and remain in it so long as the body with which they move can act together. Once broken, however, the cry is `sauve qui peut'. Not so with militia-men. They never forget their individuality. The very feeling of personal independence is apt to impair their confidence in one another. Their habit is to obey the individual impulse. They do not wait to take their temper from their neighbor right and left. Hence their irregularity -- the difficulty of restraining them -- of making them act in routine, and with entire reference to the action of other bodies. So far from deriving strength from feeling another's elbow, they much prefer elbow room. Could they be assured of one another, they were the greatest troops in the world. They ARE the greatest troops in the world -- capable of the most daring and heroic achievements -- wherever the skill of the commander can inspire this feeling of mutual reliance. Frequent cooperation of the same persons under the same leader produces it, and makes them veterans. The old soldiers of the brigade had it in perfection. It was one of the excellences of Marion that it followed so certainly and rapidly from his peculiar training. That it should be lost or impaired, was a most serious evil. That it would not have been endangered, we are sure, had it not been that the brigade no longer consisted of the brave fellows who had clung to him through the campaigns of the last two years. The new recruits were, in all probability, to blame for the mischance; and something, perhaps, is due to the unhappy quarrel between Mayham and Horry. The former was terribly mortified by the affair -- mortified that Marion should have hurried to the scene of action without apprising him, and vexed that his own regiment should have behaved so badly. He complains that others should "expend the strength of the regiment without giving HIM the satisfaction of being present." Captain John Caraway Smith, the officer who led the column thus disastrously aside, resigned the day after the affair. His conduct had been habitually brave. But a short time before, as already shown, he had behaved with the most determined and audacious gallantry at the head of the same troop. That their training was defective is beyond question, but no imputation rested upon their courage or his own. Nevertheless, we have Napoleon's authority for the opinion that every man has his `moment de peur'. No man is equally firm on all occasions. There are moods of weakness and irresolution in every mind, which is not exactly a machine, which impair its energies, and make its course erratic and uncertain. The truth was known in earlier ages. The old poets ascribed it to supernatural influence. Envious deities interposed between valor and its victim, paralysing the soul of the one and strengthening that of the other. Thus we find even Hector, upon occasion, the slave of panic, and Paris, on the other hand, almost emulating the spirit of his brother.
The conduct of Captain Smith, in this affair, has been excused by Mayham. He ascribes it to an error of Marion himself. He says that, "Marion (who was an infantry officer) gave the order to `file off from the house to the right,' instead of ordering `to charge!' This induced his officers to believe that they were to retreat and not to fight." This may be true; but it is scarcely probable. Retreat from the house, except into the river, seems to have been cut off. The only other avenue was the lane. At the end of this was the enemy, drawn out in order of battle. Upon these the advance was ordered. We have seen that Marion himself exulted in the conviction that the enemy was in his power. His exultation could not have been entirely concealed from his officers. It must have declared itself in some way. The halt and hesitation of the British were perceptible to all. They were in superior numbers, and when they reached the head of the lane, the horses of the American cavalry were unbitted and feeding. A sudden and resolute charge, according to Mayham, on the part of the British, would have resulted in the entire defeat of the regiment. That they did not order this charge betrayed their apprehensions, and should have encouraged, in similar degree, the Americans -- DID encourage them, and hence the resolve of Marion to advance upon them. That it should be supposed he would hurry forward, in the very teeth of the enemy, only to dash aside in confusion from the struggle, is scarcely reasonable. But Mayham was offended with Marion. The latter had decided against him in the controversy with Horry; and the subsequent movement against the British, without stopping to require his presence, was another mortifying circumstance which he was not likely to forget. Biased by his feelings, he was not willing to believe that the seeming slight was in reality due to the emergency of the case, which would not allow a moment's hesitation in Marion's movement at such a juncture.
As soon as the presence of Marion was known, the fugitives gathered around him. But for his absence they had never been dispersed. Horry's regiment was very much crippled; Mayham's in equally bad condition. Of M`Donald's, and the brigade, a few hundred were soon brought together; and with his deranged and dispirited band, our partisan retired beyond the Santee to repair and recruit his strength, and revive the confidence of his men in their leaders and themselves. In the meanwhile, the country which he had so recently covered and protected was harried by the British. They improved the interval of his absence by successful incursions. The cattle had been already put beyond their power, on the other side the Santee; but they stripped the plantations within their reach, as well of slaves as of provisions. Greene could do nothing to prevent them. His own army was in a state of convulsion and commotion; suffering from distress and discontent, and threatened with dissolution. Recent occurrences had awakened his fears for his own security.
One result of Marion's recent disaster was to put an end to the dispute between Horry and Mayham. Their respective regiments were so reduced, after the affair at Wambaw, that it was deemed advisable to amalgamate them. Having resolved upon this measure, Gov. Mathews, who had succeeded Rutledge, applied to Marion to know who of the two was the best cavalry officer -- an opinion which Marion yielded with great reluctance. His personal preferences went with Horry, but he could not hesitate in declaring for Mayham. Horry, with the ambition of a spirited soldier, eagerly desired a command of cavalry, -- was a good infantry officer, and had all the requirements of skill and bravery. But he was no horseman, and it is said that, in several of his charges, he was indebted to some one or other of his men for his own safety, being commonly unhorsed. His gallantry and patriotism were equally unquestionable. They had been displayed from the beginning of the war. The preference shown Mayham caused Horry's resignation from the service; but to console him for the mortification, Marion made him commandant of Georgetown, a post which united the responsibilities and duties of a military and civil service.
With the adjournment of the Assembly at Jacksonborough, the army of Greene moved down from Skirving's plantation to Bacon's bridge, at the head of Ashley river. Here, within twenty miles of the enemy, a dangerous conspiracy ripened almost to maturity among the Pennsylvania troops, composed in part of the very mutineers who had triumphed over government in the insurrection in Jersey, and who, as Lafayette observed,* "had been well paid and well clothed in consequence of it." This, we believe, was the only body of troops furnished to the Southern army, during the Revolution, from any of the States north of Maryland and Delaware. We make this remark with the view to the correction of a very general error, arising from the vague manner in which it is customary for our historians to speak of the sources of the personnel of the Southern army. The armies led by Gates and Greene, to the defence of Carolina, were truly from States north of her, but they were not Northern States. Two fine bodies of troops came from Maryland and Delaware, but the rest were from Virginia and North Carolina, -- with the exception of the Pennsylvania line, of which we have now to speak. These, as we have seen, had been refractory in Jersey, and instead of being punished, were paid for their sedition. It was natural that they should endeavor to renew an experiment which had already proved so profitable. The mutineers were directed by one Sergeant Gornell. Their number is unknown. They were solely of the Pennsylvania line, and might have been successful but for an attempt which they made upon the fidelity of the Marylanders. Their purpose was to deliver Greene to the enemy, and otherwise facilitate the objects of the latter, who were to make a concerted movement, in force, upon the American army, at a prescribed moment. The integrity of the Marylanders, whom Gornell approached, was not to be shaken; and to their fidelity and the quick ears of one of the camp-women, the army was indebted for its safety. The circumstances were all in favor of the success of the conspirators. There was a general discontent in the army. The troops were badly fed and clothed -- were unpaid, doubtful of pay, and suffering present distresses. They were inactive. Many of them were new recruits. Greene was no longer surrounded by the tried and true men and officers, who had borne the brunt of the contest. The term of service of the former had in great part expired, some of his best officers were on furlough, and he had offended others. Sumter had left the army in disgust; Pickens was operating against the Indians; Marion was recruiting his brigade on the Santee; Williams had gone home; Howard was in Maryland, scarcely recovered from his wounds; Wayne was in Georgia, doing good service in that quarter; St. Clair was absent on leave; Lee had gone to Virginia to get married, and his legion was almost shorn of officers; Eggleston had gone with him to Virginia, and the brave fellows, Armstrong and Carrington, had fallen into the hands of the enemy. The time was well chosen for mutiny, and as the hour drew near for the consummation of the purpose of the conspirators, the British army was set in motion from below, -- not so secretly, however, but that their movements were made known to the Americans. Symptoms of mutiny became apparent in the camp, and it was necessary to proceed with vigor. Doubtful of a large number of those around him, Greene summoned Marion with all his force from the Santee, while his own army was kept in order of battle. The arrest of Gornell, with that of four others, all sergeants of the Pennsylvania line, took place the night before the conspiracy was to take effect. Gornell was tried and executed; the others were sent under guard into the interior. This proceeding was the signal for the flight of at least a dozen more, who, having been committed, broke away on the night of Gornell's seizure, and found protection with the enemy, who advanced in force to receive them. This prompt proceeding suppressed the mutiny. The development of the conspiracy, the state of preparedness in the camp of Greene, and the movement of Marion, had the effect of discouraging the farther advance of the British army; and Marion, while yet in motion for the camp of Greene, from which he was but eight miles distant, was summoned in haste to the protection of Georgetown, against which the enemy was reported to have sailed from Charleston. A forced march of four days brought him to White's Bridge, when it was discovered that the alarm was unfounded. The enemy had not shown himself, and was not nigh. In this march of one hundred and sixty miles, Marion's men had but a single ration of rice. Their sole food, with this exception, was lean beef. The march took place in April, when there is no forage for cattle, and when such as survive the winter, are compelled to wander far in the swamps and thickets in search of the scanty herbage which sustains them. The march of our partisan in these two expeditions was conducted solely on foot. The country south of the Santee had been so completely foraged by the British, during his vacation of it, that he was compelled to dismount his infantry in his movements until the spring herbage should enable him to feed his horses. His force was reduced to two hundred militia and one hundred and twenty horse. It was the wish of General Greene that he should take post as near the enemy as possible, in order both to shorten his limits beyond Cooper river, and to enable Col. Laurens, who now commanded the legion of Lee, to pass the Ashley, and close upon the British between the latter river and Goose Creek. But with his infantry dismounted, he dared not venture so completely within the reach of an enemy so superior; and with the double purpose of securing a retreat, if necessary, and of forming a junction with any party when desirable, either at Huger's Bridge, over the west branch of Cooper river, or at Strawberry Ferry, he took post at Sinkler's plantation on the Santee. This left him within twenty-five miles of each of these designated routes. His cavalry meanwhile patrolled the country as low as Haddrell and Hobcaw, and in sight of the British posts at those places. They thus procured the earliest news of the enemy's movements, and checked his incursions in that quarter. The effect of Marion's presence with his brigade was soon felt, as well by his people as by the British. By the latter it was deemed important to relieve themselves from a neighbor at once so vigilant and inconvenient. A messenger, feigning to be a deserter, was dispatched by General Leslie, whose plan was to make his way through the scouts of Marion, to the Scotch and loyal settlements on the borders of North Carolina. These were to be stirred up to insurrection, and Marion was to be diverted from a quarter in which his presence was particularly annoying. The messenger succeeded in his object, but was less fortunate in his return. He had done the mischief required at his hands, fomented the insurrection, and set the loyalists in motion. The proofs were conclusive against him, and he perished by military execution. The timely notice which Marion obtained of his labors enabled him to prepare against the event. -- * Johnson's Life of Greene, Vol. 2, p. 319. --
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