Marion summoned with his Force to that of Greene -- Insurrection of the Loyalists on the Pedee -- Marches against them -- Subdues them -- Treats with Gainey -- Fanning -- Protects the Tory, Butler, from his Men -- Returns to the Country between the Santee and the Cooper -- Moves to protect Georgetown from the British Fleet -- Takes post at Watboo, on Cooper River -- Defeats the British Cavalry under Major Frasier.
Meanwhile, the main body of the army under Greene continued to suffer diminution. On the first of May a large proportion of the North Carolina troops were entitled to and claimed their discharge. No recruits were expected from the North, and it became necessary to draw together all the force that South Carolina could afford. The Government of this State, from its first re-organization, had faithfully endeavored to re-establish the South Carolina line, but without money or means, with very little corresponding success. A few recruits were obtained from among those who had recently received their discharge, but the service had been of a kind to baffle all the temptations and arguments of the recruiting officers. In the emergency of the case, it became indispensable to look to the militia under Marion, Pickens and Henderson; and these leaders were accordingly required to repair to headquarters.
The withdrawal of the former, with his troops, from the region of country which they had so lately covered, was the signal for that rising of the loyalists upon the Pedee, to instigate which the unfortunate emissary of General Leslie had been dispatched from Charleston. The absence of Marion was considered auspicious to the new movement. He had scarcely reached Dorchester when his ancient enemy, Major Gainey, appeared in arms at the head of a considerable body of troops, both cavalry and infantry. A small command under Col. Baxter, which had been left by Marion to observe their movements, was too feeble to make head against them, and it became necessary for Marion himself to retrace his steps, and arrest the progress of the insurrection. Placing himself at the head of Mayham's cavalry, he promptly advanced in the direction of the enemy. So rapid were his movements, so vigilant his watch, so well devised his plans, that he reached the Pedee country long before his approach was suspected. His presence, on the present occasion, was a surprise. It had long been a terror; so much so that but for his remoteness at the camp of Greene, they had, in all probability, never ventured to resume their arms. Three separate bodies of men, by a judicious arrangement of our partisan, were prepared to enter their country at the same moment. These were so placed, that, though operating separately, they might yet be made to cooperate if desired. The effect was such as to paralyse the incipient resolution of the loyalists. They showed no disposition for fight; and feeling their temper, conscious of his difficulties, and now no longer hopeful of help from the British, Gainey dispatched a flag to Marion with proposals to treat for a pacification. He was not unwilling to renew the treaty which, just one year before, he had entered into with Horry, who then acted as the lieutenant of our partisan. This treaty, influenced by British emissaries, the Tories had very imperfectly kept. In small squads they had been perpetually rising, and committing trespasses upon their neighbors whenever the withdrawal of Marion's men afforded them opportunity. They had now everything to fear from his anger; but they also knew his willingness to forgive. Relying upon this, and making a merit of necessity, the communication of Gainey expressed the warmest solicitude for peace. To this Marion was prepared to listen. Commissioners were appointed on both sides. They met, but, unhappily, they recognized in each other well known personal opponents. They had often met in strife, and could not forbear alluding to their encounters. The conversation grew warm, the parties excited, and instead of coming to terms, the commissioners almost came to blows. They separated with increased resentment. A fierce skirmish followed, and the attempt to adjust their differences was renewed between the respective commanders. Marion was anxious to effect a pacification. His services were required below on the Santee and Cooper, to check the incursions of the British, and he consented to meet and confer with Gainey in person. This determination was censured by some of his officers. They denounced Gainey as a leader of banditti; and, certainly, his conduct, on many occasions, deserved the reproach. They reproached Marion for committing his dignity in treating with such a person. But this suggestion did not affect him. He was governed by views and principles very far superior to those which influence the ordinary soldier. His pride did not suffer from such censures. His reply was equally prompt and conclusive. He told them that he "aimed at no higher dignity than that of essentially serving his country."
The result was satisfactory to our partisan. Making a merit of necessity, Gainey yielded without requiring any farther resort to blows. At the Bowling Green, between the Great and Little Pedee, more than five hundred men laid down their arms, submitting to conditions which were rather strict than severe. Marion and Gainey met at Birch's mill on the 8th June, when a treaty was drawn up having for its basis the articles of the preceding arrangement with Horry. By this treaty, Gainey and his men were to lay down their arms and not to resume them unless ordered to do so by the authorities of the State; they bound themselves to deliver up all negroes, horses, cattle and other property of which they had dispossessed the people of this or any other State -- to demean themselves as peaceable citizens, and submit to the laws of the State -- to deliver up all contumacious and rebellious persons within their district -- to deliver up all deserters from the regular service -- to sign a declaration of allegiance to the United States, and to South Carolina in particular, and to abjure the British crown, and to surrender all British property. Compliance with these conditions, was to ensure them full pardon for their treasons to the State, and the enjoyment of their property as citizens within it; while individuals not choosing to comply, were to be permitted, with their wives and children, a safe progress to the British lines. From the benefits of this treaty, some few atrocious offenders were excepted. Major Gainey removed with those who preferred to adhere to the fortunes of the British. He did not side with their determination, but he deemed it a duty to see that those who had followed his arms, should be put in safety beyond the reach of their enemies: an honorable resolve certainly. Before his departure he waited upon Marion and said: "Honor, sir, requires that I should yield my commission to Col. Balfour, from whom I received it; but this done, I shall immediately return to the country and seek your protection." This was frankly promised him, and with every confidence in the assurance of Marion, as soon as he had concluded his affairs in Charleston, he promptly returned and enrolled himself in the American ranks. One of the loyalists, specially exempted from the privileges of the treaty with Gainey, was a notorious marauder by the name of Fanning. He was a sanguinary ruffian, with considerable talents, but brutal, reckless, and most inveterate in his hostility to the American cause. Shortly after the treaty with Gainey, this person appeared in the truce ground at the head of a small party. It was feared that he would stir up the revolt anew. He came for that purpose. Marion was at once upon the alert. His force, divided into three bodies, occupied various parts of the lately disaffected districts, and overawed the spirit of revolt, if it yet existed. Finding the cause hopeless in that quarter, Fanning sent a flag to Marion with a request that he would grant a safe-conduct to his wife, and some property, to the British garrison in Charleston. Against any such concession the officers of Marion expostulated. They were unwilling that so cruel a ruffian should receive any indulgence. But Marion looked more deeply into the matter, and yielded a prompt compliance with the request. "Let but his wife and property reach the British lines, and Fanning will follow. Force them to remain, and we only keep a serpent in our bosom." Such was his reasoning, and the truth of it was very soon apparent. Finding the hope of insurrection fruitless, Fanning fled the country, and was as soon in Charleston as his wife.
The disaffected district was now covered by his troops, busied in securing all persons who, declining to retire to the British, still withheld their submission from the American authorities. In the execution of this duty, some licentiousness followed -- such irregularities as are apt to occur where soldiers traverse a subdued territory. Intimations of these irregularities reached the ears of the partisan. No individual was charged with offence, and no particulars were given; but Marion took occasion to declare his indignation in the presence of officers and men. "I have heard insinuations," said he, "which, if true, would disgrace my command; no accusation has been made; but I wish you clearly to know that let officer or soldier be proved guilty of crime, and he shall hang on the next tree." His firmness and sincerity were known; and he heard of no more license. While engaged in the irksome duty of arresting the recusant, he was equally busy in granting written protections to those who subscribed frankly to the conditions of the treaty. The judicious disposition and immediate presence of his force -- the terror inspired by his successes -- the knowledge which they had of his mercy, and their evident abandonment by the British -- had the effect of bringing crowds to his camp, trebling the number of his own troops, seeking the proffered securities. Such was the consumption of paper on this occasion, or rather such the poverty at headquarters, that old letters were torn up, the backs of which were put in requisition for this object. While at Birch's mills, on the Pedee, among others who sought the protection of Marion was one Capt. Butler, who had made himself particularly odious by his crimes and ferocity. He had been conspicuous as the oppressor of the Whig inhabitants of the Pedee. He was not ignorant of the detestation in which he was held, and it was with some misgivings that he sought the required protection. His appearance in the American camp was the signal for a commotion. There were among the men of Marion some who were connected with persons who had suffered by the atrocities of Butler. They determined to avenge their friends. They resolved that no protection should save him, and an intemperate message to that effect was sent to Marion. Marion instantly took Butler to his own tent, and firmly answered those by whom the message was brought: "Relying on the pardon offered, the man whom you would destroy has submitted. Both law and honor sanction my resolution to protect him with my life." A still more intemperate message reached him, declaring that "Butler should be dragged to death from his tent -- that to defend such a wretch was an insult to humanity." To this Marion made no reply, but calling around him the members of his family, and some of his most trusty followers, he gave them to understand that he should expect their cooperation at all hazards in protecting the culprit from violence. "Prepare to give me your assistance, for though I consider the villainy of Butler unparalleled, yet, acting under orders as I am, I am bound to defend him. I will do so or perish." The mutiny threatened to be formidable, and that night, Marion succeeded with a strong guard in conveying the prisoner to a place of safety. The treaty with Gainey put an end to the domestic feuds upon the Pedee, and anxious to regain the local confidence which they had forfeited, numbers of the loyalists of this quarter, following the example of their leader, entered the ranks of the Americans, and though too late to be of effectual service in the war, yet furnished sufficient proofs of their fidelity.
No farther necessity appearing for the longer stay of Marion on the Pedee, he prepared to return to his former range along the rivers Cooper and Santee. His absence from this region afforded an opportunity for the enemy to renew their depredations from Charleston. Marion had left Colonel Ashby in command of his infantry, when, at the head of Mayham's horse, he hurried to encounter Gainey, and quell his insurrection. Ashby, pressed by a superior British force, had been compelled to yield before it, and this intelligence left our partisan no moment of respite after quelling the commotions on the Pedee, before he was required to return and cover the country which had so long been indebted to his vigilance for protection. In leaving the Pedee, with still some doubts of the newly converted loyalists of that quarter, he left Col. Baxter with one hundred and fifty trusty men, to maintain the ascendency which he had just acquired. This object was of the last importance, not only with reference to the doubtful `personnel' of the country, but the valuable `materiel', cattle and provisions, which might have been carried off to the enemy. Suspicious of the fidelity of the loyalists, there was every reason to fear that it might be too strongly tested. The British were known to be preparing a fleet of small vessels for some enterprises directed northwardly, and no object of importance seemed more obvious than that of renewing the disturbances on the Pedee and possessing themselves of the immense plunder which that region of country might still afford.
All precautions taken, our partisan hurried his return. But had he not been joined by a newly raised corps under Major Conyers, he must have marched alone. So rapid had been his movements, so unremitting his duties, that the cavalry of Mayham which he led, were completely broken down. He was compelled to leave them behind him to recruit. At Murray's Ferry, on the Santee, he halted to collect his militia, and await the arrival of Mayham's corps. Here he consolidated the commands of Mayham and Conyers into one regiment; and about the middle of July was enabled once more to cross the Santee with a force of three hundred dismounted infantry, and a respectable body of horse. With these he took post on the Wassamasaw, in a position which, while it was secure, enabled him to cooperate with the detachments of the main army in covering the country. Here his vigilance was again conspicuous. His parties were constantly busy. His own movements to and fro, wherever an enemy could approach, or was suspected, were continual, from the Cooper to the Santee. His objects were threefold -- to check the irruptions of the enemy, to cut off their supplies, and to provide for his own people. His scouting parties penetrated in every hostile direction -- sometimes as low as Daniel's Island and Clement's Ferry -- points almost within the ken of the British garrison. But the enemy was no longer enterprising. They were not often met. Their cavalry was few and inferior, and their exigencies may be inferred from their uniforming and converting some of their captured negroes into troopers. One corps of these black dragoons, consisting of twenty-six men, was cut to pieces by one of Marion's scouting parties of twelve, commanded by Capt. Capers.
The British, tired of the war, were preparing to evacuate the country. Preparatory to this, it was necessary that they should lay in sufficient store of provisions. General Leslie had been preparing for this necessity and, late in July, a numerous fleet of small vessels, conveying eight hundred men, and convoyed by galleys and armed brigs, left Charleston to proceed, as it was conjectured, against Georgetown. This compelled Marion to hasten in that direction. Here he made every arrangement for moving the public stores to a place of safety. Black Mingo was preferred as the depot, for the honorable reason, as given in Marion's own words, that it was "a settlement of good citizens and of my earliest and most faithful followers." But the enterprise of the enemy was less hazardous. The collection of rice was their object. This was to be found in the greatest quantity on the Santee, from the banks of which river they carried off about six hundred barrels. Marion's force was thrown over the Sampit so as to intercept their march to Georgetown, but he could not impede their progress up the South Santee, protected as they were under the guns of their galleys.
With the departure of the enemy from the river, the completion of his arrangements for the removal of the stores at Georgetown, and the defence of that place, Marion again recrossed the Santee and hurried to Watboo, on the Cooper. This river, leading to Charleston, to which the fleet of the enemy had returned, was naturally thought to be the next which they would attempt to penetrate. He had left a small body of infantry at this place, but this was deemed inadequate to the required duties. But they were sufficient at least to attract the attention of the British. Ignorant of Marion's return, believing him to be still at Georgetown, whither, it was known, he had taken all his cavalry, -- a detachment of dragoons, more than one hundred strong, was sent from Charleston, under Major Frasier, against the post at Watboo. The rapidity of Marion's movements brought him back in season for its safety. It happened unfortunately, that, when he heard of the approach of this detachment, his cavalry were absent, patrolling down the river, maintaining their watch for the British fleet, which was the chief subject of apprehension. This fleet, meanwhile, had gone southwardly, pursuing the object of its former quest up the waters of the Combahee. With the approach of Frasier, Marion dispatched his messengers in search of his cavalry, and to call in his pickets. Some of the latter had joined him before the enemy appeared. Frasier exhibited considerable conduct in making his approaches. He had taken an unfrequented route, and had succeeded in capturing some of the out-sentinels of our partisan. He advanced upon him in the fullest confidence of effecting a surprise -- not of Marion, but of the smaller force under Col. Ashby, which he still believed to be the only force opposed to him. He was soon undeceived and found his enemy rather stronger than he expected, and drawn up in readiness for his reception. It was about the 25th of August. Marion lay at the plantation of Sir John Colleton, on the south side of Watboo Creek, and a little above the bridge. The situation pleased him, and it was one of his frequent places of encampment when he happened to be operating in the vicinity. The owner was a loyalist and had left the country. The mansion and his extensive range of negro houses afforded ample shelter for such a force as that which Marion commanded. With the gradual advance of Frasier, Marion seems to have been acquainted, but in the absence of his cavalry his only mode of obtaining intelligence was through his officers. These alone, of all the party in camp, were provided with horses. Of these, he ordered out a party under Capt. Gavin Witherspoon to reconnoitre. While they were absent, Marion put his infantry in order of battle. The main body occupied an avenue of venerable cedars, which, neglected during the war, in their untrimmed state, stood overgrown with branches, their long boughs trailing almost to the ground. His left, by which the enemy was compelled to advance, were placed under cover of some of the out-buildings. Thus prepared, he waited the approach of the British, though not without sundry misgivings. It must be confessed that, at this juncture, he had not the most perfect confidence in the force under his command. They consisted, in great proportion, of those who, in that day, were known as new-made Whigs -- men who had deserted the enemy and been cleansed of their previous treasons by the proclamation of Governor Rutledge, which, not long before, had promised immunity to all who came in promptly with their adhesion and joined the American ranks. There were also present some of those who, under Gainey, had recently received the protection of Marion, on the truce ground of Pedee. Major Gainey himself was among them, and with forty of his people, was placed conspicuously in the column in preparation for the British approach. Well might Marion feel some uneasiness at his situation, particularly in the absence of the cavalry on which he could rely. But our partisan had the art of securing the fidelity of those around him, in quite as great a degree as he possessed that other great military art, of extracting good service out of the most doubtful materials. He concealed his apprehensions, while he endeavored to dissipate those of his men.
Meanwhile, Witherspoon, with the reconnoitring party, advanced but a little distance in the woods, when they were met by the enemy's cavalry and instantly charged. A long chase followed, which soon brought the pursuers into view of the partisan. His men were half concealed behind the thick boughs of the cedars beneath which they were drawn up. The interest of the chase, as they drew more near, was increased by a little incident which was greatly calculated to encourage the militia. When in full view, the horse of Witherspoon failed him, or his rider purposely fell behind to bring up the rear of his little escort. At this sight a British dragoon darted forward to cut him down. Witherspoon coolly suffered him to advance until he was almost within striking distance. With sword uplifted, the assailant had already risen in his stirrups to smite, when, quick as lightning, Witherspoon, who had watched him narrowly, poured the contents of his carbine into his breast. This was followed by a shout from the Americans, and, with furious yells, the British dashed forward upon Marion's left. The reconnoitring party melted before them, and the infantry delivered their fire with fatal effect. A dozen saddles were instantly emptied, Capt. Gillies of the British, who led the charge, being one of the first victims. The enemy soon rallied, and attempted first his right and then his left flank; but the evolutions of Marion were quite as ready, and, by changing his front promptly, and availing himself of the cover afforded by the houses and the fences, he showed the hazard of attempting a second charge to be too great for such a force as that of Frasier. For an hour after, the British manoeuvred around them, but without discovering any opportunity of retrieving or revenging their disaster. A single fire terminated this affair, and seldom has a single fire, where so small a front has been engaged, done such considerable execution. One officer and eight men were instantly killed; three officers and eight men wounded; five horses fell dead upon the field, a few were taken and many wounded. The discharge took place at thirty paces, and Marion's men usually fired with heavy buck-shot. His new-made Whigs stood the test bravely, showing a steadiness and courage, whilst opposed to their old allies, which soon set the heart of our partisan at ease. They had very good reasons for steadiness and valor. They fought with halters about their necks. Not a man of them, if taken, would have escaped the cord and tree. Marion did not lose a man, but he suffered a very serious loss of another sort. In the midst of the confusion of the fight, the driver of his ammunition wagon took fright, and made off with his charge in a direction which betrayed its flight to the enemy, who immediately sent a small detachment, by which it was taken. Marion had no cavalry to recover it; but five of his men, armed with the broad-swords of the British whom they had just slain, and mounted on their captured horses, volunteered to recover it. They actually succeeded in rescuing it from the detachment by which it was taken, but could retain it only till the fugitives could reach their main body and return with a force to which our volunteers could oppose no resistance. They were compelled to abandon the prize, which, had fortune seconded their endeavors, was certainly due to their merits. This little affair is a sample of that generous service which it was the happy faculty of our partisan to extract from his followers. It is to tradition that we owe the vague memory of numerous like advantages, of which history preserves no records. Under his guidance, his men seldom suffered panic. They fancied themselves invincible when he led. In the present instance he declared that not a man faltered - that he even had to restrain their eagerness, and prevent them rushing out into the open field, to meet the charge of the cavalry. His own coolness never deserted him. He never lost sight of the whole field, in the vehement action of a part. His keenness of vision, his vigilance of watch, his promptness in opposing his best resources to the press of danger, of covering his weak points, and converting into means and modes of defence and extrication, all that was available in his situation -- were remarkable endowments, which soon fixed the regards of his followers, and upon which they unhesitatingly relied. In the absence of his cavalry, a defeat would have been a rout; his infantry would have been cut to pieces, and his cavalry subsequently exposed to similar disaster. Had the latter been present, the safety of the British must have depended solely on the fleetness of their steeds. With this affair ended the actual conflicts of our partisan. His men were not yet disbanded. He himself did not yet retire from the field which he had so often traversed in triumph. But the occasion for bloodshed was over. The great struggle for ascendancy between the British crown and her colonies was understood to be at an end. She was prepared to acknowledge the independence for which they had fought, when she discovered that it was no longer in her power to deprive them of it. She will not require any eulogium of her magnanimity for her reluctant concession.
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