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Hah! So you thought -

My fall was here,

My hour has come! (Haiku)

Campaigns in the Carolinas, 1780-1781.  After their easy victory at Camden, the British believed that they could readily subjugate the whole of the South. Consequently, Major Ferguson was sent to the western part of South Carolina to arouse the Tories and inflict a blow upon the frontiersmen who lived on the other side of the mountains (oft referred to in the southern histories as the "overmountain men"). These men from across the mountains were beginning to take a more active part in the Patriot cause.  Ferguson received orders to intimidate the people, if necessary, by laying waste the country and hanging the "rebel" leaders, but orders such as these served further to arouse the fighting spirit of the riflemen of the western frontier.

Musgrove's Mill. August 1780, shortly after Camden, prelude to change.

King's Mountain, 7 Oct. 1780, a turning point at last!   In 1780, Col. Elijah Clarke of Georgia was forced to withdraw from an attack on Augusta, and retreated into South Carolina, but was pursued by the British.  Col. Clarke was forced to evacuate even the families of his patriots, and began a march towards North Carolina. Lt. Col. Kruger, who from 96 had led the British counter attack at Augusta that forced the withdrawal of Clarke, finally abandoned pursuit of his quarry, but Major Patrick Ferguson, a Scot, but wearing the red coat of the British (more is the shame!), continued the effort to destroy Clarke's force.  Ferguson released a prisoner with the message to lay down their arms or he would come after them, hang the officers, and burn their houses.  Ferguson's threat, rather than inspire fear, angered the patriots in the surrounding area, and instead they rallied to the cause.  From every quarter they gathered together at the call of their leaders, Campbell, Sevier, Shelby, McDowell, Williams and Cleveland.  These were men from Tennessee, North Carolina, and even a few from western Virginia.  Ferguson had furloughed many of his men, and had about 1100 remaining at the time.  The patriots swelled to nearly 3,000 men, who although with minimal training were not a real "army," were very determined to put an end to this troup.  Ferguson at first did not appreciate the number arrayed against him, assumed his furloughed men would promptly return, and that he would have reinforcements from Crager and Cornwallis.  None of this came to pass.  At first the patriot force could not locate Ferguson, so they sent a smaller mounted force of 900-1600 (sources differ) in pursuit with the rest to follow.  This small mounted force captured a British messenger, and on 7 October 1780, found Ferguson, who had heard of their coming and had fortified himself on a spur of a rocky ridge called King's Mountain (illustration linked at the section beginning, easy to see from I-85 today).  Here the American volunteers attacked him fiercely, and although repeatedly repulsed by bayonet charges (The patriots had hunting rifles with no bayonets.), they retreated down the hill only to return to the assault as often as they were driven back. They fired their hunting rifles with devastating effect as the Tories retreated from each bayonet charge. Their determination was deadly and resistless, and Ferguson's force of 1100 men was wiped out or captured to the last man by this "rabble" of frontiersmen and farmers!   Although some of the Tories tried to raise white flags, Ferguson and his officers repeatedly cut the flags down.  Late in the battle, after Ferguson was killed, Ferguson's second in command formally surrendered, and the patriot officers put a stop to the slaughter.  A Tory foraging party returned after the surrender and began firing on the patriots.  A patriot commander, seeing the prisoners near the guns and believing they had violated the surrender, ordered his men to fire, and many of the enemy were cut down before the order could be countermanded.  This is the origin of the statements in some history books that Patriots murdered Tories after they had surrendered and laid down their arms.  The Battle of King's Mountain was one of the most brilliant successes of the Revolution. The British and Tories probably slightly outnumbered the Americans, the latter losing but 30 men, including Colonel Williams, and 28 wounded.  Ferguson and some 252 of the enemy were killed or wounded, 763 captured.  Not a man escaped.  It was a stunning, total, and very badly needed, Patriot success.  At long last we won one, and we won big!

Money, Plain and Simple.  King's Mountain marked the beginning of the end of the revolutionary conflict for two reasons.

 First, it was the first really major victory of the Patriots after a long string of discouraging failures.  Second, the Continental Congress was completely bereft of funds, and John Laurens (born in Charleston!, shown on the right, taken from Andrews, 1914, p138), sent as a special commissioner to France, succeeded in obtaining another loan from the French king.   This timely aid permitted the Continentals to bring the war to an end. General Washington wrote to Laurens after his departure for France and prior to the battle of King's Mountain: "I give it decisively as my opinion that without a foreign loan our present force cannot be kept together: ... we are at the end of our tether, and that now or never our deliverance must come."  Laurens, a personal friend of George Washington, was but 28 years old when sent on this important diplomatic service to France, and secured additional French aid when all other American commissioners had failed, truly a remarkable achievement for this South Carolinian!  On his return to America he was seized with a fever, and rose from his sick bed to repel a British attack near his home in South Carolina.  He received a mortal wound in this battle and died 27 August 1782.

Lord Cornwallis was "Lord" no more.  Ferguson was dead and his entire force killed or captured!  Instead of Gates, Cornwallis now was opposed by able commanders: Nathaniel Greene, Daniel Morgan, Colonel William Washington, "Light Horse Harry" Lee, and the partisan leaders could now unite their forces against the British with devastating impact.

The Battle of Hannah's Cowpens (Cowpens), 17 January 1781. General Daniel Morgan (born 1736 NJ, we will forgive him the NJ part!, but he had removed to Winchester, VA as a youth and had his home there.) had been sent by Gen. Nathaniel Greene to try to recover some of the South after the disastrous defeat at Camden. Morgan was a master tactician and motivator. A lesser commander would not have succeeded against Tarleton at Cowpens1.  Earl Charles Cornwallis was anxious to remove Morgan so that he could safely operate in North Carolina. Cornwallis sent his dashing young cavalry leader Lt. Col. Banistre Tarleton towards Ninety Six with orders to chase Morgan north. Cornwallis meanwhile slowly moved towards Morgan's rear, intending to catch him on two sides at once. Tarleton moved quickly, if Cornwallis dawdled, and closed quickly with Morgan, keeping him on the run until 16 January 1781, when Morgan chose his ground at "Hanna's Cowpens," on a gentle rise, some 5 miles from the Broad River with no place to retreat. Morgan wanted a fight, and he wanted Tarleton to charge, and he chose his ground to encourage those ends. Morgan also knew that if he allowed his militia a way out (a way to retreat) they probably would take it. His men got a good night's rest at this location. Meanwhile, Tarleton spent the night driving his cavalry through the dark, exhausting them crossing streams in winter weather. Early the next morning (17th) Morgan's scouts reported the approach of Tarleton.

General Morgan used strategy to devastating effect. Prior to engagement, Morgan positioned his men three lines deep, and pointed out to them, that retreat was impossible, and with no line of retreat and he expected them to fight, and fight dearly!  He then instructed them that the first line was going to fire a massive volley, and that they were then ordered to run like hell, as if panicked, to the rear and to reform there.  He also instructed them especially to pick out the Redcoats with epaulettes and crossbelts (officers).  His second line was to then fire another massive volley into the by-then-charging Redcoats, whom he expected to charge the apparently panicked Patriots.  Morgan then lined his troops up three lines deep, the first at the bottom of the slope, with 125 cavalrymen concealed. The first line of skirmishers fired a volley at close range to devastating effect, emptying 15 of the 50 cavalry horses of their riders, and fled as if panicked, right on cue. Tarleton missed the cue that he was here dealing with a professional, and ordered his main line forward with bayonets ready. The second Patriot line, consisting of Pickens South Carolina militia plus the first line of skirmishers, calmly waited and wiped out almost the entire British command structure! This line then began an orderly withdrawal. The leaderless British attack now surged forward with a shout after the retreating patriots. The militia angled to the side, leaving a clear field of fire, and the next line of Continentals and Virginia militia opened fire, and the battle ensued. Tarleton tried to break the stalemate by ordering 50 dragoons to charge the American left, where they were thrown back by the concealed cavalry under Washington. Tarleton now committed his reserve, a battalion of Highlanders and 200 dragoons. Confusion ensued, and the patriots were in some disarray, with the result at the redcoats charged again, thinking they now had the battle. However, (Patriot) Howard reformed his men at the very top of the hill and ordered them to halt, about face, and fire -at point blank range. Howard then immediately ordered a bayonet charge directly into the milling mass of confused leaderless redcoats, and most of the British recruits threw down their weapons and begged for quarter!  The Highlanders continued to fight until Picken's men focused their attention on them, at which point they knew the battle was lost and surrendered. Tarleton tried to lead about 200 of his Legion in a last cavalry charge, but they refused him. This man was no coward. He did manage to get 40 dragoons to follow him and charged Washington's cavalry without effect and was forced to flee. Most of the British captured and killed were regulars from England itself, and their loss was very costly to the British army. The battle lasted but 50 minutes! Morgan used tactics, and it was about time. He also ensured that before the battle every man knew exactly what he was to do and what was going to happen, and no one was asked to do anything not within his capabilities. Undoubtedly, this was why Howard was able to reform in the midst of vast confusion and take the day!  The Americans fought well (that often follows with good leaders!), and this total and massive victory on the heels of that at Kings Mountain, must have had a telling effect on morale.  The British loss at Cowpens was 270 killed and wounded and 600 prisoners out of a total force of 1150 men.  Morgan's men took a heavy toll on Redcoat officers, reinforcing panic in the Redcoats when they realized the Patriots were not running!  The Americans lost but 20 of 940.  Morgan chased Tarleton and the remainder of his force for miles, successfully evaded Cornwallis, united his forces with those of General Greene, and retired into Virginia.  This was the only battle in which the remarkable Morgan was in sole command, illness causing him to retire thereafter.  Supposedly, after this battle, Tarleton taunted some North Carolina women about Colonel William A. Washington: "I should like to see this Colonel Washington."  To this they supposedly replied: "if you had looked behind you at Cowpens, you would have had the pleasure!"  A cowpen at this time was an enclosed field for cows, what we would in my generation call a pasture.  The next generation will not even know what a cow is!

U.S. National Park Service Brochure on Cowpens

Guilford Court House, 15 March 1781.  On March 15, 1781, General Green returned to North Carolina and gave battle to Cornwallis at Guilford Court House. The Patriot line was well entrenched and fired with good effect, taking a terrible toll on "Lord" Cornwallis' troops.  Greene could have used Morgan at Guilford Court House, but Morgan's physical problems forced him to leave shortly after Cowpens.  He was unable to even sit upon a horse.  Most believe a more aggressive fight could have been waged with Morgan present and that the "draw" that resulted might have been a clear-cut victory for Greene, but that he was by nature, cautious. Morgan might have provided that aggressiveness. The British could claim victory because the rules of the day dictated that he who held the field was the winner, no matter what the casualty ratio. Clearly, the British were the losers in the long run as a result of their costly "victory" at Guilford Courthouse. So Greene's cautiousness probably was not a bad course of action given the results1.  

Text of National Park Service Brochure on Guilford Court House.

The result was technically a victory for the British, as Greene ordered a retreat, but  "Lord" Cornwallis suffered a pyrrhic "victory," and Cornwallis' army was so badly mauled in their "victory" that he was forced withdraw to Wilmington on the coast where he could get supplies, and he hoped, to no avail, reinforcements from the British fleet.  Francis Marion certainly would not let him get supplies from Charleston!  In desperation Cornwallis "advanced" northward into Virginia.  In the meantime, partisan bands waged constant warfare and captured or drove in the outlying British garrisons on all fronts.  Greene permitted Cornwallis to advance into Virginia without opposition, and led his own army to the relief of the Carolinas. At Hobkirk's Hill, he attacked a large force of the enemy under Colonel Rawdon, but was defeated.  Rawdon, however, could no longer hold his headquarters at Camden, for "Light Horse Harry" Lee, by capturing a fort on the road to Charleston, had cut off his supplies as well.  The Patriots basically cut all the Redcoat supply lines, ensured the countryside was hostile, and eventually forced the Redcoats to retreat to Charleston and Savannah, and abandon the interior of both states.  This removed the Redcoats, but not the Tory bands. It is at this point that we begin to find records of Loyalists appearing in Charleston and Savannah as "refugees."  See the section on Loyalists on the main page for discussions.

NC Page on Battle of Guilford Court House (off site, use your back arrow to return)

22 May 1781 Patriot Seige of 96  (off site)

Emily Geiger, heroine of the revolution in SC.  Although we have not had very many female commanders since the time of Boadicea (we are correcting that now!), more's the loss, women fought in the revolution, even if they had to disguise themselves as men, and played other significant roles.  "In the summer of 1781 General Nathanael Greene, commander of the American Continental Army in the South, needed to get a message to General Thomas Sumter. Unfortunately, British Lord Francis Rawdon and his large army lay between Greene's and Sumter's camps." Legend has it that no man would take the message, because Tories so infested the route that it was certain death. "Emily Geiger," who was a patriotic farmer's daughter, "volunteered to deliver the message. She rode her horse, pretending to be on the way to her Uncle Jacob's home, many miles. She was captured near the Congaree River by 3 Tory soldiers. While they went to find a "matron" to search her, Emily read the message then tore it into little pieces and ate it. Finding no message, the soldiers apologized and sent her on to her uncle's home with an escort. The following morning, Emily set out for General Sumter's camp, where she delivered the message. And saved the day..." (The Secret Message by Idella Bodie, Published by Sandlapper Publishing Co., Inc., Orangeburg, SC 29115, Copyright 1998, supplied by, and thanks to, C. Ward,) (material outside of "" added by ye webmeister) Extensive material on Emily Geiger.

General Francis Marion, nicknamed the "Swamp Fox" by the British.  Perhaps the grandest of South Carolina's partisans, launched incessant surprise hit-and run raids against the British supply lines to the interior forts, then disappeared back into the low country swamps.  General Marion defined modern day guerilla warfare.

The Tide has Turned, Augusta 5 June 1781.  By the spring of 1781 the American cause was definitely on the upswing.  Very significant battles had been won in North and South Carolina, notably Kings Mountain and Cowpens.   Even the English Parliament recognized that Lord Cornwallis' victories were stuff and nonsense, that his army was being decimated at each "victory."  The very able General Nathanael Greene had succeeded General Lincoln as commander of the Southern Department.  In April he ordered General Pickens and Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, known as Light Horse Harry Lee, to march on Augusta, already surrounded by Patriot forces.  Augusta surrendered on 5 June 1781.  The capture of Augusta placed the northern counties of Georgia in the hands of the Americans. The following January, General Anthony Wayne came to Georgia to take command. The British were gradually forced southward, fort after fort was taken, the enemy was finally shut up in Savannah, and the town surrounded.  Supplies were cut off, and a regular siege was begun.

Eutaw Springs, 8 September 1781.  During the summer, General Francis Marion, the much beloved "Swamp Fox," and Sumter, had compelled the British to abandon the entire uplands of the whole of South Carolina and Georgia.  The British simply could not get supplies through to their forts!  Marion and his men ate well in the swamps!  On 8 September 1781 Greene encountered the British under Colonel Stuart at Eutaw Springs, South Carolina. At first the Americans were successful and drove the British from the field, but the near starving Patriots broke discipline against the entreaties of their commander and plundered the sumptuous camp of the enemy, the British mounted a surprise attack, and the Patriots were forced to retreat.

Summary.  The principal military events of the Revolution in our area were the fall of Savannah in 1778 and Charleston in 1780.  In the upcountry, the war was brutally fought not so much by armies, but principally by small bands of Patriots against similar bands of British and Tories. The British finally conquered all of Georgia and South Carolina, and things looked grim indeed.  It was not until 1781 that the cause of the Patriots began to improve. Augusta was retaken, Ferguson was killed and his entire force killed or captured at Kings Mountain, General Morgan devastated Tarleton at Hannah's Cowpens, effectively removing Cornwallis' Cavalry, and "Lord" Cornwallis won such a "victory" at Guilford Court House that he was forced to retire from the region!  Savannah was under a state of siege when the news came of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, Virginia in 1782.  Governor Wright notified General Wayne that peace had been made; terms of surrender were agreed upon, and Savannah was evacuated on 11 July 1782, the keys of the city being delivered to James Jackson.  Charleston was not evacuated until 13 Dec. 1782!  Altercations between Loyalists and Patriots continued for some time (see section on Loyalists), and hard feelings continued for lifetimes, echoed down to today.

Final Withdrawal of British Troops, 25 November 1783.   During negotiations, both British and American forces were kept under arms, although open fighting stopped.  Note that depredations between Loyalists and Patriot bands did not cease for years after.  On 19 April 1783, eight years after Lexington and Concord, General Washington communicated to the army the proclamation of Congress that peace had been declared, and most of the soldiers returned to their homes.  New York was finally given up by the British on the 25th of November 1783, and on the December 4th, Washington went home to Mount Vernon, Virginia. On the 23d he resigned his commission at Annapolis, where Congress was then in session, and returned to private life.  Congress lacked the legal authority to compel the States to pay British creditor's debts contracted prior to the beginning of the war.  The British kept possession of some of the forts in the northwest for several years following the negotiation of peace.

Treatment of Tories After the War

Treatment of the Tories.  Some terms of disengagement were not carried out swiftly, if at all.  Loyalists were often not protected, nor their property restored. By this time, the hatred for the loyalists was intense, very especially so in South Carolina where local depredations were dreadful, and the malicious and even barbarous activities of some loyalists during the war even extended to any who had not actively supported the loyalist cause.  This explains why Levi Youmans was unable to remain in SC after the war!  Thousands of loyalists were driven into exile and their property confiscated, sometimes under very harsh circumstances.  Many of these people probably would have accepted the outcome of the struggle and made good citizens, but the feeling against them was intense.  The American Congress promised to recommend to the States that loyalists be protected and their property restored, but Congress could only recommend, it could not make the States obey.  It has been estimated that the States lost 100,000 loyalists by exile during or after the war. Most of them went to Canada or to the Bahamas.

Indeed, Colin Nickerson of the Boston Globe (Boston Massachusetts), in his excellent article of 19 April 1999 on Loyalists who fled to Canada, quotes Finn Bower, of the Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Museum in stating that "Our settlers (former Loyalists) came fleeing for their lives from up and down the 13 former colonies, from the Carolinas to Boston."  "They were escaping mob terror."  (Nickerson continued, quoting Christopher Moore of Toronto, author of "The Loyalists," a historical account): "These exiles had been threatened by mobs, seen their lands and possessions stolen in the name of 'liberty,' and given the option of renouncing their principles or fleeing their homes."

Sad the tale.
Winter discontent.  
Banished be. (Haiku)
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1Jud Hair, who describes himself as "an amateur enthusiast with a great deal of background through reading and multiple visits to most of the important sites in SC and NC."  Thanks to Jud for useful commentary and pointing out a factual inaccuracy.

Copyright ©1999, Dr. Frank Oliver Clark. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy.  However, this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same. Please send any errors, corrections, conjectures, updates, etc. to Dr. Frank O. Clark.

Please inform me of errors and corrections, and parts that may be improved.