After Eutaw Springs

Part Two
Click here for Part One.

Fig 37

Daughter’s of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) Monument, Eutaw Springs Battlefield (author collection)

In many ways, the battle of Eutaw Springs was a disappointment for both commanders.  Greene’s troops at one point broke through the British lines, but they recovered, and the Americans failed to drive them off the field.  Stewart, in a letter to Cornwallis, wrote that there were two things he would regret the rest of his life: the loss of an early morning supply gathering party and his lack of cavalry.  Having them, he felt, would have enabled him to decisively defeat Greene.  Probably both commanders, and many of their officers, reflected upon these events and second guessed themselves for the rest of their days.  Although both armies fought well at Eutaw Springs, a clear cut victory eluded both of them.

Greene’s army had already seen a great deal of action that year.  At Guilford Courthouse in March they had fought a tough defensive battle against a smaller but determined enemy.  The defeated Americans had to endure the loss of their artillery and retreat from the battlefield, where they had been camped.

Next was Hobkirk’s Hill, an extremely disappointing affair.  Caught off guard by the boldness of Lord Francis Rawdon’s attack, the Americans did not have time to properly form and fight as they were capable of doing.  Greene’s army was preparing to attack the British when the enemy struck first.

A few months later at Ninety Six victory again eluded them.  In a grueling month-long siege, the longest of the war, the Americans came close to subduing the strong British fort, but came up short.  Weeks of digging and fighting had been in vain.

In only one of these battles did Greene have the luxury of fighting on ground of his own choosing (Guilford Courthouse).  In only one of these engagements did his forces attack, or control the initiative (Ninety Six).  Thus the movement of his reformed and reinvigorated army on Eutaw Springs presented the general with a unique opportunity: attack an enemy, control the battle himself, and fight where and when he chose.

That the battle ended in a draw was a disappointment for both Greene and Stewart.  As the war wound down and no more large engagements followed, both likely looked back at Eutaw Springs wondering what might have been.

Eutaw Springs was the one engagement of the Southern Campaign without a recent and detailed study.  Recognizing this need, I turned my attention to the battle and began compiling sources.   In doing research on the battle, I met Charles (who went by Al) and Irene Boland, who had already published a paper on the battle.  We agreed to work together to produce a modern, detailed study of the battle.

Al had a strong interest in history, and had a passion for investigating.  He also brought a veteran’s perspective to the project.  Irene, a geology professor at Winthrop University, brought into focus the importance of terrain on pre battle maneuvers.  Irene also focused attention and analysis on the springs themselves, which I could not provide.  With Irene and Al providing analysis of the landscape and geology, I focused on primary sources.

One of the best sources I came across were the Federal Pensions, many filed by veterans in the 1830s or even later.  Accounts revealed that the fighting was brutal- there were mentions of dozens of stab wounds from bayonets, sword cuts, and hand to hand fighting.  The armies fought with an intensity that seemed out of proportion to the small size of the battle.  It was a story we had to tell.

An important misconception that we hope to address in this work concerns the battlefield itself.  Ever since the flooding of the Santee River in 1940, most writers have assumed that the waters of Lake Marion covered the battlefield.  Our research, and the recent work by others, show that this is not so.

1unnamed

Map of Battle of Eutaw Springs based on authors’ research

Comparing a pre-flood topographical map with a modern map reveals that the county boundary between Orangeburg and Clarendon did not change with the flooding.  Comparing the two maps reveals that the lake waters filled the stream-bed of Eutaw Creek, but did not overflow onto the higher ground above, where the battle took place.  The fringe, along the creek, and the springs themselves, were inundated.  Most of the battlefield- 95 %- remains.  Unfortunately, while the waters of Lake Marion did not destroy the battle site, development has.  The majority of the battlefield is covered by a modern neighborhood largely built in the 1960s.

Recent archaeology, and information from relic hunters, has located the Brick house foundations, and identified the location of battle actions from artifacts.  That data is included in the book.

Al’s health failed and he passed away in January, 2009.  Irene and I remained determined to see the project through.  By 2009 I was living in Virginia and corresponded with Irene via email.  We met a few times when face to face conversations were needed.

The manuscript we produced was accepted by the University of South Carolina Press in 2014.  Irene’s health, however began to decline, and she passed away in 2016.  Thankfully, she knew the book was complete and that it would be forthcoming.

The work we produced is satisfying in many respects: it addresses misconceptions and myths, it is the first detailed study of this engagement, and lastly, it is a tribute to two friends who shared my passion for the subject.  I will cherish the memories of our explorations at Eutaw Springs.

*For more information on the book, click here for link to University of South Carolina Press information sheet. 

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