The Ring Fight and the Emergence of Andrew Pickens

While the Second Continental Congress met in the early summer of 1776, colonists in the far away backcountry of South Carolina faced a threat from a perennial foe, the Cherokees. While delegates debated a declaration of independence, war parties struck settlements between the Broad and Saluda Rivers in the Ninety Six District. In response to these raids, militia Major Andrew Williamson mustered his Ninety Six regiment. Augmented by militia from the Carolinas and Virginia, he commenced a campaign against the Cherokee villages along the eastern face of the Blue Ridge.

General Andrew Pickens of South Carolina

Williamson struck at Esseneca on August 1. The colonials sustained twenty casualties but forced the warriors to abandon the village. Over the course of the next week, Williamson moved further into enemy territory. Rather than engage his force, the Cherokees retreated before the advance. Williamson burned a number of towns including Oconee, Estatoe and Toxaway.

The regiment reached Tamassee on August 12. Once again, Williamson found the village abandoned. He decided to send out scouting parties to examine the nearby hills. One of the patrols was led by a company commander from the Long Canes region of South Carolina, Captain Andrew Pickens. He took with him about sixty men. To cover more ground, Pickens divided his group and continued on with thirty five militiamen.

“Judiciously Designed and Vigorously Executed”: The March to the Dan River

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Daniel T. Davis. 

Last month, I heard Emerging Revolutionary War co-founder Phill Greenwalt remark “when you think about retreats, victory is a word that doesn’t come to mind.” The period of January 18 to February 14, 1781 is the exception to the rule. During this time frame, the American army under Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene and the British under Charles, Lord Cornwallis, marched across the backcountry of the Carolinas. Known as the “Race to the Dan”, this episode between the engagements at Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse, is a largely forgotten but consequential even in the Southern Campaign of 1781.

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The Dan River (courtesy of Rob Orrison)

Continue reading ““Judiciously Designed and Vigorously Executed”: The March to the Dan River”

“De Kalb has died, as he has lived, the unconquered friend of liberty”

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Johann de Kalb (Charles Willson Peale)

On this date in 1780, Johann von Robias, Baron de Kalb, died of wounds received three days earlier during the Battle of Camden, South Carolina.

de Kalb, born on June 19, 1721 in the Principality of Bayreuth, was in charge of the American right wing during the engagement at Camden, leading the premier units, the Delawareans and Marylanders, of General Horatio Gates’ Southern Army.

When the left and center of the American line disintegrated, de Kalb’s force had to beat a hasty retreat before becoming completely surrounded. During this juncture of the fighting, the Baron’s horse was shot out from under him and the German was thrown to the ground. Before he could gain his feet, he was hit with three musket balls and bayoneted multiple times by approaching British soldiers. The wounds would prove mortal. Continue reading ““De Kalb has died, as he has lived, the unconquered friend of liberty””

Rise and Fight Again for Southern Revolutionary History

From our friends at American Battlefield Trust (ABT). To learn more about the ABT, click here.

ABT

At stake are 31 acres associated with two Southern Campaign Revolutionary War battlefields, Hanging Rock in South Carolina and Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina.

At Hanging Rock, generous battlefield preservationists like you have already secured 141 acres. These 30 acres in the part of the battlefield where the initial Patriot attack began will add significantly to the land we have saved there already.

At Guilford Courthouse, the half-acre tract at stake may be small, but it’s part of a larger strategy to deal with the modern development crowding in on this battlefield from all points of the compass. Our plan is to buy up plots of battlefield land – including small ones and those with non-historic structures on them like this one – remove all non-historic structures and restore the battlefield. The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park has generously agreed to take responsibility for demolishing and removing the house on this plot, a considerable cost that we would typically need to cover. Continue reading “Rise and Fight Again for Southern Revolutionary History”

Announcement: Tours of Camden Battlefield and Hobkirk’s Hill

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From our friends at the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution comes this announcement of a Corps of Discovery tour that will cover the battles mentioned above. Led by historians David P. Reuwer and Charles B. Baxley, this comprehensive tour will be held on May 4, 2019.

Joining Reuwer and Baxley will be Dr. Tray Dunaway who will talk about the restoration forestry that has taken place at Camden Battlefield that has returned the field to the approximate look it did during the battle in August 1780. Also part of the day will be the historians guiding the tour of Hobkirk’s Hill, which includes Bill Denton, Rick Wise, Tom Oblak, and Guy Wallace.

Updates on the Historic Camden Foundation and the Liberty Trail will be part of the day as well which will start at 10:00 a.m. at the Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site and conclude at around 4:00 p.m. after the touring of Hobkirk’s Hill.

The tours are free and more information about the day can be found here.

Hope you can join our friends and fellow historians in South Carolina on May 4th!

 

From the Preservation Front: “Liberty Trailblazers – American Battlefield Trust”

ABTFrom our friends at American Battlefield Trust (ABT) comes the following announcement and call for assistance. 

The first line of the announcement sums up the importance of this new initiative of the American Battlefield Trust:

“They secured our liberty. It’s time for us to honor their legacy.” 

In a collaboration between the ABT, the National Park Service, and the South Carolina Battleground Trust, the joint initiative is to highlight the “tremendous significance of these places to American independence.” Their combined goal is to preserve 2,500 acres of American Revolutionary War battle lands in the Palmetto State.

As of the middle of this month, 308 acres of hallowed ground has been saved. The land protected are part of the battlefields of Camden and Eutaw Springs, which “bookend a period of incredible consequence to the American Revolution.”

This is a great start, but as that means, it is a beginning and the ABT will need all our help to make it happen. This new direction will bring preservation, education, and technology together into one investment and keep the effort going, until this land is saved for the present and future generations.

For those readers of ours that are already members, thank you. For those that are interested in learning  more, click here.

To check out the various sites and history associated with the Liberty Trail, click here.

First Shots

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Lexington Minuteman Statue , facing the route of the British advance (author collection)

We all have bucket list items that we want to check off in our lifetime. Some revolve around traveling, some may revolve around learning a new hobby or skill. We may have different categories of items. The last is true for me.

One of those categories was to see the first shots of the wars of the United States (okay and the French and Indian War, since that started the march toward independence, when looked at through the lens of history and distance). Continue reading “First Shots”

Visiting the Scene of Action: Battle of Camden

A reflection on the previous month’s exploration in South Carolina.

IMG_1905 (1)August 16, 1780 would prove to be a devastating day for the American Army in the south, known as the “Grand Army” by its commander, Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates, the Hero of Saratoga. The battle between this army and that of Lt. Gen. Charles, Earl Cornwallis, in the Pine Barrens near the South Carolina town of Camden, would end in the total rout of the Americans and the destruction of the reputation of its commander. It would also temporarily leave the southern colonies without a central army to oppose the British.

On November 1, members of the Emerging Revolutionary War Era staff took a road trip to Camden, SC to research the battle, walk the battlefield and meet with local historians in preparation for an upcoming addition to our book series, on the Battle of Camden.  On the way down, we took the opportunity of visiting other sites of combat, actions that occurred prior to and after the fight at Camden. Continue reading “Visiting the Scene of Action: Battle of Camden”

ERW Weekender: Cornwallis House

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Cornwallis House, Winnsboro, South Carolina

In the quaint South Carolina town of Winnsboro, a few miles off of current Interstate-77 sites a two-story stands one of the oldest dwellings in a town founded by Richard Winn of Virginia a few years before the start of the American Revolution.

Yet, it was during those hostilities that one of the more famous military leaders came to “Winnsborough” as it was sometimes listed on maps of the time. His name, Lord Charles Cornwallis, the overall commander of British forces in the Southern Colonies. He would use the house during the winter of 1780-1781.

The house itself is an enigma. The structure dates to pre-1776 obviously, but the builder and owner of the house is still not known. Yet, it is well document that the house did serve during the labeled “winter of discontent” for the British and Cornwallis.

Across the street resides the Mount Zion Institute which became quarters for British soldiers during that winter of 1780-1781.

After the conflict the property and house was deeded to Captain John Buchanan, a veteran of the American Revolution. Buchanan was part of the welcoming party for the Marquis de Lafayette when the Frenchman landed at Georgetown, South Carolina.

Although not open to the public, special requests will be entertained. Click here for the link below for more information on the house and also who to contact for those special arrangements.

Eutaw Springs

Emerging Revolutionary War is pleased to welcome back historian Bert Dunkerly, who is the co-author (with Irene B. Boland) of the upcoming book; “Eutaw Springs; The Final Battle of the American Revolution’s Southern Campaign” slated to be released this month. 

Part One

The weather was warm and the men had been marching for days, but their morale was high.  They had been through a lot recently: caught off guard and defeated at Hobkirk’s Hill, a month of grueling siege work – and for naught, at Ninety Six.   Not to mention the engagements that many of them had fought in previously: Kings Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and dozens of smaller battles.

Yet the army that General Nathanael Greene led forward on the morning of September 8, 1781, was confident and ready to come to grips with its adversary.  Everyone from the private in the ranks on up to the commanding general knew that ahead lay an opportunity.

Battles in the Revolution were, in fact, rare opportunities for commanders.  Engagements were the short, pulse-pounding events that broke up the monotony of marching and maneuvering.  An army spent most of its time in garrison, in camp, or on the road.  In battle the infrequent opportunity came to crush an opponent and influence the outcome of a campaign, or the war.  These chances were few and far between.

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“Eutaw Springs” by Benson Lossing

Both commanders at Eutaw Springs appreciated this fact.  General Nathanael Greene’s forces had experienced a series of close calls at Guilford Courthouse, Ninety Six, and Hobkirk’s Hill.  The American army fought well in all of these engagements, save Hobkirk’s Hill, yet they met defeat in every one.  Greene hoped Eutaw Springs would put the finishing touches on his South Carolina campaign, and end it with a clear cut victory.[i]

Eutaw Springs was a rare chance for Greene to pick the time and place of engagement, array his forces to his choosing, and initiate the battle, and control its \tempo.  It was the only set engagement of the campaign, other than Guilford Courthouse, in which Greene chose the ground and initiated the battle.  Commanders do not often have this luxury, and Greene earnestly hoped to make the most of it. Continue reading “Eutaw Springs”