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CHAPTER XXIII: Campaign of 1781. Operations in the two Carolinas and Georgia. - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 2 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 2.
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Campaign of 1781. Operations in the two Carolinas and Georgia.
1781The successes which, with a few checks, followed the British arms since they had reduced Savannah and Charleston encouraged them to pursue their object by advancing from south to north. A vigorous invasion of North-Carolina was therefore projected, for the business of the winter which followed Gen. Gates’ defeat. The Americans were sensible of the necessity of reinforcing, and supporting their southern army, but were destitute of the means of doing it. Their northern army would not admit of being farther weakened, nor was there time to march over the intervening distance of seven hundred miles, but if men could have been procured and time allowed for marching them to South-Carolina, money for defraying the unavoidable expences of their transportation, could not be commanded, either in the latter end of 1780, or the first months of 1781. Though Congress was unable to forward either men or money, for the relief of the Southern States, they did what was equivalent. They sent them a general, whose head was a council, and whose military talents were equal to a reinforcement. The nomination of an officer for this important trust, was left to Gen. Washington. He mentioned General Greene, adding for reason “that he was an officer in whose abilities and integrity, from a long and intimate experience, he had the most entire confidence.”
The army after its defeat and dispersion on the 16th of August 1780, rendezvoused at Hillsborough. In the latter end of the year they advanced to Charlotte-Town. At this place Gen. Gates transferred the command to Gen. Greene. The manly resignation of the one, was equalled by the delicate disinterestedness of the other. Expressions of civility, and acts of friendship and attention were reciprocally exchanged. Greene upon all occasions, was the vindicator of Gates’ reputation.1781 In his letters and conversation, he uniformly maintained that his predecessor, had failed in no part of his military duty, and  that he had deserved success, though he could not command it. Within a few hours after Greene took charge of the army a report was made of a gallant enterprize of Lieut. Col. Washington. Being out on a foraging excursion, he had penetrated within 13 miles of Camden, to Clermont the seat of Lieut. Col. Rigely of the British militia. This was fortified by a block house, and encompassed by an abbatis, and was defended by upwards of one hundred of the inhabitants, who had submitted to the British government. Lieut. Col. Washington advanced with his cavalry, and planted the trunk of a pine tree, so as to resemble a field piece. The lucky moment was seized and a peremptory demand of an immediate surrender was made, when the garrison was impressed with the expectation of an immediate cannonade in case of their refusal. The whole surrendered at discretion, without a shot on either side. This fortunate incident, through the superstition to which most men are more or less subject, was viewed by the army as a presage of success under their new commander.
When Gen. Greene took the command, he found the troops had made a practice of going home without permission, staying several days or weeks, and then returning to camp. Determined to enforce strict discipline, he gave out that he would make an example of the first deserter of the kind he caught. One such being soon taken, was accordingly shot, at the head of the army, drawn up to be spectators of the punishment. This had the desired effect, and put a stop to the dangerous practice.
The whole southern army at this time consisted of about 2000 men, more than half of which were militia. The regulars had been for a long time without pay, and were very deficient in cloathing. All sources of supply from Charleston were in possession of the British, and no imported article could be obtained from a distance less than 200 miles. The procuring of provisions for this small force was a matter of difficulty. The paper currency was depreciated so far, as to be wholly unequal to the purchase of even such supplies as the country afforded.1781 Hard money had not a physical existence in any  hands accessible to the Americans. The only resource left for supplying the army was by the arbitrary mode of impress. To seize on the property of the inhabitants, and at the same time to preserve their kind affections, was a difficult business and of delicate execution, but of the utmost moment, as it furnished the army with provisions without impairing the disposition of the inhabitants to co-operate with it in recovering the country. This grand object called for the united efforts of both. Such was the situation of the country, that it was almost equally dangerous for the American army to go forward or stand still. In the first case every thing was hazarded; in the last the confidence of the people would be lost, and with it all prospect of being supported by them. The impatience of the suffering exiles and others, led them to urge the adoption of rash measures. The mode of opposition they preferred was the least likely to effect their ultimate wishes. The nature of the country thinly inhabited, abounding with swamps, and covered with woods—the inconsiderable force of the American army, the number of the disaffected, and the want of magazines, weighed with Gen. Greene to prefer a partizan war. By close application to his new profession, he had acquired a scientific knowledge of the principles and maxims for conducting wars in Europe but considered them as often inapplicable to America. When they were adapted to his circumstances he used them, but oftener deviated from them, and followed his own practical judgement, founded on a comprehensive view of his real situation.
With an inconsiderable army, miserably provided, Gen. Greene took the field against a superior British regular force, which had marched in triumph 200 miles from the sea coast, and was flushed with successive victories through a whole campaign. Soon after he took the command, he divided his force and sent Gen. Morgan with a respectable detachment to the western extremity of South-Carolina, and about the same time marched with the main body to Hick’s-creek, on the north side of the Pedee, opposite to Cheraw-Hill.
1781 After the general submission of the militia in the year 1780, a revolution took place highly favourable to the interest of America. The residence of the British army, instead of increasing the real friends to royal government, diminished their number, and added new vigor to the opposite party. The British had a post in Ninety six for thirteen months, during which time the country was filled with rapine, violence and murder. Applications were daily made for redress, yet in that whole period, there was not a single instance wherein punishment was inflicted, either on the soldiery or on the tories. The people soon found that there was no security for their lives, liberties or property, under the military government of British officers, careless of their civil rights. The peaceable citizens were reduced to that uncommon distress, in which they had more to fear from oppression, than resistance. They therefore most ardently wished for an American force. Under these favourable circumstances General Greene detached General Morgan, to take a position in that district. The appearance of this force, a sincere attachment to the cause of independence, and the impolitic conduct of the British, induced several persons to resume their arms, and to act in concert with the continental troops.
When this irruption was made into the district of Ninety six, lord Cornwallis was far advanced in his preparations for the invasion of North-Carolina. To leave General Morgan in his rear, was contrary to military policy. In order therefore to drive him from this station, and to deter the inhabitants from joining him, Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton was ordered to proceed with about 1100 men and “push him to the utmost.” He had two field pieces, and a superiority of infantry in the proportion of five to four, and of cavalry in the proportion of three to one. Besides this inequality of force, two thirds of the troops under General Morgan were militia.Jan. 17, 1781 With these fair prospects of success, Tarleton engaged Morgan at the Cowpens, with the expectation of driving him out of South-Carolina. The latter drew up his men in two lines. The whole of the southern militia, with 190 from  North-Carolina, were put under the command of Colonel Pickens. These formed the first line, and were advanced a few hundred yards before the second, with orders to form on the right of the second, when forced to retire. The second line consisted of the light infantry, and a corps of Virginia militia riflemen. Lieutenant Colonel Washington, with his cavalry and about 45 militia men, mounted and equipped with swords, were drawn up at some distance in the rear of the whole. The open wood in which they were formed, was neither secured in front, flank or rear. On the side of the British, the light legion infantry and fusileers, though worn down with extreme fatigue, were ordered to form in line. Before this order was executed, the line, though far from being complete, was led to the attack by Tarleton himself. They advanced with a shout and poured in an incessant fire of musquetry. Colonel Pickens directed the men under his command to restrain their fire, till the British were within forty or fifty yards. This order though executed with great firmness was not sufficient to repel their advancing foes. The militia fell back. The British advanced and engaged the second line, which after an obstinate conflict was compelled to retreat to the cavalry. In this crisis Lieutenant Colonel Washington made a successful charge on Captain Ogilvie, who with about forty dragoons, was cutting down the militia, and forced them to retreat in confusion. Lieutenant Colonel Howard almost at the same moment rallied the continental troops and charged with fixed bayonets. The example was instantly followed by the militia. Nothing could exceed the astonishment and confusion of the British occasioned by these unexpected charges. Their advance fell back on their rear, and communicated a panic to the whole. Two hundred and fifty horse which had not been engaged fled with precipitation. The pieces of artillery were seized by the Americans, and the greatest confusion took place among the infantry. While they were in this state of disorder, Lieutenant Colonel Howard called to them, to “lay down their arms,” and promised them good quarter. Some hundreds accepted the offer  and surrendered. The first battalion of the 71st, and two British light infantry companies, laid down their arms to the American militia. A party which had been left some distance in the rear to guard the baggage, was the only body of infantry that escaped. The officer of that detachment on hearing of Tarleton’s defeat, destroyed a great part of the baggage, and retreated to lord Cornwallis. Upwards of 300 of the British were killed or wounded, and above 500 prisoners were taken. Eight hundred muskets, two field pieces, 35 baggage waggons, and 100 dragoon horses fell into the hands of the conquerors. The Americans had only 12 men killed and 60 wounded.
General Morgan’s good conduct on this memorable day, was honoured by Congress with a gold medal. They also presented medals of silver to Lieutenant Colonels Washington and Howard, a sword to colonel Pickens, a brevet majority to Edward Giles the General’s aid de camp, and a Captaincy to Baron Glassbeck. Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton hitherto triumphant in a variety of skirmishes, on this occasion lost his laurels, though he was supported by the 7th regiment, one battalion of the 71st, and two companies of light infantry; and his repulse did more essential injury to the British interest, than was equivalent to allthe preceding advantages he had gained. It was the first link in a chain of causes which finally drew down ruin, both in North and South Carolina on the royal interest. That impetuosity of Tarleton which had acquired him great reputation, when on former occasions he had surprised an incautious enemy, or attacked a panic struck militia, was at this time the occasion of his ruin. Impatient of delay he engaged with fatigued troops, and led them on to action, before they were properly formed, and before the reserve had taken its ground. He was also guilty of a great oversight in not bringing up a column of cavalry to support and improve the advantages he had gained when the Americans retreated.
Lord Cornwallis though preparing to extend his conquests northwardly was not inattentive to the security of South-Carolina.1781 Besides the force at Charleston, he left  a considerable body of troops under the command of lord Rawdon. These were principally stationed at Camden, from which central situation they might easily be drawn forth to defend the frontiers or to suppress insurrections. To facilitate the intended operations against North-Carolina, Major Craig, with a detachment of about 300 men from Charleston, and a small marine force took possession of Wilmington. While these arrangements were making, the year 1781 commenced with the fairest prospects to the friends of British government. The arrival of General Leslie in Charleston, with his late command in Virginia gave Earl Cornwallis a decided superiority, and enabled him to attempt the reduction of North-Carolina, with a force sufficient to bear down all probable opposition. Arnold was before him in Virginia, while South-Carolina in his rear, was considered as completely subdued. His lordship had much to hope and little to fear. His admirers flattered him with the expectation, that his victory at Camden would prove but the dawn of his glory; and that the events of the approaching campaign would immortalize his name as the conqueror, at least of the southern States. Whilst lord Cornwallis was indulging these pleasing prospects, he received intelligence, no less unwelcome than unexpected, that Tarleton his favourite officer, in whom he placed the greatest confidence, instead of driving Morgan out of the country, was completely defeated by him. This surprised and mortified, but did not discourage his lordship. He hoped by vigorous exertions soon to obtain reparation for the late disastrous event, and even to recover what he had lost. With the expectation of retaking the prisoners captured at the Cowpens, and to obliterate the impression made by the issue of the late action at that place, his lordship instantly determined on the pursuit of General Morgan, who had moved off towards Virginia with his prisoners. The movements of the royal army in consequence of this determination induced General Greene immediately to retreat from Hick’s creek, lest the British by crossing the upper sources of the Pedee, should get between him and the detachment,  which was incumbered with the prisoners.1781 In this critical situation General Greene left the main army, under the command of General Huger, and rode 150 miles through the country, to join the detachment under General Morgan, that he might be in front of lord Cornwallis, and direct the motions of both divisions of his army, so as to form a speedy junction between them. Immediately after the action, on the 17th of January, Morgan sent on his prisoners under a proper guard, and having made every arrangement in his power for their security retreated with expedition. Nevertheless the British gained ground upon him. Morgan intended to cross the mountains with his detachment and prisoners, that he might more effectually secure the latter: But Greene on his arrival ordered the prisoners to Charlotteville, and directed the troops to Guildford court-house, to which place he had also ordered General Huger to proceed with the main army.
In this retreat the Americans underwent hardships almost incredible. Many of them performed this march without shoes over frozen ground, which so gashed their naked feet, that their blood marked every step of their progress. They were sometimes without meat, often without flour, and always without spiritous liquors. Their march led them through a barren country, which scarcely afforded necessaries for a few straggling inhabitants. In this severe season, also with very little cloathing, they were daily reduced to the necessity of fording deep creeks, and of remaining wet without any change of cloaths, till the heat of their bodies and occasional fires in the woods dried their tattered rags. To all these difficulties they submitted without the loss of a single centinal by desertion. Lord Cornwallis reduced the quantity of his own baggage, and the example was followed by the officers under his command. Every thing which was not necessary in action, or to the existence of the troops, was destroyed. No waggons were reserved except those loaded with hospital stores, salt and ammunition, and four empty ones for the use of the sick.1781 The royal army, encouraged by the example of his lordship,  submitted to every hardship with cheerfulness. They beheld, without murmuring, their most valuable baggage destroyed[,] their spiritous liquors staved, when they were entering on hard service, and under circumstances which precluded every prospect of supply.
The British had urged the pursuit with so much rapidity, that they reached the Catawba on the evening of the same day on which their fleeing adversaries had crossed it. Before the next morning a heavy fall of rain made that river impassable. The Americans, confident of the justice of their cause, considered this event as an interposition of providence in their favour. It is certain that if the rising of the river had taken place a few hours earlier, Gen. Morgan with his whole detachment and 500 prisoners would have scarcely had any chance of escape. When the fresh had subsided so far as to leave the river fordable, a large proportion of the King’s troops received orders to be in readiness to march at one o’clock in the morning.Feb. 1 Feints had been made of passing at several different fords, but the real attempt was made at a ford near M’Cowans, the north banks of which were defended by a small guard of militia commanded by Gen. Davidson. The British marched through the river upwards of 500 yards wide and about three feet deep, sustaining a constant fire from the militia on the opposite bank without returning it till they had made good their passage. The light infantry and grenadier companies as soon as they reached the land dispersed the Americans. Gen. Davidson the brave leader of the latter was killed at the first onset. The militia throughout the neighbouring settlements were dispirited, and but few of them could be persuaded to take or keep the field. A small party which collected about ten miles from the ford was attacked and dispersed by Lt. Col. Tarleton. All the fords were abandoned, and the whole royal army crossed over without any farther opposition. The passage of the Catawba being effected, the Americans continued to flee and the British to pursue. The former by expeditious movements crossed the Yadkin, partly in flats, and partly by fording on the second and third days of February, and secured their boats on  the north side.1781 Though the British were close in their rear, yet the want of boats and the rapid rising of the river from preceding rains made their crossing impossible. This second hair breadth escape was considered by the Americans as a farther evidence that their cause was favoured by Heaven. That they in two successive instances should effect their passage, while their pursuers only a few miles in their rear could not follow, impressed the religious people of that settlement with such sentiments of devotion as added fresh vigor to their exertions in behalf of American independence.
The British having failed in their first scheme of passing the Yadkin, were obliged to cross at the upper fords; but before this was completed, the two divisions of the American army made a junction at Guildford court-house.Feb. 7 Though this had taken place, their combined numbers were so much inferior to the British, that Gen. Greene could not with any propriety risque an action. He therefore called a council of officers, who unanimously concurred in opinion that he ought to retire over the Dan, and to avoid an engagement till he was reinforced. Lord Cornwallis knowing the inferiority of the American force conceived hopes, by getting between General Greene and Virginia, to cut off his retreat, intercept his supplies and reinforcements, and oblige him to fight under many disadvantages. With this view, his lordship kept the upper country where only the rivers are fordable—supposing that his adversaries, from the want of a sufficient number of flats, could not make good their passage in the deep water below, or in case of their attempting it, he expected to overtake and force them to action before they could cross. In this expectation he was deceived. Gen. Greene by good management eluded his lordship. The British urged their pursuit with so much rapidity, that the American light troops were on the 14th compelled to retire upwards of 40 miles.Feb By the most indefatigable exertions Gen. Greene had that day transported his army, artillery and baggage, over the river Dan into Virginia.1781 So rapid was the pursuit, and so narrow the escape, that the van of the pursuing British  just arrived as the rear of the Americans had crossed. The hardships and difficulties, which the royal army had undergone in this march, were exceeded by the mortification that all their toils and exertions were to no purpose. They conceived it next to impossible that General Greene could escape, without receiving a decisive blow. They therefore cheerfully submitted to difficulties, of which they who reside in cultivated countries can form no adequate ideas. After surmounting incredible hardships, when they fancied themselves within grasp of their object, they discovered that all their hopes were blasted.
The continental army being driven out of North-Carolina, Earl Cornwallis thought the opportunity favourable for assembling the loyalists. With this view he left the Dan, and proceeded to Hillsborough. On his arrival there, he erected the King’s standard, and published a proclamation, inviting all loyal subjects to repair to it with their arms and ten days provision, and assuring them of his readiness to concur with them in effectual measures for suppressing the remains of rebellion, and for the reestablishment of good order and constitutional government. Soon after the King’s standard was erected at Hillsborough, some hundreds of the inhabitants rode in to the British camp. They seemed to be very desirous of peace, but averse to any co-operation for procuring it. They acknowledged the continentals were chased out of the province, but expressed their apprehensions that they would soon return, and on the whole declined to take any decided part in a cause which yet appeared dangerous. Notwithstanding the indifference or timidity of the loyalists near Hillsborough, lord Cornwallis hoped for substantial aid from the inhabitants between Haw and Deep river. He therefore detached Lieut. Col. Tarleton with 450 men, to give countenance to the friends of royal government in that district. Greene being informed that many of the inhabitants had joined his lordship, and that they were repairing in great numbers to make their submission, was apprehensive that unless some spirited measure was immediately taken, the whole country would be lost to the Americans. He therefore concluded,  at every hazard, to recross the Dan.1781Feb. 21This was done by the light troops, and these on the next day were followed by the main body accompanied with a brigade of Virginia militia. Immediately after the return of the Americans to North-Carolina, some of their light troops, commanded by Gen. Pickens and Lieut. Colonel Lee, were detached in pursuit of Tarleton, who had been sent to encourage the insurrection of the loyalists. Three hundred and fifty of these tories commanded by Col. Pyles, when on their way to join the British, fell in with this light American party, and mistook them for the royal detachment sent for their support. The Americans attacked them, laboring under this mistake, to great advantage, and cut them down as they were crying out “God save the King” and making protestations of their loyalty. Natives of the British colonies, who were of this character, more rarely found mercy than European soldiers. They were considered by the whig Americans as being cowards, who not only wanted spirit to defend their constitutional rights, but who unnaturally co-operated with strangers in fixing the chains of foreign domination on themselves and countrymen. Many of them on this occasion suffered the extremity of military vengeance. Tarleton was refreshing his legion, about a mile from this scene of slaughter. Upon hearing the alarm, he re-crossed the Haw and returned to Hillsborough. On his retreat he cut down several of the royalists, as they were advancing to join the British army, mistaking them for the rebel militia of the country. These events, together with the return of the American army, overset all the schemes of lord Cornwallis. The tide of public sentiment was no longer in his favour. The recruiting service in behalf of the royal army was entirely stopped. The absence of the American army, for one fortnight longer, might have turned the scale. The advocates for royal government being discouraged by these adverse accidents, and being also generally deficient in that ardent zeal which characterised the patriots, could not be induced to act with confidence.1781 They were so dispersed over a large extent of a thinly  settled country, that it was difficult to bring them to unite in any common plan. They had no superintending Congress to give system or concert to their schemes. While each little district pursued separate measures, all were obliged to submit to the American governments. Numbers of them, who were on their way to join lord Cornwallis, struck with terror at the unexpected return of the American army, and with the unhappy fate of their brethren, went home to wait events. Their policy was of that timid kind, which disposed them to be more attentive to personal safety, than to the success of either army.
Though Gen. Greene had recrossed, his plan was not to venture upon an immediate action, but to keep alive the courage of his party—to depress that of the loyalists, and to harass the foragers and detachments of the British, till reinforcements should arrive. While Greene was unequal even to defensive operations, he lay seven days within ten miles of Cornwallis’ camp, but took a new position every night, and kept it a profound secret where the next was to be. By such frequent movements lord Cornwallis, could not gain intelligence of his situation in time to profit by it. He maneuvered in this manner, to avoid an action for three weeks, during which time he was often obliged to ask bread from the common soldiers, having none of his own. By the end of that period, two brigades of militia from North-Carolina, and one from Virginia, together with 400 regulars raised for 18 months, joined his army, and gave him a superiority of numbers. He therefore determined no longer to avoid an engagement. Lord Cornwallis having long sought for this, no longer delay took place on either side.March 15, 1781 The American army consisted of about 4400 men, of which more than one half were militia. The British of about 2400, chiefly troops grown veteran in victories. The former was drawn up in three lines. The front composed of North-Carolina militia, the second of Virginia militia, the third and last of continental troops commanded by Gen. Huger and Col. Williams. After a brisk cannonade in front, the British advanced in three columns.1781 The Hessians on the right, the guards in the  center, and Lieut. Col. Webster’s brigade on the left, and attacked the front line. This gave way when their adversaries were at the distance of 140 yards, and was occasioned by the misconduct of a colonel, who on the advance of the enemy, called out to an officer at some distance “that he would be surrounded.” The alarm was sufficient: Without enquiring into the probability of what had been injudiciously suggested, the militia precipitately quitted the field: As one good officer may sometimes mend the face of affairs, so the misconduct of a bad one may injure a whole army. Untrained men when on the field are similar to each other. The difference of their conduct depends much on incidental circumstances, and on none more than the manner of their being led on, and the quality of the officers by whom they are commanded.
The Virginia militia stood their ground, and kept up their fire till they were ordered to retreat. Gen. Stevens their commander, had posted 40 riflemen at equal distances, twenty paces in the rear of his brigade, with orders to shoot every man who should leave his post. That brave officer though wounded through the thigh did not quit the field. The continental troops were last engaged, and maintained the conflict with great spirit for an hour and a half. At length the discipline of veteran troops gained the day. They broke the second Maryland brigade, turned the American left flank, and got in rear of the Virginia brigade. They appeared to be gaining Greene’s right, which would have encircled the whole of the continental troops, a retreat was therefore ordered. This was made in good order, and no farther than over the reedy fork, a distance of about three miles. Greene halted there and drew up till he had collected most of the stragglers, and then retired to Speedwell’s iron works, ten miles distant from Guildford. The Americans lost 4 pieces of artillery and two ammunition waggons. The victory cost the British dear. Their killed and wounded amounted to several hundreds. The guards lost Colonel Stuart and three Captains, besides subalterns. Colonel Webster, an officer of distinguished  merit died of his wounds to the great regret of the whole royal army. Generals O’Hara and Howard, and Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton, were wounded. About 300 of the continentals, and one hundred of the Virginia militia were killed or wounded. Among the former was Major Anderson of the Maryland line a most valuable officer, of the latter were Generals Huger and Stevens. The early retreat of the North-Carolinians saved them from much loss. The American army sustained a great diminution, by the numerous fugitives who instead of rejoining the camp went to their homes. Lord Cornwallis suffered so much that he was in no condition to improve the advantage he had gained. The British had only the name, the Americans, all the good consequences of a victory. General Greene retreated, and lord Cornwallis kept the field, but notwithstanding the British interest in North-Carolina was from that day ruined.Mar. 18 Soon after this action, lord Cornwallis issued a proclamation setting forth his complete victory, and calling on all loyal subjects to stand forth, and take an active part in restoring order and good government, and offering a pardon and protection to all rebels, murderers excepted, who would surrender themselves on or before the 20th of April. On the next day after this proclamation was issued, his lordship left his hospital and 75 wounded men, with the numerous loyalists in the vicinity, and began a march towards Wilmington, which had the appearance of a retreat. Major Craig who for the purposes of cooperating with his lordship, had been stationed at Wilmington, was not able to open a water communication with the British army while they were in the upper country. The distance, the narrowness of Cape Fear river, the commanding elevation of its banks, and the hostile sentiments of the inhabitants on each side of it forbad the attempt. The destitute condition of the British army, made it necessary to go to these supplies, which for these reasons could not be brought to them.
1781General Greene no sooner received information of this movement of lord Cornwallis, than he put his army in motion to follow him. As he had no means of  providing for the wounded, of his own, and the British forces, he wrote a letter to the neighbouring inhabitants of the Quaker persuasion, in which he mentioned his being brought up a Quaker, and urged them to take care of the wounded on both sides. His recommendations prevailed, and the Quakers supplied the hospitals with every comfort in their power.
March 28The Americans continued the pursuit of Cornwallis till they had arrived at Ramsay’s mill on Deep river, but for good reasons desisted from following him any farther.
Lord Cornwallis halted and refreshed his army for about three weeks at Wilmington, and then marched across the country to Petersburg in Virginia. Before it was known that his lordship had determined on this movement, the bold resolution of returning to South-Carolina, was formed by Gen. Greene. This animated the friends of Congress in that quarter. Had the American army followed his lordship, the southern States would have conceived themselves conquered; for their hopes and fears prevailed just as the armies marched north or south. Though lord Cornwallis marched through North-Carolina to Virginia, yet as the American army returned to South-Carolina, the people considered that movement of his lordship in the light of a retreat.
While the two armies were in North-Carolina, the whig inhabitants of South-Carolina were animated by the gallant exertions of Sumter and Marion. These distinguished partisans, while surrounded with enemies, kept the field. Though the continental army was driven into Virginia, they did not despair of the commonwealth. Having mounted their followers, their motions were rapid, and their attacks unexpected. With their light troops they intercepted the British convoys of provisions, infested their out posts, beat up their quarters, and harassed their detachments with such frequent alarms, that they were obliged to be always on their guard.1781 In the western extremitv of the State, Sumter was powerfully supported by Cols. Niel, Lacey, Hill, Winn,  Bratton, Brandon and others, each of whom held militia commissions, and had many friends. In the north eastern extremity, Marion received in like manner great assistance from the active exertions of Cols. Peter Horry, and Hugh Horry, Lt. Col. John Baxter, Col. James Postell, Major John Postell, and Major John James.
The inhabitants, either as affection or vicinity induced them, arranged themselves under some of the militia officers and performed many gallant enterprises. These singly were of too little consequence to merit a particular relation, but in general they displayed the determined spirit of the people and embarrassed the British. One in which Major John Postell commanded may serve as an illustration of the spirit of the times, and particularly of the indifference for property which then prevailed. Capt. James de Peyster of the royal army, with 25 grenadiers, having taken post in the house of the Major’s father, the Major posted his small command of 21 militia men, in such positions as commanded its doors, and demanded their surrender. This being refused, he set fire to an outhouse, and was proceeding to burn that in which they were posted, and nothing but the immediate submission of the whole party restrained him from sacrificing his father’s valuable property, to gain an advantage to his country.
While lord Cornwallis was preparing to invade Virginia, Gen. Greene determined to re-commence offensive military operations in the southern extreme of the confederacy, in preference to pursuing his lordship into Virginia. Gen. Sumter, who had warmly urged this measure, was about this time authorised to raise a State brigade, to be in service for eighteen months. He had also prepared the militia to co-operate with the returning continentals. With these forces an offensive war was recommenced in South-Carolina, and prosecuted with spirit and success.
Before Greene set out on his march for Carolina, he sent orders to General Pickens, to prevent supplies from going to the British garrisons at Ninety-Six and Augusta, and also detached Lieutenant Colonel Lee to advance  before the continental troops.1781 The latter in eight days penetrated through the intermediate country to General Marion’s quarters upon the Santee. The main army, in a few more days, completed their march from Deep river to Camden. The British had erected a chain of posts from the capital to the extreme districts of the State, which had regular communications with each other. Lord Cornwallis being gone to Virginia, these became objects of enterprize to the Americans. While Gen. Greene was marching with his main force against Camden, fort Watson, which lay between Camden and Charleston, was invested by Gen. Marion and Lieut. Col. Lee. The besiegers speedily erected a work which overlooked the fort, though that was built on an Indian mount upwards of 30 feet high, from which they fired into it with such execution that the besieged durst not shew themselves.April 23 Under these circumstances the garrison, consisting of 114 men, surrendered by capitulation.
Camden, before which the main American army was encamped, is a village situated on a plain, covered on the south and east sides by the Wateree and a creek, the western and northern by six redoubts. It was defended by lord Rawdon with about 900 men. The American army, consisting only of about an equal number of continentals, and between two and three hundred militia, was unequal to the task of carrying this post by storm, or of completely investing it. Gen. Greene therefore took a good position about a mile distant, in expectation of alluring the garrison out of their lines. Lord Rawdon armed his whole force, and with great spirit sallied on the 25th.April 25 An engagement ensued. Victory for some time evidently inclined to the Americans, but in the progress of the action, the premature retreat of two companies eventually occasioned the defeat of the whole American army. Greene with his usual firmness, instantly took measures to prevent lord Rawdon from improving the success he had obtained. He retreated with such order that most of his wounded and all his artillery, together with a number of prisoners, were carried off. The British retired to Camden, and the Americans encamped  about five miles from their former position.1781 Their loss was between two and three hundred. Soon after this action Gen. Greene, knowing that the British garrison could not subsist long in Camden without fresh supplies from Charleston or the country, took such positions as were most likely to prevent their getting any.May 7
Lord Rawdon received a reinforcement of 4 or 500 men by the arrival of Col. Watson from Pedee. With this increase of strength, he attempted on the next day to compel Gen. Greene to another action, but found it to be impracticable. Failing in this design, he returned to Camden and burned the jail, mills, many private houses and a great deal of his own baggage. He then evacuated the post, and retired to the southward of Santee. His lordship discovered as much prudence in evacuating Camden, as he had shewn bravery in its defence. The fall of fort Watson broke the chain of communication with Charleston, and the position of the American army, in a great measure intercepted supplies from the adjacent country. The British in South-Carolina, now cut off from all communication with lord Cornwallis, would have hazarded the capital, by keeping large detachments in their distant out-posts. They therefore resolved to contract their limits by retiring within the Santee. This measure animated the friends of Congress in the extremities of the State, and disposed them to co-operate with the American army. While Greene lay in the neighbourhood of Camden, he hung in one day eight soldiers, who had deserted from his army. This had such effect afterwards that there was no desertion for three months.May 11 On the day after the evacuation of Camden the post at Orangeburg, consisting of 70 British militia and 12 regulars, surrendered to Gen. Sumter.May 12 On the next day fort Motte capitulated. This was situated above the fork on the south side of the Congaree. The British had built their works round Mrs. Motte’s dwelling house. She with great cheerfulness furnished the Americans with materials for firing her own house. These being thrown by them on its roof soon kindled into flame.1781 The firing of the house,  which was in the center of the British works, compelled the garrison, consisting of 165 men, to surrender at discretion.
May 14In two days more the British evacuated their post at Nelson’s ferry, and destroyed a great part of their stores.May 15 On the day following, fort Granby, garrisoned by 352 men mostly royal militia, surrendered to Lieut. Col. Lee: Very advantageous terms were given them, from an apprehension that lord Rawdon was marching to their relief.
Their baggage was secured, in which was included an immense quantity of plunder. The American militia were much disgusted at the terms allowed the garrison, and discovered a disposition to break the capitulation and kill the prisoners; but Greene restrained them, by declaring in the most peremptory manner that he would instantly put to death any one, who should offer violence to those who by surrendering were under his protection.
General Marion with a party of militia, marched about this time to Georgetown, and began regular approaches against the British post in that place. On the first night after his men had broken ground, their adversaries evacuated their works, and retreated to Charleston; shortly after one Manson, an inhabitant of South-Carolina, who had joined the British, appeared in an armed vessel, and demanded permission to land his men in the town. This being refused, he sent a few of them ashore and set fire to it. Upwards of forty houses were speedily reduced to ashes.
In the rapid manner just related, the British lost six posts, and abandoned all the northeastern extremities of South-Carolina. They still retained possession of Augusta and Ninety-six, in addition to their posts near the sea coast. Immediately after the surrender of fort Granby, Lieutenant Colonel Lee began his march for Augusta, and in four days completed it.
May 21The British post at Silver-Bluff, with a field piece and considerable stores, surrendered to a detachment of Lee’s legion commanded by Captain Rudolph. Lee on his arrival at Augusta joined Pickens, who with a body of militia had for some time past taken post in the vicinity. 1781 They jointly carried on their approaches against fort Cornwallis at Augusta, in which Colonel Brown commanded. Two batteries were erected within 30 yards of the parapet, which overlooked the fort. From these eminences the American riflemen shot into the inside of the works with success: The garrison buried themselves in a great measure under ground, and obstinately refused to capitulate, till the necessity was so pressing that every man who attempted to fire on the besiegers, was immediately shot down.June 5 At length when farther resistance would have been madness, the fort with about 300 men surrendered, on honorable terms of capitulation. The Americans during the siege had about forty men killed and wounded. After the surrender, Lieutenant Colonel Grierson of the British militia, was shot by the Americans. A reward of 100 guineas was offered, but in vain, for the perpetrator of the perfidious deed. Lieutenant Colonel Brown, would probably have shared the same fate, had not his conquerors furnished him with an escort to the royal garrison in Savannah. Individuals whose passions were inflamed by injuries, and exasperated, with personal animosity, were eager to gratify revenge in violation of the laws of war. Murders had produced murders. Plundering, assassinations, and house burnings, had become common. Zeal for the King or the Congress were the ostensible motives of action; but in several of both sides, the love of plunder, private pique, and a savageness of disposition, led to actions which were disgraceful to human nature. Such was the state of parties in the vicinity of Savannah river, and such the exasperation of whigs against tories, and of tories against whigs; and so much had they suffered from and inflicted on each other, that the laws of war, and the precepts of humanity afforded but a feeble security for the observance of capitulations on either side. The American officers exerted themselves to procure to their prisoners that safety which many of the inhabitants, influenced by a remembrance of the sufferings of themselves, and of their friends, were unwilling to allow them.
1781 While operations were carrying on against the small posts, Greene proceeded with his main army and laid siege to Ninety-six, in which Lieutenant Colonel Cruger, with upwards of 500 men was advantageously posted. On the left of the besiegers was a work, erected in the form of a star. On the right was a strong blockade fort, with two block houses in it. The town was also picquetted in with strong picquets, and surrounded with a ditch, and a bank, near the height of a common parapet. The besiegers were more numerous than the besieged, but the disparity was not great.
May 25The siege was prosecuted with indefatigable industry. The garrison defended themselves with spirit and address. On the morning after the siege began, a party sallied from the garrison, and drove the advance of the besiegers from their works. The next night, two strong block batteries were erected at the distance of 350 yards. Another battery 20 feet high, was erected within 220 yards, and soon after a fourth one was erected within 100 yards of the main fort, and lastly, a rifle battery was erected 30 feet high, within 30 yards of the ditch; from all of which the besiegers fired into the British works. The abbatis was turned, and a mine and two trenches were so far extended, as to be within six feet of the ditch. At that interesting moment, intelligence was conveyed into the garrison, that lord Rawdon was near at hand, with about 2000 men for their relief. These had arrived in Charleston from Ireland after the siege began, and were marched for Ninety-six, on the seventh day after they landed.June 18 In these circumstances, Gen. Greene had no alternative but to raise the siege, or attempt the reduction of the place by assault. The latter was attempted. Though the assailants displayed great resolution, they failed of success. On this General Greene raised the siege, and retreated over Saluda. His loss in the assault and previous conflicts was about 150 men. Lieutenant Colonel Cruger deservedly gained great reputation by this successful defence. He was particularly indebted to Major Greene, who had bravely and judiciously defended that redoubt, for the reduction of which, the  greatest exertions had been made.1781 Truly distressing was the situation of the American army. When they were nearly masters of the whole country, they were compelled to seek safety by retreating to its remotest extremity. In this gloomy situation Greene was advised to retire with his remaining force to Virginia. To suggestions of this kind he nobly replied. “I will recover South-Carolina or die in the attempt.” This distinguished officer whose genius was most vigorous in those perilous extremities, when feeble minds abandon themselves to despair, adopted the only expedient now left him, that of avoiding an engagement till the British force should be divided. Lord Rawdon who by rapid marches was near Ninety-six, at the time of the assault, pursued the Americans as far as the Enoree river; but without overtaking them. Desisting from this fruitless pursuit he drew off a part of his force from Ninety-six, and fixed a detachment at the Congaree. General Greene on hearing that the British force was divided, faced about to give them battle. Lord Rawdon no less surprised than alarmed at this unexpected movement of his lately retreating foe, abandoned the Congaree in two days after he had reached it, and marched to Orangeburgh. General Greene in his turn pursued and offered him battle.July 12 His lordship would not venture out and his adversary was too weak to attack him in his encampment, with any prospect of success.
Reasons similar to those which induced the British to evacuate Camden, weighed with them about this time, to withdraw their troops from Ninety-six. While the American army lay near Orangeburgh, Lieutenant Colonel Cruger, having evacuated the post he had gallantly defended, was marching with the troops of that garrison, through the forks of Edisto, to join lord Rawdon at Orangeburgh. General Greene being unable to prevent their junction, and still less so to stand before their combined force, retired to the high hills of Santee. The evacuation of Camden having been effected by striking at the posts below it, the same manoeuvre was now attempted to induce the British to leave Orangeburgh. With this view Generals Sumter and Marion, with their brigades, and the  legion cavalry, were detached to Monk’s corner and Dorchester. They moved down different roads, and commenced separate and successful attacks, on convoys and detachments in the vicinity of Charleston. In this manner was the war carried on. While the British kept their forces compact, they could not cover the country, and the American General had the prudence to avoid fighting. When they divided their army, their detachments were attacked and defeated. While they were in the upper country, light parties of Americans annoyed their small posts in the lower settlements. The people soon found that the late conquerors were not able to afford them their promised protection. The spirit of revolt became general, and the royal interest daily declined.
The British having evacuated alltheir posts to the northward of Santee and Congaree, and to the westward of Edisto, conceived themselves able to hold all that fertile country, which is in a great measure enclosed by these rivers. They therefore once more resumed their station, near the junction of the Wateree and Congaree. This induced Gen. Greene to concert farther measures for forcing them down towards Charleston. He therefore crossed the Wateree and Congaree, and collected his whole force on the south side of the latter, intending to act offensively. On his approach the British retired about 40 miles nearer Charleston, and took post at the Eutaw springs. Gen. Greene advanced with 2000 men, to attack them in their encampment at this place. His force was drawn up in two lines: The first was composed of militia, and the second of continental troops. As the Americans advanced they fell in with two parties of the British, three or four miles a head of their main army. These being briskly attacked soon retired. The militia continued to pursue and fire, till the action became general, and till they were obliged to give way. They were well supported by the continental troops. In the hottest of the action Col. O. Williams, and Lieut. Col. Campbel with the Maryland and Virginia continentals charged with trailed arms. Nothing could surpass the intrepidity of both officers and men on this occasion.1781 They rushed on  in good order through a heavy cannonade, and a shower of musketry, with such unshaken resolution, that they bore down all before them. Lieut. Col. Campbel, while bravely leading his men on to that successful charge, received a mortal wound. After he had fallen he enquired who gave way, and being informed that the British were fleeing in all quarters, replied “I die contented,” and immediately expired. The British were vigorously pursued, and upwards of 500 of them were taken prisoners. On their retreat they took post in a strong brick house, and in a picquetted garden: From these advantageous positions they renewed the action. Four six pounders were ordered up before the house, from under cover of which the British were firing. The Americans were compelled to leave these pieces and retire, but they left a strong picquet on the field of battle, and only retreated to the nearest water in their rear. In the evening of the next day, Lieut. Col. Stuart who commanded the British on this occasion, left seventy of his wounded men and a thousand stand of arms, and moved from the Eutaws towards Charleston. The loss of the British inclusive of prisoners, was upwards of 1100 men; that of the Americans above 500, in which number were sixty officers.
Congress honored Gen. Greene for his good conduct in this action with a British standard and a golden medal. They also voted their thanks to the different corps and their commanders.
Soon after this engagement, the Americans retired to their former position on the high hills of Santee, and the British took post in the vicinity of Monks-Corner. In the close of the year Gen. Greene moved down into the lower country, and about the same time the British abandoned their outposts, and retired with their whole force to the quarter house on Charleston-neck. The defence of the country was given up, and the conquerors, who had lately carried their arms to the extremities of the State, seldom aimed at any thing more than to secure themselves in the vicinity of the capital.1781 The crops, which had been planted in the spring of the year under  British auspices, and with the expectation of affording them supplies, fell into the hands of the Americans and administered to them a seasonable relief. The battle of Eutaw may be considered as closing the national war in South-Carolina. A few excursions were afterwards made by the British, and sundry small enterprizes were executed, but nothing of more general consequence than the loss of property, and of individual lives. Thus ended the campaign of 1781, in South-Carolina. At its commencement the British were in force over all the State: at its close they durst not, but with great precaution, venture 20 miles from Charleston. History affords but few instances of commanders, who have achieved so much with equal means, as was done by Gen. Greene in the short space of a twelve month. He opened the campaign with gloomy prospects, but closed it with glory. His unpaid and half naked army had to contend with veteran soldiers, supplied with every thing that the wealth of Britain or the plunder of Carolina could procure. Under all these disadvantages, he compelled superior numbers to retire from the extremity of the State, and confine themselves in the capital and its vicinity. Had not his mind been of the firmest texture he would have been discouraged, but his enemies found him as formidable on the evening of a defeat, as on the morning after a victory.