« PreviousContinue »
was soon to deliver them
from this fond error, by the defeat and surrender of those very troops.
The severities of the British toward defenceless citizens, instead of attaining the desired end, after some time began to foster a spirit of hatred and revenge. Those who had been deprived of their homes fled into the interior and united themselves with Marion, Pickens, and
Sumpter, who, subsequently to the defeat of Gates, had been elevated, by Governor Rutledge, to the rank of brigadier-generals. The parties thus formed, though entirely destitute of artillery, and often of provisions and small arms, tended by their presence to keep alive a feeling of opposition in American bosoms. From their retreats in forests and deep swamps, they sallied out as often as opportunity presented, and besides sometimes obtaining slight advantages, they continually annoyed the enemy.
With a view to destroy these partisans, as well as to render their authority more congenial to the inhabitants, the British had long been endeavouring to form the Carolinians into a royal militia. Major Ferguson, of the 71st regiment, having by very active exertion raised such a corps, advanced toward North Carolina, in order that his presence might there promote the royal cause. Upon approaching Augusta, he learned that a Colonel Clark had recently made an unsuccessful attack upon that place, and resolving to intercept his retreat, he took up a position on King's Mountain. Here he was attacked on the 7th of October, by about a thousand republicans, who had formed themselves into three parties, and advanced alternately to the charge. The British fought principally with the bayonet, and overthrew each division of their opponents as it presented itself. But instead of fleeing, the discomfited Americans either retired to a short distance, rallied, and renewed their charge, or entered the surrounding thickets, from whence they poured forth a most galling fire.
Ferguson, after displaying the greatest bravery, received a mortal wound. Two hundred and twenty-five of his men were killed
or wounded, and the remainder, amounting to eight hundred, obliged to surrender. The assailants lost but few; yet among these was the brave Colonel Williams, a militia officer who had been very active in opposing the re-establishment of British authority.
The army thus signally successful was of the most heterogeneous nature. They had not collected in obedience to superior orders, but from a spontaneous desire to resist their oppressors. Among their number, were Colonel Campbell of Virginia, Colonels Cleveland, Shelby, Sevier, and McDowell of North Carolina, and Colonels Lacey, Hawthorn, and Hill, of South Carolina. These, by common consent, commanded each day alternately. Their hardships were equal to their patriotism. Some of them subsisted for weeks without tasting bread, salt, or spirituous liquors. At night the earth was their bed and the trees their covering. Such was the fare of the heroes of King's Mountain.
Ferguson was a most able officer, possessing an uncommon spirit of enterprise and distinguished talents as a partisan. His unexpected defeat filled the Americans with exultation, and proportionably damped the spirit of the Tories.
Soon after the battle of King's Mountain, Cornwallis left Camden with his main army and moved toward Salisbury. On the way he met with many confirmations of the fact that South Carolina was not conquered. Groups of riflemen hung upon his march, annoying him so perseveringly that it became hazardous for his companies to leave the main body. Together with the Ferguson catastrophe, this convinced him that much of the labour which he had supposed to be accomplished, was yet to be encountered. Under these circumstances, his lordship abandoned the design of penetrating into North Carolina, and retreated to Hillsborough.
Meanwhile Sumpter had collected a respectable force, with which he so harassed the British parties, that intercourse between their different posts could be effected only with caution and difficulty. He was in consequence attacked on November 12th, at Broad River, by Major Wemyss, but defeated the British and captured their commander. Eight days after he had a second battle with Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, at Black Stocks, near Tyger River. The enemy charged with one hundred and seventy dragoons and eighty men; but Sumpter, having thrown his force into a large log barn, met the charge with firmness, and Tarleton was obliged to retreat, with the loss of three officers and a considerable number of men. In this affair General Sumpter was wounded.
While these events were transpiring, General Gates had been
endeavouring to raise a force sufficient to enable him again to take the field, and retrieve the consequences of his former defeat. This, however, he was not permitted to accomplish. Public opinion loudly condemned his conduct at Camden; and Congress, obeying its influence, resolved to supersede him, and submit his case to a court of inquiry. This was pursuant to a former resolve, that whoever lost a post should be subjected to such examination. On his way home the feelings of the unfortunate general were soothed by a testimonial from the Virginia House of Burgesses, assuring him that "the remembrance of former glorious services could not be obliterated by any reverse of fortune, and that they would omit no opportunity of testifying to the world the gratitude which the country owed to him in his military character."
Thus closed the southern campaign of 1780. Though British conquests had rapidly succeeded each other, yet no advantages accrued to the victors. Such was the disposition of the people, that the expense of retaining them in subjection exceeded the profits of their conquest. British garrisons kept down open resistance in the vicinity of the places where they were established; but as soon as they were withdrawn, and the people left to themselves, a spirit of revolt always displayed itself, and the standard of independence never wanted the active and spirited partisan to defend it.
OTHING now seemed to interfere with
the British projects of conquest in the south; their general good fortune since the reduction of Savannah and Charleston caused them to plan an invasion of North Carolina, as the business of the winter following Gates's defeat. Every circumstance seemed to favour the project. The Southern army was too weak to take the field, nor had Congress or the northern forces the means of strengthening it; and even could Washington have spared part of his troops, the time
necessary to transport them seven hundred miles would have been amply sufficient to enable the enemy to execute their plans, and thus frustrate the object of their arrival. All therefore that Congress could do, was to appoint a general to supersede General Gates. At the earnest recommendation of Washington, they elected General Greene, who was soon to prove that the confidence of the commander-in-chief was not misapplied.
Upon the reception of his commission, Greene immediately proceeded to Charlottestown, where General Gates had concentrated the remnant of his forces. He there received the transfer of that general's authority, and entered upon his official duties.
The same day the army received news of the success of Lieutenant-colonel Washington, in an attack on Clermont, eighteen miles from Camden, and station of Lieutenant-colonel Rugely of the British militia. The plan of attack was somewhat novel. Having no artillery, the colonel planted the trunk of a pine tree so that it resembled a field-piece, and parading it in front of a blockhouse, in which were the enemy, peremptorily demanded a surrender. The ruse succeeded, and without firing a gun one hundred men, defended by a guard-house and abbatis, became pri
Upon assuming the southern command, Greene found himself encompassed with difficulties. The late disasters had been no less fatal to the subordination than to the success of the American arms. The regulars were without pay, and often wanted proper clothing and provisions; while the continental currency, their only money, was so depreciated as to be no longer an article of exchange. Beside these difficulties, the sufferers from exile and loss of property were clamorous for immediate action, and the militia, though generally so inefficient when in battle, were still more so while idle. In a word, at the head of two thousand defeated men, one-half of whom were raw militia, he was to oppose a superior force of the best troops on the western continent. His first care was to enforce discipline; and he effected it, by promptly executing a few of the glaringly mutinous. To raise necessaries for the army, he was obliged to resort to impressment; and this he conducted in so delicate a manner as to effect his object without alienating the affections of the inhabitants. With regard to his operations, after mature deliberation had manifested the folly of an attempt at immediate open warfare, he determined to harass the enemy in detail, until the successes of a partisan struggle would swell the number of his army so as to enable him to risk a pitched battle.