Eutaw Springs
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Eutaw Springs

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125 pages
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<P>The Battle of Eutaw Springs took place on September 8, 1781, and was among the last in the War of Independence. It was brutal in its combat and reprisals, with Continental and Whig militia fighting British regulars and Loyalist regiments. Although its outcome was seemingly inconclusive, the battle, fought near present-day Eutawville, South Carolina, contained all the elements that defined the war in the South. In <I>Eutaw Springs: The Final Battle of the American Revolution's Southern Campaign,</I> Robert M. Dunkerly and Irene B. Boland tell the story of this lesser known and under-studied battle of the Revolutionary War's Southern Campaign. Shrouded in myth and misconception, the battle has also been overshadowed by the surrender of Yorktown.</P></P><P>
</P><P>Eutaw Springs represented lost opportunities for both armies. The American forces were desperate for a victory in 1781, and Gen. Nathanael Greene finally had the ground of his own choosing. British forces under Col. Alexander Stewart were equally determined to keep a solid grip on the territory they still held in the South Carolina lowcountry.
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</P><P>In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, both armies sustained heavy casualties with each side losing nearly 20 percent of its soldiers. Neither side won the hard-fought battle, and controversies plagued both sides in the aftermath. Dunkerly and Boland analyze the engagement and its significance within the context of the war's closing months, study the area's geology and setting, and recount the action using primary sources, aided by recent archaeology.</P>

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Date de parution 15 mai 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611177596
Langue English

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EUTAW SPRINGS
EUTAW SPRINGS
THE FINAL BATTLE OF THE
American Revolution s Southern Campaign
ROBERT M. DUNKERLY and IRENE B. BOLAND

The University of South Carolina Press
2017 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
www.sc.edu/uscpress
26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/
ISBN 978-1-61117-758-9 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-61117-759-6 (ebook)
Front cover illustrations: ( top ) Battle of Eutaw Springs , 1857, engraving by Irving Washington, and ( right ) Nathanael Greene Major, engraved by J. B. Longacre from a drawing by H. Bounetheau, courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collections; and ( left ) Eutaw Creek downstream from big spring, courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Dedicated to Al Boland, whose love of military history was the inspiration for this book
To the Memory of the Brave Americans under General Greene, in South Carolina, Who Fell in the Action of September 8, 1781
Phillip Freneau
At Eutaw Springs the valiant died,
Their limbs with dust are covered o er.
Weep on, ye Spring, your beautiful tide;
How many heroes are no more.
If in this wreck of ruin, they
Can yet be thought to claim a tear,
Smite your gentle breast and say
The friends of freedom slumber here.
Thou, who shalt trace this bloody plain,
If goodness rules thy generous breast,
Sigh for the wasted rural reign,
Sigh for the shepherds, sunk to rest!
Stranger, their humble graves adorn,
You too may fall and ask a tear,
Tis not the beauty of the morn
That proves the evening shall be clear.
Contents
List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Prologue
Chapter One - Commanders and Personalities
Chapter Two - The War in the Carolinas and the March to Eutaw Springs
Chapter Three - First Encounters
Chapter Four - The Battle Develops
Chapter Five - British Resurgence
Chapter Six - Aftermath
Epilogue
Appendix One - Battlefield Archaeology, Preservation, and Tour
Appendix Two - Unit Strengths and Losses, Officer Casualties, and the Return of the Army
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Illustrations
Figures
Gen. Nathanael Greene
Southern campaign map
Relief map of South Carolina
British and Colonial troop movements
Geologic map of Eutaw Springs and vicinity
Stratigraphic column from the Pregnall No. 1 Corehole
Macrofossilferas Santee Limestone
Eutaw Springs, circa 1859
Eutaw Springs circa 1938
Large spring, summer 2005
Eutaw Creek downstream from big spring
The River Road
The sweet potato field
Historic creek photograph
John Eager Howard
Washington s cavalry flag
Lt. Col. William Polk
Lt. Col. John B. Ashe
Maj. Reading Blount
Lt. Col. John Harris Cruger
Col. Otho Holland Williams
Lt. Col. William Washington
Lt. Col. Henry Lee
William Washington monument
Brick House ruins
Maj. John Marjoribanks s grave
Daughters of the American Revolution monument
Pvt. Paul Stroman s grave
Pipe banner
Maps
Battle map 1: Opening Positions
Battle map 2: The Militia Advance
Battle map 3: The State Troops Engage
Battle map 4: The Continental Troops Engage
Battle map 5: The Americans Advance
Battle map 6: American High Tide
Battle map 7: American Withdrawal
Map 8: Tour route map
Preface
Who won? On September 8, 1781, a revitalized American army under General Nathanael Greene launched a surprise attack against a makeshift British force under Colonel Alexander Stewart. After several hours of intense combat, Greene broke off the engagement and withdrew. Many controversies remain from the Revolutionary War battle at Eutaw Springs, and this section will explore each of them in greater detail. A review of the sources used will highlight the difficulties in reconstructing the actions of September 8, 1781. Ironically the most enduring point of contention is over who won the engagement.
If the battle had ended when the Maryland and Virginia Continentals made their assault, there would be no question that this was an American victory. These troops swept the field, brushing aside the exhausted English troops and scoring hundreds of prisoners. The British artillery and camp fell into their hands.
Yet here the battle stalled, as the Continentals encountered the Brick House and Maj. John Marjoribanks regrouped at the palisaded garden. Looting, exhaustion, and a breakdown in leadership on the Continentals part, and hard work by Col. Alexander Stewart, Maj. Henry Sheridan, Bvt. Maj. John Coffin, and Marjoribanks to rally their men, turned the tide. The British counterattacked and pushed the Americans back for good. At this point Gen. Nathanael Greene broke off the engagement, as he related in the letter to the Continental Congress he wrote three days after the battle:
Washington failing in his charge on the left, and the Legion baffled in an attempt upon the right, and finding our infantry galled by the fire of the Enemy, and our Ammunition mostly consumed, tho both Officers and Men continued to exhibit uncommon acts of heroism, I thought proper to retire out of the fire of the House and draw up the Troops at a little distance in the Woods, not thinking it adviseable to push our advantages farther; being persuaded the enemy could not hold the Post many Hours, and that our chance to attack them on the retreat was better than a second attempt to dislodge them, which, if we succeeded, it must be attended with considerable loss. We collected our Wounded, except such as were under the command of the fire of the House, and retired to the ground from which we marched in the morning. 1
Stewart recalled that he was too weak to pursue and that during the fighting his army was nearly routed beyond recovery. He wrote to Lord Cornwallis: I assure you the Action was bloody and obstinate, and had I not my self rallyed the left wing of the Army, carried them on and exposed myself much the consequence to my little Army I believe every one allows might have been fatal. He lamented not having Cavalry to profite of the totall rout of their Infantry when the Americans retreated. Lt. Hector Maclean of the Eighty-Fourth Regiment concurred that the British lacked enough cavalry. 2
The Americans did net several hundred prisoners and pushed the British back, yet they did not break Stewart s army or drive them from the field. Stewart s troops were too weak to pursue and barely held on. A clearer example of a draw could not be had. For months afterward both armies spent their energies on recuperating from this exhausting battle.
Numbers and Losses
Historians also still debate the numbers of prisoners each army gave up and the losses they endured. Exact troop strengths are also in doubt. The present work used the reports of the opposing commanders to produce the numbers presented. Fortunately the returns for both armies exist to aid historians. According to surviving reports, the American army s strength was 2,080 men, and the British had 1,396. When looking at the numbers, it is important to remember that the rooting party sent out by Stewart included about three hundred men, who must be subtracted from his battle strength. While some did rejoin the army, they did not do so until after the engagement.
As far as the disagreement between American and British claims, it will probably never be possible to reconcile them. No doubt Greene, Col. Henry Lee, and others hoped to put the battle in the best light, especially given the dubious outcome and high casualties they suffered. Stewart likely felt the same way with respect to his report to his superiors.
The British lost more men to capture than at any other point in the southern campaign, save for the battle at Cowpens (where more than eight hundred were taken by Gen. Daniel Morgan s army). The loss of so many fighting men at a time when the British were spread thin in defending South Carolina was a serious blow, to be followed the following month by Lord Cornwallis s surrender at Yorktown.
Looting the Camp
Perhaps the most enduring issue is the looting by the Continental troops at the battle s climax. Has it been exaggerated, or did contemporaries downplay it? Greene does not refer to it at all. Lee alludes to it, but only Col. Otho Williams s account makes much of this aspect of the affair. Out of more than one hundred accounts by battle participants examined during research for this work, only two Americans mention the looting: Williams and Lt. Col. Samuel Hammond. No British accounts refer to the enemy s plundering the camp, a significant point since it was their camp in question and the looting supposedly saved their army at the point of collapse.
The first generation of historians to write about Eutaw Springs, which includes William Johnson and David Schenck, placed the blame for Greene s army s coming up short on the looting. Lee s son, Henry Jr., insisted in his account of the battle, The Campaign of 1781 in the Carolinas (1824), that the looting of the camp was proof of American victory following the retreat of the British and the camp s capture. Johnson, apparently with Williams s account as his source, wrote in his Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene (1822) that the men, thinking the victory secure, and bent on the immediate fruition of its advantages, dispersed among the tents, fated upon the liquor and refreshments they afforded, and became utterly unmanageable. According to Otho H. Williams, the camp presented many objects to tempt a thirsty, naked and fatigued soldiery. Lee Jr. and Johnson both assigned greater blame to the looting for the American retreat than did the participants. 3
With the publication of these two antebellum works, the dominance of the looting in the battle s story was established. Nearly every subsequent history of the battle has accepted and repeated it. The looting did occur, but only in combination with other factors did it lead to the American retreat.
Henry Lee s Actions
Colonel Lee s audacious cavalry charge and his whereabouts on the battlefield also raised questions, both then and now. Lee was an energetic, aggressive cavalry commander who never shrank from action. At more than two centuries remove and with only clouded memories and agenda-driven accounts for documentation, it is difficult to understand his actions that day. This was a not a simple back-and-forth battle: the fighting was confused in his sector, and various small units performed numerous complex maneuvers.
Henry Lee Jr. made an interesting argument in defense of his father. The battle s actions had been misunderstood, he claimed; Colonel Lee acted appropriately. The younger Lee accused Johnson of attacking his father s character following the colonel s death in 1818. The elder Lee had fallen on hard times, accumulating debt, suffering from ill health, and facing political ostracism for opposing the War of 1812. Johnson s work, Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene (1822), has affected every account of the battle written since its publication.
Lee Jr. wrote a scathing rebuttal to Johnson s work, which he claimed to be sinister and written with malice. 4 In a section of The Campaign of 1781 stretching over fifty pages, he argued that Greene approved of his father s actions and that Colonel Lee s dragoons acted appropriately during the battle. According to him, Greene s aide Nathaniel Pendleton delivered an order for the cavalry to attack Coffin on the British left flank. Pendleton could not find Lee, who was with his legion infantry, and delivered the order to the only officer he could find, Maj. Joseph Eggleston. This troop of cavalry charged and was repulsed.
In the meantime Lee arrived and ascertained that the time was at hand to charge the British. Upon organizing the assault, however, he discovered Eggleston s troops were not ready, having already assaulted and failed. The younger Lee argued that Johnson faulted Lee for not being in place at the time the order arrived from Greene. As Lee Jr. pointed out in The Campaign of 1781 , though, the commanding general who had placed Colonel Lee in charge of his legion infantry never indicated any disappointment in his officer s conduct during the battle. Pendleton did not make enough of an effort to find Lee, in Henry Lee Jr. s assessment.
Furthermore the younger Lee blamed Johnson for creating the myth that the looting of the British camp was the reason for the American withdrawal. He asserted that the little incident Greene referred to as preventing him from gaining complete victory was not the pillaging of the camp but the confusion among the cavalry at the battle s climax. 5 Indeed the possession and pillage of the enemy s camp is the best proof, generally, of their defeat; nor has its plunder, after a hard fought action, been deemed either disgraceful or disastrous. 6 Lee felt that Greene s reference to an incident was not the looting of the camp but Pendleton s mistake in not finding Colonel Lee to direct him to organize an effective cavalry charge.
This point is important, for while Johnson s early history has colored all subsequent interpretations of the battle, Lee s argument is worth considering. Looting no doubt did occur, and it caused confusion in the Maryland ranks. Yet this alone was not the cause of the Americans failure to break through at the house, and it seems apparent that Greene did not think so, either. The looting, along with other factors such as exhaustion, heat, a strong British position, and a counterattack led by Sheridan, Marjoribanks, and Stewart, saved the day for the English. It seems, as per Henry Lee Jr., that this combination of factors is what Greene was referring to when he mentioned the incident in his letters. 7
Otho Williams also blamed the English defensive position at the house for the Americans failure to win the battle. He wrote that the Enemy were defeated and obliged to retire to their camp which had the advantage of a large Brick House in which many of them found refuge from our fire and annoyed us from the windows which circumstances alone saved them from a total Rout, and in all probability, the whole of them from being made Prisoners. 8
Samuel Hammond insisted in his postwar writings that he and Lee had an arrangement that if the opportunity presented itself and Hammond charged, Lee would support him. He writes that this was the sole cause of preserving the British army from total defeat. if the troops which had already surrendered, and been taken off and passed in the rear of the Virginia Brigade, and those troops supported by the Cavalry of the Legion the brick house also would have been passed in our rear with out loss and our force would have fallen heavily upon the rear and the left flank of the enemy. 9
As with many other battles, the postwar controversies create their own layers of history that later readers must sift through to understand the original events.
The Battlefield Is Underwater
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 recent work by others, show that this is not so.
Comparing a preflood topographical map with a modern map reveals that the county boundary between Orangeburg and Clarendon did not change with the flooding. The two maps together reveal that the lake waters filled the streambed 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 percent-remains on dry ground. While the waters of Lake Marion did not destroy the battle site, however, development has. The majority of the battlefield is covered by a modern neighborhood largely built in the 1960s. Recent archaeology, aided by information from relic hunters, has located the Brick House foundations and identified the location of battle actions from artifacts.
Sources
With a little digging, we discovered more information on the battle than we initially expected. A great deal was written in the early nineteenth century. This secondary scholarship formed the basis for how most historians understood the battle, even up to the Bicentennial years and the 1980s and 1990s. We decided to bypass these works temporarily and begin with the primary sources. After developing an account of the actions based on the accounts of participants, we consulted the nineteenth-century works to see how they summarized, edited, and altered the story.
This work primarily relies on the writings of Greene, Stewart, Maclean, Williams, Hammond, and Lee for our information. Of course these men had their own points of view to promote; nor were they in a position to see the entire battle. But each described in detail their own actions and observations. In all more than one hundred eyewitness accounts by participants were searched, and most had little detail to offer.
The perspective of the common soldier is largely absent, as few privates or noncommissioned officers recorded their experiences. Federal pension applications of surviving Revolutionary veterans shed light on some details of battle, but pension records have their drawbacks. The federal government did not issue pensions to Revolutionary War veterans until 1832, long after the conflict. Many had died, and some who applied were rejected. Many stories of those men were lost in the years after 1781.
Furthermore most applications state only the barest information: who the applicants served under and where they were. An applicant may mention that he was at Eutaw Springs but offer no details. We must also be careful with those that do, for men who are recalling events fifty years previous can make mistakes. Often commanders or events are out of place, as memories faded and became confused. Hammond, for example, wrote, I cannot recollect, at this time, much of what occurred, even within my view in other parts of the field. This is a telling statement from one of those who wrote the most on the battle. John Eager Howard wrote after the war that there were a thousand occurrences of which I have no recollection. It is only in cases where strong impressions were made at the time that my recollection is perfect. 10
Piecing together the British and Loyalist perspective was even more challenging. Few firsthand accounts surfaced during our research. While British and Loyalist soldiers did file pension applications, they merely state units and service information and do not have details of their battle actions. We consulted regimental history museums and archives in the United Kingdom and located a few unit histories that had small amounts of information, yet nothing substantial. We also searched Canadian archives in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which yielded some records and accounts. Many of the Loyalists from the units that fought at Eutaw Springs settled in Canada s Maritime Provinces after the war.
Acknowledgments
We would like to thank the following individuals for their assistance: researcher Karen A. Smith; Michael Scoggins of the York County Historical Center; Revolutionary War historian Bobby Moss; Lawrence Babits of East Carolina University; Greg Brooking of Kennesaw State University; Steven Smith and Jonathan Leader of the South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology; historian and author Christine Swager; Charles Baxley, publisher of Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution; Tracy Power of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History; reenactor and historian Todd Braisted; Rut Conner, who graciously took us to the spring sites and showed us where he used to swim and enjoy family outings before they were flooded; the staff of the York County, South Carolina, Library system, who did a great deal of work securing books through interlibrary loan; archivists Alastair Mossie and Kate Portelli with the National Army Museum in London; Karl Noble, collections officer with the Rotherham Museums; librarian and archival assistant Daryl Johnson of the Museum of New Brunswick; historian Rick Hatcher of Fort Sumter National Monument; Donna Wells; Diane Quinn; the Ninety Six Chamber of Commerce; Kristen McMasters with the American Battlefield Protection Program/National Park Service; Charlie Hall of the Washington Light Infantry; Beverly M. Donald of Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston; archaeologist Scott Butler of Brockington and Associates; and the staff of University of South Carolina Press.
Robert s father, Robert E. Dunkerly, and Irene s husband, Charles A. Boland, also read the draft and made valuable recommendations.
PROLOGUE
B y 1781, the sixth year of the war, fighting had shifted to the southern states. A series of brutal engagements fought in the southern campaign ultimately decided the course of the Revolutionary War. Many of those engagements have been thoroughly studied. Eutaw Springs is a relatively little-known battle, even though it saw some of the most heated fighting of the Revolution, producing heavy casualties on both sides. The brutal combat that raged there is nearly forgotten today. Even detailed studies of the southern campaign ignore or gloss over it. The engagement helped end British control of South Carolina outside of Charleston, altering the strategic situation in favor of the Americans. No one who was present there in September 1781 likely forgot that day. Our hope is that the public will come to appreciate this important event.
Overshadowed by Yorktown, Eutaw Springs lingers in obscurity. The 1781 Virginia campaign gave closure to the Revolution in the South and the war as a whole, thus making Eutaw Springs seem an afterthought, almost irrelevant. Yet this crucial engagement impacted the status quo in the southern theater. As both sides had their sights on the negotiating table, control of the interior of South Carolina was a tremendously important asset. Though the battle was a stalemate, with the British withdrawal to Charleston and the Loyalist areas of the interior largely subdued, momentum was with the American forces. Gen. Nathanael Greene s army was firmly in control for the remainder of the war s two years.
British armies had come to South Carolina to gain control of this important colony, partially in the belief that large numbers of Loyalists would rise up to support them. American intentions focused initially on halting the British, yet by 1780 the entire state was overrun. In 1781, with the main British army moving on to North Carolina, American efforts turned to retaking the British and Loyalist outposts across the state and moving on to Charleston, the capital and vital port city.
Most histories of the Revolution s southern campaign follow the movements of Lord Charles Cornwallis s British army through the Carolinas and into Virginia. It is a story that flows neatly and is easy to follow, with a clear-cut result. Yet after the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, while Cornwallis marched toward Yorktown in 1781, the American army that had been his opponent for the past year marched in the opposite direction, back into South Carolina. The movements of Greene s army to Hobkirk s Hill, Ninety Six, and Eutaw Springs have received less attention from most historians. These battles were smaller, often frustrating for General Greene, and have been largely ignored in both historical writing and historical preservation. Thus by the summer of 1781 a unique situation developed, in which the Americans were defending Virginia against a British invasion and the British posts in South Carolina had to defend themselves from invading Americans.
The battle at Eutaw Springs was vicious, had far-reaching consequences, and was one of the larger Revolutionary battles in South Carolina. The fact that it was indecisive has led to its being overshadowed by American victories at Cowpens and Kings Mountain. It was a classic open-field battle that epitomizes eighteenth-century linear warfare. For students of military history, as well as the modern military, Eutaw Springs has tremendous educational potential.
Eutaw Springs was also particularly bloody: the American and British armies here lost nearly a quarter and a third of their strengths, respectively. Blackstocks, South Carolina, is often cited as a bloody battle of the southern campaign. For the English, Eutaw Springs was no less so. While more famous battles such as Camden, Kings Mountain, and Cowpens were only an hour long (or less), the fighting at Eutaw Springs raged for about three full hours, something nearly unheard of.
The battle also clearly illustrates one of the most important features of combat during this period: command and control of one s unit. The key to winning a battle was maintaining control of morale and unit cohesion. Once these factors broke down-as units lost leaders, became intermingled, and lost their effectiveness-an army lost its ability to fight. If conditions deteriorated enough, defeat resulted. This was an age in which the victor won by demoralizing the opponent s army.
Combat in the Revolutionary War was linear and close. Volleys and bayonet charges usually determined the outcome. Discipline, determination, and sometimes luck made the crucial difference. Eutaw Springs illustrates all of these factors.
Battles in the eighteenth century were, in fact, rare opportunities for commanders. They were 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 opportunity to crush an opponent came infrequently. Both commanders at Eutaw Springs appreciated this fact. Greene s forces had experienced a series of close calls at Guilford Courthouse, Ninety Six, Hobkirk s Hill, and Orangeburg. The American army fought well in all of these engagements, save Hobkirk s Hill (no fighting occurred at Orangeburg), yet they met defeat in every one. Greene hoped Eutaw Springs would put the finishing touches on his campaign, ending it with a clear-cut victory. 1
Col. Alexander Stewart also had high hopes that fall of 1781. With a mixed force scrapped together from Loyalist militia and British regulars, Stewart wanted to stop Greene s advance across the state and stabilize the strategic situation. Again, both armies fought well at Eutaw Springs; yet a clear-cut victory eluded both of them.
The phenomenon of battle is a difficult one to master. Battle is chaos; when the shooting starts, disorganization, confusion, and loss of control are inevitable. A commander has little control once his forces are engaged, and Eutaw Springs illustrates these points unmistakably. In many ways the battle of Eutaw Springs was a disappointment for both commanders. Greene at one point broke through the British lines, but the British 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 defeat Greene decisively. Probably both commanders, and many of their officers, reflected upon these events and second-guessed themselves for the rest of their lives. 2
Fought late in the war, Eutaw Springs was the last major engagement in the southern theater and, more important, was the last major open-field battle of the entire war. It was the last time of the war that sizeable armies formed up for linear combat. There were no other large battles fought in the north in 1781 or 1782. The purpose of this work is to examine the Battle of Eutaw Springs in the proper context, in terms of its size and significance.
Eutaw Springs brought together two armies that reflected the conditions of 1781. These were very different forces from those that met just a year earlier in the August 1780 battle at Camden. Similar problems plagued both armies: they were poorly equipped, had large numbers of enemy deserters and prisoners in the ranks, and were forced to rely on small cores of veteran troops hardened by miles of marching and fierce fighting. 3 Many of the soldiers at Eutaw saw action at Camden, Cowpens, Kings Mountain, Guilford Courthouse, Ninety Six, and Hobkirk s Hill, some of the toughest battles of the war. Some had even survived the rigorous campaigns in New York and Pennsylvania. The veteran troops of both armies were well experienced in the conduct of battle: skirmishing, changing formation, maneuvering, and reforming. By 1781 they were experts at scouting and feeling out the enemy s strength and knew how far to push and probe and how to use terrain and cover to advantage.
The British army included a large number of Loyalist units raised in America, troops who were for all practical purposes as well trained and experienced as any British regular. In fact they were of equal value to Stewart as his British regulars, since they were used to the climate and were hardened combat veterans. Greene s army, with a mix of seasoned militia and veteran and raw Continentals, was also a work in progress. After Eutaw Springs these forces split up: some militia left, some Continental troops returned to North Carolina, and other Continentals arrived that fall. The battle might have ended very differently if Greene had been able to keep this army intact.
Eutaw Springs is also distinctive in that it was one of the few battles in which many of the famous American commanders in the southern campaign were present: Greene, Robert Kirkwood, Otho Williams, John Eager Howard, Andrew Pickens, William Washington, Henry Lee, Wade Hampton, and Francis Marion. Pickens, Hampton, and Marion and their guerrillas did not fight in many of the larger formal battles like this one.
Piecing together the story of Eutaw Springs was not an easy task, and this study is our interpretation of events. Other historians may differ, and we welcome their views. We used all the primary sources we could gather to analyze the events. It is important to note that many accounts, such as pension applications, were written more than fifty years after the fact. One soldier, Henry Willson, lived until age 106; some lived into the 1840s or 1850s. 4 Their memories may have been clouded by old age, no matter how well-intentioned their accounts. Often they reported what they thought they saw or what they thought was going on.
In addition some men had axes to grind, and their reminiscences may reflect their opinions, biases, or agendas. This possibility will be discussed in more detail when the sources are examined. Moreover an observer s account may be affected by the limited things he can see and understand at one point in time. Furthermore it is also unfortunate that there are only a handful of Loyalist and British accounts. Balancing the story of the battle is difficult when the sources are so one-sided.
Regardless of place of origin, nationality, or what banner they served under, all who fought at Eutaw Springs were profoundly affected by it. This much is clear: the combatants who survived never forgot the experience.
Military history is about more than troop movements on a battlefield. It is also about geology and physical geography, for they have had, and continue to have, a tremendous influence on battles and military strategies. Most historians tend to overlook their influence. Yet for centuries military leaders have used knowledge of terrain and geography to plan tactics and troop movements and thus to win battles and wars. Our objective was to create an interdisciplinary treatise that includes descriptions of the geology and geography of the region surrounding Eutaw Springs and to analyze how Gen. Nathanael Greene and Lt. Col. Alexander Stewart used terrain and geology to their advantage. Furthermore we have blended historical documents with archaeological investigations to produce what we hope is a well-rounded interpretation of this battle. 5
- Chapter One -
COMMANDERS AND PERSONALITIES
E utaw Springs brought together a number of commanders, among them some of the most famous of the southern campaign. Some were from the regulars, others were partisans, militia, or provincial officers. In addition, some of the most talented officers in both armies were present at the battle. Of particular interest is the fact that many partisans and militia groups joined the American regular army under Gen. Nathanael Greene; often these forces operated independently. On the British side, small detachments of regular troops were augmented by Loyalists, forming a conglomerate force.
The men who led these armies had varying personalities and experiences that shaped their abilities when under fire and their responses to adversity. While most of the commanders on both sides were experienced veterans, there was a notable lack of higher-grade officers on the British side. This is a reflection of how thin British forces had been stretched in South Carolina in 1781. At Eutaw Springs there were many American commanders who had led regiments and brigades, while most of the British leaders were at best regimental or company commanders. Despite the shortcoming Lt. Col. Alexander Stewart s troops held their own under good leadership.
The standard combat unit at the time was a regiment, which at full strength numbered about six hundred men, though most were never at full strength once deployed in the field. Regiments were composed of ten companies of about sixty men. Four regiments made a brigade, often led by a brigadier general, colonel, or lieutenant colonel.
The American army consisted of three brigades of Continental troops and several militia units and cavalry regiments (also known as dragoons). The British forces were not organized into brigades, but Maj. John Marjoribanks commanded a group of flank companies known as light infantry, the most mobile and skilled of the companies. These were the best companies from other regiments, drawn off from their parent unit and put together into a formidable combat formation-a common practice at the time.
American Forces
Major General Greene, a Rhode Island Quaker, commanded the Southern Department of the Continental Army. He was a methodical planner whose patience and insight managed to see his army through numerous setbacks. While often defeated on the battlefield, he managed to hold his army together and maintain a view of the strategic situation. Greene s perseverance resembled that of his friend and commander, George Washington. He was one of the best American generals of the war, possessing keen vision and an understanding of both battlefield tactics and larger strategy in a way that many of his contemporaries did not. His mastery of logistics was the key to his success.


General Nathanael Greene. Courtesy of Ninety Six Chamber of Commerce.
Greene was also eminently qualified for such a command. The Southern Department had been the site of the ruin of many American officers careers, including the most recent commander, Gen. Horatio Gates. Greene had served from the start of the war in New England and was rewarded for his service with steady promotion over the years. He soon became one of Washington s most trusted subordinates.
He fought in all the large battles with the main army under Washington, in the New York campaign, Trenton and Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown. By 1780 he had commanded wings and divisions of the main army consisting of several thousand men. It was good experience for leading the small southern army, essentially similar in size to his earlier commands. During the winter at Valley Forge, Greene reluctantly served as the army s commissary, a thankless job that nonetheless gave him invaluable experience in logistics and supply issues. In this capacity he learned to work effectively with governors, various political leaders, and military commanders to make the machinery of the army s supply system work. These would be big challenges as he entered the sparsely populated Carolinas, a region that had been devastated by war and was lacking a good infrastructure. 1
His skills showed during the brilliant maneuvers of 1780 and 1781 in the Carolinas. Using terrain, roads, fords, and rivers to his advantage, he led the British army far from their base and effectively used river barriers to protect his army. Although forced from the ground at Guilford Courthouse, the culmination of the first campaign of 1781, his army could recuperate and draw on established supply bases, while the British forces found themselves worn out and far from support. 2
After the war Greene moved to the South, where he had won fame and secured his reputation. He served as president of the Society of the Cincinnati, a veterans group, and attempted to pay his wartime debts. He and his wife, Caty, lived on a plantation on the Georgia coast until his death in 1786.
The veteran brigade of Greene s three Continental brigades was commanded by Col. Otho Holland Williams of Maryland. He was an ambitions and hardworking soldier. An orphan since the age of twelve, he was a county clerk in Frederick and then a merchant in Baltimore when the war began. He joined the Frederick Rifle Corps and served as a lieutenant. 3 Williams proved himself one of the best combat leaders of the Revolution. At the start of the war, he served with the Maryland Regiment and was captured in 1776 at Fort Washington, New York, where he shared a cell for a time with Ethan Allen. Exchanged in 1778, Williams joined the Sixth Maryland as a colonel. He fought at Monmouth, New Jersey, and was sent south with the Maryland Line, fighting at Camden, S.C. Greene chose him to replace Daniel Morgan as head of the rear guard during the crucial race to the Dan River in early 1781. Williams fought at Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk s Hill, and Ninety Six. 4
In 1782 Williams was promoted to brigadier general; after the war he declined the offer of second in command of the US Army. He settled in Baltimore and served as customs collector. He also planned the town of Williamsport, Maryland. In poor health for many years, he moved to Barbados in hopes the climate would improve his condition. He returned to Maryland and died at age forty-five. Williams s writings are one of the best sources of information on Eutaw Springs. 5
Williams s brigade consisted of two Maryland and one Delaware regiments. Lt. Col. John Eager Howard commanded the First Maryland Regiment at Eutaw Springs. When the Revolution broke out, Howard was serving with the Maryland Militia. He then entered Continental service, seeing action at White Plains, Germantown, and Monmouth with the Fourth and Fifth Maryland Regiments. He transferred to the Southern Department with the Maryland Line and was present at Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk s Hill, and Ninety Six. Howard left active service following Eutaw Springs, where he was wounded. Congress voted him a medal for his actions at Cowpens. After the war Howard served as governor of Maryland as well as a national and state senator. He turned down Washington s offer to be his secretary of war. His last public service was an unsuccessful bid for vice president. Howard was one of the most talented small unit commanders. His service at Eutaw solidified that reputation. 6
Lt. Isaac Duvall served under Howard in the First Maryland. He had enlisted in the Third Maryland Regiment in 1777 and fought with that unit in its subsequent battles. Transferred to the First Maryland, he served in the southern theater at Camden, Ninety Six, and Hobkirk s Hill. At Ninety Six Duvall commanded part of the forlorn hope that led the attack on the Star Fort, hacking through abatis and other obstacles to clear the way for the main attack force. He was noted for bravery during this dangerous operation that cost Greene heavy casualties. During the fighting at Eutaw Springs, Duvall led his company forward toward the fortified house in Stewart s camp and seized a British gun. While pushing forward he was hit and mortally wounded. Duvall died a few days later. 7
Maj. Henry Hardman led the Second Maryland Regiment. Hardman served through the entire war. He first served as lieutenant in a Maryland Rifle Battalion in 1776; later he rose to be captain of the First Maryland Regiment. Hardman was captured in the defeat at Fort Washington in November 1776 and exchanged two years later. He was a captain in the Seventh Maryland and then in the Third. He had most recently commanded the Second Maryland at Ninety Six. Hardman brought a wealth of experience as a unit leader. 8
Capt. Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment served with distinction throughout the entire Revolutionary War. Joining Washington s main army in 1776, Kirkwood fought with the Delaware Regiment at Long Island and in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania campaigns. The regiment was sent south and was decimated at Camden in 1780. Reorganized, it fought again at Cowpens, Guilford, and the subsequent actions in South Carolina under Greene. Reduced in size, the Delaware troops were still formidable. Kirkwood was widely regarded by contemporaries as one of the best small-unit combat leaders of the war. 9
Commanding the North Carolina Brigade was Brig. Gen. Jethro Sumner. He had previously served with the Virginia Militia in the French and Indian War. He was a planter and tavern owner in Halifax County, North Carolina, when the war broke out. Sumner served in the state s Provisional Congress in 1775. He fought with the Third North Carolina, serving at Brandywine, Germantown, and Valley Forge. 10
Sumner s health suffered at the winter encampment, and he returned to North Carolina in the spring of 1778 to recover. He fought at Stono Ferry in 1779 and helped defend Charlotte in 1780. When his state troops were placed under the command of a Continental officer, he resigned. General Greene convinced him to rejoin the army in 1781. 11 He was chosen to command the newly recruited North Carolina Continentals and led them well at Eutaw Springs. After the war he returned to his civilian life as a planter and tavern owner. Sumner remains an unsung hero of North Carolina s Revolutionary War effort. A monument to his honor stands at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, though he did not fight in that battle.
Thirty-three-year-old Lt. Col. John Baptista Ashe was one of North Carolina s most prominent officers in the Revolution, active in the conflict from start to finish. He served at the Battle of Alamance under Gov. William Tryon in 1771, helping crush the Regulator movement, a pre-Revolutionary civil war in the state. He fought at Moore s Creek, the first Revolutionary action in North Carolina. He then served with the First North Carolina Regiment. Ashe was the commander at the 1779 defeat at Briar Creek in Georgia. At Eutaw Springs he commanded the newly reconstituted First Regiment. Greene considered him one of his best unit commanders. 12
Part of what made these North Carolina regiments so strong was the leadership of their officers. Capt. Dennis (or Denny) Porterfield commanded a company in the First North Carolina. An experienced veteran, he brought skill and good leadership to this new unit. Porterfield had fought since 1776, first as an ensign in the Sixth North Carolina, then as a lieutenant. He fought with the North Carolina Line in the Philadelphia campaign, then transferred to the First Regiment in 1778. The next year he was promoted to captain. Porterfield was killed at Eutaw Springs. 13
Maj. Reading Blount served successively in the Third, Fifth, Second, and First North Carolina Regiments during the war. He was cited for bravery at Guilford Courthouse. During the Battle of Eutaw Springs, he commanded the newly raised Second North Carolina Regiment. As with Ashe, Greene considered him a firstrate combat leader. 14
Maj. John Armstrong commanded the Third North Carolina Regiment at Eutaw Springs. He commanded a company of the Second North Carolina Regiment during the Pennsylvania campaign in 1777, where he was wounded, hit in the shin at Germantown; his men nicknamed him Hickory Shins. Armstrong was promoted to major and later lieutenant colonel of the Fourth North Carolina. He was wounded at Stono Ferry in 1779 and fought with the North Carolina Militia at Camden in 1780. Armstrong was an experienced unit commander who had seen his fair share of combat. 15
Lt. Col. Richard Campbell led the Virginia Brigade of Greene s army. Campbell resided in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at the start of the war. He first served with militia at Fort Pitt on the frontier and led expeditions against Indians in the Ohio River Valley. Later he fought with the Main Continental Army in the Fourth, Eighth, Ninth, and Thirteenth Virginia Regiments. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel by the time of Eutaw Springs, commanding a brigade of two regiments. Campbell was at Camden (where he was wounded), Guilford Courthouse, Ninety Six, and Hobkirk s Hill and brought valuable battlefield leadership to the field. Under his direction the newly formed Virginia regiments achieved a level of competence and dependability. Killed near the end of the battle at Eutaw Springs, he is virtually unknown today. Greene wrote that he was a brave, active, and intrepid Soldier. 16
Maj. Smith Snead led the First Virginia Regiment at the battle, taking over command from the ailing Col. Samuel Hawes just after the defeat at Ninety Six. Snead had seen militia service in the 1760s and fought in the Revolution since 1776. Serving with the Continental Line, he rose to the rank of captain of the Ninth Virginia. He saw action at Brandywine and Germantown, where he was captured. Exchanged, he joined the reformed Virginia Continental troops prior to the battle of Guilford Courthouse. After the war he received six thousand acres for his service. 17
Capt. Thomas Edwards, of Sussex County, led the Second Virginia Regiment at Eutaw Springs. Edwards had served as captain of the Fifteenth Virginia and was wounded at Brandywine. He was wounded again at Eutaw Springs. After the war he received four thousand acres of land for his service. 18
In command of the South Carolina state troops was Lt. Col. William Henderson. A resident of the Spartan District, he had fought in many engagements with the militia. In 1776, at the start of the conflict, Henderson was elected to the state s Provisional Congress. He also rose to command the Sixth South Carolina Regiment before the fall of Charleston, where he was captured. He was exchanged and fought under Sumter with the militia. When the war drew to a close, he again served as a state representative. Henderson was cousin to Col. James Williams, another upcountry militia leader, who was killed at Kings Mountain in 1780. 19
Serving under Henderson was Lt. Col. Wade Hampton. Born in Virginia, Hampton moved to the Tyger River area of South Carolina. He served in the First South Carolina Regiment and was captain by 1777. He took the loyalty oath to the British when South Carolina fell in 1780, but by September was serving with the partisans. After the war he served in the House of Representatives and commanded the state s militia, becoming a general in 1813. Hampton fought in the War of 1812 on the Canadian border. When he died in 1835, he was thought to be the wealthiest planter in the country. His grandson was the famous Civil War general Wade Hampton. 20
Also commanding state troops under Henderson was Lt. Col. Peter Horry. He was from a large and distinguished lowcountry South Carolina family. He served as a captain in the Second South Carolina Regiment until the fall of Charleston. In 1781 he fought in the militia under Francis Marion as a colonel. Horry led a detachment at Eutaw Springs, where he was wounded. His brother Hugh also fought with Marion. 21
Several South Carolina militia groups also fought here, including forces under Marion, Pickens, and Col. Edward Lacey. Brigadier General Marion was better known by his nickname, the Swamp Fox. A native of South Carolina, he went to sea as a young man but soon returned and began farming. During the Cherokee campaigns of the 1760s, he fought with the militia, gaining valuable experience. When the Revolution broke out, he helped American forces take control of the forts in and around Charleston. Marion served in the Second South Carolina before the fall of Charleston and eventually commanded the unit. He then organized a guerrilla force in 1781, operating in the eastern part of the state. Marion used hit-and-run tactics, disrupting British supply and communication lines. After the war he served in the state senate. 22
Brig. Gen. Andrew Pickens was born in Pennsylvania but later moved to South Carolina. In the 1760s he battled Indians on the colony s western frontier. For his fierceness in battle, the Cherokee called him Skyagunsta, meaning Wizard Owl. When the Revolution broke out, Pickens sided with the Whigs, fighting at Ninety Six in 1775. After the fall of Charleston in 1780, he felt bound by the terms of parole to stay out of the fighting. When his own home was raided, however, he chose to reenter the fray, feeling that the British had violated the terms. 23
Pickens fought at Cowpens and was promoted to brigadier general of the South Carolina Militia. He fought at Ninety Six and in some smaller battles leading up to Guilford Courthouse. At Eutaw Springs he led the state troops on the left of the battle line. After the war he served in Congress and the state legislature and was major general of the state militia. Pickens was one of the legendary partisan leaders whose presence at Eutaw made an important difference in the performance of the militia. 24
Lt. Col. Samuel Hammond served in the militia under Pickens throughout most of the campaigns and battles in the upcountry. Originally from Virginia, he fought with that state s militia at Point Pleasant and later Great Bridge. He also served at Fort Pitt on the frontier. Thereafter he fought with the main Continental army from 1776 to 1778. When he moved to South Carolina, he joined the American cause here, fighting with the militia in battles at Stono Ferry, Savannah, Musgrove Mill, Kings Mountain, and Blackstocks. He was wounded at the last battle and again at Eutaw Springs. Later Hammond served as a South Carolina legislator. He died in 1842 at age eighty-seven. 25
Col. Edward Lacey commanded the militia from what is now Chester County, then part of York District, South Carolina. Lacey and his men fought in many of the upstate s major battles: Williamson s Plantation, Kings Mountain, Cowpens, Blackstocks, and Musgrove Mill. Born in Pennsylvania, Lacey ran away from home at the age of thirteen and joined Gen. Edward Braddock s expedition at the start of the French and Indian War. He then moved to the Chester District of South Carolina. After the war Lacey moved to Tennessee and eventually Kentucky, where he became a brigadier general of militia and a county judge. He died there in 1813. 26
Capt. John Hughes, born in what is now Chester County, South Carolina, fought with the militia in most of the upcountry s battles.

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