The Revolutionary War in Laurens County, SC and Corps of Discovery

February 15, 2014 – Clinton, SC – join SCAR in partnership with the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site for a program on The Revolutionary War in Laurens County, SC and Corps of Discovery to Revolutionary War sites in the area.

The roads will be clear on Saturday and there is power on in Clinton.  We are on for Saturday.  Saturday afternoon, please bring your hiking shoes as it will be wet and muddy, moderate temperature with some wind.

Prof. Jim Piecuch will present his research on the removal of the Loyalists in the area in 1778.  Prof. Jeff Dennis will talk about the 1776 Cherokee WarBrian Robson will talk about the local militia organizations (on both sides); yes there were Little River Regiments of both American and Loyalist troops.  John C. “Jack” Parker, Jr., author of Parker’s Guide, will present his latest research on SC Loyalist militia Maj. William “Bloody Bill” Cunningham’s Bloody Scout raid and we plan to visit the sites of “Bloody Bill’s” massacre of Americans at Hayes Station.  We hope the second edition of Jack’s encyclopedic book on the Revolution in South Carolina will be available and our other authors will be there to answer your questions and sign their books. We will also visit Lt. Col. William Washington’s victory over Col. Thomas Water’s Georgia Loyalist and Col. Thomas Pierson’s South Carolina Loyalist militias gathered at Hammond’s Old Store.  Finally, we will go to the site of the early Whig vs. Tory battle at Lindley’s Fort.  The event is free, the public is invited.  Gather at the Gilliam Center for the Performing Arts, 203 West Calhoun Street at 9:00 am for presentations.  The Gilliam Center is a part of the Thornwell High School on the Thornwell campus.  We will break for a “Dutch Treat” lunch at local restaurants in downtown Clinton, SC, and the afternoon we will carpool to these three historic sites.



Sgt. Maj. of the King’s American Regiment[1]

This is an excerpt of a informative diary of a Loyalist non-commissioned officer in the American Revolution who saw action in the middle and southern states.  Teasing out the where, who and seminal events adds exciting details to studies of the War[2].   To experiment with crowdsourced annotation of historical documents, I offer this as a start and solicit your input for correcting my footnotes and to add others.  Please contact me at with your suggestions.

Excerpt of Diary – the King’s American Regiment in South Carolina


Decr. 14th. 1780 – We Arrived Safe at the Wharf in Charles Town, After Some fatigue & Danger on the Bar –

Decr. 19th. 1780 I went into Town & Spent the Day very Agreably, with the Serjt. Majr. P.W.A. [Prince of Wales American Regiment] Volunteers, at the Kings Head, in Trade Street.[3]  I Returned to the Ship, which was then underway.  We landed on the morning of the 20th at Hoff Cars [?][4] Where Lt. Colo. [George] Campbell takes upon himself the command of the Regt. as Colo. [Edmund] Fanning[5] took Quarters in Charles Town.

Decr. 21st. 1780 – Marchd. from Hoffcess [?].  Nothing happened on our way to George Town, where we Arrived the evening of the 24th Decr 1780.[6]

25th. – Christmas Day, the Regt. marchd out in hopes of falling in with the Scoudralls [scoundrels], but they fled on our Approach, Colo. Campbell & Lt. Willson were Slightly wounded, One Rebel taken Prisoner.[7]

Decr. 30th. 1780 – This day compleats four years Service in the King’s Amern. Regt.


January 1st. 1781 – Captn. [John] Bluck[8] Marchd from George Town, with the Detachment under his Command, after being Reliev’d. by the K.A. Regt. –

7th Jany. – Sunday – Majr. Tenpenny [Robert Timpany][9] comes to George Town, who had been to the Rebels with a flag of truce.  George Town is a place, lying on the Santee, about 60 Miles Distant from Charles Town.[10]  Several refugees are in and about the Town, & some notorious rebels, are trading, trafficing & making their fortune.

8th January – Colo. Campbell goes Out with a Detachment of Horse & foot, towards Pedee River, the Same day I was taken with the Agues[11]

10th Jany. – Colo. Campbell return’d with some Horses & Cattle, Two Serjeants & one Corpl. of the Dragoons were taken Prisoner –

January 19th 1780 [sic, 1781] – Lt. Smith of the K.A. Regt. Marches to the Santee, with a party of Mounted Infantry, & returns the Same Evening – Colo. Gordons Sloop was taken by the Rebels, on her way to Charles Town.


Matthias Ross, Lt in the P.W.A. Volunteers Died in Charles Town.  Jonas Randal Private in the above Regt. died near Hanging Rock.

Jany. 23rd. 1781 – Ensn. [Elisha] Budd Return’d with the party under his Command. from a Successful Cruize, having retaken Colo. Gordons Sloop & Kill’d & wounded 20 Rebels, with no other Damage than, Colo. Gordon recg. a Ball, in his Shoulder –

January 25th 1781 – About four oClock in the morning Rebel Colo. [Henry] Lee, Surprized the Garrison of G. Town, in which Colo. Campbell, Ensn. Young & Adjt. Crookshank were made Prisoner, the latter was Dangerously wounded.[12]

February 4th. 1781 – An Officer of the Vols of Ireland was brought, by a Rebel flag, to George Town.

Feby. 10th. – Colo. Campbell & Major [James] Grant Went to Charles Town

14 Feby. – A Detachment of About 100 foot & forty Horse, under Command of Captn. Saunders, Marchd. to Black River, where Captn. Jas. De Peyster, Ensn. [Elisha] Budd & Twenty four men were taken Prisoners.  The Rest Return’d with About Twenty head of Cattle & 5 Officers & Two privates, of the Rebel Militia Prisoners.[13]

Feby. 16th 1781 – A Melencholy Accident happened to Serjt. Lockwood, by a Piece Bursting in his left hand, which Shattered it to that degree that he immediately underwent an amputation.

February 24th. – we Marchd. from Geo. Town, & Halted the Night at Hogans, on Santee

February 25th 1781 – Crossd. the ferry & Marchd. to, a Mr Warren, a Rebel Priest, for this Night we wanted for Nothing that his plantation Could afford.[14]

26th. – Marchd. to one Palmer, a Loyal, Subject, and when we left him, the next morning, He was Pleased with the Conduct of the Regiment

27th. Feby. – we Came to Monks Corner & were put under command of Colo. [John] Small of the 84th. Regiment.

March 2d. & 3rd. we Marchd to Nelsons ferry, Mr. Clairs Plantation.

March 4th. 1781. – Marchd to Laurens’s Mills –

5th. – another of the Same Plantations

6th. – Marchd to the Mount on Schotch [Scott’s] lake 5 Miles from [Gen. Thomas] Sumpters house[15], we serve under the command of Lt. Colo. [John Watson Tadwell-Watson] Watson.[16]

March 7th. – we Marchd. to Littles plantation –

March 8th. 1781 – 11 oClock we had a Sckirmish with Mr. Marion & his Gang of Robbers – but they were Soon Dispers’d,[17] After which we March’d Peacably to Cantys Plantation.

10th. March 81 – Marchd. to Little’s plantation took him & sent him prisoner to C. Town

11th. – Marchd to the Mount & Remain’d the day

12th March. – at 12 OClock, Marchd to one James, a Rebel Major on Parole.

14th. – A Captn. Rease, of the Loyal Militia

March 15th. 1781 – to Camden – The corps were in Camden as follows (63 Regt.) British & (K.A. Regt., V. of Ireland) Provincial (N.Y. Volunteers)

March 22d 1781 – A Detachmt. under Command of Lt. Colo. [Ellis Welbore] Doyle, marchd towards Pedee.[18]  This Day I was very ill with the Intermitting Fever – Camden is Chiefly Inhabited by Refugees

March 24th. 1781 – The Agreable Intelligence was Recd. at Camden of the Glorious Victory Gaintd, by the Troops under Command of His Excellency Lt. Genl. Earl Cornwallis, at Guilford Court House in No. Carolina, in Defeating the whole Rebel Army under the Rebel Genl. Greene, on the 15th. Instant, in Consequence of which, A feu de Joie was fired, by All the Artillery & Troops, in the Garrison –

March 25th. 1781 – A Detachment Marchd. from Camden, under Command of Captn. Atwood Supposed for Lt. Colo. Doyle, Same Day Colo. Campbell Arrives at Camden, & takes Command of the Regiment.[19]

27th. March – a Detachment of thirty Cavalry set off Nelsons ferry, as an escort to a Number of waggons.

28th. March. – the Cavalry, of the N.Y. Vols. under Command of Majr. [John] Coffin, March’d for Lt. Colo. Doyles Command –

Apl. 1st. 1181 – the whole Command, under Lt Colo. Doyle, Returns, with fourteen rebel Prisoners

 Apl. 14th 1781. – One Smith, for murdering a friend to Government, & a Soldier belonging to the 64th. Regt. for Desertion, were hanged on this Day –

Apl. 10th. – Corpl. Silas Germain Died at Camden Court House on this day –

Apl. 15th. – It was Reported, the Rebels were Moving Towards Camden.[20]

Apl. 19th. – The Rebels Appear, in front of the works at Log Town.[21]

21st. – Captn. Gray, N.Y. Vols. under Command of Majr. Coffin, Charg’d the Rebel Regt. & Kill’d four & took the Same Number Prisoners without the least Damage, the Same evening Majr. [Thomas] Frazer, with the South Carolina Regt. Arrives from Ninety Six –

Apl. 22d. 1781 – About 6 oClock evening, the Rebels Attackd. the Mill,[22] where only an Offr. & Eighteen men were Posted, with some Militia, the Lt. Infy. Compy. of the Voluns. of Ireland was sent down, who soon repulsed them –

Apl. 25th. 1781 Lord Rawdon, march’d with 900 men, from the Garrison, & Attackd. Mr. Green at Log Town,[23] who had About 5000, the fight was Obstinate for Some Minutes, when the Rebels were Charg’d, with Such Spirit, by our little Army, that, a total Rout ensued, which was followed by our Troops, for Near Two Miles, when Excessive heat & fatigue Obliged them to give up the Pursuit, the number Kill’d of the Rebels is not Known, tho from there own Accou[n]ts over 300, About 120 Prisrs. Were Taken – Our loss was inconsiderable.

Lt. Wightman of the Ks. A. Regt. was wounded & taken Prisoner.  One Serjt. & four kill’d, One Serjt. & five taken Prisoners – Lt. Burn, who commanded at the Mill on the evening of the 22d. Recd. a wound which Provd. fatal to him –

Order of Battle

 Ks.Am.Regt. / \ \ / Guns _ – 63rd. Regt. /~ ~ \

\ /

Detacht. 64th & Lt. Infantry N.Y.Infy. / \ Voluns. of Ireland / \ /

South Carolina Royalists


 The Right Honorable Francis Lord Rawdon

27th. Apl. The Rebels Seam to be Collecting at Rudgleys [Henry Rugeley’s] Mills, 8 Miles from Camden;[24] we remain’d in our battle Positions, the Troops were every Night on the field, lying on their Arms –

May 7th. 1781 – Lt. Colo. Watson, who had been Detachd. Sometime to cover the Frontiers of the Province, join’d the Garrison, with the 64th. & Provincial Light Infantry –

8th. May – Lord Rawdon marchd. About 1400 men to Camden, Crossd. the fery, in hopes of bringing Mr. Greene to Renew the Action; but as he had Posted himself in Such an Advantagious manner, his Lordship did not think it Practicable to Attack him, he however made Several Maneovres, in order to Draw him from his Advantagious Position, but to no Purpose, the 25th. being fresh in their Memory, they declin’d having any confrontation with his Lordship – The whole Return’d the Same Evening; Lt. Colo. Campbell, with the Ks. A. Regt. Remain’d in Camden.

May 10th. 1781 – The Town was Evacuated; the Ks.A.Regt. being Detachd. in front, with the Sick & Baggage, we continued our March, to Moore’s Plantation, without being molested.

May 11th. – the whole Army got as far as James Plantation who was a Majr. in the Rebel Service, he was Taken, in Charles Town & permitted to go to his Plantation, on Parole.

May 12th – the whole Army came to Nelsons Ferry 5

13th. – we Marchd. to the Utaw [Eutaw] Springs

14th. – Marchd. About fifteen Miles Towards Thompson and return’d to the Springs Again the same evening, this was thought to be done to favor the Evacuation of the Post at Nelsons ferry

May 16th. 1781 – Marchd. from the Utaw Springs, to Monks Corner.

May 19th – We Marchd. from Monks Corner, to Dorchester.   Here we Arrived About 12 oClock, on the 20th.  Dorchester is a very Pleasant place, lying on Ashley River leading to Charles Town, Distant from that last 16 Miles – those who lived there, were Chiefly followers of the Army –

May 25th 1781 – The Detacht. at the above Place was Reliev’d by us, March’d this day, under Capt. Willett, to Join His Lordship, at, or, near Abercorn[25]

26th May. – About 11 oClock P.M. Recd. Orders to March

27th. we Marchd. to the Suburbs of Charles Town; where we remain’d till the 28th. & 29th being much fatigued by the Many Marches we had Perform’d.

May 30th. 1781 – The Regt. Marchd. into Town; & to Eveley’s Wharf, where they immediately Embark’d On Board the Tartar Privateer & Other Small Sloops. –

31st May – I Came on Shore, with Two Sailors in Order to Carry Captn. Leverick, On Board. I with himself & Two Sailors were left on Shore & the fleet Sail’d; CharlesTown was then the Place of Residence for me.

June 4th. 1781 – His Majesty’s BirthDay was Observ’d as usual, firing from the Ships & Batteries Commenc’d at one oClock. Ringing of Bel1s & illuminations lasted till one OClock, in the Morning –

June 6th 1781 – The Infantry, that arriv’d from Cork, Landed

June 7th. 1781 – The Third Regt. Marched from the Barracks into the Country; & they made a Genteel and Soldier like Appearance.[26]

13th. – we Recd. Orders to Embark with Captn. [probably Frederick] DePeyster.

14th. we Embarkd. On Board of the Amazon of 16 10 Pounders. Captn. DePeyster, Captn. Purdy, 2 Serjts., 20 Privates, besides Merchants &c.

June 15th. 1781 – The Exchange of Prisoners takes place, for the Southern Provinces.  Due to Contrary winds, we was detain’d till the [next day.]

[1] Henry Nase, a New York Loyalist from Dutchess County, joined the King’s American Regiment and served in the War to its end, moved to Canada where he died as a prominent citizen in New Brunswick in 1836.  The Nase Diary was transcribed by Todd Briasted at the New Brunswick Museum, Archives Division, Nase Family Papers.

[2] Bracketed information added by editor, spelling, punctuation and capitalization corrected only for clarity.  The annotator thanks Todd Braisted and John Robertson for their many contributions.

[3] There is no known tavern in Charlestown called Kings Head; likewise, there was no Trade Street in colonial Charlestown, probably Tradd Street, per Dr. Nic Butler, research historian, Charleston County Library.

[4] “Hoff Cars” and “Hoffcess” probably refer to Hobcaw (Creek) off of the Wando River in modern Mt. Pleasant, SC about 4 miles upstream from the Charlestown wharfs.  It was the site of a major SC Navy shipyard and had a road leading to Georgetown.

[5] Col. Edmund Fanning was a loyalist from New York, where he raised and commanded the King’s American Regiment (sometimes called Fanning’s Corps), provincials who were trained, equipped, paid, and led to regular British Army standards.  He led a distinguished life of service to the Crown, retiring as a full general of the British Army and lieutenant governor of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

[6] From the Hobcaw Navy Yard to Georgetown, SC by 18th c. roads was about 55 miles, making the regiment cover about 13 1/2 miles per day on foot.  Taking the ferrys and causeways over the South and North Santee River and the Sampit River would have taken some extra time.

[7] For a description of this action, see Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter 2: 389-390.

[8] Lt. John Bluke of the 23rd Regiment (Royal Welsh Fusiliers) was commander of Georgetown from October 1780 to January 1, 1781.

[9] Often spelled “Tenpenny” in period records, Maj. Robert Timpany was a schoolmaster from Hackensack, NJ and served as an officer in the 4th Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, provincial troops.  About 80 men of the IV Battalion of the NJ Volunteers came to South Carolina with Gen. Henry Clinton in 1780.

[10] Georgetown is actually on the Winyah Bay at the confluence of the Sampit, Black, Waccamaw, and Great Pee Dee Rivers; the Santee River empties into the Atlantic Ocean about 15 miles south of Georgetown.  Nase was correct that Georgetown lies about 60 road miles from Charleston, SC.

[11] 18th c. description of malaria or some other illness involving fever and shivering.  For a description of this action, see Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter 3: 21-22.

[12] This raid was planned and executed by Gen. Francis Marion and Lt. Col. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee.  It was a water and land attack, on a moonless night, which took the British by complete surprise.  Contrast details of this raid in Henry Lee’s The American Revolution in the South, p. 223-225 and Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter 3: 57-61.

[13] The British were holding elderly John Postell, Sr., I think hostage, to try to capture his three sons, John (Jr.), James and Jehu, who successfully raided British supply depots in January 1781.  It is believed that this happened at Hasty Point Plantation on the Pee Dee   River.  Capt. John Postell got word and got into the plantation house’s detached kitchen and threatened the British detachment, and captured Capt. James DePeyter, scion of a wealthy New York family, brother of Capt. Abraham DePeyster (Maj. Patrick Ferguson’s second-in-command at Kings Mountain) and Capt. Frederick DePeyster, also of the Kings American Regiment.  For a description of this action, see Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter 3: 85-86.

[14] “Mr. Warren, the Rebel Priest,” was undoubtedly Rev. Samuel Fenner Warren, whose plantation was near the site of Civil War era Battery Warren (named for his son Col. Samuel Warren).  This is only about 5 miles upstream from Tidyman’s Plantation. [C. Leon Harris]

[15] This is the old Mississippian period Indian Mound at Scotts Lake upon which the British built Ft.Watson.  It was about 5 miles west of Gen. Thomas Sumter’s house near Nelson’s Ferry.

[16] Lt. Col. John Watson Tadwell-Watson, temporally assigned to the Southern Department by Gen. Henry Clinton, commanded the Provincial Light Infantry and attached troops working with Lord Francis Rawdon in his furious counter-insurgency campaign against the South Carolina partisans led by Gen. Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion.

[17] Gen. Marion’s Bridges Campaign, skirmish at Mt. Hope Swamp on the River Road.

[18] This detachment was to raid Gen. Marion’s base at Snows Island while Marion was “entertained” by Col. Watson.

[19] Lt. Col. George Campbell, captured by Harry Lee and Gen. Francis Marion in their raid on Georgetown on January 24, 1781 and paroled to Charlestown, was evidently quickly exchanged and returned to command.

[20] Gen. Nathaniel Greene marched back to South Carolina as Lord Cornwallis army entered Wilmington, NC to rest, and be resupplied.

[21] Greene detached his light troops under Capt. Robert Kirkwood towards Camden; Log Town was a few farms just a mile north of the colonial village of Camden and the fortified British post there.  Capt. Kirkwood’s troops drove in the British guards and occupied Log Town until Gen. Greene arrived in Camden with his Army the next morning.

[22] This grist mill was one of the several located on either the Pine Tree Creek or Little Pine Tree Creek, within a mile or less of the British post at Camden.  The exact mill has not been ascertained.  It was valued and protected and engaged in grinding grain for the garrison, citizens and refugees at Camden.  Historic Camden, Vol. 1, Thomas J. Kirkland and Robert M. Kennedy, p. 130, Diagram No. 11.

[23] Greene was camped in battle order on Hobkirk Hill, straddling the Great Waxhaw Trail, about one mile north of Log Town.  This action was often called the 2ndBattle of Camden, or in modern times, the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill.

[24] Rugeley’s Mill was on Grannies Quarter Creek and the Great Waxhaw Trail (modern Flat Rock Road) about 13 miles north of Camden.

[25] Abercorn was a colonial village about 15 miles up the Savannah River from Savannah on the Georgia side.

[26] The 3rd Regiment, known as the Buffs, recently arrived in Charleston from Cork, Ireland.  The flank companies were immediately marched from Charlestown with Lord Rawdon to the relief of the besieged post at Ninety Six.

Letter between Loyalist Officers occupying South Carolina at the end of March 1781

Charles B. Baxley

 This letter, written from friend to friend, discusses the transportation of supplies and communications from Charleston to the British interior posts during the heart of the second rising in revolutionary South Carolina.  It reflects the reality of the difficulties the Americans have inflicted on the British: disrupting communications lines, pushing most of the supply routes to the south side of the Santee, forcing military escorts of all wagon trains, and making the British put resources into manning a series of way-forts along the Charleston to Camden and Ninety Six roads.  It also passes on information about a third friend, Maj. James Dunlap, and ends with some unusual and personal discussion about a local widow, likely Letitia Nelson.

The letter was written during a period of furious British counter-insurgency against bold partisan activities, most coordinated by South Carolina militia Gens. Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion.  The author and intended recipient, Loyalist officers from New York, were on constant alert from these partisan raids.  Lord Francis Rawdon commanded the British in South Carolina from his Camden, South Carolina base and orchestrated a number of detachments who unsuccessfully tried to kill or capture the partisans and suppress the Whigs in the South Carolina backcountry.  In mid-March 1781, Generals Cornwallis and Greene fought a bloody battle at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina.  South Carolina militia Gen. Thomas Sumter had called out his militia and unsuccessfully attacked the British posts at Granby and Thomson’s Belleville, interdicted a British supply wagon-train at Big Glade, and attacked the British near Fort Watson.  Sumter’s troops were counter-attacked at Radcliffe’s Bridge and dispersed.  South Carolina militia Gen. Andrew Pickens returned to South Carolina and organized the western South Carolina militia to counter the British operations out of their Ninety Six base.  South Carolina militia Gen. Francis Marion continued the insurgency in the Pee Dee basin, and engaged a British field detachment in his three-week-long Bridges Campaign which ended when another detachment of Rawdon’s counter-insurgent troops raided and destroyed Marion’s Snow’s Island base at the end of March.  Against the background of a complex anti-insurgency campaign, Maj. Arthur Maxwell writes his friend, Capt. DePeyster.

 Letter[1] from [Maj. Andrew] A. Maxwell[2] to Capt. [Abraham or Frederick[3]] DePeyster

Congarees[4]                                                                                                                  31 Mar 1781

Dear Sir

I just this moment received a letter from Lt. McPherson[5] informing me that my stores were arrived some days ago at your point[6] and that you detained them in expectation of the arrival of a party of Hessians.[7]  As there [sic] arrival [sic] soon may be uncertain & both stores & wagons much wanted[,] have to request that you will send them up on receipt of this with a proper escort [.]  If you give the Officer commanding at Thompson[8] notice[,] he will send a partty [sic] to the halfway [sic] Swamp[9] to meet them & your Escort [sic] may then return.

Your Old Friend Dunlap[10] has been rather unsuccessful – the matter as far as I can learn; is as Follows –

Coll Cruger[11] sent Major Dunlap with his Dragoons & 30 Rank & file Infantry on a foraging [sic] party[.]  About 15 miles from 96 he heard of a party of rebels & followed them to Long Cane & found them much stronger than he expected.  The Cavalry adopted Hud’s [sic, Hinde’s][12] brassis [sic, brassish or brashest] Maxim & most of them got to Ninety Six to fight another Day.  The infantry continued the engagement till all their ammunition was expended & were then obliged to Surrender —[.]   I have not yet heard what became of Dunlap, am apprehensive he was taken —[.][13]

Pray what is become of your Brother James[14] [?] I hope he has ere [before] this got a Company.  The first time you write him be so good as make him a Sender of my best wishes.

I am afraid [sic]   The situation of Nielson I always thought an unpleasing one but it must be doubly so to my friend who has always shined in the circles of the fair [.]  Mrs. Nielson[15] [,] I suppose you spend a few leisure hours with, pray is not she a well informed woman & give me leave to tell you she has a considerable fortune.  I had once some thoughts of making love to her but unfortunately for me we had a terrible quarrell [sic] [.]  After that I never could prevail upon her to listen to the soft tales of love.  I hope you will be more successfull[sic] —[.]  Pray let me have the pleasure of hearing from you often.  I am with greatest esteem & regard      Dear Sir

Your most obedient  & __?__Voery [sic, Very] hble [sic, humble] Sert  [sic, Servant]

S/ A Maxwell

[1] Document on file at SC Dept. Archives and History, Columbia, SC, Subject File: Battles – H-2-2, referenced by Terry Lipscomb.  The letter was located and shared by Nancy M. Lindroth.  The annotator, Charles B. Baxley, is also appreciative of Nancy Lindroth’s research on the DePeyster brothers; David Neilan research on the DePeyster – Postell prisoner exchange controversy, and editorial assistance from David P. Reuwer.

[2] Maj. Andrew Maxwell was a Connecticut Loyalist in the Prince of Wales American Regiment provincials, assigned to command Fort Granby in modern Cayce, SC.

[3] “Capt. DePeyster” was one of three brothers (Abraham, James and Frederick), Loyalists from a prominent New York family, who came south with Gen. Henry Clinton.  Capt. James DePeyster was posted at Georgetown, SC with the Kings American Regiment.  Capt. Abraham DePeyster was second in command to Maj. Patrick Ferguson, with the American Volunteers Regiment, and was captured by the Americans at Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.  Capt. Frederick DePeyster of the Kings American Regiment was the probable intended recipient of this letter.

[4] The British post at the Congarees was built around the colonial Chesnut and Kershaw Trading House, later known as the Cayce House, in Granby (modern Cayce, SC).  This house stood until the 1930s.

[5] Lt. Donald McPherson of the 84th Rgt. commanded the British garrison posted at Ft. Motte, Rebecca B. Motte’s fortified house on her Mt. Joseph Plantation.  Some scholars think the commander of Ft. Motte may have been Capt.-Lt. Charles McPearson of the 1st Battalion of DeLancey’s Brigade.  The primary sources are unclear.

[6] In this letter “your point” probably refers to the small British fort at Nelson’s Ferry on the Santee River from its context; however, it could mean Orangeburg or Dorchester, other British posts on the alternate Charleston to Granby supply route.

[7] There were several groups of Hessian troops assigned to the Southern Department; they were most often used by the British as garrison troops.

[8] This is likely Continental Col. William “Old Danger” Thomson, commandant of the 3rd SC Regiment, whose plantation, Belleville on the lower Congaree River, was seized and fortified by the British as a strategic waypoint along the roads from Orangeburg and Moncks Corner to McCord’s Ferry.  It was abandoned in March or April 1781 and most of the garrison moved to Fort Motte, about a mile away.

[9] There were two “halfway” Swamps, one on each side of the Santee River.  This letter probably refers to the one on the southwest side of the Santee, about three miles southeast of Lone Star, SC on the McCord’s Ferry Road (SC Hwy 267).

[10] Maj. James Dunlap (Dunlop) was a controversial Loyalist cavalry officer from New York, who was twice wounded by the Americans and miraculously survived.  He would again lead Loyalist troops before being wounded and captured at Beattie’s Mill on March 21, 1781.  Dunlap was widely despised and made the mistake of leading his Loyalist troop in pillaging the homes of Col. Andrew Pickens (then under British protection) and harassing Maj. James McCall’s family.  Because of this action, Pickens felt he was honorably released from his parole.  Pickens proved a great militia leader with Morgan and Greene and in reclaiming the western parts of South Carolina from Crown domination.

[11] Lt. Col. John Harris Cruger, a New York Loyalist, commander of the First Battalion of DeLancey’s Brigade, was assigned to command the British interior post at Ninety Six, South Carolina in 1780.  He successfully defended his post against a siege laid by Americans under Gen. Nathanael Greene in May-June 1781.

[12] The discipline of the light-horse. by Robert Hinde of the Royal Regiment of Foresters, (light-dragoons.) (London: W. Owen, 1778);view=1up;seq=18  It is amazing that these officers were somewhat familiar with the Hinde book.

[13] Maj. James Dunlap was surrounded and attacked at Beattie’s Mill by Americans commanded by Georgia militia Col. Elijah Clarke and SC State cavalry commanded by Lt. Col. James McCall.  The SC Loyalist dragoons fled and the Americans systematically reduced Dunlap’s troops who surrendered after Dunlap was wounded.  Dunlap had more troops than Maxwell reported as 34 were killed or wounded before the rest surrendered.  Dunlap was taken to Gilbertown, NC where he was murdered as a prisoner about March 28.  The word of Dunlap’s death had not reached Maxwell.

[14] Capt. James DePeyster was captured by Capt. John Postell of Marion’s Brigade at Postell’s father’s plantation, now thought to be Hasty Point Plantation, on the Great Pee Dee River about 20 miles above Georgetown, SC on February 14, 1781.  In letters seeking James DePeyster’s exchange, Gen. Marion tells that DePeyster was shipped north out of South Carolina; he was probably not exchanged until after the general Southern Department prisoner exchange cartel agreed to on May 3, 1781.

[15] Mrs. Letitia Nelson (sometimes spelled Neilson) owned Nelson’s Ferry, a major crossing of the Santee at the mouth of Eutaw Creek.  She was the widow of Jared Nelson.  The British built a redoubt on the south bank of the Santee River at Nelson’s Ferry and posted troops to control this strategic river crossing and point on their Charleston-Camden supply and communication line.   “Jared Nelson was the owner of Nelson’s Ferry over the Santee.  After his death, his widow married Gen. William Henderson.  She was Letitia Davis, sister of William Ransom Davis, as shown by a marriage settlement made December 4, 1782, and recorded in Marriage Settlements, No. 1, page 113, office of Historical Commission of South Carolina, Columbia.  If he married a sister of Mrs. John Mikell it necessarily was an earlier marriage than that to Letitia Davis.”, accessed on November 4, 2013  Mrs. Nelson, though friendly with the British and Loyalist occupying her plantation and controlling her ferry, married one of the senior commanders of the Americans in South Carolina soon after their withdrawal in September 1781.  William Henderson succeeded Gen. Thomas Sumter as commander of the South Carolina militia in central South Carolina.

Posted on November 28, 2013.

EUREKA! The Battle of Brier Creek Found

Exerpt from Campbell's Map coloredExcellent news.  Cypress Consulting’s Archaeologist. under the leadership of Dan Battle, have located and identified key locations of Georgia’s Battle of Brier Creek.  Part of the strategy for defining the location and footprint of the March 3, 1779 Battle of Brier Creek has been successful.  These assessments, however, are still in the early stages of development and  photographs of the artifacts and maps will be forthcoming.

After carefully examining the excellent maps produced from aerial LiDAR, it was possible to theorize the topographical situation at hand that was laid before the opposing armies facing off during the Battle of Brier Creek Georgia.  One natural feature, unseen on the typical USGS maps but prevalent on the LiDAR mapping, was in the form of an elongated swag hundreds of meters in length but only about 30-40 meters in width.  This feature suspiciously coincided with theLiDAR annotated directional battle formation lines hinted at in the British maps produced by Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell.  This natural feature was targeted by the team during the reconnaissance phase of this project.  Positive results in the form military artifacts were indeed located along  this feature proving that it played a significant role in the battle.  On March 3, 1779, a quickly established defense was necessitated by American Gen. John Ashe.  At 4:00 pm on the evening of March 3, 1779, the Americans found themselves trapped in an area that many believed to be a strong defensive position.  British Forces were incorrectly perceived to be entirely located south of a narrow but defensible rushing watercourse known as Brier Creek.  In a skillfully executed military maneuver, the British Army quickly reversed this situation and put the Americans at a great disadvantage.  An inconsequential swag wet spring feature behind the American Army was obviously not the intended defensive position of choice.  Out of necessity and being perhaps the only option still left to the Americans, a battle line was hastily formed to contend with the surprising arrival of attacking British Forces in the rear of the American Bivouacs.  Evidence now strongly suggesthat this low feature is what the Americans tried to defend from on March 3, 1779.

Wilson's Briar Creek mapDuring the reconnaissance phase of this battlefield assessment by the study group, only a small portion of the area was required to be sampled in order to positively identify the area of this historic event.  Sites were identified by use of metal detection.  This had extremely minimal impacts to the located resources.  Several additional sites of interest were also located and recorded.  All sites were given mapped location points by use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) equipment.  These sites of interest might again be revisited whereas more traditional archaeological methods might be applied to them.  Although heavy vegetation proved challenging to our reconnaissance team, the American line of battle is believed to have been identified for the formal upcoming study still several months away.  Early assessments indicate that a linear field of strewn battlefield evidence stretches several hundred meters along a naturally low topographical feature.  These locations appear to retain excellent information gathering potential.  Samples so far collected include several musket and rifled musketball projectiles of various calibers.  Most are unfired with the exception of one or two that need closer inspection and analysis.  Other artifacts include military gun hardware parts, watch pieces,  and various clothing related artifacts.  As limited as this reconnaissance was from overgrowth vegetation, its information was highly productive.  It is believed, for example, that at least one key aspect of the battlefield was located.  This is the location that is believed to be where the Georgia Continentals regulars and militia made a legendary stand against repeated British attacks before being overwhelmed and captured.

The current condition of the site, impacted noticeably by tree farming activities, is of concern and should be addressed to the State Archaeologist Bryan Tucker immediately.  This is a necessity due to the maturity of the pines present at these locations which could be harvested at any time.  A management plan should be put in place that will protect this particular site.  Any additional heavy damage impacted at this site may greatly diminish our understanding of the events surrounding this battlefield.  It is believed that the buried remains of United States soldiers exist at these locations and may be well preserved.  Included are also interments of various militia soldiers from several states and the remains of soldiers from the British Army.

Daniel Battle

Principal Investigator, Cypress Cultural Consultants, Beaufort, SC

Dan Battle and his research team have been working on surveying the site of the Battle of Brier Creek for about a year and have just announced their exciting results.  Interestingly, they are using social media, FaceBook, to share some documents and comments on their research.  See   This project has come a long way since Sylvania, Georgia Mayor Margaret Evans and SCAR hosted a group of Briar Creek scholars Hill-Brier Creek Workgroup_12-12-09_smat R & D’s Restaurant for a discussion and tour in December 2009.  SCAR’s “hat’s off” to Dan Battle’s excellent research team and the local Remember Brier Creek Committee, including Jason Beard, Alex Lee, David Buie, Al Freeland, Norm Hill, and Mayor Evans who gave consistent vision and leadership to this project.  (In addition to the Briar Creek Remembrance Committee pictured left are David Wilson, Nancy Lindroth, Dan Elliott, Rita Elliott, Charles Baxley, Steve Rauch, Barbara Abernethy, Robert Scott Davis, and Kim Stacy.)

Now all we have to do is to permanently protect the site from the state, interpret the site, make it accessible, and spread the word of this important piece of our Nation’s birth story.

The Brier Creek plaque and picnic area is located on the north side of Brier Creek, 12 miles east of Sylvania, Georgia, on Brannens Bridge Road.  It is about one mile upstream of the colonial bridge crossing and the battlefield.  The battlefield is in the 15,000 acre Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area, owned by the State of Georgia and managed for timber and hunting.

Map top is from Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell’s report, annotated by Charles B. Baxley.  The green map is an artificial LiDAR image of the battlefield area annotated by remote sensing archaeologist Matthew Luke.  The map below, by David K. Wilson, is from his excellent book, The Southern Strategy (Columbia, SC: USC Press, 2005).  Click on the image above for a closer look.

August 05, 2013

SCAR Lifetime Achievement Awards

Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution awards John “Jack” Buchanan” a “Golden Gorget” Lifetime Achievement Award in Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Literature.

David Reuwer and Charles Baxley present Jack Buchanan the SCAR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Literature,  Lighthorse Harry Lee Symposium, Greensboro, NC, April 27, 2013

David P. Reuwer, John “Jack” Buchanan and Charles B. Baxley present the award at the 2013 Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee Symposium in Greensboro, NC.  Double click on photo for full resolution image.

Jack, a retired art museum curator, historic author and presenter was recognized for his years of research and  writing creating engaging word-pictures which illustrate and explain the American Revolution and the Southern Campaigns, including his seminal work, The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas.   His delightful prose elucidates the quintessential American birth story in The Road to Valley Forge: How Washington Built the Army that Won the Revolution as well, among his other historic works.

Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution awards Steven J. Rauch a “Golden Gorget” Lifetime Achievement Award in Military History.

Steve Rauch and Charles Baxley, SCAR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military History,  Lighthorse Harry Lee Symposium, Greensboro, NC, April 27, 2013

Steven J. Rauch and Charles B. Baxley with the award presented at the 2013 Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee Symposium in Greensboro, NC.  Double click on photo for full resolution image.

Steve, a professional military historian, author and professor  was recognized for his research, and leading military staff rides on many southern fields of the Revolutionary War; with particular emphasis in Georgia and South Carolina.  He has served as the Southern Campaigns adjutant on numerous occasions including as conference organizer, presenter, and manager.  He is SCAR’s chief officer in Georgia.  He is a founding member of the Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Round Table, author, and popular tour guide.  His long-standing commitment to teaching  our military history and support of Liberty’s cause.

SCAR staff photographer Bob Yankle.

The March of the “Scopholites”:

Failure and the King’s Cause on the

Southern Revolutionary War Frontier

by Robert Scott Davis

Davis art

A raid by the Florida Scout (Albert Bobbett, 1877)

The American Revolution coincided with and became a part of an internal cultural, racial, class, and religious struggle in the South that began before and ended after the war.  An early and prime example of that conflict occurred in the spring of 1778 when frontier South Carolina Loyalists, or Tories, banded together and marched to the province of East Florida to defend it from invasion by the new United States.  They planned to return to their homes accompanied by red-coated soldiers who would restore the southern colonies to the Crown and reestablish for their minority communities special privileges and legal protections that, before the war, had even extended, to a degree, to Indians, slaves, and landless whites.  As historian Linda Colley wrote, British colonial America demonstrated that an empire “so often assumed now to be necessarily racist in operation and ethos could sometimes be conspicuously poly-ethnic in quality and policy.”[1]

South Carolina famously had very different populations of the Americans who remained loyal to the British government during the various phases of the American Revolution. Their differences mirrored the political and social diversity of the pre-war colony.  The events of the Revolution that followed added further complexities such that some later prominent Loyalists such as Andrew DeVeaux, Daniel McGirt, John Thomas, and Harris Tyner began the war, as did the famous Benedict Arnold, supporting the rebellion or the Whig cause.[2]

Hundreds of these particular Americans sometimes called “Scopholites,” after a derogatory term for colonial South Carolina bandits, set out for the province of East Florida to defend it from invasion by the new United States.  Their odyssey encouraged an already existing British strategy to salvage victory with large numbers of American recruits trained by and serving with the King’s regular army.  (Organized, equipped, trained, and paid as British soldiers in the provincial regiments.)  These two different interests shared the common goal of a restoration of the southern colonies to the Crown.  That ambition had a basis in unrealistic assumptions about what the British might still achieve by 1778.

The origins of the march of the so-called Scopholites began in the efforts of colonial governments to settle their western backcountry with foreign immigrants to dilute the growing numbers and power of the largely disenfranchised native-born American frontiersmen, to buffer the coastal settlements from Native Americans, to provide markets for coastal trading interests, to provide agricultural products, and to balance the large coastal populations of enslaved Africans.  South Carolina, for example, paid cash bounties to settlers arriving from Europe and offered the best frontier lands for exclusive townships created for Scots-Irish, French, Swiss, Palatine, and German families respectively.  Such minority communities thus owed everything to the colonial status quo and risked losing a great deal, including even their cultural identities, to an unfettered frontier American democracy that lifted all restrictions on their colonial privileges.

The different peoples in these communities included the immigrant, poor, ethnically distinct, and a predominantly non-slaveholding Waxhaw settlement in the Catawba Valley on the border between North and South Carolina.  Historian Peter N. Moore wrote that this Scots-Irish “Blackjack” settlement found itself “suspect, excluded, and vulnerable” to neighbors who “crushed dissent and heightened fear and hatred of difference.”  For these same reasons, German settlements at the fork of the Broad and Saluda Rivers (the so called “Dutch Fork” after the Germanic “Deutsch” settlers there) in South Carolina also remained predominately Loyalist.  Religious minorities, including the Quakers, Separatist “New Light” Baptists, Welsh Baptists, Moravians, and Dunkers evolved inside and outside of these communities and, at the least, opposed slavery within their communities despite their neighbors support for that institution.  The South Carolina frontier also included classes of Indians, former slaves, landless whites, and racially mixed persons whom Hugo P. Leaming generally defined as the maroon people of mainland English North America. They too owed their liberty, by different definitions, to what the old order did and did not provide including the lack of sheriffs, courts, jails, and local political power in the colony’s backcountry.  White men also unsuccessfully led Indians against James Lindley’s Fort on July 15, 1775 and suffered captured in the subsequent multi-state campaign against the Cherokees.[3]

During the American Revolution, Loyalist SC militia Col. Robert Gray witnessed how the conflict between the minority communities and those of the mainstream frontier Americans created a patchwork of societal and culturally segregated settlements that were each acting in their own respective interests.  In the contest to control South Carolina, when thousands of frontier Loyalists marched in support of the King’s cause in 1775-1776, their neighbors defeated them in a civil war almost detached from the American Revolution.  More than 4,000 North and South Carolina troops defeated the South Carolina backcountry Loyalists at the Reedy River in South Carolina in the battle of the Great Cane Break on December 22, 1775, resulting in the capture of Loyalist leader Col. Thomas Fletchal.  Sixteen-year old Scottish immigrant Baikia Harvey related to his godfather the fate of the prisoners taken by the men of the majority on the frontier, the American-born, in the populist South Carolina Snow Campaign:

I am Just Returned from the Back parts where I seed Eight Thousand men in arms all with Riffeld Barrill guns which they can hit the Bigness of a Dollar Between Two & three Hundreds yards Distance.  the Little Boys not Bigger than my self has all thir Guns & marches with their Fathers & all thir Cry is Liberty or Death.  Dear Godfather tell all my Country people not to come here for the Americans will Kill them Like Dear in the  Woods & they will never see them. .  . every time they Draw sight at any thing they are sure to kill or Creple & they Run in the Woods Like Horses I seed the Liberty Boys take Between Two & Three hundred Torreys & one Liberty man would take & Drive four or five before him Just as shepards do the sheep in our Cuntry & they have taken all their arms from them and put the head men in gaile[4]

The “Scopholites”

The victorious revolutionary Whigs diminished their opposition’s standing by calling them “Scopholites,” the same name that they would generically give the Loyalists who marched to British East Florida in 1778.  Colonial frontiersmen used that moniker to refer to the associates of Joseph Coffel, also Scoffield, Scoval, Scophol, etc., a notorious chicken, cattle and hog thief who had been a constable for the area between the Broad and Saluda Rivers prior to 1772.  He claimed a commission as colonel charged by South Carolina officials with enforcing warrants against the colony’s Regulators, frontier vigilantes whose political agitation for local rule of law sought to stop brigands such as Coffel.  Contemporary William Moultrie famously described him as an illiterate, stupid, ignorant, and noisy blockhead.  After Coffel used his presumed authority as a carte blanche for his some 600 so-called “moderators” to plunder the frontier, the governor and assembly finally established the local courts and jail that the Regulators sought.  In November 1773, the new colonial court in Orangeburg ordered Coffel to receive a public whipping for cattle rustling and petty larceny.[5]

“Scopholite” served as an appellation by different persons for different groups of people. Some writers of the time used it only to refer to white men living with and as if Indians or for agents of the British who communicated between the southern backcountry and East Florida.  A few members of that group the Whigs discovered, after capturing them, to be escaped slaves.  Dr. David Ramsey, a witness to the American Revolution and one of its very first historians, wrote that in South Carolina the bandits called Scopholites became the Loyalists or Tories while the Regulators who had opposed them before the war joined the Revolution.  Often Whigs did apply the name to any of the “King’s men” from the South Carolina backcountry.[6]

Historian Heard Robertson, however, found nothing to suggest that Joseph Coffel had any thing to do with the Loyalists.  Only a rumor of him survives after his sentence in November 1773 and it comes from a secondhand report in 1775.  Robertson believed that the Whigs used this appellation as inflammatory propaganda, much as the word “Tory,” from the Irish words for “pursued” and “bandit,” came to be a pejorative term for anyone who supported the British cause or as the word “Whig” had an original meaning in the 1600s akin to “country bumpkin.”  “Scoffelite” also plays on the word “scrofula,” a skin disease popularly known as the “King’s evil,” which supposedly could be cured by a monarch’s touch.  The word “Coffle,” meaning animals or slaves chained together from the Arabic word qāfila (caravan) also matches the public treatment of captured Loyalists in 1775, as described by Harvey, or it implied that they blindly followed their leaders into captivity or worse.[7]

To have made a connection between all or almost all resistance to the war and a notorious thief and supporter of the old colonial order served the Whig propaganda.  It made the American Revolution appear as a continuation of the campaign for frontier empowerment begun with the Regulator Rebellion against backcountry brigands.  On a broader scale, Ramsey and others used it to explain all American resistance to the Revolution as only colonial officials, cowards, brigands, or, in more recent times, as of a different, albeit wrong, opinion that refused to accept change.[8]  Such a definition, then and since, ignored the complex cultural conflicts within South Carolina.  The so-called Scopholites shared most in their suffering persecution for being culturally separate and seeking a return to the protections (or official indifference) that they had enjoyed before the war.[9]

British East Florida

To southern Americans still loyal to the King, St. Augustine in the British colony of East Florida offered a place of refuge for Loyalists.  Escaped slaves also took the opportunity of the war to flee there.  Refugees came in such large numbers that Royal Governor Patrick Tonyn had to try to use his militia to prevent the arrival of even more mouths to feed.  A British possession since 1763, East Florida had little political strife other than some demands for a colonial assembly.  Its remote location, small population and garrison of regular British troops kept it from joining the American rebellion.  As a sparsely settled, underdeveloped “sandy desert,” the province could never feed its residents and, early in the war, the rebelling colonies to the north cut off trade.[10]  From 1776 to 1778, three major campaigns by American troops from Georgia and South Carolina worsened the food crisis for East Florida by breaking up the plantations and ranches from the Ogeechee River to the St. John’s River to end cattle rustling raids from East Florida.  Some American leaders, including George Washington, wanted the province as part of the new United States.[11]

The Florida Scout

Even the British garrison in St. Augustine only survived because of cattle raids by the some 200 members of the “Florida Scout,” men from the ethnic townships and from other mixed racial and cultural communities on the South Carolina frontier.  Their leaders were such prominent displaced Loyalist partisans as David Fanning, Thomas Brown and Daniel McGirt.  Fanning, well known on the border of North and South Carolina, reportedly had been a trader with the Indians whose goods a Whig militia band had plundered.  Brown, an Englishman who had settled an extensive plantation of foreign-born indentured servants in Georgia, had been nearly tortured to death and then exiled for trying to rally South Carolinians in the backcountry against the Revolution in 1775.  He formed a traditional American ranger battalion of 120 men who had experience in the wilderness and with working with the Indians.[12]  South Carolinian Daniel McGirt had been a “moderator,” like Joseph Coffel, a frontier leader who helped negotiate an end to the Regulator Rebellion.  He had prominent South Carolina Whigs as relatives.[13]

To the officers of East Florida’s garrison of a few hundred effective British regulars and Hessians, Loyalists Brown, McGirt, Fanning, and others, whatever they had suffered or contributed, led bandit gangs, however.  Many of the Florida Scout had been rustlers before the war and some even rode with Joseph Coffel.  McGirt’s mixed racial following acquired such a notorious reputation that, even years after the war, white men who lived like the Indians were still called the Florida Scout.  A South Carolina gazette likewise reported that Brown’s ranger battalion consisted of “infamous horse thieves & other banditti, and various others, seduced or terrified to join him & compelled to rob, murder, scalp, and spread destruction.”[14]  Modern scholars have called these men the first cowboys but also one of the first true organized crime syndicates in America.  South Carolina’s Gen. Christopher Gadsden feared that the situation in East Florida encouraged the free laborers, men who had lost their honest livelihoods to slave workers, to join the rustlers.[15]

Loyalists March to East Florida – 1778

The march to British East Florida finally began in early 1778 when news reached St. Augustine that warned of the largest invasion from Georgia to date coming that summer. Royal Governor Patrick Tonyn hoped that his Florida Scout could encourage the Loyalists on the South Carolina frontier to create at least a diversion.   His call for help went out at a fortuitous time for the laws in Georgia in 1777 and in South Carolina in 1778 required every adult male either take an oath in support of the revolution or suffer exile to a British possession.  Many of these families had taken to hiding from their neighbors in whatever shelter they could make for themselves on the Indian frontier.[16]

Gov. Tonyn had reason to believe in a rescue by the backcountry Loyalists.  In early 1778, prominent South Carolina backcountry leader Robert Cunningham reported to him from Rabun’s Creek, the home of such important Loyalists as Moses Kirkland and David Fanning.  This community consisted of the European immigrants, white men who lived like Indians, Quakers and Separatist “New Light” Baptist, groups known for remaining sympathetic to the previous British colonial order.[17]  For the whole South Carolina frontier, Cunningham made what subsequent events proved as extravagantly exaggerated claims that from the forks of the Saluda and Broad Rivers 2,500 Loyalists were ready to march to East Florida.  Another 1,000 waited on the Congaree River and the Ridge (between the forks of the Edisto River); and 1,600 others stood by on the Pee Dee and Enoree Rivers, while 1,200 of their friends waited on the Green River in the North Carolina foothills.  Another 2,800 Loyalists reportedly prepared to march from the western border of the two Carolinas.  At a time, when George Washington’s army could hardly muster 3,000 men, Cunningham promised to enlist more than twice that number from just the backcountry settlements in South Carolina.  He also reported that the Loyalists had stockpiled a two years’ supply of corn for a future summons to Florida.[18]

Harris Tyner, Jacob Williams and John York returned to their backcountry homes to summon these Americans as Thomas Brown’s agents.  Like the latter-day Simon Girty, Thomas Sumter, Sam Houston, and Daniel Boone, York has been described as a “white savage,” a white man who lived as an Indian.  In 1775, Whig authorities had Tyner imprisoned as a Loyalist.  He frequently moved between the Cherokee villages and the frontier settlements, when not guiding groups of men to East Florida.[19]  Harris Tyner most likely counted as a “free person of color,” a person of some category of Indian and/or African racial identity.  He and his kinsmen were among the South Carolina frontiersmen who signed an oath to bear arms to defend the rebellion in 1775.  Subsequently, he changed his loyalties and moved to East Florida.[20]  Jacob Williams hailed from Anson County, North Carolina.  When passing through Wilkes County, Georgia, in the autumn of 1778, likely en route to his brother Henry’s home, he was arrested and found to have a commission in his pocket as an officer in Brown’s Loyalist rangers.  Sheriff John Dooly had him placed in chains in a fort.  Thomas Waters, a former colonial official and later a Loyalist colonel, helped Williams to escape.  Jacob would help in bringing the 400 of his North Carolina neighbors who later reached East Florida.  A storekeeper and veteran of the Loyalist defeat at Moore’s Creek Bridge, North Carolina, Jacob Williams also had a father and five brothers who served the King’s cause, chiefly in Brown’s King’s Rangers. One brother died in the fighting and three others suffered wounds.  Jacob subsequently spent ten months in prison but he did live to file a claim with the British government for his property losses, as did Henry who served in the militia under Col. Waters and their father Samuel.[21]  As with many of the frontier Loyalists, Tyner and York fail to appear in postwar records.  Both men likely died in the internecine warfare of the last years of the Revolution in the South.

Many men failed to answer their call.  Some Loyalists claimed that arms were unavailable or that their Whig neighbors had been warned and prepared to contest their passage across the Savannah River.  Partisan fighter David Fanning had what must have been a common experience.  He first joined a band of his neighbors at Rabun’s Creek led by John York.  They reached the Savannah River, twelve miles above Augusta, only to have York become discouraged and abandon the venture.  He returned to East Florida almost alone while Fanning joined a group of 500 Loyalists from the Tryon County area of North Carolina under Colonel Ambrose Mills.  Betrayed, they dispersed with Fanning caught and confined in the jail at Ninety Six, South Carolina.

In March 1778, two groups in the Upper Ninety Six District began the journey to St. Augustine, one led by John Murphy of Cuffeetown Creek at the Fork of the Saluda River and another that had gathered under Benjamin Gregory of Crim’s Creek.  Combined, they numbered some 400 men although panicked Whig leaders estimated their numbers at between 500 to 800 men with more recruits waiting along the way.  On March 30, these Loyalists captured Captain Thomas Young some 35 miles above Orangeburg as he traveled to Charleston with a load of flour.  Before escaping, he overheard Gregory persuade Murphy to move quickly in carrying off horses, cattle and slaves.   Young learned that they had left a small party to ambush Whig Col. Andrew Williamson and that another [?] group under a man named Wolfe from Orangeburg intended to burn down the courthouse and jail before capturing or killing Colonel Williamson.[22]

Little information survives on these men as individuals.  The claims filed with the British government for property losses after the war usually came from colonial office holders and wealthy property owners.  Most frontier Loyalists were small landowning farmers who had little, if any, property to claim.  Some men, or their heirs, presumably failed to seek any compensation because they remained in America.  The so-called Scopholites filed only eleven claims or one for every some 35 of the men who marched from South Carolina in 1778.[23]

Specifically how many of these men came from mixed racial and cultural identities remains unknown but the majority of them likely did come from European ethnic minorities on the South Carolina frontier.  A British officer described them as French-German Palatine settlers, including second generation Americans from the Orangeburg and Saxe-Gotha Townships.  Historian Carole Watterson Troxler identified those settlements as so far from integrated into the mainstream frontier American society that the younger members tended to support the British government even more than did their immigrant relatives.  These ethnic Germans would have their own church near St. Augustine.  Daniel Migler; Christopher and his brother Frederick Rupert; George Shalnet (or Shellnut) and his family; and Henry and Jacob Strum had German nativity.  A man who knew Aquila Hall described him as “one Campbell,” likely a slang term for a Lowland Scot (although it could also refer to a follower of Sir William Campbell, South Carolina’s last colonial governor).  A James or John Boyd who surely traveled with them, as he later said as his dying words at the Battle of kettle Creek, “for King and country,” has been identified as an Irishman, a Protestant of what came to be called the Scots-Irish.  Among the other Loyalists on the march in 1778, James Moffatt and David Tenant also hailed from Ireland while James Wright came to South Carolina from England as an infant.  George Dawkins, however, grew up in Virginia, Jacob Williams was born in North Carolina, and Daniel Dewalt came from Pennsylvania.[24]  Many South Carolina refugees who later filed claims mentioned the law of 1778 that required them to take an oath to support the revolution and that undoubtedly influenced many of these men to leave, by any means.  Men such as Aquila Hall of Rabun’s Creek left to avoid being confined with David Fanning in the jail at Ninety Six, South Carolina.  Legend credits Hall with betraying a fort, likely Lindley’s Fort near Rabun’s Creek, to the Indians but he hanged at Ninety Six in late April 1779 for a murder he committed before the war.[25]

That March 1778, as these men began their journey to East Florida, South Carolina’s state militia made only halfhearted attempts to stop them from leaving.  As Whig leaders awoke to the danger of a frontier-wide uprising or, at the least, the release of the prisoners being held in the jail at Ninety Six, panic set in and the militia arrested small parties of the Loyalists.  Col. Andrew Williamson’s men captured one group of 47 armed men.  Some of the Loyalists gave up and turned back.  While carrying a British flag, their comrades continued on to Georgia, taking what they wanted from farms along the way, including slaves.  They waylaid boats on the Savannah River to seize corn and flour, no doubt inspiring apolitical resistance from their victims and further identifying them with the criminal reputation of Joseph Coffel.[26]

Efforts in Georgia to stop the Loyalists proved to be unsuccessful but with spectacular consequences for the Whigs.  The state’s governor and members of his executive council moved to Augusta to meet in emergency session in order to organize resistance.  They ordered Col. John Thomas to call out the Burke County militia to stop the Loyalists. He, like Tyner, had committed to the Revolution early on.  South Carolinian Barnard Elliott witnessed him addressing his colonial militia on July 6, 1775:

That he had formerly been adverse to the American Measures and opposed them, but that he had now altered his mind and should do all that he could in the favor of America, he did not expect matters wd. ever have come to such a height, but since the Battle of Lexington he was convinced that America was to be hard rode, & drove like slaves if the Americans were inactive or inattentive etc. etc. that for his part he . . . held two Commissions from the Kings representative the Governor, that he intended resigning them within three days. [27]

In 1778, however, Georgia authorities arrested Thomas when he, instead of trying to stop the Loyalists, marching to East Florida, conspired to join them instead.  The so-called Scopholites crossed into Georgia unopposed at Girard’s Ferry, some 40 miles below Augusta, on April 3.  Seven men from Col. Leonard Marbury’s Georgia Continental Cavalry, stationed on the Ogeechee River, defected to them before the Loyalist band continued south to cross the Altamaha River at White Bluff, what came to take the name Scopholite Bluff, in today’s Tattnall County. [28]

The American’s Southern Department Commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Howe, ordered Col. Samuel Elbert to march his Georgia Continental Brigade to intercept the Loyalists on their move south.  Heavy rains that fell for two days prevented his catching up with them on the Satilla River.  Along the way, however, Elbert learned of the arrival of Gov. Tonyn’s inter-coastal armed ships, the HMS Galatea, HMS Hinchinbrook, sloop Rebecca, and a watering brig from East Florida.  They went to Georgia to learn details of the coming invasion and to capture Georgia’s state galleys.  In a successful use of tides, favorable weather conditions, soldiers, sailors, and galleys, Elbert captured the enemy’s fleet in the Frederica River off St. Simons Island, a rare victory in the otherwise tragic history of his Continentals.[29]

Far from being a numerous and widespread populist revolt, however, the Loyalists who finally reached Florida proved to be a major disappointment in every way.  One observer did note that they rode good horses, wore red bands in their hats as identification, and each carried a rifle.  British regulars, however, found them wearing rags and moccasins, hiding in a swamp along Georgia’s Satilla River.  Before their rescue, they had been there for six days, subsisting on roots and herbs.  Governor Tonyn sent them what rice and other provisions the province could spare.  He reported that they numbered nearly 400 men who had previously “mostly been forced to shelter in the woods in Carolina and Georgia.”[30]  Col. Samuel Elbert heard from various sources that they numbered some 400 starving men with 40 of their number having to walk for lack of horses.  George Dawkins claimed in 1785 that they had 500 in their party but his comrade James Wright swore in 1783 that they numbered only 336 men.  Patrick Murray, a British officer, remembered that there were only 250 of these refugees with 150 horses.  The final total, at Fort Tonyn on the Georgia-Florida border, likely came to close to 350 men.[31]

Birth of the South Carolina Royalists Regiment

Because these Loyalists came from different and isolated ethnic communities, they could only form voluntary fragile and limited coalitions that were not necessarily militant. Initially, they asked to serve under Lt. Col. Jacques Marcus Prévost, a Swiss officer in the British army and brother of the Brig. Gen. Augustin Prévost who commanded the troops in East Florida.  He, writing in June 1778, complained that only with great trouble and perseverance had he brought a little order to this band.  The South Carolina Loyalists finally formed a provincial unit under the rules set out by the last royal governor of South Carolina, Sir William Campbell, including the right to choose their officers.  On July 20, 1778, they formally became the South Carolina Royalist Provincial Battalion under the command of Col. Alexander Innes, a former British army officer, secretary to South Carolina Royal Governor William Campbell, and by then the inspector general of provincial forces in America.  In the spring and summer of 1778, Col. Innes served in New York, leaving field command of the regiment to Lt. Col. Joseph Robinson who the new provincials chose as their lieutenant colonel.  Evan McLaurin, a Scottish-born frontier merchant who had been serving as a quartermaster in East Florida, was selected as their major.  The latter had made secret trips to the backcountry for the British.  The new unit’s other officers included, among others, John Murphy and John York as captains; Harris Tyner as a captain-lieutenant; Benjamin Gregory as a lieutenant; and Aquila Hall as an ensign. Uniformed in green riding waistcoats trimmed in black and other formal attire, the South Carolina Royalists became a drilled provincial unit of 328 men.  They formed two 40-man troops of rifle dragoons and four 45-man companies of infantry armed with a combination of rifles and Brown Bess muskets.[32]

These new arrivals, however, found themselves only starving with the rest of the growing population of East Florida.  Hardly had they arrived when they learned of recent defeats and narrow escapes of both Col. Thomas Brown’s King’s Rangers battalion and McGirt’s band of rustlers.  Many of the new arrivals talked of returning to South Carolina to take their chances with their Whig neighbors.  Subsequently some of them took the opportunity to desert during the invasion of East Florida that summer.  After joining in the counter-invasion of Georgia in December 1778, these Loyalist provincials found themselves used in unsuccessful battles with Georgia and South Carolina militia at places like Shell Bluff, Georgia, on March 31, 1779.  The British regulars, though the most formidable fighting machine of their time, were used almost exclusively in formal battles.  By January 1779, the now South Carolina Royalists battalion counted only 231 men and, by the following June, they had almost ceased to exist as a unit.[33]

In the spring of 1778, however, Americans on both sides believed that, if not for the militia, the march of the South Carolina Loyalists might have triggered an unstoppable uprising. Two men who escaped from this band told Col. Samuel Elbert that another 1,500 frontiersmen were ready to march.  James Mercer, a mariner from St. Augustine, warned Whig officials that 700 more men on the frontier, along with Indians, were moving to rendezvous with a British army on the Altamaha River in Georgia.  Capt. Thomas Young heard John Murphy boast that his band intended to rendezvous with Col. Thomas Brown and Moses Kirkland at Fort Barrington on the Altamaha and to return in four weeks with a force sufficient to conquer the whole of the South Carolina frontier.  When the British regulars finally marched north into Georgia from East Florida in the winter of 1778, rumors spread that they intended to join 1,000 to 2,000 more Scopholites.[34]

To Join the British at Augusta – 1779

A man named James or John Boyd worked to make those fears a reality.  Instead of joining the South Carolina Royalist Battalion or going home to Rabun’s Creek and the Yadkin River, he traveled to the British headquarters in New York. Because of the perceived, or misunderstood, show of Loyalist support in the march to East Florida, Boyd solicited interest among military and civilian leaders in New York who had become despondent over any other means of victory than by another attempt at creating an American counter-revolution.[35]  Lord George Germain, British Secretary for the Colonies, had already ordered Gen. Sir Henry Clinton to invade Georgia and South Carolina in cooperation with the garrison of East Florida for just that purpose, despite the failure of earlier British attempts to “Americanize” the war effort in New Jersey and Delaware in 1776 and on the northwest colonial frontier in 1777.  Savannah easily fell to a portion of the invasion force on December 29, 1778.   By the end of the month, the King’s troops overran Georgia in what the British commander Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell proclaimed as the tearing of a star and stripe from the United States flag.  By then, Col. Boyd had left the British camp to recruit a regiment of Loyalists from the frontiersmen of North and South Carolina.[36]

That effort, like the war in the South that continued on, proved to be a repeat of the failures of 1778.  The number of men who could be gathered to volunteer to serve in the King’s cause that late in the war, if ever, came to no more than hundreds, not thousands, of men.  Col. Boyd had too little time to gather more than 800 followers and he struggled to keep even that ad hoc gathering from giving up and returning to their homes.  Loyalist newspapers reported that thousands of the King’s friends gathered on the Saluda River in South Carolina but Boyd actually had only 600 or fewer men who had not abandoned him by the time that he died in battle at Kettle Creek, Georgia, on February 14, 1779.  Only 340 Georgia and South Carolina militia under Cols. John Dooly and Andrew Pickens, respectively, assaulted his camps but they thoroughly defeated the ad hoc Loyalist regiment of recruits.  One contemporary source credited Boyd with never having had more than 350 South Carolinians for his total band.  Some of the men came along only under threats to themselves or their property by Aquila Hall.  Other men sought to find refuge with the British army.[37]

South Carolina Royal Volunteers and the North Carolina Royal Volunteers

From the 270 survivors of Boyd’s band who finally reached the British army, Archibald Campbell formed the South Carolina Royal Volunteers and the North Carolina Royal Volunteers.  The former unit, soon afterward, become the Second Battalion of the South Carolina Royalist Provincial Regiment.

Over the course of the war, 1,200 Loyalist officers and enlisted men served in its ranks at various times and saw much of the fighting  in the South.  Although these Loyalists and other southern provincial troops had a brief moment of glory in turning back assaults by American and French columns at Savannah on October 9, 1779, their units had largely disappeared from casualties, sickness and desertions by 1780.  Although revived several times, the South Carolina Royalist Regiment never became a large, stable or well-trained outfit.  A few of the men who enlisted in 1778 still served in what remained of it back in St. Augustine in 1782.[38]

During those years, thousands of persons died in the South in a partisan civil war waged between the fixed battles from Savannah to Yorktown and beyond.  The war continued in the South in pursuit of the idea of a populist American counterrevolution that in realty consisted only of a few hundred men who often disappeared into the canebrakes and woods rather than suffer martyrdom.  By then, much of the South came to resemble the 1778 East Florida borderlands.  Farms and crops were abandoned and isolated clusters of buildings like Ninety Six, Camden, Salisbury, and Burke County Jail became political symbols to fight over and then abandon.  Southern port cities resembled British occupied New York as dilapidated garrison towns filled with dispirited, impoverished refugees. Mariner Samuel Kelly found Charleston to be a very different place from the beautiful city he remembered as a child.  When the war began, this one port had supplied almost all of British America south of New Jersey with enough goods to keep hundreds of wagons annually employed.  Kelly now saw a deforested wasteland of abandoned houses and ruins.  He blamed this change on the degrading effects of what had become a permanent state of siege and from the accommodating of so many refugees the same situation as earlier in East Florida.  Of the King’s Americans, often the people called Scopholites, a South Carolina Loyalist lamented:

The greatest cause of the Militia not turning out so well as was perhaps expected was the atrocious cruelties exercised upon them whenever they fell into the hands of the Rebel Militia, cruelties so great that they exceed all belief and were they to be mentioned in England would be generally rejected as the exaggerations of a heated fancy.[39]

By then, Americans could flee to the relative safety of British East Florida without opposition.  The province’s earlier problems with food shortages intensified as its population swelled from 1,000 whites and 3,000 slaves to more than 17,375 individuals, many of them from the ethnic settlements and mixed racial peoples in the South Carolina backcountry.  The refugees believed that if this area remained a British possession it could become something of a royalist mirror of the neighboring state of Georgia.  With the official end of the war in 1783, however, East Florida passed to Spain.  Georgia officials considered and then rejected a plan to allow Loyalists to settle between the Altamaha and the St. Mary’s Rivers as a military buffer.  Spain also turned down a plan to do the same on its side of the border.  Daniel McGirt and his bandits continued to operate in the region as a criminal gang.  Although he eventually retired to South Carolina, McGirt died in 1804 as a free man in St. Mary’s, Georgia, on the border with Spanish East Florida.[40]

Surviving records of the few hundred Loyalists who marched south in 1778 imply much but conclusively prove little.  Some of these men choose to resettle in British possessions rather than return to their homes on the frontier.  The governor of the Bahamas felt that, with their reportedly restless natures, such Americans might do well in Nova Scotia or on the Mosquito Coast of Central America.  In the latter, some of them could even join with the traditional maroon people as fringe ethnic and racial communities of the Caribbean.  In 1781, South Carolina frontiersmen became recruits for a regiment to invade Spanish Nicaragua.  The collapse of the British control of the backcountry made that scheme impractical and the Duke of Cumberland Regiment instead enlisted Continental soldiers held in British prison ships in Charleston.  They came from the same classes of foreign-born men, landless whites, and men of various races who largely made up the frontier Loyalists of South Carolina.  From the survivors of the men who marched in 1778, Daniel Dewalt settled his family in British Honduras while David Tenant lived in his native Ireland and in England.  Jacob Williams, made blind from smallpox during the war, settled in London, England where he lived in a public workhouse without having to work on a stipend from the government and later £50 awarded to him for his property losses. (His brother Henry, left paraplegic by the war, however, moved to the Bahamas and later Nova Scotia.  Their father Samuel died in the Bahamas.  Neither Henry or Samuel were on the march to Florida in 1778, however.)  Of nine other men who made the journey to East Florida in 1778 and who later filed claims with the British government, all of them resettled in Nova Scotia where most of the South Carolina Royalist Regiment formally disbanded.[41]

The march of the so-called Scopholites in 1778 represented only one specific group of the South Carolina Loyalists and their sacrifices failed to have a significant effect on the American Revolution even in the South.  Its conclusion demonstrated that what largely remained of the “King’s men” in 1778 consisted only of only desperate and cowered members of what historian Linda Colley described, for the Loyalists of all of America, as a coalition of different minority groups.  That important fact went unnoted by either side during the war and in the popular traditions of the American Revolution.

Leaders of Loyalist provincial troops such as Thomas Brown, Patrick Ferguson, John Harrison, Thomas Fraser, and Banastre Tarleton promoted using backcountry immigrants of recent European arrival, as well as the frontier’s fringe elements of landless men of all races, as soldiers.  The resulting southern strategy intended that these men, with the civil upheaval caused by Indian attacks and slave revolts, could instigate a policy of “fire and sword” against anyone not committed to the restoration of colonial America.[42]

British policy overall did nothing to win “hearts and minds,” however.  Had the Southern Strategy not had a basis in intimidation, demands for militia service, and restoring the old order, it likely had no chance of success.  It created a spiral of violence that incited past racial and ethnical divisiveness rather than an accommodation that gave Americans a future that benefited from their respective ethnic differences in meeting their increasing ambitions as one people.  Only with the British army’s evacuation of the South from 1781 to 1783 did a process of reconciliation among the colonial backcountry peoples begin.[43]

Robert Scott Davis is director of the Family & Regional History Program at Wallace State College in Hanceville, Alabama.  His many publications include Tory Insurgents with Robert M. Calhoun and Timothy M. Barnes.


[1] Linda Colley, Captives (New York, 2002), 236.

[2] For the history of South Carolina Loyalists see Robert S. Lambert, South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution (2nd ed., digital and online, Clemson, SC, 2010) and Robert W. Barnwell, “Loyalism in South Carolina, 1765-1785,” (Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1941).  The author acknowledges help provided by Deanna Slappey, Karen Walker, and Virginia Wood.  John Thomas mentioned in this article should not be confused with John Thomas, Sr. and John Thomas, Jr. commanders of the American Spartan Regiment of South Carolina militia.

[3] Rachel N. Klein, Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountry, 1760-1808 (Chapel Hill, 1990), 86; George C. Rogers, Jr., “The South Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution,” Richmond County History 6 (summer 1974): 43-44; William H. Nelson, The American Tory (Oxford, Eng., 1961), 91; Peter N. Moore, “This World of Toil and Strife: Land, Labor, and the Making of an American Community, 1750-1805” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Georgia, 2001), 59-61, 112-14, 132, 137.  For backcountry southerners as the mainland American maroon people see Hugo P. Leaming, Hidden Americans: Maroons of Virginia and the Carolinas (New York, 1995).

[4] “Colonel Robert Gray’s Observations on the War in Carolina,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 11 (July 1910): 153; William T. Graves, James Williams: An American Patriot in the South Carolina (Lincoln, NB, 2002), 17; Wallace Brown, The Good Americans: The Loyalists in the American Revolution (New York, 1969), 46; Robert W. Barnwell, “Loyalism  in South Carolina, 1765-1785,” (Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1941), 137-38; John Weldon, SC W 9390, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications Files, 1800-1900 (National Archives microfilm M804, roll 2526) Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration; Baika Harvey to Thomas Baika, December 30, 1775, Watt of Breckness and Skaill Collection, 1\1SS, D3/385, Orkney Library & Archive, Orkney, UK.

[5] Klein, Unification of a Slave State, 73; Robert Lee Meriwether, The Expansion of South Carolina, 1729-1765 (Kingsport, Tn., 1940), 207-208, 242; David Ramsay, Ramsay’s History of South Carolina, 2 vols. (Newberry, SC, 1858), 1: 122; Harry M. Ward, Between the Lines: Banditti of the American Revolution (Westport, Ct., 2002), 189-90; Gordon B. Smith, Morningstars of Liberty: The Revolutionary War in Georgia, 1775-1783, 2 vols. to date (Milledgeville, Ga., 2006-), 1: 103-104; South Carolina Gazette (Charleston), December 20, 1773.  Historian Richard Maxwell Brown suggested Coffel as a relative of Philip and Rachel Scofuld of Prince Frederick Parish, South Carolina.  Richard M. Brown, The South Carolina Regulators: the Story of the First American Vigilante Movement (Cambridge, 1963), 204-205, n. 28.  The Coffel family may have been the Palatine Schöffel family.  Henry Z. Jones, Jr. and Lewis Bunker Rohrbach, comps., Even More Palatine Families: 18th Century Immigrants to the American Colonies and their German, Swiss, and Austrian Origins, 3 vols. (Rockport, Me., 2002), 1: 624.  The South Carolina Regulation vigilante movement was started in 1767; the opposing Moderation movement was active until 1769.  They met, armed and ready for battle, on March 25, 1769 at John Musgrove’s Farm on the Saluda River, where, unlike in North Carolina where these forces battled at Alamance, the matters were peacefully resolved.  The Circuit Court Act was passed and approved by the Crown in 1768, establishing backcountry courts, jails and law enforcement.

[6] For the use of Scopholite, and its variations, for Loyalists based upon ethnicity, connections with the Indians, race, and support for the British cause, see the depositions in the Revolutionary War pension claims Philip Anthony, SC S 21046, John Boon, SC W 10446, Peter Clinton, SC W 9390, Robert Johnston, SC S15482, John Kincaid, SC W 12029, William Lovel, SC R 6476, Charles Taylor, SC S 3760, and John Weldon, SC W 9390, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications Files, 1800-1900 (National Archives microfilm M804, rolls 68, 288, 580, 1434, 1492, 2344, and 2526). Other negative monikers for Loyalists, based upon the names of their leaders, include Claybites and Russellites.

[7] Francis Salvador to William Drayton, July 18, 1776, in R. W. Gibbes, comp., Documentary History of the American Revolution, 3 vols., (New York, 1857), 2: 24-25.

[8] Examples of the traditional view of Loyalists appear in Lyman C. Draper, King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Event’s which led to it (Cincinnati, 1881), 75, 238-42; and James Potter Collins, A Revolutionary Soldier (Clinton, La., 1859), 23.

[9] Heard Robertson, unpublished biography of Thomas Brown, chapter six, p. 13, Special Collections, Reese Library, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, Georgia; Smith, Morningstars of Liberty, 1: 103; Klein, Unification of a Slave State, 97, 99-100; Jerry Lamar Alexander, Blood Red Runs the Sacred Keowee (n. p., 2009), 132; Kevin Phillips, 1775: A Good Year for Revolution (New York, 2012), 178, 182.

[10] Charles L. Mowat, East Florida as a British Province 1763-1784 (Berkeley, 1943), 3-107, 109; Ramsay, History of the Revolution, 1: 153; Joseph Johnson, Traditions and Reminiscences: Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South (Charleston, SC, 1851), 125; Martha Condray Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Contest in the American Revolution, 1776-1778 (Tuscaloosa, 1985), 152; Heard Robertson, unpublished biography of Thomas Brown, chapter six, 6-7.

[11] Roger C. Smith, “The Façade of Unity: British East Florida’s War for Dependence,” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, 2008), 55-57; Edward J. Cashin, The King’s Ranger: Thomas Brown and the American Revolution on the Southern Frontier (Athens, Ga., 1989), 49, 58-59, 68; Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 1961), 118; Wilbur H. Siebert, Loyalists in East Florida, 2 vols. (DeLand, Fl., 1929), 2: 309.

[12] David Fanning, The Narrative of Colonel David Fanning, ed. Lindley S. Butler (Davidson, NC, 1981), 2-3; Heard Robertson, “Notes on the Muster Rolls of the King’s Rangers,” Richmond County History 4 (Winter 1972): 5-16.

[13] Hugh McCall, The History of Georgia, 2 vols. (Savannah, 1811 and 1816), 2: 133; Johnson, Traditions and Reminiscences, 172-74; Thomas J. Kirkland and Robert M. Kennedy, Historic Camden, 2 vols. (Columbia, SC, 1905), 1: 295-305; Mowat, East Florida as a British Province, 110, 120-23, 200-201 n. 24; Ward, Between the Lines, 203-20.

[14] Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution, 115; Robert S. Davis, “The Many Journeys of the Rev. John Newton and his Diaries, 1781-1790,” Viewpoints in Georgia Baptist History 12 (1990): 28-30; Gordon B. Smith, History of the Georgia Militia, 1783-1861, 4 vols. (Milledgeville, Ga., 2001), 3: 84-89.

[15] Jim Piecuch, Three Peoples One King: Loyalists, Indians, and Slaves in the Revolutionary South, 1775-1782 (Columbia, SC, 2008), 103-104.

[16] Siebert, Loyalists in East Florida, 1: 61; J. Leitch Wright, Jr., Florida and the American Revolution (Gainesville, Fl., 1975), 55, 58; Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Contest, 155-56, 176.  In August 1778, the state of Georgia further ordered families of Loyalists to be rounded up and either secured in what in modern terms came to be called concentration camps or forcibly removed to British possessions.

[17] Robert S. Lambert, South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution (2nd ed., digital and online, Clemson, SC, 2010), 36, 50, 58, 59; Barnwell, “Loyalism in South Carolina,” 128-29, 131; Clyde R. Ferguson, “General Andrew Pickens” (Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1960), 18; Carole Watterson Troxler, “The Migration of Carolina and Georgia Loyalists to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,” (Ph. D. diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1974), 242-43; Brown, The South Carolina Regulators, 128-29; deposition of John Brown,  April 9, 1838, Revolutionary War pension claim of John Brown, SC S17848, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 (National Archives microfilm M804, roll 370); Fanning, The Narrative of Colonel David Fanning, 4-5, 19; John Hairr, Colonel David Fanning: The Adventures of a Carolina Loyalist (Erwin, NC, 2000), 16, 54.

[18] Cashin, The King’s Ranger, 75.  The Cunninghams, as South Carolina’s most important family of backcountry Loyalists, defy the standard definition of the frontier supporter of the King’s cause.  They hailed from Pennsylvania and Robert had been a Regulator who lead his neighbors against the colonial bandits they called “Scopholites.” His brother Patrick famously seized gunpowder being shipped to Indians as a peace gesture by the Whigs in what became a huge propaganda victory for backcountry opponents of the Revolution.  Whig efforts to win over the Cunninghams and their followers, at least in a campaign against the Cherokees in 1776 came to nothing although newly franchised frontiersmen elected Robert as a Tory senator in the South Carolina’s Revolutionary assembly.  Following the British occupation of South Carolina in 1780, Lord Cornwallis commissioned Robert as brigadier general of the militia. Lambert, South Carolina Loyalists, 24-28, 30, 110.[19] Lambert, South Carolina Loyalists, 36, 49-50; undated petition of Thomas Brown, in Command Papers (London, 1907), 322-23; Robertson, unpublished biography of Thomas Brown, chapter six, 13. A family story has Harris Tyner dying in 1778 but he still served as a lieutenant in a restored colonial militia company in 1782. Murtie June Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign, 3 vols. (Baltimore, Md., 1979), 1: 344.

[20] Petition of September 12, 1775, in Robert W. Gibbes Collection, S213089, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia; Robert S. Davis, “The Mysteries of Tyner, Tennessee,” Chattanooga Regional Historical Journal 9 (July 2006): 33-44.

[21] Memorial of Jacob Williams, no date, and deposition of Thomas Waters, May 14, 1784, AO 13/124/343-46, National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew, England; Peter W. Coldham, American Migrations (Baltimore, 2000), 652-53; Gregory Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution (Westport, Ct., 1984), 931-33, 935-36.

[22] South Carolina and American General Gazette, April 16, 1778; Gary D. Olson, “Thomas Brown, Loyalist Partisan, and the Revolutionary War in Georgia, 1777-1782,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 54 (Spring 1970): 8-9; Heard Robertson, unpublished biography of Thomas Brown, chapter six, 11-12; Siebert, Loyalists in East Florida, 1: 52; Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Campaign, 132; Alexander Chesney, The Journal of Alexander Chesney, a South Carolina Loyalist in the Revolution and After, ed. E. Alfred Jones  (Columbus, Oh., 1921), 6.

[23] Coldham, American Migrations, 654-751. Rosters of some companies of the South Carolina Royalists survive for December 1779 and other dates but without indications of which men enlisted in the spring of 1778 or the names of members no longer in the regiment by that time. Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign, 1: 1, 7-12, 22-23, 33-34, 36-37, 39-40, 48.

[24] Patrick Murray, “Narrative of Episodes in the War of Independence” in Lewis William George Butler, Annals of the King’s Rifle Corps, 5 vols. (London, 1913-1932), I, 303; Troxler, “Allegiance without Community,” 125; Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Contest, 129; Barnwell, “Loyalism in South Carolina,” 109; Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists,  207-208, 219, 603-604, 614-15, 754, 775, 838, 852-53, 948-49.

[25] Robert S. Davis, “The Loyalist Trials at Ninety Six in 1779,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 80 (April 1979): 172-81.  That Hall may have been hung for his part on the attack on Lindley’s Fort is supported by a statement by Thomas Rogers that two or three men were hanged for their role in that battle and by a 1769 deed that mentions John Anderson, and has Aquila Hall as a witness, and James Lindley, a justice of the peace, as the notary, showing that these three men later hanged after being captured at Kettle Creek knew each other before the war.  Barnwell, “Loyalism in South Carolina,” 166-67; Jesse Hogan Motes III and Margaret Peckham Motes, comps., Laurens and Newberry Counties South Carolina: Saluda and Little Rivers Settlements 1749-1775 (Greenville, SC, 1994), 167.

[26] Piecuch, Three Peoples, 97; Lambert, South Carolina Loyalists, 33, 39 n. 40, 49, 53 n. 31; Robertson, unpublished biography of Thomas Brown, chapter six, 11-12; Ward, Between the Lines, 195; Siebert, Loyalists in East Florida, 1: 52; Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Campaign, 132; Chesney, The Journal of Alexander Chesney, 6.

[27] Heard Robertson and Edward J. Cashin, Augusta and the American Revolution (Darien, Ga., 1975), 23-24; Joseph W. Barnwell, “Barnard Elliott’s Recruiting Journal,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 17 (July 1916): 97.

[28] Smith, Morningstars of Liberty, 1: 104.  White Bluff is just north of the Ohoopee River in Tattnall County. ibid.

[29] McCall, The History of Georgia, 2: 135; Charles E. Bennett and Donald R. Lennon, A Quest for Glory: Major General Robert Howe and the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 1991), 71-72; Virginia Steele Wood, “The Georgia Navy’s Dramatic Victory of April 19, 1778,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 90 (Summer 2006): 165-95.

[30] Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Contest, 132; Carole Watterson Troxler, “Allegiance without Community: East Florida as the Symbol of a Loyalist Contract in the South,” in Robert M. Calhoon, Timothy M. Barnes, and George A. Rawlyk, eds., Loyalists and Community in North America (Westport, Ct., 1994), 125; Tonyn to Germain, April 29, 1778, in K. G. Davies, comp., Documents of the American Revolution 1770-1783, 21 vols., (Dublin, Ire., 1973-1983), 15: 111.

[31] Samuel Elbert to Robert Howe, April 14, 1778, in “Order Book of Samuel Elbert, Colonel and Brigadier General in the Continental Army, October 1776, to November, 1778,” in Georgia Historical Society Collections (Savannah, Ga., 1902), vol. V, pt. ii, 125; Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists, 207-208, 948-49; Coldham, American Migrations, 675, 750; Siebert, Loyalists in East Florida, 2: 52; Murray, “Narrative,” 303; S. D. H. to ?, January 16, 1779, in William L. Stone, comp., Letters of Brunswick and Hessian Officers during the American Revolution (Albany, NY: 1891), 238; John Houstoun to Continental Congress, April 16, 1778, Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, item 73, p. 191 (National Archives microfilm M247, roll 87), Record Group 360 Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington. Modern authors have accepted the higher numbers for the Scopholites and mistakenly made them two groups that were actually one, considerably smaller, band of men. See for example Mowat, East Florida as a British Province, 112, and Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Contest, 131-32.

[32] Tonyn to Germain, April 28, 1778, in Davies, Documents of the American Revolution, 15: 109; Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists, 564, 738; Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign, 1: 48; S. D. H. to ?, January 16, 1779, in Stone, Letters, 238; Mowat, East Florida as a British Province, 112; Barnwell, “Loyalism in South Carolina,” 186-87; Chesney, The Journal of Alexander Chesney, 6, n. 39. Near the end of the war, the South Carolina Royalists’ uniforms were described as red coats with yellow facings. Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Contest, 132.

[33] Barnwell, “Loyalism in South Carolina,” 321-34; John Fauchereau Grimké, “Journal of the Campaign to the Southward,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 12 (April 1911): 64-65, 130, 191; Searcy, The Georgia-Florida Contest, 138-39.

[34] Klein, Unification of a Slave State, 99-100; Olson, “Thomas Brown,” 8; McCall, The History of Georgia, 2: 137; South Carolina and American General Gazette (Charleston), April 16, 1778; “Order Book of Samuel Elbert,” 126.

[35] Mary Beth Norton, The British-Americans: the Loyalist Exiles in England, 1774-1789 (London, 1974), 157; John Shy, “British Strategy for Pacifying the Southern Colonies, 1778-1781” in Jeffrey J. Crow and Larry E. Tise, eds., The Southern Experience in The American Revolution (Chapel Hill, 1978), 155-73. William Millen swore that he met with the Loyalist agent James Boyd on January 24, 1779. Zachariah Gibbes, however, identified his leader as “John Boyd,” a name that appears on a 1779 list of South Carolina Loyalists who had joined the enemy. Millen or Gibbes may have been mistaken although both a John and a James Boyd lived on Rabun’s Creek. If two Boyds participated in the Kettle Creek campaign, a John Boyd who served as a colonel and a James Boyd [a father or older brother of John who remained in South Carolina after the American Revolution?], then William Millen could have met James Boyd and Zachariah Gibbes could have served under John Boyd. Archibald Campbell wrote that Boyd was coming from “Red Creek, South Carolina” (Raeburn Creek, in Campbell’s native Gaelic) but North Carolina historian Samuel A. Ashe wrote that Boyd came from the Lower Yadkin Valley. A deposition made by Revolutionary War veteran Samuel Beckham in 1812 claimed that Boyd came from “Yadkin N. Carolina” and Mordecai Miller in an 1832 deposition stated that Boyd came from Lincoln County, North Carolina. Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign, 3: 431; Robert S. Davis, Georgians in the Revolution at Kettle Creek (Wilkes Co.) and Burke County (Easley, SC, 1986), 13, 16; Samuel A. Ashe, History of North Carolina, 2 vols. (Greensboro, NC: 1925), 1: 598-99; deposition of Mordecai Miller, November 15, 1832, Revolutionary War pension claim of Mordecai Miller, SC S 16972, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 (National Archives Microfilm M804, roll 1729).

[36] Davis, Georgians in the Revolution, 11, 13, 16, 20; Kenneth Coleman, “Restored Colonial Georgia, 1779-1782,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 40 (March 1956): 1-20.

[37] Royal Georgia Gazette (Savannah), February 11, 1779; “Case of the Loyalists,” Political Magazine 4 (April 1783): 266; Davis, Georgians in the Revolution, 20; Revolutionary War pension claim of Aaron Deveny, S8321, (National Archives microfilm M804, reel 802). Archibald Campbell reported that Boyd had only 500 to 600 men. [no title], The Remembrancer Or Impartial Repository of Public Events 8 (1779): 171. For the history of the battle of Kettle Creek see Robert S. Davis, “Loyalism and Patriotism: Community, Conspiracy, and Conflict on the Southern Frontier,” in Robert M. Calhoon, et al, Tory Insurgents: New Loyalist Perceptions and Other Essays (Columbia, SC, 2010), 229-83; Daniel T. Elliott, “Stirring Up a Hornet’s Nest”: The Kettle Creek Battlefield Survey (Savannah, 2009), online at the Lamar Institute website at:  Col. Boyd’s Loyalists recruits were opposed on February 10, 1779 crossing the Savannah River at the Cherokee Ford, and thereafter five miles upstream at Vann’s Creek, where a few Loyalists were killed and over one-hundred abandoned Boyd and simply returned home.

[38] Thomas B. Allen and Todd W. Braisted, The Loyalist Corps: Americans in the Service of the King (Takoma Park, Md., 2011), 99-100; Barnwell, “Loyalism in South Carolina,” 322-25; Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists, 564. The last remnants of the South Carolina Royalist Regiment, black and white, served in Jamaica in 1783. Historian David Brion Davis wrote that they and others saved the British colonies in the Caribbean by enlisting black troops to protect the islands from invasion and insurrection. With members of the Duke of Cumberland’s 88th Regiment, they became the First West India Regiment. This unit served in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East before finally disbanding in 1962. David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (New York, 2006), 148; A. B. Ellis, The History of the First West India Regiment (London, 1885), 27-28, 50-51.

[39] Ward, Between the Lines, 174-75, 221-39; Samuel Kelly, Samuel Kelly, an Eighteenth Century Seaman, ed. Crosbie Garstin (New York, 1925), 51; Sir James Wright to Sir Henry Clinton, February 3, 1780, Sir Henry Clinton Papers, vol. 84, item 9, William L. Clements Library, Ann Arbor; Ramsay, The History of the Revolution, 1: 176-77; “Character of Lord Rawdon, character of Lieut. Colonel Doyle &c.,” Georgia Papers, Chambers Collection, New York Public Library.

[40] Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution, 175; Heard Robertson, “The Second British Occupation of Augusta, 1780-1781,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 58 (Winter 1974): 429; Mowat, East Florida as a British Province, 136-37; Wright, Florida in the American Revolution, 137; Smith, History of the Georgia Militia, 3: 89.

[41] Robert S. Davis, “Lord Montagu’s Mission to Charleston in 1781: American POWs for the King’s Cause in Jamaica,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 84 (April 1983): 91-98; Coldham, American Migrations, 675, 677, 716, 718, 734, 736, 742-43, 750; Carole Watterson Troxler, “Loyalist Refugees and the British Evacuation of West Florida, 1783-1785,” Florida Historical Quarterly 40 (July 1981): 22-23. For more on Lord Montagu’s recruitment of American prisoners of war see Carl P. Borick, Relieve of this Burthen: American Prisoners of War in the Revolutionary South, 1780-1782 (Columbia, SC, 2012), 29, 31, 32-34, 36, 37, 42-43, 44-45, 57-58, 67, 77-78, 124-25, 129.

[42] Piecuch, Three Peoples, 5; Stephenson, Patriot Battles, 55-62; Shy, People Numerous and Armed, 186-90.

[43] Colley, Captives, 236. On the British southern Strategy see Richard S. Dukes, “Anatomy of a Failure: British Military Policy in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, 1775-1781” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of South Carolina at Columbia, 1993) and for a discussion of the role of finding practical accommodation in post Revolutionary War America see Rebecca Nathan Brannon, “Reconciling the Revolution: Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Community in the Wake of Civil War in South Carolina, 1775-1860,” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 2007) and Robert M. Calhoon, Political Moderation in America’s First Two Centuries (Cambridge, 2009).


Henry Lee in his Lee’s Legion uniform as depicted by artist Thomas Kelly Pauley.

The Life and Times of

 Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee

April 26-28, 3013 – Greensboro, NC – Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution with the Sons of the Revolution in the State of North Carolina presents their dynamic, fun, and scholarly symposium on the Life and Times of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee.  The importance of the cavalry and light troops in the Southern war led General Nathanael Greene to put Lee’s Legion “upon as good a footing as possible.”  Now you can walk the grounds where Lee rode, fought and sealed his reputation on the battlefield.  Hear and interact with presentations by prominent scholars and authors to include Lee’s controversial life and contributions to American Liberty as a soldier, politician and early Southern Campaigns historian, and his roles in family and business.

April 26, 2013 – Friday – our Lee sites bus tour will feature the posturing of the Southern Department armies commanded by Lord Charles Cornwallis and Gen. Nathanael Greene in early March 1781 leading up to their final clash at Guilford Courthouse.  Included are Harry Lee’s battle sites in the Burlington, NC area: the skirmishes at Dunn’s Bridge, Clapp’s Mill, the Rocky Ford at Weitzel’s Mill, and the latest scholarship on Pyle’s Hacking Match.  Also go to the armys’ camps at the Alamance Regulators battlefield, High Rock Ford and Speedwell Iron Works on Troublesome Creek.  Tour led by David Reuwer and featuring local guides: historians Bob Carter, Stewart Dunaway and Jeff Bright.  Chat with our presenters while we see some of North Carolina’s best Revolutionary War sites.  Tour by preregistration only.

Lee's Legion, Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Greensboro, NC, March 16, 2013April 27-28, 2013 – Saturday & Sunday – “Wedded to my Sword” The Life and Times of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee will include the latest scholarly research on the interesting and, sometimes, controversial life of Harry Lee with boots-on-the-ground tours of Lee battle sites along the 18th c. road from the New Garden Meeting House to General Nathanael Greene’s awaiting army deployed at Guilford Courthouse with your guide Charles B. Baxley, Greene expert Dennis Conrad, 18th c. cavalry expert Dan Murphy and others.  Dynamic presentations on Lee’s life, contributions to the Revolutionary War, as a Virginia politician, Southern Campaigns historian, and his controversies will be made by world-class scholars including Jim Piecuch, Ben Huggins, John Hutchins, Mike Cecere, Jim Mc Intyre, Ben Rubin, John Beakes, Steve Rauch, Dan Murphy, Dave Neilan, and Stewart Dunaway.  Our keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Dennis M. Conrad, editor in chief of the southern campaigns volumes of the Papers of General Nathanael Greene, Harry Lee’s boss during the Southern Campaigns.  On Sunday’s included battlefield tour, we will see the New Garden Meeting House and road to Guilford Courthouse – sites of Harry Lee’s initial battles with the British commander, the infamous “Bloody Ban” Tarleton, prior to the general engagement at Guilford Courthouse – and walk the Guilford Courthouse Battlefield.  Lee’s climatic clash at Guilford did not happen within the federal park; we will go to the site.

Call (803) 549-6710 to preregister for the Symposium or email Charles B. Baxley at or David P. Reuwer at for other event details.  Please preregister as it helps us plan for catering and handouts and gives you a discount.  Symposium SchedulePresenters’ Biographies — RegistrationHotel Reservation Information.

Lee's Legion 1781“I believe few Officers either in America or Europe are held in so high a point of estimation as you are…”  Gen. Nathanael Greene to “Light Horse” Harry Lee, January 27, 1782

The sentiment above, expressed by General Nathanael Greene, commander of the American southern army, captured the opinion of many Americans regarding Light Horse Harry Lee, the dashing cavalry commander from Virginia.  In early 1782, twenty-six year old Lieutenant Colonel Lee commanded a legion of mounted and dismounted dragoons that had just completed a spectacular year of military service in the South. Lee’s efforts in 1781, in conjunction with General Greene and the American southern army, resulted in the British loss of most of South Carolina and Georgia.  Over the course of 1781, Lee and his legion, often detached from Greene’s army, helped screen Greene’s desperate retreat to Virginia in the Race to the Dan River, captured or destroyed numerous enemy outposts and detachments in South Carolina and Georgia, and played a crucial role in the bloody battles of Guilford Courthouse and Eutaw Springs and the sieges of Forts Watson, Motte, Granby, Augusta, and Ninety Six.

The extraordinary service of Lee and his men in 1781 capped what had already been five years of distinguished military service for Lee.  He had reported to General Washington’s army at Morristown as a twenty year old cavalry captain in 1777 and his daring exploits at Valley Forge (1778) Powles Hook (1779) and Springfield (1780) earned him a reputation as a bold commander.  Lee’s extraordinary military service on both the northern and southern battlefields of the Revolutionary War confirm that the young officer made the right decision when he declined the opportunity in 1778 to join General Washington’s staff as an aide-de-camp.  Lee preferred to remain in the field and explained to General Washington that “I am wedded to my sword.”  The American army and cause benefited from that decision.   Mike Cecere, Wedded to My Sword: The Revolutionary War Service of Light Horse Harry Lee

Updated on April 21, 2013.

The Pennsylvania Longrifle in South Carolina during the American War of Independence

by James R. Mc Intyre[1]

Haymaker and Humble Cheeks, two beautiful examples of the craftsman’s arts.  The top “Pennsylvania” rifle was made in  Virginia before 1774; the bottom rifle was made in the Kentucky region of Virginia in 1780.  Photo by Mel Hankla.

The Pennsylvania longrifle and the men who carried it occupy an ambiguous place in the historiography of the American War of Independence.  On the one hand, many of the delegates to the Second Continental Congress in May of 1775 saw in these frontiersmen the war-winning shock troops that would quickly defeat the ministerial forces at Boston and conclude the revolt.  The riflemen did not live up to these high expectations and quickly the sentiment regarding them changed.  By 1777 and 1778, many of the rifle units in Washington’s army were receiving military muskets.  This, however, only tells half of the story.[2]

As is often the case in the historiography of the War of Independence, the southern perspective is omitted.  From this standpoint, the role played by this rifle emerges as a markedly different one.   We look to describe the uses of the rifle in the southern campaigns and explain the difference in perception of the weapon between the two theaters.  The focus will remain almost completely on the use of the rifle in South  Carolina.  Some explanation of how a weapon commonly referred to by contemporaries as the “Pennsylvania rifle” came to play such a prominent role in revolutionary South Carolina is due.

The weapon initially developed in the Pequea Valley of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Most experts agree that it resulted from a fusion of technologies between the short Jaeger rifle common to central German states and the Swiss hunting rifle which possessed a longer barrel and more graceful silhouette.  Martin Meylin is likewise recognized as the inventor of this firearm.[3]  After an early period of evolution, the rifle began to proliferate.  Beginning around 1720, new settlers moved into Pennsylvania.  As they found land to be costly in the Quaker colony, they quickly spread south to newly opened territories via the Great Wagon Road and in the process aided in the proliferation of the rifle.  As the longrifle traveled southward, its utility on the frontier emerged as an undeniable fact, especially to those who used hunting to supplement their income from farming and other enterprises.[4]  As new settlements appeared, many journeymen realized the possibility of setting themselves up as masters in the trade of gun making on the frontier, as they would be under less heavy scrutiny from the guild authorities.  By the same token, these men provided an important service to the new communities precisely where the rifle would be of most utility.  The production of a rifle in a fully equipped gunsmith’s shop took roughly a week, and depending on the materials used and how elaborately the stock was carved, could cost between ten and fifty dollars.[5]

It is clear that by the end of the French and Indian War at the latest there were longrifles in quantity along the South Carolina frontier.  Furthermore, these weapons were in the hands of both whites and Native Americans.  The frontier and the backcountry were quite unsettled at this time.  The depredations along the South Carolina frontier including those connected with the Cherokee War left a region often described as lawless and bordering on the brink of barbarism.  While the conditions in the South Carolina backcountry improved in the aftermath of the Regulators troubles, the frontier remained open to attack. Certainly a weapon with the capabilities of the longrifle would garner great popularity under these conditions.[6]

The rifle’s popularity in the region is evidenced by the following description left by one Baika Harvey, a recent Scottish immigrant to the region of Kettle Creek, Georgia — “I seed Eight Thousand men in arms all with Riffled Barrill guns which they can hit the Bigness of a Dollar between Two & Three hundred yards Distance…”[7]  The number of men referred to in Harvey’s account might seem high for an area near the end of the rifle’s zone of proliferation to that time.  However, the violence the region had recently been subject to could serve to explain the high number of rifles, at least in part.  By the same token, the range and target size seem quite exaggerated, though they are often repeated in other account concerning the riflemen.[8]  What is certain is that by the time the riff between Great Britain and her North American colonies devolved to an open military conflict, there were rifles in some quantity in the southern colonies in general and in South Carolina in particular.  Several of South Carolina’s Continental regiments, specifically the Fifth and Sixth, were raised as rifle units.

It should be clear that this weapon would make a very useful addition to the arsenal of the Patriots, especially in the South, considering the type of fighting that would take place in that theater.  While the early years of the War of Independence witnessed more formalized warfare such as the British attack on Charleston in 1776, there were as well numerous smaller clashes in the backcountry, such as the first Siege of Ninety Six, in which rifles played a prominent role.[9]  The evidence suggests that while the manner in which the war developed in the North served to downplay the use of the rifle, with focus going to more formalized European tactics; in the South, with the eruption of the partisan conflict in the summer of 1780, the rifle became a key instrument of war.[10]

Among the reasons given for discarding the rifle in the northern theater were the two most common shortcomings cited concerning the weapon: its slow speed for reloading and its inability to mount a bayonet.  The chief reason for the lack of bayonets on longrifles was the fact that through the process used to manufacture the barrels, they were hexagonal in shape.  Thus, due to the shape of the barrel, the longrifle could not mount a standard socket bayonet.  While there is some evidence to suggest that there were in fact ways to work around the lack of a bayonet socket, such as swamping or the use of plug bayonets, it is not clear to what extent these solutions were utilized.  One thing must be kept in mind—the number of Revolutionary era rifles still in existence is exceedingly small.[11]

Many times the clashes in the South between partisan groups were very short and violent with one group essentially ambushing another.  Under these conditions, the first volley could decide the outcome to a large extent.  In this sort of an encounter, the rifle’s liabilities far offset its assets.  The reloading time would not be some much a factor as the first volley did the majority of the damage.  Likewise, the accuracy and range of the rifle made it the perfect sort of weapon for these engagements.  An example of this type of encounter was the Battle of Williamson’s Plantation (Huck’s Defeat), which occurred on June 18, 1780.  Christian Huck, a Pennsylvania Loyalist captain in the feared British Legion, died in a dawn attack executed by cooperating SC Patriot militia groups.  Many of these men were armed with rifles and several initially claimed credit for killing Huck.  It was finally decided that John Carroll, who lived on the upper Fishing Creek in the New Acquisition, fired the fatal shot from a double-loaded rifle.  (Double-loading refers to loading the rifle with two projectiles and an extra heavy charge of powder.  Troops occasionally resorted to the practice in order to maximize the lethality of the first volley.)  This engagement stood as the first time the Patriot militia attacked British regular troops.[12]

For more drawn-out engagements, the riflemen were often deployed in ways that served to offset their liabilities.  One example of this type of deployment would be Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.   Here, the troops under the command of various officers including Patriot militia Cols. Isaac Shelby, William Campbell, James Williams, Joseph Winston, Benjamin Cleveland with Lt. Cols. John Sevier, Joseph McDowell, William Chronicle, and Frederick Hambright attacked British Maj. Patrick Ferguson’s provincial troops camped atop the rise from many points almost simultaneously.  Ferguson’s men, a few of whom may have been armed with his own breech loading rifle, were also equipped with muskets with bayonets.  When the Loyalists charged, the Patriots gave ground until Ferguson’s men were pressed from another area of the battlefield.  It should be mentioned that the method followed in their attack was not a consciously adopted stratagem on the part of the Patriots but merely the manner in which the engagement evolved.  Still, it proved successful as Ferguson was killed on the field and his troops were surrounded and routed.[13]  In another excellent example of longrifle firepower, with word of British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s approach, SC Patriot militia Gen. Thomas Sumter carefully selected his defensive stand on hilltops in farm buildings at Blackstock’s Plantation on the Tyger River.  Here the backcountry militias were completely protected from Tarleton’s cavalry and could easily dominate the battlefield where they pinned the British 63d Regiment of Foot in the fields and lanes below. Plantation barns, cribs and the Blackstock’s house were used for protection while reloading.  Sumter easily checked Tarleton and inflicted 20 to 1 casualties on the Brtitish.

Probably the greatest example of utilizing riflemen’s range and accuracy would be Continental Gen. Daniel Morgan’s deployments at Cowpens on January 17, 1781.  One of the key features of Morgan’s defense in depth consisted in the roughly 120 riflemen from North Carolina, South Carolinaand Georgia posted in his first line.  The men were to fight in threes, two men holding fire as one man delivered fire.  These men forced Tarleton to deploy for battle without complete intelligence of his enemy’s disposition, thus accomplishing two tasks of central importance.[14]  Likewise, their long-distance fire inflicted casualties on the non-commissioned officers, making the deployments of Tarleton’s men less organized than they might otherwise have been.  Cowpens stands as one of the most complete victories for the Patriots in the War of Independence.  The role of the riflemen in the first line played no small part in that victory.  Morgan’s positioning of these troops and his expectations on their performance showed him to be a commander who appreciated both the strengths and limitations of the longrifle.  This should come as no surprise since Morgan commanded one of the first ten rifle companies raised by the Continental Congress in June of 1775.

It should be clear at this point that the rifle constituted a weapon well suited to the type of fighting that transpired in the Southern Department, especially in the backcountry.  Likewise, the commanders often realized this and posted their riflemen to make the most of the weapon’s advantages, and to some extent, minimize its deficiencies.  Certainly Huck’s Defeat, Kings Mountain, Blackstock’s Plantation, and especially Cowpens, exemplify this point.[15]  In addition to the commanders at these engagements positioning their men to make the best use of their rifles, the riflemen had to have superior aim in order to take full advantage of the capabilities of their weapons.  While it is highly likely that not all riflemen were crack shots, enough of them were for the weapon to have a telling effect.

Finally, this should not be taken as anything approaching a complete discussion of the role of the rifle in the South.  Rather, this is a set of initial remarks and an invitation to begin the discussion of the role of the weapon.  Likewise, it further supports the idea that the war in the South constituted a fundamentally different military event – a different type of conflict waged with different tactics than that fought in the North.  The longrifle stood as a weapon ideally suited for this type of war.  Commanders who were successful in the Southern Department appreciated this fact, and appreciated the advantages the longrifle could offer.

[1] James R. Mc Intyre is a professor of history at Moraine College, Ill. © 2008  A version of this paper was published in American Revolution magazine, Vol. 2, p.11-13.  For more details, see Professor Mc Intyre’s article at

[2] One example of the attitude many of the northern delegates initially held concerning the longrifle’s capabilities comes from a letter by John Adams to his wife Abigail.  “They have voted Ten Companies of Rifle Men to be sent from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, to join the Army before Boston.  These are an excellent Species of Light Infantry.  They use a peculiar Kind of […] [call’d] a Rifle—it has circular or […] Grooves within the Barrell, and carries a Ball, with great Exactness to great Distances.  They are the most accurate Marksmen in the World.”  See John Adams to Abigail Adams, June 17, 1775,  Adams’ words were echoed by John Hancock in writing to Joseph Warren on June 18, 1775, “This is a good Step and will be an excellent additional Strength to our Army.  These are the finest Marksmen in the world. They do Execution with their Rifle Guns at an Amazing Distance.”  See Smith, Paul H. ed. Letters of the Delegates to the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1976-2000.  In connection with the riflemen being rearmed with muskets, see Col. John W.  Wright, “The Rifle in the American Revolution.” In American Historical Review, 29 (1924), pp. 26-30.

[3] Norman B. Wilkinson, “The Pennsylvania Rifle.”  In Historic Pennsylvania Leaflet. 4. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (1976) p. 1.

[4] The evolutionary periods of the longrifle were as follows, according to Philip B. Sharpe, The Rifle in America. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1938, p. 19.  The first period ran from 1718 to roughly 1775, and should be seen as a developmental or transitional period between the parent weapons and the Pennsylvania longrifle.  This first period witnessed the perfection of the flintlock version of the longrifle in its technological development.  The second period ran from 1776 until 1825, and witnessed a new wave of proliferation of the firearm.  Finally, 1825-1850 saw the ornamentation reach a decadent level.  By the last period all of the technological innovation had reached their full manifestation.  On the uses of the longrifle in hunting during the pre-revolutionary era, see Joseph Ruckman, Recreating the American Longhunter: 1740-1790.  Privately Published, Joseph Ruckman, 2000

[5] For the proliferation of the longrifle south, see Ruckman, Longhunter, pp. 41-42.  On the time for manufacture and the cost, see Wilkinson, “Pennsylvania Rifle,” p. 3.

[6] Mention of the Cherokee using the longrifle during the Cherokee War were found in Matthew C. Ward, Breaking the Backcountry: the Seven Years War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003, p. 197.

[7] Baika Harvey quoted in Robert Scott Davis, “Lesson from Kettle Creek: Patriotism and Loyalism on the Southern Frontier,” in Journal of Backcountry Studies. Volume 1, number 1, (March 2006): 2-3.

[8] While the marksmanship described in the above paragraph may seem hard to believe, I have several other accounts of the riflemen in action that corroborate the notion that these men possessed a very high level of skill with their firearms.  By the same token, it should be kept in mind that these men were demonstrating their ability in contests, not while under hostile fire.   A second example comes from the pen of another Scotsman, John Harrower and pertains to the raising of one of the Virginia companies in 1775.  More men turned out than were necessary to complete the company, so the commander “chuse his Compy by the following method Vizy.  He took a board of a foot square and wt Chalk drew the shape of a moderate nose in the center and nailed it to a tree at 150 yds distance and those who came nights the mark with a single ball was to go.”  By these means the commander would raise the men necessary for completing his unit.  The account furthermore demonstrates the level of marksmanship among at least one group of riflemen.  “But by the first 40 or 50 that fired the nose was all blown out of the board, and by the time his Compy was up the board shared the same fate.”  See John Harrower “Diary of John Harrower” in The American Historical Review. Vol. 6, No. 1 (Oct. 1900): 100.  A third example comes from a letter describing a shooting demonstration put on at Fredericktown, Maryland by Captain Michael Cresap’s Company of Maryland riflemen on their march to Cambridge in the summer of 1775, “Yesterday, July 31st, the company were supplied with a small quantity of powder form the magazine, which wanted airing, and was not in good order for rifles; in the evening, however, they were drawn out to show the gentlemen of the town their dexterity in shooting.   A clap-board with a mark the size of a dollar was put up, they began to fire offhand, and the bystanders were surprised.  Few shots were made that were not close to or into the paper.  When they had shot for some time in this way, some lay on their backs, some on their breasts or sides, others ran twenty or thirty steps, and firing as they ran, appeared to be equally certain of the mark.”  American Archives quoted in Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown. Charlottesville, VA: The Michie Company, Printers, 1910, p. 94.  [Ed. Not to be too contrary, but we have the incident at the Battle of Weitzel’s Mill in which British Lt. Col. James Webster bravely rode forward to lead his men across the Reedy Fork River, exposing himself to Patriot riflemen posted in the hills beyond the river who took 32 shots without the desired effect.  Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas. Volume 3, 1781. Booklocker, 2005, p. 122.]

[9] Patrick O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas. Volume 1, 1771-1779. Booklocker, 2004, pp. 59-63.

[10] Jac Weller makes this same argument concerning the nature of the fighting at the tactical level in the south in his article “Irregular But Effective: Partisan Weapons Tactics in the American Revolution, Southern Theatre” in Military Affairs, Volume 21, (Autumn 1957), pp. 118-131.  The difference here is to some extent one of scope. I include the idea that the commanders in the Southern Department understood the utility of the rifle and adapted their tactics in order to bolster its effectiveness.

[11] Lawrence Babits, A Devil of a Whipping the Battle of Cowpens. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998, p. 16, provides an excellent discussion of swamping. With regards to the numbers of actual Revolutionary War rifles, these are very hard to determine as guns were quite valuable and tended to be re-bored, thus making the date of their original manufacture very difficult, if not impossible to determine, unless the piece is signed by the maker.

[12] Michael C. Scoggins, The Day It Rained Militia: Huck’s Defeat and the Revolution in the South Carolina Backcountry May-July 1780. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2005, p. 116.

[13] O’Kelley, Blood and Slaughter, volume 2, pp. 322-342.  The classic account on this engagement is still Lyman C. Draper, Kings Mountain and Its Heroes, Johnson City, TN: The Overmountain Press, 1996 reprint of 1881 original. On Patrick Ferguson, see M.M. Gilchrist, Patrick Ferguson A Man of Some Genius. Edinburgh: NMS Publishing, 2003, a solid if biased biography.

[14] Babits, Devil of a Whipping, p.  83.

[15] Two additional engagements that exemplify this point were suggested to me by Dr. C. Leon Harris. These skirmishes were Clapp’s Mill, March 4, 1781 and Weitzel’s Mill, March 6, 1781.  Both are detailed in O’Kelley, Nothing but Blood and Slaughter, volume 3, pp. 108-111 and 119-123 respectively.

Battle of Sullivans Island and Breach Inlet – June 21-29, 1776

One of several great contemporaneous maps depicting the British loss of their first attempt to re-capture their colony of South Carolina.  The Royal Navy’s attack on the partially completed palmetto log and sand fort on Sullivan’s Island, led by Commodore Sir Peter Parker, failed after hours of bombardment.  The soft palmetto log revetments absorbed the damaging naval direct cannon fire, while the American gunners took their toll on the British men-of-war.  Difficult harbor navigation grounded one British ship, the HMS Acteon, and made her a “sitting duck” since they could not turn the ship to aim their cannon.

At the north end of the island approximately 900 Americans, mostly North Carolina and South Carolina Continentals, commanded by Col. William “Old Danger” Thomson, resisted the British Army, commanded by Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Charles Cornwallis, who had over 3,500 men on Long Island (now Isle of Palms).  The British plan to ford or make a marine landing across Breach Inlet was defeated by the stubborn American resistance.  Gens. Clinton and Cornwallis would return to Charlestown in 1780 to try again – this time successfully.

This June 28, 1776 victory assured that the Whig government in South Carolina retained control of this keystone southern colony during the critical years of 1776 to 1780.

Recently, a new interpretive park has been established near the modern bridge linking the north end of Sullivans Island with Isle of Palms.  SCAR Fellows offered project leader Doug MacIntyre assistance with the research and interpretation.  For more information on the new Thomson Park and extensive research which supports its intreprtataion, please visit their website at

New interpretative signs for the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill.

One of the new interpretative signs now on the Hobkirk Hill battlefield, in a residential area of Camden, SC.  The City of Camden was awarded a major grant to mark the battlefield and develop a tour brochure suitable for the overbuilt residential neighborhood.  The signs texts were written by Dr. Jim Piecuch, vetted by Charles B. Baxley, David P. Reuwer, John Miller, Peggy Ogburn, with assistance from Terry Hurley of SC PRT and Joanna Craig, director of Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site, and featuring the graphic arts of Rob McCaskill.  The project was managed for the City by Willard Polk.  These signs match the design of new interpretative signage at Historic Camden Revolutionary war Site and the Battle of Camden site.