THREE MONTHS IN 1780
Friday, 12 May: After a siege of about two weeks, Maj. Gen. Benjamin
Lincoln surrenders the entire Southern Continental Army in
Col. Abraham Buford and about 350 Virginia Continentals are camped at Lenud’s Ferry on the
Capt. John McClure, a veteran of the 3rd South Carolina
Regiment, is at Monck’s Corner with a company of
Thursday, 18 May: Having received intelligence of that Buford is retreating back to North Carolina, along with fugitive Gov. John Rutledge of South Carolina, Clinton dispatches his second-in-command, Lt. Gen. Charles, Earl Cornwallis, with a corps of some 2500 infantry, cavalry and artillery, to follow Buford and apprehend his force. Maj. Patrick Ferguson of the 71st Highlanders leads a provincial corps into the western part of the state, heading for Ninety Six. (Tarleton, 26-7; Draper, King’s Mountain, 68)
Monday, 22 May:
Friday, 26 May: Buford leaves Rugeley’s Mills
Saturday, 27 May: Seeing that his main army is advancing too slowly to catch Buford, Cornwallis detaches Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, commander of the British Legion, with 130 Legion cavalry, 100 Legion infantry and 40 troopers of the 17th Dragoon Regiment to intercept Buford. (Tarleton, 27)
Monday, 29 May: Tarleton catches up to Buford
at the Waxhaws in
Wednesday, 31 May: McClure arrives at the home of his uncle Justice John
Thursday, 1 June:
Cornwallis arrives in
Saturday, 3 June:
Sunday, 4 June: Cols. John Thomas Sr., Thomas Brandon and Lt. Col. James Lisle (or Lysle) hold a meeting and agree to concentrate their troops and form a camp near Fair Forest Creek about four miles from the present site of Union, SC. (O’Neall, 33; Saye, 11)
John Harrison of
Houseman summons the inhabitants of the Fishing Creek and Rocky Creek
Monday, 5 June:
Brig. Gen. Andrew Williamson, commander of the Ninety Six District
Patriot militia brigade, assembles his officers and men, reads
Houseman visits the home of Justice Gaston on upper Fishing Creek and asks Gaston to persuade the local rebel militia to turn in their arms and sign the oath of allegiance at Alexander’s Old Field the next day. Gaston refuses and informs his nephew John McClure, who along with his brother Lt. Hugh McClure, Lt. John Steele, and Justice Gaston’s sons, spends the night recruiting volunteers in the Fishing Creek, Rocky Creek and Sandy River communities of Chester County in order to launch a surprise attack on Houseman the next day. (Gaston, Southern Presbyterian)
Tuesday, 6 June: About 200 men assemble at Alexander’s Old Field in the
morning to sign the oath of allegiance and “take protection” from Col.
Houseman. McClure and 32 Whigs launch a surprise attack on Houseman’s troops
and disperse the assembly. Four Tories are killed and several are wounded,
while two of McClure’s men are wounded in the skirmish. (Craig,
(Date approximate): The New Acquisition (
Wednesday, 7 June: Richard Winn, a former Continental officer from
Thursday, 8 June: Winn leads militia under McClure and Bratton in a successful attack on Tory militia commanded by Col. Charles Coleman at Mobley’s Meeting House. The Tories are dispersed with some casualties, and the Whigs capture their provisions and arms. (Winn, 1; Lipscomb, Names, 22:33; Ellet, Women, 1:240, 3:177; Ellet, Domestic History, 182-3)
Cornwallis turns over command of the upstate to Lt. Col. Francis Lord Rawdon at
Ninety-Six District Loyalist militia under Maj. William “Bloody Bill”
Saturday, 10 June: Rawdon arrives in the Waxhaw
Gen. Williamson disbands the Ninety Six District militia brigade; he, Col. Andrew Pickens, Col John Thomas Sr., and the other militia officers give their paroles to Capt. Pearis. (Tarleton, 85; Lambert, 106-7)
Turnbull learns that McClure and Bratton, in command of the rebels in the
upper Fishing Creek area of
Col. Ferguson visits his brother Samuel and sister-in-law Isabella on Rocky Creek and unsuccessfully attempts to persuade Samuel to join the Loyalist militia. (Ellet, Women, 3:198-201)
Cols. Thomas and Lisle, learning of
Sunday, 11 June: Huck arrives at
Rawdon issues a proclamation to the people of
Rev. William Martin, a Covenanter minister, preaches a sermon at the
Monday, 12 June: A group of Martin’s Covenanters assemble seven miles
The New Acquisition Regiment
assembles at Hill’s Iron Works on
Turnbull acknowledges receipt of a proposal from Lord Cornwallis to join
Wednesday, 14 June: Huck and
Lt. Col. Neal and the New Acquisition Regiment set out from Hill’s Iron
Works to attack Tory settlements on the
A Loyalist militia regiment is established at
(Date approximate): Whig militia under Col. Brandon and Capt. Andrew Love
of the New Acquisition attack and defeat a Loyalist company at the plantation of
John Stallings (Stallions) on upper Fishing Creek in
Thursday, 15 June: Turnbull writes Cornwallis and reports that Colonels
Bratton, Patton, Winn, and others have abandoned their plantations and “gone
amongst the Catawba Indians.” He reports that corn is becoming scarce but that
there is an Irish settlement on Turkey Creek and Bullock’s Creek (in western
Col. Matthew Floyd and 30 Loyalist militiamen from the
(Date approximate): Neal is joined by Lt. Col. James Lisle and a
battalion of militia from the lower
Friday, 16 June: Huck sets out early in the morning from
(Date approximate): Lt. Alexander Chesney, a
Loyalist officer from the
Sunday, 18 June: Huck attacks Hill’s Iron Works while Neal is still in
Monday, 19 June: Spartan,
Huck holds his meeting at
Tuesday, 20 June:
Maj. Gen. Johann de Kalb, sent south by Gen. George Washington with a brigade of Maryland and Delaware Continentals, learns of Charleston’s surrender and camps at Parson’s Plantation, 35 northeast of Hillsboro, NC. (Tarleton, 91-2, 119; Boatner, 1036-7)
Thursday, 22 June: DeKalb reaches
Maj. Patrick Ferguson, in command of Ninety Six District Loyalists, and Maj. George Hanger of the British Legion, arrive at Fort Ninety Six. (Draper, King’s Mountain, 68)
c. Friday, 23 June:
c. Sunday, 25 June: Capt. David Kinlock of the British Legion brings a reinforcement of dragoons to Turnbull at Brown’s Crossroads. (Cornwallis Papers, PRO 30/11/2/250-1)
Friday, 30 June: Cornwallis sends a letter to
Saturday, 1 July:
(Date approximate): Lord Rawdon begins sending emissaries into the rebel settlements, offering gold or “secret service money” in exchange for loyalty and information on rebel movements. (Cornwallis Papers, PRO 30/11/2/252-5; Moore, 2)
Sunday, 2 July: Kinlock rides twelve miles on
reconnaissance and returns to Brown’s Crossroads complaining of the heat and
fatigue. Turnbull sends him back to
Tuesday, 4 July:
Rawdon sends Major Thomas Mecan and the 23rd
Regiment of Foot from
Wednesday, 5 July:
Thursday, 6 July: Fearing an attack from
Friday, 7 July:
Rawdon complains to Cornwallis about the bad effects of
(Date approximate): Maj. William Richardson Davie, commanding a troop of
(Date approximate): Lt. John Adamson, a Loyalist officer from
Sunday, 9 July: Kinlock pursues some rebels
Monday, 10 July: Turnbull receives intelligence that John McClure has
returned home to harvest his wheat and that William Bratton is “publishing
proclamations and pardons to who should return to their duty.” Hoping to
capture both men at home, that evening Turnbull dispatches Huck and Lt.
Benjamin Hunt with a troop of about 35 Legion dragoons; 20 mounted New York
Volunteers under Lt. John McGregor and Ens. Allan
Cameron; and 50 mounted militia under Col. Floyd, Lt. Col. Ferguson, Maj.
Owens, Lt. Lewis, and Lt. Adamson of the
Tuesday, 11 July: Huck stops off at
Wednesday, 12 July: The Whig militia attack Huck at daybreak and defeat
the Loyalists. Huck and
An express rider brings the “disagreable news” of Huck’s Defeat “at Col. Braton’s on Fishing Creek” to the camp of Maj. Patrick Ferguson, commander of the Ninety Six District Loyalist militia brigade. Ferguson is camped at Capt. Frost’s plantation on Pagett’s Creek, Union County. (Moss, Johnson, 43-4)
Mrs. Jane Thomas rides some 50 miles from Fort Ninety Six to inform her son, Col. John Thomas Jr., of a planned Loyalist attack on his camp at Cedar Spring south of present-day Spartanburg. Thomas with about 60 men prepares an ambush for the Tories, who attack during the night with about 150 men and are driven off with several casualties. (Draper, King’s Mountain, 73-5; Lipscomb, Names, 22:35; Hope, 16)
Thursday, 13 July: Lt. Hunt of Huck’s dragoons arrives at Ferguson’s camp on Pagett’s Creek, and gives his own “imperfect account” of Huck’s Defeat. (Moss, Johnson, 44)
Col. Thomas leads the Spartan Regiment north and joins Col. Charles McDowell of NC. McDowell has about 300-400 militia camped at Earle’s Ford on the North Pacolet River in northern Spartanburg County, near the NC line. A band of about 40 Tories from Cedar Spring pursue Thomas and halt at Gowen’s Old Fort on the South Pacolet River near the Spartanburg-Greenville County line. Col. John Jones of Burke County, NC, leading a detachment of 35 Col. Elijah Clarke’s Georgia militia to join McDowell, surrounds and attacks the Tories during the night. The Tories surrender and are paroled, and Jones takes their horses and weapons. (Draper, King’s Mountain, 78-80; Lipscomb, Names, 22:35; Hope, 16-7)
The Continental Congress commissions Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates to command the Southern Department. (Boatner, 159)
Friday, 14 July: Col. Alexander Innes, commanding a Loyalist garrison at Fort Prince on the north fork of the Tyger River in western Spartanburg County, dispatches Maj. James Dunlap and Col. Ambrose Mills with 14 dragoons of the American Volunteers and 60 Loyalist militia to attack McDowell’s camp at Earle’s Ford. Dunlap reaches McDowell’s camp during the night and attacks, but finds himself badly outnumbered and beats a hasty retreat. (Draper, King’s Mountain, 80-2; Lipscomb, Names, 22:35; Moss, Johnson, 46; Hope, 18)
News of Huck’s Defeat brings fresh recruits pouring into Sumter’s camp on Clem’s Branch. (Hill, 10; O’Neall, 34; Moore, 7-8)
Rawdon writes Cornwallis informing him that DeKalb has rendezvoused with Maj. Gen. Richard Caswell, commander-in-chief of NC militia, at Coxe’s Settlement. (Cornwallis Papers, PRO 30/11/2/294-5)
Cornwallis writes to Clinton informing him that DeKalb is at Hillsboro with 2000 Continental troops and is advancing to Salisbury. (Tarleton, 118-20)
Saturday, 15 July: McDowell sends 52 mounted men under Capt. Edward Hampton in pursuit of Dunlap. Hampton overtakes Dunlap near the present site of Shiloh Church in Inman, Spartanburg County, and launches a surprise attack in which eight Loyalists are killed. A running fight ensues as Hampton pursues Dunlap back to Fort Prince. When Dunlap reaches the saftey of the fort Hampton withdraws. Fearing an attack by McDowell, Innes evacuates the fort. (Draper, King’s Mountain, 11; Lipscomb, Names, 22:35; Hope, 19)
Lord Cornwallis in Charleston sends a letter to Sir Henry Clinton in New York, reporting intelligence from Lord Rawdon that DeKalb is at Coxe’s plantation on the Deep River in NC, and states that Rawdon has posted Lt. Col. Webster at Hanging Rock. He also gives a report on Huck’s Defeat.
Monday, 17 July: Sumter sends DeKalb a letter
reporting his success at Williamson’s Plantation and describing the scattered
dispositions of Cornwallis’s troops in the upstate. He proposes to attack the
British posts at Rocky Mount and Hanging Rock while DeKalb
takes Camden with his army. (Draper
Tuesday, 18 July: Cornwallis issues a proclamation forbiding the unauthorized requisitioning of cattle and other provisions except by field officers of the militia acting under his orders. (Tarleton, 122)
Thursday, 20 July: That evening, Maj. Davie leads a troop of Carolina dragoons south of Hanging Rock to intercept a British supply convoy heading from Camden to Hanging Rock. (Davie, 9; Lipscomb, Names, 22:35-6)
Friday, 21 July: DeKalb receives Sumter’s letter of the 17th, but knowing that Gates is headed south to take command he delays taking any action. (Bass, 63)
Having marched all night, Davie reaches Flat Rock in Kershaw County in the morning and lays an ambush for the British supply convoy. That afternoon he attacks the convoy, destroys the provisions and captures the convoy escort. Fearing that he will in turn be ambushed, Davie heads back to his camp by an unfrequented route. (Davie, 9; Lipscomb, Names, 22:35-6)
Saturday, 22 July: Davie is ambushed on his way back to camp early in the morning by some Loyalist troops at Beaver Creek Ford. The British gunfire kills or wounds most of Davie’s Tory prisoners while inflicting only light casualties on Davie’s men. Davie returns to his camp on Waxhaw Creek later that morning. (Davie, 9-10; Lipscomb, Names, 22:35-6)
c. Monday, 24 July: Sumter receives intelligence that “Bloody Bill” Cunningham has crossed the Broad River into western York County. He sends John McClure with a company of mounted militia to drive Cunningham from the area. McClure chases Cunningham across Union County back to Ninety Six, and captures four of Cunningham’s men in the process. (Ellet, 3:185-6)
Tuesday, 25 July: Gates reaches DeKalb’s headquarters at Coxe’s Mill, NC, and takes command of the southern Continental army, consisting of 1200 Maryland and Delaware Continentals, three artillery companies and 120 dragoons of Armand’s (formerly Pulaski’s) Legion. (Tarleton, 120; Boatner, 159)
Thursday, 27 July: Gates begins marching south from NC with his “grand army” to attack Camden. (Boatner, 161)
McClure returns to Sumter’s camp in the evening with four of Cunningham’s men as prisoners. (Ellet, 3:185-6)
Friday, 28 July: Sumter moves his brigade from Clem’s Branch to Land’s Ford on the Catawba River in Chester County, in preparation for operations against Rocky Mount and Hanging Rock. John McClure is elected colonel and John Nixon is elected lieutenant colonel of the Chester County regiment. By this time Sumter has about 600 men under his command. (O’Neall, 34; Hill, 12; Lossing, 98; Johnson, 344; Bass, 63)
Sunday, 30 July: Sumter sends Davie to make a diversionary attack on the British fort at Hanging Rock while he attacks Rocky Mount. Davie attacks the camp of Col. Samuel Bryan’s North Carolina Royalists, inflicts heavy casualties, and captures Bryan’s supplies and 60 horses. Meanwhile, Sumter’s Brigade attacks Rocky Mount. During the initial attack, Col. Andrew Neal and 7 privates are killed. Sumter realizes that the fort is more heavily fortified than he was originally informed. After several more unsuccessful attempts to take the fort, Sumter is forced to break off operations when a torrential downpour of rain begins to fall. (Hill, 11-12; Winn, 8-10; Johnson, 344; Moss, Johnson, 50-1)
Col. McDowell, having moved his camp to Cherokee Ford on the Broad River, detaches a party under Cols. Isaac Shelby, Elijah Clarke, Andrew Hampton, and Maj. Charles Robertson to attack a Loyalist post called Thicketty Fort or Fort Anderson on Thicketty Creek, Cherokee County, commanded by Capt. Patrick Moore. The Whigs surround the fort and Moore surrenders 93 men and a large supply of arms without firing a shot. ((Draper, King’s Mountain, 87-8; Lipscomb, Names, 22:36; Moss, Johnson, 51; Hope, 20-1)
Col. Thomas Sumter decided to attack the British outpost at
Rocky Mount on
Part 2: A Center of Resistance
Previous: Strategic Overview
Next: Huck Attacks
The British Post at Rocky Mount:
Lieutenant-Colonel George Turnbull commanded the British outpost at Rocky Mount, South Carolina, with his New York Volunteers and Captain Christian Huck‘s company of British Legion dragoons [see Note 1]. The South Carolina Backcountry was a patchwork of different communities, some predominately aligned with the “American“ cause, or “Whigs,” while others were loyal to the Crown, or “Tories.” Within a given community could be found persons that preferred to stay out of the conflict or that supported (secretly perhaps) a different cause than their neighbors. It was Turnbull's responsibility to organize and support the Loyalists in his area and to suppress rebellion. Turnbull largely remained in Rocky Mount, relying chiefly on Captain Huck and the Loyalist militia (who, like the dragoons, were mounted) to control the countryside.
Turnbull had several bands of Loyalist militia at his disposal in early June, including companies commanded by Henry Houseman, James Ferguson, and John Owens. On June 15, Matthew Floyd joined the Rocky Mount garrison with around 30 men. Floyd was the rare man that was clearly committed to the Crown, influential among his neighbors, and experienced in war. Turnbull promptly gave him a colonel’s commission.
Soon after Floyd reached Rocky Mount, word arrived that the Americans were destroying the homes and property of Floyd and his men. Turnbull promptly dispatched Huck’s troop and all the Loyalists on hand (a mere 60 men) “to give these fellows [the Americans] a Check.” Either because of exhaustion or other pressing business, the newly-appointed Colonel Floyd did not participate in this mission. Instead, command of the Loyalists devolved on his son, Captain Abraham Floyd. Captains Huck and Floyd set off on the morning of June 16. They would "Check" the Americans by destroying Hill’s Ironworks, the chief center of American resistance in the area.
William Hill’s Ironworks was a well-known locale that included sawmills, a gristmill, and a blast furnace. The ironworks was the most productive in the state, supplying Backcountry settlers with plows, kitchen wares, and other implements. Once the war began, the ironworks were used to manufacture cannon, cannonballs, rifles, and other materials of war for the American army. As the British overran the Backcountry, proprietor William Hill turned the ironworks into an important center of resistance. On June 12, Hill spoke out against a British officer sent to the ironworks to take the submission of the area settlers, raising the spirits of his neighbors. Hill then encouraged them to reactivate the New Acquisition militia regiment, which had disbanded after the British advanced into the Backcountry. The men of this regiment then elected Andrew Neal as their colonel and William Hill as their lieutenant colonel [see Note 2].
American Forces at the Ironworks:
It is uncertain which American commanded the forces at the ironworks when Huck attack and what units were present. According to William Hill, Andrew Neal, colonel of the New Acquisition militia regiment, departed the ironworks to attack Floyd shortly before the battle, leaving 12-15 men behind. These men may have belonged to Captain Joseph Howe's company, to judge from the pension applications filed by Samuel Gordon and James Clinton. Two sources link John Thomas’ 1st Spartan militia regiment (see pension applications of Samuel Gordon and James McIlhenny) and Captain John Moffett’s company of militia (see James Collins’ autobiography and Robert Patteson’s pension application) to the battle.
William Hill did not indicate, in his memoir, either that he accompanied Neal's mission to stop Floyd's Loyalists, or that he was at the ironworks at the time of the battle. Michael Scoggins observed that a statement he wrote on behalf of Captain John Henderson implicitly places him at the battle. If Hill was present, he was arguably in command; Colonel John Thomas also could have held that position.
Christian Huck told George Turnbull that the Americans had 150 men when he made his attack. This number could be close to correct, but it's doubtful that he had either the opportunity to count the Americans for himself or that he would have obtained accurate information from the men he captured. Michael Scoggins conservatively accepted as present only the 12-15 men mentioned by Hill; Patrick O'Kelley estimated the total as 50 men.
1: “Huck” is the anglicized spelling of a German surname, most likely Houck or Hauck. Early writers sometimes called him Hook, or used other spellings; Huck is the spelling most often given, and it is the spelling that Huck chose for himself (for more, see this discussion on Marg Baskin’s Banastre Tarleton website; a longer biography appears in Michael Scoggins’ book on Huck‘s Defeat).
2. Neal was chosen colonel because he was experienced in war; Hill was not.
Michael C. Scoggins. (2005). The Day It Rained Militia: Huck's Defeat and the Revolution in the South Carolina Backcountry, May-July 1780. (link to amazon.com).
Patrick O'Kelley. Hill's Iron Works, South Carolina: The Presbyterian Rebellion -- 18 June 1780 (or June 9th or 11th) (.pdf file). Article in Volume 2, Number 6 of the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution magazine.
Michael C. Scoggins. More on the Battle of Hill's Ironworks (.pdf file). Article in Volume 2, Number 7 of the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution magazine.
Keith Krawczynski. Aera Ironworks (.pdf file). Article in Volume 2, Number 7 of the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution magazine.
James Collins. (1859). Autobiography of a Revolutionary Soldier.
Robert S. Lambert. (1987). South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution. (link to amazon.com).
Will Graves transcribed the pension application of Samuel Gordon (.pdf file).