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Francis Marion, Chapter IV, Campaign of 1782

The military history of this year, is not remarkable for any great events; but the most material of these happened in the brigade of Marion. As they are not altogether of a pleasant nature, it appears to have been the wish of many to bury them in oblivion, and therefore some of them have been suppressed, and others but slightly recorded. But, the correspondence gives dates and hints, which bring the whole to recollection; and it is the duty of the biographer to be impartial. It was hoped that he might have avoided saying any thing more about the dispute which arose between Cols. Peter Horry and Maham; but, as that dispute terminated in unhappy consequences, it becomes necessary that they should be developed. Gen. Marion was returned, at the elections which took place for the Jacksonborough assembly, a member of the senate for St. John’s, Berkley. Being about to take his seat, he gave the immediate command of the brigade to Col. Peter Horry,1 subject to his future order. Of this order, all that is necessary to state here, is as follows: “You will take command of my brigade until I return. You will keep the guards at Cainhoy and Fogartie’s. Their orders are to prevent any boats or persons from going to or from town, without a written pass from me or yourself. Col. Maham’s corps will be ordered to Mepkin, to remain there until my further orders.” As the enemy got most of their intelligence from persons, more especially women, going to and from town, this part of the order was very material. In the mean time application was made by Gen. Marion to Greene to decide this unhappy dispute between the colonels; and, in a conciliating letter, he decided it in favour of Horry. (16th Jan.) On the 18th of January, Gen. Marion writes to Horry: “I send you Gen. Greene’s letter in answer to mine, sent him as soon as I arrived here, and it is determined as I expected. You will keep the letter, and if the enemy should approach your quarters, and you find it necessary, you must call on Col. Maham’s troops and horse, as reinforcements; and I wish he may not be called upon for any other purpose.” In a letter from Col. Maham to Horry, of the 20th of January, it is to be inferred that the latter had immediately called upon him for a return of his corps, and to submit to his orders; for he answers, “I cannot think of being commanded by an officer of the same rank. I think it proper not to make you any return of my regiment, and I shall not obey any order you may be pleased to send.” It appears from a subsequent letter of Maham’s of the same date, that Gen. Marion had not written to him concerning the determination of Gen. Greene; but Gen. Marion’s order, both then and subsequently, was certainly sufficient to convince him he ought to submit. After this Col. Horry writes to Gen. Marion: “Col. Maham interferes with my command so much that I can scarcely act; he gave passes to several ladies to go to town without my leave, and they accordingly went in a boat, which boat has since returned, and the ladies have since come up.” And again, “I assure you your presence is much wanted. Your brigade lessens daily.” (31st Jan.) On the 3d of February, Marion answers: “I am surprised at Col. Maham’s interference with your command. I have written him positive orders not to do so in any respect whatever, and was in hopes Gen. Greene would have prevented such evils before this.” But from a former letter of Gov. Rutledge, which is a philippic against Horry, and the subsequent determination of Gov. Matthews, it is evident that Maham had got the civil authority on his side, and he did not regard the general’s. And thus it is, when civilians interfere with military affairs that they invariably commit blunders. Having premised these facts, to show that in Marion’s absence there was naught but discord and dissention, we now proceed to state the consequences.

Almost the whole of the warfare was henceforth carried on in St. Thomas’ and St. James’, Santee. About this time, Col. Richard Richardson commanded the post at Cainhoy. A British galley lay in the river Wando, which he watched, and patroled the road down to Daniel’s island by day, and returned into the woods and lay without fire by night. A fortnight after he was posted there, hearing of a party of British which had landed at Daniel’s island, he immediately sent out scouts to the causeway over to the island, and wrote for a reinforcement. In the morning Maham’s horse arrived, four troops in uniform, and fully equipt; but their colonel, who would have been ranked by Richardson, was not present, and they were under the command of Maj. Giles. The British took the Strawberry road, and about noon stopped at Bishop Smith’s, Brabant, about fourteen miles up the road. To the north of that plantation is a swamp of considerable width, with a causeway and bridge. Beyond the causeway, on the right going up, was a fence on a bank and a ditch behind it, with trees in front. Richardson passed the swamp above, and going down to the hill above this fence, immediately went to reconnoitre, but came back with a British troop and Capt. Campbell at his heels. He ordered a charge. At the commencement of the onset it was easy to be seen that Maham’s corps had not yet been trained. They charged in some disorder, but at first drove the British horse easily before them. At the bridge they met the British infantry, who gave them a volley. All was now confusion, horses and men wedged together upon a narrow causeway. The front striving to retreat, and the rear urging them on. The British horse being rallied, now came in to aid the infantry, and a total rout and scene of carnage ensued. Of Maham’s officers, Capt. Samuel Cooper rallied his men, and returning to the road, saved several lives and drove back a troop of black dragoons. In this affair the six months men particularly suffered. Being near the road when the rout commenced, they wheeled their lean horses and ran directly up it, consequently they were trampled down by both parties. Capt. Bennett, with twelve men, after having been pursued by a party of British, double his number, and stopped by an impassable creek, when inspiring his men with courage, and setting the example, they wheeled about and drove back the enemy. In the course of this day, G. S. Capers took three swords from the British in single rencounters, and Gen. Marion promoted him to a lieutenancy. It appears that the defeat might have been prevented if Richardson had posted his militia behind the fence described. Twenty-two Americans were buried on the causeway; how many were killed in the pursuit is not known. Of the British, Capt. Campbell was killed, and several of his men, but the number was not ascertained.

Gen. Marion had now taken his seat in the senate at Jacksonborough; but his presence, as will shortly be seen, was much more necessary in camp; but he could not get leave of absence, nor be spared without breaking up the house, for there were but thirteen senators present, which number was required as a quorum to do business. They were passing a new militia act, and one for raising the continental quota of troops for the state; and the confiscation act at that time and place was esteemed of greater consequence than the commanding of a brigade. But in all his letters dated from that place, Gen. Marion expresses the utmost anxiety to return to his command.

In the mean time Horry, by orders of Gen. Marion, took a position on the north side of Wambaw, a large creek emptying into the Santee. He lay in the angle formed by the two roads which pass from Lenud’s ferry road to Mr. Horry’s, about a quarter of a mile from the bridge. In his rear there was a wood. His new raised regiment, scarcely yet half completed, lay at Durant’s plantation about a mile above, under the immediate command of Maj. Benson. On the 23d of February, Horry had out patroles upon the Christ Church road, and scouts down in St. Thomas’. Thinking himself secure, and being sick, on the 24th he went over the river to his plantation, and left the brigade under the command of Col. M`Donald, contrary to Gen. Marion’s order, which was to leave it in such case under Maham. While Benson was at dinner, Capt. Bennett, who commanded the scouts in St. Thomas’, came in with intelligence that the British were approaching, but at that time of day he was an unwelcome messenger. Bennett proceeded down to head quarters at Mr. Horry’s, where M`Donald was also at dinner. He likewise would not believe the intelligence, because he said he had been down into Christ Church the day before; but he desired Maj. James who had just arrived in camp, and came for orders, to take command of his regiment. In less than half an hour after a firing commenced at Durant’s. M`Donald’s regiment was on the right towards Echaw, and two regiments of six months men on the left towards Wambaw. Maj. James immediately formed M`Donald’s regiment in the wood in the rear, and rode to the left for orders from the commanding officer present, Col. Screven; but when he arrived, Screven’s men had broke, and he was in the act of rallying them, but the attempt was vain. They ran over the bridge and threw off the planks. Maj. James returned to his own men, and as fugitives were now passing in numbers from Horry’s corps, he ordered a retreat to the bridge. As he brought up the rear and was on horseback, two British dragoons attempted in succession to cut him down, but he kept them in check with his pistols, and finally leaped a chasm in the bridge, supposed to be twenty feet in width. He by this means gained time to rally his men, and checked the British.

Thus Gen. Marion had not left his brigade more than six weeks, before it had dwindled away and had been defeated. On the part of Horry’s cavalry it was a complete surprise. Major Benson was killed, and what number of men cannot be ascertained, but he lost thirty-five horses.

The British were commanded by Col. Thompson, afterwards the celebrated Count Rumford. Maham having refused to cooperate with Horry, lay still at Mepkin; and Gen. Marion passing there on the 24th, took command of his corps and proceeded towards Wambaw; but the colonel was not present. On his way Gen. Marion was sorely vexed with the disagreeable news of the defeat of his brigade; but with such a fine corps as Maham’s was then he felt sure of beating the enemy should they appear. He proceeded down to Mrs. Tiddiman’s plantation, between Echaw and Wambaw, and there halted for provisions. (25th Feb.) There was a lane with a high fence on each side, leading up to the house, and the cavalry picketted in the lane. In front of the lane was an old field, and a little to the right a pond of water. Scarce half an hour had elapsed when the British appearing in the old field, displayed their columns and seemed to pause. Capt. John Carraway Smith commanded Maham’s corps; he drew up his men in solid column, and Gen. Marion having posted a small body of infantry to great advantage along the fence of the lane, ordered Smith to charge. He proceeded very well till he got to the edge of the pond, where an inclination to the left was necessary to reach the enemy, but in performing this evolution his men fell into disorder, and the enemy charged with a shout. All was now rout and dismay; but the British followed no further than the edge of the woods. Gen. Marion had rallied a troop there, and checked the pursuit. The loss was but little; Lieut. Smizer and three men only were killed; but the disgrace was great. Had this corps been well trained the enemy must have been beaten. Horry had thus lost a great part of his horses, and Maham’s corps was a second time shamefully defeated.

We have seen Count Rumford opposed to Gen. Marion with a degree of success, which perhaps he would not have obtained had the orders of the general been obeyed. It is well known that Count Rumford was a native of Massachusetts, and of the town there whence he took his title; also that he became after this a celebrated philosopher, and especially in economics; his writings have been of great use to the world. It is a pity that the career of such a man should have commenced in hostility to his native country. His life has been published, but we have not yet had the pleasure of reading it; and perhaps it may not contain the following anecdote. After his dashing success at the Santee he formed a grand scheme, which was no less than that of surprising Gen. Greene in his camp at Ashley hill. To effect this he must either have crossed Ashley river over Bacon bridge, at Dorchester, which was too well secured for a sudden attack of cavalry; or he must cross the river at Ashley ferry, ten miles from town. He determined on the latter, and put his four troops of cavalry in motion. When he arrived at the ferry it was ebb of tide, the water was running out as from a millsluice; the banks on each side were so miry as scarcely to support a crab — the river was at least one hundred yards wide, and there was not a boat. — He however ordered Major Fraser to lead on the first troop into the river and swim across. Fraser viewed him for some time with astonishment, suspecting him not to be in his sober senses. But finding he appeared so, he said to him, “Why, Sir, I am not in the habit of disputing, or hesitating to perform any order given by my commander; but this thing is utterly impossible.” “How so,” said Thompson, “it may be difficult but not impossible, and if we do not attempt difficult things we shall never be distinguished. Alexander swam across the Granicus, beat the Persians and immortalized himself.” “And it would no doubt immortalize you,” replied Fraser, “if you could swim the Ashley, and surprise Gen. Greene; but let us put the matter to the test. Here is Serjt. Allen, the best trooper and the best swimmer in the corps; and here is my horse that cost me one hundred guineas. Let Allen try it first; better that he than that all should be lost.” The proposition was agreed to. Allen was mounted on the major’s charger, and was ordered to swim the river. — “I’ll try,” said he, “since the colonel orders it — but the Lord have mercy upon me;” and having so said, he plunged into the river. As might have been expected, the current swept him a quarter of a mile below the landing on the opposite side; he attempted to land there, but the fine horse was swallowed up in the marsh, and Allen escaped with the utmost difficulty. — This was the last notice we have of Col. Thompson (Count Rumford) in this country: he was a burning meteor but soon disappeared.2

After the defeat at Wambaw, Gov. Matthews, having taken much pains to find out from Gen. Marion who was the best cavalry officer of the two, Horry or Maham, incorporated the two regiments and gave the command to the latter. The preference appears to have been extorted from Marion. The fact was that Horry, though said to be a good infantry officer, failed in one most essential requisite in the command of cavalry, and that was horsemanship. In several charges he made, it is said he was indebted to some one or other of his men for saving his life; yet possessing great personal bravery, his supreme delight was always to be at the head of cavalry. From the commencement of this narrative, his patriotism has been conspicuous: in fact, his property was wasted and his life often exposed in the cause of his country, and few men were more devoted to her than Col. Peter Horry. He now resigned, but as some consolation, Gen. Marion made him commandant of Georgetown, with full powers to regulate its trade and defend it from the enemy. It was from thence and Cainhoy, that Gen. Marion after long perseverance, got much clothing for Greene’s army. But Col. P. Horry, instead of leaving trade to flow into Georgetown as freely as the tides which passed before him, put it under such restrictions that the merchants soon began to murmur. About the 20th of April, there was an alarm excited among the civil authority of the state, that the British in Charleston had been reinforced and were about to attack Gen. Greene. Gov. Matthews immediately wrote to order Gen. Marion to his assistance. He lay at that time near Murray’s ferry; his men had been dismounted by an order from the same authority, and they now set out for Bacon’s bridge on foot for the first time. When they reached within eight miles, the alarm had subsided; but another had taken place, that the enemy had sailed for Georgetown, and the governor ordered Marion there. After a forced march of four days he arrived at White’s bridge; but there was no enemy near Georgetown. In this march of about one hundred and sixty miles, Marion’s men had but one ration of rice; all the rest were of lean beef driven out of the woods in the month of April. As Ganey’s party had been troublesome to the people of North Carolina, and had not observed the treaty of neutrality with Gen. Marion, made June 17th, 1781, a joint expedition was concerted between Gov. Matthews, of South and Gov. Martin of North Carolina, to subdue them.3 Of this expedition Gen. Marion was to have the command. His very name was sufficient for the purpose intended. At Burch’s mill on Pedee, a treaty was signed, (June 1782) by which Ganey’s party agreed to lay down their arms as enemies of the state, to demean themselves hereafter as peaceable citizens, to deliver up all stolen property, to apprehend all who did not accede to the treaty now made, to take all deserters from the American army and deliver them up, to return to their allegiance and abjure that of his Britannic majesty. From this treaty, Gibson, who killed Col. Kolb, and Fanning and his party were excepted, but they escaped. Fanning was properly of North Carolina, but occasionally acted with Ganey, and was one of the most active men, and one of the most deliberate murderers of the whole party. But little defence had been made by the tories; only one skirmish took place, in which the general’s friend, Robert James, was wounded; and at the Bowling Green, between Great and Little Pedee, at least five hundred men laid down their arms to Gen. Marion. Thus ended an opposition to the country, which commenced more from the desire of plunder than from principle, and which, except with regard to sex, and some to age, had been carried on in the true spirit of savage warfare. Of Harrison’s party, many had gone with him to the British; with those who remained a species of warfare was waged even after the peace with Great Britain.