Extract of a letter from General Gates to the President of Congress, dated Hillsborough, Aug. 20, 1780

IN the deepest distress and anxiety of mind, I am obliged to acquaint your excellency with the defeat of the troops under my command. I arrived with the Maryland line, the artillery, and the North-Carolina militia, on the (a.) 13th instant at Rugeley's, thirteen miles from Camden; took post there, and was the next (b.) day joined by General Stevens, with seven hundred militia from Virginia. Colonel Sumpter, who was at the Wacsaws with four hundred South-Carolina militia, had the Sunday before killed and taken near three hundred of the enemy, who were posed at Hanging rock. This, and other strokes upon the enemy's advanced posts, occasioned their calling in all the outposts to Camden. The 15th, at daylight, I reinforced Colonel Sumpter with three hundred (d.) North-Carolina militia, one hundred of the Maryland line, and two three-pounders from the artillery, having previously ordered him down to the Wacsaws, and directed, as soon as the reinforcements joined him, that he should proceed down the Wateree, opposite Camden, intercept any stores coming to the enemy, and particularly the troops from Ninety Six, who were likewise withdrawn from that post. This was well executed by Colonel Sumpter, as his letter inclosed will shew.

Having communicated my plan to the general officers in the afternoon of the
15th, it was resolved to march at ten at night, to take post in a very advantageous situation, with a deep creek in front, seven miles from Camden; the heavy baggage. &c. being ordered to march immediately by the Wacsaw road. At ten the army began to march in the following order: Colonel Armand's legion in the front, supported on both flanks by Colonel Porterfield's regiment, and the light infantry of the militia; the advaned guard of infantry, the Maryland line, with their artillery, in front of the brigades, the North-Carolina militia, the Virginia militia, the artillery, &c. and the rear guard. Having marched about five miles, the legion was charged by the enemy's cavalry, and well supported on the flanks, as they were ordered, by Colonel Porterfield, who beat back the enemy's horse, and was himself unfortunately wounded; but the enemy's infantry advancing with a heavy fire, the troops in fronty gave way to the first Maryland brigade, and a confusion ensued, which took some time to regulate. At length the army was ranged in line of battle, in the following order: General Gist's brigade (c.) upon the right with his right close to a swamp, the North-Carolina militia in the center, and the Virginia militia, with the light infantry and Porterfield's corps, on the left; the artillery divided to the brigades; and the first Maryland brigade as a corps de reserve, and to cover the cannon in the road at a proper distance in the rear. Colonel Armand's corps were ordered to the left, to support the left flank, and oppose the enemy's cavalry. At daylight the enemy attacked and drove in our light party in front, when I ordered the left to advance and attack the enemy; but to my astonihment, the left wing and North-Carolina militia gave way. General Caswall and myself, assisted by a number of officers, did all in our power to rally the broken troops, but to no purpose, for the enemy coming round the left flank of the Maryland division, completed the rout of the whole militia, who left the continentals to oppose the enemy's whole force. I endeavoured, with General Caswall, to rally the militia at some distance, on an advantageous piece of ground, but the enemy's cavalry continuing to harass their rear, they ran like a torrent, and bore all before them. Hoping yet, that a few miles in the rear they might recover from their panic, and again be brought into order, I continued my endeavour, but this likewise proved in vain.

The militia having taken the woods in all directions, I concluded, with General Caswell, to retire towards Charlotte. I got here late in the night; but reflecting there was no prospect of collecting a force at that place adequate to the defence of the country, I proceeded with all possible dispatch hiterh, to endeavour to fall upon some plan of defence, in conjunction with the legislative body of the state. I shall immediately dispatch a flag to Lord Cornwallis, to know the situation of our wounded, and the number and condition of the prisoners in his hands.

(From A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Province of North America?, by Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton, pp145-147.)

Tarleton, Ch 2., [M], p. 145

Send us your comments by e-mail

Part of the www.SCHistory.org website.
Copyright © 2000.   South Carolina Historical Society.   All rights reserved.

Last modified: 7/13/01/PLW.

URL: http://www.schistory.org/displays/RevWar/archives-online/Tarleton__Ch_2___[M]__p__145.html