The events of the American Revolution in South Carolina followed the experiences of a civil war, as closely as in any of the other colonies. It pitted neighbour against neighbour, family against family with a ferocity that led inevitably to the dispossession of whoever would be unsuccessful in the struggle.
In 1775 the first military force was raised for the defense of the province. Commencement of hostilities by vessels of war had occurred by November 12th. In 1775 most people in the South Carolina Upcountry were reluctant to join the Revolution: at least that was the assessment of Whig leaders in the Lowcountry, who sent astute emissaries to the area in August. In general, the emissaries were coolly received and by autumn lines were drawn. Each "side" suspected the other of building an alliance with the feared Cherokees just to the north and west. the Indians were afraid of settler encroachment and so maintained a pro-British stance throughout the war. Weeks of militia drills, confrontations and truce efforts climaxed in November 1775: the Loyalists laid siege to a hastily built fort near the settlement known as Ninety-Six. The siege force was estimated to be at 2400 by the loyal militia commander. After two days they overpowered the 600 defenders, but then quickly agreed to a truce and dispersed.
In early 1776 the Whig Council of Safety sent in about 4000 troops, many from North Carolina, against the Loyalists. On June 30th the Cherokee, excited by the British, began their massacres on the frontiers. (William Wallace stated that he fought with the rebels against the Indians) "Soon after the attack by the British on Charlestown in 1776, the Cherokees swarmed into the northern settlements, scalping men, women, and children, and burning the cabins of settlers. The South Carolina Militia, plus militia from Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, moved against them and devastated their territory so completely that many died of starvation."
The British Governor of South Carolina, Sir Henry Clinton, in 1780, after the surrender of Charlestown on May 12th,proclaimed that all South Carolina men must take an oath of allegiance or be treated as rebels. This brought about mob violence among rebels against those of opposing views. Those with loyalist leanings however, thought that the British would win the war. Many, 810, joined under Bryan and headed for Lord Cornwallis' army. Cornwallis had taken command of the southern department with 4,000 troops. The loyalist militia met them at Augusta, Camden and Ninety - Six.
"The defeat of the Patriots (Rebels or Whigs) at Camden by Cornwallis' army unleashed bands of Tories (Loyalists) thirsting for revenge against Whigs who had earlier plundered their homes and farms and in some cases had tarred and feathered them. One hundred and thirty-seven (1337) battles and minor engagements took place. British commander Major Patrick Ferguson threatened the over-mountain men that, if they supported the enemies of the king, he would march over the mountains, "hang their leaders and lay their country waste with fire and sword!"
Most of Ferguson's men were volunteers, militiamen. Some like Rueben Lively, had previously served with the revolutionary militia. He succeeded in shaping the men of the 96th district into a respectable brigade of eight regiments. Ferguson understood backcountrymen better than did any of his British comrades, quickly identifying the danger that the British would make their presence felt too strongly: he saw the need to proceed without either "dampening the zeal of our friends' or "exasperating those rebels who are quietly disposed. He led them well and they fought well. Unfortunately he got many of them, and himself, killed at King's Mountain. The British Army used the militia extensively for non-combat functions. they were foragers, scouts, messengers, spies or used for waggoning, hauling, digging or cattle driving. These skills would come handy as British fortunes took a turn for the worse. Living in the stockade at Ninety-six was prudent, and even necessary, as more and more houses were pillaged and burned on both sides.
At the Battle of Cowpens in January 1781, the British Legion and the royal forces were overwhelmingly defeated. The British were becoming discouraged. Without adequate provisions, the army had campaigned " in the most barren inhospitable, unhealthy part" of the southern backcountry, and had opposed " the most savage, inveterate, perfidious, cruel enemy, with zeal and with bayonets only." following another unsuccessful major engagement at Guilford Court House on 15 March 1781, Cornwallis surprisingly turned away from the Carolinas, and marched his exhausted and frustrated troops towards Virginia and Yorktown. Thus, the southern strategy was terminated and the loyal Americans of the South were abandoned.
Cornwallis had by May 10th completed the evacuation of Camden. This left the British garrison at Fort Ninety-Six left alone in the South Carolina Back Country. The fort was garrisoned by elements of DeLancey's Brigade and the New Jersey Volunteers. (William Wallace was probably in this fort) "On learning that General Nathaniel Greene was marching toward 96, John H. Cruger (the British commander of the fort, Advised the South Carolina Militia to escape on horseback to Charlestown. There was not enough food to feed so big a garrison during a long siege, and the known bitter enmity of the anti-British southerners to their Loyalist neighbours would complicate matters, should the fort surrender. Colonel King and his men (one being William Wallace), however, proudly refused to leave what they considered a pact of duty. Instead, they turned their excellent horses into the weeds and remained to support the garrison and await the trial of battle. The British fort at 96 was garrisoned by 550 men, with adequate ammunition and food, but a makeshift water supply. "
"Lt. Colonel. John Harris Cruger of New York, had fortified the village with a stockade and an eight foot ditch. On high ground at the village's eastern edge, he constructed an eight-pointed star redoubt, with cannon mounted on the redoubt. The assault began on May 24th. Theirs was a desperate defense, for the killing, rape, house burning and plunder on both sides called for revenge. News reached Greene during his assault at Ninety-Six that the twenty-six year old Lord Rawdon was advancing from Charlestown to relieve Ninety-Six."
The British held out for a total of 28 days in May and June, 1781, against the siege by General Nathaniel Greene and his Continental Army. The Americans started a military mine to blow up Star Fort, but the news of the British reinforcements under Lord Rawdon marching to aid the garrison, forced General Greene to withdraw before superior numbers. Lord Rawdon arrived two days after Greene left and felt he could not hold the fort with all of the other outposts in rebel hands, so Cruger evacuated the fort and followed Rawdon back to Charlestown.
After September of 1781, the British and Loyalist in the south were virtually confined to Savannah, Charlestown, and other ports. After a brief stop at Orangeburgh, the evacuees of Ninety-Six joined the hordes that were gathering in the Charlestown area: Loyalists from both Carolinas, slaves of questionable ownership, and blacks who had fled from their revolutionary owners to the British promise of freedom. Fifteen months would pass before the British evacuated the city.
The Loyal families from Ninety-six and Camden, were cruelly neglected. From the 96th district there were 48 men, 75 women, 259 children. They built huts outside the lines of fortification in a settlement called, "Rawdon Town", which became a term of reproach because of its poverty and wretchedness. Some lived on Johns or James Island, or lucky ones in houses on Church St. The hunger and the misery are reflected in British records of the distribution of food, clothing, tents , camp equipment and cash to several hundred refugees during the winter of 1781-82. There were lotteries for refugee relief. A school for refugee children operated in November, December and January 1781-1782 and again in May, June and July of 1782. Henry Martindale, later a neighbour of William Wallace's, was on the school committee. The relief measures were inadequate. The six men practicing medicine at government expense could do little more than distribute palliatives: camphor, extract of saturn, gall stomach bitters, a little sugar and wine, and a great deal of tea. One hundred and sixty-three refugees were buried at public expense: they died largely from colds in late winter and fevers in late summer. James Donaldson of Charleston, S.C. received an order to provide a coffin for the child of refugee, William Wallace on August 28, 1782.
One possibility for the refugees awaiting evacuation was to return to their homes and face the enmity of their neighbours. Few Upcountrymen were named in the 1782 confiscation and banishment legislation, their turn would come in the confiscation ordinance of 1783 -- so return was at least a legal possibility throughout 1782. The British commander encouraged militiamen and other refugees to return home. At least 1000 civilian men and women were given payments at this time, typically a guinea each to buy a horse with which to return to the backcountry. Some refugees did return. For those persons who did not return to their homes, army transport ships would take them to Jamaica, East Florida, Britain, Nova Scotia, New York and St. Lucia. In general, the islands attracted men with slaves: families went with the army to Halifax and New York: and East Florida claimed a cross-section of slave holders and non-slave holders, single men and families. The nucleus of the Rawdon settlement were among the 501 who boarded the transports for Halifax. Almost all the other Rawdon settlers chose nearby East Florida, with its familiar climate and relative ease of return to the backcountry. After almost tow years in East Florida, they faced new migration choices and the British evacuated both Floridas in keeping with their 1783 cession to Spain. Between April 1784 and November 1785, transports took civilian East Floridians to Britain, Nova Scotia, Jamaica, Dominica, the Bahamas and the Mosquito Coast. Those who go go to Rawdon directly upon their arrival in Nova Scotia in 1784, boarded the first transports to go to Nova Scotia, less than two months after the evacuation began in the spring of 1784.
Lefton, Gwen. The Wallace Family. Halifax. 1999.
Carole Troxler " Loyalist Refugees and the British Evacuation of East Florida, 1783-1785", Florida Historical Quarterly (July 1981), 1-28.
Carole Troxler " Origins of the Rawdon Loyalist Settlement", Nova Scotia Historical Review (1988) 63-76.
"THE WINNING OF INDEPENDENCE, 1777-1783" AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORY,ARMY HISTORICAL SERIES. OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF MILITARY HISTORY UNITED STATES ARMY
Queen Charlotte on the American Revolution
Wardlaw to A. Wm.son. LONG CANE, December 7, 2 o'clock, P. M.,
Journal of the Siege of Charleston by the English in 1780. The Army Commanded by Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, and the Fleet by Admiral Arbuthnot. The Garrison by Major-General Lincoln.
of a letter from Colonel Sumpter to General Gate, dated Wateree
ferry, August 15th 1780.
Extract of a letter from General Gates to the President of Congress, dated Hillsborough, Aug. 20, 1780
List of the continental officers killed, captivated, wounded, and missing, in the actions of the 16th and 18th of August, 1780.
General Morgan to General Greene-Report on the Battle of Cowpens Camp on Cain Creek on Pedee January 19th, 1781.
Balfour to the Militia prisoners of War CHARLESTON, May 17,
Col. Thomas Brown to Brig. Gen. Pickens and Lieut. Col. Lee May 31,
Gen. Pickens and Henry Lee, jr. to Lieut. Col. Brown HEAD
QUARTERS, June 4, 1781.
Lieut. Col. Brown to Brig. Gen. Pickens and L't. Col. Lee, June 4, 1781
Rawdon to Lieut. Gen. Cornwallis CHARLES TOWN, June 5,
Col. Brown to Brig. Gen. Pickens and Lieut. Col. Lee, jr. FORT
CORNWALLIS, June 5, 1781.
Treaty between Gen'l. Marion in behalf of the State of South Carolina, and Major Ganey and the inhabitants under his commands which were included in the treaty made the 17th June, 1781 (as above mentioned) with Major Ganey.
Gen. Greene to Lieut. Col. Lee June 25, 1781.
Greene to Gen. Marion HEAD QUARTERS NEAR SANDY RIVER, June 25,
Extract of a Letter from Ad'jt. Gen. Williams to Maj. Pendleton, Aid-de-Camp to Genl. Greene CAMP HILLS, SANTEE, July 16, 1781.
PROCLAMATION-STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA September 1781
Copy of the articles of capitulation October 1781
Copy of Earl Cornwallis' letter to General Washington, dated York, in Virginia, 18th October, 1781.