Thursday, December 31, 2009
I don't expect that those that have already read those posts to now go back and re-read them, but, there it is, a description of what I've been doing in my spare time over the past week. One reason why I bother to make revisions to old posts is that I am confident that I will not always have to do so. I feel that I am becoming a more competent writer on the Revolution, and with additional practice, I will eventually reach a point where I essentially get an account right on the first take. Time will tell if I'm right. If I'm wrong I may end up adopting a less ambitious approach to the topics I take up.
Next up is Hanging Rock. I'll have my first post online in a day or two.
Friday, December 25, 2009
The PoWAR is thought to have worn green coats with white facings early in the war while at New York, and red coats with blue facings while in the South. Katcher claimed that the late war uniforms were red coats faced blue and/or green
Below is a group of miniatures (click to enlarge) that will be used to represent the PoWAR and some other British infantry serving in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. All but one comes from a pack of Continental infantry with round hats (the other is from a pack of Continental infantry with floppy hats). Although intended to be Americans, the hats, sparse gear and coats with cut-down tails are appropriate to many regiments of British regulars and Provincial infantry.
René Chartrand (2008). American Loyalist Troops 1775-84. Osprey.
Philip R. N. Katcher (1973). Encyclopedia of British, Provincial, and German Army Units 1775-1783. Stackpole Books.
The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies. A History of the Prince Of Wales' American Regiment. (Retrieved December 11, 2009).
Friday, December 18, 2009
I'm not a historian, but I have been reading and reflecting on the Revolution for many years now, and this blog is a way for me to organize my thoughts on different topics and share them with others.
The first topic I chose to wrote about was the battle of Cowpens, and my initial posts on that subject were devoted to very specific topics concerning that battle: the military units involved, how the soldiers were arrayed, and the sequencing of different events during the battle -- even who John Savage shot. Eventually, I became disenchanted with this scattershot approach and elected to present a 25-post sequence that described, step-by-step, how I believe the battle was fought. I don't know if I was exactly trying to convince anybody that my original ideas were right -- I haven't made more than minimal efforts to call attention to this blog. Mainly it's that I like turning my ideas into something tangible. It's not impossible that I will eventually use this rough material as a starting point for a book. (However, writing one would entail a great deal more time and effort than I'm willing to expend in the foreseeable future). And if not, well, perhaps someone who is writing on these topics will find food for thought here.
On the whole I liked the way the Cowpens project turned out, although I did have some reservations, and I realized later there were other things I could have or should have said. Eventually, deciding to leave well enough alone, I embarked on a different project: Thomas Sumter's initial partisan campaign against British forces in South Carolina. I intended for this project to be modest in scale, but here it is 6 months later, and I'm still posting on the subject. I don't expect to wrap things up until the end of April.
I've continued to grow more concerned about organization and presentation, and so I put together a kind of master post for my Sumter project, with links to all of the posts so far, and an indication of everything that is yet upcoming. This master post may yet undergo some editing, because I sometimes change my mind about exactly what it is I want to say, but tentatively I plan on posting on the Loyalist Prince of Wales American Regiment later this month, and then about the battle of Hanging Rock throughout January, February, and March. I will wrap up the Sumter project with a treatment of the battle of Fishing Creek in April. I've been looking forward to writing about Hanging Rock for some time -- it is possibly the largest, bloodiest, and most dramatic battle in the 13 colonies to be largely ignored by historians.
One other thing I'll be doing is working to further improve the organization around here. Very likely, I will go back and impose some more order on my Cowpens project before the end of the month.
So what will I be once the Sumter project is complete? Again, all plans are tentative, but I can say that I am strongly inclined to write for awhile about the American invasion of Canada in 1775, and specifically the campaign to subdue the British fort at St Johns and capture the town of Montreal. I've done a fair amount of reading on this subject, and I've found the surviving letters and journals from that time (I've been reading transcriptions, of course) to be fairly riveting. What happens after that is an open question.
Which topics I take up are limited by my background knowledge and by the miniatures I own and/or am able to paint. With that said, if you have a "wish list" of topics you would like to see me write about, please leave a comment. I'm very interested in your opinion.
As a look back, below are some pics from the Cowpens project, which I haven't posted before. Each of these images depicts the "main line" fighting. Click to enlarge.
Friday, December 11, 2009
The Catawba Nation in the 18th Century:
The Catawba Indians of South Carolina was one of a small number of Indian nations that sided with the newly formed United States of America over Great Britain. That the Catawbas chose to ally themselves with the Americans is notable as they had long been in conflict with their neighbors. Throughout the 18th Century, a steady influx of settlers moved into the traditional lands of the Catawbas. At first this movement was tolerable. In the words of historian James Merrell:
“A log cabin, a gristmill, a slave or two, a few cows: it all seemed innocent enough. But together these additions to the piedmont formed a powerful acid that ate away the Indians’ world.”
The Catawbas might have chosen to submit to this demographic tide or abandon their lands in the hope of finding a refuge among other Indian nations. Instead, the Catawbas determined to resist the settler invasion. By the mid-18th Century, a low-grade conflict was underway with white neighbors. The Catawbas initiated this conflict through the intentional destruction of settler property, and by killing and eating settlers’ cows and hogs when it became more difficult to subsist by hunting.
Merrill noted that “Efforts to stop the rash of thefts or settle any other disputes were doomed, for Catawba and Carolinian alike possessed a streak of independence that made them hard to rein in.” Even worse, “A common fondness for liquor often loosened what few restraints there were.”
Despite a number of ugly incidents, all-out war did not occur. Mutual antipathy was mitigated by trade and by common enemies (specifically, the Cherokees, Iroquois, Shawnees, and Tuscaroras).
A major shift in Catawba-settler relations occurred in 1759 when a party of Catawba returned from a campaign against the French. These men brought with them smallpox, and the resulting epidemic killed at least 60% of the Catawba nation. Losses among fighting-age men were so great that the approximately 300 warriors they had at the time of the French and Indian War was reduced to less than 100 afterwards. In the wake of this catastrophe, the Catawbas realized that resistance against the settlers was impossible. The Catawbas and the state of South Carolina largely resolved the conflict over land when the former agreed to live on a reservation. The establishment this reservation reduced, but did not eliminate, the encroachment of settlers. The Catawbas maintained their homes and farmlands in only a small part of the reservation, reserving the remainder for hunting. As time passed, the unoccupied areas attracted white settlers. The Catawbas resolved this issue in a novel manner. Rather than attempt to forcibly evict the whites from their reservation, the Catawbas allowed them to rent the land they had settled.
The Catawba Nation and the American Revolution:In 1775, the Catawbas, like other Indian nations, were compelled to choose between the rebellious colonies and the British crown. The Catawbas chose to side with the colonists, and in turn, the new government of South Carolina agreed to continue to recognize the Catawbas’ reservation.
Catawba Indians were soon recruited to aid in the American war effort. For the most part, the Catawbas were organized in military bodies that were commanded by white officers, but otherwise distinct from the colonists’ militia regiments.
Parties of Catawbas were used to search for runaway slaves in coastal South Carolina in 1775-1776, and a company of Catawbas commanded by Captain Samuel Boykin participated in the battle of Sullivan’s Island (June 28, 1776). Also that year, a company of Catawbas played a leading role in an expedition against the British-allied Cherokee nation. After the British threatened with South Carolina with invasion in 1779, a company of Catawbas commanded by Captain David Garrison went to Charleston to join the American forces under Major-General Benjamin Lincoln.
One exception to this form of service concerned Catawba Indian Peter Harris, who enlisted in the 3rd South Carolina regiment, and was wounded at the battle of Stono Ferry.
After the British captured the American army under Lincoln at Charleston, the British advanced into the South Carolina Backcountry and posed a direct threat to the Catawba nation. In June, 1780, British Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Rawdon promised the Catawbas protection if they would submit to royal authority. The Catawba response was courageous: rather than feign loyalty to the British or equivocate, they abandoned their homes, fields, and whatever livestock they could not take with them and headed for the Virginia wilderness. British provincials, or perhaps more likely, Loyalist militia antipathetic to the Catawbas, burned their homes and carried away everything of value.
Not all of the Catawbas fled to Virginia; a number of the men remained behind to join the growing American resistance to the British occupation. These men formed a company of 41 Catawbas under Captain Thomas Drennan on or around July 5th [see Note 1]. Like the earlier companies of Catawbas, this group was in the pay of the Americans and was commanded by a white officer. Whether Drennan was more than a nominal commander is difficult to gauge. Also with the company was the Catawbas’ General New River, who led his nation during this period. Drennan’s company was active for 98 days, and participated in the battles of Rocky Mount, Hanging Rock, and Fishing Creek. Only 9 men served with the company for the entire time (including Captain Drennan and General New River). It is thought that between 12 and 35 Catawbas were at the battle of Hanging Rock.
One of the most important services that the Catawbas provided during this time was to help supply Sumter’s brigade. According to Colonel Richard Winn, "When we took the field after the fall of Charleston we often Encamped on their land for days together those friendly Indians drove to us Beef from their Own Stocks."
The Catawbas returned to their reservation in 1781, and due to their patriotism, relations with whites were substantially improved. On the death of King Frow, leadership of the Catawba was assumed by General New River. This end (at least symbolically) of monarchical rule among the Catawbas was in keeping with the spirit of the times and it became a public relations coup.
Nevertheless, the postwar years were not good to the Catawbas. The Catawbas did not increase in numbers or in wealth, rather, the nation became increasingly irrelevant, prone to exploitation, and impoverished. Few whites lived on the reservation at the time of the Revolution; in later years their numbers increased dramatically, and in 1840 the Catawbas were pressured into selling their reservation to their tenants. Afterwards, some of the remaining Catawbas went west to live among other Indian nations. Others continued to live alongside their white neighbors.
The Catawbas fighting with the Americans during the Revolution shaved their head except for heads except for a scalp lock that resembled “a cock’s comb.” Their faces were tattooed and they also wore face paint when going into battle. Both men and women wore a silver nose ring.
When the Catawbas embarked on the expedition against the Cherokees they wore deer tails in their hair so the Americans could better distinguish between men of the two nations.
Catawba men and women frequently wore the same clothes as their white neighbors. During the war, one of the leading Catawbas seems to have worn a “Greencloth Coat, with gold binding.”
1. According to a roster for this company, a Catawba by the name of Willis was killed at the battle of Rocky Mount (July 30, 1780); he had served 25 days with the company. Aside from Drennan, several other whites were affiliated with this company. It’s possible theses men were tenants of the Catawbas, but I don’t have any information on this matter. Some Catawbas traditionally regarded as having served in the Revolution during this period do not appear on the roll for Drennan’s company. Consequently, the number of Catawbas that served with Sumter at one time or another may have been considerably greater than 41, though the total was surely well below 100. Following Fishing Creek, the Catawbas remained intermittently involved in military operations against the British. Most notably, 30 or more Catawbas were attached to Major-General Nathanael Greene’s army in the Spring of 1781 and participated in the Guilford Courthouse campaign, including Pyle’s Defeat.
Douglas Summers Brown. (1966). The Catawba Indians: The Peoples of the River.
Will Graves transcribed General Richard Winn's Notes -- 1780. (.pdf file).
James H. Merrell. (1989). The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal.
Michael C. Scoggins. (2006). A History of the 3rd South Carolina Regiment. In Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution newsletter. Volume 3, Number 12. (.pdf file).
Friday, December 4, 2009
Come and Take It:
Brigadier-General Thomas Sumter's initial effort to take the British post at Rocky Mount had failed. British Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Rawdon, writing of the Americans, noted that "They kept possession however of the Redoubt, from which, and the cover of Rocks, Trees, etc, they continued to fire [on the post] for a long time."
A British officer, Lieutenant Anthony Allaire, heard that some of the Americans shouted for the British to "take back your ammunition again" as they fired their guns. Probably these were some of the men that James Lisle took with him when he defected to the Americans [see Note 1]. The British counterfire was also intense. Adjutant Joseph Graham of North Carolina wrote that: “The Enemy were under cover in the fortified buildings and sustained but little damage from the Americans and the Rocks were not so extensive as to shelter them from the fire of the British… Alexander Haynes [a North Carolina militiaman]… who having fired his Rifle twice from behind the Rocks had loaded his gun a third time, and peeping past the side of the black rock for an object, his face being white became an object for the enemys marksmen one of whom shot him close under the eye. The shot ranged under the brain but missed the vertebrae of the neck… he lost his Eye; it run out shortly [after] he was wounded."
Meanwhile, Sumter considered his options. In the words of Colonel Richard Winn, "Genl. Sumter finding nothing Could be done thought it best to refresh his Men for a Short time and bring on the Attack from another Quarter by Marching round the place." In this new position, the Americans were able, thanks to “the Cover of large Rocks” get to a position only "about 50 yards of [i.e., from] the Block H[ouse]." The American fire became so dangerous at this point that "the Enemy was prevented from firing on us as they dare Not come to their post Holes." Hoping to avoid another assault, "Genl. Sumter Directed Colo. Winn to demand a Sunder of the place.”
Winn approached the British post under a flag of true, and gave the following summons to the British [see Note 2]:
31 July 1780
I am directed by Genl. Sumter to Demand a Surrender of Rocky Mount, therefore you will Surrender this place with the Men &c under your Command which will be considered as prisoner of war. S[igned]/ R. Winn"
Winn claimed that the British commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel George Turnbull “required that Hostilities should Cease for one Hour for Consideration.” Sumter agreed. Turnbull had no intention of surrendering the post to the Americans, but perhaps valued a respite. Turnbull then had Winn deliver the following written response to Sumter:
I have considered your Summons & return for Answer that duty and Inclination induces me to defend this place to the last extremity. 31 July 1780 S/ Turnbull Colo. Comm[an]d[an]t"
Lieutenant Allaire heard that Turnbull’s message for Sumter was, that if he wanted the fort, “he might come and take it.”
The Americans were not impressed. According to Private James Clinton, “immediately [a] second assault was made.” This attack, like the one before, was repulsed by the garrison [see Note 3].
After the second attack failed, Major William Davie claimed that “various strategems were essayed in vain to set the buildings on fire.” Of these, Lieutenant-Colonel William Hill described a remarkable series of events in which he was involved. Hill wrote that:
“the officers held a council & it was discovered that there was a large rock, and between this rock and the fort, stood a small house which might be fired by throwing fire brands over the rock, & that this house w[oul]d. communicate the fire to the house the Enemy was in [i.e., the blockhouse] and as we had the command of the water [the Americans were between the post and the Catawba River] they could not possibly extinguish the flames — From this ledge of Rocks where the army lay, to the rock near the house was about 100 yds. free of any obstructions.”
Unfortunately, whoever made this attack would have to run straight towards the blockhouse, “& it is well known that when any object is going from or coming to a marksman, the marksman had near as good a chance [to hit it] as if the object was stationary.”According to Hill, Sumter and some other officers “proposed… for 2 men to endeavor to fire that small house. but the undertaking appeared so hazardous, that no two men of the army could be found to undertake it After some considerable time was spent, y[ou]r. author proposed that if any other man w[oul]d. go with him he w[oul]d.: make the attempt, at length a young man, brother to the Johnsons... proposed to undertake with me.”
A lull seems to have developed in the fighting, and during this time, Hill and his comrade “had every assistance that c[oul]d. be obtained — Rich lightwood split & bound with cords to cover the most vital parts of our bodies, as well as a large bundle of the same wood to carry in our arms, being thus equiped we run the 100 yds. to the rock; Mr. Johnson was to manage the fire & y[ou]r. author was to watch the enemys sallying out of the house.” The two men evidently got inside the abatis – the only Americans to do so – and were vulnerable to a counterattack from the garrison [see Note 4].
Hill then related that “before the fire was sufficiently kindled the enemy did sally out with fixed bayonets; the same race was run again, to where the army lay, & under a heavy fire, not only from those who had sallied out [these would be some of Turnbull’s New York Volunteers], but like wise from a large number of Port holes in that end of the house.”
The Americans were encouraged by this small success, and a second attempt was made:
“It was then proposed that the whole of our riflemen sh[oul]d. direct their fire to that space between the small & great house, which was about 15 ft.; we being equipt as before mentioned, made the 2d. attempt. & the plan already mentioned, prevented the Enemy from sallying a 2d. time.” With a steady volume of American gunfire pouring on the building, “We then had an opportunity of making a large fire behind the rock, & throwing fire brands on the roof of the little house & we staid until that roof was in flames. & the heat of it had caused the wall of the great house to smoke — We then concluded the work, was done, & undertook the 4th. race, which was much more hazardous than the former ones, as the Enemy during the interval, had opened a great many more port-holes in that end of the building — And here I beg leave to remark that Providence so protected us both, that neither of us lost a drop of blood, altho' locks of hair was cut from our heads and our garments riddled with balls.”
Panting, Hill stood alongside his comrades-in-arms, waiting for the main building to go up in flames. However, "Scarcily had we time to look back from behind the rock where our men lay, in hopes to see the fire progressing, but to our great mortification, when the great house was beginning to flame — as heavy a storm of rain fell, as hath fallen from that time to the present, & which extinguished the flames" [see Note 5].
The rain ended the Americans' hopes for taking the fort [see Note 6]. In Hill’s words, "We were then forced to retreat under as great mortification, as ever any number of men endured." The Americans gathered up their wounded and prepared to retreat. Rawdon noted that the Americans "carried off all who fell, excepting three dead and one wounded who lay too near the Post." Among those left on the field was Andrew Neal, who had been killed before the abatis. Adjutant Graham wrote of Alexander Haynes that "It was thought he was killed, but seeing life was in him when they were about to retire, his acquaintances carried him off."
British Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton claimed that “In the gallant defence of this post, Lieutenant-colonel Turnbull had one officer killed, one wounded, and about ten men killed and wounded.” The officer, evidently, was “Capt. Hulett” who “got wounded in the head,” according to Allaire.
The British did not know exactly how many men the Americans lost, because so many of the fallen had been carried off the field. Rawdon wrote that "Turnbull therefore cannot ascertain the Enemy’s loss; but imagines it to have been pretty severe."
American sources generally downplay the number of casualties they sustained, or give some very low total. James Clinton, for example, said that "Our loss at Rocky Mount was not great in numbers." Thomas Reagan stated that "During this engagement Sumpter's party were protected by the woods and the huge rocks situated near the log house consequently but few were killed of his men. This applicant thinks there were killed and missing about 14 or 15 men and among the killed were Col. Neel [Andrew Neal]—Capt. Jones and Capt. Burns who was shot in the Eye & fell close by this applicant." Thomas Sumter wrote 10 days after the battle that "My Loss, Kild and wounded did not exceed twenty" [see Note 7].
Notes:1. Allaire was not present, but his journal recorded information passed around among British officers serving in the South Carolina Backcountry at the time and is on the whole reliable. Most likely the quoted passage refers to this point in the battle, but it's possible the incident occurred somewhat earlier or later (the same is true of some of the other incidents described in connection with the battle). The defection of James Lisle was mentioned in Part 1, and is well described in Michael Scoggins' The Day It Rained Militia.
2. The flag of truce is mentioned by Lieutenant Allaire, and privates William Clark and James Clinton. Except where noted, the remainder of the quoted passages in this section are from Winn's memoir.
3. Other sources agreed that the Americans launched more than one attack. Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Rawdon wrote that after "The [surrender] proposal was rejected... the attack was repeated with as little success as at first." William Clark likewise stated that at this time "Sumter ordered a second attack, but as in the former attempt we were again repulsed." Arthur Travis recalled that “Sumter endeavored to storm [the British post], but failed after two attacks and some loss.”
4. British Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton's history of the Southern Campaign notes that there were “three attacks, in the last of which some of the forlorn hope [evidently Hill and his comrade] penetrated within the abbatis.”
5. A letter from Thomas Sumter to Thomas Pinckney, dated August 9, 1780, confirms part of Hill's tale. He wrote, "I Made an attempt to fire them [the British works] in the evening, and should have Succeeded, if the afternoon had Not proved excesively wet." Years later, Winn recalled, "the House could have been Easily Set on fire had it not been for the powerful rains that fell." William Clark stated, "It was possible for us to have set fire to the works, but a rain came on and prevented this last effort." Robert Fleming recalled, "the enemy were in the Fort which we set fire to but a shower of rain commenced falling in a short time which with the exertions of the enemy within extinguished the fire and we failed to drive them out."
6. This is not quite what Sumter claimed. He wrote to Pinckney, "My led [i.e., lead bullets] being exhausted, I withdrew a small distance." This statement implies that the Americans were able to keep their gunpowder dry and could have continued firing on the post longer had they sufficient ammunition. It seems unlikely, however, that a continuation of the Americans' sniping would have affected the outcome.
7. This total, 3%-4% of Sumter's force, belies the claim that Sumter had a "penchant for bloody and repeated frontal assaults" that were "unnecessarily costly."
Marg Baskin's Banastre Tarleton website has a transcription of Tarleton's history.
William R. Davie, The Revolutionary War Sketches of William R. Davie [excerpt]
Lyman Copeland Draper. (1881). King's Mountain and Its heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain. (Includes a transcription of Allaire's journal).
Will Graves transcribed the pension application of William Clark. (.pdf file).
Will Graves transcribed the pension application of James Clinton. (.pdf file).
Will Graves transcribed the pension application of Robert Fleming. (.pdf file).
Will Graves transcribed William Hill's memoir. (.pdf file).
Will Graves transcribed the pension application of Thomas Reagan. (.pdf file).
Will Graves transcribed the pension application of Arthur Travis. (.pdf file).
Will Graves transcribed General Richard Winn's Notes -- 1780. (.pdf file).
Michael C. Scoggins. (2005). The Day It Rained Militia: Huck's Defeat and the Revolution in the South Carolina Backcountry, May-July 1780.
William T. Sherman. (2009). Calendar and Record of the Revolutionary War in the South: 1780-1781. 6th Ed. (.pdf file). [Contains a transcription of Rawdon's letter].
The website, The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, hosted by the University of North Carolina, includes a transcription of the Letter from Thomas Sumter to Thomas Pinckney, August 9, 1780.