Monday, February 1, 2010

Battle of Hanging Rock 1

The Battle of Hanging Rock
Part 1: Introduction
Next: Sumter Plans a Second Attack

General

The description of this battle is a continuation of my current interest in Thomas Sumter's campaign in the South Carolina Backcountry in the summer of 1780. The description is noteworthy because of the level of detail in which the action is described. This detail is possible because quite a few accounts of the battle were left by participants. The approach that I've taken is to treat participant statements about the battle as puzzle pieces, and to identify ways in which they seem to fit together. I'm pleased to say that these "pieces" can be joined to create a coherent, believable narrative, and that they can be made to "fit" together without selectively omitting certain passages. (There are, however, a few places where accounts are contradictory; these are addressed in footnotes). The source material is subject to varying interpretations. Links are available to most of the sources I site, and the reader is encouraged to examine these sources for himself/herself. I hope at the very least this exercise will stimulate thought, interest, and research on an important, but largely overlooked, battle of the American Revolution.

Use of Source Material

To improve the readability of the text (and bring it into line with modern standards), I have changed the capitalization, spelling, and punctuation of the source material I quote. Likewise, I have written out words abbreviated in the original.

Maps of the Battle

The battle is illustrated using a series of map that are fairly specific as to the placement of military units at different points in the fighting. The reader should note that the maps are more specific than is warranted from a reading of the source material. The maps are intended primarily to help bring clarity to the source material, not to make a definitive statement about the ground on which the action took place.

Identification of the Hanging Rock Battlefield

Once I decided to use digital maps to help illustrate the fighting, a decision had to be made about the landforms in the Hanging Rock area that best match participant accounts of the battle. I determined that one set of landforms is a better match with the source material than others. I recognize that my position on this count may be controversial (if it’s appropriate to use such a term in connection with an obscure battle of the American Revolution). Therefore, I devoted a number of posts to laying out the case for the interpretation I make. A brief guide to these posts appears below.

In this post, I list a number of statements made about the Hanging Rock battlefield between 1780 and 1860. I later used agreement with this list as an “objective” means of determining the likelihood that a given location was the scene of the battle.

In this post, I consider the possibility that the Hanging Rock Battlefield Property, and I give a number of reasons both for and against this view.

In this post, I consider the possibility that much of the fighting took place near a modern-day fish hatchery on Hanging Rock Creek, and I give a number of reasons both for and against this view.

In this post, I describe the area on which I think the fighting actually took place, and I argue that it is a particularly good match with descriptions of the battlefield and other, military considerations.

In this post, I address and deflect potential objections to the interpretation I favor. (This doesn’t mean that I can’t be persuaded, but only that I’m presently unaware of convincing counterarguments).

Finally, in this post, I show images of the area I’ve identified as the battlefield and comment further on the strengths of this interpretation.

Illustration of the Battle with Military Miniatures

I collect and paint 15mm-high figurines that depict soldiers of the American Revolution. To help illustrate the fighting, I created a miniature version of the Hanging Rock battlefield, and peopled it with hand-painted soldiers. The scale is 1:20, that is, 1 figure represents approximately 20 combatants (distances likewise are 1:20). Some effort was made to paint the miniatures in a manner appropriate to this battle. However, limitations in the available metal figures and my ability as a painter means that the figures fall short of a perfect representation of their historical counterparts. Likewise, the miniature battlefield is also inexact. The two cannon that the British possessed cannot be reduced by a factor of 20; therefore, 1 gun is used to depict the two pieces.

The Assault on Samuel Bryan's North Carolina Volunteers

Index to the Posts in this Series

1. Introduction

2. Sumter Plans a Second Attack

3. Rawdon's Defense of South Carolina

4. British Strength and Losses at Hanging Rock

5. American Strength and Losses at Hanging Rock

6. Sumter's Night March to Hanging Rock

7. Bryan's Defeat

8. An Ill-Timed Reinforcement

9. Battle for the Center Camp

10. The British Flank Attack

11. Rousselet’s Gallant Stand

12. Stalemate

13. Reinforcement and Retreat

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