Monday, February 22, 2010

Battle of Hanging Rock 8

Part 8: An Ill-Timed Reinforcement
Previous: Bryan's Defeat

The Provincial regiments were not idle while Samuel Bryan’s North Carolina Volunteers were being assailed. In the camp of the Prince of Wales' American Regiment, a detachment of men was sent north towards the Loyalist militia and other Provincials [1]. In the center camp, the British Legion infantry and Royal North Carolina regiment were formed into a line of battle [2]. Also, Captain Kenneth McCulloch's company of British Legion infantry left the center camp to go to Bryan’s aid.

The Prince of Wales' American Regiment Responds (click to enlarge). A detachment is sent north towards the sound of battle.

McCulloch’s company was dispatched “on the first alarm,” and “they arrived on the eminence [where Bryan was encamped] just after the tories had left it” [3]. Here, the Provincials found the Americans in a state of complete disarray. Half of the men, including all of Davie’s dragoons, had scattered in pursuit of the Loyalists [4], while the remainder were taking guns and ammunition from the abandoned Loyalist camp [5].

McCulloch’s men struck the American center and left divisions [6], and “advanced firing in platoons” [7]. However, the attack was ineffective. The Americans “took to trees and rocks,” [8] and the British “overshot their opponents” [9]. The Americans formed “a half circle around the eminence,” and “by taking steady aim” “in a short time caused one third of them to fall” [10]. The Provincials “fell so fast by their unseen enemy that their officers were obliged to push them forward by their sabers” [11].

McCulloch Under Fire. Having gained Bryan's encampment, McCulloch's company confronts an arc of gunfire.

At last, McCulloch’s company broke. More of his men fell when the American left division “began to cut off their flank” [12]. The survivors “retreated to the main body,” all the while “briskly pursued by Sumpter’s men” [13]. Among the fallen, Joseph McJunkin recalled finding Captain McCulloch “near the Tory camp… begging for water” [14]. He would soon be dead [15]. Casualties in McCulloch’s company were so extensive that the company was subsequently removed from the rolls of the British Legion [16].

McCulloch's Defeat. While Bryan's Volunteers flee, McCulloch's lone company is destroyed by Sumter's militia. Some of the unit actions shown on this map will be described in subsequent posts. Bryan's men fled south and west; their flight, and the American pursuit, was less organized and more scattered than the arrows indicate. PoWAR = Prince of Wales' American Regiment.


1. William Davie's account of the battle refers to "a part of Colonel Brown's Regiment." Likewise, Banastre Tarleton referred to the actions of "a detachment of Colonel Brown's regiment" [This is the Prince of Wales' American Regiment; emphasis mine]. The activities ascribed to the "part" or "detachment" are so distinct in the two accounts as to suggest that the regiment was divided into two parts early in the battle and that the two parts fought in different parts of the battlefield. One part, as will be seen, became engaged near Bryan's camp and was destroyed. The other part ended up fighting alongside the Legion infantry near the center camp and suffered only light casualties. Why would a division in the regiment have occurred? The most likely reason is that one part of the regiment was sent in the direction of the fighting when the battle began, while the remainder defended the regiment's encampment. More about the activities of this regiment will appear in upcoming posts.

For Davie's account of the battle, see The Revolutionary War Sketches of William R. Davie [extract]. Davie's account also appears in, John H. Wheeler. (1851). Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851, Vol. 1. For Tarleton's account of the battle, see Banastre Tarleton. (1787). A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781.

2. Inference based on comments made by Davie. Davie found these regiments in a defensive posture shortly after the events described in this post.

3. William A. Graham (1904). General Joseph Graham and His Papers on North Carolina Revolutionary History.

4. William Hill claimed half of the men had pursued Bryan’s men “a considerable distance,” and could not “be brought off from the pursuit of the Tories,” before McCulloch arrived. See Alexander S. Salley. (1921). Col. William Hill's Memoirs of the Revolution. Graham, ibid., claimed that the dragoons were so scattered that they could not be collected again until late in the battle.

5. Joseph Johnson (1851). Traditions and Reminiscences Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South.

6. The main commentators identified with these commands (Joseph Graham, Joseph McJunkin, and William Hill), described this attack in some detail. The main commentators with the right division (William Davie, Richard Winn) did not mention it.

7. Hill, ibid. Graham, ibid. also mentioned the firing by platoons.

8. Hill, ibid.

9. Graham, ibid.

10. Graham, ibid.

11. Hill, ibid.

12. Joseph McJunkin's account, in Will Graves. (2005). What Did Joseph McJunkin Really Saye? Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution, Volume 2, Issue 11.

13. Graham, ibid.

14. McJunkin, ibid. McJunkin also claimed that he “got a canteen out of the Tory camp… and gave him a drink.”

15. Banastre Tarleton. (1787). A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781.

16. Don Gara. Service summary of officers of the British Legion Infantry, sorted by troop. The only other officer of the Legion infantry to be killed during the battle was Lieutenant Ralph Cunningham of McCulloch’s company. See Don Gara. Biographical sketches of the infantry officers of the British Legion. (Retrieved February 19, 2010).