Thursday, July 1, 2010

Making History: Ramsour's Mill

Making History: Ramsour's Mill

Forgotten Turning Point?

From 1775 through 1777, the outcome of the American Revolution seemed contingent on events in New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1778, however, a stalemate developed in the northern colonies. The British had too few men and too little popular support to hold onto large swaths of territory. Most of their forces were located in or around New York City. The American army had become increasingly professionalized, but it was not yet able to drive the British army from its remaining strongholds. The stalemate led to a shift in the conflict with the southern colonies becoming the focal point of the fighting. The British overran the state of Georgia in 1779, captured Charleston, South Carolina in May, 1780, and shortly thereafter took control of the South Carolina countryside. British fortunes, however, began to wane thereafter, and eventually the southern states were fully restored to the United States.

The turning point in the south is usually regarded as the October, 1780, battle of King’s Mountain, in South Carolina. There, a sizeable British force (primarily consisting of Loyalist militia), was completely destroyed. The British army had its greatest victories before King’s Mountain (e.g., Charleston, Camden) and its worse defeats afterwards (e.g., Cowpens, Yorktown). However, it can be argued that the true turning point in the south was the first moment that British fortunes began to decrease. As noted in a previous series of posts, this happened fairly soon after the capture of Charleston. I noted that the great British victories at Camden and Fishing Creek in August, 1780, failed to restore the British to the same position of strength that they had in June of that year.

So when did British fortunes peak and when did they first begin to decline? Arguably, the peak occurred on June 18, 1780, when the British won a minor battle at Hill’s Ironworks in South Carolina. At this engagement, the British defeated the last band of organized American resistance in South Carolina, seemingly completing their conquest of the state. Arguably the decline began on June 20, 1780 when a large force of Loyalist militia was defeated at Ramsour’s Mill in North Carolina. This defeat led to a complete collapse of Loyalist strength in North Carolina. The defeat of these Loyalist forces greatly reduced the probable success of a British invasion of North Carolina, and helped permit American forces to renew the contest for South Carolina.

In covering this battle, I will describe what different people have had to say about Ramsour’s Mill and how those descriptions have changed over the years. Then, I will illustrate the various phases in the fighting using 15mm-high military miniatures.

[Links will be added to this post as this series progresses; because I will be posting on other topics as well, my best guess is that this series will wrap up in the early Fall].

Posts in this Series:

North Carolina: June, 1780

Ramsour’s Mill: Initial Descriptions

Ramsour’s Mill in Early Histories of the War

Ramsour’s Mill: Joseph Graham Clarifies

Ramsour's Mill: Joseph Graham's Timeline

Ramsour’s Mill: The Battlefield in Miniature

Joseph Graham Describes Ramsour’s Mill (1)

Joseph Graham Describes Ramsour’s Mill (2)

Joseph Graham Describes Ramsour’s Mill (3)

Joseph Graham Describes Ramsour’s Mill (4)

Ramsour’s Mill: 19th Century Reminiscences and Lore

Concluding Thoughts on Ramsour’s Mill

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