Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ramsour's Mill: Joseph Graham's Timeline

Joseph Graham described for historians not only the battle of Ramsour’s Mill itself, but also the sequence of events that led up to it. A summary of those events appears below.
  • May 12, 1780: The American army in the southern theater surrenders to British forces at Charleston, South Carolina.
  • May 29: British Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton destroys a force of Virginia troops at Waxhaws, South Carolina, the last force of American regulars in South Carolina.
  • June 7: British Lieutenant-Colonel John Moore of the Royal North Carolina Regiment returns home to Tryon County, North Carolina. “[H]e arrived at his father's... wearing a sword and an old tattered suit of regimentals.” He encourages local Loyalists by bringing news of the capture of Charleston and the advance of British troops into the South Carolina backcountry.
  • June 8: Brigadier-General Griffith Rutherford, of the North Carolina militia, hears that Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Rawdon is leading a column of British troops towards the North Carolina border.
  • June 10: Rutherford’s militia assemble at Reese’s plantation, 18 miles northeast of Charlotte, North Carolina. Rutherford intends to defend the Charlotte area against Rawdon’s advance.
  • June 10: Tryon County Loyalists meet with John Moore at Indian Creek. Moore tells them that the British intend to invade North Carolina in the early fall. In the meantime “they, with all other royal subjects, should hold themselves in readiness [for the British invasion], and in the meantime get in their harvest; that before the getting in of the harvest it would be difficult to procure provisions for the British army, and that as soon as the country could furnish subsistence to the army it would advance into North Carolina and give support to the Royalists.”
  • June 10: Moore learns that Major Joseph McDowell, an American (Whig) militia commander, is 8 miles away and searching for Loyalist leaders. McDowell has only 20 men with him, and Moore decides to attack.
  • June 11: McDowell’s band leaves the area and Moore’s Loyalists cannot overtake them. Moore temporarily sends his men home with the understanding that they will soon reconvene at Ramsour’s Mill in Tryon County.
  • June 12: Griffith Rutherford hears that Francis Rawdon is moving away from the North Carolina border. Rutherford orders his own troops to advance to Mallard’s Creek, 10 miles nearer the border.
  • June 13: 200 Loyalists assemble at Ramsour’s Mill.
  • June 14: Hundreds of additional Loyalists assemble at Ramsour’s Mill. Major Nicolas Welsh of the Royal North Carolina Regiment brings news of the victory at Waxhaws. “He wore a rich suit of regimentals, and exhibited a considerable number of guineas by which he sought to allure some, whilst he endeavored to intimidate others by an account of the success of the British army in all the operations of the South, and the total inability of the Whigs to make further opposition. His conduct had the desired effect, and much more confidence was placed in him than in Colonel Moore.”
  • June 14: Griffith Rutherford creates two elite detachments from the 650 or so militiamen at his disposal. He has 65 men equipped as dragoons and placed under the command of Major William Davie. He also has 100 men designated “light infantry” and placed under the command of Colonel William Davidson.
  • June 14: Rutherford learns that Loyalists are organizing in Tryon County, 40 miles to the northwest. He orders Francis Locke of Rowan County, Major Davie Wilson of Mecklenburg County, and other officers, to raise as many men as they can to counter this threat.
  • June 15: Rutherford advances two miles to the south of Charlotte: closer yet to the border with South Carolina.
  • June 17: Rutherford learns that Francis Rawdon's column has retired to Camden, South Carolina. It is now clear to Rutherford that the British will not soon invade his state. At the same time Rutherford learns that the Tryon County Loyalists are at Ramsour’s Mill.
  • June 18: Rutherford marches his men to Tuckaseegee Ford on the Catawba River, which is only 12 miles from Ramsour’s Mill. He requests Francis Locke to bring his forces to Tuckaseegee Ford.
  • June 18: Davie Wilson, with 65 men, crosses Tool’s Ford and joins Joseph McDowell, who has 25 men. At McEwen’s Ford they are joined by Captain Gilbraith Falls with 40 men. The combined force marches up the east side of Mountain Creek.
  • June 19: It rains in the morning. Rutherford’s men discharge their guns, which alarms the neighborhood. When some of the local men turn out to investigate, they join Rutherford’s command. Rutherford’s command spends the night in a camp 16 miles from Ramsour’s Mill.
  • June 19: Wilson, McDowell, and Falls join forces with Francis Locke. Their combined force has approximately 400 men. Locke and his fellow officers are at Mountain Creek, 16 miles from Ramsour’s Mill. They do not receive Rutherford’s request to move to Tuckaseegee Ford. They decide that it is safer for the men’s families to remain in the area than it is to join Rutherford (who they believe is still near Charlotte). They also reason that it is safer to attack the Loyalists than it is to remain in one place. Although the Loyalists are more numerous, they are not expecting an attack. Locke (the senior officer) sends a messenger to Rutherford relaying this decision. His men make a night march in order to surprise the Loyalists early the next morning.
  • June 19/June 20: Locke and his fellow officers are on the road to Ramsour's Mill. During a halt, “the officers convened to determine on the plan of attack. It was agreed that the companies commanded by Captains Falls, M’Dowell and Brandon should act on horseback and go in front. No other arrangements were made, and it was left to the officers to be governed by circumstances after they should reach the enemy. They resumed their march and arrived within a mile of the enemy's camp at daybreak.”
  • June 20: There are now perhaps as many as 1300 Loyalists at or near Ramsour’s Mill, but ¼ of these are without arms. Rutherford receives Locke’s message and marches his men to Ramsour’s Mill. Rutherford's command is miles from the battlefield at the time Locke's men make their attack.

Comment: Graham is not an infallible source, and some of the above-listed dates may be in error. For example, Graham claimed that the battle of Hill’s Ironworks took place on July 9, when there is clear evidence that the battle was on either June 17 or June 18.

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