Friday, September 25, 2009

The Battle of Williamson's Plantation 3

Part 3: The Americans Gather

" was determined to attack Lord Hook"

Captain Christian Huck, on a mission to seize local American militia commanders, failed to find either Colonel William Bratton or Captain John McClure. As his force advanced far from its base at Rocky Mount, it unwittingly entered into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the Americans. Huck was looking for the Americans, but soon the Americans were also looking for him. The Americans were not at their individual homes, but had kept together in small bands for safety; further, they reacted to Huck's advance by drawing together into a fairly large ad hoc force.

The Americans sought to put a stop to Huck's raid, although they inconsistently described the underlying motives.

James Collins cited the destruction of Hill's Ironworks ("it was determined to attack Lord Hook, and take vengeance for the burning of the ironworks"). However, William Hill, who had owned the ironworks, described Huck's "blasphemy" and his seizure of "all the horses fit for his purpose, so that many of the aged men had to walk many miles home afoot." He concluded that "This ill behaviour of the enemy made an impression on the minds of the most serious men in this little band and raised their courage under the belief that they would be made instruments in the hand of Heaven to punish this enemy for his wickedness and blasphemy — and no doubt the recent injuries that many of their families received from the said Hook and his party had an effect to stimulate this little band to a proper courage." John Craig claimed that Huck had made refugees of the Americans' families, and when they reached the Catawba River on their way home, they saw that "the far bank was lined with women and children, who had been ordered from their homes by the British and Tories on account of their relations generally having joined themselves to the Whig party [i.e., Sumter's militia]... The situation of these women and children driven from their firesides, excited in every bosom a sympathy for the distressed, and an indignation against the hard-hearted foe who could perpetrate such an inhuman deed."

Craig's account seems suspect because he alone recalled a heart-rending scene that others seemingly would have remembered. Other accounts have William Bratton's family remaining at home after a visit from Huck and his men, even though Bratton was the most notorious "rebel" in the vicinity.

In any event, participant accounts make clear that on July 11, 1780, several bands of Americans united and decided what to do about Huck. Craig claimed that "we received orders to turn out our horses to graze, and meanwhile the officers called a council and soon determined to risk all consequences and attack the inhuman ruffians." According to Colonel Richard Winn, the decision to attack Huck was not made easily. Winn noted that "both Officers & Men seemed loath to Engage the Horse [i.e., Huck's British Legion dragoons] as they had cut Buford Men to pieces so shortly before." A month and a half before a sizeable force of Continentals had been slaughtered by British Legion dragoons at the Waxhaws. How could they take on such men? Nevertheless, "about 130 agreed to follow Winn and try the Business."

Estimating American Total Strength:

It is difficult to determine the exact size of American militia forces at American Revolutionary War battles because of a paucity of reliable records. I commented on this issue at length during my Cowpens project. I noted that if statements by American officials are taken at face value than one concludes that the American militia numbered around 500 or so (How Many Fought at Cowpens?). However, if one estimates American numbers based on the number of pension applications filed by survivors (Problems with Pensions, Veteran Survival), or the number of officers that were present (Little River Regiment), then the number would be about three times as large (Cowpens in Miniature 3). Concern for this issue represents more than an interest in fine details. Whether the Americans' victory at Cowpens should be regarded as a triumph of underdogs hinges on which interpretation one makes [see Note 1]. I suggested one could test the plausibility of different approaches by making comparisons with other battles. Williamson's Plantation, which has been especially well studied among battles in the Southern campaign, happens to make an ideal test case.

One of the striking features about Williamson's Plantation is that there is relatively good agreement on the question of how many Americans were present:

In correspondence written by nonparticipants shortly after the battle, Thomas Sumter wrote that “I had about one hundred and thirty in the action." Major Thomas Blount said that the Americans fielded "a party of 80 or 90 Militia."

In pension statements or memoirs written many years later, participants claimed that there was "about 130" (Winn), "The number of the Americans was 133, and many of them without arms" (Hill), "We numbered one hundred and thirty-three" (Craig), there were "a few militia Boys" (Hillhouse), the Americans consisted of "Col. Bratton and Capt. Jenkins with about one hundred men" (Jenkins), the Americans consisted of "Coll. Neel... with 110 men" (Lofton).

Early secondary sources provided similar information: Ramsay wrote there were 133 men. Lossing said there were initially 133 men, but 23 left the American force before the battle, leaving only 110. Lossing explicitly claimed to have obtained his information from a veteran. Ramsay probably did as well.

The specificity in these numbers strongly suggest that a headcount was taken before the battle and the participants well remembered the result (133). However, there is still room for varying interpretations -- does this total represent the initial strength or the total after some dropped out? Does it include men without arms and/or men left to guard the horses? Does it include, as will be described in the next post, other detachments that were made shortly before the battle? Given this uncertainty, one can argue for a total considerably above or below 133 men. Michael Scoggins' recent history of the battle, for example, has 159 Americans participating in the fighting [see Note 2]. However, one can build a case around the statements by Winn, Lossing, Blount, Jenkins and Lofton, that the true total was closer to 100. Nevertheless, the variation among these estimates is fairly low: the total seems to have been about 133, plus or minus 30 men.

Michael Scoggins' history allows the validity of different methods of estimating troop totals to be tested because it includes a table that lists every alleged participant, the sources that identify that individual as a participant, and the individual's rank and likely unit affiliation. Therefore, if the method of estimating the number of participants by examining pension applications or counting the number of captains present is valid, then the estimates generated by these methods should be within 133 plus-or-minus 30 men.

Taking the approach of estimating totals based on pension applications, one finds that 58 persons claimed to have been at the battle. Using Lawrence Babits' estimate of around 3.5 actual participants for every pension application filed, one arrives at a total American force of 203 men. This method of estimation produces a total that is a little more than 50% above the actual approximate size of the American force, suggesting moderately poor validity.

Taking the approach of estimating one 25-man company for every captain identified at the battle, one finds in Scoggins' table that there were 23 participants with the rank of captain. By extension, 575 participants (25 * 23) would have been present. The estimated total is far above the likely historical total, suggesting that the method has very poor validity.

At the time that I wrote about Cowpens I observed that the logic behind these methods of estimation seems sound, yet the results they produce are questionable. An examination of these methods with the numbers for Williamson's Plantation confirms for me that opinion. I gave some reasons previously why I thought the results could be flawed even though the logic seems sound. I also have some new thoughts on the subject, which I'll share in an upcoming post.

American Order of Battle:

The American order of battle, described below, is based on Michael Scoggins' history of the battle. The totals for each regiment are approximate because a handful of men could not be clearly linked to a specific unit. In these cases I randomly assigned the participant to one of the units to which he plausibly could have belonged. The accuracy of information in original sources is assumed. The rank and file indicated below includes mostly privates, a few men are identified as sergeants, none as corporals. Richard Winn claimed to have been commander of this force (as did others); he evidently was present, but not his regiment.

Neal's Regiment:

Colonel Andrew Neal, Lieutenant-Colonel William Hill, Major James Hawthorne, about 7 captains, 4 lieutenants, 19 rank and file.

Bratton's Regiment:

Colonel William Bratton, Major John Wallace, about 11 captains, 6 lieutenants, 42 rank and file.

Lacey's Regiment:

Colonel Eward Lacey, Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick McGriff, Major Michael Dickson, about 5 captains, 7 lieutenants, 30 rank and file.

One pension application (Samuel Wallace) identifies two units of North Carolina militia at the battle; the absence of confirmation by other applications or sources suggests that North Carolina militia regiments were not present.

A stand-out feature of this order of battle is the exceptionally high ratio of officers to rank and file: 1:1.36 for Neal's regiment, 1:2.21 for Bratton's regiment, and 1:2.00 for Lacey's regiment. A similarly high ratio may have been present among the South Carolina militia regiments at Cowpens. This does not mean, of course, that such a high ratio was always present among South Carolina militia regiments, to say nothing of regiments from other states.


1. The high-end estimates of American totals at cowpens have the Americans outnumbering the British by more than 2:1. The low-end estimates have the British outnumbering the Americans by about 1.3:1.

2. This estimate is based on a combination of participant statements and a compilation of state and federal records (such as pension applications) that identify participants by name.


Thomas Blount. Letter to Abner Nash, July 23, 1780. Colonial and State Records of North Carolina.

James Collins. (1859). Autobiography of a Revolutionary Soldier.

Will Graves transcribed William Hill's memoir. (.pdf file).

Will Graves transcribed the pension application of William Hillhouse (.pdf file).

Will Graves transcribed the pension application of William Jenkins (.pdf file).

Will Graves transcribed the pension application of Thomas Lofton (.pdf file).

Will Graves transcribed the pension application of Samuel Wallace (.pdf file).

Will Graves transcribed General Richard Winn's Notes -- 1780. (.pdf file).

Benson John Lossing. (1860). Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (Vol. 2).

David Ramsay (1811). The History of the American Revolution (Vol. 2).

Michael C. Scoggins. (2005). The Day It Rained Militia: Huck's Defeat and the Revolution in the South Carolina Backcountry, May-July 1780. (Includes transcriptions of statements by many participants).

Thomas Sumter. Letter to Johann De Kalb, July 17, 1780. Colonial and State Records of North Carolina.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Battle of Williamson's Plantation 2

Part 2: The British Encampment
Previous: Huck Rides Again

The location of Williamson's Plantation is generally known, although the original structures vanished long ago. Several sketches were made of the battlefield in the mid-to-late 19th Century based on local family traditions. Unfortunately, these sketches differ in terms of some of the most basic details. However, these, in combination with participant accounts, suggests that the Williamson house was about 500 yards from Colonel William Bratton's plantation. The Bratton house is now part of Historic Brattonsville.

The William Bratton house today, as seen using Google Maps (click to enlarge). Google Maps is now set up much like Google Earth (see this post) and includes the same "street view" function and links to Panoramio pictures.

Various sources also provide some details about what this plantation would have looked like in 1780. The Williamson house was probably a sturdy, two-story house, built of logs, on the north side of a road running east by southeast from the vicinity of the Bratton house. The land along the road was cleared to the west all the way to the Bratton house. The road itself was a lane lined by "a strong fence" in William Hill's words. To the north and south was forested country. The Williamson house was in old field, with various outbuildings nearby. An orchard was in the rear of the house. There was at least one large oat field west of the house. A corn crib was mentioned in some descriptions of the battle; wheat is another likely crop. The land was clear west of the plantation, all the way to the Bratton house.

Williamson's Plantation (click to enlarge). A satellite view (left) of Historic Brattonsville and the site of Williamson's Plantation The Williamson house was located within or near to the red circle. The street view on the right is from Percival Road looking in the direction of the site of the Williamson house. The area is covered by second-growth forest.

Below is the miniature version of the Williamson Plantation that I assembled. Some compromise is necessary between a realistic looking farm and one that is correctly scaled. The representation will be at a 1:5 scale, rather than the 1:20 I plan to follow generally, but even so, a single building has a "footprint" equivalent to 25 buildings (because it is both 5 times too long and 5 times too wide). Therefore, the farmhouse and the various outbuildings is represented by a single resin building that I had handy. The small clump of trees behind the house represents the orchard. Several farm fields are also represented. Distances are not to a set scale. The result is a far cry from a realistic portrayal of an 18th-Century Backcountry plantation, but it's more attractive and practical than many alternatives.

Williamson's Plantation in miniature.

When the British encamped, Huck stayed in the Williamson house, perhaps with Hunt and some other dragoons. The rest of the dragoons were nearby. The New York Volunteers appear to have encamped in the lane. The Loyalist militia were at the western end of the plantation, either in the lane or in a field. When the Americans attacked, the men were up and preparing for the day. Their gear had been stowed on their horses, and, were it not for the attack, they would have departed before long.


Will Graves transcribed William Hill's memoir. (.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. (Includes transcriptions of British correspondence, and statements by many participants).

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Battle of Williamson's Plantation 1

The Battle of Williamson's Plantation
Part 1: Huck Rides Again
Next: The British Encampment

[The account appearing in this and subsequent posts is heavily indebted to Michael C. Scoggins' recent history of the battle. The present account is generally consistent with his, although I arrived at a different conclusion about British numbers, as described below. Readers should note that Scoggins' history includes many more details concerning the battle of Williamson's Plantation than are related here].

In early July, 1780, much of Thomas Sumter's brigade of militia temporarily disbanded. The farmers-turned-soldiers returned to their homes to reap their crops, see their families, and otherwise prepare for the coming attempt to retake South Carolina. This dispersal of Sumter's men made them vulnerable, and an attempt was soon made by the British to capture some of the leading figures in the militia. Lieutenant-Colonel George Turnbull, who commanded the British post at Rocky Mount, wrote on July 12 to his superior officer, Colonel Francis Rawdon, informing him of the attempt.

"…hearing that a noted Partisan McClure [i.e., Captain John McClure] was come home and Reaping his Grain about Twenty Two miles above and that Col. Bratton [i.e., Colonel William Bratton] who Lived Twelve miles farther was publishing Proclamations and Pardons to who should return to their duty, I proposed to Capt. Huck [i.e., Captain Christian Huck, who led the British raid on Hill's Ironworks] that I woud mount twenty of our men and give him some militia to the amount of fifty to Beat up those two Quarters. The party marched from this Monday Evening and found only one of the McClures and no person at Brattons. My orders to him was not to go farther than Prudence should Direct him."

Although not obvious from Turnbull's letter to Rawdon, Huck's force consisted of three groups: British Legion dragoons, New York Volunteers, and Loyalist militia. All were mounted.

There are two key sources of information on the strength of these commands: Lieutenant-Colonel Turnbull, who wrote several letters to Rawdon about Huck's mission and defeat, and Lieutenant Hunt of the British Legion. Hunt was in the battle, and the account he related to Lieutenant Anthony Allaire and Dr. Uzal Johnson appeared in their journals the day after Huck's defeat.

According to Allaire's journal:

"Lieut. Hunt of the Legion Cavalry came to our quarters... He was one of the party defeated the twelfth inst. He gave an imperfect account of the affair. Capt. Huck commanded the party consisting of one subaltern and seventeen dragoons of the Legion, three subalterns and eighteen New York Volunteers, twenty-five militia men."

Lieutenant Hunt was speaking candidly to another officer the day after the battle, and his account is not suspect. However, the numbers he stated (as recorded by Allaire) differed somewhat from that stated by others. Below I comment on why I am generally accepting of Hunt's statement.

British Legion: Captain Huck, Lieutenant Hunt, and 17 rank and file.

Turnbull did not report the number of dragoons to his superiors (at least in extant correspondence). Cornwallis reported to Clinton that the number of dragoons was between 30 and 40. Cornwallis may have given this number because he knew this to be the approximate strength of Huck's troop and he assumed (not having been told otherwise) that all of Huck's dragoons were present [see Note 1]. But were they? Huck had been dispatched on a search-and-seize mission, not a combat mission. Turnbull may have felt it wiser to give more experience to his Loyalist militia and a group of New York Volunteers that were recently mounted than to dispatch all of his dragoons. Turnbull did not expressly indicate this in his correspondence, but his comments to Rawdon on casualties (to be covered in an upcoming post) make considerably more sense if only a portion of the dragoons were present.

New York Volunteers: Lieutenant McGrigor, Ensign Cameron, and 18 rank and file.

Turnbull's letters to Rawdon name the officers with this group. Turnbull identifies Lieutenant Adamson as a third officer, but Uzal Johnston recorded in his journal that there were only two subalterns, and Michael Scoggins' research suggests that Adamson was not with the Volunteers, but rather the militia.

Loyalist Militia: 25 or so militiamen under Colonel Matthew Floyd and "Colonel" James Ferguson [see Note 2].

Hunt claimed that there were 25 militia; Cornwallis wrote Clinton that there were 60. Hunt's total for the militia is less reliable than his other figures because he is less likely to have been informed of their total or to have performed a head count. However, Hunt's statement should not be dismissed. American militia would leave the ranks at times for various reasons, and it could well be that the Loyalist militia were no different. It should be recalled that the British were not anticipating combat, and some men (perhaps many) might have been allowed to visit home while they were out on this expedition. Indeed, there may even have been some military value in such departures as it would help raise morale and allow the men to gather supplies. These militiamen might even have been able to learn of the Americans' latest movements from family members. There is at least some evidence of Loyalist militiamen leaving the ranks. Colonel Richard Winn wrote of capturing Major John Owens on the night preceding the battle and two privates the morning of the battle.

If the number of militiamen fluctuated, then it is all the more unlikely that Hunt's number is definite. His statement of 25 men sounds like an estimation, and in the confusion of the early morning fight, he hardly could have been sure.

Using Hunt as a source, Huck's force totaled 65 men or so [see Note 3]. Notably, American sources provided much higher estimates. The difference in their statements is so large that it seems safest to dismiss the latter estimates out of hand. These estimates include that there were “two or three hundred Tories” (Samuel Killough), “About 300 Tories under Colonel Floyd and fifty dragoons under Capt. Hook, and Capt. Adamson with fifty Light Infantry” (John Craig), and "100 horse &... of the Tory militia... about 300 men” (William Hill). It should be noted that the battle was short in duration, that the battle was fought under conditions of reduced visibility, and that these statements by American participants were made many years after the fact.


1. One might wonder why Cornwallis would have given a number for the British Legion dragoons if he did not know it for certain. My supposition is that Cornwallis was concerned about what Clinton would see in American newspapers. Both sides habitually magnified their opponent's strength and losses, and Cornwallis wanted Clinton to know that Huck's force was small in size and that the defeat was not of great military consequence (the political consequences, however, were another matter). Stating a number -- even if imprecise -- established this point.

2. It is questionable whether the British ever gave Ferguson a colonel's commission. He is not listed in Lambert's seminal history of South Carolina Loyalists.

3. Michael Scoggins sided with Cornwallis over Hunt on the question of the number of British Legion dragoons and Loyalist militia. Consequently, he had almost twice as many British participants in the battle as I state here.


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 General Richard Winn's Notes -- 1780. (.pdf file).

Will Graves transcribed William Hill's memoir. (.pdf file).

Will Grabes transcribed the pension application of John Craig (.pdf file).

Robert S. Lambert. (1987). South Carolina Loyalists in the American Revolution.

Michael C. Scoggins. (2005). The Day It Rained Militia: Huck's Defeat and the Revolution in the South Carolina Backcountry, May-July 1780. (Includes transcriptions of British corresepondence, and statements by many participants).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sumter's Brigade Forms

[Minor edits May 2, 2010]

As the British overran the South Carolina Backcountry in June, 1780, scattered bands of American militia coalesced just across the border in North Carolina. A number of militia commanders convened and elected one of their number, Thomas Sumter, as their "brigade" commander [see Note 1].

Sumter had been the colonel of the 6th South Carolina regiment, but he resigned his commission and returned to private life in 1778. The virtual elimination [see Note 2] of the commanders of the South Carolina Continental line at the siege of Charleston, elevated Sumter from has-been to one of the most important men in the state. Knowing that he was a wanted man, Sumter fled to North Carolina in May, 1780.

Sumter has attracted some rather remarkable character sketches.

Here is Henry Lee describing Sumter in his postwar history:

"He was not over scrupulous as a soldier in his use of means, and apt to make considerable allowances for a state of war. Believing it warranted by the necessity of the case, he did not occupy his mind with critical examinations oi' the equity of his measures, or of their bearings on individuals; but indiscriminately pressed forward to his end—the destruction of his enemy and liberation of his country. In his military character he resembled Ajax; relying more upon the fierceness of his courage than upon the results of unrelaxing vigilance and nicely adjusted combination. Determined to deserve success, he risked his own life and the lives of his associates without reserve. Enchanted with the splendor of victory, he would wade in torrents of blood to attain it. This general drew about him the hardy sons of the upper and middle grounds; brave and determined like himself, familiar with difficulty, and fearless of danger."

Here is John Buchanan in the modern history, The Road to Guilford Courthouse:

"Thomas Sumter (1734-1832) is not a sympathetic character. Wearing his ego on his shoulder, he had few peers as a prima donna and could spot a slight, intended or not, around a corner. He was careless with security and lives. His penchant for bloody and repeated frontal assaults was unnecessarily costly and finally led one officer to swear to Sumter's face and before others that never again would he serve under the Gamecock. But of all his partisan foes, Lord Cornwallis considered Sumter the most troublesome and obstinate. Thomas Sumter was a fighter who kept alive the flame of resistance and acted as a beacon for like-minded men at a time when others believed all was lost..."

Buchanan's claims that Sumter "was careless with security and lives," and that he had a "penchant for bloody and repeated frontal assaults" that were "unnecessarily costly," rest on events occurring during the battles of Rocky Mount, Hanging Rock, and Fishing Creek. To anticipate my coverage of these battles in the months ahead, my description will suggest that Sumter behaved imprudently on each of these occasions, but otherwise it will be much less critical [see Note 3].

The date of Sumter's election is usually given as June 15 (cf. Buchanan's history and Robert Bass' biography of Sumter). However, some of the participants in this event remembered the election being held on June 19, or the day before the battle of Ramsour's Mill. I haven't examined this discrepancy well enough to form an opinion on its cause. Several descriptions of the election are quoted below. Note that on June 20, Sumter's newly-organized brigade sought to join in the attack against Loyalist forces at Ramsour's Mill, but because of poor communication between the various American militia forces, they only arrived on the battlefield some hours after the fighting had ended.

Colonel Richard Winn [see Note 4] wrote after the war that: [T]he next day Arrive at Genl Rutherford's Camp near Charlotte in No. Carolina where I found 44 of the So. Carolinians in the Same Situation of myself[.] [W]e got together and held a Consultation, notwithstanding the Smallness of Our No. [I]t was unanimously Agreed on to oppose the British & Tories under Expectation when the panick [sic, panic] of the people was over many would Join us, [T]he next Question was who Should Command[.] Capt. R Winn was Chosen without a Desenting Voice, Capt. Winn obsd. that Colo Sumter was on the ground An Old Experienced Officer[.] [H]e shorely [sic, surely] was the most proper person to take the Command, for the memd [?] this was Objected too, however it was Agreed on that Colo Patton & Capt. Winn should without delay Consult the Colo on the Subject[.] [A]fter some Converstation and Explination Colo Sumter Accepted the nomination and the Next day Set Out with his party on Horse back and made a forced March to Reinforce Colo. Lock in Order to Attack a body of about 1000 Tories who had Collected at Ramsowers Mill in No. Carolina on the So. fork of Catawba under their leader Colo Moore, however Colo Sumter did not Arrive untill the Action was over..."

Captain Samuel Otterson recalled that "On the day after the election, we marched toward the house of a celebrated Tory by the name of Ramsour for the purpose of defeating some Tories who had encamped at Ramsour's mill, but before we arrived, the Militia from Rowan, N. Carolina had defeated the Tories."

Captain Joseph McJunkin [see Note 5] recalled that "...we unanimously chose Col. Thos. Sumter to be our leader or General, to lead us to face the Enemy, &... Sumter joined Rutherford that day, & [we]... could hardly be constrained from proceeding that evening to attack the above Tories; but Rutherford would not consent for him to start until next morning, him & men, all anxious to meet the Enemy, started by time, & posted on with all possible speed, but the distance being too great, our hero & his party did not get to the place of action until it was over.

It has been supposed, by some authors, that all of Sumter's regimental commanders were present at his election. Winn, however, claimed that there were only 44 men with Sumter at the time, exclusive of those in his own command. Sumter's brigade is known to have grown steadily after Ramsour's Mill until it numbered in the hundreds by late July. Perhaps some of the regiments that fought with Sumter in July and August attached themselves to his brigade after its initial formation. William Hill is one of the American commanders credited with helping to elect Sumter, but in my reading of his postwar memoir, quoted below, he and Andrew Neal retained an independent command at the time, and did not join Sumter's brigade until after Ramsour's Mill.

"About this time [i.e., shortly after the battle of Hill's Ironworks of June 17 or 18, 1780], I was informed that Col. Sumter was then in Salisbury with a few men waiting for a reinforcement — I then wrote to him, informing him of our situation & that there was a probability of our making a handsome stand — and that we were about to form a junction with Genl. Rutherfd. in N. Cara. that we were going to attack a large body of Tories that had collected at a place called Ramsour's Mill — But so it was that a detached party of about 300 horse from Genl Ruthd. attacked the Tory camp said to be upwards of a 1000 men, killed & dispersd. the whole — and then it was that Col. Sumter met with us from So. Ca. He then got authority from the civil & military authority of that State to impress or take waggons horses, provisions of all kinds, from the enemy that was in that action — & to give a receipt to that state for the same —"

The victory at Ramsour's Mill and the arrival in North Carolina of a large force of Maryland and Delaware Continentals commanded by Major-General Johann de Kalb gave the Americans the initiative.

Sumter's brigade would play a major role in the campaign that followe. In late June, Sumter moved his forces into the lands of the Catawba Nation, giving the Americans a toehold in South Carolina. The value of this position was more psychological than military. The Americans were badly lacking in provisions, arms, and ammunition. In early July, most of the brigade was temporarily disbanded. As the big American push into South Carolina would not occur before August, Sumter's men were given an opportunity to see to their farms and families and obtain supplies from home before the campaign began. Sumter himself returned to North Carolina in search of supplies.


1. South Carolina Governor John Rutledge commissioned Sumter as brigadier general in October, 1780; because the election had no official standing, he is referred to in various sources as both a colonel and a general during the preceding summer.

2. A notable exception was Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Marion of the 2nd South Carolina regiment, who had been injured prior to the siege.

3. I'm also inclined to be less praiseworthy of Sumter. Buchanan implied that American resistance in the Backcountry somehow would have collapsed without Sumter. However, the accounts of Winn, Hill, and others make clear that a serious resistance to the British was organized in a number of places and before Sumter attained a prominent position. It seems likely that these various commands would have coalesced without Sumter -- just under a different leader. If participant accounts are to believed, there was no shortage of talented and determined officers in Sumter's brigade.

4. Richard Winn is credited as being colonel of the Fairfield militia regiment at this time (see J. D. Lewis' South Carolina military organization (or lack thereof): June 1, 1780, for a reconstruction). He calls himself captain in this account, but notes that "Capt. Winn begun to Rank as a Colonel" in early July.

5. Major Joseph McJunkin was frequently cited in my Cowpens project; McJunkin held the rank of captain during the summer of 1780.


Robert Duncan Bass. (1961). Gamecock: The Life and Campaigns of General Thomas Sumter.

John Buchanan. (1997). The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas.

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

Will Graves transcribed General Richard Winn's Notes -- 1780. (.pdf file).

Will Graves transcribed William Hill's memoir. (.pdf file).

Will Graves transcribed the pension application of Samuel Otterson. (.pdf file).

Henry Lee. (1812). Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States.