CAMDEN, SO CAROLINA, 20th Augt, 1780.(No.1.)
Earl Cornwallis Recd 9th Oct, 2 inclosures.
Your Lordship will have been informed by Sir Henry Clinton of every thing that passed in the Province of South Carolina from the reduction of Charles town to the defeat of the Corps under Colonel Buford by the great exertion & valour of Lieut Col. Tarleton.
Sir Henry soon afterwards embarked for New York, and appointed me to the command of His Majesty's Forces in the Southern Provinces. I was then at Camden, but the Corps with me being totally destitute of Military Stores, Clothing, Rum, Salt & other articles necessary for Troops in the operations of the Field, and Provisions of all kinds being deficient, almost approaching to a Famine in North Carolina, it was impossible for me to penetrate into that Province before the Harvest. I therefore employed myself in fixing posts of Troops from the Pedee to the Savannah rivers, to awe the disaffected and encourage the loyal Inhabitants, And I took every measure in my Power to raise some Provincial Corps, & and to establish a Militia as well for the Defence as for the internal Government of South Carolina. One Provincial Corps, to consist of five hundred men, was put in Commission to be raised between the Pedee and Wateree, to be commanded by Mr. Harrison with the rank of Major; And another of the same number was ordered to be raised in the district of Ninety-Six, to be commanded by Mr. Cunningham, to whom, on account of his active Loyalty for several years past, I gave the rank of Lieut Colonel; And there appeared to be great reason to expect that both these Corps would be soon compleated as well as the first South Carolina Regt., which was composed of Refugees who had now returned to their native Country.
In the district of Ninety-Six, by far the most populous and powerful of the Province, Lt Col. Balfour, by his great attention & diligence, and by the active assistance of Majr Ferguson, who was appointed Inspector General of the Militia of this Province
by Sir Henry Clinton, had formed seven Battalions of Militia, consisting of above four thousand Men, and entirely composed of persons well affected to the British Government, which were so regulated that they could with ease Furnish fifteen hundred Men at a short notice for the defence of the Frontier or any other home Service. But I must take this opportunity of observing that this Militia can be of little use for distant Military operations, as they will not stir without an Horse, & on that account Your Lordship will easily conceive the impossibility of keeping a number of them together without destroying the Country. Many Battalions were likewise formed by myself & other Officers on the very extensive line from Broad River to Cheraws, but they were in general either weak or not much to be relied on for their fidelity. In order to protect the raising of Harrison's corps & to awe a large tract of disaffected Country between the Pedee & Black River, I posted Major McArthur with the 71st regiment & a troop of Dragoons at Cheraw Hill on the Pedee, where his detachment was plentifully supplied by the Country with Provisions of all kinds. Other small Posts were likewise established in the front & on the left of Camden, where the people were known to be ill disposed, And the Main body of the Corps was posted at Camden, which, for this Country is reckoned a tolerably healthy place, and where the Troops could most conveniently subsist & receive the necessary supplies of various kinds from Charlestown. I likewise had settled good channels of Correspondence with our friends in North Carolina, and had given them positive directions to attend to their harvests, & to remain quiet untill I could march to their relief. In this business I was greatly assisted by Governor Martin, from whose abilities, & zeal for the service I have on many occasions derived great advantages, And which I must beg that your Lordship will please to represent in the strongest terms to his Majesty.
Having made the above arrangements, & everything wearing the face of tranquillity and submission, I set out on the 21st of June for Charlestown, leaving the command of the Troops on the frontier to Lord Rawdon, who was, after Brigadier General Paterson, the Commandant of Charlestown, the next Officer in rank to me in the Province.
About this time, I heard that two thousand of the Maryland & Delaware Continental Troops were entering North Carolina
under Major General Baron DeKalb & that he meant to take his quarters at Hilsborough. There was then in that Country a Corps of three hundred Virginia Lt Infantry under Col. Porterfield, some Militia at Salisbury & Charlottetown under Genls Rutherford & Sumpter, & a large body of Militia at Cross Creek under Genl Caswell. As all these Corps were at a great distance from us, and as I knew it to be impossible to march any considerable body of Men across the Province of North Carolina before the Harvest, I did not expect that our posts on the frontier would be much disturbed for two months, And by that time I hoped to be able to undertake offensive operations.
I had much business to do at Charlestown, in regulating the Civil and Commercial Affairs of the Town & Country, in endeavouring to form a Militia in the lower districts, and in forwarding the preparations for taking the Field at the time intended. The business of the Country was particularly difficult, for many parts of the lower districts are extremely rebellious, and this Climate (except in Charlestown) is so bad within an hundred miles of the Coast, from the end of June untill the middle of October, that Troops could not be stationed among them during that period without a certainty of their being rendered useless for some time for Military service, if not entirely lost. And our principal Friends for the same reasons, were extremely unwilling to remain in the Country during that period, to assist in forming the Militia and establishing some kind of Government. However, under all these difficulties the business was going on, when our tranquillity was first disturbed by the accounts of a premature rising of our Friends in Tryon County, North Carolina, in the latter end of June, who, having assembled without concert, plan, or proper leaders, were, two days, after, surprised and totally routed by the Son of Genl. Rutherford. Many of them fled into this Province, where their reports tended much to terrify our friends and encourage our enemies. And about the same time, notwithstanding my injunctions to the contrary, another body of Loyalists rose at the forks of the Yadkin under Col. Bryan (driven to it, as they said, by the most barbarous persecution,) and after a long and difficult march joined Major McArthur at the Cheraws to the amount of upwards of 700 Men.
Hostilities now commenced in different parts of the frontier. Genl Sumpter, an active & daring man, assembled at Catawba about a thousand Men, chiefly Refugees from South Carolina & Georgia, and was constantly Menacing our small posts & putting us under the necessity of calling out the Militia of Ninety-Six. He was joined by many disaffected persons who had been enrolled in our Militia, but as there was no serious alarm I was very unwilling to put the Troops in Motion before our preparations were compleat & during the intense heat of the summer.
Baron de Kalb moved early in July to Deep River where he was joined first by Genl Caswell from Cross Creek, & about the 25th by General Gates, who took the command of the Army. But as he was still above an hundred miles from Majr McArthur, which was the nearest post to him, Lord Rawdon did not think it necessary to make any material alteration in the disposition of the Troops. From this time untill the 20th of July many skirmishes happened on the frontiers of Ninety-Six & towards Waxhaw, but none of any material consequence. The Enemy had, however, in the mean time filled this Province with their emissaries, and in all the Eastern part of it were planning a general revolt, which our lenity had left but too much in their power. The Cheraw Hill was a post of great consequence, & had the Appearance of being healthy, but it proved so much the Contrary, and sickness came on so rapidly, that in nine days at least two-thirds of the 71st Regt. were taken ill of Fevers & Agues, & rendered unfit for service. About this time the enemy were known to be in Motion, but the rigour of the Government (Many of our principal friends in N. Carolina being confined in Dungeons, loaded with Irons, & several having been put to Death) had so intimidated those, on whose goodwill & ability to give the most accurate intelligence we had the greatest reason to depend that Lord Rawdon could obtain no certain accounts of them.
The Salvation of the 71st Regt, as well as every other consideration, determined his Lordship to withdraw the post at Cheraw Hill. This the active incendiaries of the enemy represented as an act of fear, & so encouraged the disaffected & terrified the wavering that the whole Country between Pedee & Black River openly avowed the Principles of Rebellion, and collecting in Parties commenced acts of Hostility.
Our Cheraw Militia, having seized & bound their field officers, attackd & took some boats on the Pedee in which Majr McArthur was sending near one hundred of his sick to Georgetown. I was greatly alarmed for a small detachment which I had sent under Majr Wemys to reduce the people of Georgetown to some order, & for my water communication on the Santee, on which at that time a large quantity of Rum, Salt, Arms, & Military Stores were moving in boats up to Camden.
At this time Genl Sumpter, whose numbers were much augmented by the present prospect of affairs, attackd our Post at Rocky Mount, but was repulsed by the steady & gallant defence of Lt Col. Turnbull & the small corps under his command. It now appeared that General Gates was advancing with his whole force from N. Carolina, and Lord Rawdon (whose Capacity & zeal for the service I cannot too much commend) saw the necessity of contracting his Posts & securing Camden, where we had all our Stores & above 700 sick, but He could not immediately withdraw his whole force to that place without a certainty of losing his communication with Charlestown & exposing the Posts dependent on the Ninety-Six command to be surrounded & cut off. He therefore continued Lt Col. Turnbull at Rocky Mount, Reinforced his post at Hanging Rock, and placed himself with the principal force at Robertson's, on the west branch of Linche's Creek. The Post at Hanging Rock was attackd by Genl Sumner, a few days after his repulse from Rocky Mount, & very nearly carried. The bravery of Capt. McCullough, since dead of his wounds, & of the Infantry of the Legion preserved it. Lord Rawdon waited for Genl Gates at Robertson's with the 23d, 33d, 71st, & volunteers of Ireland, who came up but did not think proper to attack him. In the mean time His Lordship performed the arduous task of removing the sick of the 71st regt to Camden. Genl Gates shewing no disposition to attack the Corps at Robertson's, Lord Rawdon wisely apprehending that his intention might be either to reinforce Sumpter & make a more vigorous attack on the posts at Rocky Mount or Hanging Rock, or by getting round his right destroy his stores & take his sick at Camden, retired from Robertson's to that place, where He was joined by the Corps which had been before moved from Hanging Rock to Rugeley's Mill, & directed Lt Col. Turn-
bull to quit Rocky Mount, and either come down the west side of the Wateree to Camden or fall back on the Militia Posts commanded by Majr Ferguson on Broad River.
All these incidents & movements on both sides were regularly reported to me while at Charlestown by Lord Rawdon, And I shall have the honor of informing Your Lordship of the consequences in my next Dispatch, which will be written to-morrow.
I have the honor to be, with great respect,
Source: Clark, Walter, ed., "The State Records of North Carolina," 26 vols., (Goldsboro, North Carolina: Nash Brothers, 1886-1907), 15: 263-268. Transcribed & submitted by Marg Baskin. Superscripts restored to conform to handwriting usage of the period.