Then of the Town of Halifax, North Carolina, During the Revolutionary War
by Guilford Dudley
Southern Literary Messenger, March through June, 1845
TO THE EDITOR OF THE SOU. LIT. MESSENGER:
Dear Sir: I beg leave to offer for your publication in the Messenger, a revolutionary narrative, written by Colonel Guilford Dudley. The original manuscript I received from his widow, Mrs. Anna B. Dudley, during the last summer. She was then living in Tennessee, but has since, I believe, removed to Louisiana. It being her wish to have it published, I have taken pleasure in transcribing and preparing it for the press. The connected narrative sent me, however, would seem to be only a fragment of what was originally written out, and consists mainly of a very minute detail of the circumstances connected with the battle of Camden and the Colonel's personal adventures upon that occasion.
From the narrative and accompanying papers, it appears that Col. Dudley, in 1774, assisted in raising in Halifax, N. C., (as he supposed, thought I think erroneously,) the first volunteer company organized in America. In 1775, he served in the campaign against loyalist McDougal. In the year 1780, he was present at the Battle of Camden where he bore from the field, the brave Colonel Porterfield, of Virginia, after he was mortally wounded. In 1781, he was sent in pursuit of the then noted tory, Fanning; and served some time under General Greene, until after the battle of Guilford, when he was made Major, and shortly after, Lieut. Col. of Militia, and was engaged in the battle of Hobkirk's Hill. In the course of the war he suffered heavy losses and made many sacrifices in the public cause.
The letters of Governor Burke, of North Carolina, and some military officers, may serve to give credit to the statements of Col. Dudley, and will besides, be found not uninteresting.
Mrs. Dudley was a first cousin of John Randolph, of Roanoke; a volume of whose letters were published a good many years ago by her son Dr. T.B. Dudley. She is now eighty-one years old; and says in a letter to me, "I have nothing to do but read my Bible and write to my friends."
Hoping that your readers who have a taste for reminiscences of this kind, may be entertained by these, and that they may throw some light on the events to which they relate, I am,
C[harles]. CAMPBELLRichmond, Feb. 6th 1845.
THE TOWN OF HALIFAX, NORTH CAROLINA, DURING THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR.
In the month of April, 1774, he attained his eighteenth year, and had his name immediately entered on the muster-roll of the town company. In the course of that spring and the early part of the summer, politics ran very high in America; and the flame of discord which, lay smothered in some degree, burst forth from Maine to Georgia, upon the arrival of the British fleet and army, that blocked up the port of Boston and took possession of the town which Gen. Gage presently fortified, and thus cut off the communication between the town and country. Upon this event, consternation seized the minds of the inhabitants of America, in consequence of this ministerial act of oppression, as it was deemed; and resistance, though at first breathed only in whispers, was determined upon; because the people foresaw in this open act of hostility, though immediately directed only against the town of Boston and the inhabitants of the province of Massachusetts Bay, the lives and liberties of all Americans involved.
In this state of things, when a gloom was spread over the minds of men, and the first hostile act viewed as "the beginning of sorrows," the captain of the town company resign ed the commission which he held under the king; making, at the same tine, a public declaration, "that he would no longer serve his majesty either in a civil or military capacity, until American grievances were redressed." His subaltern officers followed his example, and presently afterwards the field officers of the county resigned their commissions also, and thus the militia of that county at least were left in a state of anarchy, as it might very properly be termed. The late captain of the company, however, lost no time in convening the citizens of the place and its vicinity, who had formerly composed his command; and after making a short harangue, proposed that they should form themselves into an independent company, and elect their own officers in defiance of all regal authority. This proposition was highly relished, and acceded to by all the company a few excepted who were foreigners, but fellow-subjects; when they proceeded to choose their old captain to head them and most of the subaltern officers, and immediately went into a rigid course of training. And thus, as the writer of this sketch believes, and then understood, was raised the first independent company in America.
In the summer of 1775, the independent town company of which the writer was a member, voluntarily transferred themselves by enlistment to the minute regiment of that district, then raising, agreeably to a very late law of the Legislature, who had appointed the Colonel commandant.
Towards the latter end of November, or first of December, a detachment from this minute regiment, consisting of 250 or 300 men, was ordered into service for the purpose of marching to join some Virginia troops under Colonel Woodford, stationed at the west end of the great bridge on Elizabeth river, near Norfolk; at the other end of which Lord Dunmore, the last regal Governor of Virginia, had caused a fort to be erected, which he garrisoned with a company of British grenadiers under Captain Fordyce. This bridge and causeway were said to be 300 or 400 yards in length over the river and large swamps that lined the margin of the river, and were entirely exposed to the raking fire of the provincials who had thrown up a breast work at the upper end; yet Captain Fordyce, upon receiving orders to dislodge them, bravely advanced with his detachment upon the Americans; but as soon as hie got within killing distance was shot dead, and most of the detachment were either killed or wounded: the remnant retreated to Norfolk, pursued by the Virginians, with whom the Halifax minute men now united. Lord Dunmore, with the British troops and tories, withdrew and went on board his man-of-war and other ships, then lying in the harbor, for safety; from whence, by firing red-hot shot, or by means of some incendiary whom he employed on shore, he contrived to lay the flourishing town of Norfolk in ashes. After this heroic exploit of his Lordship's, the minute men, no longer necessary in that place, returned homewards and reached Halifax early in January, 1776.
But here they were not destined to remain inactive, save for a short while; for early in the next month, (February,) the whole of the regiment was called into service again, when we were ordered to march against the insurgents of North Carolina, who had suddenly risen in opposition to the prevailing power that governed the province at that period, in great numbers at Cross Creek, and who were to have been aided by a British force then lying in Cape Fear to receive them, and were actually commanded by British officers, but who were defeated at Moore's Creek bridge, near Wilmington, with great loss, by Colonels Caswell and Lyllington.
But here again the minute men met with a mortifying disappointment. Having commenced their march by the direct route to Cross Creek, and having reached Rogers' Ferry on Neuse river, in Wake county, we received intelligence of the insurgents having crossed the North West of Cape Fear at that town and were in full march for Wilmington on the Eastern route. In consequence of this intelligence, the Colonel of the minute regiment changed his route, fell down Neuse river through Smithfield, crossed at Whitfield's or Bass's ferry, a considerable distance below, and took the forward road through Duplin county to Wilmington; but although we marched from 25 to 30 miles day, with the view of gaining the enemy's front, yet the regiment did not arrive in time to share in the glory of the splendid victory gained at Moore's Creek bridge. Nevertheless, the minute men performed essential service after the defeat, by making several hundred prisoners with a great number of officers on their retreat up the country; among whom was General McDonald, their commanding officer, and the young, Lord Nairn, who had come to America to try his fortune in the acquisition of military fame; who were all conducted to Halifax, and there detained as prisoners of war until they were sent on to Philadelphia, for the purpose of being exchanged at a convenient time.
1776. After this service was performed, which placed the province in a state of peace and security again, the minute men returned home in the month of March, after performing a tour of about 40 days. But a company consisting of about 60 privates properly officered, mostly taken from the town company, were detailed for duty and encamped on the Court-House green for the purpose of guarding the prisoners of war, and to take care of the magazine of arms and other munitions of war which was established in town about this time.
In the month of April of this year, the provincial Congress of North Carolina, (the title assumed by the legislative body of that province,) met at Halifax, when, among other things of importance transacted during a protracted session by that body, they raised seven regiments more of regular troops, having previously (in the summer of 1775) raised two regiments, which were placed on the continental establishment, completing the quota of that province, and then the corps of minute men was dissolved.
In the spring of 1778, a draft being, ordered for the continental service for nine months it being impossible to enlist men at that time by any bounty Congress or the States could offer the author of these sketches joined two or three others and enlisted a soldier for that term at a bounty of about $400 good money, according to the provisions of a law of that State, which operating generally, enabled it to raise a considerable reinforcement, which was marched directly to the northern army and incorporated into the regiments of North Carolina already there; and ever after, until the close of the war, in 1783, he had a regular soldier in the army.
From this period, (1778,) I remained at home, in the prosecution of my business, until the fall of Charleston in May, 1780, and until Col. Buford's defeat in the Waxhaw settlement in June following, when finding S. Carolina overrun by the enemy and large detachments from his army in that State in the occupation of Camden, Ninety-Six and Georgetown, and the State of North Carolina menaced with instant invasion, I could no longer remain an
idle (though much interested) spectator of these alarming events, but immediately turned out myself; and in a very few days collected a very fine company of 75 or 80 men, composed of the younger inhabitants of the town and its vicinity, and who had mostly belonged to the independent company and minute regiment before mentioned, and were excellently disciplined. Of this company we unanimously determined to solicit Col. Samuel Lockhart, a continental officer then at home, to take the command, which he instantly consented to do; and only taking time to bundle up his baggage and say farewell to his family, repaired to town, and putting himself at our head instantly marched with the view of joining Gen. Gates's army, then crossing the State for Camden, when, after his junction with the division of Major Gen. Caswell, this company was placed at the head of the light infantry corps of Gen. Gates's army, first placed under the direction of Major Armstrong, a continental officer, and then under that of Col. Porterfield of the Virginia line, which corps, strange as it may seem, for more than a fortnight, while moving slowly on to Camden, was never within supporting distance, being often 6 or 8 miles in front, without being but once molested by the enemy, although we kept close upon his heels, moving as he moved, notwithstanding Tarleton's vigilance, who was closely watching our motions with an overwhelming force, so much did the British Colonel seem to have lost his spirit of enterprise and his thirst for American blood at this period. At length the light corps reached Rugeley's Mill (Clermont,) 12 miles from Camden on the great Waxhaw road, the enemy moving slowly before us, and withdrawing post from this place retired into Camden. In the meantime Gates was advancing on another road more to our right and reached Rugeley's shortly after us, where he established his head-quarters for about four days, (until the Virginia militia under Stevens arrived,) pushing the light infantry corps, consisting at that time of only about 250 foot, four miles in his front, out of supporting distance again, should Tarleton recoil and strike at us, as he had it in his power to do with effect for four successive days.
At length the fatal night of the 15th August, 1780, arrived, when Gates, precisely at 10 o'clock, agreeably to general orders just issued, put his army in motion the light troops moving simultaneously, joined but a few minutes by 200 exhausted raw Virginia militia, and Col. Armand's corps of dragoons, consisting of about 60 privates, marching in order of battle after the following disposition: the foot divided into two bodies, moved by files through the open piney woods plain, 25 yards out of the great Waxhaw road; the right flank headed by Col. Porterfield (commandant of the whole corps in person,) whilst Capt. Drew with his Virginia regulars, (about 55, and mostly raw levies,) composed the leading company of that flank. The left flank of infantry, under the care of Major Armstrong, moved in like order, having the Halifax volunteers, headed by Capt. Lockhart, for his leading company. Col. Armand,with his dragoons in column, occupied the road which was here a dead level and very spacious. It became my duty by direction, to post myself on the right side of Colonel Porterfield, as he had on several occasions before, made use of me (a private soldier) to carry his orders to other officers of his command, and in one or two instances, to repair to the main army on business. In this order we slowly advanced, to give time to the main army to approximate us in the most profound silence; it being expressly stated in Gen. Gates's last orders, that any person speaking above his breath, should be instantly put to death on the spot where the violation occurred. Lord Cornwallis, as it was afterwards ascertained, by a singular coincidence, put his army in motion at the same hour in the night that Gates moved, to strike him in his camp at Clermont the next morning at break of day, while Gates's object was to move down upon Camden that night. The consequence of this simultaneous movement of both armies was, that we met about half way near Sutton's plantation between 12 and 1 o'clock in the night. The moon was at full and shone beautifully; not a breath of air was stirring, nor a cloud to be seen big as a man's hand. Consequently, we could see to fight in the open piney wood plains, destitute of brush wood almost, as well in the night as in the day. Tarleton, with his dragoons, (said to be 350,) with a suitable number of infantry, composed the British van. Armand's videt, who rode about 300 yards in our front, descried the enemy advancing upon him, and at that instant emptied his pistol, and came clattering in with all the speed his horse could make. The discharge of the pistol was most distinctly heard through all the American corps. A pause ensued, when Col. Armand, in the road, who discovered the British dragoons, put spurs to his horse, and at full speed dashed from the road to the front of our right flank of infantry; and leaning over his saddle, in an audible whisper said to Col. Porterfield, " there is the enemy, Sir must I charge him." Porterfield, who was a serious man, of few words, and slow of speech, gravely replied in the tone of Armand, "by all means, Sir." I was at this moment, as I had been constantly before, riding on the right side of the American commandant, as near as I could conveniently get; and anxiously desirous of hearing Armand's brief communication to his Col. Commandant, leant over myself almost upon the withers of Porterfield's horse, and distinctly heard Armand's communication and the question it involved, together with the reply, although all was expressed only in a whisper. Armand, instantly wheeling his horse, rushed on to the head of his column,
which he had left but a few seconds before, when Tarleton, sounding a charge, came on at the top of his speed, every officer and soldier with the yell of an Indian savage at every leap their horses took, crying out, "charge, charge, charge," so that their own voices and the echoes resounded in every direction through the pine forest. Armand stood his ground and received the enemy's charge: to the front sections of each party emptying their pistols before the dreadful clashing of sabres, which I instantly succeeded. Col. Porterfield, now breaking silence, as soon as he heard the enemy's clamor, and saw their swift approach towards the front of Armand's column, with his usual composure and deliberate manner, ordered his right flank of infantry to "advance," which order was hastily executed in a step approaching to a trot, keeping our due distance from the road, and in a line parallel to it, when pretty well covering Tarleton's left flank, though we were far from seeing to its rear, by reason of the great length of his column. Porterfield ordered "halt, face to the road and fire." This order was executed with the velocity of a flash of lightning, spreading from right to left, and again the piney forest resounded with the thunder of our musketry; whilst the astonished British dragoons, looking only straight before them along the road, counting no doubt with certainty upon extirpating Armand's handful of cavalry, and not dreaming that they were flanked on the right and on the left by our infantry, within point-blank shot, drew up, wheeled their horses, and retreating with the utmost precipitation, were out of our reach before we could possibly ram down another cartridge. This firing, however, announced to the two commanding generals their certain proximity, unexpected as it i was, and they both took their measures with promptitude accordingly. But to return to the American infantry and cavalry. The shock and clangor of the charge of cavalry just mentioned, in the sight of raw, fatigued, and undisciplined militia, (except Drew's leading company on the right flank, and the Halifax volunteers, under Lockhart, on the left,) who had never before seen an enemy in arms, and within 25 steps of the road, instantly fled and retreated to our main body, and Armand's dragoons did the same a few of the leading sections in front, who fought near the person of their Colonel, excepted. Near the whole of his column, without waiting to ascertain the success of the front sections engaged with the enemy hand to hand with the sabre, nor to see the effect of the fire of the infantry, shamefully abandoning their Colonel, and the few that fought about him, wheeled and retreated in inextricable confusion, carrying dismay and disorder into the ranks of the Maryland troops, composing the front division of Gates's army, advanced, it seems, to within a mile of the ground where the light troops were engaged such, I mean, as maintained their posts, who were indeed but few out of 450 who composed our front. Armand bravely maintained the onset at first against vastly superior numbers, was forced to save himself by flight with he loss of his horseman's cap, and followed his dispersed troops to the main body. What gave me infinite pain, at this critical juncture, was to see the left of Drew's company of regulars, with his subalterns, on whose firmness and prowess I had made sanguine calculations, fall back in much disorder upon the first meeting of the cavalry, and before we had fired a single musket. Watching the motions of our own troops, as well as those if the enemy, with eyes eagerly bent in every direction, and seeing the shameful defection of this portion of our infantry, without saying a word to Col. Porterfield, or Capt. Drew, who were side by side, and too much engaged in other matters to see it, I turned my horse, and galloping down the line along the rear of those who stood firmly, and rushing among the confused men who had fallen back, with the authority of an officer who had a right to command, in a loud tone of voice, called to them to "halt, rally and form the line," without appearing to recognize any individual, or calling upon any name, although I knew them all, having served day and night with them from the time Col. Porterfield took the command of the light corps, until that moment. My command was instantly obeyed, and thus order was promptly restored; when wheeling my horse again, I hastened back and resumed my post by the side of the Colonel. Whilst these things were transacting on the right flank of infantry, the left, under Major Armstrong, were equally panic struck, by the charge of Tarleton's dragoons, and all fled, except the Halifax volunteers, under Captain Lockhart, who, taking their part with decision, poured in a heavy fire upon the British Colonel's right flank of cavalry, which must have done great execution, although we were never able to ascertain the enemy's loss, as we were shortly after compelled to yield the ground upon which we fought without entering the road at all. No sooner had Tarleton received one destructive fire on his right and on his left, and retreated out of our reach, than the British infantry, who were close at hand, advanced in column to the number, it was said, of about 500, but which, probably, did not exceed 350. Porterfield, holding up his fire until he saw his enemy between our two flanks of infantry, commenced his fire at close distance, which was answered by our left flank, under Capt. Lockhart, with equal spirit and deliberation. The enemy seemed for an instant to pause, but conscious of their superiority in numbers as well as discipline, facing to their right and left, returned upon us a heavy fire, which enveloped us from our right to left, in consequence of the recession of so large a number of troops in the commencement of the action, leaving us only 100
or less on both flanks to contend with the unbroken, undismayed column of the enemy; but soon the remains of our left flank, under Capt. Lockhart, receded also, and hastily falling back in an oblique direction from the road, formed on the extreme of the left wing of our army, now forming, and composed of Stephen's brigade of Virginia militia, who had only reached head-quarters late in the preceding afternoon. The conflict on our right, where Porterfield in person commanded, became, therefore, more unequal and destructive; yet Porterfield maintained his ground with great firmness and gallantry for about five rounds, with this handful of men, not more than 50 at this time. The enemy, without leaving the road and advancing upon us as he might have done, pushed his column along until he passed our left, when giving us a cross-fire from both his flanks, as well as from his centre directly in our front, he threatened instant extermination to our brave little band. [ To be continued.]
At length both sides being simultaneously prepared, poured in upon each other the heaviest fire that had been yet exchanged during the conflict. At this fire, Porterfield with horse's head reined directly to the enemy, received a horrid wound in his left leg, a little before the knee, which shattered it to pieces, when falling forward upon the pommel of his saddle, he directed Captain Drew, who was close by his side, to order a retreat, which was done in a very deliberate tone of voice by the Captain, and instantly our little band retreated obliquely from the road, which was wholly secluded from us by the enemy. At this moment I was ten or twelve yards down the line from the Colonel, with my horse's head reined also directly to the enemy, and his nose touching the shoulders of our rear rank. Glancing my eye from left to right as the enemy poured his fire, I fixed it upon Porterfield at the instant he received the ball and fell upon the pommel of his saddle, when wheeling my horse I dashed up to the Colonel, while Drew having given the order for retreat, was on his left side, in the act of wheeling his horse from the enemy, with the intent to carry him off. Locking my left arm in the Colonel's right to support him in the saddle on that side, and having completely turned his horse, we received another hot fire from the enemy directed solely upon us at the distance of thirty yards or less. Upon this the Colonel's horse, very docile and standing fire with the same steady composure as his master, having no doubt been grazed by a ball which he sensibly felt, reared, plunged forward and dropt his rider on the spot, who had a severe fall in his maimed condition, and had liked to have dragged me off my horse with our arms locked, and the horse going off with his accoutrements at the top of his speed, followed the track of the retreating soldiers. At the very instant Porterfield's horse reared and plunged forward, Captain Drew fell prostrate on his face, and that to naturally, that I entertained no doubt but he was killed. The Captain, however, receiving no injury, and being an active, nimble little man, was presently on his feet, and wheeling around the stern of my horse, was in a moment out of sight. Thus left entirely alone with the Colonel, who was flat upon the ground with his head towards the enemy and his shattered leg doubled under him, entreating me not to leave him, I sprang from my horse and seizing him with an Indian hug around the waist, by a sudden effort jerked him up upon his well leg. Then again the Colonel, in the most pathetic manner, apparently dreading instant death, brave as he was, or captivity, entreated me, as he had done before, not to forsake him; the blood, in the meantime gushing out of his wound in a torrent as big as a large straw or goose-quill, which presently overflowed the top of his large, loose boot and dyed the ground all around him. Pale as a piece of bleached linen, and ready to faint with the loss of blood and the anguish of his wound, he made another appeal to my feelings in the manner above described, from an apprehension, as I then believed, that I would not have firmness enough to stand by him under the trying circumstances I had then to encounter, knowing also that this was the first of my battles, and that every man, under his command, even his main dependence, Captain Drew, who had fought many battles, had all fled and were totally out of view, when I replied the second time, as I had in the first instance, with much earnestness and energy, "that I would carry him off or perish with him." Upon this assurance, twice repeated, the Colonel became tranquillized and seemed patiently to wait his doom, which he expected would be nothing less than instant death or captivity, the latter of which, at that moment, in his miserable situation, I believe to have been as appalling to his mind as the first. While we stood thus in front of the enemy, with my horse uncommonly gentle and no ways alarmed at the firing, drawn up close by my side, we received another fire from a platoon of the enemy just in our front, whilst the rest of their line seemed to have slackened theirs, and in no wise annoyed us. Still clasping Colonel Porterfield in my arms and supporting him upon his well leg, his back to the enemy, my face and right shoulder above his left, looking intently at the enemy to see if a file or section would leave the road and advance upon us with charged bayonets, I made three violent essays to throw him upon my horse, which was tall, and thus endeavor to carry him off. My efforts were perfectly fruitless. I was then young and light, and Colonel Porterfield was a man of the largest size, perhaps 6 feet and an inch or two in height, round limbed and fleshy, but not corpulent, although he weighed perhaps 210 pounds and was about 30 or 32 years of age. Although I several times poised him and raised him a little from the ground, yet as he could only stand upon one leg with my support, the other dangling from side to side and sometimes behind as I moved him, and incapable of bounding in the least from' the earth, I was incapable with my utmost exertions of throwing him into my saddle. In this dilemma I ceased to make any further efforts to throw him upon my horse and resolved calmly to wait the result whatever it might be, nor did Porterfield attempt to give me any direction in this emergency, or express an opinion how I ought to act for his relief or my own preservation, but appeared to be entirely resigned to whatever fate might await him in his
exhausted and fainting condition. Still holding up the Colonel upon his well leg, watching the motions of the enemy and not unfrequently turning my head over either shoulder, casting a wishful and exploring eye on every side and in the rear, to see if no friendly assistance could be obtained, however improbable, (for all was silence; not a living soul to be seen but the enemy in the road, occasionally giving us a scattering but ineffectual fire.) I was at last so fortunate as to fix my eyes upon two men at the distance of about 150 yards in my rear, running back with great speed, half bent and with trailed arms, towards where they supposed the main body, under Gates, was by this time halted. Although I could not at the moment divine where these men came from, I yet, nevertheless, with joy as well as surprise recognized them for American troops by their garb, their manner and by their clumsy wooden canteens slung over their shoulders upon their blankets and knapsacks, all which I could plainly discover by the brilliant light of the moon, casting her beams with great lustre over the open piney wood plain. Believing this providential discovery would be the last resource I should be favored with to save Porterfield and myself, I was determined to avail myself of it if possible at every risk, and therefore endeavoring somewhat to modulate the tone of my voice, with great eagerness I called out to them, "come here, come here," without saying for what purpose or mentioning any names. Whether they had seen us before or not I cannot say, but hearing my voice, they instantly turned their heads in the direction where Porterfield and myself stood, though without slackening their pace, and kept on with rather increased speed and bodies lower bent, with no obstruction before them but the yielding wire-grass which was profusely spread over the piney plain about waist high. Seeing them no ways disposed to come at my call to our assistance, and knowing that we should be lost without it, I resolved to make one desperate effort to draw them to us before they should get out of my sight or hearing. I therefore in a very loud tone of voice and with much energy, regardless of the immediate proximity of the enemy, cried out, "by G-d, come and help me away with Colonel Porterfield." This name, pronounced with so much emphasis, operated on the feelings of these two honest young soldiers like magic, and they instantly wheeled and came running to us with all their speed, no longer half bent to conceal themselves among the wire-grass, but with erect countenance and a determined air. No sooner had they reached us and laid down their muskets and fixed bayonets by my direction, than they seized Porterfield by both his arms and around his body to sustain him in the position they found him in upon coming up. Then I sprang into my saddle and ordered them to lift him up carefully over the stern of my horse and place him close to the hind tree of my saddle, (the Colonel instantly clinging to me with both arms around my waist,) and then directing them to resume their muskets with one hand and each with the other to sustain him in his seat across the loins of the horse, taking care to steady his shattered leg so as to keep it from swinging about under the flanks of the horse, and to prevent his falling off behind. All these instructions were obeyed with an alacrity and cheerfulness that instantly won my affections and confidence; and thus fixed, with the reins of the bridle in my own hand, I moved slowly off in a direction perpendicular to the road, not daring to oblique to my right or march parallel to the road to gain our main body, lest I should be intercepted by the enemy, who had pushed the front sections or files of their light infantry along up the Waxhaw road, for some distance beyond the spot where we had fought, and gave us all in a group as we were, a scattering, parting fire, with no more effect than if it had been made with little boy's pop-guns, constructed of the joint of an alder stalk and charged with tow wads; so wretchedly did they take aim, as I had discovered from the first fire at the commencement of the action, for at the distance of only 25 yards from the road many of their balls whizzed along six feet above our heads, while others struck the ground before they reached us, and rebounding passed off without doing much injury that I could perceive, whilst others that were better directed produced, as might be supposed, the most destructive effects, the lamented Porterfield being one instance.
But to resume: thus fixed, with the Colonel clinging around my waist, we marched very slowly off to save him all the pain we possibly could in his melancholy situation. We had, however, scarcely progressed more than 30 or 40 yards before he fainted with loss of blood and the anguish of his wound, and was very nearly falling off backwards over the stern of my horse, but was sustained in his seat by my two faithful companions. We were then compelled to halt, although still in sight of the enemy, to give the Colonel time to breathe a little, I ordering the soldiers to dash some water they fortunately had in their awkward wooden canteens in his face, when, clasping his arms around my waist the second time, for he had unconsciously unlocked his hands when he first fainted, we moved quietly off again, but had scarcely proceeded more than 40 yards further when he fainted the second time, but was soon revived by the use of the same means as were first applied. He then, in the most pathetic and moving accents, entreated me to lay him down and let him abide his fate. whatever it might prove; but this I refused, and exhorted him with all the energy and force of reasoning that I was master of, to bear his miserable situation a little longer and he should be safe, telling him that the enemy was yet still in view, although he did not pursue at that moment;
yet in all probability, nay, to a certainty, his discomfited cavalry would, in a few minutes, return and scour the whole plain in our front, rear and all around us, when we should all be inevitably lost. Yielding to these arguments, the Colonel became passive, and then directing my companions to hold him fast in his present seat, (finding there was great danger of his falling off as he became more exhausted,) I sprang from my saddle upon the ground and joining with them, directed them to assist me to lift the Colonel over the hind-tree into the seat of the saddle that I had just left, and then springing up myself behind him and clasping my arms around his waist, I directed one of the men to take the reins of the bridle and guide the horse himself, as I could no longer do it in my changed position, both my hands and arms being employed in this manner. With the same alacrity as they had manifested upon all occasions before, my order was obeyed, and thus we moved on the third time as before. But unfortunately, although the Colonel's new position was more safe and easy than before, yet, nevertheless, growing more weak and exhausted every moment, he presently fainted the third and then the fourth time, while I pressed him around the body with both my arms and sustained him in his seat without his saying another word or entreating to be laid down as he had done before. But in both these last cases he revived by the free use of the contents of the wooden canteens, which contained nothing but warm, dead water, only drinkable from necessity. Most fortunately, at the last instance of his fainting, we were emerging into a little thicket of small persimmon bushes, about waist high, growing among the wiregrass, a phenomenon I had never before seen in the open piney wood plains. At first it had been impracticable to place a bandage around his leg, as we had neither time nor means to accomplish it, though it would evidently be attended with advantage to the unfortunate Colonel, but there was no brush-wood or other growth from which a handful of twigs could be cut for the purpose of splintering his leg before the bandage was applied. No sooner, therefore, did I cast my eye over the aforesaid cluster of little persimmon shrubs, than the idea of availing myself of their use occurred. And directing the soldier who had the bridle-rein in his hand and was guiding the horse to halt, I slipped off from behind Porterfield and requested him to tear off a bandage from one side of his blanket its whole length, whilst I should, pulling out my pocket knife for the purpose, cut a bundle of twigs 10 or 12 inches in length and hastily trim them to apply all around the Colonel's leg before the bandage was wrapped over them. This request was also instantly complied with, and the bundle of pliant twigs being expeditiously prepared with the assistance of this soldier, whilst the other held Porterfield fast in the saddle, I very soon bound up his leg in many folds of the strip of blanket as tight as I could draw it, which almost entirely stanched the blood, and then resuming my seat behind him we soon moved on again for the last time, steering our course as before, due West as near as possible. This surgical-like operation was of infinite, advantage to Porterfield, who no more fainted or complained. And thus we moved on without any further interruption or delay, perhaps a mile and a half from the road where we fought, when we were stopped by one of those large, flat, impassable morasses, that so frequently occur in the pine plains of South Carolina, extending an unknown distance from North to South and nearly parallel to the road we had recently left. Here, of necessity, we were obliged to halt, and fortunately striking the margin of the morass, where grew a large laurel sapling with its dark green and glossy leaves just in the edge of the marsh, with a wide spreading bushy top which cast a deep shade upon the ground eastward, I determined to lay the exhausted Colonel down, and stretching him at full length in the shade of the laurel with his leg and thigh bolstered up with my great-coat which was fastened to the pomel of my saddle, and taking time to tie my horse to a limb of the same laurel with his fore feet in the water and mud to conceal him as much as possible in the dark shade of the sappling, as well as Porterfield and myself, resolving to remain alone by Porterfield's side, I sent off my two faithful companions, with directions to search for Gates' army, where or at what distance we knew not; nor did Porterfield offer a conjecture on the subject, or give a single order from first to last respecting the premises, seeing that every thing was done by ardent friends that mortal man under existing circumstances could accomplish for his relief and safety. The order I gave them was, upon finding the army, to bring up two or three surgeons and as many men as would afford a relief or two to bear off the Colonel on a litter. No sooner did I deliver this request, than these two willing, generous soldiers, with their arms in their bands and their knapsacks and canteens slung upon their backs, departed almost in a run to execute the order just received, upon the speedy execution of which depended the life of the Colonel as well as my own. Porterfield was lying in the shade of the laurel on the edge of the morass with his feet towards Camden. I laid my unsheathed sabre and pistols on the ground by his side and within a few feet of my horse. It now being two hours before day-break, I laid myself down along-side of the Colonel, feeling weary after fatiguing marches in the hot season.
July, but especially for the last seventeen or eighteen days after the volunteers were placed in the light infantry corps, where, in the midst of starvation, we spent sleepless nights, and consumed the long days of July and August in fatiguing marches over scorching bald sand hills and burning piney
wood plains, often without a drop of water to slake our thirst or cool our parched lips and tongues; never remaining in one position ten minutes at a time, often only five, but were continually shifting our ground from one undulation of the plain, and from one copse of black-jack shrubs to another, to be safe from surprise, or the charge of British dragoons, always to be expected and easily effected by their overwhelming superiority, while we had literally none; Armand's dragoons never acting with us, and the few militia light-horse from the upper country of North Carolina sticking close to Major General Caswell's division, which, as well as the continental troops, was always out of supporting distance. Thus prostrate on the earth, Porterfield being indisposed to talking from natural taciturnity and from exhaustion, a painful silence ensued, which however, was sometimes interrupted first, by our own light-horse in fill gallop sweeping along the plain within thirty or forty yards of the spot where we lay close to the ground in the shade of the laurel, and then bearing to their left further off the morass into the plain 'till we lost sight of them and then the British dragoons, who were all in motion, coming in the other direction and scampering over the plain, sometimes at a considerable distance, but the tread of whose horses' feet lying as we were, flat on the ground, we could distinctly hear as well as the confused voices of their riders, patrolling in every direction. On these occasions, Porterfield, in a feeble voice, would make some remarks as well as myself, but finding from the direction they took as I reported it to him, (for he never raised his head,) that they would not be upon us, he sank again into a state of silence and apathy. At last a large patrol of British dragoons came from the South in the direction of Camden, and in a brisk gallop came on pressing close in upon the margin of the swamp, coming apparently, directly upon us, when, as before, I was aroused first by the trampling of their horses and then by a full view of them, after raising myself up upon my left elbow, at the distance of thirty or forty yards, when seizing my pistols, I hastily cocked one and was about to stand upright, but Porterfield, who now expected we should be discovered and consequently lost, feebly stretched out his right arm and laying his hand on mine, entreated that I would not fire, alleging that if I did they would cut us to pieces without mercy; for being in a desperate situation, and feeling no inclination to fall into their hand and trust to the clemency of British dragoons, I had resolved to sell my life as dear as possible, and after emptying both my pistols, to resume my sabre and defend myself to the last extremity as long as possible, announcing, however, at the same time, the name of Porterfield and asking quarter for him, and then with my arms in hand, leaving my horse behind, plunge into the morass and scramble over as well as I could, knowing that further pursuit was impracticable. These resolves were formed with the rapidity of thought, and the execution of them would have been attempted as far as practicable, but fortunately, the same kind Providence who had so wonderfully protected and shielded us during the various past scenes of the night after Porterfield was wounded, did not forsake us now; for almost in the same instant that I descried them, they bore away to their right and I presently lost sight of them among the lofty pine trees of the forest. This was the last patrol that made its appearance on either side, and as soon as we felt safe from further search, we sank down in our sleepless repose. In fifteen or twenty minutes after this last occurrence, as the Colonel and myself were lying in profound silence and the day beginning to break, we heard most distinctly the report of a cannon, fired in the direction of Camden, which echoed through the plains at the distance of six miles, when asking the Colonel the meaning of it, he informed me in a feeble voice, that it was their morning gun. From which circumstances I learned that a garrisoned town always fired a morning gun about the break of day. This was not only a morning gun fired to awaken the garrison, but was also designed, as I believed to serve as a signal for Lord Cornwallis to put his army in motion and prepare for the battle just at hand, both armies having formed in the night and lain on their arms within two hundred and fifty yards of each other. Just at this crisis, at break of day, my two faithful companions returned, bringing with them three or four surgeons, one of which was the surgeon of the Halifax volunteers; the rest were of the Maryland line, together with Capt. Drew, Lieut. Vaughn, Ensign V___, and eight privates of Drew's company. and several more, who, hearing of Porterfield's situation and the place where he lay, followed after them. The surgeons immediately fell to work upon the Colonel, but did nothing more than to take off my bandage and twig splinters and put on their own boards and bandages, whilst the rest of us were busily engaged in cutting down small pile saplings of which to form a litter to carry him off. These things were speedily accomplished, the Colonel was carefully placed on the litter, which was raised up from the ground and placed on the shoulders of four men, when the procession began to move off in solemn silence. The dawn of day then appearing, I stepped back a few paces and putting up my arms and mounting my horse, accompanied them thirty or forty yards in the direction they were going, when suddenly the stillness of the dawn was startled by one of our parks of artillery, which at once served as a signal for battle and as a guide to direct me to the spot where our army was formed, of which I was before, as well as Colonel Porterfield, entirely ignorant, not having time to ask any questions about the matter from my two companions, or any other person who
they brought up with them. Upon this firing, the meaning of which I was at no loss to understand, I wheeled my horse and riding back a few paces to the side of the litter, took an affectionate farewell of Colonel Porterfield, telling him at the same time, that I hoped to join him again in the course of an hour or two, which was in sincerity my expectation, so sanguine were my hopes of immediate victory, notwithstanding the disasters of the past night. Vain hope! I never more set my eyes on Porterfield, for here we parted I steering my course to the army by the roar of our cannon, and the rest of the company, with the surgeons, falling back northwardly and shaping their course in a direction where they hoped to find some plantation at which to leave the Colonel with the necessary attendants, until the battle should be over. [To be Continued.]
About the time Gates left the ground, Smallwood's reserve, which was posted about the road, was brought up, and taking post on Dixon's left, which before was wholly uncovered, after the recession of so large a body of the militia, the contest was renewed with redoubled vigor, the continentals on the right of Dixon led on by the brave De Kalb, having under him Brigadiers Gist and Smallwood, never yielding an inch of ground, but on the contrary, often driving the enemy out of line, and at one time had Lord Rawdon, who commanded Cornwallis' left wing a prisoner. But Lord Cornwallis, who had posted himself about the centre of his army, vigilantly watching every movement of his enemy, and finding that three fourths of Gates's army had abandoned the field, ordered Lieutenant Colonel Webster, who commanded his right wing and who was left without employment, to wheel and strike at Smallwood's uncovered flank and Dixon's regiment, still standing firm and concentrating his army, knowing the great advantage he then possessed over his enemy, made a decisive charge upon our remaining troops and drove first Smallwood's reserve and Dixon's regiment out of line, and the noble De Kalb, covered with wounds and glory, falling about this time, the remnant of our right wing, about 300, also gave way and betook themselves to the woods and swamps, led by Major Anderson, of the Maryland line, a brave and valuable officer, whose grade was of the highest then left on the field of battle. In the mean time while these things were transacting on our right, I had joined myself to Caswell's numerous suite, consisting of Major Lyllington, Richard Dobbs Spaight, John Sitzgreaves and Col. John Pugh Williams, and, I believe, Col. Benjamin Williams, and Col. Thomas Blount, Adjutant General of Caswell's division of militia, when, uniting our efforts to rally the militia, I hastened up to some squadrons of Armand's dragoons, whom I observed in detached parties without their Colonel or any other commissioned officer that I could distinguish, scattered over the plain in front of our flying troops, and dashing in among them, entreated their assistance to stop the fugitives, even if they had to cut them down with their sabres. Yielding for a few moments their reluctant services, we had actually stopped an hundred and fifty or more, and made them face about in line, before I discovered that there was not a single musket in the hand of either of them, so much had my mind been engage in the indescribable scene of confusion before me. Not
I shall interrupt the narrative for a moment, in order to describe the local and other circumstances of this memorable place, twelve miles from Camden, and immediately on the great Waxhaw road, notable in the first instance as the handsome residence of Colonel Rugeley, a royalist then serving in the British army and known by the name of Clermont, where he erected a small stockade, or converted his mill into a fort, garrisoned by upwards of 100 men, which were withdrawn to Camden on the approach of Gates; secondly, by its being the head quarters of General Gates for three or four days, while he was resting his army and awaiting the arrival of the Virginia militia, under Brigadier General Stevens, before he descended upon Camden, and where he issued his last general orders; and also as the expected place of rendezvous in case of disaster, for which accident he had made no provision in his orders, presuming on victory only, where perhaps 2000 men or more might have been rallied had he thought proper to halt there himself; and lastly, as the place where Colonel Washington, of the American cavalry, in autumn of that year, after he took the field, practised a handsome stratagem upon the credulous and pliable Rugeley after the following manner. Exploring the country from the confines of North Carolina, he discovered that Rugeley, having recovered his seat at Clermont after the defeat of Gates, was again posted there with 100 and odd men in a small fort which protected his dwelling, and having neither infantry nor cavalry to attack it, Washington contrived to shape a pine log in the form of a field-piece, and mounting it upon cart wheels, moved up in open view a proper distance from the fort and then sent in a summons under the sanction of a flag, demanding an immediate surrender of the fort (and garrison) or have it battered down over their heads. Rugeley, having no cannon himself to protect his fort, readily yielded without resistance or negotiation, and thus they became prisoners of war, by a stratagem, so simple and so unlikely to succeed, as to give the transaction the appearance of romance. Rugeley must have been not only sadly defective in brains, but was worse for a soldier, he must also have been miserably deficient in courage.
But to return to my narrative. After we crossed the bridge, looking forward eighty or an hundred yards, we discovered half a dozen baggage wagons close by the side of the road, with horses unhitched, notwithstanding the confusion all around, and several of Armand's dragoons plundering them of their valuable contents, for they bore the baggage of many of the Maryland officers, who came from the North well provided with clothing, camp-stores, and even specie, (though a scarce commodity.) Their trunks were broken up and rifled; their Holland gin cases ripped open and the case-bottles profusely handed about and eagerly siezed and emptied by the thirsty soldiers, whilst casting our eyes over Rugeley's large gate by the road side, along the avenue leading up to his house, we discovered the rest of the baggage wagons , perhaps two hundred in all, just filing off and coming out to save themselves by retreat, when the enemy was actually upon them; likewise the grass-guards, who had the care of all the beeves belonging to the army, (fresh beef, and that a scanty allowance, our only food,) just then driving their cattle from the
Urged by the powerful principle of self-preservation, it seemed to be the order of the day that every man should take care of himself, and every one appeared willing to avail himself of this common privilege, without regard to the laws of chivalry; and who can be blamed, in such a juncture of rout and disaster, for carrying himself off to a place of safety with all the dispatch in his power. And, moreover, Blount was a soldier, every inch of him. Besides, I had been before deserted near the field of battle by intimate friends and acquaintances without dreaming of attaching any blame to them.
Passing the few wagons by the road side just mentioned, which, however, were soon put in motion, while in my view, I pushed on with the stragglers and soon overhauled several others that were ahead with camp-women, upon the top of the baggage, of which useful commodity it was said the Maryland line contained four hundred. The waggoners, having take the alarm from the flying troops, drove on at full speed, and now and then coming in contact with a stump overset, when away went the camp-women, dashed twelve or fifteen feet, and some of them with new-born infants in their arms, a sight lamentable to view. The baggage was also strewed about. The alarm increasing rapidly, from this flight of so many fugitives overtaking them, reporting that the enemy was close behind, the wagoners made no attempt to restore the order of things, but hastily cutting out, or throwing off the gear from their saddle horses, betook themselves to flight, leaving most of their horses for the next man that passed to do likewise, 'till the whole were borne off. Before I was out of sight of the wagons near Rugeley's gate, looking round to see how near the enemy was approaching, I saw these last in rapid motion; the wagoners in them throwing off the cover, and then strewing the baggage marquees, tents, trunks, boxes and every thing else in the road, in order to lighten their carriage, and in full speed drove on, until a new alarm added to the panic already operating upon their minds, compelled them also to halt, cut out their saddle horses, and away in their best speed, leaving the rest for the next footman that passed, and thus, the horses being in such requisition, were soon all carried away. In the meantime, I was constantly overtaking other wagons which I was not aware were ahead, and as if the same impulse acted alike upon all, they, too, were throwing the contents of their wagons all along the road, and thus it continued for many miles up the Waxhaws road, and it was literally strewed with baggage, so that a man might almost walk upon it without touching the ground. Happily, at last passing all these, with numbers on foot in my front, and continually overtaken by officers of every grade, some militia, but mostly continental, many of whom were wounded were the latest in leaving the field of battle, we all hastened on as circumstances would allow towards the Hanging Rock, eighteen miles from the field of battle, without any disaster or other circumstance occurring worthy of insertion, save one, which I now will relate, as it shows the nature of man and how prone he is to censure and domineer when he thinks he has the power to do so. Having at last gained the spot which I deemed to be in the immediate vicinity of the Hanging Rock, we were in the act of passing over a large flat surface of stone only on a level with the rest of the road, with scattering thorny shrubs growing out of the fissures of the rock very much resembling our large cedar glades in this country,* when casting my eye on the right and left and in front, to see if I could discover the noted mass, called the "Hanging Rock," of which I had heard so much, (and where tghe British had established a post of about 500 men from the time they occupied Camden, but which Post General Sumpter and his associates had attacked and nearly broken up about the 5th or 6th of August, while the light infantry of the army were at little Lynch's
Being thus left, by the forward movement of Col. Senf, to act at my own discretion, I hastened on in company with a Maryland officer, who joined me hereabouts, and whose tired, broken down horse was incapable of outstripping mine, we agreed to keep together, and being left behind by all of our associates in distress, we moved slowly up the Waxhaw road, through frequently overtaken by others, who also passed us, when, after a tedious retreat for some few miles, both of us wholly unacquainted with that part of the country, we at last reached a small, unfrequented road on our right, called the Rocky River Road, not the one mentioned before, but much higher up the country. We then agreed to dismount and drive our worn down horses on before us; the great crowds of discomfited troops of every description who had preceded us, as well as those about us then, and such as came up immediately after, while we were in view, keeping up the great road to the Waxhaw Settlement. Moving slowly on upon this unbeaten track, to favor our exhausted horses as much as possible, we presently arrived at a small bridle-way, which turned off to the left, that indicated we were near some plantation, where we might possibly procure some sort of refreshment for ourselves, if only water and peaches, and some grass for our starved horses. Taking this path by mutual consent, we soon arrived, through a lane, at a neat but deserted plantation, with an elegant crop of corn growing on it, (already made,) with grass knee high in abundance; and to crown the prospect, and excellent peach-orchard close at hand in full bearing, and the fruit in perfection. Driving our horses in through he yard-gate, and stripping them at the threshold of the house-door, which was shut up, no living creature to be seen, except a few poultry about the yard, we instantly had our horses in the fields, after tying them neck and heels, to prevent their pulling down green corn, and it was delightful to see them mowing down the luxuriant grass; then putting some peaches into our pockets, we retired to the step of the dwelling house door and began our delicious repast, whilst our horses were eagerly enjoying theirs, not, however, without keeping a watchful look down the lane towards Camden, the only inlet or outlet to and from the yard and houses, for we did not think ourselves entirely safe here from enemy, although 25 or 30 miles from the field of battle. But this precarious enjoyment, the evil genius of the day indulged us in only for a few moments; for glancing my eyes down the lane to the brush-wood that chocked up its entrance at the distance of 250 yards, whilst my newly acquired friend and companion happened to be too much engaged with the peaches to bestow a look that way, I descried a cluster of men on either side of the path peeping through the bushes at the mouth of the lane, which effectually screened themselves and their horses from our view, except their hats and hands down to the shoulders, peering at us with prying looks and timid caution, which I could distinctly discern from where I sate, and pointing out to my companion he exclaimed, "the enemy, the enemy." Knowing that if it proved so, we should be lost with all belonging to us for there was no possibility of making a timely retreat, so completely were we hemmed in by fences on every side except along the lane, the mouth of which was already occupied by the supposed enemy, the same dealings and thoughts recurring that I experienced the preceding night whilst lying by the side of Porterfield on the margin of the morass, I resolved to make a merit of necessity, and snatching up my sword and pistols, which lay by me, dashed out of the yard gate with the determination forthwith to advance upon them, in order at once in remove all suspense as to the character of the persons so peering at us through the bushes, whilst my companion
"No-Sir, what news!"
"Gates is totally defeated."
The man looked wild; for he, as well as ourselves, was surrounded by tories, very few of whom, however, were at home, but were with the enemy, or lying out, in consequence of Gates's large army being in front and giving present security to the whigs, though only a short-lived one, the owner of the plantation we had just left being a tory. Colonel Dixon next informed the young man that we wanted a guide, and asked if he would undertake that office, to which he promptly assented, saying, "if that be the case," (alluding to the defeat of our army,) "I can no longer remain here," when, hastily stepping a few paces to the stable where he happened to have a horse up, quickly withdrew him, and hardly taking time to bid his wife and child adieu, was ready to conduct us whithersoever directed. After a moment's consultation about the course we should pursue, as most likely to afford security in our retreat, it was agreed to file off to our right and regain, as quick as possible, the aforesaid Rocky River Road, lying about a mile in our front. Striking this road upon the top of a small eminence, Dixon and our guide leading the way, the Colonel, happening to glance his eye along it two or three hundred yards in our front, discovered a small patrol of five or six British dragoons, whom he pointed out to the rest of us, riding forward in apparent ease and security, without at all discovering us in the rear. Upon this, Dixon proposed that we should instantly charge upon them, as they were but few and we were eleven armed men, though there was not a gun of any description on our company. This proposition was eagerly closed with, and we were saddled, upon the point of rushing upon our enemy, when some of the company providentially cast their eyes to the rear and at the distance of 250 or 300 yards discovered another party of dragoons, consisting of about a troop, slowly advancing upon us as if they too had not discovered us, for the road was here narrow and the woods very brushy. Thus placed between two fires, Col. Dixon desired that we should take to the woods and save ourselves, and leading the way himself with the guides, dashed to the left and we soon lost sight of the enemy, who, in all probability, did not pursue at all. But here again my unlucky genius recurred, (though I was always fortunate in the end,) and all my companions in disaster, the Maryland officer included, soon outstripped my horse, now totally exhausted, except two Virginia militia from Henry county, Va., who came up with Colonel Dixon to the plantation first mentioned. These were mounted upon two sorry tackies which they had picked up in their flight, and were as incapable of keeping up with the rest of the company as mine. And being frightened to the last degree, and without military arms of any kind, confessing themselves utterly
Having reached our night quarters, we tied our horses securely to some bushes and threw them their forage, which was quite abundant, and laid ourselves down to rest on the naked ground, without a great coat, blanket, or any other covering but the canopy of heaven, my two companions presently falling into a profound sleep, which lasted, with no interruption that I could perceive, until I called them up a little before break of day, in order to resume our march, going myself in the meantime, after rising, to see if our horses were safe and all well near our camp.
Then of the Town of Halifax, North Carolina, During the Revolutionary War
Rising by times and driving our horses on before us in an oblique direction to our right, we soon gained the road we had left the preceding night, before the dawn of day, and without any interruption, or seeing a living soul, we reached Captain Leggett's, on Sugar Creek, about 12 or 14 miles from Charlotte, in North Carolina, at the hour of 11 o' clock in the afternoon. Here I was astonished to find so many troops who had reached this hospitable mansion before me, said to be about 300, all of whom except a few who had just finished their delicious repast of fat beef-steaks, brought that morning from Captain Leggett's harvest-fields close by, in his large farm, which was plentifully stocked with horned-cattle and other domestic animals. Not seeing the Captain about the house, I asked Mrs. Leggett if I could get breakfast for myself and two others that were with me; the good lady replied with courtesy, that her husband and his negro men were then in a harvest-field shooting down and slaughtering cattle, which he would soon bring to the house, when we should have breakfast immediately, all the beef that had been killed that moring having been consumed. Her promise was fulfilled, but crowds were continually arriving, all as hungry and weary, as ourselves, which delayed our breakfast for some time, although the good matron and three servant women were constantly engaged in cutting and frying beef steaks. Moreover, the Captain had hospitably kept some barrels of brandy that morning, which he as freely distributed among the weary officers and soldiers as he had done his fat beef, and continued to do so as long as I remained with him and as long after, (as common fame said,) as he had any to draw. Having thus feasted upon steaks and rested a couple of hours longer to refresh our horses, we pushed on towards Charlotte, driving them before us as heretofore. But feeling ourselves safe for the present, we moved on slowly to another house some 6 or 7 miles thence, on another road more to our left, where a great concourse of officers and soldiers had collected, and where, finding several acquaintances, I put up there for the night and slept in a large barn upon fresh wheat and straw, the first shelter and bed I had enjoyed since the departure of the light troops from our position at the junction of Cheraw and Rocky River roads, 36 miles below Camden. Setting out thence next morning, but not early, without meeting any other occurrences worth mentioning, except being overtaken and passed by some hundreds pressing on to the same place, I at last arrived there about 10 o'clock on Saturday morning, the third day of our retreat, and putting up at a public house immediately asked for breakfast. I was never in my younger day accustomed to despondency, but, on the contrary, in most cases, was perhaps of too sanguine a disposition. I therefore had not considered our defeat, (or my own private losses,) an irretrievable calamity, and if it was, it was common to us all, and I had no right to complain more than others. When I arrived at the little village of Charlotte, I found it filled with soldiers and officers of every grade, both continental and militia, among the latter, Major General Caswell: among the former, at that time, was Colonel Otho Holland Williams, the Adjutant General, perhaps as valuable an officer as belonged to our discomfited army, who seemed to be at their head, for as yet Generals Smallwood and Gist had not arrived and the brave Baron de Kalb was killed. Among others I found a number of gentlemen, my own particular friends and acquaintances already mentioned, with whom I had acted on the field of battle and in the early part of our retreat all wearing cheerful faces. These, with one accord as soon as they heard of my arrival, (for they were dispersed about town,) came to my quarters to shake hands and congratulate me on my good fortune. What we call good and bad fortune, wealth and poverty, are all at last but mere circumstances in man's life, which nine-tenths, if not the whole of the human race are doomed to experience in one shape or another. And he, perhaps, is the wisest man who can endure all or any of these, if not with stoical indifference, yet at least with philosophic fortitude.
But to come to the point: it will be recollected that I have already stated, when I came to the summit of the long hill on the lower side of Rugeley's mill race, I there found my light baggage wagon, without attendants or horses, from which I wished to snatch a portmanteau, (for there were many in it,) but was prevented by the swift approach of the enemy. It seems that some man who had passed me, finding the wagon in that situation, had snatched out the first portmanteau he could lay hold of, and after carrying it a few miles, became tired of his burden, and falling in at that time with one of Col. Armand's dragoons, pressed him to carry it on to Charlotte, where * * * * * exploits of the Major,* one of the gallant associates of the noble, brave and persevering Sumpter, and therefore felt a strong desire to see him, which, having signified to my commander, we instantly departed to the house where I understood the Major was quartered. Here we found him surrounded by a group of men leaning upon the back wall of the room, resting his left arm upon a pile of empty barrels, and with a serious, downcast countenance; listening to the recital of a man just then arrived,
with apparent grief and horror. None of us, nor the inhabitants of the place, had, until that moment, heard the melancholy tidings of Gen. Sumpter's defeat on the West side of the Wateree. Sumpter, hovering about the country near Camden on that side of the river, with four hundred of his faithful associates, gained intelligence of the approach of a rich convoy of stores, consisting of 42 wagons with a proper escort coming from Ninety-Six to the army at Camden, and that they would soon reach the ferry one mile below. Conveying this intelligence immediately to Gen. Gates, with a request that he would send him a reinforcement of continental troops, with two field-pieces to batter down the fort which covered the ferry, when he would be able to seize the rich prize then almost in his grasp. Gates was highly pleased with the information; and although he greatly weakened his most efficient force thereby, caused a detachment to be immediately selected, of four hundred Maryland troops, placed under Colonel Woodford, and two brass six pounders, on the 15th, and forthwith marched to Sumpter. The consequence was that Sumpter readily possessed himself of the prize on the morning of the 16th, whilst Gates and Lord Cornwallis were engaged in the desperate strife that terminated in the overthrow of our army; neither of the contending Generals at that time knowing of the fate of the British convoy. As soon as Sumpter has accomplished his object, he hastened his retreat up the country with his wagons and prisoners; and avoiding the British post at Little river on that side of the Wateree, 20 miles above Camden, and commanded by Colonel Turnbull, he began to feel himself, safe and slackened his retreat in order to favor his exhausted troops, who had taken no repose for three days and nights. Pushing on, however, to Rocky Mount, he encamped there for the night, and next day marched ten miles further up to Fishing Creek, which he crossed about noon on the 18th and halted his troops, entirely overcome by fatigue and the excessive heat of the weather.
Lord Cornwallis, receiving intelligence on the field of battle in the course of that day, (the 16th,) of the loss of his convoy, immediately turned his attention to its recovery and as soon as the duties he was then engaged in would permit, ordered Colonel Tarleton to be in readiness early the next morning, (the 17th) with his horse and some foot to pursue, retake the convoy and prisoners, and break up Sumpter's force. Tarleton, in obedience to orders, put his troops in motion early next morning, and with his accustomed velocity, dashed up on the Eastern side of the river and crossing at Rocky Mount ford, soon found himself in the vicinity of Sumter's rear. The General had permitted his troops to repose themselves in any manner their fancy inclined. Many had thrown themselves on the ground under the wagons in the road, to shield themselves from the burning rays of a vertical sun; others were lying about under bushes, near the margins of the road, most of them asleep, whilst the rest were recruiting themselves by bathing in the river. Thus situated, with slender out-guards, which the enemy in some degree eluded, Tarleton rushed upon them almost entirely defenceless and soon made and easy conquest, retook the convoy and prisoners, and destroyed nearly half Sumpter's force, estimated, including continentals, at 800. It was to this force directing its course towards Charlotte, that every one, after the fatal disaster of the 16th, influenced by one common impulse or sentiment, looked for safety to North Carolina: considering that it would be the rallying point for the militia and volunteers of the strong and patriotic counties of Mecklenburg, Rowan, &c., as well as the remnant of continental troops, that might be saved after the dreadful slaughter of the 16th, who, it was presumed, would rally there, and some of whom had actually arrived. Fatal reverse, fatal and heart-rendering disappointment! It was to the recital of this horrid story that Major Davie* and the rest of the group already mentioned were so attentively listening with down cast looks and almost bursting hearts, when my companions and myself entered the room.
The North Carolina Militia, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Dudley, having served a tour of duty, agreeable to an act of the legislature, is hereby discharged from the Southern Army.
Given in camp near Camden this 11th May, 1781.
By order of Major Gen. Green.
MOUNT PLEASANT, 3rd June, 1781.Sir, I received you favour of this morning, and am glad to hear that the Caswell company of horse are come, tho' they have been very slow. I wish you to march to Chatham immediately; and as to waiting for the company ordered to be raised there, I doubt will be needless, if they are not already raised; for the Colonel had orders before the Col. of Caswell, and if they are not ready at your arrival, it will appear that nothing is to be expected from that country. However, your movements after you reach Chatham, will depend on circumstances, at present unknown to me and you. If Fanning should be in, or near the county, and his numbers not superiour to yours, you will attack him. If he should be gone to some considerable distance, and there is a probability of increasing your body by halting in Chatham a few days, I would advise you to waite; but in all these things you are to
exercise your own judgment. You are not to expect any reinforcements from Granville or Randolph, until you reach that county. I beg you to make the defeating of Fanning your first and principal object, though you should be obliged to follow him to a considerable distance. Should that be the case, you will be joined by the whigs in the counties through which you march, and the further he goes his numbers will decrease. When that pursuit is over, be pleased to return to Randolph county and give the enemies to government a sufficient scourge. I have wrote to Col. Collier to strengthen you on your arrival: be pleased to assist him in mustering and turning out his quota of twelve month men. Your tour may be finished in that county, unless some capital object should call you some other way. As to compelling the abettors of Fanning to make good the damage he has done you and Col. Read, I think it is reasonable, and leave you at liberty therein;* but hopes in the meantime you will use every means in your power to prevent your men from plundering withal, I would advise you never to forage with a friend. The people of Randolph are so very rebellious that light strokes will avail nothing.
I am your obedt servant,
At Hillsborough }
* When Col. D. was returning from the Southern army in South Carolina, after crossing Pedee, he found that the whole country in his front, upon his right and left, was in a state of revolt, and bodies of armed tories in motion in every direction, whom he could not avoid without a miracle. He had no troops with him, but had under his care a valuable baggage wagon belonging to Col. James Read and himself, filled with the tents and marquees of his late battalion, which had been before discharged; together with some arms and a small quantity of powder and ball; a large trunk of valuable clothing belonging to Col. R., who had left the army some 16 or 17 days before Col. D., and all their camp furniture. Col. D. being thus hemmed in, in every direction, resolved nevertheless to push on as silently as possible, and endeavor to gain Chatham court house, his nearest point of safety and after several days march, crossing Deep river at Searcy's ford, 26 miles from that place, with only a single companion in arms, presently met Col. Fanning and one of his Captains, about 350 yards in front, coming towards the ford for the purpose of reconnoitering, having ambuscaded his men about a mile and a half in our front. Apprehending this very circumstance, Col. D and his friend, nevertheless, in the hope of cutting them off before they reached their party, charged them off before they reached their party, charged them at the top of their speed, and overhauled them just as Fanning rushed in among his men for safety; our horses almost locked with theirs, and our sabers uplifted to inflict the decisive blow. Thus, circumstanced, they were compelled to retreat hastily, and, meeting the baggage wagon, turned it back and recrossed Searcy's ford, where they were overtaken by Fanning's party, all mounted, and in hot pursuit. The wagon and baggage of course fell into his hands, but Col. D. and his young friend escaped, by reason of the superior fleetness of their horses, although pursued 4 miles further.
It was to this transaction, and the loss that Col. Read and Dudley sustained thereby, that General Butler alludes in the latter part of his letter; of which Col.D. had before apprised him. G.D.
It was to this transaction, and the loss that Col. Read and Dudley sustained thereby, that General Butler alludes in the latter part of his letter; of which Col.D. had before apprised him.
Chatham, 4th June, 1781Dear Col.:
Inclosed is a list of the tories who, some small time past, were plundering, &c., the good people in different parts of the country. I greatly wish if they should fall into your hands that you would give them no quarter, but immediately put them to death, &c. I promised myself great pleasure from the thought only, &c., of chastising the d__d villains, and fully intended riding with you a month at least; but my family, (whom I have not seen these four months past,) obliges me to go after, and see about them; and the assembly also interfering, entirely prevents, and puts it out of my power at present being with you. However, pray make use of the most coercive measures against them; and burn and destroy every house, &c., belonging to the scoundrells, who have been plundering, &c., if you can have but good reasons only of their having been guilty of such, villainous practices. I say destroy their houses and distress them all in your power, and I will support your conduct at the general assembly. One Lathrum, together with a number of others (on the list inclosed) stole from me a quantity of China: pray, good sir, if you can get hold of any of it, and will secure it, you will greatly oblige, Dear Colonel,
Your most obedient servt,
*Lt. Col. John Luttrell of Chatham county, and a member of the legislature. To the above letter no answer was returned, Col. D. wholly disapproving of some of the suggestions contained in it, and was entirely unqualified, from principle and disposition, to comply with Lt. Col. L__'s wishes, vehemently expressed. The Colonel's letter, however, illustrates the spirit of the times, and practices of the tories, sometimes dignified with the epithet of loyalists, though, in point of fact, with a very few exceptions, they were nothing less than marauders and murderers. Lt. Col. Luttrell was a man of fiery courage, active, enterprising, and firmly attached to the cause of his county; and had suffered severely from the ravages of the tories his plantation having been ransacked, his property either destroyed or carried away his family fled or sent to a place of safety, at a distance, and himself seeking refuge by flying from
post to post to avoid the grasp of these demons; which would have been followed by instant death had no unluckily fallen into their hands. Considerable allowance ought, therefore, to be made for the exasperation and violence of his letter. Lt. Col. Luttrell, however, lost his life in little more than three months afterwards, in a severe conflict which took place between General Butler on one side, and the infamous Col. Fanning and Col. Hector McNeil, on the opposite part, where the disproportion of men in favor of the tories was as 500 is to 200. Major John Nall, of Chatham county, and a member of the legislature also, was killed in this action, besides many others. On the part of the tories, Col. Hector McNeil was killed, with many more, and Col. Fanning severely wounded. The latter, however, made good his retreat to Wilmington with his booty and a great number of prisoners, among them the Governor of the State, and a number of continental officers and gentlemen of distinction, taken out of Hillsborough and the adjacent country.
WAKE COURT HOUSE, 25th June, 1781Sir,
Your letters of the 13th and 31st, are both come safe to hand, and I have now to inform you that a few days ago a party of the Cumberland and Bladen people, consisting of about 100, fell in with McNiel and his party of tories, mostly mulattoes, within ten or twelve miles of Cross Creek; an engagement ensued and our people were put to the rout, their numbers being inferior to McNeil's party. What loss we have sustained is not yet known here, but is supposed to be considerable. This accident makes it necessary that you should march with your whole force directly to Cross Creek, and join such as may be in arms in that quarter and act against McNeil. Col. Alston will join you on your route down. This movement and the reasons ought to be kept as secret as possible. I am well aware of the great necessity you are under of returning home; but I fear that if you should, all would be in confusion and disorder, as was the case before you joined the regiment. I must therefore, my dear sir, endeavor to prevail on you to continue with the regiment during the sitting of the general assembly, which I suppose will not be longer than two or three weeks from this time.*
You will be pleased to detach a Lieutenant and 12 or 15 men to the North side of Cape Fear river, into the neighborhood of Col. James Kenon in Duplin county, or to such other place as Major Moulton, of said county, may advise, to whom you are to refer the Lieutenant you send. This officer, when posted, is to keep watch over the movements of the enemy at Wilmington; and in case the enemy should move this way, notice thereof is to be sent immediately to me at this place, and also to you wherever you may be; and you are desired in that case to move this way also, so as to fall in the enemy's front; but do not advise you to come to an engagement unless you have the fairest prospect of success. If any thing comes to your knowledge which you think the general assembly ought to know, be pleased to give me the earliest notice.*[*]
I am Sir, your obedt servant,
By express. } P.S. Send one of your men with a return of your men, arms, and rounds of ammunition.
*The paragraph in the foregoing letter which personally applies to Col. D., was predicated on the following circumstances. On the very out-set of his tour, Col. D. received advices from Halifax, the British, under the guidance of Lord Cornwallis, had plundered him of merchandise and other property to a large amount, in that town. But these misfortunes Col. D. kept concealed in his own bosom, determined not to think of returning home until he should have defeated Fanning, according to the tenor of his instructions from Gen. Butler, or compelled him to abandon the country with his troops, or such of them as might choose to follow his fortunes. This latter event, after various maneuvers on both sides, being happily accomplished, Col. D. believed he might be spared from his regiment, at least for some time, and accordingly communicated his wish to Gen. Butler, presuming, at the same time, to give his opinion as to the disposition of the troops into the several counties most in danger, and therefore most interested in the benefit of their aid, always to be in motion. This request on the part of Col. D., for leave of absence, produced the reply contained in the foregoing letter of Gen. Butler; when he made no hesitation about remaining with his regiment in compliance with the General's wishes, so forcibly expressed.
G.D.*[*] The circumstances contained in this letter truly depict the wretched and humiliating condition of the large state of North Carolina at this crisis. Without continental troops without a regiment, or single company of militia in arms, except the regiment of volunteers commanded by Col. D. in one of the two upper districts of the state; and without arms; whilst Col. Fanning had been ranging through a large tract of country, plundering, burning, killing, or driving away the whigs to seek refuge in some distant place, to avoid his murderous hands when the general assembly, the governor, the council, and all the other civil officers of government and the archives of the state were collected at Wake court house, and Fanning, in the West and South, within striking distance on one hand, and a garrison of veteran troops belonging to the enemy in Wilmington, on another hand; from whom a visit was daily expected; without any troops in the field to interpose, save the regiment of volunteers already mentioned, who, although ordered away in another direction, could not be spared from the ground they occupied, without producing the most disastrous results; for, Fanning, although driven out for the present, was far from being effectually subdued, as subsequent events fully demonstrated.
WAKE COURT HOUSE, 27t of June, 1781Sir, I received your favour of yesterday, and I am very sorry to find that the gentlemen volunteers, of Hillsborough district, have refused to march to the neighbourhood of Cross Creek, for no other reason, but because they are afraid of falling I with the enemy there. I beg leave to inform you sir, that I made no such bargain with the men; neither are my orders to the Colonels tantamount to it.* However, I have received orders from his Excellency, Thomas Burke Esqr., who is appointed Governor, to request of you to march your regiment to the South side of Cape Fear river, near to Cumberland county line, and remain there 'till further orders. As soon as you have taken post, let me hear from you. I am Sir, with unfeigned respect,
JOHN BUTLER, B.G.Col. Dudley.
*When General Butler received orders from Gov. Nash to raise a regiment of light horse of the above description, the men were not only to equip themselves with arms, but to find their own horses, and therefore none but volunteers would answer the purpose for which this regiment was sent into service drafted militia, serving on foot, could not; acting against as artful enemy of superior strength, and well mounted too, ranging in every direction through a large extent of country and always in motion. It was therefore, that the Colonels in the counties composing the district of Hillsburo' (unknown to Gen. Butler ) entered into a sort of an engagement with the men, that they should not be marched out of their own district; for it was not only a busy season of the year with farmers, but they had their own fire sides, their wives and children, and property to protect from an invading and unprincipled foe in among them, and all around them in every direction but one. When, therefore, Col. D. received orders from Gen. Butler, in obedience to the Governor's directions, to march his regiment against Col. Hector McNiel, some twenty, thirty, or forty miles, as the case might happen, below Cross Creek, through a dreary, piney wood country, and impenetrable swamps, where either rations for men, but especially forage for horses, could be obtained; and moreover, when they would have to turn their backs upon their own homes and every thing that was dear to them exposed to the ravages of an incensed enemy; both officers and men, (for they were all in the same predicament,) absolutely refused to obey orders; nor could all the persuasion of Col. D. bring them to alter their fixed resolve. The insinuation of the General in the foregoing letter, expressed in the moment of irritation and disappointment, was unjust; for both officers and men were patriotic and brave, and would have freely shed their blood in the cause of their country and for the protection of their own property and liberties.
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, July 2nd, 1781.Sir,
I have considered your report relative to the Horse under the command of Col. Dudley, and an clearly of opinion that your intimation to the Colonels of the battalions, as to the service for which the troops were wanted immediately, and in which they would probably be employed during their whole tour, does by no means amount to an engagement with them, so repugnant to all military service, as that, in no event, they should march out of the district. As I am determined to assist upon the most exact obedience to orders, as well as the most manly and liberal conduct towards the soldiers, nothing shall prevail with me to overlook an offence of either nature; and I shall insist that the orders given to Colonel Dudley for marching against the disaffected who were in arms in the neighborhood of Cross Creek, be carried into execution until I see fit to countermand them. You will therefore be pleased to order Col. Dudley to march with the Horse under his command, by the road on the south side of Cape Fear river to Cross Creek, and take post in the neighborhood thereof in such manner us best to avoid surprise and annoy the enemy. When we shall have sufficiently learned their strength and disposition, Colonel Dudley will be so good as to send daily reports of his proceedings and of the enemy's motions in such manner as you will particularly direct him.
Your very obedt servant,
P.S. I will not presume that these orders will be disobeyed; but, if they should, Col. Dudley will immediately put in confinement any person who may begin or excite the mutiny, and if it be general, he will report them immediately to you. I will find means to punish.
* Thomas Burke, Esq., had been just elected chief magistrate of North Carolina. He was a man well calculated for the office, particularly in time of war, being possessed of varied talents; firm, energetic, decided and courageous, and withal a firm patriot. He not only acted a conspicuous part in framing the constitution of North Carolina in 1770, but had also been a delegate from that state in the old congress for several years, and was an eminent lawyer.
WAKE COURT HOUSE, 7th July, 1781.Sir, Your letter of the 6th and the duplicate thereof are both come to hand. I am truly sorry to find that the officers and soldiers under your command still persist in disobeying orders. The Governor has directed me to request of you to arrest all your officers and repair to this place with them, which I hope you will do. The men, as
they are no longer useful, may be left to themselves to return home without discharges, except the one obedient soldier, whom you will be pleased to bring with you.
Your obedt servant,
In pursuance of the above order, Col. D. had the unpleasant task to perform of arresting all his every commissioned officers and repairing with them to Wake court house; where they had an audience with Gen. Butler, and where they defended their conduct with much ability and propriety. The result was that the General quietly dismissed them; the privates, and the staff of the regiment (the adjutant, quarter-master and commissary) having been previously discharged on Cape Fear river. But the consequences of this impolitic measure was attended afterwards to the country and Gen. Butler, but particularly to Governor Burke himself, whose decision could not be changed.
WAKE COURT HOUSE, 10th July, 1781.Dear Sir,
Since the officers and soldiers of your regiment have absolutely refused to march out of this district, and are returned home, your continuance as in officer cannot render us further service. Accept my thanks for the services you have done in this part of the country. If you wish to take command of the state troops intended to be raised. Either in the Horse or foot, I will give you my vote and interest*. I am,
JOHN BUTLER.Col. Dudley.
* When this letter was written, Col. D. being then present, the legislature of North Carolina was in session at Wake court house, and about to raise a legion of horse and foot to consist of about 700 or 750 men, for a specified term, or during the war; to be called "the State troops." Genl. Butler being a prominent member of the assembly and possessed of great influence, was, as well as many other leading members, desirous that Col. D. could be appointed to a high command; the honor which, from his peculiar situation at that time, and the heavy misfortunes and losses he had lately sustained, he was obliged to decline, and to return home, when other gentlemen were appointed to [hold] all the different grades of offices belonging to the legion.
HALIFAX, Sept, 2nd, 1781.Sir,
The bearer, Col. Guilford Dudley, an officer in whom I have much confidence, is dispatched for the purpose of procuring intelligence of the enemy's march and movements. I request you to give him very assistance you can for the better effecting his object. I also request you to give me by other means, the earliest notice of any circumstances, from whence may be derived any conclusive opinion of the route of the enemy, and the points on our rivers at which they may attempt to pass; I hope to be prepared to give them some opposition, although our want of arms will not permit to be as effectual as I could wish.*
Your obedt servant,
* Some time previous to the date of the above letter, and while Cornwallis was lying at Portsmouth, Va., Gen. Muhleuburg had been detached from the Marquis La Fayette's little army, from the North to the South side of James River, with a body of troops to watch the enemy's motions, and to annoy him as much as possible. But before Col. Dudley arrived on James river, Muhlenburg had been recalled, and was them with Gen. La Fayette at Williamsburg; which was the reason why the above letter from Gov. Burke could not be delivered; it being impracticable to cross James River, 3 and 4 miles wide, for want, of boats all the river and bay craft that had been preserved, together with the boats belonging to the French fleet, having been dispatched to the head of Elk to bring down the troops of the Northern army to the theatre of action, Col. D. however on his return from Swan's point, was fortunate enough to fall in with Col. Parker, at Cabin Point, seeking a passage across James river, with about 150 troops, to whom he delivered a letter from Gov. Burke of the same date and tenor, as the foregoing one to Gen. Muhlenburg; though then, from the change of circumstances, immaterial.