George Hanger's rebuttal to Roderick Mackenzie's stricture on Tarleton's account of the Battle of Camden
(Late Lieutenant In The 71st Regiment) On Tarleton's History Of The Campaigns Of 1780 And 1781
"Even Lord Rawdon escapes not the acrimony of his pen," &c. &c.
Permit me to assure you, sir, that no person can have a greater respect for Lord Rawdon, both as an officer, or a private gentleman, than Colonel Tarleton; nor is there any one more ready to render that tribute of praise to his Lordship, which his good conduct always intitles him to. But the best of men, and the best of officers, have found themselves in a perilous situation, without any misconduct to be laid to their
charge. Such was the situation of Lord Rawdon in the instance alluded to, and he extricated himself like an able officer.
The approach of the American army, in force, from Quaker Meeting, 6 where they lay under the command of General Du Culb, from whom, at the above place, General Gates took the command, was so sudden and unexpected, that it was not known on the other side the Santee River, until Gates was actually encamped before Lynche's Creek. I hope, gentlemen, I shall not be deemed too presumptuous when I submit the following observations to your superior judgment: —
Had Gates, when he took the command at Quaker Meeting, instantly marched toward Camden, without hesitation, delay, or halting any longer than to refresh his troops,
he then would have had the choice of three decisive objects; namely, to cut off the detachments at Hanging Rock and Rocky Mount — to prevent the two battalions of the 71st regiment, who were stationed at the Charraw-hills, on the Pedee River, from joining the royal army — or, to attack Lord Rawdon before these detachments had joined him. I leave it to your judgment, gentlemen to decide upon the event of the measures I have suggested.
"Our author, in arraigning the penetration of General Gates, is rather unfortunate; his animadversions," &c. &c. &c.
"From his (General Gates's) known character, there is not left a shadow of doubt, that if the measures suggested by he author had been the most proper, they would not have been neglected."
I have already stated the different plans of operation of which General Gates certainly had his choice; and which, by attacking us in detail, might have been fatal to our army. Instead of adopting this mode of attack, he lay for several days before Lynche's Creek, permitted all our detachments to join the army, and gave time for Earl Cornwallis also to join it; to effect which his Lordship was forced to travel night and day, and he arrived in camp but one day before the action of Camden. Earl Cornwallis, after mustering every soldier able to bear arms, did not bring 1500 men into the field that memorable day; Lord Rawdon had not two-thirds that number of Lynche's Creek, before the detachments above-mentioned joined him, and not above 40 cavalry, the superiority of which, on the 16th of August, rendered that day complete, by the pursuit of the enemy two and twenty miles
from the field of battle; and by a total destruction of their baggage, replete with an immense quantity of arms and ammunition for the supply of the whole province of Carolina, who were then ripe for a revolt from the British Government. I have attempted both honourably and candidly to point out the situation of his Majesty's troops at that time in the vicinity of Camden; and I leave it, gentlemen, to your superior judgment to determine upon the merits of Gates's conduct, and Tarleton's remarks upon it, whether it would have been more prudent in General Gates to have attacked our army in detail, which I hope I have proved he was able to do, or to act as he did.
I have neither blindly supported Tarleton, nor rancorously censured Roderick M'Kenzie; I have assigned my reasons for both; could we say the same of our Stricturist, he would appear not only in a more
amiable point of view, but every generous, liberal, and candid reader would listen to him with more attention, and give greater credit to his Strictures.
"And he (Tarleton) has left us to lament, with Ganganelli, that there are some authors who, in their attempts to rise into the uncommon, have fallen into the absurd."
You have reason to lament, for had you (previously to the publication of your Strictures) perused the words of that amiable Pope, they might have profited not a little.
The mention you make of the celebrated Ganganelli, has led me to peruse a work that has afforded me much amusement.
I hope, sir, I may, without offence, be permitted to paraphrase, with very little alteration, his twenty-ninth letter from
Rome, of the 2d of March, 1750, to the Abbe Lami, periodical writer, at Florence, and in my own person, address it to you.
I ALWAYS read your Strictures with pleasure, my dear Roderick, but I wish you would always give the reasons of your Strictures, instead of saying, for example, that Tarleton's assertions are absurdities hitherto unparalleled; that the style of such a work is incorrect; that there are trifles which disfigure the beauty of the book — you should plainly prove the charge. Rules have always need of examples. There is hardly any book of which it may not be said that it contains some careless or affected expressions. When you speak in general, it gives room to believe that you have only glanced your eye over the work which you are giving an
account, and that you are in haste to get rid of the trouble.
Another omission is, your not shewing the best part of the work.7 The good taste of the Stricturist requires that he should be attentive to this: — if a work is not worth the trouble of reading, it is better not to announce it at all than to rail at the writer. It is illiberal to abuse a work, merely to make the public merry at the expense of the author.
Were your Strictures severe without satire — exact without trifling — just and impartial, they would discharge their duty to the satisfaction of the public: — mine is complete
every time that I can renew to you the sentiments of esteem and affection with which
I am, &c.
"It is well known that the public service required Earl Cornwallis to mount dragoons, by the expedient just mentioned; and that the British Government is too just to deprive its subjects of private property, without an equivalent, I readily admit; but that the proprietors have received payment for these horses, is denied. A number of officers, now in this kingdom, are in possession of receipts passed on this occasion by Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton, which remain to this hour undischarged. Many of these gentlemen are reduced to the scanty pittance of half pay, and it would afford them much satisfaction to know through what channel they are to make application for payment."
I assure you, sir, on this subject my indignation will hardly permit me to keep within the bounds of decency; as any deviation from that line, tending to scurrility or abuse, ever disgraces both the officer and the gentleman, and must inevitably recoil on the person it proceeds from. I shall most carefully curb my pen; though I cannot help expressing my sentiments and opinion, and declare, if I had my will, I would order this paragraph to be torn from the whole production, and burnt at the head of the British army. Permit me, sir, to inform you, although it may not perhaps be absolutely actionable, yet it has a strong tendency to a libel.
The exigencies of the times required of Earl Cornwallis to give out an order, that all persons having horses fit for the cavalry service, should deliver them at Col. Tarleton's camp, where receipts would be given for them.
I myself, in the absence of Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton, signed several receipts for horses delivered at our camp; God knows there may be some now extant with my signature; if there are, let them be produced; I am ready to present them to Government. Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton will do the same; but it is most audacious of you to attempt to make the world believe that he has unjustly deprived officers of their property.
"Such effusions of vanity as these have a very disgusting effect. To other officers, from a General of such high birth, and length of service, it was sufficient to be commanded; but this gentleman must desired and requested to do what was merely his duty," &c.
With respect to the words, desired and requested, which Tarleton often makes use
of when he treats of different services on which he was employed, and which you are pleased to point out as effusions of vanity, — if you will refer to dispatches and letters, in various situations of the war, you will find the same language held by many officers. But in this particular part of your Strictures, finding yourself without even a shadow for a charge, or cause for censure, you find yourself obliged to maintain your consistencies by sticking to aspersions, by an unusual exertion of that rancourous severity with which you follow Tarleton through your whole Strictures.