The War In The South
Conquest of Georgia.—When France became the ally of the United States, British statesmen realized that the conquest of New England and the middle states was impossible, but they still hoped to conquer the South. From East Florida the British forces could strike at Georgia, and in November, 1778, the operations began. Thirty-five hundred men were sent south from New York, and General Prévost with two thousand soldiers advanced from Florida. On December 29 British forces captured Savannah and shortly afterward occupied Augusta. Within six weeks Georgia was under British control.
Reconquest fails.—General Lincoln, who had been placed in command in the South, determined to reconquer Georgia. He sent Ashe with fifteen hundred men to recapture Augusta, but the force was surprised and defeated. When Lincoln moved against Augusta, Prévost advanced against Charleston. The manœuvre succeeded and Lincoln was forced to hasten back to assist in the defence of the city. Prévost, his purpose accomplished, slowly retired to Savannah. Numerous letters were sent to the French admiral asking him to coöperate against the British. In September, 1779, D'Estaing sailed for Savannah; Lincoln advanced to assist him, and the city was besieged. On October 9 an attempt was made to carry the works by assault, but the allies were repulsed with a loss of over eight hundred men. Lincoln wished to continue the siege but D'Estaing refused. Despatching a portion of his fleet to the West Indies, with the rest he sailed for France, and Lincoln withdrew to Charleston.
Capture of Charleston.—With Georgia secure, Clinton determined to make another attempt to capture Charleston. He sailed from New York with over eight thousand men, and twelve hundred were brought from Savannah. On February 11, 1780, the troops from New York were landed thirty miles south of Charleston and they soon advanced to the Ashley River. Lincoln should have abandoned the city but instead he foolishly determined to defend it. Gradually Clinton drew his lines about the city. On April 13 Tarleton defeated the American cavalry which had kept the lines of communication open, and when British reinforcements arrived from New York the investment was completed. Soon the garrison and inhabitants were almost starving. On May 6 Tarleton dispersed the mounted militia at the crossing of the Santee River; on the following day Fort Moultrie surrendered, and the situation became hopeless. On May 12 Lincoln signed articles of capitulation; over five thousand men, nearly four hundred pieces of artillery, and vast quantities of military stores fell into British hands.
Completion of the conquest of South Carolina.—After the fall of Charleston, Clinton sent out three expeditions; one northward under Tarleton against Buford's regiment which was advancing from Virginia, another toward Augusta, and a third toward Camden. Buford started to retreat but Tarleton overtook him at the Waxhaws and almost annihilated his force. The other expeditions met with little resistance and Clinton, believing that the conquest of South Carolina was complete, sailed for New York with a portion of the army, leaving Cornwallis in command of about eight thousand men.
Gathering of a new army.—Several weeks before the fall of Charleston, Washington had sent DeKalb southward with Maryland and Delaware regiments and these were reinforced by militia as they advanced. South of the Virginia line they passed through a barren country, shortage of supplies and poor roads making their progress very slow. At the Deep River they encamped and there they were joined by Gates who had been appointed by Congress to the command of the southern department. Gates pressed on toward Camden, receiving local reinforcements as he advanced.
Camden.—A British force had collected at Camden and Cornwallis hastened from Charleston to take command. Gates decided to attempt a surprise attack on the British force at Camden, thirteen miles away. Cornwallis contemplated a similar movement against Gates and the two armies left their encampments about the same hour on the night of August 15. At daybreak they met, but the militia proved to be no match for the British soldiers and fled almost without firing a shot. The regulars stood firm for a time, but when DeKalb fell mortally wounded and Tarleton's cavalry swept along their flank and rear, the line gave way and the retreat turned into a rout. Gates fled from the field and such was his haste that three days later he was at Hillsborough, nearly two hundred miles away. Shortly afterward Tarleton surprised and dispersed Sumter's band, and resistance seemed completely broken.
The War in the South (1778-1781) (Based on E.G. Foster, Illustrative Historical Chart).
Partisan warfare.—British arms had defeated the American armies, but the people of South Carolina were not conquered. The merciless raids of Tarleton's cavalry and Ferguson's Loyalists kept the spirit of resistance alive. Marion, Sumter, and Shelby gathered bands of patriots, who from swamp and forest pounced down on isolated detachments, captured the escorts of supply trains, intercepted messengers, and broke up companies of Loyalists. Between July and December, 1780, twenty-seven battles or skirmishes were fought on Carolina soil.
King's Mountain.—Next to Tarleton, Major Ferguson was probably the most hated and most feared of Cornwallis's officers. His camp at Ninety-Six became a center of Loyalist recruiting, and his band of partisans grew to a thousand strong. They lived on the country, and the property of no man was safe. Ferguson boasted that if the frontiersmen from over the Alleghanies troubled him, he would cross the mountains, lay waste their valleys, and hang their leaders. On September 20, 1780, the borderers under the leadership of Colonel William Campbell, Sevier, and Shelby gathered at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River and started across the mountains. Ferguson heard of their coming and decided to teach the frontiersmen a lesson. He pitched his camp on the crest of King's Mountain, a position which would have been impregnable had his opponents been drilled in the tactics of European battlefields. But the Watauga men had been schooled in Indian warfare. Three times they charged up the steep mountain sides. After an hour of hot fighting the resistance began to weaken, and when Ferguson was killed, his troops threw down their arms and asked for quarter. The victory of the mountaineers is justly looked upon as the turning point in the war in the South, for it gave new fife to the waning cause in the Carolinas.
Greene in command.—The difficult task of reconquering the South was assigned to General Nathanael Greene. On December 2 he arrived at Charlotte where Gates handed over to him a poorly disciplined and half-starved force of about two thousand men. With this insignificant army and aided by local militia and the partisan bands, Greene was confronted with the task of reconquering a province which was occupied by a skillful general whose veteran army outnumbered him four to one. His plan of campaign was matured with rare judgment. He proposed to use a mobile force of about two thousand men to keep Cornwallis busy, while Marion and Sumter harassed the enemy, prevented foraging, and broke up convoys.
The Cowpens.—Early in January, 1781, the main British army was at Winnsborough. Hoping to divide it, Greene sent Morgan with about a thousand men to threaten Augusta and Ninety-Six. The rest of the American army was stationed at Cheraw, sixty miles east of Winnsborough. When Cornwallis heard of Morgan's raid, he sent Tarleton in pursuit with eleven hundred men. Tarleton came in touch with Morgan at The Cowpens. The battle at first was stoutly contested, but Colonel Washington's cavalry turned the scale and Tarleton's force was almost annihilated.
Greene's retreat.—Morgan had accomplished his purpose and immediately started to rejoin the main army. When Greene heard of the victory, he realized that Cornwallis would retaliate, and a pitched battle with the larger British army meant disaster. Furthermore reinforcements were on their way from Virginia and Maryland. Greene's decision was a vital one. He determined to fall back to make a juncture with Morgan and to draw Cornwallis away from his base into a hostile and difficult country. Turning over the command of the main army to Huger with orders to march northward with all speed, Greene rode nearly a hundred and fifty miles in a pouring rain and joined Morgan in his bivouac on the Catawba. He had judged Cornwallis rightly. The British general divested his army of all unnecessary baggage and pressed forward, but in spite of his efforts, the American army escaped him. From river to river Greene retreated while Huger fell back rapidly, the two lines gradually converging until on February 8 they united at Guilford. From there the retreat was continued across the Dan into Virginia. The Fabian policy had succeeded, for Cornwallis had been drawn over two hundred miles from his base and had gotten in such a position that, even if he won a battle, a victory would be barren.
Guilford.—Cornwallis was running short of supplies and he could not with safety continue the pursuit. He decided to fall back to Hillsborough. Greene, whose army had been considerably reinforced, decided to follow the retiring British. When Cornwallis learned that the American army was advancing, he determined to risk a battle. On March 15 the armies met at Guilford. Greene posted his force of about forty-five hundred men in three lines, while the British army was stretched out in one long row without supporting reserves, a disposition made necessary by the fact that it numbered only twenty-two hundred and fifty men. When the British charged, the Carolina militia-men who occupied the front fine gave way and fled from the field. The Virginia militia who held the second line stood their ground more firmly, but when their right flank was enveloped, they too retreated. The hard fighting came when the British met the continental troops of the third line. Twice the British regulars were repulsed, and had Greene followed up the success, he might have won a victory. But he had no intention of risking the destruction of his army. When the British advanced for a final assault, Greene decided to fall back. Covering his retreat with the first Virginia regiment, he retired from the field. He had lost the battle, but the result was as valuable as a victory.
Cornwallis retreats to Wilmington.—Cornwallis had lost nearly thirty per cent, of his fighting force; he was almost without supplies, and his foragers were being picked off by the Carolina guerrillas. His hospital service was deplorable. Leaving seventy of his most sorely wounded men to the tender mercies of General Greene, Cornwallis loaded the rest of his wounded on carts, and started on the long journey to Wilmington, the nearest base of supplies.
The reconquest of South Carolina and Georgia.—Greene followed Cornwallis only as far as the Deep River and then turned to reconquer South Carolina. In this work he was ably assisted by Marion, Sumter, Pickens, and Lee, who during April, May, and June captured several of the outlying British posts, the most important being Augusta, which evacuated on June 5. On April 25 Greene encountered Lord Rawdon's force near Camden. The British won the battle, but again they possessed a barren field, for so heavy were their losses that they retreated to Charleston. Greene next invested Ninety-Six. When he heard that Rawdon was marching to its relief, he attempted to carry it by storm. The assault failed and Greene gave up the siege. Lord Rawdon was unable to maintain his army away from his base. He accordingly ordered the evacuation of Ninety-Six and returned to Charleston. Soon afterward he sailed for England, leaving Stewart in command. The last important engagement occurred on September 8 at Eutaw Springs. The American army was again defeated, but Greene as usual gathered the fruits of victory, for Stewart, who had lost forty per cent of his effectives, moved back to Charleston. In a campaign of eleven months Greene had lost every pitched battle, but the interior of the Carolinas and Georgia had been cleared of the enemy, who retained only Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington.
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