The History of the First West India Regiment
Alfred Ellis

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On the 20th of June, General Lincoln made a determined attempt to force the passage, attacking with a force variously estimated at from 1200 to 5000 men and eight guns. Lieutenant-Colonel Maitland's advanced posts, consisting of the South Carolina Regiment, were some distance in front of his works; and a smart firing between them and the Americans gave him the first warning of the approach of the enemy. He instantly sent out two companies of the 71st from his right to ascertain the force of the assailants. The Highlanders had proceeded only a quarter of a mile when they met the outposts retiring before the enemy. A fierce conflict ensued. Instead of retreating before superior numbers, the Highlanders persisted in the unequal combat till all their officers were either killed or wounded, of the two companies eleven men only returned to the garrison; and the British force was sadly diminished, and its safety consequently imperilled by this mistaken valour.

The whole American line now advanced to within three hundred yards of the works, and a general engagement began, which was maintained with much courage and steadiness on both sides. At length the regiment of Hessians on the British left gave way, and the Americans, in spite of the obstinate resistance of the two Carolina regiments, were on the point of entering the works, when a judicious flank movement of the remainder of the 71st checked the advance; and General Lincoln, apprehensive of the arrival of British reinforcements from the island, drew off his men, and retired in good order, taking his wounded with him.

The battle lasted upwards of an hour. The British had 3 officers and 19 rank and file killed, and 4 officers and 85 rank and file wounded. The South Carolina Regiment had Major William Campbell and 1 sergeant killed, 1 captain, 1 sergeant, and 3 rank and file wounded.[5 - "Return of the killed, wounded, and missing at the repulse of the Rebels at Stono Ferry, South Carolina, June 20th, 1779."] The Americans lost 5 officers and 35 men killed, 19 officers and 120 men wounded.

Three days after the battle, the British troops evacuated the post at Stono Ferry, and also the island of St. John, passing along the coast from island to island till they reached Beaufort in the island of Port Royal. Here General Prevost left a garrison under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Maitland, and proceeded with the remainder of his force, with which was the South Carolina Regiment, to the town of Savannah.

The heat had now become too intense for active service; and the care of the officers was employed in preserving their men from the fevers of the season, and keeping them in a condition for service next campaign, which was expected to open in October.



At the opening of the next campaign, although General Prevost had been obliged to retire from Charlestown and to abandon the upper parts of Georgia, yet, so long as he kept possession of the town of Savannah and maintained a post at Port Royal Island, South Carolina was exposed to incursions. The Americans, therefore, pressed the French admiral, Count D'Estaing, to repair to the Savannah River, hoping, by his aid, to drive the British from Georgia. D'Estaing, in compliance, sailed from Cape François, in St. Domingo; and with twenty-two sail of the line and a number of smaller vessels, having 4800 French regular troops on board and several hundred black troops from the West Indies, appeared off the Savannah so unexpectedly that the Experiment, a British fifty-gun ship, fell into his hands. On the appearance of the French fleet, on September 9th, General Prevost immediately called in all his outposts in Georgia, sent orders to Lieutenant-Colonel Maitland, at Port Royal, to rejoin him at once, and exerted himself to strengthen the defences of the town of Savannah.

For the first three or four days after the arrival of the fleet, the French were employed in moving their troops through the Ossabaw Inlet to Beaulieu, about thirteen miles above the town of Savannah. On the 15th of September, the French, with a party of American light horse, attacked the British outposts, and General Prevost withdrew all his force into his works.

On the 16th, D'Estaing summoned the place to surrender. Lieutenant-Colonel Maitland's force had not yet arrived, the works were still incomplete, and General Prevost was desirous of gaining time; he consequently requested a suspension of hostilities for twenty-four hours. This was granted, and in that critical interval Lieutenant-Colonel Maitland, by the most extraordinary efforts – for one of General Prevost's messengers had fallen into the hands of the enemy, who had at once seized all the principal lines of communication – arrived with the garrison of Port Royal, and entered the town. Encouraged by this accession of strength, General Prevost now informed Count D'Estaing that he was resolved to defend the place to the last extremity. On the 17th, D'Estaing had been joined by General Lincoln with some 3000 men, which, with the French troops, raised the total besieging force to something over 8000. The besieged did not exceed 3000.

The enemy spent several days in bringing up guns and stores from the fleet, and on the 23rd the besieging army broke ground before the town. On the 1st of October, they had advanced to within 300 yards of the British works. On the morning of the 4th of October, several batteries, mounting thirty-three pieces of heavy cannon and nine mortars, with a floating battery of sixteen guns on the river, opened fire on the town. For several days they played incessantly on the garrison, and there was continued skirmishing between the negroes of the Carolina regiments and the enemy.[6 - "The True History of the Siege of Savannah," published 1780.]

On the morning of the 9th of October, the enemy, under a furious cannonade, advanced to storm in three columns, with a force of 3000 French under D'Estaing in person, and 1500 Americans under Lincoln. General Prevost, in his despatch to Lord George Germain, dated Savannah, November 1st, 1779, says: "However, the principal attack, composed of the flower of the French and rebel armies, and led by D'Estaing in person, with all the principal officers of either, was made upon our right. Under cover of the hollow, they advanced in three columns; but having taken a wider circuit than they needed, and gone deeper in the bog, they neither came so early as they intended nor, I believe, in the same order. The attack, however, was very spirited, and for some time obstinately persevered in, particularly on the Ebenezer Road Redoubt. Two stand of colours were actually planted, and several of the assailants killed upon the parapet; but they met with so determined a resistance, and the fire of three seamen batteries, taking them in almost every direction, was so severe, that they were thrown into some disorder, at least at a stand; and at this most critical moment, Major Glasier, of the 60th, with the 60th Grenadiers and the Marines, advancing rapidly from the lines, charged (it may be said) with a degree of fury; in an instant the ditches of the redoubt and a battery to its right in rear were cleared… Lieutenant-Colonel de Porbeck, of Weissenbach's, being field officer of the day of the right wing, and, being in the redoubt when the attack began, had an opportunity, which he well improved, to signalise himself in a most gallant manner; and it is but justice to mention to your lordships the troops who defended it. They were part of the South Carolina Royalists, the Light Dragoons (dismounted), and the battalion men of the 4th 60th, in all about 100 men, commanded (by a special order) by Captain James, of the Dragoons (Lieutenant 71st), a good and gallant officer, and who nobly fell with his sword in the body of the third he had killed with his own hand."

After their repulse from the Ebenezer Redoubt, the enemy retired, and, a few days afterwards, the siege was raised, the Americans crossing the Savannah at Zubly's Ferry and taking up a position in South Carolina, while the French embarked in their fleet and sailed away. During the assault the French lost 700 and the Americans 240 killed. The British loss was 55, four of whom belonged to the South Carolina Regiment, who were killed in the redoubt, where also Captain Henry, of that corps, was wounded.

According to the "Journal of the Siege of Savannah," p. 39, the garrison of the redoubt in the Ebenezer Road was as follows:

28 Dismounted Dragoons.

28 Battalion men of the 60th Regiment.

54 South Carolina Regiment.


In the same work is the following: "Two rebel standards were once fixed on the redoubt in the Ebenezer Road; one of them was carried off again, and the other, which belonged to the 2nd Carolina Regiment, was taken. After the retreat of the enemy from our right, 270 men, chiefly French, were found dead; upwards of 80 of whom lay in the ditch and on the parapet of the redoubt, and 93 were within our abattis."

The strength of the South Carolina Regiment at the termination of the siege was: 1 colonel (Colonel Innes), 1 major, 4 captains, 7 lieutenants, 3 ensigns, 15 sergeants, 7 drummers, and 216 rank and file.

Nothing of note took place in Georgia and South Carolina till January, 1780, when Sir Henry Clinton arrived in the Savannah River with a force destined for the reduction of Charlestown. He had sailed from New York on the 26th of December, 1779, and, having experienced bad weather, put into the Savannah to repair damages. Sir H. Clinton selected a portion of General Prevost's force at Savannah to take part in the coming operations, and among the corps so selected was the South Carolina Regiment, which is shown in the return of troops at the capture of Charlestown as "joined from Savannah."

On the 10th of February, the armament sailed to North Edisto, where the troops disembarked, taking possession of the island of St. John next day without opposition. On the 29th of March, the army reached Ashley River and crossed it ten miles above Charlestown; then, the artillery and stores having been brought over, Sir H. Clinton marched down Charlestown Neck, and, on the night of the 1st of April, broke ground at 800 yards from the American works. The garrison of the city consisted of 2000 regular troops, 1000 North Carolina Militia, and the male inhabitants of the place.

On the 9th of April, the first parallel was finished, and the batteries opened fire; and Charlestown finally capitulated, after an uneventful siege, on the 12th of May. In the "Return of the killed and wounded" during the siege, the South Carolina Regiment is shown as having had three rank and file wounded.

Sir H. Clinton sailed from Charlestown on the 5th of June, leaving Lord Cornwallis in command. The latter meditated an expedition into North Carolina, and, for the preservation of South Carolina during his absence with the main body of the troops, he established a chain of posts along the frontier. One of these posts was at Ninety-six, and for its defence was detailed the South Carolina Regiment, under Colonel Innes, with Allen's corps, "the 16th and three other companies of Light Infantry."[7 - "The Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America," by Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton, London, 1787.] Lieutenant-Colonel Balfour was then in command of the post, but was soon after relieved by Lieutenant-Colonel Cruger.

The garrison of Ninety-six remained undisturbed till September, 1780, when, Lord Cornwallis having moved into North Carolina and occupied Charlotte, Georgia was almost denuded of troops; and an American leader, Colonel Clarke, took advantage of this to attack the British post at Augusta. Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, who commanded there with 150 men, finding the town untenable, retired towards an eminence on the banks of the Savannah, named Garden Hill, and sent intelligence of his situation to Ninety-six. Lieutenant-Colonel Cruger, with the 16th and the South Carolina Regiment, at once marched to his relief. Colonel Clarke, who had captured the British guns and was besieging the garrison of Garden Hill, upon being informed of Cruger's approach raised the siege, and, abandoning the guns which he had taken, retreated so hurriedly that, though pursued for some distance, he effected his escape.

In the spring of 1781, Lord Cornwallis had again invaded North Carolina, and, having defeated the American general, Greene, at Guildford Court House, had continued his march towards Virginia, expecting the enemy to make every effort to prevent the army entering that state. General Greene, however, allowed Lord Cornwallis to pass on, and then, having assembled a considerable body of troops, made a sudden descent upon the British posts in South Carolina, where Lord Rawdon had been left in command. These posts were in a line from Charlestown by the way of Camden and Ninety-six, to Augusta in Georgia. Camden was the most important, and there Lord Rawdon had taken post with 900 men.

On the 20th of April, 1781, General Greene appeared before Camden, which was a village situated on a plain, covered on the south by the Wateree, a river which higher up is called the Catawba; and below, after its confluence with the Congaree from the south, assumes the name of the Santee. On the east of it flowed Pinetree Creek; on the northern and western sides it was defended by a strong chain of redoubts, six in number, extending from the river to the creek. Lord Rawdon's force was so small that the approach of Greene to Camden necessitated the abandonment of the ferry on the Wateree, "although the South Carolina Regiment was on its way to join him from Ninety-six, and that was its direct course; he had, however, taken his measures so well as to secure the passage of that regiment upon its arrival three days after."[8 - Tarleton, p. 461.]

General Greene, whose force amounted to 1200 men, determined to await reinforcements before attacking, and on the 24th of April he retired to Hobkerk's Hill, an eminence about a mile north of Camden, on the road to the Waxhaws. Here Lord Rawdon resolved to attack him, and on the morning of the 25th, with 900 men, he marched from Camden, and, by making a circuit, and keeping close to the edge of the swamp, under cover of the woods, he gained the left flank of the Americans, where the hill was most accessible, undiscovered.

The alarm was given, while the Americans were at breakfast, by the firing of the outposts, and at this critical moment a reinforcement of American militia arrived. So confident was General Greene of success that he ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Washington, with his cavalry, to turn the right flank of the British and to charge them in the rear, while bodies of infantry were to assail them in front and on both flanks.

The American advanced parties were driven in by the British after a sharp skirmish, and Lord Rawdon advanced steadily to attack the main body of the enemy. The 63rd Regiment, with the volunteers of Ireland, formed his right; the King's American Regiment, with Robertson's corps, composed his left; the New York volunteers were in the centre. The South Carolina Regiment and the cavalry were in the rear and formed a reserve.[9 - "Martial Register," vol. iii. p. 110.]

Such was the impetuosity of the British that, in the face of a destructive discharge of grape, they gained the summit of the hill and pierced the American centre. The militia fell into confusion, their officers were unable to rally them, and General Greene ordered a retreat. The pursuit was continued for nearly three miles. The Americans halted for the night at Saunders' Creek, about four miles from Hobkerk's Hill, and next day proceeded to Rugeley Mills, about twelve miles from Camden. After the engagement the British returned to Camden. The American loss was 300; the British lost 258 out of about 900 who were on the field.



Lord Rawdon was not in a position to follow up his success at Hobkerk's Hill, and on the 3rd of May, 1781, Greene passed the Wateree, and occupied such positions as to prevent the garrison at Camden obtaining supplies. Generals Marion and Lee were also posted at Nelson's Ferry, to prevent Colonel Watson, who was advancing with 400 men, from joining Lord Rawdon, and Watson was obliged to alter his route. He marched down the north side of the Santee, crossed it near its mouth, with incredible labour advanced up its southern bank, recrossed it above the encampment of Marion and Lee, and arrived safely with his detachment at Camden on the 7th of May.

Thus reinforced, Lord Rawdon determined to attack Greene, and, on the night of the 8th, marched from Camden with his whole force. Greene, who had been informed of this movement, passed the Wateree and took up a strong position behind Saunders' Creek. Lord Rawdon followed him and drove in his outposts, but, finding the position was too strong for his small force, he returned to Camden.

Camden being too far advanced a post for Lord Rawdon to hold with the few troops at his disposal, he evacuated it on the 10th of May, and retired by Nelson's Ferry to the south of the Santee, and afterwards to Monk's Corner. In the meantime, attacks were made on the British posts in Georgia, Augusta itself being taken on the 5th of June, while the post of Ninety-six in South Carolina was closely invested by General Greene with the main American army in the Southern States.

About this time, a change took place in the South Carolina Regiment. Lord Rawdon, in a letter to Lieutenant-General Earl Cornwallis, dated Charlestown, June 5th, 1781, speaks of the difficulty which he has experienced in the formation of cavalry, and goes on to say that the inhabitants of Charlestown having subscribed 3000 guineas for a corps of dragoons, out of compliment to those gentlemen "I have ordered the South Carolina Regiment to be converted into cavalry, and I have the prospect of their being mounted and completely appointed in a few days."

On the 3rd of June, Lord Rawdon had received considerable reinforcements from England, and on the 9th he left Charlestown with about 2000 men, including the South Carolina Regiment in its new capacity, for the relief of Ninety-six. In their rapid progress over the whole extent of South Carolina, through a wild country and under a burning sun, the sufferings of the troops were severe, but they advanced with celerity to the assistance of their comrades. On the 11th of June, General Greene received notice of Lord Rawdon's march, and immediately sent Sumpter with the whole of the cavalry to keep in front of the British army and retard its progress. Lord Rawdon, however, passed Sumpter a little below the junction of the Saluda and Broad Rivers, and that officer was never able to regain his front.

In the meantime, the Americans were pushing hard the garrison of Ninety-six; they were nearly reduced to extremities, and in a few days must have surrendered; but the rapid advance of Lord Rawdon left Greene no alternative but to storm or raise the siege. On the 18th of June, he made a furious assault upon the place; but, after a desperate conflict of nearly an hour, was compelled to retire. Next day he retreated, crossing the Saluda on the 20th, and encamping at Little River.

On the morning of the 21st, Lord Rawdon arrived at Ninety-six, and the same evening set out in pursuit of Greene, who, however, retreated; and Rawdon, despairing of overtaking him, returned to Ninety-six. He now found it necessary to evacuate that position and contract his posts; and, having destroyed the works, he marched towards the Congaree. There, on the 1st of July, while out foraging, two officers and forty dragoons of the South Carolina Regiment were surrounded and taken prisoners by Lee's Legion. This blow sadly crippled Lord Rawdon, who was much in need of cavalry, and two days later he retreated to Orangeburgh.

The summer heats now coming on, Lord Rawdon proceeded to England on sick leave, leaving Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart in command of the troops in South Carolina and Georgia. The new commander at once proceeded with the army to the Congaree, and formed an encampment near its junction with the Wateree.

Towards the end of August, while Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart was expecting a convoy of provisions from Charlestown, he received information that General Greene, who had been reinforced and was now at the head of 2500 men, was moving towards Friday's Ferry on the Congaree. The American cavalry was so numerous and enterprising that the expected convoy, then at Martin's, fifty-six miles from the British camp, would inevitably fall into their hands unless protected by an escort of at least 400 men; and Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart's force being too small to admit of so considerable a body being detached without risk, he determined to retreat by slow marches to Eutaw Springs, about sixty miles north of Charlestown, and meet the convoy on the way.

General Greene followed the retiring British, and, on the 7th of September, arrived within seven miles of Eutaw Springs. Being there reinforced by General Marion and his corps, he resolved to attack next day. At six in the morning, two deserters from the American army entered the British camp, and informed Stuart of the approach of the enemy; but little credit was given to their report. At that time Major Coffin, with 140 infantry and 50 of the South Carolina Regiment, was out foraging for roots and vegetables – the army having neither corn nor bread – in the direction in which the Americans were advancing. About four miles from the camp at Eutaw, that party was attacked by the American advanced guard and driven in with loss. Their return convinced Colonel Stuart of the approach of the enemy, and the British army was soon drawn up obliquely across the road on the height near Eutaw Springs.

The firing began between two and three miles from the British camp. The British light parties were driven in on their main body, and the first line of the Americans attacked with great impetuosity. For a short time the conflicting ranks were intermingled, and the officers fought hand to hand. At that critical moment, General Lee, who had turned the left flank of the British, charged them in the rear. They were broken and driven off the field, their guns falling into the hands of the Americans, who eagerly pressed on their retreating adversaries.

At this crisis, Colonel Stuart ordered a strong detachment to take post in a large three-storey brick house, which was in rear of the army on the right, while another occupied an adjoining palisaded garden, and some close underwood. The Americans made the most desperate efforts to dislodge them from their posts; but every attack was met with determined courage. Four pieces of artillery were brought to bear on the house, but made no impression on its solid walls, from which a close and destructive fire was kept up, as well as from the adjoining enclosure. Almost all the gunners were killed and wounded; and the guns had been pushed so near the house that they could not be brought off. Colonel Washington attempted to turn the British right, and charge them in rear; but his horse was shot under him, and he was wounded and made prisoner. After every attempt to dislodge the British from their position had failed, General Greene drew off his men, and retired to the ground which he had left in the morning. This conflict had lasted nearly four hours. The Americans lost 555, the British 693. The British kept their ground during the night, and next day began to retreat. About fourteen miles from the field of battle, Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart was met by a reinforcement, under Major McArthur, marching from Charlestown to his assistance. Thus strengthened, he proceeded to Monk's Corner.

Eutaw Springs was the last engagement of importance in the southern provinces. The British soon retreated to a position on Charlestown Neck, and confined their operations to the defence of the posts in that vicinity; while in Georgia, the British force was concentrated at Savannah. The surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, in October, 1781, and the subsequent peace negotiations, put an end to the hostilities in America.

Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton says: "It is impossible to do justice to the spirit, patience, and invincible fortitude displayed by the commanders, officers, and soldiers during these dreadful campaigns in the Carolinas. They had not only to contend with men, and these by no means deficient in bravery and enterprise, but they encountered and surmounted difficulties and fatigues from the climate and the country, which would appear insuperable in theory and almost incredible in the relation. They displayed military and, we may add, moral virtues far above all praise. During renewed successions of forced marches, under the rage of a burning sun and in a climate at that season peculiarly inimical to man, they were frequently, when sinking under the most excessive fatigue, not only destitute of every comfort but almost of every necessary which seems essential to existence. During the greater part of the time they were totally destitute of bread, and the country afforded no vegetables for a substitute. Salt at length failed, and their only resources were water and the wild cattle which they found in the woods. About fifty men, in this last expedition, sunk under the vigour of their exertions and perished through mere fatigue."

At the cessation of hostilities, the South Carolina Regiment and the Loyal American Rangers were removed to Jamaica, and as they are shown in the Jamaica Almanack for 1782 as being then in the island, they presumably arrived there about December, 1781. The South Carolina Regiment was probably dismounted, as it is shown as being stationed at Fort Augusta in Kingston harbour. At this time, the reinforcing of the West India Islands by provincial corps was considered most important, and in a letter to Sir Guy Carleton we find the following: "The object of reinforcing those islands is so important, that His Majesty wishes to have it understood that every provincial corps embarking for the West Indies shall immediately be put upon the British Establishment." It was, probably, on some such understanding that the two corps above mentioned proceeded from South Carolina; but the promise, if made, was never fulfilled, and neither of the two ever appeared in any Army List. The following is the list of officers of the South Carolina Regiment given in the Jamaica Almanack:

The South Carolina Regiment remained in Jamaica until the general disbandment of the provincial corps in 1783. The lieutenant-colonel commandant was given an independent company, and the whites, both officers and men, were pacified with grants of land. The black troopers, however, were a source of difficulty. These troopers, some of whom were originally free, while some had been purchased by the British Government, were in those days of slavery something of a "white elephant" in a large slave-holding colony like Jamaica. The planters, fearful of the consequences of the example to their slaves of a free body of negroes who had served as soldiers, agitated for their removal from the island, but, on the other hand, no other island was willing to receive them. There is no trace of how the difficulty was finally settled, but in a letter, dated War Office, June 15th, 1783, signed R. Fitzpatrick, and addressed to Major-General Campbell, commanding in Jamaica, the receipt of his letter concerning the disbandment of the provincial troops in the island is acknowledged, and the removal of "the blacks of the South Carolina Regiment" to the Leeward command approved of.
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