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Francis Marion, Chapter III, Campaign of 1781, part 2

On the 27th of September Gov. Rutledge had ordered by proclamation, that the disaffected should come in within thirty days and do duty for six months. — This measure brought down disgrace, and soon after nearly ruin upon Marion’s brigade. This proclamation is long but to the following effect: —

“That whereas, the British had been compelled to evacuate all their strong posts, and could no more give protection to their adherents, and as many of them still remained with the British or lurked in secret places. And whereas, the commandant of Charleston, having sent beyond sea the wives and families of all the avowed friends of America in town and country; and the brigadiers of militia had been ordered to retaliate by sending the wives and families of such adherents within the British lines; and it is understood that they are in great distress and poverty. Therefore, a free pardon is offered for the offence of having borne arms, provided they surrender themselves up to a brigadier of the state within thirty days, and do constant duty in the militia service for six months; and upon performance of these conditions their wives and children were allowed to return; except such as having joined the enemy, were called upon by two proclamations to return in forty days, in pursuance of an ordinance of the legislature. All such as were sent out of the state for refusing to take the oath required of them by law and had returned. All such as subscribed addresses to Sir H. Clinton and Lord Cornwallis, congratulating them on their victories. All such as hold or have held military commissions. And all those whose conduct has been so infamous that they cannot consistent with policy and justice partake of the rights of citizens. But if they surrender to the commander in chief for the time, and were judged inadmissible, they should not be detained.”

This abstract has been given to show the singular manner of legislating in those times.27 Not, but that it was necessary thus to legislate, as it was certainly better to have some kind of civil government than none. The raising of two regiments of cavalry was suggested by Gen. Greene, and highly approved both by the governor and Marion, and it certainly promised well at first. Col. Hezekiah Maham, who had been elected by the provincial congress a captain in the first rifle regiment, when they passed an act to raise two such regiments, in March, 1776, was now appointed commander of one corps, and Col. Peter Horry commander of the other; he had been captain in the 2d regiment from the beginning of 1775, and was the older officer of the two; the reader will hereafter see the effect of this observation.

As they had no bounty money to give, recruiting went on slowly, and they fell upon the following expedient, which was warmly opposed by Gov. Rutledge at first, but it is supposed was favoured by Marion. All men that could hire a substitute in the regiments now raising were exempted from militia duty. — This soon drew from the ranks the best of Marion’s men, men who had served from the first, and had left their families at home in huts, and still in distress; but they could yet spare one or two negroes, which they did not much value, to hire a substitute to do duty for them. The war was now moved comparatively far from them, and they sighed for home. In the mean time, the six months men came tumbling in by scores, to supply their places. Their new white feathers, fine coats, new saddles and bridles, and famished horses, showed they had lately been in the British garrison. These were not the men to endure privations and fight their country’s battles. Those of Marion’s tried men who remained, could never confide in them; and now, as is always usual in armies, the most unprincipled men enlisted in the new regiments, but were not kept in the discipline necessary for taming such characters, or making them good soldiers. When Maham had got about seventy men and Horry not yet a troop, both their commissions being of the same date, they quarreled about precedence in rank; and although Gov. Rutledge reasoned, Gen. Greene persuaded, and Marion threatened, they could never be reconciled. Maham appears to have been very refractory on this occasion, and would listen to no accommodation. While in the end, Horry acted much in the wrong.

There are in the correspondence of that day many letters of Gov. Rutledge, several of which, without the suppression of names, it would be highly injurious to the feelings of many to publish at the present time; the rest are not interesting, except a few which show the spirit of the times; and are mostly long and able constructions of militia laws, now obsolete. About this time he issued a proclamation suspending the acts of assembly, and making paper money28 a tender in law, which, although strong, was certainly a just proceeding.

Col. Maham having now raised and equipped part of his cavalry, passed the Santee, burnt some British stores in the house of Sir John Colleton, at Fairlawn, and took some prisoners. On the 16th of October, Gen. Greene writes to Marion, “Col. Maham’s success is highly honourable to himself and corps, and I hope will be followed by future strokes of good fortune.” This hope was not realized. A letter from Col. Doyle, of the British, shows strongly what different views, men engaged on opposite sides, will take of the same transaction. It is to Gen. Marion: “Sir, I am directed by Brigadier Gen. Stewart, to represent to you an outrage that has been committed by a party of your corps, under the command of Col. Maham, upon a parcel of sick, helpless soldiers in an hospital at Colleton house, on the morning of the 17th inst. The burning an hospital, and dragging away a number of dying people to expire in swamps, is a species of barbarity hitherto unknown in civilized warfare. The general expects that those unhappy sufferers will be sent immediately as prisoners upon parole. Attacks on hospitals are, among your own continental army, unprecedented. The hospital at Camden was by Gen. Greene’s order protected, although it had an armed guard for its internal police.” Gen. Greene, who ere this, the reader must have perceived, was polite to his friends, and humane to his enemies, for even they are obliged to confess it, immediately instituted an inquiry into this complaint;29 but how it was accommodated cannot now be ascertained.

On the 9th October, 1781,30 Gen. Marion received the most agreeable news of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, and the next evening gave a fete to the ladies of Santee, at the house of Mr. John Cantey. The general’s heart was not very susceptible of the gentler emotions; he had his friend, and was kind to his inferiors, but his mind was principally absorbed by the love of country; and as the capture of Lord Cornwallis was intimately connected with this passion there is no doubt he felt joy on the occasion. But if he did feel joy upon a few occasions, certain it is that watchful anxiety was the daily inmate of his breast.

On the same day he received the thanks of congress “for his wise, decided and gallant conduct, in defending the liberties of his country, and particularly for his prudent and intrepid attack on a body of British troops on the 31st day of August last; and for the distinguished part he took in the battle of the 8th Sept.” Immediately on receiving the intelligence of the capture of Lord Cornwallis, Gen. Greene prepared for moving his army into the lower country. On the 5th November, he writes to Gen. Marion, “Gen. Sumter has orders to take post at Orangeburgh, to prevent the tories in that quarter from conveying supplies to town, and his advanced parties will penetrate as low as Dorchester; therefore you may act in conjunction with him, or employ your troops on the enemy’s left, as you may find from information, they can best be employed. Please to give me your opinion on which side they can be most useful.” Gen. Marion four days after passed the Santee, and in a short time took post near Huger’s bridge, as it was still termed, though all the bridges in the lower country were taken down, except the one at Goose creek, which seemed to be left by mutual consent of both armies, for the purpose of reaching one another, by at least one way. He arrived at Huger’s bridge in the night, and in less than an hour after detached a strong party by the heads of Huger’s and Quimby creeks, to Cainhoy, in St. Thomas’. On the 23d November Gen. Sumter was posted at Orangeburgh; on the 17th of the same month Gen. Greene marched for the Fourholes. December 7th, he lay at Jacksonborough, and on the 13th of the same month, he encamped at the Round O.

His movements were at this time cautious, in keeping both the Edisto and Ashley between himself and the enemy; because he had heard they were reinforced, and he was as yet without ammunition. He wrote now frequently to Gen. Marion, and almost every letter has a clause similar to the one of the 15th of November: “You are at liberty to act as you think advisable. I have no particular instructions to give you, and only wish you to avoid surprise.”

At the close of this year, Gov. Rutledge and his council issued writs of election for members of the senate and house of representatives, which, by proclamation issued afterwards, were appointed to meet at Jacksonborough. Gen. Greene still lay at the Round O, where he secured the rice and other provisions from the enemy, by sending out patroles of cavalry as far as Dorchester: but he had not yet received a supply of ammunition for his infantry, and Marion was also without that indispensible muniment of war. As to other necessaries he says, “Our horsemen have neither cloaks or blankets, nor have our troops received a shilling of pay since they came into this country. Nor is there a prospect of any. Yet they do not complain.”31 At length on the 14th of December he received a supply of ammunition and sent it all to Marion, then at Watboo, saying, “he was in expectation of soon receiving more.”

The British extended their patroles of cavalry nearly up to Dorchester, but their main body was now confined to Charleston neck.

Thus, in the course of the campaign of 1781, the American army under Gen. Greene, without pay, without clothing, and as we have seen frequently without ammunition, had driven the enemy from all their strong holds but one; had defeated them in battle, and retaken all South Carolina but a neck of land.