The American Revolution in South Carolina

Ambush of Coffin

April 26, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Lt. Col. William Washington (VA)
British Cdr:

Major John Coffin
Killed:

0
Killed:

20
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

included in above
Captured:

0
Captured:

0
Old District: 

Camden District
Present County:

Kershaw County

Since Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon had withdrawn back into Camden with most of his army, Lt. Col. William Washington (VA) was sent to scout the area. He found and lured Major John Coffin and a force of mounted infantry and dragoons into an ambush, in which Major Coffin lost twenty men. Major Coffin was then compelled to retire back into Camden. Lord Rawdon, meanwhile, was making plans to abandon the outpost town.

Seymour: "On the 26th Colonel Washington's horse and a detachment from line went to reconnoiter the lines."

Lord Rawdon, in his letter of 24 May, wrote to his superior, Lord Cornwallis:

“After the action of the 25th of April, (an account of which I had the honour of transmitting to your lordship) Major General Greene remained for some days behind the farthest branch of Granny's Quarter Creek. A second attempt upon his army could not, in that situation, be undertaken upon the principle which advised the former. In the first instance, I made so short an excursion from my works, that I could venture, without hazard, to leave them very slightly guarded; and I had the confidence, that, had fortune proved unfavorable, we should easily have made good our retreat, and our loss, in all probability, would not have disabled us from the farther defence of the place. To get at General Greene in his retired situation, I must have made a very extensive circuit, in order to head the creek, which would have presented to him the fairest opportunity of slipping by me to Camden; and he was still so superior to me in numbers, that, had I left such a garrison at my post as might enable it to stand an assault, my force in the field would have been totally unequal to cope with the enemy's army. I had much to hope from the arrival of reinforcements to me, and little to fear from any probable addition to my antagonist's force.”


After the battle of Hobkirk's Hill, Lord Rawdon left the battlefield and returned to Camden to tend to his injured. He left Major John Coffin on the field with his cavalry so that he would still be considered the holder of the battlefield. Due to the custom at that time, whomever held the field was considered the winner of the battle.

Major General Nathanael Greene sent Lt. Col. William Washington back to the battlefield in the evening to reconnoiter. Lt. Col. Washington spotted Major Coffin's mounted infantry guarding the battlefield and decided to lure him into an ambush. He concealed most of his men in the woods on the side of Waxhaws Road and then sent the rest to act as a decoy for the Provincials.

The Continental dragoons rode up the to the hill to ensure that they were spotted, and Major Coffin had his men to immediately mount their horses and to charge. As they drew alongside the woods, the Patriots poured shot after shot into them, killing and wounding half of them. The survivors quickly fled back to the safety of Camden.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Lt. Col. William Washington - Commanding Officer

3rd Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons (VA) with 30 men and the following known officers:
- Maj. Richard Call
- Capt. William Parsons
- Capt. Walker Baylor

1st Regiment of Continental Dragoons (VA) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Watts

Brevet Major John Coffin

NY Volunteers, Mounted Infantry - 40 men

-

-

-

-
-



© 2009 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved