The American Revolution in South Carolina

The Battle of Fishing Creek

August 18, 1780


Patriot Cdr:

Col. Thomas Sumter 
British Cdr:

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton 
Killed:

50
Killed:

9
Wounded:

100
Wounded:

6
Captured:

310
Captured:

0
Old District: 

Camden District
Present County:

Chester County

aka Catawba Ford, aka Sumter's Defeat.


Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis dispatched Lt. Col. Banastare Tarleton and the British Legion provincial troops in pursuit of Col. Thomas Sumter after the battle of Camden. On August 15th, 1780, the day before the battle of Camden, South Carolina Militia troops under the leadership of Col. Thomas Taylor captured the redoubt at the ferry on the west side of the Wateree River, known as Carey's Fort. That afternoon the SC Militia rejoined Col. Thomas Sumter and they all left the area with one hundred prisoners, thirty supply wagons, three hundred head of cattle, and a flock of sheep and moved up the west side of the Wateree River.

After the defeat of Major General Horatio Gates and the Continental Army at the battle of Camden on August 16th, Col. Thomas Sumter's militia force was now the largest organized Patriot unit in South Carolina, and this made him a prime target for Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis. Major William Richardson Davie sent ten dragoons to alert Col. Sumter that he was now in serious danger and to tell him to meet near Charlotte, North Carolina, which was quickly becoming the rallying point for many of the survivors of the battle of Camden.

At the conclusion of the battle of Camden, Lord Cornwallis pushed his own army to Rugeley's Mills and waited for Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton to return from chasing Major General Gates's retreating army. Lord Cornwallis then learned of Col. Thomas Sumter's capture of the British convoy from Ninety-Six, and he wanted those wagons back. Lord Cornwallis sent orders to Lt. Col. John Turnbull (NY Volunteers) and Major Patrick Ferguson (American Volunteers), who were situated on Little River, for them to cut off Col. Sumter's retreat.

Early in the morning of August 17th, Lt. Col. Tarleton led his British Legion along the Wateree River to overtake Col. Sumter's troops. After an exhausting march without a break Col. Sumter reached his old campsite at Rocky Mount that same afternoon. Col. Sumter somehow learned about Lt. Col. Turnbull's and Major Ferguson's orders, but he did not know about Lt. Col. Tarleton.

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton covered thirty miles with his usual speed and arrived at the Catawba River about the same time as Col. Thomas Sumter. He observed the Patriot's campfires from the east bank and waited to see if they would cross the river at Rocky Mount. Col. Sumter learned that Lt. Col. Tarleton was across the river from him and he continued to march without crossing the river. Lt. Col. Tarleton then crossed after Col. Sumter passed. For some strange reason, Col. Sumter thought he was safe and only marched another eight miles to Fishing Creek where he halted at noon and made camp.

Lt. Col. Tarleton's infantry was not able to keep up, so he decided upon the same tactics as he had used when pursuing Col. Abraham Buford to the Waxhaws back in May. He chose 100 dragoons and 60 men of the light infantry and doubled up on the horses. He left behind his 3-pound cannon, and seemed not to care that his 160 men would be facing nearly 800 Patriots. Afterall, they were only "militia."

At Fishing Creek, Col. Thomas Sumter relaxed in his camp. His men were on the main road near the creek, and they seemed to have a good position between Fishing Creek and the Catawba River, with ravines to the north and south.

On the afternoon of August 18th, Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton surprised Col. Thomas Sumter as he and his troops were cooking, relaxing, and swimming in the Catawba River. Col. Sumter's patrol had reported all was clear. The Gamecock was sleeping on a blanket under a wagon and many of his men were drunk. From a ridge, Lt. Col. Tarleton looked down in amazement, the muskets were neatly stacked off to one side. With his infantry back on the ground, Lt. Col. Tarleton ordered a charge to capture the muskets.

During the battle, one hundred and fifty of Col. Sumter's men were cut to pieces and about three hundred and ten were captured. Col. Sumter without boots, half dressed, swung upon an unsaddled horse and escaped. Lt. Col. Tarleton got back everything Col. Sumter had captured three days before, including sixteen additional baggage wagons, two grasshopper cannons, and eight hundred (800) horses (?). Two hundred and fifty British and Loyalists prisoners were also freed.

Col. Thomas Taylor had covered his face with blood and mud "so as to be unrecognizable as an officer." He feared being hanged and joined the other prisoners, none of whom recognized him. The British had also captured Lt. Col. Henry Hampton, stripped him of nearly all his clothing and had pinioned his hands behind him, leaving a rope fastened around his neck and tied to a cavalry horse beside him. The prisoners were placed between two lines of Lt. Col. Tarleton's cavalry and marched towards Camden.

During the march to Camden Jail, Col. Taylor was able to get a knife from a nearby soldier. He and Lt. Col. Hampton cut their ropes, pushed between two horses, and made a run for the woods. Lt. Col. Hampton was concerned that his white shirt would make him an easy target, but the British did not shoot at either of them as they made their escape.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Col. Thomas Sumter - Commanding Officer

MD 5th Regiment of Continentals led by Lt. Col. Thomas Woolford, with 100 men, in the following three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Jonathan Gibson
- Capt. John Lynch
- Capt. George Hamilton

MD 1st Continental Artillery Company led by Capt. William Brown, with 2 guns

NC Light Dragoons Regiment detachment, led by Col. Francois DeMalmedy, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Purviance (Rowan County Regiment)

NC Militia detachment, led by Col. Elijah Isaacs (Wilkes County) and Major Joseph Winston (Surry County Regiment) with 300 men in twelve (12) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Brandon (Rowan County Regiment)
- Capt. John Cleveland (Wilkes County Regiment)
- Capt. William Davidson (Mecklenburg County Reg)
- Capt. William Harden (Caswell County Regiment)
- Capt. Samuel Jones (Caswell County Regiment)
- Capt. Samuel Martin (Lincoln County Regiment)
- Capt. James McFarland (Caswell County Regiment)
- Capt. Francis Miller (Mecklenburg County Reg)
- Capt. Samuel Moseby (Surry County Regiment)
- Capt. Jonathan Smith (Johnston County Regiment)
- Capt. Richard Springs (Mecklenburg County Reg)
- Capt. John Sterns (Mecklenburg County Regiment)

Turkey Creek Regiment of Militia led by Col. Edward Lacey, with thirteen (13) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Samuel Adams
- Capt. Henry Coffey
- Capt. Robert Frost
- Capt. Hugh Knox
- Capt. Charles Lewis
- Capt. Patrick McGriff
- Capt. John Mills
- Capt. John Moffett
- Capt. Alexander Pagan (killed)
- Capt. John Steel
- Capt. John Thompson
- Capt. John Turner
- Capt. Philip Walker

New Acquisition District Regiment of Militia led by, Lt. Col. William Bratton, Major John Wallace, with ten (10) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Barrey
- Capt. Thomas Brown
- Capt. Walter Carson
- Capt. John Hawthorn
- Capt. John Hillhouse
- Capt. William Hillhouse
- Capt. Joseph Howe
- Capt. John McConnell
- Capt. Richard Sadler
- Capt. Robert Thomson

Camden District Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. Thomas Taylor (captured/escaped), with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Graves
- Capt. William Kirkland
- Capt. Joel McLemore (captured/escaped)
- Capt. John Taylor (captured/escaped)

Fairfield Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. Richard Winn, with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Samuel Lacey
- Capt. John Land
- Capt. Edward Martin
- Capt. John McCool

Hill's Regiment of Dragoons led by Col. William Hill, Lt. Col. James Hawthorn, with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Jacob Barnett
- Capt. Robert Cowden
- Capt. James Giles
- Capt. William McKenzie

Kershaw Regiment of Militia detachment of three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. George Dunlap
- Capt. William Nettles
- Capt. Hugh White

Hampton's Regiment of Light Dragoons led by Lt. Col. Henry Hampton (captured/escaped), with two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Hugh Coffee
- Capt. Samuel Walker

2nd Spartan Regiment of Militia detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Andrew Barry
- Capt. John Walker

Orangeburgh District Regiment of Militia detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. James Johnson
- Capt. Samuel Tate

1st Spartan Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Thomas Jones

Upper Ninety-Six District Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. William Turk

Little River District Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. George Tate

Total Patriot Forces - 700

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton - Commanding Officer

British Legion led by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, with 120 men, including Capt. David Kinlock

71st Regiment of Foot (Fraser's Highlanders), 1st Battalion, Light Infantry Company led by Capt. Charles Campbell with 40 men

Total British Forces - 160

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-
-



© 2012 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved