The American Revolution in South Carolina

Beckhamville

May 31, 1780


Patriot Cdr:

Capt. John McClure
Loyalist Cdr:

Col. Houseman
Killed:

Unknown
Killed:

Unknown
Wounded:

Unknown
Wounded:

Unknown
Captured:

0
Captured:

Unknown
Old District: 

Camden District
Present County:

Chester County

aka Beckham's Old Field, aka Alexander's Old Field. One source asserts that this engagement happened on June 8, 1780. Another source asserts that it happened on June 6, 1780.


After Buford's Defeat by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton on May 29, 1780 at the Waxhaws, many Patriots in the neighboring countryside were anxious to strike a blow in revenge. On the western side of the Catawba River, Capt. John McClure collected a party of thirty-two (32) volunteers and on May 31st attacked a group of Loyalists gathering to take British protection at Alexander's Old Field, in present Chester County.

Although the Loyalists, led by a Colonel Houseman, numbered about two hundred, they were defeated and dispersed by the small Patriot force. This was the first Patriot victory after the fall of Charlestown, and the beginning of a great wave of backcountry resistance to the British and their Loyalist allies. The site of this battle was at present-day Beckhamville, a short distance west of Great Falls.


Before General Sir Henry Clinton left for New York he appointed Major Patrick Ferguson to be the Inspector of Militia, under Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis. Major Ferguson immediately went about his assigned task, and a call went out to the people in the Rocky Mount area to assemble at Beckham's Old Field to take the oath of allegiance to the king.

One of the Loyalist officers attempting to gather support for the British was a Colonel Houseman. The author Benson J. Lossing wrote in his Pictorial Guide-Book of the Revolution that Houseman was a commander of a British post near Rocky Mount. Houseman rode to a large Patriot family, headed by Justice John Gaston. Later, John Gaston, Jr. wrote that Houseman was "in a dress altogether plain, accompanied by about fifty of those plundering banditti, which the British policy had dignified with the name of loyalists."

Houseman begged, then threatened the Gaston family to join the Loyalists. Gaston told him "never." After Houseman rode on, John Gaston sent out his seven sons to gather their neighbors to disperse the assembly of Loyalists.

John Gaston's nephew, Capt. John McClure, had been at Moncks Corner when he learned of the surrender of Charlestown. He returned home with his company of men and then learned of Buford's Defeat at the Waxhaws. He and his men vowed to keep fighting, no matter what the odds. John Gaston, Jr. wrote, "On the reception of this news, he [Capt. McClure], three of Gaston's sons, and Capt. John Steel, I think arose upon their feet and made this united and solemn declaration, 'that they would never submit nor surrender to the enemies of their country; that liberty or death, from that time forth, should be their motto.'"

Capt. John McClure and his assembled men "were clad in hunting shirts and moccasins, wool hats and deer-skin caps, each armed with a butcher knife and a rifle." With him was Rev. John Simpson who the next day became a captain alongside McClure under the recently-formed Turkey Creek Regiment created by Col. Edward Lacey. Also with McClure and Simpson were Lt. Hugh McClure (his brother), and Lt. John Steele. John Gaston, Jr. wrote, "They were principally of the Knoxes, Walkers, Morrows, McClures, and Johnsons."

There are differing accounts on casualties as a result of the engagement. Some claim that there were no casualties on either side - wounded or killed. Another claims that four Loyalists were killed and two of McClure's men were wounded. Samuel Morrow later told that Lt. Hugh McClure was wounded in this action. Daniel Stinson wrote that McClure was badly wounded in the right arm and that Joseph Morrow was wounded in the arm. John Craig wrote that they took nine Loyalist prisoners.

John Gaston, Jr. wrote that McClure and William McGarrity were wounded. He also wrote that "it is most possible that McClure's men did not wish to kill, knowing that many good men might be there who knew of no relief, but to submit and take parole. Only one was killed, and he was known to be a real friend to his country."

Joseph Gaston wrote that he lost two brothers in the fighting. He was also badly wounded when he spotted "one of the enemy, both raised their pieces at once and both fired the same instant and both fell, his antagonist shot through the heart." Gaston was hit by the ball "striking the bridge of his nose and passing under the left eye, shattering the cheek bone and going out of the ear, partially imparing his sight and hearing."

Houseman was "filled with rage," and sent some men to capture the 80-year-old John Gaston. "They found his dwelling deserted. His wife, concealed in some bushes nearby, saw them plunder the house of every item and carry off the stock from the plantation. Nothing was left but the family Bible."

The next day, Capt. John McClure and his men rode on to find Col. Thomas Sumter and to join his growing Patrior militia force.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Turkey Creek Regiment of Militia detachment led by Capt. John McClure, with 31 men, in his company and also under:

Capt. John Simpson - Turkey Creek Regiment

Col. Houseman, with approximately 200 Loyalists 

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