The American Revolution in South Carolina

Big Savannah

February 23, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Brigadier General
Thomas Sumter
British Cdr:

Major David McIntosh
Killed:

Unknown
Killed:

7
Wounded:

Unknown
Wounded:

7
Captured:

0
Captured:

66
Old District: 

Orangeburgh District
Present County:

Calhoun County

About the same time as Brigadier General Thomas Sumter laid siege to Thomson’s Plantation, a convoy of twenty wagons and an escort of about 50-80 men (depending on sources) was sent out from Charlestown with clothing, provisions, munitions, and some pay chests for the purpose of establishing what would quickly become Fort Motte.

Obtaining information about the approach of the convoy, Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, with Col. Edward Lacey and Col. William Bratton attempted to ambush it on a rising piece of ground, known as Big Savannah, a few short miles down the road from Thomson’s Plantation, as it ran roughly southeast toward Eutaw Springs.

As the British passed through the site, the Patriots opened fire on them. An 80-man detachment of British Regulars, commanded by Major David McIntosh, quickly formed his line and drove Brigadier General Sumter's men back. Brigadier General Sumter managed to outflank the Regulars and surrounded the wagons. At one point in the fighting, some of Col. Bratton's men ignored a white flag the British had raised and seven of the enemy were needlessly killed and a number of others wounded.

The skirmish between the two sides ended in a disaster for the British. The entire force was killed, wounded, or captured. Brigadier General Sumter also captured all twenty supply wagons. McCrady reports the British losses as 13 killed and 66 prisoners (actually only 7 killed, and 7 wounded). Both he and Ripley speak of Brigadier General Sumter’s force being down to 100 men at this time, but this seems a rather too conservative estimate.

The same or the next day, Brigadier General Sumter loaded the captured items on flatboats he had been collecting at Manigault's Ferry, and attempted to have them sent down-river towards Nelson’s Ferry, not far from where Capt. Hugh McClure and the rest of his men were to rendezvous with him at a specified location. A treacherous river pilot, however, in passing Fort Watson along the way, steered the boats under the guns of that fort where the stores and money chests were recaptured by the British.

In the meantime, Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon sent Major John Campbell with the 64th Regiment of Foot, a troop of dragoons, and one field piece to relieve Lt. John Stuart at Thomson's Plantation, which they reached on the 24th - two days after it was captured. When Major Campbell approached, Brigadier General Sumter retreated to “Mrs. Flud's [Flood’s].” There for at least two days he passed his force over the Santee River by means of a single canoe and swimming the horses.

Known Patriot Participants 

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Brigadier General Thomas Sumter - Commanding Officer

SC 1st Brigade of Militia with the following units:

New Acquisition District Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. William Bratton, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. William Hillhouse

Turkey Creek Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. Edward Lacey, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Hugh McClure (at Nelson's Ferry)

Major David McIntosh - Commanding Officer

British Regulars - 80 men, unit unknown

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