The American Revolution in South Carolina

Radcliffe's Bridge

March 6, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Brigadier General
Thomas Sumter
British Cdr:

Major Thomas Fraser
Killed:

10
Killed:

20
Wounded:

40
Wounded:

included in above
Captured:

0
Captured:

0
Old District: 

Camden District
Present County:

Lee County

aka Ratcliff's Bridge.


Later that same day, these two parties would meet again briefly along Lynches Creek (now Lynches River) a few miles further north.

On his way from Bradley’s toward Waxhaws, Major Thomas Fraser caught up with Brigadier General Thomas Sumter again at Stirrup’s Branch and a running engagement ensued. Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, was passing between Scape Hoar Creek, Hoar Creek, and Radcliffe's Bridge over the Lynches River, they stumbled upon some British infantry of Major Thomas Fraser's Royalists. The Patriots fired on the British, but soon began to retreat through the woods.

The fight was recorded as a "running or retreating one." The Patriots made their way back to the bridge, burning it as they finished crossing. Without any cavalry, the British were unable to pursue them. Both sides claimed victory.

The Patriots said that Major Fraser was driven back, and then Brigadier General Sumter continued his retreat. The British, on the other hand claimed Brigadier General Sumter was routed, but that they did not have sufficient men to pursue him. In any case, after the engagement Brigadier General Sumter crossed Radcliffe's bridge and "disappeared on a circuitous route toward New Acquisition," finally reaching Waxhaws.

The British report states that Brigadier General Sumter lost ten killed and forty wounded. Ripley states that one report gave Major Fraser’s losses as twenty killed. Brigadier General Sumter in his letter to Major General Nathanael Greene on March 9th said that during the course of his whole expedition he returned with “Very Inconsiderable Loss.”

Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon wrote to Lt. Col. John Watson Tadwell-Watson on 7 March:

"Fraser yesterday fell in with Sumter (who was advancing this way) between Scape Hoar and Radcliffe's Bridge. A smart action ensued in which the enemy were completely routed, leaving ten dead on the field and about forty wounded. Unfortunately none of your Dragoons had joined Fraser, so that he could not pursue his victory. Sumter fled across Lynches Creek and continued his retreat northward; he had his family with him, so that I think he has entirely abandoned the lower country."

Casualties: Patriots: 10 killed, 40 wounded; British: 20 killed & wounded.


If this skirmish did indeed occur not long before the skirmish on Lynches Creek, then the participants should be the same. However, the documentation does not support this. So, the two skirmishes may not have happened on the same exact day.
After his disastrous attempts to take Fort Granby, Thomson's Plantation, and Fort Watson, Brigadier General Thomas Sumter withdrew to Farr's Plantation near the swamps of the Black River. He wanted to rendezvous with Brigadier General Francis Marion and even sent messages to Marion to march northward to meet him. He then learned that Lt. Col. John Watson Tadwell-Watson was gathering a large force to attack him, Brigadier General Sumter decided to no longer wait on Brigadier General Marion, and he moved his small force undetected around Fort Watson to his own plantation in the High Hills of the Santee.

Along the way, Brigadier General Sumter picked up his paralytic wife and son and then moved forty miles to the Bradley Plantation. His wife had been "lame on one side since infancy." She rode a horse "on a featherbed with a negro woman behind her to hold her on, nevertheless, she fell off frequently on the road and bruised her face until it was black. Their only child, little Tom, was with them." Nancy Davis, their housekeeper, also rode with them.

Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwalls called Sumter's partisans, "The Gang of Plunderers." When Col. Francis, Lord Rawdon discovered Sumter's location, he dispatched Major Thomas Fraser and his South Carolina Royalists to go after him. The South Carolina Royalists had both infantry and dragoons, but since every available British unit was out searching for Sumter, Major Fraser only had infantry on this day.

Brigadier General Thomas Sumter waited for some word from Brigadier General Francis Marion until March 6th, then he started heading northward from his home. As his group passed between Scape Hoar Creek and Radcliffe's Bridge over the Lynches River, they stumbled upon Major Thomas Fraser's infantry. The Patriots fired at the enemy, but as they began retreating Sumter's wife and son were caught between the lines.

Brigadier General Sumter drew them out of the line of fire and headed into the woods, cutting his way through the British. His men suffered ten killed and forty wounded. The fight was described as a "running or retreating one." Sumter and his family were able to flee the pursuing Loyalists by falling back to Radcliffe's Bridge and setting it on fire. With no cavalry, the Royalists were unable to catch up.

Sumter's son, Thomas, wrote "a man joined Sumter with a squad of recruits and became entitled to some commission." When they were attacked, that officer was the first who fled into the swamp and there seeing young Sumter took charge of the boy and in a few days after rejoined the army, presenting the son to the general. He claimed he had saved his life. Sumter replied "We want soldiers in our camp and not dry nurses" and drove him off in disgrace.

Thomas also wrote "Sumter took great care and attention of the British wounded as his own. The British learning this soon thereafter ordered that Sumter's property and family should not be molested."

Brigadier General Thomas Sumter and his men did three weeks of fruitless campaigning, losing both horses and men. Those who rode with him later recalled this time as "Sumter's Rounds." The morale of his men was low, and some of them thought that he had deceived them so he could rescue his family. They had initially been told that there were only about 300 British at Camden, and that there would be no pursuit. When they attacked Fort Granby, the British seemed to come from every direction, giving the men no rest and no sanctuary.

Sumter mustered his men at the Waxhaws and then released them to go home to see to their own families and to do their Spring planting. Sumter took his family to Polk's Mill in Charlotte, North Carolina. Robert Gray later wrote, "He grew exceedingly unpopular."

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Brigadier General Thomas Sumter - Commanding Officer

Kershaw Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. William Nettles

Major Thomas Fraser - Commanding Officer

Unknown number of Loyalists

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