The American Revolution in South Carolina

Wofford's Iron Works

August 8, 1780


Patriot Cdr:

Col. Elijah Clarke (GA)
Loyalist Cdr:

Capt. James Dunlap
Killed:

4
Killed:

8
Wounded:

23
Wounded:

26
Captured:

0
Captured:

50
Old District: 

Ninety-Six District
Present County:

Spartanburg County

aka Old Iron Works, aka 2nd Cedar Springs, aka Peach Orchard

One source asserts this engagement happened in September of 1780. Very likely.


Again, very different versions:

Col. Elijah Clarke (GA) and Col. Isaac Shelby (NC) in joint command of GA, NC, and SC Patriot troops were attacked by a large force of Loyalist troops under the command of Capt. James Dunlap. There was considerable hand-to-hand fighting. The Patriots were overwhelmed and retreated.


Major Patrick Ferguson learned that Col. Elijah Clarke's supply wagons were about three miles ahead of him near Cedar Springs, and he sent Capt. James Dunlap to take the wagons. Along the way, Capt. Dunlap saw three of Col. Clarke's men and chased after them. He was able to capture two horsemen and pursued the last man into the center of Col. Clarke's camp at Wofford's Iron Works.

The Patriots were expecting the enemy and had set up an ambush. Col. Clarke's and Col. Shelby's riflemen sent a sharp volley, emptying many of the enemy saddles. Col. Clarke was sabered twice, but the buckle of his neck stock stopped one wound from being fatal. For a few minutes, Col. Clarke was in the hands of two of Capt. Dunlap's men, but he knocked them down and escaped. Capt. Dunlap was slightly wounded in the fight.

The attack lasted about 30 minutes, until Capt. Dunlap's mounted riflemen were driven back in a series of running fights. Capt. Dunlap's men were pursued for a mile before the action was broken off. The Patriots returned to their camp with 50 prisoners.


By the end of July of 1780, Major Patrick Ferguson of the American Volunteers (Provincials) had mustered 1,000 to 1,800 men into the South Carolina Loyalist militia. His mission was to seek out any Patriot forces and destroy them. He created at least seven (7) known regiments of Loyalist Militia in the Ninety-Six District: 1) Long Cane Regiment under Col. Richard King, 2) Steven's Creek Regiment under Col. John Cotton, 3) Dutch Fork Regiment under Col. Daniel Clary, 4) Spartan Regiment under Major Zachariah Gibbs, 5) Kirkland's Regiment under Col. Moses Kirkland, 6) Fair Forest Regiment under Major Daniel Plummer, and 7) Little River District Regiment under Major Patrick Cunningham.

Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis was having a tough time arming these new recruits because when Charlestown fell a careless soldier had thrown a loaded musket into a stockpile of arms and ammunition. When the musket fired the powder magazine blew up, destroying 2,000 to 3,000 muskets. On top of that, in January, the Russian Merchant sank off the coast of South Carolina, taking 4,000 new muskets with it to the sea floor.

Loyalist Lt. Col. Thomas Brown (recall the early 1775 skirmish called New Richmond?) decided that the best way to bring peace to the region was to hang any Patriots that had broken their parole. This was not uncommon, because if a soldier went back on his word it was legal - on both sides - for him to be executed. In this war, going back on your oath was not looked upon lightly. On June 5th, Lt. Col. Brown hanged five Patriot prisoners. Col. Elijah Clarke and his Georgians decided that Brown's actions were a change in their terms of surrender and they all took up arms once again. Col. Clarke began recruiting in Georgia and in South Carolina near Ninety-Six.

By early August of 1780, there were over a thousand Patriots under Col. Elijah Clarke, Col. Isaac Shelby, and Col. William Graham gathered in western South Carolina. Four hundred were detached to establish a base of operations and the remaining six hundred mounted men followed near to Major Patrick Ferguson's marching column, looking for an opportunity to strike the Provincials and Loyalists. Col. Elijah Clarke moved to the Spartanburg area about two miles west of Cedar Springs - to draw Major Ferguson his direction.

On the morning of August 7th, scouts brought him news that Major Ferguson was within a half a mile from his camp. Col. Clarke had his men to quickly break camp and move over to the nearby Wofford's Iron Works. The Provincials and Loyalists arrived at his abandoned camp around 4 a.m., less than a half hour after Col. Clarke's departure.

Capt. Josiah Culbertson (1st Spartan Regiment) was out observing the enemy's movements. He returned to Col. Clarke's abandoned camp not knowing that Clarke had moved and also not knowing that those stirring around were Loyalists that early in the morning. Culbertson did not panic. Instead, he rode through the camp, taking note of the Loyalists' preparations to go after Col. Clarke. The Loyalists paid him no mind - they thought he was one of them. As soon as he was past the camp, Capt. Culbertson galloped to Wofford's Iron Works to relay his findings to his compadres.

In the meanwhile, Major Ferguson learned that Col. Clarke's supply wagons were only three miles in front of Cedar Springs, so he sent Capt. James Dunlap with 14 mounted American Volunteers and 130 militia to go take the wagons. Along the way, Capt. Dunlap saw three of Col. Clarke's men and chased after them. He was able to capture two of them and pursued the third man into the center of Wofford's Iron Works.

The Patriots were expecting them and had set up an ambush. Their riflemen fired a volley, emptying many of the Loyalists' saddles. The Loyalists then charged and a vicious hand-to-hand battle ensued. Col. Clarke received two sabre wounds, one on the back of his neck and one on his head. His neck stock buckle stopped the neck wound from being fatal. For a few minutes, Col. Clarke was captued by two of Capt. Dunlap's men, but he knocked them down and was able to escape. Capt. Dunlap was slightly wounded.

The attack lasted roughly a half hour until Capt. Dunlap's mounted riflemen were driven back in a series of running fights. The Patriots pursued for a mile before the action was broken off. Col. Clarke's men returned to the Iron Works with fifty prisoners.

Capt. Dunlap rendezvoused with Major Ferguson and the main army. The combined British force moved back to the Iron Works, but the Patriots had already begun a hasty withdrawal. The backwoodsmen continued to form on tactically superior ground slowing Major Ferguson's advance so much that he could never catch them. In a last act of defiance, Col. Clarke and Col. Shelby formed their men on a ridge and ridiculed the enemy force.


In his 1832 pension application statement, William Graham (S8624) described:

"We were overtaken by them at Wofford's Iron Works where we had an engagement. We defeated them. We killed a great many and took six prisoners. We had several brave men killed on that day. I well know that Major Burrel Smith of Georgia, Thomas Scott, and Capt. John Potts, all fell by my side bravely fighting in the defense of their country. A few hours after our battle, Ferguson came in sight of us. We had to leave the place in a hurry where we got over Broad River."


In his 1834 pension application statement, William Hays (S37973) asserted:

"He marched into South Carolina - to Sugar Creek - while encamped there we learned the appoach of the enemy commanded by Colonel [Major] Ferguson & [Captain] Dunlap - being weaker than they we retired a short distance to an elevate or more eligible position where we waited their approach. They came & we fought them but were defeated and recrossed Lawsons fork at Warfords Iron works at a Bridge - here we rallied & opposed their passage. In the attempt Captain Cooper of one Battalion was wounded by the sword of a British Dragoon. We had again to give way but were not further pursued by the enemy. We lost 20 or 30 me if not more. They were 5 to our 1."

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Wilkes County Regiment of Militia (GA) detachment led by Col. Elijah Clarke and Major Burwell Smith (killed), with two (2) known companies, led by
- Capt. John Clark
- Capt. John Potts (killed)

Sullivan County (NC) Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. Isaac Shelby and Lt. Col. Charles Robertson, with six (6) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Sawyer
- Capt. Valentine Sevier, Jr.
- Capt. Evan Shelby, Jr.
- Capt. George Taylor (a SC captain)
- Capt. William Trimble
- Capt. Solomon White

Lincoln County (NC) Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. William Graham, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Samuel Espey

Burke County (NC) Regiment of Militia detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Joseph McDowell
- Capt. David Vance

Rutherford County (NC) Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Adam Hampton

1st Spartan Regiment of Militia (SC) detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Collins
- Capt. Josiah Culbertson

2nd Spartan Regiment of Militia (SC) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Robert Montgomery

Total Patriot Forces - 600

American Volunteers led by Capt. James Dunlap, with Lt. Anthony Allaire and 14 men

Fair Forest Regiment of Loyalist Militia (Major Daniel Plummer's Regiment) detachment led by Lt. Alexander Chesney with 130 men

Total British/Loyalist Forces - 144

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