The American Revolution in South Carolina

Blackstocks

November 20, 1780


Patriot Cdr:

Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter
British Cdr:

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton
Killed:

3
Killed:

52
Wounded:

4
Wounded:

included in above
Captured:

50
Captured:

0
Old District: 

Ninety-Six District
Present County:

Union County

aka Blackstock's Plantation. aka Black Stock's. aka Tyger River.

The position of the British in the upcountry became precarious. Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton was suddenly recalled from the pursuit of Francis Marion and ordered to take the nearest path against Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter, who had passed the Broad River, formed a junction with Col. Elijah Clarke (GA) and others, and threatened the British outpost at Ninety-Six. One regiment was sent forward to join him on his march; another followed for his support. Apprised of Lt. Col. Tarleton's approach, Brig. Gen. Sumter posted himself strongly on the plantation of Blackstock.

At five in the afternoon of the 20th of November, 1780, Lt. Col. Tarleton drew near in advance of his light infantry; and with 250 mounted men he made a precipitate attack on Brig. Gen. Sumter's superior force. The hillside in front of the Americans was steep; their rear was protected by the rapid river Tyger; their left was covered by a large barn of logs, between which the riflemen could fire with security. The 63rd Regiment having lost its commanding officer, two lieutenants, and one third of its privates, Lt. Col. Tarleton retreated, leaving his wounded to the mercy of the victor. The losses of Brig. Gen. Sumter was very small; but, being himself disabled by a severe wound, he crossed the Tyger, taking his wounded men with him.


Benson J. Lossing asserts in his Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution that the British lost 90 killed and 100 wounded. The Americans lost 3 killed and 5 wounded.

Extract from Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America, (1787; reprint, North Stratford, NH: Ayer Company Publishers, Inc., 1999), Chapter III, pp. 175-180.

On the evening of the 18th, Tarleton obtained information, that General Sumter, with upwards of one thousand men, was moving towards Williams' house, a post occupied by friendly militia, fifteen miles from Ninety Six.

At daybreak next morning the light troops directed their course for Indian Creek, marched all day with great diligence, and encamped at night, with secrecy and precaution, near the Enoree River.

Another day's movement was intended up the banks of that river, which, if completed without discovery, would, perhaps, give an opportunity of destroying General Sumter's corps by surprise; or certainly would prevent his accomplishing a retreat without the risk of an action.

This encouraging hope was frustrated in the evening by the desertion of a soldier of the 63rd, and the American commander at twelve o'clock at night obtained intelligence of his danger.

Tarleton pursued his march at dawn, and before ten o'clock in the morning had information of the retreat of General Sumter: He continued his route to a ford upon the Enoree, where he expected to gain farther intelligence, or perhaps meet the Americans.

On his arrival near that place, he found that the advanced guard and main body of the enemy had passed the river near two hours, and, that a detachment to cover the rear was waiting the return of a patrole: The advanced guard of the British dragoons charged this body, and defeated them with considerable slaughter.

From prisoners it was learned, that the sudden movement of the Americans was owing to the treachery of the deserter, by whose information General Sumter had fortunately escaped an unexpected attack, and had now the option to fight or retire.

Though greatly superior in number, he did not wait the approach of the British, but by a rapid march endeavoured to cross the rivers in his rear; beyond which, if pressed to extremity, he could disband his followers in the woods, and without great detriment assemble them again at an appointed quarter to the northward of the Pacolet River.

The march already made by the British infantry, he imagined must soon render them unable to keep up with the cavalry; which circumstance, he flattered himself, would impede the advance of Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton, or, at the worst, produce only a partial engagement.

Influenced by such reflections, he continued an indefatigable march, which was followed without intermission by the British.

Tarleton, unwilling to divide his corps, and risk an action against a great superiority with his dragoons and the 63rd, pressed forward his light and legion infantry, and three pounder, in a compact body, till four o'clock in the afternoon; at which time it became evident, that the enemy would have an opportunity of passing unmolested the Tyger River before dark, if he did not alter his disposition:

He therefore left his legion and light infantry, who had made meritorious exertions during the whole day, to march on at their own pace, whilst he made a rapid pursuit with one hundred and seventy cavalry of the legion, and eighty mounted men of the 63rd.

Before five o'clock the advanced guard charged a detachment of the Americans, who gave ground after some loss, and retreated to the main body.

Sumter now discovered, that he could not with safety immediately attempt to pass the Tyger, and that the ground which he possessed on its banks gave him a favourable opportunity to resist the efforts of the cavalry.

Regular information of his being pressed at this period by the mounted part of Tarleton's corps had been communicated to him; which, without such report, he might have calculated by the distance and duration of the movement:

A woman on horseback had viewed the line of march from a wood, and, by a nearer road, had given intelligence that the British were approaching without infantry or cannon.

Decide by these considerations, the American commander prepared for action, and made a judicious disposition of his force:

He posted the center of his troops in some houses and out-houses, composed of logs, and situated on the middle of an eminence; he extended his right along some rails, which were flanked by an inaccessible mountain; and he distributed his left on a rugged piece of ground that was covered by a bend of the river; a small branch of water ran in front of the whole rising ground, which was called Blackstock's Hill:

The great road to the ford across the river passed through the center of the Americans, and close to the doors of houses where the main body were stationed.

The whole position was visible, owing to the elevation of the ground, and this formidable appearance made Tarleton halt upon the opposite height, where he intended to remain quiet till his infantry and three pounder arrived:

To encourage the enemy to do the same, he dismounted the 63rd to take post, and part of the cavalry to ease their horses.

Sumpter observing this operation, ordered a body of four hundred Americans to advance, and attack the 63rd in front, whilst another party approached the dragoons in flank.

A heavy fire and sharp conflict ensued: The 63d charged with fixed bayonets, and drove the enemy back; and a troop of cavalry, under Lieutenant Skinner, bravely repulsed the detachment which threatened the flank.

The ardour of the 63rd carried them too far, and exposed them to a considerable fire from the buildings and the mountain.

Though the undertaking appeared hazardous, Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton determined to charge the enemy's center with a column of dragoons, in order to cover the 63rd, whose situation was now become dangerous.

The attack was conducted with great celerity, and was attended with immediate success.

The cavalry soon reached the houses, and broke the Americans, who from that instant began to disperse: The 63rd immediately rallied, and darkness put an end to the engagement.

A pursuit across a river, with a few troops of cavalry, and a small body of infantry, was not advisable in the night; a position was therefore taken adjoining to the field of battle, to wait the arrival of the light and legion infantry.

An express was sent to acquaint Earl Cornwallis with the success of his troops, and patroles were dispatched over the river at dawn, to discover if any part of the enemy remained in a body:

Intelligence was soon brought across the Tyger, that the corps was entirely dispersed, except a party of one hundred, who remained in a compact state, in order to escort General Sumpter, who was wounded in the action.

This news, and some rumours of approaching reinforcements, impelled Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton to follow the late advantage, by pursuing the fugitives; which would prevent their rallying to assist their friends, if the report was true concerning their advance.

Accordingly, leaving a guard to protect the wounded, he again commenced his march:

The men who had remained with their general since his misfortune, upon hearing of the approach of the British, placed him in a litter between two horses, and dispersed through the woods.

After a toilsome pursuit of three days, in which a few stragglers were secured, intelligence was obtained that General Sumpter had been conducted across the country by five faithful adherents, till he was removed out of danger.

Three of the enemy's colonels fell in the action, and General Sumter received a severe wound in the shoulder. Upwards of one hundred Americans were killed and wounded, and fifty were made prisoners.

On the side of the British, Lieutenants Gibson and Cope, of the 63rd, were killed; and Lieutenant Money, aide-de-camp to Earl Cornwallis, who had commanded the detachment of mounted infantry, with great gallantry, was mortally wounded:

Another officer of the 63rd, and two subalterns of the British legion, were likewise wounded. The former corps had also thirty, and the latter fifteen, non-commissioned officers and men, with thirty horses, killed and wounded.

General Sumter made proper use of the good fortune which had manifested itself in his favour previous to the action; and if he had waited in his strong position at Blackstock's till dark, without advancing a corps to attack the 63rd, and the cavalry, he might have withdrawn, in all probability, without his adversaries' knowledge.

But, he would have been completely protected in the operation, even if they had notice of his intention; owing to the superiority of his numbers, and the advantages he derived from the situation of the ground, and the river; which could not be approached, after dark, by the British, till the light and legion infantry arrived; previous to which event, the rear guard of the Americans might certainly have passed the Tyger.

The light troops made very great exertions, to bring General Sumter to action, and the hazard incurred by the cavalry, and 63rd, was compensated by the complete dispersion of the enemy.


On the morning of November 20th, Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton learned that Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter and his Patriots were only about two hours ahead of him at Blackstock's Plantation. He decided once again to use the same tactic as he had on Col. Buford at Waxhaws - heck, it had worked several times since then, so why not? Lt. Col. Tarleton left his infantry and artillery and moved his Legion cavalry quickly with the mounted infantry of the 63rd Regiment towards his enemy.

Capt. Samuel Otterson of the 2nd Spartan Regiment was out on patrol with a few men. They detected Lt. Col. Tarleton's approach and hid beside the road and counted the number of British as they passed them undetected. Capt. Otterson then quickly rode around the British and came out once again on the main road, two miles from Blackstock's Plantation. The British saw them and immediately pursued.

As Capt. Otterson neared Sumter's camp he fired his musket to raise the alarm. A handful of men rode out to help Capt. Otterson and the British advance troup saw them and retreated hastily. Since the Patriots had been pursued for two days and nights they were determined to retreat no further themselves.

Brig. Gen. Sumter placed his men around the plantation house. Lt. Col. Henry Hampton and his riflemen were placed inside the large adjacent barn. The other outbuildings on the plantation were not chinked between the logs and provided many openings for the protected Patriots to fire through.

Capt. Patrick Carr was stationed at the Enoree River to give early warning of Lt. Col. Tarleton's approach. Col. John Twiggs and his Georgians were placed on the left side of the road, which led from the rear of the house to the Tyger River. To the right of the house were sent Col. Edward Lacey and Col. William Hill. Col. Richard Winn had a small reserve force that included many detachments of other regiments, including his own, behind the main home on top of a hill. Sumter still had the humiliation of Fish Dam Ford on his mind and he was not about to be surprised again.

Not wanting to attack a thousand well-posted militia, Lt. Col. Tarleton decided to wait for his infantry and artillery to catch up with his advance mobile force. Charles Myddleton later wrote, "They appeared within 400 yards of our camp, dismounted, and formed in a field." They took off their knapsacks and set them on the bank of the Tyger River.

Gen. Sumter noticed that his enemy had divided his forces and he quickly realized that Lt. Col. Tarleton was waiting for artillery support. Gen. Sumter decided not to wait and to start the battle immediately - he sent his volunteers against the 63rd Regiment.

Lt. Col. William Farr and Maj. Joseph McJunkin of the 2nd Spartan Regiment were the first to volunteer, and they and the remainder of the volunteers were ordered to go meet Tarleton's advance, which they were to engage and if not strong enough to resist they were directed to fall back gradually, facing about and firing on occasion.

Myddleton wrote, "The parties detached kept up a loose fire and the enemy retired to a wood, under cover of which they made their disposition of cavalry and infantry for an attack, and immediately advanced to the charge." Eighty men of the 63rd Regiment charged with bayonet. The militia were unnerved and fell back. Col. Lacey sent 100 horsemen around the 63rd Regiment's right to block any reinforcements. The Legion cavalry under Lt. Skinner was watching the 63rd Regiment's charge and did not see Col. Lacey's mounted riflemen until they were a mere seventy-five yards away. Lt. Skinner drove Col. Lacey's cavalry back to their lines.

The back and forth action went on for two hours. Lt. Col. Henry Hampton's riflemen fired upon the officers of the 63rd Regiment, Lt. Cope and Lt. Gibson were shot dead immediately. They mortally wounded Lt. Money, but he had pushed the Patriots back into the woods behind Blackstock's house. Lt. Col. Tarleton sprang to Lt. Money's side, and in spite of Hampton's sharpshooters, he lifted Lt. Money into his saddle and rode off. One third of the 63rd Regiment fell to Hampton's riflemen.

Col. Richard Winn had his reserves to all lie down on top of the hill so that the British would not know they were there. He directed that when he gave the order they should all "jump up, set up the Indian hallo and run down the hill on the enemy and to fire as they ran, at the same time have bullets in their mouths and powder in their pockets." He also had the men spread out five yards between each man so as to make their numbers seem larger than they were.

When Lt. Col. Tarleton and his remaining men reached the bottom of the hill, Col. Winn gave the command to charge. "The Americans having the advantage of the before mentioned fence together with the thick wood just by the fence that before they got through the lane their front, both men and horse, fell so fast that the way was nearly stopt up." Tarleton's horse was shot from under him. "A retreat was then ordered... so many falling either by wounds or stumbling over the dead horses or men. They were pursued by the Americans with loud shouts of victory."

The 63rd Regiment continued the attack across the open field towards the houses on the hill. Brig. Gen. Sumter told his men to hold their fire until the British were sixty yards away. "There they received such a heavy fire from those in the buildings as well as from a number of the reserve that had got round to that quarter they made their retreat in as great confusion as the horse."

The British rallied their exhausted men and retreated in good order, but they left the field with half of their men lost to the action. "The British made three charges and after the final one, sounded the bugle for retreat, which was known in Sumter's camp."

Brig. Gen. Sumter was wounded, but there are conflicting accounts on when he was shot. Some say that he was wounded in the middle of the battle, but many men who were there wrote that it happened after the battle was over. Whatever, he was hit with six buckshot. Five went into his chest and the sixth chipped his spine and lodged in his left shoulder.

Capt. Robert McElvy stated, "General, you are wounded!" Brig. Gen. Sumter replied, "I am wounded - say nothing about it." He did not want to panic his men. Col. Richard Winn advised Lt. Col. Henry Hampton not to tell anyone that Sumter had been wounded, then had him carried from the field. Sumter then turned over command to Col. John Twiggs of Georgia.

Lt. Col. Tarleton withdrew and had his men to spend the night on a hill two miles away. Col. Twiggs was left holding the field for two hours after the battle - which is considered a victory in the eighteenth century.

Brig. Gen. Sumter was placed in a piece of rawhide suspended between two horses and carried to the mountains of North Carolina with a guard of five men. Col. Twiggs and his men were able to capture thirty British horses. The British also left most of their knapsacks along the Tyger River. That night, Col. Twiggs left the campfires buring and forded the Tyger. Once on the other side, he disbanded the militia, all went their separate ways.

Lt. Col. Tarleton pursued some of them for two more days and went as far as the Pacolet River. While there, he picked up some British/Loyalist survivors of Kings Mountain. At the end of that month, he returned to Brierley's Fort.

When Col. Richard Winn later returned to New Acquisition he learned that his brothers, Capt. John Winn and Minor Winn, had been taken prisoner by the British - another interesting story.

John and Minor Winn had decided to attempt to capture Francis, Lord Rawdon. They knew that Rawdon rode out from Winnsborough from time to time and went to a fruit orchard of a Mr. John Woodman. The Winns believed that they could capture him at the orchard, so they rode to an ambush site and had their slave hold their horses. The slave betrayed them and warned Lord Rawdon of the trap.

The two Winns were captured and ordered to be executed. Their execution was delayed because John Winn's wife had just died and he was allowed to go to the funeral. Afterwards, they were removed to the Camden Jail. In the meantime, Capt. William Nettles was able to capture four British officers near Camden. He sent a message to Lord Cornwallis that he wished to exchange these four British officers for the two Winns. At first, Cornwallis refused, but Capt. Nettles replied that if the Winns were executed then he would in turn execute the four officers.

Col. Richard Winn, learning all of this on his return from the battle of Blackstocks, sent his own message to Lord Cornwallis - if his brothers were hanged he would execute 100 British officers and men that had been taken prisoner during the month of November. Lord Cornwallis knew that this was not an idle threat, so he released the two Winns and Capt. Thomas Starke on parole.

Known Patriot Participants 

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter - Commanding Officer

Burke County Militia (GA) led by Col. John Twiggs with 100 men

Wilkes County Militia (GA) led by Col. Elijah Clarke, Maj. William Candler, with one (1) known company, led by
- Capt. Patrick Carr

Upper Richmond County (GA) Militia Battalion led by Col. Benjamin Few, with unknown number of men

Rutherford County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment led by Col. Andrew Hampton, with three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. George Ledbetter
- Capt. Thomas Price
- Capt. James Withrow

Burke County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. George Walker

Washington County Regiment of Militia (NC) detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. ? Burnett

2nd Spartan Regiment led by Col. Thomas Brandon, Lt. Col. William Farr, Maj. Joseph McJunkin, with eleven (11) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Gabriel Brown (killed)
- Capt. Gavin Gordon
- Capt. William Grant
- Capt. John Lindsay
- Capt. John McCool
- Capt. Hugh Means
- Capt. Robert Montgomery
- Capt. Samuel Otterson
- Capt. Thomas Price
- Capt. Moses White
- Capt. William Young

New Acquisition District Regiment led by Col. Samuel Watson, Lt. Col. William Bratton, with nine (9) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Walter Carson
- Capt. Robert Hanna
- Capt. William Hanna
- Capt. John Henderson
- Capt. John McCloud
- Capt. John McConnell
- Capt. John Moffett
- Capt. James Wallace

Roebuck's Battalion of Spartan Regiment detachment of eight (8) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Barry
- Capt. John Lawson
- Capt. Major Parson
- Capt. Thomas Parsons
- Capt. George Roebuck
- Capt. James Smith
- Capt. William Smith
- Capt. Dennis Tramell

Little River District Regiment detachment led by Col. Joseph Hayes, with five (5) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Thomas Duggin
- Capt. Robert Gillam, Jr.
- Capt. Josiah Greer
- Capt. William Harris
- Capt. John Mills

Turkey Creek Regiment detachment led by Col. Edward Lacey, Lt. Col. John Nixon, Maj. John Lisle, Jr., with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Samuel Adams
- Capt. Robert Frost
- Capt. Henry Lisle
- Capt. Thomas Robins

Hill's Regiment of Light Dragoons detachment led by Col. William Hill, Lt. Col. James Hawthorn, with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Jacob Barnett
- Capt. Robert Cowden
- Capt. John Cunninham
- Capt. Thomas Shannon

1st Spartan Regiment detachment led by Maj. William Smith, with three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Collins
- Capt. Thomas Jones
- Capt. Samuel Peden

Upper Ninety-Six District Regiment detachment led by Maj. James McCall, with three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Francis Carlisle
- Capt. Samuel Earle
- Capt. John Irwin

Lower District Regiment detachment led by Col. David Glynn, with two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt.-Lt. William Harris
- Capt. William Taylor

Hampton's Regiment of Light Dragoons detachment led by Lt. Col. Henry Hampton, with two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Hugh Coffey
- Capt. Henry Coffee

Kershaw Regiment detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. George Dunlap
- Capt. William Simpson

Orangeburgh District Regiment detachment led by Lt. Col. Charles S. Myddleton, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Richard Hampton

Fairfield Regiment detachment led by Col. Richard Winn, Lt. Col. David Hopkins, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Reid

Polk's Regiment of Light Dragoons detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Nathaniel Martin

Maham's Light Dragoons detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Robert McElvy

Lower Ninety-Six District Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Maj. Samuel Hammond

Regiment Unknown detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Thornton (killed)


Total Patriot Forces - 420

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton - Commanding Officer

63rd Regiment of Foot detachment led by Lt. John Money with 80 men

71st Regiment of Foot (Fraser's Highlanders), 1st Battalion led by Maj. Archibald McArthur with 100 men

British Legion Cavalry with 170 men and the following known officers:
- Capt. David Kinlock
- Capt. Richard Hovenden
- Capt. Jacob James's Troop - Lt. Nathaniel Vernon
- Capt. Thomas Sanford
- Capt. David Ogilvy
- Lt. John Skinner


Total British Forces - 350

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-



© 2013 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved