The American Revolution in North Carolina

1st NC Regiment of Militia

Date Established:

Commander:

Lt. Colonel:

June 2, 1780

Col. Samuel Jarvis

Lt. Col. John Poynter

Date Disbanded:

Major: 

Adjutant:

September 2, 1780

Maj. Isaiah Parr

None Known

Known Captains:

William Brinkley

William Earl

John Harvey

Kenneth McKenzie

John Patterson

Abner Perry

John Peterson

John Pitts

Elisha Rhodes

William Riddick

Jethro Sumner

Alexander Whitehall

? Williams

-

Owen Williams

Brief History of the Regiment:

With the recent capture of Charlestown, SC, the British quickly established outposts in a semicircle from Georgetown, South Carolina to Augusta, Georgia, with significant positions at Camden, Ninety-Six, Cheraw, Rocky Mount, and Hanging Rock in between. Everyone in North Carolina knew that they were next.

On June 2, 1780, the Legislature of North Carolina authorized two new special regiments of Militia to be raised and led by Col. Samuel Jarvis of the Currituck County Regiment and Col. Benjamin Exum of the Wayne County Regiment. These and many other County Militia Regiments were quickly assembled under Major General Richard Caswell at Cross Creek and Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford at Salisbury in July. They were marched to join up with the recently-arrived Major General Horatio Gates of the Continental Army, and led into South Carolina to stop the British if possible.

On July 30th, Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford wrote from Cheraw Hills, South Carolina to Major General Horatio Gates:

"Three days ago I sent out a party to reconnoiter the road towards Camden. They have returned today after advancing within 14 miles of Big Lynches Creek, and bring the following intelligence: the British that left the Cheraws, and those from Anson Court House, were encamped the evening before last at Big Lynches Creek on this side; the Tories that left this river about one mile on the other side. It is said that Col. Samuel Bryant is gone towards the Hanging Rock. This, Sir, is the best account I can get of them. I am busy here collecting a quantity of provision and would wish to stay until I receive your orders." [minor edits]

Also on July 30th, Major General Richard Caswell wrote from Island Creek, about five miles south of Anson Court House to Major General Horatio Gates:

"… most sincerely wish it was in my power to give you such information respecting the design of Lord Cornwallis as might be relied upon. But, Sir, the information I have is derived from so many & so different hands, & their accounts not agreeing, that I cannot form any just idea on his intentions. From putting all circumstances together I am inclined to think he will collect his utmost strength to Camden, where he either intends making a stand or to retreat to Charlestown… I avoided taking up any provisions in the route I apprehend the Maryland line would pursue, and did not intend [Brig.] Genl. [Griffith] Rutherford should have fallen in their way, but previous to my getting to Colson's he had crossed the river there & was advanced so far on that side that it would have been then imprudent to have recalled him, especially as I was not informed that the Maryland line would move on that route so soon." [minor edits]

On July 31st, Major General Richard Caswell, now at Ancrum's Plantation, wrote to Governor Abner Nash:

"…& arrived the 18th at the Cross Roads on Deep River, where lay until the 24th. In this time we were able to procure four days' provisions beforehand by sending out parties to collect and thrash wheat, & leave some wheat in the mills for the use of those Militia who were to follow us… I accordingly marched cross the Yadkin at Moore's Ferry, twenty-two miles below Salisbury, & proceeded to Colson's Mill at the fork where the Rocky River falls into the Pee Dee River. There, I expected to have met with Genl. Rutherford, but he had crossed P.D., & was proceeding down on the east side of the river. I immediately pushed over the Rocky River for Anson Court House, & from thence to this place, which is five miles within the line of So. Carolina, and about the same distance above the Cheraws. Genl. Rutherford is nearly opposite me; and Genl. Gates, who commands now the Southern Department, & is at the head of the Maryland Line, is about twenty-five miles above on the same side with Rutherford; & in his rear are the Virginia Militia. I have ordered Genl. Rutherford to join me today, & in two or three more, I expect we shall have a very formidable army in the neighborhood of this place. The British and Tories have evacuated all their outposts on this river, & have retired towards Georgetown and Camden; our state is free of them, except to the westward of the Catawba; there may yet remain a few there who will soon be extirpated. On the arrival of Genl. Gates I presume a Council of War will be held, when it will be determined that steps may yet be pursued, and I flatter myself they will have such a tendency as to drive the British beyond the Santee River, & even into Charlestown." [minor edits]

On August 2nd, Major General Richard Caswell wrote from Thompson's Creek, about three miles below the Cheraws, to Major General Horatio Gates:

"The very wet weather which has been these three days past has occasioned the river and creeks to rise in such a manner as to stop the mill at Ancrum's from grinding. This obliged me to move from thence this morning, and I am now at Rogers' Mill, where I had been told there could be procured a great quantity of grain, & the mill likely to grind at any time. The former I found true, but the latter the reverse, the mill stopping since I came here by the backwater, and we have not meal for half rations this day. Generals Rutherford & Gregory, who command the two brigades in this camp, I have consulted on the subject of your letter. They join my in opinion that 'tis best for us to march, nothwistanding we may, & most certainly shall, suffer for want of bread. I shall leave all the wagons we can spare to bring on meal when the corn can be ground, & propose setting out for Anderson's as early as tomorrow as practical. I have written to Genl. Butler directing him to proceed by the shortest route to Anderson's." [minor edits]

On August 3rd, Major General Richard Caswell wrote again from Thompson's Creek, this time about twelve miles on the road from Cheraws to Camden, to Major General Horatio Gates:

"I am really much concerned at your distresses for want of provisions, especially as it is not in my power to relieve you. Your observation, Sir, respecting Genl. Rutherford's commands & mine having gleaned the country on both sides of the Pee Dee River of provisions, I must beg leave to offer an objection to on my part. From Rocky River to Ancrum's Plantation, about forty miles, not a grain of corn or wheat was procured by my people & I presume General Rutherford's stay on the other side of the river, near the route of the Continental army, was so short, & his complaints for want of provisions so great, that little was procured there by his people. That the whole should support the whole I agree, with provision to this, in my humble opinion, that the whole should be nearer together, or provisions had in greater plenty than it has been with us, before any can be laid by for those who follow. It seldom happens that a man who has not the wherewithal to fill the bellies of his family obliges them to leave off before they have eaten half sufficient to satiate their appetites, in order to lay by the small remainder for the next comer… If you have been pleased to have allowed me to remain on P.D. below the Cheraws, I could have procured almost any quantity of corn; but, Sir, in obedience to your commands & in discharge of that duty I owe my country, I set out this day, without one ounce of meal or flour & not a sufficiency of break for this day, for Anderson's in full expectation of having the pleasure of seeing you tomorrow evening or the next day at Anderson's, that place I shall certainly reach Saturday morning at farthest, without accident. I have ordered what wagons we could possibly spare to bring on meal as fast as the mills will grind it, but until the freshets are down (which I hope will be in a day or two) little can be expected from them. If wagons can be had, as soon as the waters fall the whole army may be supplied with bread from the mills on both sides of the P.D., between the Cheraws & Long Bluff, a distance of about 15 miles." [minor edits]

On August 4th, Major General Richard Caswell wrote from Jenning's Branch, SC to Majore General Horatio Gates:

"I have just arrived at this place, about one mile from Anderson's, my advance is at that place. By a person from the British camp at Lynches Creek yesterday, I am informed there are at that post about 700 British & some few Tories, that they had not yesterday the least notice of our movements, and that they were not very attentive to camp duties. From this information, which I think might be depended on, I should be induced to attempt surprising the enemy, did not expect you was near at hand and might consider such an attempt in a different point of view from what would be by me intended. The enemy's post is only 15 miles from this, & 'tis very probable, altho' every means in our power will be used to prevent their obtaining notice of our approach, yet their friends which are numerous in proportion to the inhabitants in this part of the country will contrive them notice. With a party of light horse, which I am almost destitute of, I think the post might easily be taken - I mean with the addition of infantry." [minor edits]

On August 5th, Major General Richard Caswell wrote from Anderson's Plantation, about 30 miles west of the Pee Dee River, to Goveron Abner Nash:

"We are now thirty miles from the Cheraws on the Camden road, waiting for Genl. Gates coming up with the Maryland Line. He will be with us in a few hours. Fourteen miles from hence (Lynches Creek) the enemy have a post, and I am told intend to meet us from thence or wait our arrival & give us battle. Their strength we cannot get an exact account of, our information is from 700 to 2,900. If the latter is true, I imagine they have collected their whole force our of Charlestown. Here 'tis said they have not more than 1,000 men… A Major [William R.] Davie, of Mecklenburg, has had two small skirmishes within a few days past with the Tories near the Catawba, in which he was successful. That we shall be so I trust, if we come to action. Our men, tho' worn down with fatigure & in some measure want of bread, are yet in spirits, & I flatter myself will behave well on trial. Some gentlemen of the army will come to the Assembly; by them, if I am in the land of the living, I promise myself the pleasure of giving you a more satisfactory account. You will guess my situation when I inform you that we have been here twenty hours in full expectation of each hour's producing an action. I do not sleep; of course I am not well." [minor edits]

On August 7th, the two Patriot armies under Major General Horatio Gates and Major General Richard Caswell joined forces. Caswell brought more than 2,100 North Carolina Militiamen. More impressive, he also brought an inordinately large baggage train that was hauling so many cumbersome household items that the Continentals almost laughed him off the field. This only increased Major General Gates' disdain for Militia in general, and North Carolina Militia in specific. However, Major General Gates adroitly concealed this disdain as Brigadier General Edward Stevens soon arrived with 700 Virginia Militiamen.

Meanwhile, the British commander over the Camden garrison, Francis, Lord Rawdon, learned of Major General Horatio Gates's entry into South Carolina and he marched his men to occupy the bridge across the western branch of Lynches Creek, known as Little Lynches Creek. The British outpost at Lynches Ferry withdrew and joined Lord Rawdon's army. Major General Gates and his army moved towards Lord Rawdon and actually succeeded in flanking their enemy's force, which is much smaller than the Patriot army.

On August 11th, a skirmish followed when Lt. Colonel Charles Tuffin Armand's Legion drove in some of the British sentries, but the creek banks were too steep, muddy, and slippery, and the swamp was too wide. A cornet of Armand's Legion was captured. Major General Gates did not want to make a frontal attack and remarked that to do so would be "taking the bull by the horns." The Patriots engaged British sentries with long-range rifles, but never hit any of them. After a two-day wait, Major General Gates moved up the creek and crossed over at another location. No North Carolina pensioner later mentioned this small engagement.

Lord Rawdon also did not want to risk a major fight at this location since he knew that Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis was on his way to rendezvous at Camden, so Lord Rawdon withdrew back to Camden and established a camp at Log Town. He ordered the Loyalist Militia to harass the Patriots and lead them away from his retreat, which they succeeded in accomplishing, taking Major General Gates thirty-five miles out of his way-and buying the British more time to prepare for the upcoming battle.

Major General Horatio Gates could not move across the river so he moved his army to Rugeley's Mill by way of Hanging Rock. This took him thirty-five miles from Camden, where he had been only fifteen miles away beforehand. He arrived at his desired location on August 15th and waited for the arrival of Col. Thomas Sumter and his South Carolina Militia - who never arrived.

On the afternoon of August 15th, Lord Cornwallis sent out Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton and his British Legion to gain intelligence on the nearby Patriot army. He intercepted a patrol and brought back three prisoners. They told Lord Cornwallis that their unit was to join Major General Horatio Gates as he marched on Camden that night. Lord Cornwallis ordered his army to march northward at 10:00 p.m., to gain surprise against Major General Gates.

The two fairly large armies surprised each other around 2:30 a.m. on a slight rise near Saunder's Creek called Parker's Old Field. The British Legion hailed the Patriot Lt. Col. Armand's Legion, then spotted Virginian Lt. Col. Charles Porterfield's light infantry on their flank by the light of the moon. A single pistol shot rang out from Lt. Col. Armand's lead horseman, who promptly rode back to the security of the light infantry, 300 yards to the rear. Lt. Col. Charles Tuffin Armand rode over to Lt. Col. Porterfield and whispered, "There is the enemy, Sir. Must I charge him?" Lt. Col. Porterfield replied, "By all means, Sir." Armand rode back to his troops in the road, but it was too late.

Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton's Legion charged first. He:

"came on at the top of his speed, every officer and soldier with a yell of an Indian savage-at every leap their horses took, crying out 'charge, charge, charge' so that their own voices and the echoes resounded in every direction through the pine forest."

Lt. Col. Armand's men held their ground and emptied their pistols at the charging British Legion. Then, they drew their sabres and rode at the enemy. Lt. Col. Armand ordered his right flank to come up on line instead of retreating. He knew that Lt. Col. Porterfield's light infantry was on their flanks and would protect them.

The Battle of Camden is now well underway. The Patriots "fled inglouriously" and the British won the day. Major General Horatio Gates returned to Hillsborough, and was ultimately relieved of his command.

Many NC Patriots were taken prisoner at the Battle of Camden, most notably, Brigadier General Griffith Rutherford. He would be retained for almost a year. Upon later analysis, it was determined that the greatest loss at the Battle of Camden for North Carolina was the loss of so many wagons and teams of horses. It would take North Carolina over a year to put these important "tools" back into place.

The two new regiments of Militia retreated to Salisbury ultimately, and were discharged when their time was up on September 2nd.

Date(s):

Known Battles / Skirmishes:

8/11/1780

Little Lynches Creek (SC)

8/16/1780

Camden (SC)


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