The American Revolution in South Carolina

Brigadier General Andrew Williamson
       

Andrew Williamson (c. 1730-1786) was a commanding officer in the South Carolina backcountry militia from the inception of the war until the fall of Charleston on May 12, 1780. He led the South Carolina militia not only during the Cherokee Expedition in 1776 but also at Briar Creek, Stono Ferry, and many other engagements. He took parole in June of 1780 along with such other notable backcountry Patriots, such as his brother-in-law, LeRoy Hammond, and Andrew Pickens. Unlike Pickens and Hammond, however, Williamson never resumed active participation in the Patriot militia causing him to be labeled as the "Arnold of the South." This label is unjust because, unlike Benedict Arnold, Williamson never took up arms against his country and he did provide Continental Army Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene with useful intelligence regarding British activities in and around Charleston until the end of the war. His spying on behalf of the Patriots lead the South Carolina legislature to lift the confiscation order against Williamson's estate, but his estate was still amerced to a certain degree.

From - Mark M. Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 1994.


Williamson, Andrew (c. 1730-Mar. 21, 1786), Revolutionary soldier, is said to have come to America from Scotland as a young child. Reputedly illiterate, but highly intelligent and a skilled woodsman, he probably began his career as a cow driver. On Sept. 22, 1760, he was commissioned lieutenant in a South Carolina regiment which served in James Grant's expedition against the Cherokees.

By 1765 he was established as a planter, with several small holdings on Hard Labor Creek of the Savannah, and three years later, with Patrick Calhoun and others, he voiced the needs of the backcountry in a petition for courts, schools, ministers of the gospel, and public roads. In 1770, he was named to lay out and keep in repair a road to his plantation, White Hall, six miles west of Ninety-Six. Here he lived with his wife, Eliza Tyler, of Virginia, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.

When the Revolution began, Williamson, a fine looking major of militia, was so influential in the backcountry and so sound a Patriot, that he was elected to the first provincial congress and was awarded a contract to supply the troops. Appointed to enforce the Association in his district, he was summoned with the militia to support William Henry Drayton against the Loyalists, and for the capture of Robert Cunningham he received the thanks of the provincial congress. Besieged by the Loyalists in the Ninety-Six District, he signed the treaty with them on Nov. 2I, 1775, but was in the "Snow Campaign" of December which continued the civil war.

In 1776, he led the panic-stricken militia on his second Cherokee expedition, and when he was ambushed at Essenecca his horse was shot under him. Promoted to colonel, he commanded 2,000 South Carolina troops
in the devastating campaign which subdued the Cherokee. He received the unanimous thanks of the Assembly and on May 20, I777, signed the treaty which took from the Indians a large land cession. A popular officer, attentive to the comfort of his men, Williamson was promoted to brigadier-general in March of 1778 and commanded the South Carolina militia in Continental Army's Brig. Gen. Robert Howe's Florida expedition, sharing the blame for its failure.

In 1779, he was with Continental Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln at the Siege of Savannah; but it was necessary to furlough his deserting militia when the British approached Charleston. He was accused of treason after the fall of that city, when, encamped with 300 men near Augusta, he reputedly concealed the news of
Charleston's surrender for a time and avoided action. It is said that he was rewarded with a British commission for advising his officers to return home and take protection, but no documentary evidence of this allegation has been revealed, and his brother-in-law, Lt. Col. Samuel Hammond, one of the officers present, affirms that he vainly urged that the struggle be continued from North Carolina. After his surrender, he remained at White Hall, where he was captured by the Americans in the hope that he might thereby consider himself released from parole. He
escaped, however, and went into the British lines at Charleston.

So strong was contemporary feeling against him, that when Col. Isaac Hayne captured him, it was supposed that he would be hung in Greene's camp, and his prompt rescue by the British confirmed that supposition. He is
credited, however, with having later supplied the Patriots with valuable information through Lt. Col. John Lauren, and in 1783, Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene intervened to save his estates from confiscation. Soon after the war he
ended his days in the comfortable seclusion of his home in St. Paul's Parish, near Charleston, leaving a name for honesty and benevolence, and an estate, including ninety-odd slaves, valued at more than £2,600.

From the Dictionary of American Biography


Biography from Benson J. Lossing in his Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution [with minor edits]:

Andrew Williamson was born in Scotland and when young was taken by his parents to Ninety-Six in South Carolina. He was a very active lad and it is believed that he attended Montgomery in his expedition against the Indians in 1760. He was with Colonel Grant in a similar expedition in 1761.

He early espoused the Whig cause and was active in opposition to the Cunninghams and other Loyalists. He was promoted to brigadier and in that capacity was employed in opposing the inroads of Prevost from Florida into Georgia. After the fall of Savannah, he was engaged in watching the movements of the enemy upon the Savannah River.

He took possession of Augusta when Campbell retreated from it, and was for some time engaged against the Loyalists in that vicinity, in cooperation with General Elbert. He was afterward engaged in the battle at Stono Ferry below Charleston and was at the Siege of Savannah when D'Estaing aided the Americans.

After that, his conduct awakened suspicions that he was becoming unfriendly to the American couse. When Lincoln was besieged in Charleston he withheld efficient aid; and when that city surrendered he accepted British protection. He was called the "Arnold of the South" in miniature. It is generally conceded that he was a double traitor, for while he was with the British in Charleston he communicated valuable information to General Nathanael Greene.

The time and place of his death is not certainly known. He lived in obscurity and poverty after the war.



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