The American Revolution in South Carolina


December 20, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Capt. James Armstrong (VA)
Loyalist Cdr:

Major John Coffin






Old District: 

Charles Town District
Present County:

Charleston County

aka Garden's Plantation.

Ambush, Capt. James Armstrong vs. Major John Coffin
Capt. James Armstrong of Lt. Col. Henry Lee’s Legion (VA) was supposed to make contact with a spy from Charlestown at the plantation of Dr. Alexander Garden. While waiting for the spy Capt. Armstrong spotted Major John Coffin and his New York Volunteers. Lt. Col. Lee’s troops gave chase to the Provincials.

Major Coffin was not alone; he had his dragoons, plus a company of the South Carolina Royalists. Major Coffin had been ordered to find the Patriot cavalry that captured Capt. Ludwig Kienan the day before at McQueen's Plantation. Major Coffin and his New York Volunteers had been a decoy for a trap, and Capt. Armstrong rode into an ambush.

Capt. Armstrong was able to cut his way out of the kill zone by making a bold charge, but most of his men were killed or captured. Capt. Armstrong was captured when his horse went down due to a rock in the road.

Loyalist Stephen Jarvis said to him, "Give me your hand Captain Armstrong, I'll protect you" and he took him back to the rear.

Jarvis wrote "Some of our men made a blow at him, and one came near taking off his scalp. I drew my pistol and said, If you touch the prisoner I'll blow your brains out."

He was the first of Lt. Col. Henry Lee’s officers to be captured during the war. On the same day that Capt. James Armstrong was captured the British abandoned their fortified post at Stono Ferry and joined the troops at John’s Island.

Capt. James Armstrong was soon exchanged for Capt. Ludwig Kienen, who had been captured a day earlier.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Lee's Legion (VA), 1st Mounted Troop led by Capt. James Armstrong with unknown number of men



NY Volunteers, Coffin's Troop of Mounted Infantry led by Major John Coffin

SC Royalists, SC Light Dragoons led by Capt. Archibald Campbell with Lt. Stephen Jarvis

Total British/Loyalist Forces - 46

© 2009 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved