« ZurückWeiter »
,778, The South Carolina delegates, rather with a view to conquest, than from any special apprehension of danger ; to their own or neighbouring state, from the troops under Sir Henry Clinton, requested the congress to appoint gen. Lincoln (on whose character they justly reposed great confidence) to the command of all their forces to the southward: accordingly they made the appointment on the 25th of September, and ordered him to repair immediately to Charlestown. When he took his leave Of them in October, they had in contemplation the reduction of East Florida, and put into his hands a scheme for effecting it, with the observations of two gentlemen on the strength of St. Augustine. The first hint of a destination of British troops for Georgia appears to have been given to the commander in chief by a letter of the 9th of October, from a confidential correspondent at New York. It was the 4th of December before the general arrived at Charlestown. The North Carolina state, on the first intelligence of an intended embarkation from New York for the southward, generously raised about 2000 militia to serve for five months; put them under the command of gens. Ashe and Rutherford, and sent them forward without delay. They came on with such dispatch, that had they not been detained ten days near Charlestown, to be furnished with arms, they would have been in time to have joined gen. Howe before the reduction of Savannah. South Carolina had not a sufficient stock of public arms for the militia of both states, and suspended the distribution of them, till it became certain whether South Carolina or Georgia was the object of the British armament, which could not be determined while it was in the offing. On the morning
of of the 26th, two regiments of 150 men each from 1779* Charlestown, with the .levies and militia from North Carolina, amounting to about 950, marched for Georgia: they made their first junction with the American army after their retreat over the Savannah.
January the 3d, gen. Lincoln established his head Jan. quarters at Purysburgh, about 30 miles from the mouth 3' of the Savannah. He met with a fore disappointment. He had been encouraged to expect a force consisting of 7000 men, beside the militia of South Carolina andGeorgia, whereas he had only 1400 in the whole. He was also led to believe, that he should meet with great plenty of supplies and military stores, instead of which there were no field pieces, arms, tents,, camp utensils or lead, and but very little powder; in short, hardly any article in the arsenal or quarter-master's store, all occasioned by the want of a military chest. A large proportion of the South Carolina militia was draughted, and marched under gen. Richardson for head quarters. But \ they behaved very badly, refused to submit to the articles of war for the government of the continentals, and left the camp and even their posts at pleasure with impunity; as gen. Lincoln had no hold of them, their own state law only imposing a fine, instead of putting them upon the same footing congress had ordered for all the militia when in pay of the continent and acting with -the regular troops, When ordered on command, and implicit obedience was expected, they would ask at times—" Whither are we going? And how long are we to stay?" By the 24th of January most of them had left the camp. Their defection however was in some measure repaired by the arrival at length of gen. Afte
*779-ncar head quarters, on the 31st, with about 1100 men, which addition made the number of rank and file under Lincoln 2428, beside 367 on command.
While the greatest part of the American force consisted of such ungovernable militia, gen. Prevost joined I col. Campbell with 700 regular troops from St. Augustine. With this increase of numbers he wished to establish a post in South Carolina, and detached 200 men to take possession of Port-Royal island. Soon after
Feb.' they landed, gen. Moultrie, at the head of an equal number, in which there were only nine regular soldiers, attacked and drove them off. This advantage was principally gained by two field pieces, well served by a party of the Charlestown militia artillery. The British lost almost all their officers; and several prisoners were taken. The Americans had a lieutenant and seven privates killed, and 22 wounded. This success checked the British, and for the present prevented any enterprise against South Carolina; but they extended themselves over a great part of Georgia, and established two posts, one at Ebenezer, and the other at Augusta. The last place being high up in the country, was a good position for awing the western inhabitants, and a convenient rendezvous for the royalists. Here the British endeavoured to strengthen themselves by the addition of South Carolina tories. They employed emissaries to encourage them to a general insurrection, and assured theiri; that if they would cross the Savannah, and add their force to that of the king's army at Augusta, they would have such a decided superiority, as would Effectually crush their enemies, and make a speedy return to their jfxomes practicable on their own terms. The army confisted of about 2000 regulars and royalists under col. I779* Campbell. Several hundreds of the Carolina tories collected, embodied under the denomination of loyalists, and marched along the, western frontiers of South Carolina. They had such numbers of the most, insamous characters among them, that their general complexion was that of a plundering banditti, more solicitous for booty than the honor and interest of their royal master. As they marched, they appropriated to their own use every kind of property they could carry off. Col. Pickins upon intelligence of their progress and rapine, collected the whig militia of the district of Ninety. Six. He left a guard at the Cherokee ford to impede their crossing the Savannah, -while he went upon some other service; during his absence they made good their passage. He immediately followed them with about 300 men; came up with and engaged them about three. 14. quarters of an hour, when they gave way and were totally routed. They had 40 killed, including their leader col. Boyd, who had been secretly employed by the .British to collect and head them. Pickins had nine killed and several wounded. By this action the tories were dispersed all over the country. Some ran to North Carolina. Many returned home, and cast themselves upon the mercy of their state government. Being the subjects of South Carolina, they were tried in a regular manner, and 70 were condemned to die; but sentence was executed only on 5 principals, and the rest were pardoned.
The British having extended their posts up the river, gen. Lincoln fixed encampments ac Black Swamp, and nearly opposite to Augusta on the north side. With a view
*779. of strengthening the last, and improving any advantages which might offer for crossing the river, and limiting the British to the sea coast of Georgia, gen. Ashe was ordered to the upper parts of the country. He began his march on the ioth, with 1500 North Carolina militia, and the remains of the Georgia continentals; and on the 13th in the evening reached gen. Williamson's camp opposite Augusta. That same night col. Campbell made so hasty a retreat from Augusta, that by eight the next morning he had marched 14 miles lower down. This precipitate movement was owing to some salse intelligence respecting either Ashe's force, or the arrival of a large body of continentals at Charlestown; which Campbell credited, and from whence he inferred the necessity of an immediate retreat to prevent his being cut off. Lincoln finding that he had quitted Augusta, Feb. wrote to Ashe, that it was of the greatest importance, that if the enemy was out of the upper part of the country, he should follow them down as sast as possible, lest by a forced march they should join their own troops below, attempt his post, and drive him from it, before he (Ashe) could come up with their rear. y Lincoln on the 22d sent him the following intimation—" I think that Briar Creek will be a good stand for you, until some plan of co-operation be digested, for which purpose, as soon as you arrive there, I will meet you at the Two Sisters, you appointing the time." Ashe crossed the Savannah with about 1200 troops, beside 200 light horse. On Saturday morning the '27th, the army arrived at the lower bridge on Briar Creek. The next day gens. Brian and Elbert took possession of a proper spot of ground at twelve o'clock and encamped^ Ashe being gone to