Within a few weeks of his returning to England, two popular magazines ran brief articles on Tarleton to cash in on public curiosity about this flashy new hero. Both issues are dated March, 1782, and both present early images of Tarleton. The one in Westminster Magazine acknowledges that its image is based on the painting by Reynolds, which was not finished until April (Tarleton's final sitting with the artist was April 15), and only publicly exhibited the beginning of May. Presumably, the engraver saw the painting while it was in progress.
The image found in the March issue of London Magazine is described as "an elegant engraved portrait from an original picture by an eminent painter," which indicates that this engraver, too, got a sneak peak at either Reynolds' in-progress portrait or the one Gainsborough was working on in parallel. (The latter was subsequently destroyed). While calling it "elegant" is seriously over-praising it, it is interesting for the simplified detail it shows of the Legion uniform.
The accompanying article, reprinted below, easily lives down to the quality of the artwork. One gets the definite impression it was written without any kind of participation on the part of its subject. While I'm sure Tarleton loved seeing his name in print, he must have wished for something a bit more coherent...
(With an elegant engraved portrait from an original picture by an eminent painter.)
This gallant officer is the second son of the late Mr. John Tarleton an eminent merchant at Liverpool, who designed him for the profession of the law; and gave him a suitable education; at a proper age he was sent to Oxford, and from thence he removed to London where he entered himself a student at the Temple. He continued his studies for some time, but it is said, not with that assiduity which is requisite for success in such an arduous and sedentary walk of life. With a lively genius and a volatile disposition, he was soon drawn by gay companions into the vortex of fashionable amusement, and by the eager pursuit of them, exhausted his finances. In this situation, he turned his thoughts to the military line, and being intimate with several gentlemen of the army, expressed a desire to go over to America as a volunteer. A request of this nature from a young gentleman of his promising appearance was readily complied with by the commander in chief of the army, to whom he was recommended, and he embarked with one of the annual reinforcements sent to Sir Henry Clinton; but we are not informed exactly as to the time of his leaving England, or of his arrival in America. However, he soon gave such signal proofs of his aspiring genius, and personal intrepidity, that he was appointed to a command, and the first laurel he gained was by surprizing and taking prisoner the famous General Lee who at the commencement of the war, deserted his commission in the British army, went over to America, and entered into the service of the American Congress.
For this gallant action, we believe, he was raised to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the American establishment. In the year 1780, his military exploits were so rapid and so extraordinary, that we had scarce any advices from Sir Henry Clinton or Lord Cornwallis in which his name was not mentioned, and his corps distinguished in a very honourable manner. Having inserted the dispatches from those commanders in their proper places in our Magazine for that year, we shall only briefly recapitulate his most signal enterprizes, and refer our readers for the detail to our Chronology for the months of June, July, and October 1780.
It appears by Sir Henry Clinton's letter to Lord George Germain, dated at Charles-Town, South Carolina, May 13th 1780, that on the 8th of the preceding month, Lieut. Colonel Tarleton greatly contributed to the taking of Charles-Town, by forcing the rebel militia with his cavalry and legion infantry, and gaining possession of Biggin's bridge over the river Cooper, by which means the supplies intended for the town, and all reinforcements from the country, were cut off.
It does not clearly appear in the dispatches nor by any public accounts, what the precise idea of a legion is in the armies in America. They are not such large bodies as the Roman legions, they consisted of 6000 men, and were composed of citizens. Whereas Tarleton's whole force seems not to have consisted at any one time of more than 350 men, part of them cavalry, and part infantry, called the legion, we suppose, from being volunteers, and this legion was occasionally mounted and formed into a body of light-horse for pursuit. Accordingly, we find that he was detached, upon the surrender of Charles-Town, to scour the country, and had the bravery to attack a superior body of the enemy's cavalry, when he took and killed about 60, the rest fled on foot, and he got possession of every horse belonging to the corps.
On the 30th of May, after an almost incredible march of 105 miles in two days, from Charles-Town to Warsaw, he defeated the rebel force commanded by Colonel Burford, which so greatly exceeded his corps, that the number of the killed, wounded, and prisoners, exceeded that of the whole force with which he attacked the enemy.
But the most astonishing of all his achievements was, his defeat of General Sumpter. Lord Cornwallis had gained a complete victory over General Gates near Camden, in which Tarleton had a principal share; this action happened on the 16th of August, and on the 18th, Colonel Tarleton, who had marched to find out General. Sumpter, came upon him by surprize at noon day, and defeated his whole detachment which consisted of 700, of whom he killed 150, and took 200, yet his whole force amounted only to 350 men.
In the victory gained by Lord Cornwallis over General Greene at Guildford Court-house, on the 17th of May, 1781, for the detail of which, see our Magazine for June 1781, he is again mentioned in terms of the highest honour-- "his appearance and spirited attack contributed much to a speedy determination of the action."
To sum up the whole in a few words; never were so many gallant actions performed in so short a space of time, by any officer in an inferior command, in any age or country -- and so young -- for he is not quite twenty eight years of age. He was one of that glorious little army which disputed every inch of ground under their great commander Cornwallis, who for want of timely reinforcements was obliged to surrender at York-Town.
Colonel Tarleton has received several wounds, and having lost two of his fingers by the stroke of a sabre, he rides with one hand in his pocket.
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