Following is a collection of odds and ends of Tarleton- or Legion-related factoids that don't fit into any of my other pages and aren't long enough to need a "Banecdote" of their own.
First off, the name thing. "Banastre" is dead simple to pronounce. It is said exactly the same as the word "banister," as in the railing that runs down the side of a staircase. It is not "Banastré," "Banastrè," or anything else exotic. Keep in mind that the "re" ending is still used in British spelling. "Theatre"/"theater", "centre"/"center", and so on. The spelling variations have no effect on how the words are pronounced.
Banastre was named after his maternal grandfather, Banastre Parker, and the use of the name within his family traces back to Sir Thomas Banastre, Knight of the Garter in the reign of Edward III.1
Silliest Tarleton spotting to date (thank you, Heather), from an episode of the sitcom Spin City. Note the painting on the apartment wall. It's barely visible in this screen cap, but if you compare it to the inset of the Reynolds portrait, the outline should look rather familiar.
While I'm on the subject of names, let me say a few words about Tarleton's numerous nicknames: In his own time, he was not called "The Green Dragoon." That name was invented by Robert D. Bass as a title for the biography of Tarleton he wrote in the 1950s. I've known this for some time, but what about the others? He's got enough of them. "Bloody Tarleton" (or the more familiar "Bloody Ban"). "The Butcher of the Waxhaws (or Carolinas)." You don't find any of them in the documents of his lifetime. Even people like Governor Rutledge, who had a lot to say about Tarleton's zeal for his profession, called him a polite and neutral "Colonel Tarleton." My assumption has always been that the collection of overwrought nicknames must have been invented in the 19th century -- an age which positively wallowed in excessive melodrama -- and I simply hadn't stumbled over their origins yet. Tony Scotti's marvelous Brutal Virtue, set me straight on this point. It turns out that none of them go back even that far. They are modern inventions, pure and simple. Catchy tags thought up by writers of the 20th century.2
John Pearson turned up this interesting little snippet of lore on Tarleton and Benedict Arnold, as printed in a turn-of-the-last-century newspaper:
"Three great presidents," Inverness Courier, Oct. 4, 1904, p. 3b. Note: In [its October 1904 issue], Cornhill, a British magazine, published an article about anecdotes by Gen. James Wilson regarding American presidents Washington, Lincoln and Grant. Here is a scan of the story about Washington:
"The special feature...is a chapter of anecdotes respecting Washington, Lincoln, and Grant, the three great American Presidents, by General James Wilson, whose memory carries him back over many years. He knew Washington's adopted son and others associated with him, and he was familiar with Lincoln and Grant. Mrs Grant of Laggan was General Wilson's godmother. We subjoin a few of the anecdotes. --
"In the victory that was won at Saratoga in October 1777, the hero of the battle -- in its results one of the decisive engagements of the world -- was not the American commander (Washington) but Benedict Arnold. A few weeks later after that great event, the Commander-in-Chief complimented Arnold upon his gallantry, and said to him in his stately way: 'I understand, sir, that in the battle of Saratoga, where you rendered such valuable service to your country, you lost your sleeve-links. Will you do me the honour to accept this pair, which I have worn several months, and of which I have duplicates?' When General Arnold became traitor to his native land, and Washington, with righteous indignation, had denounced his base treachery in bitter and burning words, he no longer found pleasure in the possession of the sleeve-links, and so he presented them to Colonel Tarleton, the only British officer who treated him him with any degree of courtesy. When Tarleton returned with the British army to the old world, he gave Washington's gift to his military secretary, an American loyalist, and when he died they were left to his only son, Fitz Greene Halleck. When the poet passed away, he bequeathed them to a young army friend, who later became his biographer and also the author of this article, who is the proud possessor of the beautiful gold sleeve-links.
Guy Breakingbury sends in this bit of trivia: "Ban is officially a computer game character! He appears in the PC game 'Liberty or Death,' released by Koei in 1989. You can count on one hand the number of RevWar games available and this is the only one I have ever seen that allows one to play as the British (yay!). Major Banastre Tarleton appears in the game around mid-1776 with a dragoon command of 250 men. His statistics are not particularly flattering. (His leadership is 65%, his tactical ability 60% and his ability to maintain discipline just 38%! His other traits, such as reputation, loyalty, training etc. change over time reflecting how you use him during the course of the war.) The picture that accompanies his shows him in a red coat and they seem to have given him blue hair! But still, you can order him to loot the locals, sneak him into enemy lines John André style and even promote him to General if you play it for long enough! You can download the game for free at www.the-underdogs.org if you fancy."
Obituaries were published in various newspapers and magazines after Ban Tarleton's death. I have transcripts for three of them, the highly sentimental write-up from the Hereford Journal (which was probably composed by his widow, given its resemblance to the text of the monument she had made for him) and more formal ones from The Gentleman's Magazine and The Annual Register.
In the years after the American War, Tarleton formed lasting friendships with a number of his former enemies. When General Thaddeus Kosciusko spent time in London, recuperating from wounds taken in Poland, Tarleton sought him out. He eventually introduced Kosciusko to the Whig Club, and as their presiding officer, presented the elderly patriot with a ceremonial sword, declaring that, "in the hand of this brave and gallant man, it will always be wielded for freedom." He also spoke out in Lafayette's defense in Parliament, when his old enemy was taken captive during the war with France.3
His list of unlikely post-war acquaintances must also have included Thomas Jefferson. In 1786, Banastre and Mary Robinson were living in Paris together at the same time Jefferson was initiating an affair with artist Maria Cosway. Mary and Maria eventually collaborated on a book, Progress of Female Virtue and Female Dissipation, with Robinson writing the text and Cosway providing the illustrations in the form of a series of aquatint engravings. It is generally accepted that their friendship began that year in Paris.4
Living in such close social proximity, the two men must have become acquainted, though I can find no record of what they thought of each other. Now that the wartime animosities had had time to begin to cool, Jefferson may have remembered that Tarleton treated his beloved Monticello "very genteely" and greeted him with an open mind. On the other hand, Jefferson loftily disapproved of the lifestyle of the Prince of Wales on moral grounds, so he may have tarred Tarleton with the same brush as his royal friend when he spoke of "the insupportable profligacy of [the Prince's] society." It would be interesting to know.5
Contrary to what one might expect from his headlong nature and reckless physical courage, Banastre detested the practice of duelling, and always avoided embroiling himself in "affairs of honor." As he put it, "It was my good fortune ... to have often engaged as a pacificator; as a duellist -- never." Bass adds the observation, "Since no one could question his courage, no one imputed his hatred to cowardice."6
According to legend, partisan leader Francis Marion owes his nickname, "The Swamp Fox" to Banastre Tarleton. After pursuing Marion through the tangled reaches of Ox Swamp, Tarleton eventually gave up the pursuit and, in a fit of frustration, is said to have declared, "Come, my boys! Let us go back and we will find the Gamecock. But as for this damned old fox, the devil himself could not catch him!" The story got around, and local rebels adapted "damned old fox" to "Swamp Fox," a nickname which stuck to Marion for the rest of his career. Whether or not there is any truth to this tale is anyone's guess. Marion's nickname may, in fact, be as non-contemporary as Tarleton's, though it certainly has a longer history, dating back at least prior to 1850.7
1 See Jane Tarleton's obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 67 (1797): 615-616. [ back ]
2 See Anthony J. Scotti, Jr., Brutal Virtue: The Myth and Reality of Banastre Tarleton (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 2002), pp122-3 n72 and elsewhere. [ back ]
3 Robert D. Bass, The Green Dragoon; The Lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson (New York: Henry Holt and Company; 1957), p380. [ back ]
4 Fawn M. Brodie, Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1974), p202. There are questions about this, and I haven't been able to find clarification. It seems to be widely accepted among Jefferson's biographers that Mary and Maria were friends in Paris, which would make it highly probable that Jefferson and Tarleton knew each other. But I can't find documentation to prove the two men met, and have recently been told of an article on Mary Robinson which questions the assumption that the book (which was not finished until many years later) was started in Paris. [ back ]
5 Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, January 11, 1789, in Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian Boyd et al., 28+ vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-), 14:430. The mention of Tarleton's genteel behavior is TJ to William Gordon, ibid, 13:363. [ back ]
6 Bass, The Green Dragoon, p262. [ back ]
7 Robert D. Bass, The Swamp Fox, The Life and Campaigns of General Francis Marion (Orangeburg, South Carolina: Sandlapper Publishing Co., Inc., 1974), p82. [ back ]
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