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[NOTE: All words or lines in Lord Cornwallis's subsequent letters, that are highlighted were originally written in cipher.]
[p241] (N O T E A.)
Extract. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Major-general Leslie, dated camp at Wynnesborough, Nov. 12th, 1780.
We will then give our friends in North Carolina a fair trial: If they behave like men, it may be of the greatest advantage to the affairs of Britain; if they are as -- as our friends to the southward, we must leave them to their fate, and secure what we have got.
(N O T E B.)
Extract. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated Wynnesborough, Dec. 18th, 1780.
If you had not moved yesterday, Kinlock would have informed you that Leslie's fleet came over the bar on Thursday last, all [p242] well, and not a single missing ship; they will begin their march, I believe, this day. I expect Balfour here to-morrow or Wednesday. Lord Rawdon has received intelligence, which, however, he does not credit, that Morgan's corps and the cavalry had passed the Catawba. I have sent out every body I could engage to go; but the friends hereabout are so timid, and so stupid, that I can get no intelligence.
I apprehend we must first dislodge Lacey, &c. from Turkey creek, and then march up the west side of Catawba to some of the fords about the Tuckaseege. I wish you would take pains to inform yourself as thoroughly as possible of the state of the roads, (a.) provisions, forage, mills, &c. I have good account of our recruits, in general, and hope to march from hence three thousand five hundred fighting men, leaving those I mentioned to you on the frontiers.
I trust you will make every possible shift rather than go much farther back, as I should then be uneasy about M'Arthur; and as soon as you have been able to get information about the country, I should be glad to see you, to talk over our march.
(N O T E C.)
Extract. -- From Major-general Leslie to Lord George Germain, dated Charles town, Dec. 19th, 1780.
I did myself the honour of writing to your lordship at sea, on board the Romulus, the 27th ult. From hard gales and contrary winds, we did not get here before the 13th instant. The troops are all arrived in great health: We met with no loss except our horses. [p243] Commodore Gayton paid the greatest attention in keeping his fleet together, and disposing of his light armed vessels for the protection of the transports. I found orders here to march up the country with about one thousand five hundred and thirty men, [(b.)] to join Lord Cornwallis as soon as possible: The want of horses and waggons prevented me proceeding on my march until this day.
(N O T E D.)
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated Wynnesborough, Dec. 26th, 1780.
A man came this morning from Charlotte town; his fidelity is, however, very doubtful; he says, that Greene marched on Wednesday last towards the Cheraws, to join General Caswall, and that Morgan, with his infantry and one hundred and twenty-four of Washington's light horse, crossed Biggar's ferry, on Thursday and Friday last, to join Lacey. I expect more certain intelligence before night, when you shall hear again from me.
(N O T E E.)
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated Wynnesborough, Dec. 30th, 1780.
I send you the reports of the day. First, Morgan and Washington have passed Broad river; secondly, a brig from York says, that [p244] a packet had arrived there from England, and that accounts were brought, that six regiments were under orders for embarkation, supposed to be destined for Carolina; thirdly, and the worst report of all, if true, that one thousand French are got into Cape Fear, who will probably fortify themselves at Wilmington, and stop our water communication with Charles town for provisions; fourthly, that an embarkation was taking place, under General Phillips, from New York, said to be destined for the Chesapeak.
Lord Rawdon mentions, that by a letter from M'Kinnon to England, he is afraid that the accoutrements for the 17th dragoons are coming up by the slow process of General Leslie's corps. Try to get (a.) all possible intelligence of Morgan.
Your's very sincerely,
Lieut. Col. Tarleton.
(N O T E F.)
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated Wynnesborough, Jan. 2d, 1780, seven o'clock A. M. (*)
I sent Haldane (a.)/[(b.)] to you last night, to desire you would pass Broad river, with the legion and the first battalion of the 71st, as soon as possible. If Morgan is still at Williams', or any where within your reach, I should wish you to push him to the utmost: I have not [p245] heard, except from M'Arthur, of his having cannon; nor would I believe it, unless he has it from very good authority: It is, however, possible, and Ninety Six is of so much consequence, that no time is to be lost.
Let me know if you think that the moving the whole, or any part of my (c.) corps, can be of use.
(N O T E G.)
[(a.)] Extract. -- From Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton to Earl Cornwallis, dated Brookes', Jan. 4th, 1781.
Morgan, with upwards of one thousand two hundred men, being on this side Broad river, to threaten Ninety Six, and evade your lordship's army whenever you may move, I beg leave to offer my opinion how his design may be prevented.
I must draw my baggage, the 71st and legion's are deposited at my old camp, to me. I wish it to be escorted by the 17th light dragoons, for whom horses are ready; by the yagers, if to be spared; and by the 7th regiment. The 7th I will send, as soon as I reach Ennoree, with the field piece, to Ninety Six. My encampment is now twenty miles from Brierley's, in a plentiful forage country, and I can lay in four days flour for a move.
[p246] When I advance, I must either destroy Morgan's (b.) corps, or push it before me over Broad river, towards King's (e.) mountain. The advance of the army should commence (when your lordship orders this (c.) corps to move) onwards for King's (d.) mountain. Frequent communication by letter can pass the Broad river. I feel myself bold in offering my opinion, as it flows from zeal for the public service, and well-grounded inquiry concerning the enemy's designs and operations.
I have directed Captain M'Pherson, the bearer of this letter, who is going on the recruiting service, to deliver a letter to Lieutenant Munroe, whom I left at my camp, to bring up my baggage, but no women.
If your lordship approves of this plan, Captain M'Pherson may give my order to Lieutenant Munroe to escort to me three puncheons of rum, and some salt; and, upon their arrival, I will move.
(N O T E H.)
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated Wynnesborough, January 5th, 1781, eight o'clock P. M.
Since I wrote to you this morning, I received yours, dated yesterday, two P. M. You have exactly done what I wished you to do, and understood my (a.) intentions perfectly. Lest my letter of this morning should miscarry, I repeat the most material paragraph.
[p247] Your baggage is ordered to Brierley's, under care of seventh regiment. I propose marching on Sunday.
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated M'Alister's, January 8th, 1781.
I have just received yours, 7th January, three o'clock P. M. I shall remain here to-morrow, march to cross roads on Wednesday, halt Thursday, and reach Bullock's-creek house Saturday.
I have no news.
Yours very sincerely,
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated M'Alister's, January 9th, 1781, three P. M.
Nothing new since yesterday; some of Washington's cavalry, who had been escorting prisoners to Charlotte town, returned over [p248] Broad river. I have taken every means in my power to find out Morgan's movements, and whether he repasses Broad river.
I received yours January 8th.
Yours very sincerely,
(N O T E I.)
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated M'Alister's, January 11th, 1781, P. M.
I received yours last night, of the 9th, four P. M. I fear the waters have been much more swelled since you wrote it. At present I think I shall move Saturday to cross roads. I can hear nothing of Morgan; they say there are several ferries high up Broad river where he may pass, particularly Talbot's ferry. Leslie is much retarded by the waters.
Extract. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated Bull run, January 14, 1781.
Leslie is at last (a.) [(a.)2] out of the swamps.
[p249] I have not heard of Morgan's moving; but conclude he will not cross Broad river: I hear it has fallen very much.
(N O T E K.)
Extract. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lord George Germain, dated Jan. 18, 1781.
I think it necessary to transmit to your lordship a copy of my letter to Sir Henry Clinton, lest the exaggerated accounts from the rebels should reach Europe before your lordship could hear from New York. I shall only say, in addition to what I have said to Sir Henry Clinton, that this event was extremely unexpected; for the greatest part of the troops that were engaged, had, upon all former occasions, behaved with the most distinguished gallantry.
Extract. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Sir Henry Clinton, dated camp on Turkey (a.) creek, Broad river, Jan. 18th, 1781.
In my letter of the 6th of this month I had the honour to inform your excellency, that I was ready to begin my march for North Carolina, having been delayed some days by a diversion made by the enemy towards Ninety Six. General Morgan still remained on the Pacolet; his corps, by the best accounts I could get, consisted of about five hundred men, continental and Virginia state troops, and one hundred [p250] cavalry under Colonel Washington, and six or seven hundred militia: But that body is so fluctuating, that it is impossible to ascertain its number within some hundreds for three days following.
Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, with the legion, and corps annexed to it, consisting of about three hundred cavalry, and as many infantry, and the 1st battalion of the 71st regiment, and one three-pounder, had already passed the Broad river for the relief of Ninety Six. I therefore directed Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton to march on the west of Broad river, to endeavour to strike a blow at General Morgan, and at all events to oblige him to repass the Broad river; I likewise ordered that he should take with him the 7th regiment and one three-pounder, which were marching to reinforce the garrison of Ninety Six, as long as he should think their services could be useful to him. The remainder of the army marched between the Broad river and Catawba.
As General Greene had quitted Mecklenburgh county, and crossed the Pedee, I made not the least doubt that General Morgan would retire on our advancing. The progress of the army was greatly impeded by heavy rains, which swelled the rivers and creeks; yet Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton conducted his march so well, and got so near to General Morgan, who was retreating before him, as to make it dangerous for him to pass Broad river, and came up with him at eight o'clock of the morning of the 17th instant. Every thing now bore the most promising aspect: The enemy were drawn up in an open wood, and, having been lately joined by some militia, were more numerous; but the different quality of the corps under Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton's command, and his great superiority in cavalry, left him no room to doubt of the most brilliant success. The attack was begin by the first [p251] line of infantry, consisting of the 7th regiment, the infantry of the legion, and corps of light infantry annexed to it; a troop of cavalry was placed on each flank; the 1st battalion of the 71st, and the remainder of the cavalry, formed the reserve. The enemy's line soon gave way, and their militia quitted the field; but our troops having been thrown into some disorder by the pursuit, General Morgan's corps faced about, and gave them a heavy fire: This unexpected event occasioned the utmost confusion in the first line: The 1st battalion of the 71st, and the cavalry, were successively ordered up; but neither the exertions, entreaties, or example, of Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, could prevent the panic from becoming general. The two three-pounders were taken, and, I fear, the colours of the 7th regiment shared the same fate. In justice to the detachment of the royal artillery, I must here observe, that no terror could induce them to abandon their guns, and they were all either killed or wounded in the defence of them. Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton with difficulty assembled fifty of his cavalry, who, having had time to recollect themselves, and being animated with the bravery of the officer who had so often led them to victory, charged and repulsed Colonel Washington's horse, retook the baggage of the corps, and cut to pieces the detachment of the enemy who had taken possession of it; and after destroying what they could not conveniently bring off, retired with the remainder, unmolested, to Hamilton's ford, near the mouth of Bullock's creek. The loss of our cavalry is inconsiderable; but I fear about four hundred of the infantry are either killed, wounded, or taken. I will transmit the particular account of the loss as soon as it can be ascertained.
It is impossible to foresee all the consequences that this unexpected and extraordinary event may produce; but your excellency may be [p252] assured that nothing but the most absolute necessity shall induce me to give up the important object of the winter's campaign.
I shall direct Lieutenant-colonel Balfour to transmit a copy of this letter, by the first opportunity, to the secretary of state.
I have the honour to be, &c.
(N O T E L.)
Extract. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated Fornay's, January 30, 1780.2
You have forfeited no part of my esteem as an officer by the unfortunate event of the action of the 17th: The means you used to bring the enemy to action were able and masterly, and must ever do you honour. Your disposition was unexceptionable; the total misbehaviour of the troops could alone have deprived you of the glory which was so justly your due.
(N O T E M.)
Copy. -- From Major-general Greene to Colonel Locke, dated camp at Beatty's ford, January 31st, 1781.
The enemy are laying on the opposite side of the river, and, from every appearance, seem determined to penetrate the country. [p253] General Davidson informs, he has called again and again for the people to turn out and defend their country. The inattention to his call and the backwardness of the people is unaccountable. Providence has blessed the American arms with signal success in the defeat of Tarleton, and the surprise of George town by Colonel Lee with his legion. If, after these advantages, you neglect to take the field and suffer the enemy to overrun the country, you will deserve the miseries ever inseparable from slavery. Let me conjure you, my countrymen, to fly to arms, and to repair to head quarters without loss of time, and bring with you ten days provision. You have every thing that is dear and valuable at stake: If you will not face the approaching danger, your country is inevitably lost. On the contrary, if you repair to arms, and confine yourselves to the duties of the field, Lord Cornwallis must be certainly ruined. The continental army is marching with all possible dispatch from the Pedee to this place; but, without your aid, their arrival will be of no consequence.
I am, Sir,
Your humble servant,
(N O T E N.)
Philadelphia, Feb. 28th. [(**)]
Intelligence from the southward.
By authentic advices we learn, that General Morgan collected near one hundred prisoners, by parties sent out for the purpose, after the [p254] account he gave in his letter to General Greene, dated the 19th of January last; that upon receiving the news of Colonel Tarleton's defeat, Lord Cornwallis marched with his army in pursuit of the light infantry and prisoners. As soon as General Greene was informed of the movement of Lord Cornwallis, he put the army in motion on Pedee, and leaving it under the command of General Huger, set out to join the light infantry, (b.) in order to collect the militia, and embarrass the enemy, until he could effect a junction of his forces. General Morgan, after his attack on Colonel Tarleton, had very judiciously made forced marches up the country, and happily (a.) crossed the Catawba the evening before a great rain, which swelled the river to such a degree, as prevented the enemy from crossing for several days; during which time the prisoners were got over the Yadkin, and on their march to Dan river, which they passed, and on the 14th of this month had reached Bedford court house, in the state of Virginia.
General Greene, on the latter end of January, arrived at the light-infantry camp, at Sherard's ford, on the Catawba. The enemy were a little lower down the river, at M'Cowan's ford, and the river was still so high, that they could not cross. They had destroyed their waggons and equipped themselves completely as light infantry. Their force consisted of between one thousand five hundred and three thousand troops, including near three hundred dragoons, and their mounted infantry. On the 1st of February they crossed at M'Cowan's ford: General Davidson, with a party of militia, was posted there, in order to oppose their passage; but he falling by the first discharge, the enemy made good their landing, and the militia retreated.
[p255] A place of rendezvous was appointed for the militia to assemble at, who were posted at the different fords up and down the river. Part of them halted about seven miles short of the place of rendezvous, and were overtaken by Tarleton, and dispersed. General Greene waited that night at the place appointed, but finding the militia did not collect, the light infantry continued their march to Salisbury, and crossed the Yadkin. Before they had got over all the baggage and stores, the enemy approached, and there was a pretty smart skirmish (c.) between a part of our riflemen and the advance of the enemy, near the ford. The boats being secured, and the river continuing high from the late rains, the enemy were for some time stopped in their pursuit. Heavy rains, deep creeks, and bad roads, as well as delays for want of provisions and other causes, prevented our forming a junction as soon as was expected: General Greene, therefore, fearing the river might fall so as to be fordable, ordered the army to file off to Guildford court house, where part of them arrived on the evening of the 8th, and the rest were expected to be in on the 9th. The enemy finding they could not pass at the Trading ford, near Salisbury, marched up the south side of the Yadkin, and on the night of the 7th crossed at the shallow ford, and had on the 9th advanced towards Salem, one of the Moravian towns, within twenty-five or thirty miles of Guildford court house.
These rapid movements having prevented the junction of the militia, General Greene ordered the stores and heavy baggage to be removed to Prince Edward court house, in the state of Virginia; and having formed a light army, (d.) composed of the cavalry of the 1st and 3d regiments, Lieutenant-colonel Lee's legion, a detachment of light infantry under Colonel Howard, and some few Virginia riflemen, making in the whole seven hundred, ordered them with the [p256] militia to harass the enemy in their advance, and check their progress, while he, with the rest of the army, crossed the Roanoke. In the mean time General Sumpter was ordered to collect the militia in the upper part of South Carolina, and General Pickens had orders to take the command of the men in arms in the rear of the enemy. Such was the situation of the two armies at the date of the last dispatches, which was the 16th of this month.
(N O T E O.)
By the Right Honourable Charles Earl Cornwallis, Lieutenant-general of His Majesty's forces, &c.
Whereas it has pleased the Divine Providence to prosper the operations of His Majesty's arms, in driving the rebel army out of this province; and whereas it is His Majesty's most gracious wish to rescue his faithful and loyal subjects from the cruel tyranny under which they have groaned for many years, I have thought proper to issue this proclamation, to invite all such faithful and loyal subjects to repair, without loss of time, with their arms and ten days provisions, to the royal standard now erected at Hillsborough, where they will meet with the most friendly reception: And I do hereby assure them, that I am ready to concur with them in effectual measures for suppressing the remains of rebellion in this province, and for the re-establishment of good order and constitutional government.
[p257] Given under my hand, at head quarters, at Hillsborough, this twentieth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty one, and in the twenty-first year of His Majesty's reign.
By his lordship's command,
H. Brodrick, Aid-de-camp.
GOD save the KING!
(N O T E P.)
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, dated Hillsborough, Feb. 24th, 1781, three P. M. triplicate.
I have received intelligence from two persons, that Greene passed the Dan on the 22d, and was advancing to Dobbyn's. They mention so many particulars, that I cannot help giving some credit: I therefore wish you to join me as soon as possible.
I take my ground this evening on the south side the Eno.
[p258] (N O T E Q.)
Copy. -- From Major-general Greene to General Washington, dated head quarters, iron works, North Carolina, March 10th, 1781.
Since I had the honour of addressing your excellency last, there have been some changes in our circumstances. On the 2d, Lieutenant-colonel Lee, with a detachment of riflemen, attacked the advance of the British army, under Colonel Tarleton, near Allamance, and killed and wounded, by report, about thirty of them. On the 6th, the British moved down toward High Rock, either with a view to intercept our (a.) stores, or cut off the light infantry from the main body of the army, then advanced near seven miles; but they were handsomely opposed, and suffered considerably, without effecting any thing.
This manoeuvre (b.) occasioned me to retire over the Haw river, and move down the north side of it, with a view to secure (c.) our stores coming to the army, and to form a junction with several considerable reinforcements of Carolina and Virginia militia, and one regiment of eighteen-months men, on the march from Hillsborough to High Rock. I effected (d.) this business, and returned to Guildford court house.
Our militia had been upon such a loose and uncertain footing ever since we crossed the Dan, that I could attempt nothing with confidence, though we kept within ten or twelve miles of the enemy for several days. The enemy kept close, seemingly determined that we [p259] should gain no advantage of them without risking something of consequence.
I have the honour to be,
With great respect and esteem,
Your most obedient humble servant,
His Excellency General Washington.
(N O T E R.)
Copy. -- From Earl Cornwallis to Lord George Germain, dated Guildford, March 17th, 1781.
Having occasion to dispatch my aid-de-camp, Captain Brodrick, with the particulars of the action of the 15th, in compliance with general directions from Sir Henry Clinton, I shall embrace the opportunity to give your lordship an account of the operations of the troops under my command previous to that event, and of those subsequent, until the departure of Captain Brodrick.
My plan for the winter's campaign was to penetrate into North Carolina, leaving South Carolina in security against any probable attack in my absence. Lord Rawdon, with a considerable body of troops, had charge of the defensive, and I proceeded about the middle of January upon the offensive operations. I decided to march by the upper in preference to the lower roads leading into North Carolina, because fords being frequent above the forks of the rivers, my passage there could not easily be obstructed; and General Greene having taken [p260] post on the Pedee, and there being few fords in any of the great rivers of this country below their forks, especially in winter, I apprehended being much delayed, if not entirely prevented from penetrating by the latter route.
I was the more induced to prefer this route, as I hoped in my way to be able to destroy or drive out of South Carolina the corps of the enemy commanded by General Morgan, which threatened our valuable district of Ninety Six: And I likewise hoped, by rapid marches to get between General Greene and Virginia, and by that means force him to fight without receiving any reinforcement from that province; or, failing of that, to oblige him to quit North Carolina with precipitation, and thereby encourage our friends to make good their promises of a general rising, to assist me in re-establishing His Majesty's government.
The unfortunate affair of the 17th of January was a very unexpected and severe blow; for, besides reputation, our loss did not fall short of six hundred men: However, being thoroughly sensible that defensive measures would be certain ruin to the affairs of Britain in the southern colonies, this event did not deter me from prosecuting the original plan. That General Greene might be uncertain of my intended route as long as possible, I had left General Leslie at Camden, until I was ready to move from Wynnesborough, and he was now within a day's march of me: I employed the 18th (a.) in forming a junction with him, and in collecting the remains of Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton's corps; after which, great exertions were made by part of the army, without baggage, to retake our prisoners, and to intercept General Morgan's corps on its retreat to the Catawba; but the [p261] celerity of their movements, and the swelling of numberless creeks in our way, rendered all our efforts fruitless.
I therefore assembled the army on the 25th (b.) at Ramsoure's mill, on the south fork of the Catawba; and as the loss of my light troops could only be remedied by the activity of the whole corps, I employed a halt of two days in collecting flour, and in destroying superfluous baggage, and all my waggons, except those loaded with hospital stores, salt, and ammunition, and four reserved empty in readiness for sick or wounded. In this measure, though at the expence of a great deal of officers' baggage, and of all prospect in future of rum, and even a regular supply of provisions to the soldiers, I must, in justice to the army, say, that there was the most general and chearful acquiescence.
In the mean time the rains had rendered the north Catawba impassable; and General Morgan's corps, the militia of the rebellious counties of Rowan and Mecklenburg under General Davidson, or the gang of plunderers usually under the command of General Sumpter, not then recovered from his wounds, had occupied all the fords in a space of more than forty miles upward from the fork. During its height, I approached the river by short marches, so as to give the enemy equal apprehensions for several fords; and after having procured the best information in my power, I resolved to attempt the passage at a private ford, then slightly guarded, near M'Cowan's ford, on the morning of the 1st of February.
Lieutenant-colonel Webster was detached with part of the army and all the baggage to Beattie's ford, six miles above M'Cowan's, where General Davidson was supposed to be posted with five hundred militia, [p262] and was directed to make every possible demonstration, by cannonading and otherwise, of an intention to force a passage there; and I marched at one in the morning, (c.) with the brigade of guards, regiment of Bose, 23d, two hundred cavalry, and two three-pounders, to the ford fixed upon for the real attempt.
The morning being very dark and rainy, and part of our way through a wood where there was no road, one of the three pounders in front of the 23d regiment and the cavalry overset in a swamp, and occasioned those corps to lose the line of march; and some of the artillery men belonging to the other gun, (one of whom had the march) having stopped to assist, were likewise left behind. The head of the column in the mean while arrived at the bank of the river, and the day began to break. I could make no use of the gun that was up, and it was evident, from the number of fires on the other side, that the opposition would be greater than I had expected: However, as I knew that the rain then falling would soon render the river again impassable, and I had received information the evening before, that General Greene had arrived in General Morgan's camp, and that his army was marching after him with the greatest expedition, I determined not to desist from the attempt; and therefore, full of confidence in the zeal and gallantry of Brigadier-general O'Hara, and of the brigade of guards under his command, I ordered them to march on, but, to prevent confusion, not to fire until they gained the opposite bank. Their behaviour justified my high opinion of them; for a constant fire from the enemy, in a ford upwards of five hundred yards wide, in many places up to their middle, with a rocky bottom and strong current, made no impression on their cool and determined valour, nor (d.) checked their passage. The light infantry landing first, immediately formed, and in a few minutes killed or dispersed [p263] every thing that appeared before them; the rest of the troops forming, and advancing in succession. We now learned that we had been opposed by about three hundred militia that had taken post there only the evening before, under the command of General Davidson. Their general and two or three other officers were among the killed; the number of wounded was uncertain; a few were taken prisoners. On our side, Lieutenant-colonel Hall and three men were killed, and thirty-six wounded, all of the light infantry and grenadiers of the guards. By this time the rear of the column had joined; and the whole having passed with the greatest dispatch, I detached Lieutenant-colonel (e.) Tarleton, with the cavalry and twenty-third regiment, to pursue the routed militia. A few were soon killed or taken; and Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton having learned that three or four hundred of the neighbouring militia were to assemble that day at Tarrant's house, about ten miles from the ford, leaving his infantry, he went on with his cavalry, and finding the militia as expected, he with excellent conduct and great spirit attacked them instantly, and totally routed them, with little loss on his own side, and on their's, between forty and fifty killed, wounded, or prisoners. This stroke, with our passage of the ford, so effectually dispirited the militia, that we met with no farther (f.) opposition on our march to the Yadkin, th[r]ough one of the most rebellious tracts in America.
During this time the rebels having quitted Beatty's ford, Lieutenant-colonel Webster was passing his detachment and the baggage of the army; this had become tedious and difficult, by the continuance of the rain, and the swelling of the river; but all joined us soon after dark, about six miles from Beatty's ford. The other fords were likewise abandoned by the enemy: The greatest part of the militia dispersed; and General Morgan with his corps marched all that afternoon [p264] and the following night towards Salisbury. We pursued next morning, in hopes to intercept him between the rivers; and after struggling with many difficulties, arising from swelled creeks and bad roads, the guards came up with his rear, in the evening of the 3d, routed it, and took a few waggons at the Trading ford of the Yadkin. He had passed the body of the infantry in flats, and his cavalry and waggons by the ford, during that day and the preceding night; but at the time of our arrival, the boats (g.) were secured on the other side, and the ford had become impassable. The river continuing to rise, and the weather appearing unsettled, I determined to march to the upper fords, after procuring a small supply of provisions at Salisbury: This, and the height of the creeks in our way, detained me two days; and in that time, Morgan having quitted the banks of the river, I had information from our friends, who crossed in canoes, that General Greene's army was marching with the utmost dispatch to form a junction with him at Guildford. Not having had time to collect the North-Carolina militia, and having received no reinforcement from Virginia, I concluded he would do every thing in his power to avoid an action on the south side of the Dan; and it being my interest to force him to fight, I made great expedition, and got between him and the upper fords; and being assured that the lower fords are seldom practicable in winter, and that he could not collect many flats at any of the ferries, I was in great hopes that he would not escape me without receiving a blow. Nothing could exceed the patience and alacrity of the officers and soldiers under every species of hardship and fatigue, in endeavouring to overtake them: But our intelligence upon this occasion was exceedingly defective; which, with heavy rains, bad roads, and the passage of many deep creeks, and bridges destroyed by the enemy's light troops, rendered all our exertions vain; for, upon our arrival at Boyd's ferry [(h.)] on the 12th, we learned, that his rear [p265] guard had got over the night before, his baggage and main body having passed the preceding day at that and the neighbouring ford, where more flats had been collected than had been represented to me as possible.
My force being ill suited to enter by that quarter so powerful a province as Virginia, and North Carolina being in the utmost confusion, after giving the troops a halt of a day, I proceeded by easy matches to Hillsborough, where I erected the King's standard, and invited, by proclamation, all loyal subjects [(i.)] to repair to it, and to stand forth and take an active part in assisting me to restore order and constitutional government. As a considerable body of friends were said to reside between the Haw and Deep rivers, I detached Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton on the 23d, (k.) with the cavalry and a small body of infantry, to prevent their being interrupted in assembling. Unluckily a detachment of the rebel light troops had crossed the same day, and, by accident, fell in with about two hundred of our friends, under Colonel Pyle, on their way to Hillsborough, who, mistaking the rebels for Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton's corps, allowed themselves to be surrounded, and a number of them were most inhumanly butchered, when begging for quarter, without making the least resistance. The same day I had certain intelligence that General Greene, having been reinforced, had recrossed the Dan, which rendered it imprudent to separate my corps, occasioned the recall of Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton's detachment; and forage and provisions being scarce in the neighbourhood of Hillsborough, as well as the position too distant (upon the approach of the rebel army) for the protection of the body of our friends, I judged it expedient (l.) to cross the Haw, and encamped near Allamance creek, detaching Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, with the cavalry, light company of the guards, and one hundred and fifty men of Lieutenant-colonel Webster's [p266] brigade, a few miles from me on the road to Deep river, more effectually to cover the country.
General Greene's light troops soon made their appearance; and on the 2d, a patrole having reported that they had seen both cavalry and infantry near his post, I directed Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton to move forward with proper precautions, and endeavour to discover the designs of the enemy. He had not advanced far when he fell in with a considerable corps, which he immediately attacked and routed; but being ignorant of their force, and whether they were supported, with great prudence desisted from the pursuit. He soon learned from prisoners that those he had beat were Lee's legion, three or four hundred back mountainmen under Colonel Preston, with a number of militia; and that General Greene, with a part of his army, was not far distant. Our situation for the former few days had been amongst timid friends, and adjoining to inveterate rebels; between them I had been totally destitute of information, which lost me a very favourable opportunity of attacking the rebel army. General Greene fell back to Thompson's house, near Boyd's ford, on the Reedy fork; but his light troops and militia still remained near us; and as I was informed that they were posted carelessly at separate plantations for the convenience of subsisting, I marched on the 6th to drive them in, and to attack (m.) General Greene, if an opportunity offered. I succeeded completely in the first; and at Wetzell's mill, on the Reedy fork, where they made a stand, the back mountainmen and some militia suffered considerably, with little loss on our side; but a timely and precipitate retreat over the Haw prevented the latter. I knew that the Virginia reinforcement were upon their march; and it was apparent that the enemy would, if possible, avoid risquing an action before their arrival.
[p267] The neighbourhood of the fords of the Dan in their rear, and the extreme difficulty of subsisting my troops in that exhausted country putting it out of my power to force them, my resolution was to give our friends time to join us, by covering their country as effectually as possible, consistent with the subsistence of the troops, still approaching the communication with our shipping in Cape-Fear river, which I saw it would soon become indispensably necessary to open, on account of the sufferings of the army from the want of supplies of every kind; and at the same time I was determined to fight the rebel army, if it approached me, being convinced that it would be impossible to succeed in that great object of our arduous campaign, the calling forth the numerous loyalists of North Carolina, whilst a doubt remained on their minds of the superiority of our arms. With these views, I had moved to the Quakers' meeting, in the forks of Deep river, on the 13th, and on the 14th I received the information which occasioned the movement that brought on the action at Guildford, of which I shall give your lordship an account in a separate letter.
I have the honour to be, &c.
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(*) This letter was misdated by mistake, being written on the 2d of January, 1781. [ back ]
2 Editor's Note: This letter should be dated 1781 rather than 1780. [ back ]
[(**)] Vide Remembrancer, page 302-3, part 1st, 1781. [ back ]
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