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Entered according to act of congress, in the year eighteen hundred and thirty-one, by Carey & Lea, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Greene invests Camden.—Battle of Hobkirk's Hill.— Progress of Marion and Lee.
Lord Rawdon retires into the lower country.-Greene invests Ninety Six.- Is repulsed.—Retires from that place.--Active movements of the two armies.— After a short repose they resume active operations.-Battle of Eutaw.— The British army retires towards Charleston.
In South Carolina and Georgia, the campaign of 1781 was uncommonly active. The importance of the object, the perseverance with which it was pursued, the talents of the generals, the courage, activity, and sufferings of the armies, and the accumulated miseries of the inhabitants, gave to the contest for these states, a degree of interest seldom bestowed on military transactions, in which greater numbers have not been employed.
When Lord Cornwallis entered North Carolina, the military operations in the more southern states were committed to Lord Rawdon. For the preservation of his power, a line of posts slightly fortified had been continued from Charleston, by the way of Camden and Ninety Six, to Augusta, in Georgia. The spirit of resistance was still kept up in the north-western and north-eastern parts of the state, by Generals Sumpter and Marion, who respectively commanded a corps of militia. Their exertions, though great, seem not to have been successful; and they ex. cited no alarm, because no addition to their strength was apprehended.
Such was the situation of the country when General Greene formed the bold resolution of endeavouring to reannex it to the American union. His army consisted of about eighteen hundred men. The prospect of procuring subsistence was unpromising, and the chance of reinforcements precarious. He was apprized of the dangers to be encountered, but be. lieved it to be for the public interest to meet them. “I shall take every measure,” said this gallant officer, in a letter communicating his plan of operations to General Washington,“ to avoid a misfortune. But neces
sity obliges me to commit myself to chance, and if any accident should attend me, I trust my friends will do justice to my reputation.”
The extensive line of posts maintained by Lord Rawdon, presented to Greene many objects, at which, it was probable he might strike with advantage. The day preceding his march from the camp on Deep river, he detached Lee to join General Marion, and communicated his intention of entering South Carolina to General Pickens with a request that he would assemble the western militia, and lay siege to Ninety Six, and Augusta.
Having made these arrangements, he moved from Deep river on the seventh of April, and encamped before Camden on the nineteenth of the same month, within half a mile of the British works. Lord Rawdon had received early notice of his approach, and was prepared for his reception.
Camden stands on a gentle elevation, and is covered on the south and south-west by the Wateree, * and on the east by Pine-tree creek. A strong chain of redoubts, extending from the river to the creek, protected the north and west sides of the town. Being unable to storm the works or to invest them on all sides, Greene contented himself with lying before the place in the hope of being reinforced by militia, or of some event which might bring on an action in the open field. With this view he retired a small distance, and encamped on Hobkirk's hill, about a mile and a half from the town. While in this situation, he received information that Colonel Watson was marching up the Santee with about four hun. dred men. A junction between these two divisions of the British army, could be prevented only by intercepting Watson while at a distance from Camden. For this purpose, he crossed Sand-hill creek and encamped east of Camden, on the road leading to Charleston. It being impracticable to transport the artillery and baggage over the deep marshes adjoining the creek, Colonel Carrington with the North Carolina militia was directed to convey them to a place of safety, and to guard them till farther orders. The army continued a few days in its new encampment, during which the troops subsisted on the scanty supplies furnished by the neighbourhood. Greene was compelled at length, by the want of provisions, to relinquish this position. About the same time he received intelligence which induced him to doubt the approach of Watson. On which he ordered Lieutenant Colonel Carrington to rejoin him; and on the 24th, returned to the north side of the town, and again encamped on Hobkirk's hill, a ridge covered with uninterrupted wood through which the great Waxhaw road passes. The army was encamped in order of battle, its left covered by the swamp of Pine-tree creek.
Higher up, this river is called the Catawba.
A drummer, who deserted on the morning after Greene's return, and before he was rejoined by Lieutenant Colonel Carrington, gave information to Lord Rawdon that the artillery and militia had been detached. His lordship determined to seize this favourable occasion for fighting his enemy to advantage, and, at the head of nine hundred men, marched out of town on the morning of the twenty-fifth to attack the American army.
Lieutenant Colonel Carrington had arrived in camp that morning, and brought with him a supply of provisions which had been issued to the troops, some of whom were employed in cooking and others in washing their clothes. Notwithstanding those occupations, they were in reach of their arms, and were in readiness to take their ground and engage at a moment's warning.
By keeping close to the swamp, and making a circuit of some distance, Lord Rawdon gained the American left without being perceived ; and about eleven, his approach was announced by the fire of the advanced piquets, who were half a mile in front of Greene's encampment. Orders were instantly given to form the American line of battle.
The Virginia brigade commanded by General Huger, consisting of two regiments under Campbell and Hawes, was drawn up on the right of the great road. The Maryland brigade commanded by Colonel Williams, consisting also of two regiments, under Gunby and Ford, was on the left, and the artillery was placed in the centre. The North Carolina militia under Colonel Read formed a second line; and Captain Kirkwood with the light infantry was placed in front for the purpose of supporting the piquets, and retarding the advance of the enemy. General Greene remained on the right, with Campbell's regiment.
Captain Morgan of Virginia, and Captain Benson of Maryland, who commanded the piquets, gave the enemy a warm reception; but were soon compelled to retire. Captain Kirkwood also was driven in, and the British troops appeared in view. Rawdon continued his march through the wood along the low ground in front of the Maryland brigade which was in the act of forming, until he reached the road, where he displayed his column.
Perceiving that the British advanced with a narrow front, Greene ordered Colonel Ford, whose regiment was on the extreme left, and Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, whose regiment was on the extreme right, severally to attack their flanks, while Gunby and Hawes should advance upon their front with charged bayonets. To complete their destruction by cutting off their retreat to the town, Lieutenant Colonel Washington was order. ed to pass their left flank and charge them in the rear.
The regiments commanded by Ford and Campbell, being composed
chiefly of new levies, did not change their ground, and perform the evolutions necessary for the duty assigned to them, with the requisite rapidity and precision ; in consequence of which Rawdon, who instantly perceived the danger that threatened his flanks, had time to extend his front by bringing the volunteers of Ireland into his line.
This judicious movement disconcerted the design on his flanks, and brought the two armies into action fronting each other. But the regiments of Ford and Campbell were thrown into some confusion by the abortive attempt to gain the flanks of the British.
Colonel Washington too was compelled by the thick underwood and felled trees which obstructed his direct course, to make so extensive a circuit, that he came into the rear of the British at a greater distance from the scene of action than was intended, in consequence of which he fell in with their medical and other staff, and with a number of the followers of the army and idle spectators, who took no part in the action. Too humane to cut his way through this crowd, he employed so much time in taking their verbal parole, that he could not reach the rear of the British line until the battle was ended. These casualties disappointed this very interesting part of Greene's intended operations.*
The artillery, however, played on the enemy with considerable effect; and the regiments of Gunby and Hawes advanced on the British front with resolution. Some companies on the right of the Maryland regiment returned the fire of the enemy, and their example was followed by the others. Notwithstanding this departure from orders, they continued to advance with intrepidity, and Greene entertained sanguine hopes of victory. His prospects were blasted by one of those incidents against which military prudence can make no provision.
Captain Beaty, who commanded on the right of Gunby's regiment, was killed, upon which his company with that adjoining it got into confusion and dropped out of the line. Gunby ordered the other companies, which were still advancing, to fall back, and form, with the two companies, behind the hill which the British were ascending. This retrograde movement was mistaken for a retreat, and the regiment gave way. Encouraged by this circumstance, the British pressed forward with increased ardour, and all the efforts of Colonel Williams, and of Gunby and Howard, to rally the regiment were, for a time, ineffectual. This vete
* This account of the battle of Hobkirk's Hill varies in several particulars from that contained in the first edition. In making the alteration the author has followed the letter of General Davie, published in Mr. Johnson's biography of General Greene. General Davie was known to the author to be a gentleman in whose representations great confidence is to be placed on every account, and his situation in the army enabled him to obtain the best information.