|"Victory in Defeat" placard|
|A hot, hazy day on Lake Moultrie|
The Battle of Eutaw Springs frames the conclusion of my full-length historical, Loyalty’s Cadence, set in South Carolina in 1780-81, during the peak of the Southern Campaign. My darling husband indulged me on a research trip for our 25th anniversary two summers ago, so the day found us exploring the Eutaw Springs battlefield, during 97-degree midday heat. Such a lovely, peaceful place now, like many battlefields. The heat was perfect for evoking the day of the actual battle, which being early September in inland South Carolina likely rivaled our July weather.
|layout of battle lines|
The key players on the American side include General Nathanael Greene (who stepped up to the plate after Gates was routed at Camden a year before), Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee (father to Robert E. Lee), and William Washington (nephew of George Washington). The players on the British side include Stewart and Majoribanks (pronounced "Marshbanks" according to some sources--sounds like a British thing to do, yes? everybody say "Wer-ster-sherrr" with me ...). The really big names are absent--General Cornwallis and Banastre Tarleton are away up north, still recovering from the terrible starvation march of early 1781. They're about to be beseiged at Yorktown. Lord Rawdon, who Cornwallis left in charge after Camden, has retreated to the Lowcountry because of bad health. Since Rawdon abandoned Camden in May, and then Ninety-Six in June, General Greene has been stalking the British and Loyalist flanks, harrying them, cutting off supply lines, driving as much loyalist/British influence as he can out of the backcountry, toward Charleston.
|how the tide of battle shifted|
It was a long battle, at least three hours, probably closer to four. Once Greene's men withdrew, the British and loyalists crawled from their hiding places. Stewart returned briefly to assess the damage, then made an official retreat, the down the road toward Charleston. Dead and wounded were left behind, since it was an accepted courtesy that whatever force eventually held a field would tend the casualties from both sides--and Stewart had lost about a third of his force. Eyewitnesses state that the field was such a mess, blood pooled ankle-deep in some places.
Costly it was on both sides, the battle was the final nail in the coffin of the British, before Yorktown.
As I walked the grounds that hot July day, a breeze from the water stirred the trees--just a breath, here and there. I looked up the road and thought of the British retreating ... peered out over the fingerlet of Lake Moultrie, which swallowed Eutaw Creek years ago, and and tried to envision the house and gardens.
Even on such a beautiful day, it wasn't hard to imagine puddles of spilled life, here and there.