Winter Tea Party winners: Angela's book,THE SCARLET COAT, will go to: Print copy- Andrea Stephens; e-book copy - Catherine Wight!

LUCY REYNOLDS has a table topper quilt on the way, and winners of the Valentine Ebook Collection are: Deanna Stevens, Caryl Kane, Anne Payne and Winnie Thomas. With thanks to all who joined in!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Battle of Eutaw Springs: last bloodbath of the Revolution

Eutaw monument
The monument reads: “This stone marks the field whereon was fought the Battle of Eutaw, Sept 8, 1781, between a force of the United States under Major General Nathanael Greene and a force of Great Britain under Colonel Stuart. Neither side was victorious, but the fight was beneficial to the American cause. Erected by Eutaw Chapter, DAR 1912.”

"Victory in Defeat" placard
Whether either side was victorious or not is up for discussion. The rule is generally, whoever is left holding the field, and both sides withdrew, then the Continentals returned the next day to occupy. It was, indeed, beneficial to the American cause, as the last major blow struck the British a month before the surrender at Yorktown.

A hot, hazy day on Lake Moultrie
The last portion of the American Revolution, referred to as the Southern Campaign, is little discussed in classroom history. This last significant battle has been virtually forgotten, and the battlefield now lies largely under water.

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.

participating forces
As September 8, 1781, dawned, the British knew Greene was out there, but they didn't know how close. (A little like what happened at Camden, in that respect.) Greene had camped just a few miles from the current British outpost, a plantation located on Eutaw Creek, not far from the British supply depot at Biggin Creek in Moncks Corner. Greene's force went on the march at 4 AM. When an unsuspecting foraging party happened upon the front lines, the first shots were fired, alerting the British camp.

how the tide of battle shifted
They leaped into action, in some cases even leaving breakfast on the fire. The placards show the original lines as the British formed up to meet Greene, then fell back, taking shelter in the house, gardens, and the scrub oak thickets nearby. As Greene's men overran the British camp, they fell upon the spoils--including the stores of rum that the British had missed in their frantic attempt before fleeing to dispose of their supplies. Thirst, fueled by sudden intoxication, drove Greene's men to greater fury. But unable to sustain the pace, and held off from reaching fresh water by the pockets of hidden British and loyalists, they eventually fell back.

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.

Greene's men found a pond fifteen miles up the road in which to slake their thirst. After reorganizing, they'd return to the field and claim final "victory," despite the wounding and capture of William Washington. Stewart of the British side also sustained wounds, but the gravest was that of Major Majoribanks, who was left to be cared for at the Ravenel home on the way to Charleston, but died six weeks later.

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.

15 comments:

  1. Shannon, you wrote this so well I could feel myself there. Several years ago during an annual Francis Marion Symposium, participants took a bus tour of local battlefields, mostly ones where Marion's troops fought. Most are now covered by Lake Moultrie, but I could sense the poignant history. Thank you for sharing. Loved this post.

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    1. Ah, thank you so much, Susan! It is sobering, isn't it? Just grips our storyteller's hearts ...

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  2. I agree with Susan! You brought us right there, Shannon. Thank you for sharing this piece of history with us.

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  3. This is interesting. Thanks so much for sharing - I had no idea what had happened in this battle. Our freedom was so costly, wasn't it?

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    1. Yes, costly indeed. :-) Thank you for stopping by!

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  4. A great post, Shannon.When I've visited battlefields, I've found such a somber atmosphere about the places. I suppose that's why they call it hallowed ground.

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    1. Thanks so much, Janet! I have this theory that places retain something of what happened there ... not entirely supported by Scripture of course, but also not unsupported. They definitely have a somber feel. More so for those of us who know more details, I suppose.

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  6. Shannon, have you ever seen any biographies of Lighthorse Harry Lee? there must be one out there? I hadn't heard of this battle, so perhaps I'm too far north. I'm lookinf forward to reading about it in your story.

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    1. I haven't, not specifically of him, but he was an interesting character! Quite the fire-eater, the Americans' counterpart to Ban Tarleton (who I plan to feature here--another fascinating player!). Have you seen the quote attributed to George Washington in response to a rather extreme suggestion Lee had for dealing with deserters? :)

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  7. probably, but I'd love to hear it from you to be sure!

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    1. Well, I'll have to go dig that up, then! :D

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  8. Wonderful story telling The Battlefield does sound like Hallowed Ground
    God bless u
    Chris Granville

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    1. Thank you so much, Chris, for taking time to comment!

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