The history of the Prince Of Wales' American Regiment is presented in 7 parts. Click below to skip to:
Part 1 - Introduction & From Confinement to Commandant
A History of the Prince Of Wales' American Regiment - Part 4 of 7
After the success of the Siege of Charlestown, the British set about to pacify the countryside. The PWAR was part of the main British army and took quarters at Camden, where they constructed huts for themselves meant to resist the hot weather.78
In the latter part of July the bulk of the regiment, along with three other corps, was advanced towards Hanging Rock in part to "awe the disaffected," having first stopped at Rocky Mount.79 This last post had been attacked by a large force of militia and partisans under the command of Thomas Sumter, who had been repulsed by the New York Volunteers under Lt. Col. George TURNBULL and some South Carolina Loyalist Militia.
On the night of 5 August 1780 the troops continued their march, arriving at Hanging Rock in the dark of night, and neglected sending out proper patrols. Sumter and his force, reinforced since his repulse at Rocky Mount, made their appearance before Hanging Rock shortly after dawn.
He launched his attack between six and seven in the morning, directing his force against the newly formed North Carolina Volunteers under Colonel Samuel BRYAN, on the right flank of the camp. BRYAN's corps, being undisciplined, soon broke, leaving the right flank exposed. In this situation Major CARDEN of the PWAR ordered a part of his regiment and the Royal North Carolina Regiment to fill the gap.
The slaughter was terrible. Dozens from both regiments fell, compelling a further retreat.
The line finally centered on a three pounder field piece protected by a party of Colonel Henry RUGELEY's Regiment of Camden Militia. One hundred and sixty men of the British Legion twice charged Sumter's line, likewise the Royal North Carolina Regiment.
Just at this critical period of the battle, forty mounted infantry of the British Legion appeared from Rocky Mount and dismounted, deploying in extended files to appear greater in number than they actually were. This turned the tide. As an officer of the PWAR wrote:
"The Legion and Prince of Wales's pouring in a well–directed fire, charged and totally routed the enemy, pursuing with a dreadful carnage."
The battle was over. And as a fighting regiment, so was the Prince of Wales'.80
When the smoke had cleared and the bugle horn ceased sounding, the Loyalists counted their dead. The losses were appalling for the numbers involved. Of the estimated 181 officers and men of the PWAR that had taken the field that day, 93 were dead, wounded or missing. It was among the worst losses of any Loyalist regiment during the war.
The other corps, BRYAN's excepted, suffered grievously as well. The Royal North Carolinians lost 50 officers and men, while the British Legion infantry counted 35 out of about 200 officers and men as their casualties. The North Carolina Volunteers likewise had men killed and wounded, but since they fled the field early, they were not thought significant. No return of Sumter's casualties was ever made.
But by far, the PWAR had fought and bled the most on that hot summer's day in South Carolina. Of the 17 sergeants that had fielded that day, 5 were killed and another 4 were badly wounded, 3 of whom were also taken prisoner by Sumter. Seven corporals were also amongst the wounded and captured, a devastating blow to the non commissioned officer's corps.
Six of the eleven officers on the field were also either killed or wounded. Lieutenant Abraham HICKOX and Ensign John FOWLER were killed immediately. Lieutenant Benjamin OGDEN lived for fifteen hours after the battle before he too died. The regiment was left shattered and in little shape for any more active campaigning.
To make matters worse, the Southern climate proved too much for many of these Northern constitutions. As many as seventeen soldiers had died of disease within that month. Ten of the officers, including the surgeon's mate, were sick and Major CARDEN, who had led the regiment in battle, was just then recovering. Twelve others were otherwise absent or on command elsewhere, leaving the remnants of the unit with virtually no officers to do duty.81
One of the Loyalists taking part in the fighting that day was General BROWNE's servant, Samuel BURKE. This Black Loyalist was a native of Charlestown, South Carolina and met Governor BROWNE in England in 1774. He "entered into his service" and traveled with him to the Bahamas, being taken prisoner with the governor by Hopkins' fleet.
All the time BROWNE was in captivity and later raising the regiment, BURKE was by his side assisting. While in New York, he married a "free Dutch mulatto Woman" by whom he acquired a house and garden in the city. These, however, were soon appropriated as barracks for the troops, and his new wife was soon turned out of doors.
Undaunted, BURKE, along with his wife, continued to serve BROWNE, taking part in the Danbury expedition where he was "badly wounded." After BROWNE left the regiment after the Siege of Rhode Island, BURKE continued to serve with the unit, but in what capacity is not known.
He was, however, in the fighting at Hanging Rock, being so severely wounded that he was almost given up for dead. His fighting days were over, and he would end up destitute in England in August of 1783, seeking the help of a government he had served for eight years.82
On the whole, the Battle of Hanging Rock was a loss from which the PWAR would never recover. As a complete unit, they had fought their last battle.
78 The other corps in garrison being the 23rd & 33rd Regiments of Foot, Volunteers of Ireland, British Legion infantry, Royal North Carolina Regiment & a detachment of the Royal Artillery. Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America. (New York Times & Arno Press) 1968, 86–87. (Hereafter cited as Tarleton.)
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