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 5 of 7
After the bloody 6th of August, the PWAR started a southern odyssey that was not to end until their embarkation for New York in December of 1782. Tracking their movements around South Carolina can be extremely challenging and sometimes elusive.
Following the action at Hanging Rock, the corps was removed to Camden, the main British outpost in the countryside. While a very large Continental and militia force under Major General Horatio Gates was bearing down on the town, Major CARDEN commanded an exposed outpost at Rugeley's Mills, consisting of the British Legion infantry and a detachment of the PWAR.83
Lord CORNWALLIS, fearing their loss and wishing the Legion to join his field army, ordered the PWAR to repair to CAMDEN, where they mostly sat out the spectacular British victory of 16 August 1780.84
Quickly on the heels of the Battle of Camden was the successful rout of Sumter's forces at Catawba Fords by Lt. Col. Banastre TARLETON on 18 August 1780. This action was significant in that one hundred prisoners were thereby freed, including many taken at Hanging Rock, undoubtedly some from the PWAR.85
The regiment, along with the New York Volunteers and some of Colonel John PHILLIPS' Camden Regiment of Militia, were sent on the 30th of the same month to "make a tour" around Rocky Mount in quest of a party of Rebels. After this was accomplished, the detachment, under the command of Lt. Col. George TURNBULL, was to return to Camden. There is no record of their success or failure.86
Sometime after their return to Camden, the corps was removed to the garrison of Charlestown. Not being of sufficient strength to serve on their own, the PWAR was reduced to being parceled out to every outpost and detachment in South Carolina. Colonel Alexander INNES, Inspector General of Provincial Forces, commenting on their reduced state, derisively said they did "not deserve the name of Corps."87
To try and get a grasp of where the regiment was for the next six months or more, as well as understand what they were doing, let us examine an excellent return made out by the paymaster of the regiment at the beginning of May, 1781. Indeed, he could not have been in an enviable position, attempting to account for all these men. The return, which does not include officers, is as follows:
"Present fit for duty [in Charlestown]– 3 sergeants, 3 corporals, 7 drummers, 11 privates;
The surviving records provide some clues as to the happenings and reasons for all these detachments. For brevity, we shall examine only the sizable detachments.
The Georgetown garrison was commanded in early 1781 by Captain John SAUNDERS of the Queen's Rangers cavalry. The men of the PWAR sent were initially to be twenty five or thirty under two officers, described as "the best in the Corps."89 The troops that actually went left Charlestown on 27 October 1780, thirty men under the command of Ensign James PLACE.90
This garrison was augmented temporarily in the beginning of the year by SAUNDERS' small troop of cavalry and by the King's American Regiment. By 20 April 1781, however, it was reduced to "86 Infantry with twenty mounted."91 In a little over a month after that, the post would be evacuated entirely.92
The troops under Major McARTHUR of the 71st Regiment of Foot were operating south of Charlestown "in order to cover that country" and support a militia post commanded by Colonel Edward FENWICK. FENWICK and his post were captured in April of 1781, at which time McARTHUR's detachment was to join the garrison at Dorchester. Dorchester, at that time, consisted of 150 infantry and 60 cavalry, including the PWAR detachment there.93
At some point, anytime between October, 1780 and January, 1781, the light infantry company, under Lieutenant Thomas LINDSAY, was attached to a small corps of light infantry operating under Lt. Col. Banastre TARLETON.
This light infantry corps consisted of the two companies from the 71st Highlanders and the company from the 16th Regiment of Foot. All three had been joined together since 1779 in Georgia. The rest of TARLETON's column consisted of the British Legion, the 7th Regiment of Foot, the 1st Battalion, 71st Regiment of Foot and a detachment of the 17th Light Dragoons and Royal Artillery.
After an exhausting march through the country, TARLETON ordered his infantry immediately to form a line of battle and attack the Continental and militia forces under General Daniel Morgan, waiting to meet him at a place called the Cowpens. The British were at first victorious but eventually were beaten back and routed.
Roderick MACKENZIE, an officer of the 71st present in the battle, attributed the loss to the extreme fatigue of the troops, the rashness of TARLETON's attack, and a lack of coordination with the troops in reserve. MACKENZIE commented on the PWAR's participation:
"The light infantry company of the Prince of Wales's American regiment, when but newly raised and indifferently disciplined, acquired reputation under General TRYON at Danbury; their only officer was here [at Cowpens] wounded."94
Most of the infantry involved in the battle were taken prisoner, but only a few of TARLETON's cavalry. Lieutenant LINDSAY was wounded, captured and paroled to Charlestown, as was Private Francis TRAVER.95 At least twenty one other non commissioned officers and privates were taken prisoner96 and eventually marched to Lancaster, where they were "close confined."97
The detachment mentioned as being with Lord CORNWALLIS in North Carolina was actually the surviving element of the light company that had participated in the battle, now incorporated as cavalry in Captain Francis GILDART's Troop of the British Legion.98 These men would remain with the Legion until after the British surrender at Yorktown, when the survivors were returned to the PWAR.
LINDSAY, upon recovering from his wound and exchanged, was transferred to the light infantry company of the Volunteers of Ireland.99
This leaves the largest detachment of troops to be discussed, those under Captain MAXWELL of the grenadier company. MAXWELL had been detached so early as October of 1780 to raise standing militia in the Orangeburgh District of South Carolina.
He established a post at Friday's Ferry on the Congaree River, a square redoubt enclosing two or three storehouses known as Fort Granby. His garrison consisted of his own men from the PWAR, the standing militia he had raised, commanded by Captain Samuel TOLLES (and of which MAXWELL held the rank of major), plus over 100 of the country militia.
Wade Hampton, a notorious Rebel partisan, was in contract to supply MAXWELL's garrison with provisions. Delaying until he felt the stores of Fort Granby were nearly expended, he notified Thomas Sumter of the garrison's situation. Sumter crossed the river at the head of as many as 400 of his followers and laid siege to the place about the 20th of February 1781.
Lord RAWDON, hearing of the threat to Fort Granby, marched at the head of 600 infantry, 100 cavalry and 2 pieces of artillery to relieve the post. Sumter received intelligence of this move and gave up his attempts on MAXWELL.
He would be repulsed, not only by MAXWELL, but over the next few days twice more, once at Thompson's by the South Carolina Royalists under Major Thomas FRASER, and then on the Santee by Lt. Col. John WATSON and the Provincial Light Infantry.
The British were pleased by MAXWELL's performance. Lt. Col. BALFOUR, commandant of Charlestown wrote:
"I have now the honor to inform you, that by the good Conduct of Major MAXWELL of the Prince of Wales's Regiment, the Rebels were repulsed in their attempts on that Post."100
Lord RAWDON was pleased to report to CORNWALLIS:
"Lt. Col. WATSON, Major FRASER & Major MAXWELL have all acquitted themselves very handsomely."101
MAXWELL's second encounter with a large Rebel force was not to be so fortunate. General Sumter once again visited Fort Granby in the middle of May, 1781.
While the general himself left the skirmishing with a part of his troops to attack Orangeburgh, he left a corps of militia under Colonel Thomas Taylor to harass MAXWELL. Taylor was joined on the 15th of May by Lt. Col. Henry Lee, leading a larger force of Continentals, with artillery, fresh from their conquest of Fort Motte.
Lee had no fondness or respect for MAXWELL, saying he was "disposed to avoid, rather than to court, the daring scenes of war. Zealous to fill his purse, rather than to gather military laurels, he had, during his command, pursued his favorite object with considerable success, and held with him in the fort his gathered spoil."
The Rebels demanded a quick surrender of the fort "couched in pompous terms, calculated to operate upon such an officer as MAXWELL was represented to be." Knowing that a sizable British force under RAWDON was rapidly approaching for the fort's relief, Lee granted very generous terms to MAXWELL, particularly as it related to his own property, which induced him to surrender the fort and garrison that same day.102
The surrender actually angered people on both sides. The British were furious at MAXWELL, not just for losing the fort, but for putting up no resistance. Forts Watson and Motte had had fallen in the previous weeks, but only after a gallant resistance at each.
Sumter was angered to the point of near resignation that Lee had allowed MAXWELL to take two covered wagon loads of private baggage, plus the officers being allowed to keep their horses, swords and pistols.103 This was most disagreeable to Sumter as he provided his followers with plunder in lieu of pay. Without this plunder Sumter had nothing to offer his partisans.
What MAXWELL should have been most ashamed of was putting his men in a compromising position, as some had formerly served in the Continental army. A total of nine men, including four from his own regiment, were claimed as deserters and returned to their old regiments, all with the chance of facing a firing squad.
All the other officers and men were allowed to proceed to Charlestown on parole. From the PWAR that meant MAXWELL, Surgeon James A. THOMAS, Sergeant Major Matthew SMITH (who had been badly wounded and taken prisoner at Hanging Rock), four sergeants, five corporals and fifty seven rank & file. One additional soldier was listed as missing, and presumably escaped.104
An exchange of prisoners for the Southern Army took place shortly thereafter, returning the officers and men to their duty, but the stain would forever remain on MAXWELL's reputation.
83 Tarleton, 99.
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