Greene Reports on the Battle of Eutaw Springs

 

The last major engagement of the Southern Campaign, the battle of Eutaw Springs was fought on September 8, 1781.  The sides were numerically evenly matched with each side having about 2000 men involved.  Although tactically a draw or a slight British victory, strategically the battle was an American victory with the British left in control of only Charleston and its environs.  Along with Savannah and Wilmington, the British attempt to conquer the South was clearly failing, a result only underlined by the surrender of Cornwallis in the following month.  Here is the text of General Greene’s report on the battle to Washington.

 

 

 

Head Quarters, Martins Tavern, near Fergusons swamp So. Carolina
September 11th 1781

Sir,

In my dispatch of the 25th of August I informed your Excellency that we were on our march for Frydays ferry to form a junction with the State Troops, and a Body of Militia collecting at that place; with an intention to make an attack upon the British Army laying at Col. Thompsons near McCords ferry. On the 27th on our arrival near Frydays ferry I got intelligence that the Enemy were retiring.

We crossed the River at Howells ferry, and took post at Mottes plantation. Here I got intelligence that the Enemy had halted at the Eutaw Springs about forty miles below us; and that they had a reinforcement, and were making preparations to establish a permanent post there. To prevent this I was determined rather to hazard an Action, notwithstanding our numbers were greatly inferior to theirs. On the 5th we began our march, our Baggage and Stores having been ordered to Howells ferry under a proper Guard. We moved by slow and easy marches; as well to disguise our real intention, as to give General Marion an opportunity to join us, who had been detached for the support of Col. Harding, a report of which I transmitted in my letter of the 5th dated at Maybricks Creek. General Marion joined us on the evening of the 7th at Burdells plantation, 7 miles from the Enemies Camp.

We made the following disposition, and marched at 4 o’Clock the next Morning to attack the Enemy. Our front line was composed of four small Battalions of Militia; two of North, and two of South Carolinians; one of the South Carolinians was under the immediate command of Genl. Marion, and was posted on the right, who also commanded the front Line; the two North Carolina Battalions under the command of Col. Malmady was posted in the center, and the other South Carolina Battalion under the command of General Pickens was posted on the left. Our second Line consisted of three small Brigades of Continental Troops, one from North Carolina, one from Virginia, and one from Maryland. The North Carolinians were formed into three Battalions under the command of Lieut. Col. Ash, Majors Armstrong and Blount, the whole commanded by General Sumner, and posted upon the right. The Virginians consisted of two Battalions commanded by Major Snead and Captain Edmonds and the whole by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell and posted in the center. The Marylanders also consisted to two Battalions, commanded [by] Lt. Colonel Howard and Major Hardman, and the Brigade by Col. Williams Dy. Adjutant General to the Army, and was posted upon the left. Lieut. Col. Lee with his Legion covered our right flank, and Lieut. Col. Henderson with the State Troops commanded by Lieutenant Colonels Hampton, Middleton, and Polk, our left. Lieutenant Col. Washington with his Horse and the Delaware Troops under Captain Kirkwood formed a Corps de reserve. Two three Pounders under Captain Lieutenant Gaines advanced with the front Line, and two fives under Captain Browne with the second.

The Legion and State Troops formed our advance and were to retire upon the flanks upon the Enemy’s forming. In this order we moved into the attack, the Legion and State Troops fell in with a party of the Enemy’s Horse and foot about four miles from their Camp, who mistaking our People for a party of Militia charged them briefly, but were soon convinced of their mistake by the reception they met with, the Infantry of the State Troops kept up a heavy fire, and the Legion under Captain Rudolf charged them with fixed Bayonets, they fled on all sides leaving four or five dead on the ground, and several more wounded. As this was supposed to be the advance of the British Army our front Line was ordered to form and move on briskly in Line, [while] the Legion and State Troops take their positions upon the Flanks. All the Country is covered with Timber from the place the Action began to the Eutaw Springs. The fight began again between two and three Miles from the British Camp. The Militia were ordered to keep advancing as they fired. The Enemies advanced parties were soon driven in, and a most tremendous fire began on both sides from right to left, and the Legion and State Troops were closely engaged. General Marion, Col Malmady and General Pickens conducted the Troops with great gallantry and good conduct and the Militia fought with a degree of spirit and firmness that reflected the highest honor upon this class of soldiers but the Enemies fire being greatly superior to ours, and continuing to advance, the Militias began to give ground. The North Carolina Brigade under General Sumner was ordered to their support. These were all new levees, and had been under discipline but little more than a month, notwithstanding which they fought with a degree of obstinacy that would do honor to the best of veterans, and I could hardly tell which to admire most, the gallantry of the Officers or the bravery of the Troops. They kept up a heavy and well directed fire, and the Enemy returned it with equal spirit, for they really fought worthy of a better cause, and execution was done on both sides. In this stage of the Action the Virginians under Lieut. Col. Campbell, and the Maryland Troops under Col. Williams were led on to a brisk charge with trailed Arms, through a heavy cannonade, and a shower of Musquett [sic] Balls. Nothing could exceed the gallantry and firmness of both Officers and Soldiers upon this occasion . They preserved their order, and pressed on with such unshaken resolution that they bore down all before them. The Enemy were routed in all quarters. Lt. Col. Lee had with great address, gallantry, and good conduct, turned the Enemys left flank and was charging them in rear at the same time the Virginia and Maryland Troops were charging them in front. A most valuable Officer Lieut. Col. Henderson got wounded early in the Action, and Lieut. Col. Hampton who commanded the State Cavalry, and who fortunately succeeded Lt. Col. Henderson in command, charged a party of the Enemy and took upwards of 100 Prisoners. Lieut. Col. Washington brought up the Corps de reserve up from the left, where the Enemy seemed disposed to make farther resistance, and charged them so briskly with the Cavalry and Captain Kirkwoods Infantry as gave them no time to rally or form. Lieutenant Colonels Polk and Middleton who commanded the State Infantry, were no less conspicuous for their good conduct, than their intrepidity and the Troops under their command gave a specimen of what may be expected from men naturally brave, when improved by proper discipline. Captain Lieutenant Gaines who commanded the three Pounders with the front Line did great execution, untill [sic] his pieces were dismounted. We kept close at the Enemy’s heels after they broke, untill [sic] we got into their Camp, and [a] great number of Prisoners were continually falling into our hands, and some hundreds of the fugitives run [sic]off towards Charles Town. But a party threw themselves into a large three story brick House which stands near the Spring, others took post in a picquetted Garden, while others were lodged in an inpenetrable thicket, consisting of a ragged Shrub called a black Jack. Thus secured in front, and upon the right by the House, and a deep Ravine upon the left by the Picquetted Garden, and in the impenetrable Schrubs, and the rear also being secured by the Springs and deep hollow ways, the Enemy renewed the Action. Every exertion was made to dislodge them, Lt. Col. Washington made most astonishing efforts to get through the Thicket to charge the Enemy in the Rear, but found it impracticable, had his Horse shot under him, and was wounded and taken Prisoner. Four six Pounders were ordered up before the House, two of our own, and two of the Enemy’s which they had abandoned, as they were pushed on [so much?] under the command of the fire from the House, and the party in the Thickett [sic] as rendered it impracticable to bring them off again when the Troops were ordered to retire. Never were pieces better served, most of the Men and Officers were either killed or wounded. Washington failing in his charge on the left, and the Legion baffled in an attempt upon the right, and finding our Infantry [galled?] by the fire of the Enemy, and our Ammunition mostly consumed, tho’ both Officers and Men continued to exhibit uncommon acts of heroism, I thought proper to retire out of the fire of the House and draw up the Troops at a little distance [?] the Woods, not thinking it advisable to p[ursue?] our advantage farther, being persuaded the Enemy could not hold the Post many Hours, and that our chance to attack them on the retreat was better than a second attempt to dislodge them, which, if we succeeded, it must be attended with considerable loss.

We collected all our Wounded except such as were under the command of the fire of the House, and retired to the ground from which we marched in the Morning, there being no Water nearer, and the Troops ready to faint with the heat, and want of refreshment, the Action having continued near four Hours. I left on the field of Action a strong Picquett, and early in the Morning detached General Marion, and Lt. Col. Lee with the Legion Horse between Eutaw and Charles Town, to prevent any reinforcements from coming to the relief of the Enemy, and also to retard their march should they attempt to retire, and give time for the Army to fall upon their Rear, and put a finishing stroke to our successes. We left two pieces of our Artillery in the hands of the Enemy, and brought off one of theirs.

On the Evening of the 9th the Enemy retired, leaving upwards of 70 of their Wounded behind them, and not less than 1000 stand of Arms that were picked up on the field, and found broke and concealed in the Eutaw Springs. They stove [in?] between 20 and 30 puncheons of Rum, and destroyed a great variety of other Stores which they had not carriages to carry off. We pursued them the moment we got intelligence of their retiring. But they formed a junction with Maj. McArthur at this place, General Marion, and Lieut. Col. Lee not having a force sufficient to prevent it. But on our approach they retired [to?] the neighbourhood of Charles Town. We have taken 500 Prisoners, including the Wounded the Enemy left behind; and I think they cannot have suffered less than 600 more in killed and Wounded. The Fugitives that fled from the field of Battle spread such an alarm that the Enemy burnt their Stores at Dorchester, and abandoned the Post at Fair Lawn, and a great number of Negroes and others were employed in falling Trees across the Road for some Miles without the Gates of Charles Town. Nothing but the brick House, and the peculiar strength of the position at Eutaw saved the remains of the British Army from being all made Prisoners.

We purued them as far as this place but not being able to overtake them we shall halt a Day or two to refresh; and then take our [old?] position on the high Hills of Santee. I think myself principally indebted for the victory we obtained to the free use of the Bayonet made by the Virginians and Marylanders, the Infantry of the Legion, and Captain Kirkwoods Light Infantry and tho’ few Armies ever exhibited equal bravery with our in general, yet the conduct and intrepidity of these Corps were peculiarly conspicuous. Lt. Col. Campbell fell as he was leading his Troops to the charge, and tho’ he fell with distinguished marks of honor, yet his loss is much to be regretted. He was the great Soldier and the firm patriot.

Our loss in Officers is considerably more from their value than their number, for never did either Men or Officers offer their blood more willingly in the service of their Country. I cannot help acknowledging my obligations to Col. Williams for his great activity on this and many other occasions in forming the Army, and for his uncommon intrepedity in leading on the Maryland Troops to the charge, which exceeded any thing I ever saw. I also feel myself greatly indebted to Captains Pierce, and Pendleton, Major Hyrne, and Captain Shubrick, my aids de Camp, for their activity and good conduct throughout the whole of the Action.

This dispatch will be handed your Excellency by Captain Pierce to whom I beg leave to refer you for further particulars.

I have the honor to be with the greatest respect,

Your Excellency’s
        most obedient and most humble servant

Nath. Greene

His Excely. the President of Congress

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Published in: on September 8, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Greene Reports on the Battle of Eutaw Springs  
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