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Lord Rawdon's situation was extremely delicate. Colonel Watson, whom he had some time before detached, for the protection of the eastern frontiers, and to whom he had, on intelligence of general Greene's intentions, sent orders to return to Camden, was so effectually watched by general Marion, that it was impossible for him to obey. His lordship's supplies were, moreover, very precarious; and should general Greene's reinforcements arrive, he might be so closely invested, as to be at length obliged to surrender. In this dilemma, the best expedient that suggested itself, was a bold attack; for which purpose, he armed every person with him capable of carrying a musket, not excepting his musicians and drummers. He sallied out on the 25th of April, and attacked general Greene in his camp. The defence was obstinate; and for some part of the engagement the advantage appeared to be in favour of America. Lieutenant colonel Washington, who commanded the cavalry, had at one time not less than two hundred British prisoners. However, by the misconduct of one of the American regiments, victory was snatched from general Greene, who was compelled to retreat. He lost in the action about two huna dred killed, wounded, and prisoners. Rawdon lost about two hundred and fifty eight.
There was a great similarity between the consequences of the affair at Guilford, and those of this action. · In the former, lord Cornwallis was successful ; but was afterwards obliged to retreat two hundred miles from the scene of action, and for a time abandoned the grand object of penetrating to the northward. In the latter, lord Rawdon had the honour of the field; but was shortly after reduced to the necessity of abandoning his post, and leaving behind him a number of sick and wounded.
The evacuation of Camden, with the vigilance of general Greene, and the several oslicers he em
ployed, gave a new complexion to affairs in South Carolina, where the British ascendancy declined more rapidly than it had been established: The numerous forts, garrisoned by the enemy, fell, one after the other, into the hands of the Americans. Orangeburg, Motte, Watson, Georgetown,' Granby, and others, fort Ninety-Six excepted, were surrendered; and a very considerable number of prisoners of war, with military stores and artillery, were found in them. I
On the 22d May, general Greene sat down before Ninety-Six, with the main part of his little army. The siege was carried on for a considerable time with great spirit; and the place was defended with equal bravery. At length, the works were so far reduced, that a surrender must have been made in a few days, when a reinforcement of three regiments, from Europe, arrived at Charleston, which enabled lord Rawdon to proceed to relieve this important post. The superiority of the enemy's force reduced general Greene to the alternative of abandoning the siege altogether, or, previous to their arrival, of attempting the fort by storm. The latter was more agreeable to his enterprising spirit : and an attack was made, on the morning of the 19th of June. He was repulsed, with the loss of one hundred and fifty men. He raised the siege, and retreated over the Saluda.
Dr. Ramsay, speaking of the state of affairs about this period, says, “truly distressing was the situation of the American army: when in the grasp of victory, to be obliged to expose themselves to a hazardous assault, and afterwards to abandon a siege. When they were nearly masters of the whole country, to be compelled to retreat to its extremity; and after subduing the greatest part of the force sent against them, to be under the necessity of encountering still greater reinforcements, when their remote situation precluded them from the
hope of receiving a single recruit. In this gloomy situation, there were not wanting persons who advised general Greene to leave the state, and retire with his remaining forces to Virginia. To arguments and suggestions of this kind he nobly replied, 'I will recover the country, or die in the attempt.' This distinguished officer, whose genius was most vigorous in those extremities, when feeble minds abandon themselves to despair, adopted the only resource now left him, of avoiding an engagement, until the British force should be divided.”
Some skirmishes, of no great moment, took place between the detached parties of both armies in July and August September the 9th, general Greene having assembled about two thousand men, proceeded to attack the British, who, under the command of colonel Stewart, were posted at Eutaw Springs. The American force was drawn up in two lines: the first, composed of Carolina militia, was commanded by generals Marion and Pickens, and colonel de Malmedy. The second, which consisted of continental troops, from North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, was commanded by general Sumpter, lieutenant colonel Campbell, and colonel Williams: lieutenant colonel Lee, with his legion, covered the right flank; and lieutenant colonel Henderson, with the state troops, covered the left. A corps de reserve was formed of the cavalry, under lieutenant colonel Washington, and the Delaware troops under captain Kirkwood. As the Americans came forward to the attack, they fell in with some advanced parties of the enemy, at about two or three miles a head of the main body. These being closely pursued, were driven back, and the action soon became general. The militia were at length forced to give way, but were bravely supported by the second line. In the hottest part of the engagement, general Greene ordered the Maryland and Virginia continentals, to charge with
trailed arms. This decided the fate of the day. “Nothing,” says Dr. Ramsay, “could surpass the intrepidity of both officers and men on this occasion. They rushed on in good order through a heavy cannonade, and a shower of musquetry, with such unshaken resolution, that they bore down all before them.” The British were broken, closely pursued, and upwards of five hundred of them taken prisoners. They, however, made a fresh stand, in a favourable position, in impenetrable shrubs and a picquetted garden. Lieutenant colonel Washington, after having made every effort to dislodge them, was wounded and taken prisoner. Four six pounders were brought forward to play upon them, but they fell into their hands; and the endeavours to drive them from their station, being found impracticable, the Americans retired, leaving a very strong picquet on the field of battle. Their loss was about five hundred; that of the British upwards of eleven hundred.
General Greene was honoured by congress with a British standard, and a gold medal, emblematical of the engagement, “ for his wise, decisive, and magnanimous conduct, in the action at Eutaw Springs, in which, with a force inferior in number to that of the enemy, he obtained a most signal victory."
In the evening of the succeeding day, colonel Stewart abandoned his post, and retreated towards Charleston, leaving behind upwards of seventy of his wounded, and a thousand stand of arms. He was pursued a considerable distance, but in vain.
The battle of Eutaw produced most signal consequences in favour of America. The British, who had for such a length of time lorded it absolutely in South Carolina, were, shortly after that event, obliged to confine themselves in Charleston, whence they never ventured but to make predatory excursions, with bodies of cavalry, which in
general, met with a very warm and very unwelcome reception.
In Dr. Caldwell's memoirs of the life of general Greene, we have the following interesting story, as connected with the severe conflict at Eutaw Springs: :
“Two young officers, bearing the same rank, met in personal combat. The American, perceiving that the Briton had a decided superiority, in the use of the sabre, and being himself of great activity, and personal strength, almost gigantic, closed with his adversary and made him his prisoner.
“Gentlemanly, generous, and high minded, this event, added to a personal resemblance which they were observed to bear to each other, produced between these two youthful warriors, an intimacy, which, increased in a short time, to a mutual attachment.
"Not long after the action, the American officer returning home, on furlough, to settle some private business, obtained permission for his friend to accompany him.
“Travelling without attendants or guard, they were both armed and well mounted. Part of their route lay through a settlement highly disaffected to the American cause.
6When in the midst of this, having, in consequence of a shower of rain, thrown around them their cloaks, which concealed their uniforms, they were suddenly encountered by a detachment of tories.
"The young American, determined to die rather than become a prisoner, especially to men whom he held in abhorrence for disloyalty to their country, and the generous Briton, resolved not to survive one by whom he had been distinguished and treated so kindly, they both together, with great spirit and self possession, charged the royalists,