Battle of King's Mountain

History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part I 1765 to May, 1780

King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain October 7th, 1780 and The Events that Led To It.

By Lyman Copeland Draper, Peter Gibson Thompson, Anthony Allaire, Isaac Shelby (1881)

1768 to May, 1780.

Causes of the Revolution—Alternate Successes and Disasters of the Early Campaigns of the War—Siege and Reduction of Charleston.

For ten years before the outbreak of the American Revolution, the great question of taxation without representation agitated the minds of the American people. They rejected the stamps, because they implied a tax; they destroyed the tea, because it imposed a forced levy upon them without their consent, to gratify the insatiate demands of their trans-Atlantic sovereign, and his tyrannical Ministry and Parliament. Should they basely yield one of their dearest rights, they well judged they might be required, little by little, to yield all. They, therefore, manfully resisted these invasions as unbecoming a free people.

Revolutionary War Localities North and South Carolina

Revolutionary War Localities North and South Carolina

See also History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part XV October-November, 1780

See also October 7, 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain

When, in 1775, Great Britain determined to enforce her obnoxious laws, the people, under their chosen leaders, seized their arms, forsook their homes and families, and boldly asserted their God-given rights. A long and embittered contest was commenced, involving mighty interests. Freedom was threatened—an empire was at stake. Sturdy blows were given and received, with various results. The first year of the war, the Americans beat back the British from Lexington and Concord, and captured Crown Point, but were worsted at Bunker Hill; they captured Chambly and St. Johns, and repulsed the enemy near Longueil, but the intrepid Montgomery failed to take Quebec, losing his life in the effort.

Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge

Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge

The second year of the contest, which brought forth the immortal Declaration of Independence, proved varying in its fortunes. The Scotch Tories in North Carolina were signally defeated at Moore’s Creek, and the British, long cooped up in Boston, were compelled to evacuate the place: and were subsequently repulsed at Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston; while the Americans, on the other hand, were defeated at the Cedars, and were driven from Montreal, Chambly and St. Johns, worsted at Long Island and White Plains, and lost Fort Washington, on the Hudson. Meanwhile the frontier men of Virginia, the Carolinas, East Tennessee, and Georgia, carried on successful expeditions against the troublesome Cherokees, whom British emissaries had inveigled into hostilities against their white neighbors.

The Battle of Germantown - October 24, 1777

The Battle of Germantown – October 24, 1777

Yet the year closed with gloomy prospects—despair sat on many a brow, and saddened many a heart—the main army was greatly reduced, and the British occupied New York, and the neighboring Province of New Jersey. Washington made a desperate venture, crossing the Delaware amid floating ice in December, attacking and defeating the unsuspecting enemy at Trenton; and, pushing his good fortune, commenced the third year of the war, 1777, by securing a victory at Princeton. While the enemy were, for a while, held at bay at the Red Bank, yet the results of the contests at Brandywine and Germantown were not encouraging to the American arms, and the British gained a firm foot-hold in Philadelphia. And subsequently they captured Forts Clinton and Montgomery, on the Hudson.

Forts Clinton and Montgomery battle map

Forts Clinton and Montgomery battle map

Farther north, better success attended the American arms. St. Leger, with a strong British and Indian force, laid siege to Fort Stanwix, on the Mohawk ; but after repelling a relieving party under General Nicholas Herkimer, he was at length compelled to relinquish his investiture, on learning of the approach of a second army of relief, retiring precipitately from the country ; while the more formidable invading force under General John Burgoyne met with successive reverses at Bennington, Stillwater, and Saratoga, eventuating in its total surrender to the victorious Americans.

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth

In June, 1778, the fourth year of the war, the British evacuated Philadelphia, when Washington pursued their retreating forces, overtaking and vigorously attacking them at Monmouth. A large Tory and Indian party defeated the settlers, and laid waste the Wyoming settlements. As the result of Burgoyne’s signal discomfiture, a treaty of alliance between the new Republic and France brought troops and fleets to the aid of the struggling Americans, and produced some indecisive fighting on Rhode Island.

George-Rogers-ClarkThe adventurous expedition under George Rogers Clark, from the valleys of Virginia and West Pennsylvania, down the Monongahela and Ohio, and into the country of the Illinois, a distance of well nigh fifteen hundred miles, with limited means, destitute of military stores, packhorses and supplies — with only their brave hearts and trusty rifles, was a remarkable enterprise. Yet with all these obstacles, and less than two hundred men, Clark fearlessly penetrated the western wilderness, killing his game by the way, and conquered those distant settlements. Though regarded at the time as a herculean undertaking, and a most successful adventure, yet none foresaw the mighty influence it was destined to exert on the subsequent progress and extension of the Republic.

hero_of_vincennes1Varied fortunes attended the military operations of 1779, the fifth year of the strife. The gallant Clark and his intrepid followers, marched in winter season, from Kaskaskia across the submerged lands of the Wabash, sometimes wading up to their arm-pits in water, and breaking the ice before them, surprised the garrison at Vincennes, and succeeded in its capture. The British force in Georgia, having defeated General Ashe at Brier creek, projected an expedition against Charleston, and progressed as far as Stono, whence they were driven back to Savannah, where the combined French and Americans were subsequently repulsed, losing, among others, the chivalrous Count Casimir Pulaski. At the North, Stony Point was captured at the point of the bayonet, and Paulus Hook surprised; while General John Sullivan’s well-appointed army over-ran the beautiful country of the Six Nations, destroying their villages, and devastating their fields, as a retributive chastisement for their repeated invasions of the Mohawk and Minisin settlements, and laying waste the lovely vale of Wyoming.

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The war had now dragged its slow length along for five successive campaigns, and the British had gained but few permanent foot-holds in the revolted Colonies. Instead of the prompt and easy conquest they had promised themselves, they had encountered determined opposition wherever they had shown the red cross of St. George, or displayed their red-coated soldiery. Repeated defeats on the part of the Americans had served to inure them to the hardships of war, and learned them how to profit by their experiences and disasters.

Americans holding off the attack of 10 British ships at Sullivans Island - 1776

Americans holding off the attack of 10 British ships at Sullivans Island, Charleston, S.C. – 1776

Surrender of Hessian troops to General Washington
New efforts were demanded on the part of the British Government to subdue their rebellious subjects; and South Carolina was chosen as the next field of extensive operations. Sir Henry Clinton, who had met such a successful repulse at Charleston in 1776, and in whose breast still rankled the mortifying recollections of that memorable failure, resolved to head in person the new expedition against the Palmetto Colony, and retrieve, if possible, the honor so conspicuously tarnished there on his previous unfortunate enterprise.

Cape_St_VincentHaving enjoyed the Christmas holiday of 1779 in New York harbor, Sir Henry, accompanied by Lord Cornwallis, sailed from Sandy Hook the next day with the fleet under Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, transporting an army of over seven thousand five hundred men. Some of the vessels, however, were lost by the way, having encountered stormy weather in the gulf-stream—one bark, carrying Hessian troops, was dismasted and driven across the ocean, an ordnance vessel was foundered, while several transports were captured by bold and adventurous American privateers, and most of the horses for the expedition perished. The place of rendezvous was at Tybee Bay, near the entrance to Savannah river, whence Clinton, on his way towards Charleston, was joined by the troops in Georgia, making his force nine thousand strong, besides the sailors in the fleet; but to render his numbers invincible beyond all peradventure, he at once ordered from New York Lord Rawdon’s brigade, amounting to about two thousand five hundred more.

Battle of Charleston

Battle of Charleston

Charleston, against which this formidable British force was destined, was an opulent city of some fifteen thousand people, white and black, and was garrisoned by less than four thousand men—not near enough to properly man the extended works of defence, of nearly three miles in circumference, as they demanded. Governor Rutledge, a man of unquestioned patriotism, had conferred upon him by the Legislature, in anticipation of this threatened attack, dictatorial powers, with the admonition, ‘to do every thing necessary for the public good; “but he was, nevertheless, practically powerless. He had few or none of the sinews of war; and so depreciated had become the currency of South Carolina, that it required seven hundred dollars to purchase a pair of shoes for one of her needy soldiers. The defeat of the combined French and American force at Savannah the preceding autumn, in which the South Carolinians largely participated, had greatly dispirited the people; and the Governor’s appeal to the militia produced very little effect. The six old South Carolina regiments had been so depleted by sickness and the casualties of war as to scarcely number eight hundred, all told; and the defence of the city was committed to these brave men, the local militia, and a few regiments of Continental troops—the latter reluctantly spared by Washington from the main army, and which, he thought, was “putting much to hazard” in an attempt to defend the city, and the result proved his military foresight. It would have been wiser for General Benjamin Lincoln and his troops to have retired from the place, and engaged in a Fabian warfare, harassing the enemy’s marches by ambuscades, and cutting off his foraging parties; but the leading citizens of Charleston, relying on their former success, urged every argument in their power that the city should be defended to the last extremity. Yet no experienced Engineer regarded the place as tenable.

abatis1On the eleventh of February, 1780, the British forces landed on St. John’s Island, within thirty miles of Charleston, subsequently forming a depot, and building fortifications, at Wappoo, on James’ Island; and, on the twenty-sixth of that month, they gained a distant view of the place and harbor. The dreaded day of danger approached nearer and nearer; and on the twenty-seventh, the officers of the Continental squadron, which carried one hundred and fifty guns, reported their inability to guard the harbor at the bar, where the best defence could be made; and “then,” as Washington expressed it, “the attempt to defend the town ought to have been relinquished.” But no such thought was entertained. Every thing was done, that could be done, to strengthen and extend the lines of defence, dig ditches, erect redoubts and plant abatis, with a strong citadel in the center.fn1

Preparations, too, were steadily progressing on the part of the enemy. On the twenty-fourth of March, Lord Cornwallis and a Hessian officer were seen with their spyglasses making observations; and on the twenty-ninth, the British passed Ashley river, breaking ground, on the first of April, at a distance of eleven hundred yards from the American lines. At successive periods they erected five batteries on Charleston Neck.

Late in the evening of March thirtieth, General Charles Scott, commanding one of the Virginia Continental brigade, arrived, accompanied by his staff, and some other officers. “The next morning,” says Major William Croghan, “I accompanied Generals Lincoln and Scott to view the batteries and works around town ; found those on the Cooper river side in pretty good order, and chiefly manned by sailors ; but the greater part of the remainder not complete, and stood in need of a great deal of work. General Scott was very particular in inquiring of General Lincoln as to the quantity of provisions in the garrison, when the General informed him there were several months’ supply, by a return he had received from the Commissary. General Scott urged the necessity of having officers to examine it, and, as he expressed it, for them to lay their hands on it.”fn2

A sortie was planned on the fourth of April, to be commanded by General Scott—one battalion led by Colonel Elijah Clarke and Major Lee Hogg, of North Carolina; another by Colonel Elisha Parker and Major Croghan, of Virginia, and the light infantry by Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens; but the wind proved unfavorable, which prevented the shipping from going up Town creek, to fire on the enemy, and give the sallying party such assistance as they might be able to render, and thus it failed of execution. General William Woodford’s Virginia brigade of Continentals arrived on the sixth, and some North Carolina militia under the command of Colonel George F. Harrington. They were greeted by the firing of a feu de j’oie [bonfire], and the ringing of the bells all night.fn3

Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie

Admiral Arbuthnot’s near approach to the bar, on the seventh of April, induced Commodore Abraham Whipple, who commanded the American naval force, to retire without firing a gun, first to Fort Moultrie, and afterward to Charleston; and the British fleet passed the fort without stopping to engage it—the passage having been made, says the New Jersey Gazette fn4 while a severe thunder storm was raging, which caused the ships to be “invisible near half the time of their passing.” Colonel Charles C. Pinckney, who commanded there, with three hundred men, kept up a heavy cannonade on the British ships during their passage, which was returned by each of the vessels as they passed—the enemy losing fourteen men killed, and fifteen wounded, while not a man was hurt in the garrison.fn5 One ship had its fore-topmast shot away, and others sustained damage. The Acteus transport ran aground near Haddrell’s Point, when Captain Thomas Gadsden, a brother of Colonel Christopher Gadsden, who was detached with two field pieces for the purpose, fired into her with such effect, that the crew set her on fire, and retreated in boats to the other vessels. The Royal fleet, in about two hours, came to anchor within long shot of the American batteries.

By the tenth of April, the enemy had completed their first parallel, when Clinton and Arbuthnot summoned the town to surrender. Lincoln answered: “From duty and inclination I shall support the town to the last extremity.” A severe skirmish had previously taken place between Lieutenant-Colonel John Laurens and the advance guard of the enemy, in which the Americans lost Captain Bowman killed, and Major Edmund Hyrne and seven privates wounded. On the twelfth, the batteries on both sides were opened, keeping up an almost incessant fire. The British had the decided advantage in the number and strength of their mortars and royals, having twenty-one, while the Americans possessed only two;fn6 and the lines of the latter soon began to crumble under the powerful and constant cannonade maintained against them. On the thirteenth, Governor Rutledge was persuaded to withdraw from the garrison, while exit was yet attainable, leaving Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden with five members of the Council.

CowpensOn the same day, General Lincoln, in a council of war, revealed to its members his want of resources, and suggested an evacuation. “In such circumstances,” said General Mcintosh, ” we should lose not an hour in attempting to get the Continental troops, at least, over Cooper river; for on their safety, depends the salvation of the State.” But Lincoln only wished them to give the matter mature consideration, and he would consult them further about it. Before he met them again, the American cavalry at Monk’s Corner, which had been relied on to keep open the communication between the city and the country, were surprised and dispersed on the fourteenth ; and five days later, the expected British reinforcements of two thousand five hundred men arrived from New York, when Clinton was enabled more completely to environ the devoted city, and cut off all chance of escape.

A stormy council was held on the nineteenth, when the heads of the several military departments reported their respective conditions—of course, anything but flattering in their character. Several of the members still inclined to an evacuation, notwithstanding the increased difficulties of effecting it since it was first suggested. In the midst of the conference, Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden happened to come in—whether by accident, or design, was not known—and General Lincoln courteously proposed that he be allowed to take part in the council. He appeared surprised and displeased that a thought had been entertained of either evacuation or capitulation, and acknowledged himself entirely ignorant of the state of the provisions, etc., but would consult his Council in regard to the proposals suggested.

In the evening, an adjourned meeting was held, when Colonel Laumoy, of the engineer department, reported the insufficiency of the fortifications, the improbability of holding out many days longer, and the impracticability of making a retreat; and closed by suggesting that terms of honorable capitulation be sought from the enemy. Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden, with four of his Councilors, coming in shortly after, treated the military gentlemen very rudely, the Lieutenant-Governor declaring that he would protest against their proceedings; that the militia were willing to live upon rice alone, rather than give up the town on any terms; and that even the old women had become so accustomed to the enemy’s shot, that they traveled the streets without fear or dread; but if the council were determined to capitulate, he had his terms ready in his pocket.

Mr. Thomas Ferguson, one of the Councilors, declared that the inhabitants of the city had observed the boats collected to carry off the Continental troops; and that they would keep a good watch upon the army, and should any attempt at evacuation ever be made, he would be among the first to open the gates for the admission of the enemy, and assist them in attacking the retiring troops Colonel C. C. Pinckney soon after came in abruptly—probably having been apprised by the Lieutenant-Governor of the subject under discussion—and, forgetting his usual politeness, addressed General Lincoln with great warmth, and in much the same strain as General Gadsden, adding that those who were for business needed no council, and that he came over on purpose from Fort Moultrie, to prevent any terms being offered to the enemy, or any evacuation of the garrison attempted; and particularly charged Colonel Laumoy and his department with being the sole authors and promoters of such proposals.fn7

It is very certain, that these suggestions of evacuation or capitulation, occasioned at the time great discontent among both the regulars and militia, who wished to defend the city to the last extremity, and who resolved, in view of continuing the defence, that they would be content, if necessary, with only half rations daily.fn8 All these good people had their wishes gratified—the siege was procrastinated, and many an additional death, suffering, sorrow, and anguish, were the consequence.

General Lincoln must have felt hurt, it not sorely nettled, by these repeated insults—as General Mcintosh acknowledges that he did. When matters of great public concern result disastrously, scape-goats are always sought, and all participants are apt to feel more or less unamiable and fault-finding on such occasions. Or, as Washington expressed it, referring to another affair, “mutual reproaches too often follow the failure of enterprises depending upon the cooperation of troops of different grades.” Looking at these bickerings in the light of history, a century after their occurrence, one is struck with General Lincoln’s magnanimous forbearance, when he confessedly made great sacrifices in defending the place so long against his better judgment, in deference to the wishes of the people, who, we may well conclude, were very unfit judges of military affairs.

sfmuralcutAt another council of officers, held on the twentieth and twenty-first, the important subject of an evacuation was again under deliberation; and the conclusion reached was, “that it was unadvisable, because of the opposition made to it by the civil authority and the inhabitants, and because, even if they should succeed in defeating a large body of the enemy posted in their way, they had not a sufficiency of boats to cross the Santee before they might be overtaken by the whole British army.”fn9 It was then proposed to give Sir Henry Clinton quiet possession of the city, with its fortifications and dependencies, on condition that the security of the inhabitants, and a safe, unmolested retreat for the garrison, with baggage and field pieces, to the north-east of Charleston should be granted. These terms were instantly rejected. On searching every house in town, it was found that the private supplies of provisions were as nearly exhausted as were the public magazines.

On the twenty-fourth, at daybreak, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson sallied out with two hundred men, chiefly from Generals Woodford’s and Scott’s brigades, surprising and vigorously attacking the advance flanking party of the enemy, bayoneting fifteen of them in their trenches, and capturing a dozen prisoners, of whom seven were wounded, losing in the brilliant affair, the brave Captain Thomas Gadsden and one or two privates. A considerable body of the enemy, under Major Hall, of the seventy-fourth regiment, attempted to support the party in the trenches; but were obliged to retire on receiving a shower of grape from the American batteries.fn10 A successful enterprise of this kind proved only a momentary advantage, having no perceptible influence on the final result.

StandIt is said Colonel C. C. Pinckney, and Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens, assured General Lincoln they could supply the garrison with plenty of beef from Lempriere’s Point, if they were permitted to remain on that side of Cooper river with the force then under their command; upon which the Commissary was ordered to issue a full allowance again. But unfortunately the first and only cattle butchered at Lempriere’s for the use of the garrison were altogether spoiled through neglect or mismanagement before they came over. These gentlemen, are said, also, to have promised that the communication on the Cooper side could, and would, be kept open. Being inhabitants of Charleston, and knowing the country well, perhaps the General, with some reason, might be inclined to the same opinion; and besides furnishing the garrison with beef, they were to send a sufficient number of negroes over to town for the military works, who were much wanted. But Colonel Pinckney with the greater part, or almost the whole of his first South Carolina regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens with the light infantry were recalled from Fort Moultrie and Lempriere’s fn11—and thus ended this spasmodic hope. Probably this failure caused a strict search to be made, about this time, in the houses of the citizens for provisions; “some was found,” says Major Croghan, ” but a much less quantity than was supposed.”

The Americans were not slow in perceiving the utter hopelessness of their situation. On the twenty-sixth, General DuPortail, an able French officer and Engineer-in-Chief of the American army, arrived from Philadelphia, having been sent by Washington to supervise the engineer department. He frankly informed General Lincoln that there was no prospect of getting any reinforcements very soon from the grand army—that Congress had proposed to General Washington to send the Maryland Line to their relief.fn12 As soon as General DuPortail came into the garrison, examined the military works, and observed the enemy, he declared the defences were not tenable—that they were only field lines; and that the British might have taken the place ten days ago. “I found the town,” wrote DuPortail to Washington, “in a desperate state.”fn13 He wished to leave the garrison immediately, while it was possible; but General Lincoln would not allow him to do so, as it would dispirit the troops. On learning General DuPortail’s opinion, a council was called the same day, and a proposition made for the Continental troops to make anight retreat; and when the citizens were informed of the subject under deliberation, some of them came into the council, warmly declaring to General Lincoln, thatif he attempted to withdraw the troops and abandon the citizens, they would cut up his boats, and open the gates to the enemy. This put an end to all further thoughts of an evacuation.fn14

As late as the twenty-eighth, a supernumerary officer left town to join the forces in the country; but the next day the small party remaining at Lempriere’s Point was recalled, the enemy at once occupying it with a large force; and thus the last avenue between the city and country was closed. General Lincoln informed the general officers, privately, this day, that he intended the horn work as a place of retreat for the whole army in case they were driven from the lines. General Mcintosh observing to him the impossibility of those then stationed at South Bay and Ashley river, in such a contingency, being able to retreat there, he replied that they might secure themselves as best they could. And on the thirtieth, in some way, Governor Rutledge managed to convey a letter to General Lincoln, upon which the General congratulated the army, in general orders, on hearing of a large reinforcement, which may again open the communication with the country.fn15 It was the old story of drowning men catching at straws.

It is unnecessary to dwell upon the daily details of the protracted siege. Some of the more unusual occurrences only need be briefly noticed, so that we may hasten on to the melancholy catastrophe. Eleven vessels were sunk in the channel to prevent the Royal fleet from passing up Cooper river, and enfilading the American lines on that side of the place; while a frigate and two galleys were placed above the sunken obstructions, to cooperate with the shore batteries in thwarting any attempt on the part of the enemy for their removal.

But the work of destruction went steadily on. Cannon balls by day and by night went streaking through the air, and crashing through the houses. One morning, a shell burst very near Colonel Parker, a large piece of which fell harmless at his feet, when he said, with much composure, “a miss is as good as a mile;”fn16 and, that very evening, while the gallant Colonel was looking over the parapet, he was shot dead. Shells, fire-balls, and carcasses, ingeniously packed with combustibles, loaded pistol barrels, and other destructive missiles, were thrown into the city, setting many buildings on fire, and maiming and destroying not a few of the citizens and soldiery. On one occasion, when a pastor and a few worshipers, mostly women and invalids, were gathered in a church, supplicating the mercies of heaven on themselves and suffering people, a bomb-shell fell in the chuch-yard, when all quickly dispersed, retiring to their several places of abode.

Some of the cases of fatality were quite uncommon. Mever Moses’ young child was killed while in the arms of its nurse, and the house burned down. A man and his wife were killed at the same time, and in the same bed. A soldier who had been relieved from serving at his post in the defence of the city, entered his humble domicile, and while in the act of embracing his anxious wife, with tears of gladness, a cannon ball passed through the house, killing them both instantly. Many sought safety in their cellars; but even when protected for the moment from the constantly falling missiles of death and destruction, they began to suffer for want of food, since all the avenues to the city for country supplies, had been cut off.

General Moultrie has left us a vivid picture of this period of the siege: “Mr. Lord and Mr. Basquin, two volunteers, were sleeping upon the mattress together, in the advanced redoubt, when Mr. Lord was killed by a shell falling upon him, and Mr. Basquin at the same time had the hair of his head burnt, and did not awake until he was aroused from his slumbers by his fellow soldiers. The fatigue in that advanced redoubt was so great for want of sleep, that many faces were so swelled they could scarcely see out of their eyes. I was obliged to relieve Major Mitchell, the commanding officer. They were constantly on the lookout for the shells that were continually falling among them. It was by far the most dangerous post on the lines. On my visit to the battery, not having been there for a day or two, I took the usual way of going in, which was a bridge that crossed our ditch, quite exposed to the enemy, who, in the meantime, had advanced their works within seventy or eighty yards of the bridge, which I did not know. As soon as I had stepped upon the bridge, an uncommon number of bullets whistled about me; and on looking to my right, I could just see the heads of about twelve or fifteen men firing upon me from behind a breastwork—I moved on, and got in. When Major Mitchell saw me, he asked me which way I came in? I told him over the bridge. He was astonished, and said, ‘Sir, it is a thousand to one that you were not killed,’ and told me that he had a covered way through which to pass, by which he conducted me on my return. I staid in this battery about a quarter of an hour, giving the necessary orders, during which we were constantly skipping about to get out of the way of the shells thrown from their howitzers. They were not more than one hundred yards from our works, and were throwing their shells in bushels on our front and left flank.”fn17

Under date of the second of May, Major Croghan records in his Journal, which is corroborated by General Mcintosh’s Diary, that the enemy threw shells charged with rice and sugar. Simms tells us, that tradition has it, that it was not rice and sugar with which the shells of the British were thus ironically charged, but wheat flour and molasses—with an inscription addressed: “To the Yankee officers in Charleston,” courteously informing them that it contained a supply of the commodities of which they were supposed to stand most in need. But the garrison could still jest amid suffering, volcanoes and death. Having ascertained that the shell was sent them from a battery manned exclusively by a Scottish force, they emptied the shell of its contents; and filling it with lard and sulphur, to cure them of the itch, and sent it back to their courteous assailants, with the same inscription which originally accompanied it. “It was understood,” says Garden, “after the siege, that the note was received, but not with that good humor that might have been expected, had it been considered as jeu d’esprit, resulting from justifiable retaliation.”

“Provisions,” as we learn from Johnson’s Traditions, “now failed among the besieged. A sufficiency had been provided for the occasion; but the beef and pork had become tainted and unfit for food.” But the British “were misinformed,” says Moultrie, “if they supposed us in want of rice and sugar.” Of the latter article, at least during the earlier stages of the siege, such was its plentifulness that it was a favorite amusement to pursue the spent hot shot of the enemy, in order, by flinging sugar upon the balls, to convert it into candy. But towards the close of the siege, the supply of sugar must have become limited. “On the fourth of May,” says Major Croghan, “we received from the Commissary, with our usual allowance of rice, six ounces of extremely bad meat, and a little coffee and sugar. It has been very disagreeable to the northern officers and soldiers to be under the necessity of living without wheat or Indian bread, which has been the case during the whole siege.” So that the Scotch jokers who sent their shot, laden with either rice and sugar, or flour and molasses, ironically hinting at the deficiencies of the beleaguered garrison, did not, after all, hit very wide of the mark.

carronadecrewClinton, on the sixth of May, renewed his former terms for the surrender of the garrison. With the limited store of provisions on hand, with no prospects of receiving further supplies or reinforcements, and with the admission on the part of the Engineers that the lines could not be maintained ten days longer, and were liable to be carried by assault at any time, General Lincoln was disposed to accept the terms tendered; but he was opposed by the citizens, as they were required by Clinton to be prisoners on parole, when they wished to be regarded as non-combatants, and not subject to the rigorous laws of war. It was only putting off the evil day for a brief period; and again the twentyfour and thirty-two pound carronades, the mortars and howitzers, belched forth their shot, shell and carcasses upon the devoted town and garrison, setting many buildings on fire, and keeping up the most intense excitement. So near were now the opposing parties, that they could speak words of bravado to each other; and the rifles of the Hessian Yagers were so unerring, that a defender could no longer show himself above the lines with safety; and even a hat raised upon a ramrod, was instantly riddled with bullets.

Captain Hudson, of the British Navy, on the fifth of May, summoned Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island to surrender; the larger portion of its garrison having previously retired to Charleston. Lieutenant-Colonel William Scott,fn18 who commanded, sent for answer a rollicking reply: “Tol, lol, de rol, lol—Fort Moultrie will be defended to the last extremity.” The next day, Hudson repeated his demand, threatening that if he did not receive an answer in fifteen minutes, he would storm the fort, and put every man to the sword. Scott, it would seem, was at first disposed to resort to bravado of the “last extremity” character; but recalled the officer bearing it, saying on further reflection the garrison thought better of it—the disparity of force was far too great—and begging for a cessation of hostilities, proposed terms of surrender, which were granted by Captain Hudson. The surrender formally took place on the seventh.fn19 Thus the historic Fort Moultrie, which four years before had signally repulsed a powerful British fleet under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, now surrendered to the enemy without firing a gun.

revolutionary_warThe seventh of May was further noted by an unfortunate disaster—the partial destruction of the principal magazine of the garrison, by the bursting of a shell. General Moultrie had most of the powder—ten thousand pounds—removed to the north-east corner of the exchange, where it was carefully bricked up, and remained undiscovered by the British during the two years and seven months they occupied the city. Another summons was sent in by Clinton on the eighth—a truce was granted till the next day; when Lincoln endeavored to secure the militia from being considered as prisoners of war, and the protection of the citizens of South Carolina in their lives and property, with twelve months allowance of time in which to determine whether to remain under British rule, or dispose of their effects and remove elsewhere. These articles were promptly rejected, with the announcement on the part of Clinton that hostilities would be re-commenced at eight o’clock that evening.

“After receiving his letter,” says Moultrie, “we remained near an hour silent, all calm and ready, each waiting for the other to begin. At length, we fired the first gun, and immediately followed a tremendous cannonade—about one hundred and eighty, or two hundred pieces of heavy cannon were discharged at the same moment. The mortars from both sides threw out an immense number of shells. It was a glorious sight to see them, like meteors, crossing each other, and bursting in the air. It appeared as if the stars were tumbling down. The fire was incessant almost the whole night, cannon balls whizzing, and shells hissing, continually among us, ammunition chests and temporary magazines blowing up, great guns bursting, and wounded men groaning along the lines. It was a dreadful night! It was our last great effort, but it availed us nothing. After it, our military ardor was much abated, and we began to cool.”

When, on the eleventh of May, the British had crossed the wet ditch by sap, and were within twenty-five yards of the American lines, all farther defense was hopeless. The militia refused to do duty.fn20 It was no longer a question of expediency ; but stern necessity demanded a speedy surrender, and the stoppage of farther carnage and suffering. General Lincoln had proved himself brave, judicious and unwearied in his exertions for three anxious months in baffling the greatly superior force of Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot. Hitherto the civil authorities, and citizens of Charleston, had stoutly contended that the city should be defended to the last extremity; but now, when all hope was lost, a large majority of the inhabitants, and of the militia, petitioned General Lincoln to accede to the terms offered by the enemy. The next day articles of capitulation were signed.

The loss of the Americans during the siege was ninetyeight officers and soldiers killed, and one hundred and forty- six wounded; and about twenty of the citizens were killed by the random shots of the enemy. Upward of thirty houses were burned, and many others greatly damaged. Besides the Continental troops, less than two thousand, of whom five hundred were in hospitals, and a considerable number of sailors, Sir Henry Clinton managed to enumerate among the prisoners surrendered, all the free male adults of Charleston, including the aged, the infirm, and even the Loyalists, so as to swell the number of his formidable conquest. In this way, his report was made to boast of over five thousand six hundred prisoners, when the Loyalist portion but a few days afterwards offered their congratulations on the reduction of South Carolina. The regular troops and sailors became prisoners of war until exchanged; the militia from the country were permitted to return home on parole, and to be secured in their property so long as their parole should be observed.

(fn1 There was published, first in a Williamsburgh, Va.. paper of April 8th. 1780. copied into Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet of April 18th. and into the New York Royal Gazette of same date, an account of a Colonel Hamilton Ballendine having made drawings of Charleston and its fortifications, was directing his course to the enemy, when an American picket guard sent out to Stono. captured him; he. thereupon, exhibited his drafts, supposing that the party belonged to the British army. They soon disabused him of his error, carried him to General Lincoln, who ordered him for execution, and he was accordingly hanged on the 5th of March. As none of the South Carolina historians, nor any of the Charleston diarists or letter-writers during the siege, make the slightest reference to any such person or circumstance, there could have been no foundation for the story.)
(fn2 MS. Journal of Major William Croghan, of the Virginia Line. Siege of Charleston, 123.)
(fn3 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn4 May 12th, 1780.)
(fn5 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn6 Such is the statement of Dr. Ramsay, who was present during the siege. The British official returns show nine mortars, ranging from four to ten-inch caliber, and one eight-inch howitzer, surrendered at Charleston, and a ten-inch mortar taken at Fort Moultrie; but probably the most of these were either unfit for use, or more likely, the limited quantity of shells enabled the defenders to make use of only two of this class of ordnance.)
(fn7 The details of this military council are taken from Major Crojthan’s MS. Journal; and from General Mcintosh’s Journal, published entire in the Magnolia Magazine. Dec. 1842. and cited in Simms’ South Carolina in tin Revolution. U7-129, both of which are, in this case, identical in language.)
(fn8 MS. letter of John Lewis Gervais, cited in Simms, 129.)
(fn9 The enemy were constantly on the watch for any attempted evacuation on the part of the Americans. Capt J. R. Rousscict. of Tarleton’s cavalry, has left this MS. note. written on the margin of a copy of Steadman’s American War, referring to the closing period of the siege: “Some small vessels, taken from the Americans, were armed, manned with troops, and stationed off Town Creek, to prevent the escape of the garrison should they attempt to evacuate the town by that channel. Capt. Roussclet commanded an armed sloop, with his company on board, under Capt. Salisbury. Royal Navy.”)
(fn10 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn11 Croghan’s MS. Journal; and Mcintosh’s Diary.)
(fn12 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn13 Letters to Washington, ii, 450.)
(fn14 Moultrie’s Memoirs, i, 80.
(fn15 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn16  Virginia Gazette, May 16, 1780.)
(fn17 Moultrie’s Memoirs, i, 83.)
(fn18 Scott was a brave, experienced officer. He served as a Captain during the attack on Charleston, in 1776. and died in that city in June, 1807.)
(fn19 Gordon’s History 0/ the Revolution, in. 354; Moultrie’s Memoirs, ii, 84; Ramray’s Revolution in South Carolina, ii, 56. nancroft. x, 305. and others, give May 6th as the date of surrender, but that the 7th was the true date of this occurrence mr.y be seen by com. paring Tarleton’s Campaign, 53-55; Rotta’s Rrvnlntion, New Haven edition, 1842. ii. 249; Johnson’s Traditions, 259; Pimms’ South Carolina in the Revolution, 146; and Siege of Charleston. Munselt, 1867, p. 167.)
(fn20 Du Portail to Washington, Msy 17th, 1780.)

4th Cont. Lt. Dragoons

The Pennsylvania Line 4th Continental Dragoons

4th Continental Light Dragoon Regiment

Authorized 5 January 1777 in the Continental Army as the 4th Continental Light Dragoon Regiment and assigned to the Main Army. Organized in spring 1777 at Philadelphia and Baltimore to consist of six troops from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey.
Relieved 19 November 1778 from the Main Army and assigned to the Middle Department. Relieved 28 June 1779 from the Middle Department and assigned to the Highlands Department. Reorganized in early 1780 to consist of four mounted and two dismounted troops. Relieved 10 June 1780 from the Highlands Department and assigned to the Main Army. Relieved in December 1780 from the Main Army and assigned to the Middle Department.

Re-designated 1 January 1781 as the 4th Legionary Corps. Relieved in March 1781 from the Middle Department and assigned to the Southern Department. Reorganized 1 January 1781 to consist of one mounted troop and one dismounted troop. Furloughed 11 June 1783 at Philadelphia. Disbanded 15 November 1783.

The Continental Army had four regiments of cavalry, formally designated as “light dragoons.” They were used for scouting, patrolling, and covering missions and for courier service. Except for surprise encounters with enemy patrols, they were intended to fight on foot. As originally conceived, and as prescribed on March 14, 1777, a Dragoon regiment was to have six troops, each consisting of a captain, a Lieutenant, a cornet (the cavalry equivalent of infantry ensign or artillery second lieutenant), and forty-one enlisted men. With the field-grade officers and regimental staff, the regiment would total 280 personnel. The reorganization of May 27, l 778, retained the six-troop structure, but added a lieutenant and twenty-three enlisted men to each troop, bringing the theoretical total to 416 officers and enlisted men. January l, l 781, bought still another reorganization, this one reflecting a conceptual change imposed by necessity. Six more privates were added to each troop and minor changes were made to the staff, bringing the regimental total of 455 officers and men; but only four of the troops were mounted, the attaining two consisting of infantry. This new type of unit was called a ‘legionary corps, “‘ and provided a more versatile organization, roughly equivalent in an embryonic way to a regimental combat team.

4th Cont. Lt. Dragoon 1778-81

But cavalry was an expensive branch of the service. Mounts had to be purchased, and, due to hard usage and perennial shortages, required frequent replacement. Saddles and other “horse furniture” had to be procured. Weapons suitable for mounted men were also in short supply sabers could be manufactured, but pistols and carbines had to be reported. Due to this combination of limiting factors, no Continental cavalry regiment ever had much more than three hundred men, and only bout half of these could be mounted. More often, the regiments mustered no more than 150 men.

The 4th Continental Light Dragoon regiment was authorized by Congress on January 1, 1777 and on January 5, Stephen Moylan was appointed its colonel. He had previously been the Continental Army’s Quartermaster General (in grade of colonel), and at the time of his appointment to the new regiment, was serving as an aide on Washington’s staff. He continued, as commander of the regiment until it was disbanded.’

Of the key officers (captain through colonel) of the original regiment, only Moylan himself and one captain were from Pennsylvania. One Captain was from Maryland, and the rest of the captains, the lieutenant

Colonel, and the major were Virginians. 5 The enlisted men, however, were largely from Pennsylvania, chiefly from Philadelphia and its vicinity.

For more than two years after its formation, the 4th Dragoons had no held-grade officer except for Colonel Moylan. Not until December 10, 1779, was Lt. Col. Benjamin Temple, of the 1st Continental Light Dragoons (a Virginian), transferred to fill the vacancy. He continued with the 4th Light Dragoons during the rest of the regiment’s existence. Similarly, the 4th Dragoons had no major until another Virginian, Moore Fauntleroy, was promoted from captain on August 1, 1779. He remained on the regiment’s roster from that time on, although on February 10, 1783, Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair complained that Fauntleroy had been absent from duty for many months.

4th Cont. Lt. Dragoons

The 4th Dragoon regiment was authorized six troops, and actually had that number on July 3, 1781,” but the names of only five original captains have been found. The troops and their commanders appear to have been as follows:

[Troop A], commanded by Capt. Moore Fauntleroy. After serving in 1776 as an ensign and second lieutenant in the 5th Virginia (infantry) Regiment, he was appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons on January 21, 1777. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Germantown, on October 4, 1777. The date of his escape or exchange is not known; but as noted above, he was promoted to major on August 1, 1779 Records do not indicate the promotion or appointment of any officer to fill the captaincy he vacated. The regiment’s first appointment to captain after Fauntleroy’s promotion was that of Larkin Smith, but that did not take place until April 1,1780, eight months later. Smith, still another Virginian, had been commissioned a cornet in the 4th Dragoons on August 1, 1777, promoted to lieutenant on September 4, 1778, and after becoming a captain continued with the regiment as long as it remained in existence.

[Troop B], commanded by Capt. David Hopkins, of Virginia. He had been a volunteer with Benedict Arnold’s Quebec expedition in 1775, and was appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Dragoons on January 21, 1777. At an unknown date in 1780, he was promoted to major of the 1st Continental Dragoons.” It is possible that his replacement was Capt. Henry Willis, of Pennsylvania, concerning whom the records are contradictory. He was appointed a cornet in the 4th Dragoons in June, 1777, and according to one version was promoted to second lieutenant on June 25, 1781, and to captain on an unspecified subsequent date, serving to the end of the war. Another version, however, says that he was promoted to Captain on December 22, 1780, and resigned his commission on April 24, 1781, at which time he was replaced by Capt. Thomas Overton, a Virginian, who had been a lieutenant in the 9th Virginia (infantry) Regiment until July 1, 1779, when he had been appointed a first lieutenant in the 4th Dragoons. He served with that regiment through the rest of the war.

· [Troop C], commanded by Capt. Thomas Dorsey, of Pennsylvania. He began his service as a captain of infantry, initially in the 1st Pennsylvania Battalion and then in its successor unit, the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment. He became a captain in the 4th Dragoons on January 10, 1777, but is listed as “omitted” in August of the same year. No promotion occurred which can be associated with the departure from service (whatever the circumstances may have been) of Captain Dorsey. The first such promotion after he left the regiment, which took place on February 8, 1778, was that of John Heard, of New Jersey. After having been a second lieutenant of New Jersey artillery in 1776, Heard had become a first lieutenant of the 4th Dragoons on January 20, 1777. He served as a captain in that regiment from the date of his promotion to the end of the war.

· [Troop D1], commanded by Capt. David Plunkett, of Maryland. His prior service had been as a second lieutenant in Smallwood’s Maryland Regiment. Appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons on January 10, 1777, he was taken prisoner on October 20 of that year (location and circumstances unknown, although possibly in conjunction with the defense of Fort Mercer, near Red Bank, New Jersey), and resigned from the army on March 13, 1779. Possibly to fill this vacancy, Peter Manifold was promoted to captain from first lieutenant on April 14, 1779. One of the comparatively few Pennsylvania officers, he had originally joined the regiment as a cornet, on April 14, 1778, being promoted barely two weeks later (on May 1) to lieutenant. He resigned on October 30, 1780. Apparently the vacancy remained unfilled for some time.

· [Troop E], commanded by Capt. Vashel D. Howard, of Virginia. He was commissioned a captain in the 4th Dragoons on January 24, 1777, but died on March 15, 1778.22 There was no promotion to captain in the regiment from that time until December 22, 1778, when John Craig, a Pennsylvanian, was promoted from first lieutenant. He had been a second lieutenant in the Ed Pennsylvania (infantry) Battalion and a first lieutenant in the Id Pennsylvania (infantry) Regiment before transferring to the 4th Dragoons on March 22, 1977. He stayed with the organization to the end of the wards

Other officers who at one time or another served as captains in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons were:

Capt. Zebulon Pike, of New Jersey. Appointed a cornet in the 4th Dragoons on March 1, 1777, he became the regimental adjutant on November 20, 1777, was promoted lieutenant on March 15, 1778, and captain on December 25, 1778. On June 1, 1780, he was appointed regimental paymaster, holding that position until the end of the war.

Capt. Erasmus Gill, of Virginia. He was appointed a captain in the 4th Dragoons in February 1779, but with a retroactive date of rank of December 25, 1778. He had prior service as a sergeant, ensign, and second lieutenant in the 2d Virginia (infantry) Regiment. (Father of the Brig. R. Gen. Zubulon Pike who discovered Pike’s Peak and who was killed at Toronto during the War of 1812) On October 3, 1779, he was taken prisoner at Savannah, Georgia, and after his exchange (on October 22, 1780), served to the end of the war.

Capt. Lawrence Frank, of Pennsylvania. Having been commissioned a first lieutenant, 4th Continental Light Dragoons on October 1, 1779, he was promoted to captain some time in 1782 and served in that grade throughout what remained of the war.

Whatever the regiment’s pattern of promotions or company strength may have been, it is clear that some time prior to its demobilization the 4th Dragoons had reached a total of six companies, commanded at the end by Captains Smith, Heard, Craig, Gill, Overton, and Frank.

The uniform originally adopted for the 4th Dragoons featured coats captured from the British. These were red, with blue facings. However, the first detachment of the regiment to join Washington at Morristown, New Jersey, in the spring of 1777, was mistaken for British soldiers, to the consternation of the American civilians the troops met along the way. On May 12, General Washington wrote to Colonel Moylan, directing him to change the color, “which may be done by dipping into what kind of dye that is most proper to put upon Red. I care not what it is, so that the present color be changed. Apparently, some of the men wore linen hunting shirts for a time, but before long the regiment was uniformed in green coats trimmed with red, green cloaks with red capes, red waistcoats, buckskin breeches, and leather caps trimmed with bear skin. 29 By the terms of the General Order of October 2,1779, however, all dragoon regiments were thenceforth to wear blue coats, faced and lined with white, with white buttons.

For recruiting, the 4th Dragoon Regiment had been assigned to the area between the North (Hudson) River and the Susquehanna, but, as noted above, it appears to have drawn the bulk of its men from the Philadelphia region. The original enlistment’s expired in the latter part of September 1780. The regiment had never been filled, and only eleven of the old members re-enlisted at that time for the duration of the war.’2 With new recruits, it totaled only eighty men (with fifteen officers!) by the spring of 1781.” The nearest thing to a complete roster, purportedly showing all the enlisted men who ever served with the regiment, lists only 213 namesake.

SUMMARY

In comparison with infantry and artillery organizations, the term “regiment” is misleading as applied to Continental cavalry units. The 4th Light Dragoon regiment, raised chiefly in and around Philadelphia, seems seldom to have exceeded a hundred troopers by very much, and frequently to have fallen to much lower manning levels. As numerical weakness limited the uses, which it could serve, iterated in small detachments or with men functioning independently as individuals.

Operations

OPERATIONS

Even more markedly shall was the case for artillery. American Continental cavalry was employed in small, widely dispersed detachments. It performed valuable services in observing and reporting enemy movements, screening its own infantry’s movements, covering exposed flanks, and providing messengers for dissemination of tactical orders. Except for brief skirmishes, however, it almost never saw extensive combat.

As already noted, the first elements of the 4th Continental Light Dragoons arrived at Morristown on May 12, 1777. For the next two months they were carrying out patrolling activities in the vicinity of Middlebrook, New Jersey. A return dated July 16, 1777 indicates that three troops (under Captains Dorsey, Hopkins, and Plunkett) were in the field. They drew a total of 172 rations, but upwards of twenty of these appear to have been for the authorized regimental laundresses.

Four days later, at Elizabeth, New Jersey, nineteen men of Captain Craig’s troop, disgruntled because they had not been paid, left for Philadelphia in defiance of orders, to demand the money due them. Two troops of the 1st Dragoons brought them back, but the horses were too stiff to permit further movements until they could be rested. The deserters were tried by court martial in early August, by which time the regiment was at Neshaminy, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. All nineteen were sentenced to be hanged, but General Washington commuted the sentence and, on August 19, transferred the men to infantry regiments.’

The 4th Dragoons took part with the rest of the army in the march through Philadelphia on August 24, moving on south toward Wilmington, Delaware. From there, the regiment formed part of the escort for General Washington when he reconnoitered toward the British army’s landing place at Head of Elk, Maryland, and helped drive off an enemy scouting force attempting a probe northward.

During the Battle of Brandywine, on September 11, the dragoons operated chiefly as scouts and couriers, under the over-all direction of Count Casimir Pulaski, soon to be named commander of all the Continental cavalry. Some of the 4th Dragoon regiment may have taken part in Pulaski’s successful attempt to block the British forces trying to cut off the American line of retreat to Chester, but no specific documentation to this effect has been found. On September 13, however, a detachment of the 4th Dragons was sent to retrieve military stores being held at French Creek, in Chester County, and the rest of the troopers were used to provide cover for the fords across the Schuylkill River.

As at Brandywine, the role of the regiment at the Battle of Germantown was to provide covering and scouting forces and messenger service. Presumably, some or all of the regiment may have been with Pulaski’s force delaying the British pursuit. It does not appear to have been heavily engaged, although it may have seen some action, for Captain Fauntleroy was captured during this battle.

Scouting and patrolling continued to occupy the 4th Dragoons. On November 9, 1777, Captain Craig and a detachment were officially commended for capturing a number of enemy soldiers. When Washington took up a defensive position at Whitemarsh, the regiment helped cover the left flank of the position, but was not engaged during the tentative British advance.

The 4th Dragoons moved with the rest of the army to Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Although the bulk of the army’s cavalry was sent to Trenton in order to ease the demands on the Valley Forge locality for fodder, the 4th Dragoons appear to have stayed at Valley Forge until March 20,1778. On that date, Colonel Moylan was ordered to move his command to Trenton. Over the next several weeks, there was frequent patrolling, which gave rise to several skirmishes, but the lack of fit horses and suitable equipment limited the action which could be taken. Then, on May 28, Washington sent orders for all the cavalry regiments to join the army at Valley Forge. Before the troopers could arrive, however, the orders were countermanded and the cavalrymen were directed to keep close watch over British movements in the vicinity of Philadelphia.

When the British evacuated Philadelphia and started across New Jersey on June 18, the cavalry stayed close on their heels, keeping Washington informed of their direction of march. In fact, the 4th Dragoons clung so close that on June 27 they overran the camp followers marching in the rear of the British columns. On June 27, the day before the Battle of Monmouth, the regiment captured a number of prisoners and sent them back for interrogations

Like most Revolutionary War battles, Monmouth was an infantry and artillery fight, with cavalry playing its part chiefly before and after the actual clash. The 4th Dragoons seem to have had no part in the engagement itself, and there is no record that the regiment suffered any casualties on that day. On the other hand, Moylan’s men did follow up the British withdrawal on June 29, but they were too weak in numbers and the horses were too exhausted to do anything except maintain a watch over enemy movements.

After the Battle of Monmouth, the 4th Continental Light Dragoons remained in New Jersey through the summer. The regiment’s base was at Hackensack, but its assignment was to patrol the area toward the Hudson and to keep the British forces under observation.

By early October, the regiment had moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. From there it was ordered to Durham, Connecticut, for the winter of 1778-1779. It operated along the New York-Connecticut border during the summer of 1779. On July 11, it saw its next sizable action when it accompanied a militia force to try to prevent a British amphibious raid on the town of Norwalk. By the time the Americans arrived, the enemy troops had made their landing and had set the town on fire. Colonel Moylan led an attack, during which, he reported, “a vast deal of ammunition [was] wasted, to very little purpose, as in general our militia kept at awfull distance.” Although the raiding force, concealed by the smoke from the burning town, withdrew successfully to its ships, the cavalry took four prisoners.

During the rest of that summer, the bulk of the regiment continued to operate in the same general area, serving as part of the force under Brig. Gen. John Glover. Some of the regiment appears to have gone to the Southern Theater about this time, as Captain Gill (who was mentioned by name as capturing the four prisoners at Norwalk on July 11) was himself taken prisoner at Savannah, Georgia, on October 3.

The regiment as a whole spent the winter of 1779-1780 in Connecticut. Quarters for men and horses were inadequate, and the 4th Dragoons had to be scattered over a distance of five miles, an impossible situation for any organization, which might be called upon to react quickly. Colonel Moylan claimed that “No Regiment could be more orderly than the 4th since they have come into this State,” but the troopers were unpopular with the local civilians. Shortages of supplies and equipment were acute. “We have an exceeding cold day,” Moylan noted on January 22, 1780, “and the Regiment so badly off for underclothes that they are much to be pitied. He reported on February 15 that there were 130 Pennsylvanians in the organization—probably the bulk of its enlisted strength—but a week later he stated that even this small number was not effective “for want of breeches, boots, shirts and stockings.”54 The shortages were still acute as late as April 14.

Apparently, spring brought more supplies, and the summer definitely brought more action. On July 21, 1780, the 4th Dragoon regiment was part of the force under Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne, which attacked the Blockhouse at Bergen Heights, New Jersey. It carried out the only part of the operation, which was completely successful, driving off the considerable collection of Tory owned cattle and horses at Bergen Neck while Wayne’s infantry and artillery tried vainly to reduce the garrison which was holding the Blockhouse.

According to one authority, parts of the regiment were sent to the Southern theater during 1780, sustaining heavy losses at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, the survivors being absorbed into a composite dragoon unit commanded by Lt. Col. William Washington, originally of the 3d Continental Dragoons. This claim seems to be unlikely. No other reference to 4th Dragoon participation in that battle has been found. Moreover, it is clear that the greater part of the regiment spent the winter of 1780-1781 at Lancaster, and there was a detachment at West Point.

Because of these dispositions, the 4th Dragoons did not take part in the January 1 mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line at Morristown, New Jersey. Nevertheless, they staged a minor revolt of their own. On May 21, 1781, a number of the dragoons, with their weapons, marched on the Lancaster jail, determined to release one of the members of the regiment who was confined there. The jail was guarded by a militia sentry, who ordered the cavalry men to halt. One of the troopers continued to move forward, threatening the sentry with a cocked and loaded pistol. When he tried to wrest away the sentry’s musket, the sentry shot and killed him. As the dragoon fell, his pistol dropped out of his hand and fired when it hit the ground, with the result that a militiamen standing nearby was wounded in the thigh.

The regiment had become greatly reduced in effectiveness. As of April 6, Major General St. Clair reported that the 4th Dragoons had only eighty men, and only fifty of those were mounted, and there was no improvement by mid-July. Even so, by the end of June, part of the regiment had joined Wayne’s provisional brigade in Virginia.63 As of July 3, the regiment’s total enlisted strength is shown as being only 101 men. ‘[‘hey were organized in six troops, but were very unevenly distributed, the largest troop numbering forty-two men and the smallest only three.

By October 1, 1781, what was left of the 4th Dragoons (now officially the 4th Legionary Corps) was all assembled at Williamsburg, in Virginia. From there, it went on to the siege of Yorktown, where it was assigned to the “right division.” By November 1, still at Yorktown, it had fourteen officers and ninety-four enlisted men, and another forty men and four officers had already marched south to join Major General Greene. The mounts of the men in Virginia were in very poor condition, and Colonel Moylan predicted that they would not be capable of marching for at least four months.

The only part of the regiment which saw any further action during the war was the detachment in the south, which by the end of 1781 numbered approximately one hundred officers and men. This force was assigned to the command, which Anthony Wayne led into Georgia, leaving South Carolina on January 4, 1782. During the course of the campaign, which ended with the occupation of Savannah on July 12, 1782, what was left of the 4th Dragoons was absorbed into a mixed command (including elements of the 1st and 3rd Dragoon regiments) under Col. George Baylor, 3rd Continental Light Dragoons. * As for the elements of the regiment, which had not gone south from Virginia, by December 15, 1782, their strength had dropped to one mounted troop and one troop of foot soldiers. The foot troop was transferred to the Pennsylvania infantry (although the men continued to be paid at the higher rate prescribed for cavalry), and the mounted troop was mustered out.

 

*Griffin, p. 126. It seems likely that Berg’s statement that in 1780 remnants of the 4th Dragoons w ere absorbed into a mixed command under let. Col. Washington, 3d Dragoons, reflects a confusion with what actually happened in 1782.