In my previous post, it was said that Francis Marion might have responded to the British destruction of his winter quarters:
“It ain’t winter anymore”
For the British it was again about “too little, too late”. The arrogance (“British Exceptionalism” maybe?) …
… as this attitude would dog them as underestimating a guerrilla leader operating in decentralized command structure is never a good idea, ask the US political and military leaders about Vietnam.
On 03APR1781, Marion’s 100 militia catch up with the British force of 300 after Brig. Gen. Francis Marion ordered Lt. Col. Hugh Horry to take his mounted infantry and find Lt. Col. Welbore Ellis Doyle.
At Witherspoon’s Plantation, Lt. Col. Doyle has some foragers there collecting food for his troops. When Lt. Col. Horry arrives at the plantation, they engage the Provincials, killing nine men and capturing sixteen. The Patriots pursue the fleeing enemy to Witherspoon’s Ferry and catch the British rear guard scuttling a ferryboat. The Patriots fire.
Lt. Col. Doyle quickly forms his men along the bank of Lynches Creek and delivers a volley of musket fire in return. After this, the British gather up their belongings and head towards the Pee Dee River no longer being able to forage for food. This daily task, still tough because it is springtime, will have to wait for another opportunity. Marion’s edge is the psychological warfare he uses that make the enemy always assume that behind ever tree, in every swamp, is Marion and his men.
By 08APR1781, Marion and his growing army crosses the Pee Dee River at
Mars Bluff and camps on the other side at Wahee Neck. He now has
nearly 500 men but their ammunition is very low, down to only two rounds per man. 500 men is impressive, however about the same time Lt. Col. John Watson Tadwell-Watson nears Marion’s location and he encamps along Catfish Creek with over 900 men.
Marion hears about the amassed troops and he calls a “Council of War” with his key officers, Lt. Col. John Baxter, Lt. Col. Alexander Swinton, Lt. Col. Hugh Horry, Lt. Col. Peter Horry, Lt. Col. John Ervin, Lt. Col. James
Postell, and Maj. John James. Francis Marion believes it is time to slip away into North Carolina to preserve their numbers in light of the nearby British force bent on Marion’s destruction. On this night, a detachment from Lt. Col. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, part of the Continental Army, arrives and all talk of slipping away is put aside. The rest of Lee’s Legion is on their way. Not only that, news was delivered that Gen Greene had stopped Corwallis at Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina.
The cat (British/Loyalist Militia) and mouse (Militia) quickly becomes the cat (Continentals/Militia) and mouse (British/Loyalist Militia).
With the news that Continentals have joined with Marion’s militia at Wahee Neck, the nearby enemy is soon panicked. Maj. Micajah Gainey
slips away quietly. Lt. Col. John Watson Tadwell-Watson realizing
that his position is now tenuous at best, burns his baggage and dumps
two small field pieces into Catfish Creek and marches double-time
back to the safety of Georgetown on the coast.
Another aspect of this phase of the American colonial war against the British Empire was the fact that in March 1781, the Articles of Confederation was signed by all the colonies and it did not give the Continentals, or the politicians in Philadelphia, clear power and control over these militia units. When Lee’s Continentals arrived in South Carolina, they in fact partnered with Marion’s militia who was under the guidance of the South Carolina governor, in exile in North Carolina, John Rutledge. Further confusing the chain of command was that Francis Marion still held his Continental commission as an officer. But with the tide changing, these leaders were about to target British outposts in South Carolina toward restoring trust in the cause of freedom and liberty in the southern colonies.