As I stated in my previous post that had Marion’s militia patrolling the Santee looking for British supply boats and troops heading inland to join Cornwallis in Winnsboro, SC past Camden:
… the British have a “Christmas present” for Marion, on 21DEC1780, Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie arrives in Charlestown with 2000 British regulars. The gloves are coming off in South Carolina as the British desperately desire to move into North Carolina in early spring and take aim at Continental Gen. George Washington in the north.
Marion had since retreated to camp a safe distance away and there receives Intel about this threat (or opportunity, depending on how you look at this) as the British continue to prepare for a North Carolina effort in the spring. These troops no doubt will have the duty of ensuring that Marion and his militia remain neutralized as the British prayed he would be with this kind of news.
Marion and his men were camped north of the Santee up river from Kingstree at Benbow’s Ferry on the Black River. Marion’s Capt. John Milton arrives with a letter from Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene. In the past few months, Marion had written Gen. Gates (previous Continental Southern Command commander) ten times and had received only one letter back.
Marion now writes to Greene and informs him about Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie arriving in Charlestown with a large number of British Regulars. Marion asks for 100 Continentals to come to the Santee and Pee Dee River basins and assist his growing Militia. Marion and his men then depart once again to patrol the “highway” the British use to transfer men and supplies inland, the Santee River and the roads along this river that lead toward Winnsboro. Christmas 1780 finds Marion’s militia on duty one more time.
Nathanael Green, a former Quaker, had formed his own militia in Rhode Island in 1774 and was the most brilliant military mind in the Continental Army, even more so than George Washington. He was a self taught man, with 250 books in his private library. He was promoted from private to major general in the Rhode Island State Army and then was made brigadier in the Continentals at the age of 32. When Gen. George Washington finally received permission from Congress to choose his own leadership, he chose Greene in October 1780 and he finally arrived in North Carolina in early December 1780.
When he arrived to see the condition of the men there in Charlotte, NC, there was a total of 2300, with only 1500 fit for fighting. He commenced to write to Washington and Jefferson about the state of the army in the south. He also caught up on letters from Marion that Gates had failed to respond to.
Greene was not a fan of the militia and stated that it would take the Continental army to retake control of the states from the British forces. Greenes’ immediate request from Marion was to capture Intel about the British plans and movements and relay them to the Continental staff. By this time Marion knew all about the positives and negatives of militia and had made the effort to ensure that the tendency toward pillaging from whites and blacks on plantations under his command was not to be tolerated. Marion valued what both the Continentals and the militias brought to the patriot cause.
It was in this season of seeing the fifth Continental commander take charge in the south, when Marion and his men, after their Christmas Day patrols retreated to the Snow’s Island location on the Great Pee Dee river to settle in for time in their winter’s quarters. It turns out that they would not be able to stay there long as their services would once again be needed before the end of 1780.
Thinking back, it had been two years since Savannah, GA fell and over six months since Charlestown fell to the British. The fact that the British were still in upstate South Carolina was a testament to the passionate effort these volunteers in the militia expended to not allow the British Empire to regain control of the region or be able to reestablish the colonial legislatures in the south as they had expected. The militia kept the Loyalists from having any psychological edge in the very real civil war that South Carolina was facing.
Stay tuned for more on Marion and his adventures.