The advantage of taking on a portion of this ‘American Revolutionary War’ conflict, as I was able to do in reviewing John Oller’s book ‘Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Won the American Revolution‘, was that I could get my head around how South Carolina became ripe for revolution, how principled was the conflict and how South Carolina dealt with their freedom from empire.
The disadvantage is that nothing happens in a vacuum or in isolation, and so in reality one needs to back up to the macro (Thirteen Colony Federation view) and even to a global view to understand more holistically how all this came down. This last disadvantage I was able to partially overcome with the assistance of a book Captain1776, Malibu and myself first ran across at the Camden, SC RevWar historical site bookstore called ‘South Carolina and the American Revolution – A Battlefield History‘ by John W. Gordon.
This book helped me to understand the rather complex web of issues, real or imaginary, physical or psychological that helped evolve the love of family, love of community and even into a love of a colony/region towards violence-based actions that risked these very things (family, community and colony/region and even culture).
The writer is a former US Marine officer and professor at the Citadel in South Carolina who is now involved with national security affairs in Quantico, VA. What was refreshing in John W. Gordon’s approach was the eye towards tactics and strategies that either helped or detracted from the efforts of either the rebel-patriots-Whigs or the loyalists-Brit-Tories in the very real civil war that raged in South Carolina from approximately 1775 until 1783.
One aspect realized, was the early attempt on the part of the British to utilize the Cherokee and Creek to their advantage in the southern theater of this war the British brought to regain control of the colonies actually led to ‘blowback’, where unintended consequences would rule as a result of decisions made. This in conjunction with the assumption that Loyalists would rise to greatly assist the British efforts showed how much out of touch London, England was with the thoughts on the minds of those in the low country, midland and rolling hills leading up to the Blue Ridge felt in 1775, 1778 and 1780.
Another aspect that came to light when reading this book was the pivotal moment the French aligned with the colonies which caused this conflict to spread to English colonies around the globe as this became a very real world war that involved Spain and the Dutch as well as the French.
Primary to all of this was the effect this effort to extract the South Carolina people from British Empire control in how this region unified to a degree during the conflict, that pitted father against son and cousin against cousin. The effect was specifically where, during and and especially after the war, the upstate areas obtained more say in the government. The fact that civil government by the people themselves for three years in absence of the British royals, that was then forced into exile in North Carolina for a time after Cornwallis occupied Charlestown and much of the region and then back in late 1781 showed that South Carolinians could rule themselves!
Decades later, praise for this effort across micro-cultures inside this state would emerge from the pen of George Bancroft in 1857 in “History of the United States”:
Left mainly to her own resources, it was through the depths of wretchedness that her sons were to bring her back to her place in the republic .. having suffered more, and dared more, and achieved more than the men of any other state.
This struggle matured a generation of men and women towards principles that will be again used eighty years later when another “empire” would be threatening South Carolina in coercive and violent ways once more.
Hats off to South Carolina’s Revolutionary War generation in their fight for their love of future generations and their way of life.
NOTE: Future posts are forthcoming towards a more in-depth review of this new book, South Carolina and the American Revolution – A Battlefield History , in our library