Comment from Wm. Dobien James,
Comments in ..Life of ..Marion About Battle Near Camden

About this time, news of the approach of Gates having arrived, a public meeting of this people was called, and it was unanimously resolved to take up arms in defence of their country. Major James was desired to command them as heretofore, and they again arrayed themselves under their captains William M`Cottry, Henry Mouzon, John James,* of the lake, and John M`Cauley. The four companies, resolved on this great enterprise, consisted of about two hundred men. Shortly after, Col. Hugh Giles, of Pedee, proposed to join them, with two companies, Whitherspoon's and Thornly's; and his offer was gladly accepted.

Gen. Gates had now arrived on the confines of the state, and in a consultation, held among these officers, it was agreed to send to him, to appoint them a commander. This was a wise resolution, and attended with the most salutary consequences. In the mean time, they made prisoners of Col. Cassels, Capt. Gaskens, and most of the officers appointed over them by the British, and took post at the pass of Lynch's creek, at Witherspoon's ferry.

At this period, the tories on Lynch's creek, in the neighbourhood of M`Callum's ferry, had already begun their murders and depredations. Messrs. Matthew Bradley, Thomas Bradley, and John Roberts, respectable citizens, who had then joined neither party, and also, some others, were killed by them, in their own houses. These were headed by the two Harrisons, one afterwards a colonel, the other a major in the British service; whom Tarleton calls men of fortune. They were in fact two of the greatest banditti that ever infested the country. Before the fall of Charleston they lived in a wretched log hut, by the road, near M`Callum's, in which there was no bed-covering but the skins of wild beasts; during the contest the major was killed; but after it was over, the colonel retired to Jamaica, with much wealth, acquired by depredation.

Capt. M`Cottry was now posted in advance of Witherspoon's ferry, at Indian town, and Col. Tarleton, having crossed at Lenud's ferry, and hearing of the Williamsburgh meeting, advanced, at the head of seventy mounted militia and cavalry, to surprise Major James. M`Cottry, first receiving notice of his movement, sent back for a reinforcement, and immediately marched his company, of about fifty mounted militia, to give him battle. Tarleton had been posted at dark, at the Kingstree, and M`Cottry approached him at midnight, but Tarleton marched away a few hours before he arrived. By means of the wife of Hamilton, the only tory in that part of the country, he had gained intelligence of M`Cottry's approach, as reported to him, with five hundred men. -- The latter pursued, but, perhaps fortunately, without overtaking him. In this route Tarleton burnt the house of Capt. Mouzon; and after posting thirty miles, from Kingstree up to Salem, took Mr. James Bradley prisoner, the next day.

Soon after this Lieut. Col. Hugh Horry arrived from Georgetown; and by right he would have had the command of Major James' party, but he declined it for some time. Of him more will be said hereafter.

On the 10th or 12th of August, General Marion arrived at the post, at Lynch's creek, commissioned by Governor Rutledge to take the command of the party there, and a large extent of country on the east side of Santee. He was a stranger to the officers and men, and they flocked about him, to obtain a sight of their future commander.**

He was rather below the middle stature of men, lean and swarthy. His body was well set, but his knees and ankles were badly formed; and he still limped upon one leg. He had a countenance remarkably steady; his nose was aquiline; his chin projecting; his forehead was large and high, and his eyes black and piercing. He was now forty-eight years of age; but still even at this age, his frame was capable of enduring fatigue and every privation, necessary for a partisan. His wisdom and patriotism will become henceforth conspicuous.

Of a character, so much venerated, even trifles become important. He was dressed in a close round bodied crimson jacket, of a coarse texture, and wore a leather cap, part of the uniform of the second regiment, with a silver crescent in front, inscribed with the words, "Liberty or death." He was accompanied by his friend Col. Peter Horry, and some other officers.

On the second or third day after his arrival, General Marion ordered his men to mount white cockades, to distinguish themselves from the tories, and crossed the Pedee, at Port's ferry, to disperse a large body of tories, under Major Ganey, stationed on Britton's neck, between great and little Pedee. He surprised them at dawn in the morning, killed one of their captains and several privates, and had two men wounded. Major James was detached at the head of a volunteer troop of horse, to attack their horse; he came up with them, charged, and drove them before him.

In this affair, Major James singled out Major Ganey, (as he supposed) as the object of his single attack. At his approach Ganey fled, and he pursued him closely, and nearly within the reach of his sword, for half a mile; when behind a thicket, he came upon a party of tories, who had rallied. Not at all intimidated, but with great presence of mind, Major James called out, "Come on my boys! -- Here they are! -- Here they are!" And the whole body of tories broke again, and rushed into little Pedee swamp.

Another party of tories lay higher up the river, under the command of Capt. Barefield; who had been a soldier in one of the South Carolina regiments. These stood to their ranks, so well, and appeared to be so resolute, that Gen. Marion did not wish to expose his men, by an attack on equal terms; he therefore feigned a retreat, and led them into an ambuscade, near the Blue Savannah, where they were defeated. This was the first manoeuvre of the kind, for which he afterwards became so conspicuous.

* He was second cousin to the major. Of this family, there were five brothers, than whom no men under Marion were more brave; these were John, William, Gavin, Robert and James. Gavin died a few weeks since, with whom the family became extinct. More of Gavin and Robert hereafter. 20th July, 1821. ** He was not appointed a general till some time after this, but as we have not the date of his commission, henceforth he will be styled general; and his other officers, to avoid repetitions, are designated generally by the rank they held at the disbandment of the brigade.

Thus Gen. Marion, at once, fell upon employment, as the true way to encourage and to command militia; and their spirits began to revive. He returned to Port's ferry, and threw up a redoubt on the east bank of the Pedee, on which he mounted two old iron field pieces, to awe the tories.

On the 17th of August, he detached Col. Peter Horry, with orders to take command of four companies, Bonneau's, Mitchell's, Benson's, and Lenud's, near Georgetown, and on the Santee; to destroy all the boats and canoes on the river, from the lower ferry to Lenud's; to post guards, so as to prevent all communication with Charleston, and to procure him twenty-five weight of gunpowder, ball or buck shot, and flints in proportion. This order was made in pursuance of a plan he afterwards carried into effect; to leave no approach for the enemy into the district of which he had taken the command.

The latter part of the order, shows how scanty were the means of his defence. There were few men, even in those days of enthusiasm, who would not have shrunk from such an undertaking. Gen. Marion himself marched to the upper part of Santee, it is believed, with the same object in view with which he had entrusted Horry. On his way he received intelligence of the defeat of Gates at Camden, and, without communicating it, he proceeded immediately towards Nelson's ferry.

(16th August.) Near Nelson's, he was informed, by his scouts, that a guard, with a party of prisoners, were on their way to Charleston; and had stopped at the house, at the great Savannah, on the main road, east of the river.

(20th of August.) It was night, and the general, a little before daylight next morning, gave the command of sixteen men to Col. Hugh Horry. He was ordered to gain possession of the road, at the pass of Horse creek, in the swamp, while the main body, under himself, was to attack in the rear. In taking his position, in the dark, Col. Horry advanced too near to a sentinel, who fired upon him. In a moment he rushed up to the house, found the British arms piled before the door, and seized upon them. Twenty-two British regulars, of the 63d regiment, two tories, one captain, and a subaltern were taken, and one hundred and fifty of the Maryland line, liberated.

In his account of this affair Gen. Marion says he had one man killed, and Maj. Benson wounded. But the man, Josiah Cockfield, who was shot through the breast; lived to fight bravely again, and to be again wounded. In the account given of this action by Col. Tarleton, he says, contemptuously, the guard was taken by "a Mr. Horry"; but Gen. Marion, as commanding officer, is entitled to the credit of it.

The news of the defeat of Gen. Gates now became public, and repressed all joy upon this occasion; no event which had yet happened, was considered so calamitous. An account of it will be given in his own words. Extract of a letter, from Gen. Gates, to the president of congress, dated Hillsborough, 20th August, 1780: --

"Sir, In the deepest distress and anxiety of mind, I am obliged to acquaint your excellency with the defeat of the troops under my command.

I arrived with the Maryland line, the artillery, and the North Carolina militia, on the 13th inst. at Rugely's, thirteen miles from Camden; took post there, and was the next day joined by Gen. Stevens, with 700 militia from Virginia.

The 15th, at daylight, I reinforced Colonel Sumter, with 300 North Carolina militia, 100 of the Maryland line, and two three-pounders from the artillery: having previously ordered him down from the Waxhaws, opposite to Camden, to intercept any stores coming to the enemy, and particularly troops coming from Ninety-Six. This was well executed by Col. Sumter.

Having communicated my plan to the general officers in the afternoon of the 15th, it was resolved to march at ten at night, to take post in a very advantageous situation, with a deep creek in front, (Gum Swamp*) seven miles from Camden. At ten the army began to march, and having moved about five miles, the legion was charged by the enemy's cavalry, and well supported by Col. Porterfield, who beat back the enemy's horse, and was himself unfortunately wounded, (mortally) but the enemy's infantry advancing with a heavy fire, the troops in front gave way to the first Maryland brigade, and a confusion ensued which took some time to regulate.

At length the army was ranged in line of battle. Gen. Gists' brigade on the right, close to a swamp; the North Carolina militia in the centre; the Virginia militia, the light infantry, and Porterfield's corps, on the left; the artillery divided to the brigades. The first Maryland brigade as a corps de reserve on the road. Col. Armand's corps was ordered to support the left flank.

At daylight, they attacked and drove in our light party in front, when I ordered the left to advance and attack the enemy; but, to my astonishment, the left wing and North Carolina militia gave way. Gen. Caswell and myself, assisted by a number of officers, did all in our power to rally them; but the enemy's cavalry harassing their rear, they ran like a torrent, and bore all before them."

This is all the general seemed to know of the action.

Part of the brigade of North Carolina militia, commanded by Gen. Gregory, behaved well. They formed on the left of the continentals, and kept the field while their cartridges lasted. In bringing off his men, Gen. Gregory was thrice wounded by a bayonet, and several of his brigade, made prisoners, had no wounds but from the bayonet.

The continental troops, under De Kalb and Gist, with inferior numbers, stood their ground and maintained the unequal conflict with great firmness. At one time they had taken a considerable body of prisoners; but at length, overpowered by numbers, they were compelled to leave the field. Tarleton's legion pursued the fugitives to the Hanging rock, fifteen miles, and glutted themselves with blood.

Baron De Kalb, the second in command, an officer of great spirit, and long experience, was taken prisoner, after receiving eleven wounds, and died. Congress resolved that a monument should be erected to him at Annapolis. The gratitude of the people of Camden, has erected another in that town, and named a street De Kalb, after him.**

Capts. Williams and Duval, of the Maryland troops, were killed; and Gen. Rutherford, of North Carolina, and Maj. Thomas Pinckney, of South Carolina, were wounded, and taken prisoners. Du Buysson, aid to Baron De Kalb, generously exposing himself to save his general, received several wounds and was taken.

Lord Cornwallis states the force of Gates to have been six thousand men, and his own at near two thousand: a great disparity indeed. The loss of the Americans he calculates at between eight and nine hundred killed, and one thousand prisoners, many of whom were wounded; a number of colours, seven pieces of brass cannon, all the military stores and baggage, and one hundred and fifty waggons.

His Lordship no doubt obtained a splendid victory; but tarnished it by his orders, issued soon after.

* Had Gen. Gates reached the important pass of Gum Swamp, and occupied it properly, the fortune of war might have been changed. It is a miry creek, impassible for many miles, except at the road. He missed it only by a few minutes. And his popularity, though gained by much merit, was lost by no greater crime than that of trusting too much to militia. ** The Marquis De La Fayette and Baron De Kalb arrived in the United States in the same small vessel, which made the land at North inlet, near Georgetown, about the middle of June, in the year 1777. They lay in the offing, and seeing a canoe, with two negroes in it, come out of the inlet a fishing, they sent off a boat, which intercepted them. Fortunately they belonged to Capt. Benjamin Huger, who had just arrived at North Island with his family, to spend the summer. The negroes conducted the marquis and baron to their master's house, where he received them with joy, and, it need not be added, with hospitality. Never was a meeting of three more congenial souls. The major afterwards conducted his two illustrious guests to Charleston. Major Huger was the father of Col. Huger, who afterwards engaged in the well known enterprize of delivering the marquis from the dungeon of Olmutz; and perhaps the seeds of that honourable undertaking were sown under his father's roof.