26 Aug 2017

The Battle of Hanging Rock and the Southern Campaign

The Battle of Hanging Rock and the Southern Campaign

For those of us who care about American history, Fort Sumter is the place where the Civil War began. What we often forget if we learned it at all is that Fort Sumter was named for a man, General Thomas Sumter, a hero of the American Revolution.

Born to Welsh immigrants in Virginia, Sumter was a self-made man in the classic American model. Having very little formal education, he took part in the French and Indian War before relocating to South Carolina, where he became active in South Carolina politics. When war with England broke out, Sumter returned to the military, serving as an officer in a few military operations against the Cherokees and British forces. He resigned in 1778, returning to his home and, hopefully, a life of peace.

However, less than two years later, his home was in the path of British and Loyalist forces intent on returning the rebellious state of South Carolina to Crown rule. When some of British Col. Banastre Tarleton’s men put Sumter’s plantation to the torch, Sumter nicknamed the “Carolina Gamecock” by Tarleton began organizing Patriot militiamen and planning to strike back at his Loyalist neighbors and the British.

On August 1, 1780, Sumter and 600 Patriots struck a British garrison at Rocky Mount, South Carolina, inflicting more casualties on the British than they on him. That same day, more Patriots under Maj. William Richardson Davie attacked a Loyalist force at Hanging Rock, 15 miles away. Davie’s 150-man force which included a 13-year-old messenger named Andrew Jackson attacked only a portion of the Loyalist garrison, capturing and wounding several of them without losing any of their own.

By August 6, Sumter’s men reinforced Davie. Now, with about 800 Patriots against fewer than 500 Loyalists, Sumter and Davie attacked the main garrison at Hanging Rock, pushing back the Loyalists and looting their camps. The arrival of Loyalist infantry forced Sumter to abandon his plans to take Hanging Rock, but the fighting on August 1 and 6 cost the Crown forces some 200 killed and wounded. Sumter and Davie lost fewer than 60. Though Sumter failed to hold Hanging Rock, his success there made him a rising star in the constellation of American generals.

We now have the opportunity to preserve a portion of the Hanging Rock battlefield, part of a larger effort to save 209 acres of Revolutionary War battlefield land in South Carolina and Georgia. These battles Hanging Rock, Eutaw Springs and Kettle Creek are part of the Southern Campaign, a phase of the war in which many historians believe our independence was won. In saving this land, you are ensuring that future generations of Americans will remember how men like Thomas Sumter risked their lives in the fight to establish the nation we now cherish.


American Battlefield Trust

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