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The overall mission statement of this blog is to share many unique topics of this blogger's interest; promoting though education the uniquely positive values of Southern history, heritage, and cultural identity. Topics include (but are not limited to):
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Friday, May 20, 2016

The Southern Campaign of the American Revolutionary War In Upstate South Carolina 1780 - 1781



When people talk about the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783) many Americans today still erroneously believe that it was a largely northern war fought in the north and won by Northern-born patriots and French allies. 

While it is true that the most prominent battles were fought in the north, it is also true -- though little known -- that the American Revolutionary War and American independence from Great Britain was largely won in battles down here in the South -- particularly in my home state of South Carolina -- in the year 1780.  

The War for American Independence certainly began in the north, and it is true that the war's largest and more prominent battles were fought in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; and it is these facts that lead to the erroneously believe that the American Revolution was a largely northern affair. In many American history books, the battles of the Southern Theater of the war sometimes only read as mere footnotes on the path to the final American victory at Yorktown in October 1781.
 
There is a huge irony to this since nearly all of the American Revolution's southern battlefield sites are protected as national, or state parks, while many of the larger and more famous battlefields of the north like: Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill, Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Germantown, Trenton, and much of Brandywine, are all chiefly lost to urban growth, or lie largely unprotected. 

Battlefield tourists visiting the Carolinas and Virginia are very fortunate. Today one can visit every major southern battlefield site from Ninety-Six and Moores Creek, to Camden, Cowpens, Guliford Court House, Hobkirk's Hill, and Yorktown and still see the land much as it was during the late 18th century. Much of this is due in large part to the South's traditional respect for its cultural and military historical heritage.

The first major skirmish of the war fought outside of New England took place in the rugged hills of South Carolina on November 19, 1775, when the tension between American Loyalists and Patriots erupted into three days of armed conflict at the Cherokee trading town of Ninety Six in modern-day Greenwood County. This would be the beginning of what would be referred to as the Snow Campaign (a reference to the heavy snowfalls that took place during the later half of the campaign). The result of the campaign was a victory for South Carolina's Patriots, but the conflict would later foreshadow the partisan militia conflicts that would erupt into an ugly civil war across South Carolina's backcountry later in the war.

Eight months after the Snow Campaign, the first major battle of the American Revolution's Southern theater took place at Sullivan's Island near the mouth of Charleston harbor on June 28, 1776 where a small force of Continental soldiers and South Carolina militia manning a hastily-built shallow fort made of sand, soil and Palmetto logs successfully defended and fought off a large British armada attempting to invade and occupy the city of Charleston. 

The Battle Of Sullivan's Island in Charleston Harbor, June 28, 1776.

Less than a week later, the Declaration of Independence would be ratified by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1776. South Carolina and twelve other American colonies declared themselves free and sovereign independent -- yet United -- States of America, effectively ending over 250 years of rule by the British Crown. 

After the Battle of Sullivan's Island, the war in the Southern Theater largely quieted down, with the exceptions of the capture of and later Siege of Savannah, Georgia and a few other minor skirmishes in the South Carolina low country. For the next four years following Sullivan's Island, the people of South Carolina would be more concerned with border skirmishes with the Cherokee Nation while the British Expeditionary Forces would instead be largely focused on destroying George Washington's Continental Army and other Patriot forces in the rebellious colonies in the north.

That would all change in the year 1780. 

Over the course of a year and a half, between the summer of 1780 till the fall of 1781, over 200 separate battles and skirmishes would be fought in South Carolina during the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, more than any other single State in the entire war. Most of these battles would be bitter struggles between small forces of Patriot partisans against British garrisons and Loyalist militia forces, with a few pitched battles involving Continental units.

Growing up in South Carolina's upcountry I was very fortunate indeed to be surrounded by so much Southern and American history -- much of which played a large part in helping to create the nation that I live in today. Some of the most significant battles of that campaign took place within 30 to 40 miles of where I live.

The major role that defiant Scotch-Irish settlers and Southern-born American patriots played in upstate South Carolina in the year between the summer and fall of 1780 keeping the British and Loyalist occupation forces off balance helped turn the tide of the American Revolutionary War from a standstill in the north to the final victory against British invasion and occupation of the thirteen original free American States.  

Over the course of the next seven months, I will share with y'all the stories of some of those small but important battles and campaign that took place in the South Carolina upcountry -- particularly in York, Chester, Lancaster, Union and Cherokee counties -- between the summer and fall of 1780-81 and their overall significance in the Southern Campaign. From the Waxhaws Massacre to the Battle of Cowpens, I will post these stories on or about the date they took place in chronological order.

Any factual errors in the telling of these stories is mine alone, though this blogger takes every effort to write the truth and to use all significant details necessary to report what happened. As always if anyone can site an error and provide details backing up their claims, I will provide correction and give credit to the person -- or persons -- responsible. 


My first post in this series will be on Sunday, May 29th:
Massacre At The Waxhaws - The Revolutionary War Arrives In The SC Backcountry 


See y'all then.  

2 comments:

  1. A quick quote that highlights your "free and sovereign" yet united States idea. An oath that comes from 1778 Valley Forge and is an ancestor of the modern US Oath of Allegiance.

    "I James Glentworth, Lieut, of 6th Pennya. Reg. do acknowledge
    the UNITED STATES of AMERICA to be Free, Independent and Sovereign States, and declare that the people thereof owe no allegiance or obedience to George the Third, King of Great Britain..."

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    1. Until the actual signing of the US Constitution in 1787, the former 13 colonies of Britain's American holdings were each individual free States united under the heading The United States of America in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. My words simply stress that particular point based on the original Articles of Confederation. The oath you point out stresses only that all 13 States were themselves united under the Declaration of Independence and the 2nd Continental Congress. Still you did bring up a good topic and I thank you once again for your contributions and your responses sir.

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