Letter from Thomas Sumter to Thomas Pinckney
Sumter, Thomas, 1734-1832
Volume 14, Pages 540-543
GEN. THOMAS SUMTER TO MAJOR PINCKNEY.
Camp Waxsaws, 9th August, 1780.
I have just Now Received your favour of the 7th Inst., and am exceeding glad to heare that his Excellency, Major Genl. Gates, with the Army, are so farr advanced, and think myself fortunate to have the power to furnish him (with you) with the Intellegency, this Moment Received by express from Santee and the Congress, of the Most Interesting Nature. But shall first mention Something Relative to my own Situation and circumstance, and the progress I have made since I had the pleasure of hearing from you on Sunday morning, 23d Ultimo. With about five hundred men I attacked Rockey Mount; the action continued upwards of Eight hours; was offten within thirty feet of their works; but they were so constructed that I Coud by No means force them. I Made an attempt to fire them in the evening, and should have Succeeded, if the afternoon had Not proved excesively wet. My led being exhausted, I withdrew a small distance; I interrupted two parties going to Reenforse that post. My Loss, Kild and wounded did not exceed twenty; that of the enemy more than three times as great, together with several prisoners, a Great Number of excellent horses, Saddles, Guns, &c. After Relieving and Covering the country for three days, I fell back up the Catawba River twenty miles to a shallow foard. As that River was up, intending to pass it as early as posable to attack the enemy upon the East side at Hanging Rock, a post of Very Great Consequence of late, there being three hundred men detached from this place to the Reliefe of Rockey Mount, determined me to
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loose No time. I accordingly began to pass the river on Saturday evening. The Rapidity of the current was So Great I was not only much delayed, but Met with Considerable Loss; however, proceeded on. By this delay was obliged to alter my mode of attack, and, instead of Making it at Day brake, concealed myself until Six o'clock, allowing them to scatter, and then go on with precippitation, as know'd their Number much more Considerable than my own. In this manner I proceeded, and shoud have succeeded according to my wishes if they had not been Reinforced that Night with three hundred men from Rockey Mount and a troop of Dragoons from Camden; this Circomstance I was acquainted with before the enemy was alarmed, but I had Six hundred brave men upon Whom I Coud Depend, therefore Resolved to proceed. The enemy had three large encamp ments in their Lines, so extensive that it was impossible to attack the Whole at once. In consequence of which I proceeded against the Most considerable of the Tory encampments and that of the British, which Lay in the Center, all upon exceeding advantageous hights. In about half an hour I had possession of Col. Bryant's camp, the action Still Continuing very hot in the British, who were well posted, and had the advantage of a field-piece and open ground all around them. They had Detached a Colum to support Bryant, who, through a swamp, found means to turn my Right flank. The action was again Renewed upon that quarter. At length every man of them was either Kild or taken. The British camp was then attacked with greater violence and They sustained it with Great Bravery for Near an Hour; at length gave way, leaving me in full possession of their Camp also. They rallied again in Col. Robinson's encampment, and Notwithstanding their opposition was but feeble, and I in possession of two-thirds of their camp also for More than Half an hour, yet was obliged to leave them from Several Causes, the action having Continued without Interruption for three hours, men fainting with heat and Droughth, Numbers Kild and Wounded; but the true Cause of my not totally defeating them was the want of Led, having been obliged to make use of arms and ammunition taken from the enemy. I had about Twenty Kild, forty wounded, Ten Mising. I took seventy-three prisoners, forty odd of which are British, among whom were three Commissioned officers. From the Best accounts the loss of the enemy is Not less than one hundred and thirty, the
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Number of Wounded in proportion. Every officer in the Prence of Waileses Regiment was Kild or badly Wounded. I brought off one hundred horses, two hundred & fifty Stand of arms, with other articles of Considerable value. The number of the enemy at the Time I made the attack was by far the Most Considerable at this post to any other they had in the State, there being, from Certain accounts, Not less than fourteen hundred Ingaged. But the Number Now at that place is Not more than three hundred; the enemy are calling in their outposts; Col. Ennis is now Marching with the Regulars from Ninety-Six to the high hills of Santee; there is also a party coming from the Congress. Some Detachments of Tories are Moving to that Quarter also, but When all their outposts are Call'd in and their whole force Brought together, exclusive of those in the fork of Broad and Saludie River, which I donte think will be ordered downwards, Will not amount to three thousand men, but if those in the fork should join them, it will increase their Number to five thousand at least. But this accumulation of force is, in my opinion, Not to be feared. The Tories in this quarter will preferr Moving to the westward rather than to Charles Town.
Both British and Tories are pannick struck, and I am well Convinced that fifteen hundred men can go through any part of the State with ease. This will Not be the Case ten or fifteen days hence, especially if they have time to gather the Militia, who they are now treating with intolerable Sevearity to Make them Join nd March with them. I have mentioned What I think their force may be, exclusive of the Militia, but Without Very Speedy Relief I doubt Numbers will Join them, to prevent which I take the Liberty to Say that was there about fifteen hundred men to Take post at the High hills or at Neilson's ferry it Woud inevitably Ruin their army, as they Coud by No means effect a retret without going far to the Westward, and perhaps Not without going through Georgia. In either Case an army Coud Not be Supported, and Woud be a Means of preventing the Militia from being forced into the Lines of Charles Town. They are now striping the Country of all Waggons, horses, Cattle, and every other article Necessary for the Support of an Army, to effect Which purpose they Mean to take post at the High hills and Neilson's ferry, these being Sentreial posts and such as Command all the passage,
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either by land or Water, to Charles Town, of consequence, and will of Corse Make it Dificult to Remove them. But was they Deprived of this one advantage, it Woud totally Ruin them, and I am fully Convensed that twelve or fifteen hundred men Can Distress them more in this way than three times that Number woud to be employed in any other. I am So Circumstanced that I Can't be explicit; therefore, the better to be understood, I have sent an officer, Capt. Kemble, Who understands the Geography of the Country and the present situation of the enemy, to whom I beg leave to refer you. As to provision, I have taken every Care to Save it, but have Not been able to have it prepared for the army, but have appointed Several persons, Who are Now busiely Imployd for that purpose. Capt. Kemble will be Capable of Satisfying you Relative to my Situation. Although I have wrote much, it is with Much pain I have Wrote at all.
I am, Sir, with the Greatest Esteem,
Your most obedt. Hble. Sert.,
N. B. You please to excuse the appearance of the Gen'n I Send. He is one of the unfortunate sufferers, which is the Cause.
I have this moment Received an account that the enemy had 25 Kild, that they had spiked the field-piece and was Retreating when I came off.