Major Ferguson's Riflemen The American Volunteers.
The Story of a Loyalist Corps.
In the time-stained muster-rolls and records that the Loyalists brought with them to these provinces, at the close of the American revolution, are to be found brief references to "Major Ferguson's corps," and the briefness of these references becomes perplexing in the absence of all explanatory text. It was adequate when written opposite the names of the Loyalist soldiers of 1779 and 1780, but an inquisitive generation have possession of these muster-rolls now, and time has cast around the name the glamour of romance, for "Major Ferguson's corps" had an honourable existence, and for a short period played an important part in the revolutionary struggle in the Carolinas.
More than a century has passed since Major Ferguson's corps disappeared, and now, for the first time, a complete list of the names of the officers and men who followed their chivalrous leader to death and defeat, in the mountains of the Carolinas, is given in print, collected from the old muster-rolls of the Loyalist corps that furnished the intrepid volunteers. As there has been some uncertainty, as well as controversy, regarding the strength of the corps, and character of its members, the list of names will settle a disputed point. We have, moreover, an abiding interest in Major Ferguson's corps, as most of the survivors came to these provinces at the termination of the Revolutionary war, and their descendants are with us yet.
The history of Major Ferguson's corps is deeply interesting; while other corps have been forgotten, this weak command is remembered for its misfortunes. The reputation of the commander gives importance to a corps small in number, and probably no other in the British army of that day essayed the performance of so great an enterprise, with so weak a following. Few of the famous British regiments had the fortune to have so faithful a chronicler as Lieutenant Anthony Allaire, in whose diary is recorded the occurrences, day by day, from Sunday, March 5th, to Saturday, November 25th, 1780, that befell Major Ferguson and his historic corps. From this document, which is now in possession of Lieutenant Allaire's grandson, J. deLancey Robinson, Esquire, of Fredericton, New Brunswick, we will make extracts to illustrate the history of the corps.
Lieutenant Allaire's diary remained in possession of his descendants in New Brunswick, like many other Loyalist documents of that period, forgotten and unknown to British historians. In 1880 the diary was lent to Lyman C. Draper, an American historian, then engaged in writing an historical work, since published, entitled, "King's Mountain and its Heroes," and copied as an appendix to the volume. The book is written in an intensely partizan strain, so much so as to draw from President Roosevelt, in "Winning of the West," the opinion that Mr. Draper told too much.
As far as can be ascertained, nearly all the members, except the commander, Major Ferguson, were native born Americans, and many were descendants of the earliest European settlers in New York and New Jersey, specially chosen for that service loyalty, intelligence and skillful marksmanship being requisite. The officers were selected by Major Ferguson from Loyal American corps, and they selected only men from their own regiments, and carried with them chosen spirits from their own companies. All were veteran soldiers, and had been in the British service from the beginning of the Revolutionary war in loyal regiments.
Major Patrick Ferguson, the commander, was born in Scotland in 1744, and entered the British army at the age of fifteen. He was the inventor of the first breech-loading rifle used in the British army1, and a distinguished soldier. At the commencement of the revolutionary war, the boasted skill of the American marksman directed Major Ferguson to the improvement of military fire-arms, and he designed certain plans for breech-loading and other improvements for which he obtained a patent in 1776, It was admitted, however, that some of the principles had been suggested before, but had never been seriously applied to purposes of public utility. Major Ferguson made some experiments at Woolwich, England, in 1776, and in 1777 returned to America and joined his regiment, the Seventy-first Highlanders, at Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was permitted to form a corps of riflemen out of volunteers from regular regiments serving in America; this corps was armed with breech-loading rifled carbines made under his directions. At the battle of Brandywine, September 11th, 1777, extended in front and supported by a corps of rangers, Major Ferguson's riflemen did good service in covering the British advance, when Major Ferguson received a severe wound, which deprived him of the use of one arm. The prolonged absence of Major Ferguson, through his wound, caused the corps to be broken up, and the rifles returned into store. After his recovery, in the autumn of 1779, he began the formation of another corps of riflemen for special service in the Carolinas, but in this case appealed to the Loyalist corps at New York for officers and men, from whom he received enthusiastic support, as there were no jealousies among the Loyalists to combat, as in the former experiment.
The second in command was Captain Abraham DePeyster, of the King's American regiment, a young scion of one of the old Dutch families of New York, whose family and descendants are still prominent in that state. He died in St. John in 1798, and sleeps in an unmarked grave in the Old Burying Ground in that city.
The other officers were Captain John Taylor, of the First New Jersey Battalion, who was wounded during the campaign in South Carolina, settled at Weymouth, Nova Scotia, at the close of the war, where he died. Captain Samuel Ryerson and Lieutenant Joseph Ryerson, of the Fourth New Jersey Battalion, whose descendants are eminent in the Province of Ontario. The largest number of volunteers were from the Fourth New Jersey Battalion.
Lieutenant Anthony Allaire, of the Loyal American Regiment, born at New Rochelle, New York, of Huguenot descent, died at Fredericton, New Brunswick, and may be styled the historian of the corps. Lieutenant Duncan Fletcher, of the Loyal American Regiment, died at St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Lieutenant William Stevenson of the Second New Jersey Battalion, who died at Weymouth, Nova Scotia, with his friend and brother officer Captain Taylor.
The surgeon of the corps was Dr. Uzal Johnson, of the First New Jersey Battalion, a skilful surgeon, whose services were freely given to the unfortunate wounded after the battle of King's Mountain.
In all the muster-rolls the corps is designated "Major Ferguson's Corps," but Lieutenant Allaire writes of it as "The American Volunteers," a name only applied in his diary. In a tabulated "general return" of all Loyalist corps serving in South Carolina on September 1st, 1780, it is called "Major Ferguson's Corps," and the strength given is nearly the same as in the general muster. Among the mass of muster-rolls no separate roll has been found of Ferguson's corps. The corps was mustered at New York in the closing months of 1779, and officers and men prepared for the dangerous service, on which they were to sail, and on the 26th of December, 1779, sailed from New York, with the army under Sir Henry Clinton, and after a dangerous voyage arrived at Savannah, Georgia.
The general muster on leaving New York, and which follows, includes the names of officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates, with the names of regiments and captains of companies from which they were transferred:
The American Volunteers
Major Patrick Ferguson, Seventy-first Highlanders, Commander.
Captain Abraham DePeyster, King's American Regiment, Second in Command.
From the King's American Regiment.
Sergeant Asa Blakesly - Captain Thomas Chapman's Company.
Drummer Francis Good - Captain John Wm. Livingston's Company.
Private Jonah Cass - Captain Thomas Chapman's Company.
Private David Jones - Captain John Wm. Livingston's Company.
Private Samuel Carey - Captain John Wm. Livingston's Company.
Private Silas Howe - Captain John Wm. Livingston's Company.
Private Patrick Headon - Colonel Edmund Fanning's Company.
Private Daniel Blue - Lieutenant-Col. George Campbell's Company.
Private Noah Pangborn - Captain Isaac Atwood's Company.
Private Peter Simpson - Captain Isaac Atwood's Company.
Private John Dalton - Captain Robert Gray's Company.
Private David Fraser - Major James Grant's Company.
Private Christopher Nicholls - Major James Grant's Company.
Private William Miller - Captain Abraham DePeyster's Company.
From the Loyal American Regiment.
Lieutenant Anthony Allaire.
Lieutenant Duncan Fletcher.
Sergeant David Ellison - Captain Simon Kollock's Company.
Private John Fratingsburg - Colonel Bev. Robinson's Company.
Private John Main - Colonel Bev. Robinson's Company.
Private Samuel Sharp - Colonel Bev. Robinson's Company.
Private James Campbell - Captain William Fowler's Company.
Private John Strong - Captain William Fowler's Company.
Private Thomas Donelson - Lieut.-Col. Bev. Robinson's Company.
Private Sylvanus Cronk - Lieut.-Col. Bev. Robinson's Company.
Private David Duff - Lieut.-Col. Bev. Robinson's Company.
Private Samuel Roan - Captain Christopher Hatch's Company.
Private William Kemp - Captain Christopher Hatch's Company.
Private Stephen Williams - Captain Christopher Hatch's Company.
Private Francis Turner - Captain Christopher Hatch's Company.
Private Stephen Chapple - Captain Simon Kollock's Company.
Private Henry Smedgel - Captain William Howison's Company.
Private Jordan Morris - Captain William Howison's Company.
Private William Longstaff - Captain William Howison's Company.
Private Ahamerus Terwilliger - Major Thomas Barclay's Company.
Private Nathaniel Chambers - Major Thomas Barclay's Company.
From the First New Jersey Battalion
Surgeon Uzal Johnson
Captain John Taylor
Sergeant John Campbell - Captain Garrett Keating's Company.
Corporal John Evans - Captain John Taylor's Company.
Corporal Samuel Hibber - Captain John Cougle's Company.
Corporal Christopher Sheek - Captain Joseph Crowell's Company.
Private Levi Hall - Captain John Taylor's Company.
Private Peter Hawn - Captain John Taylor's Company.
Private Ebenezer Darwin - Captain John Taylor's Company.
Private Malaciah Bowham - Captain John Taylor's Company.
Private John Hazen - Captain John Cougle's Company.
Private Henry Mills - Captain John Cougle's Company.
Private James Matthews - Captain John Cougle's Company.
Private James Barclay - Captain John Cougle's Company.
Private Eliagh Quick - Captain Joseph Crowell's Company.
Private Robert Erwin - Captain Joseph Crowell's Company.
Private Daniel McCoy - Captain Joseph Crowell's Company.
Private Henry Berger - Captain Joseph Crowell's Company.
Private Michael Miller - Colonel Joseph Barton's Company.
Private Joel Daniels - Colonel Joseph Barton's Company.
Private Joshua King - Major Thomas Milledge's Company.
Private Clement Masters - Major Thomas Millidge's Company.
Private Boltas Snider - Major Thomas Millidge's Company.
From the Second New Jersey Battalion
Lieutenant William Stevenson.
Sergeant James Causlin - Captain Norman McLeod's Company.
Corporal Randle Ensley - Major John Antell's Company.
Private Henry Horn - Captain Norman McLeod's Company.
Private Nicholas Myzin - Major John Antill's Company.
Private Hugh Jones - Captain Donald Campbell's Company.
Private Edward Donnelly - Captain Donald Campbell's Company.
Private John North - Captain Waldron Blaan's Company.
Private Conrad Kingstaff - Captain Waldron Blaan's Company.
Private John Worth - Captain Waldron Blaan's Company.
Private John Hurley - Colonel John Morris' Company.
Private Mordecia Starkey - Colonel John Morris' Company.
From the Fourth New Jersey Battalion
Captain Samuel Ryerson.
Lieutenant Martin Ryerson.
Sergeant Charles Brown - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Sergeant Richard Terhune - Colonel Abraham VanBuskirk's Company.
Corporal Thomas Mulvain - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Corporal Ralph Burris - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private George Dickerson - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private Martin Wolohan - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private James Crab - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private John Troy - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private Ezekiel Pulsifer - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private Zopher Hull - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private Thomas Wilkins - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private William Vaughan - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
Private Walter Coppinger - Colonel A. VanBuskirk's Company.
Private Robert Thompson - Colonel A. VanBuskirk's Company.
Private John Hayes - Colonel A. VanBuskirk's Company.
Private Joseph Westervelt - Colonel A. VanBuskirk's Company.
Private Peter Spear - Colonel A. VanBuskirk's Company.
Private Jacob Westervelt - Colonel A. VanBuskirk's Company.
Private Joseph Pryor - Colonel A. VanBuskirk's Company.
Private John Shetler - Captain William Van-Allen's Company.
Private Caspaures Degraw - Captain William Van-Allen's Company.
Private Sylvester Ferdon - Captain William Van-Allen's Company.
Private William Van-Skiver - Captain William Van-Allen's Company.
Private Benjamin Furman - Captain William Van-Allen's Company.
Private David Dobson - Captain William Van-Allen's Company.
Private John Crane - Captain Philip VanCourtland's Company.
Private William Thompson - Captain Phillip VanCourtland's Company.
Private Laurence Kerr - Captain Phillip VanCourtland's Company.
Private Samuel Babcock - Captain Phillip VanCourtland's Company.
Private Samuel Young - Captain Phillip VanCourtland's Company.
Private Patrick McQuire, Snr. - Captain Phillip VanCourtland's Company.
Private Noah Killohan - Captain Samuel Ryerson's Company.
From DeLancey's Third Battalion
Sergeant Henry Townsend - Captain Edward Allison's Company.
Sergeant James Cocks - Captain Charles Hewlett's Company.
Private George Innis - Captain Edward Allison's Company.
Private Gilbert Boodle - Captain Edward Allison's Company.
Private John Gleoron - Captain Edward Allison's Company.
Private Noah Gildersleeve - Captain Edward Allison's Company.
Private Alexander Cain - Captain Thomas Lester's Company.
Private Daniel Wanzer - Captain Thomas Lester's Company.
Private Abraham Nichols - Captain Thomas Lester's Company.
Private Frederick Cronckite - Captain Thomas Lester's Company.
Private John Hevaland - Captain Charles Hewlett's Company.
Private John Banack - Captain Charles Hewlett's Company.
Private John Gibbs - Captain Elijah Miles' Company.
Private Moses Olmstead - Captain Elijah Miles' Company.
Private John Sherman - Captain Elijah Miles' Company.
Private John Sharpe - Captain Elijah Miles' Company.
Private Paul Wooster - Captain Elijah Miles' Company.
Private George Weekly - Captain Gerhardus Clowes' Company.
For four years the revolutionary element ruled in the Carolinas. Savannah, Georgia, which had been captured by a force from New York the previous year, 1778, was the only important seaport held by the British in the southern provinces, and had successfully resisted for four months the combined armies of France and America, assisted by a French fleet under command of Count d'Estang2. Foiled in the attempt the French withdrew, and the Americans abandoned the siege. The defence of Savannah by British regulars and Loyalist troops, under General Prevost, was the most brilliantly executed series of operations during the revolutionary war.
As soon as Sir Henry Clinton, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in America, had certain intelligence of the return of the French fleet to the West Indies, he began preparations to transport an army to the south, and on the 26th of December, 1779, the corps selected sailed from New York, and after a dangerous voyage arrived at Tybee, near Savannah.
The original intention of the expedition was the capture of Charleston, South Carolina, and on the 10th of February, 1780, Sir Henry Clinton, with the transports that had arrived at Tybee, having the greater part of the army on board, sailed for North Edisto, on the South Carolina coast, leaving at Savannah a portion of the army, among which was Ferguson's corps, to march overland into South Carolina.
Charleston, or Charles Town, as it was first named, is one hundred and ten miles from Savannah. It was noted for the refinement and wealth of its leading inhabitants, and their rancour against the British. The last royal governor, Lord William Campbell3, had been driven from the province in 1775.
On the 11th of February, 1780, the British forces landed at St. John's Island, thirty miles from Charleston, where they formed depots and built fortifications, and on the twenty-sixth of the same month advanced within view of the city and harbor of Charleston. Sir Henry Clinton had particular reason for desiring the capture of Charleston, as a previous attempt, in 1776, had failed.
On Sunday morning, March 5th, 1780, Major Ferguson's corps marched from Savannah, and entered on a campaign that closed the career of its commander and a large number of the men whom he led, and which has had a momentous bearing also on the English race in America. As the movements of the corps are minutely recorded, day by day, in Lieutenant Anthony Allaire's diary of occurrences, we will freely quote from it, in relating the events that followed.
The army that marched from Savannah consisted of the following: American Volunteers, Lieut.-Colonel Ferguson; Light Infantry, Major Graham; New York Volunteers, Col. Turnbull; North Carolinians, Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton; South Carolinians, Colonel Innis; British Legion, Major Cochrane; one company Georgia Dragoons, Captain Campbell; and the first battalion of the Seventy-first Highlanders, Major McArthur in number about fifteen hundred, General Patterson in command.
The names of the corps and their commanders recall many interesting historical facts. With the exception of the Highlanders, all were American Loyalists. Major Graham's Light Infantry was made up of companies from Colonel Beverley Robinson's Loyal American Regiment, Skinner's New Jersey and DeLancey's New York brigades; the British Legion, Major Cochrane, was the infantry portion, and was recruited with Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey Loyalists, with a goodly number of southern refugees. The North and South Carolina Regiments were composed of men who had been cruelly driven from their homes in those provinces. A curious story is related of the South Carolina Regiment, better known as the "South Carolina Royalists." The badge of the regiment was the Carolina laurel, chosen at its organization. On the termination of the revolutionary war, the regiment continued in service in the West Indies, and as the white Loyalists withdrew, negroes were substituted. The regiment proved trustworthy, and was recruited to full strength with negroes, and became the First West India Regiment, retaining the Carolina laurel as its badge, and is now the oldest colonial military corps in the British Empire.
On Saturday, March 11th, General Patterson's army crossed the Savannah River, and entered South Carolina without opposition. On March 14th the first mishap in the campaign occurred, and is given as recorded by Lieutenant Allaire:
Major Cochrane, with the British Legion, were in pursuit of a party of rebels, but, being mis-piloted, he arrived just before break of day in front of our picket. He immediately conjectured that we were the party he had been in pursuit of all night. He halted and made a position with an intent to attack as soon as it began to be clearly light; but the alertness of our sentinels obliged them to come on sooner than they intended. He immediately, on their firing, rushed on the picket; they gave the alarm, but were driven to the house, where our men, ready for the attack, expecting it was rebels, a smart skirmish ensued. The sad mistake was soon discovered, but not before two brave soldiers of the American Volunteers, and one of the Legion, were killed, and several on both sides badly wounded. Col. Ferguson got wounded on the arm by a bayonet.
Colonel Tarleton, in his account of the affair, states that the "two commanders, in front of their respective corps, recognized each other's voice, and suppressed a conflict which might have been mortifying and destructive."
The route of the army was through a flat, swampy but pleasant country, with several rivers to pass, at the period of revolution the richest part of South Carolina and Georgia. On every side lay the luxurious homes and tropically fertile plantations of the old slave-holding families of Pinckneys, Middletons, Barnewells, Izards, Bees, Rheets, Draytons, and the numerous French Huguenot families who added their proud names to make an aristocracy as exclusive as the bluest blooded in Old England. Supplies of all kinds were abundant, and the foraging parties got everything necessary for the sustenance of the army. Ferguson's corps did not forget themselves, "living on the fat of the land," is the record in the diary for several days.
The British Legion and Major Ferguson's corps moved on the flanks of General Patterson's army, and furnished intelligence. On March 16th "about thirty rebels showed themselves a mile and a half in front of us," is the record, and this was the first view that they had of their opponents.
On March 18th, and also on the 20th, skirmishes occurred with the rebels; in the latter "three poor lads of the York Volunteers were killed."
The New York Volunteers or Second American Regiment was raised in New York in 1777, and the command given later to Colonel George Turnbull for distinguished services. The regiment was attached to the army under Colonel Campbell that captured Savannah in 1778, and in the defence of that city in 1779, and in the campaigns that followed in the Carolinas, was conspicuous for gallant conduct. The regiment was among those disbanded in St. John, then Parr Town, in 1783, at the conclusion of the revolutionary war, and several of the officers who settled in the province figure in the early annals of New Brunswick. The most distinguished was General John Coffin, who was brevet-major of the regiment, once the owner of Alwyngton Manor, in King's County, but a short distance from St. John, where he died and was buried in 1838.
Another officer, Lieutenant Garret Clopper, died at Fredericton, and is buried in the old burying ground in that town. Still another, Captain Archibald McLean, died at his residence on the Nashwaak, February 18th, 1830; "he was a native of Mull, North Britain, held a commission during the American war as early as the year 1776, and distinguished himself on many occasions, particularly at the memorable Battle of Eutaw Springs in South Carolina. He was a staff-adjutant during the late war (1812), and was many years a representative and a magistrate of this county (York). In every situation Captain McLean discharged his duties with strict honor and probity.4"
On March 21st Colonel Banistre Tarleton, the dashing cavalry leader, with the dragoons of the British Legion, joined General Patterson's army from Beaufort, where he had been to procure horses for his command, "his being all lost on the passage from New York."
On March 22nd the army reached the village of Jacksonburgh, on Stono River. "Not a man remained in the town, except two, one of whom was so sick he could not get out of bed, and the other a doctor, who had the name of a friend to Government. The women were treated very tenderly, and with the utmost civility, notwithstanding their husbands were out in arms against us," is Lieutenant Allaire's entry in the diary.
March 23rd, "Crossed the river (Stono) in boats and flats, the bridge being destroyed. Col. Tarleton came up with a party of rebel militia dragoons, soon after crossing the river at Governor Bee's plantation. He killed ten and took four prisoners. Gov. Bee was formerly Lieut.-Gov. under His Majesty, is now one of the members of Congress, and Lieut.-Gov. of South Carolina."
March 24th, "This day Col. Ferguson got the rear guard in order to do his King and country justice, by protecting friends and widows, and destroying Rebel property; also to collect live stock for the use of the army, all of which we effect as we go, by destroying furniture, breaking windows, &c., taking all their horned cattle, horses, mules, sheep, fowls, &c., and their negroes to drive them."
The wanton destruction of private property is one of the many sad calamities of war, but the destruction by the British in South Carolina was very small compared to that wrought by Sherman's federal army during the civil war.
March 26th, "This day the Commander-in-chief (Sir Henry Clinton) came to us from James Island, which is six miles distant."
March 27th, "Two companies of light Infantry, American Volunteers, and one company of Dragoons, crossed at Rantowls, * * * Col. Hamilton, of the North Carolinians, and Dr. Smith, of the Hospital, proceeding about a mile in front of the army, to Governor Rutledge's house, were surrounded by three hundred continental light horse, and they consequently made prisoners. The British Dragoons fell in with them soon after and had a skirmish; the Rebels gave way, and showed them the road."
On March 28th General Patterson's army reached the main army under Sir Henry Clinton. March 29th, "spent the day in viewing Charleston, and found it not a little like New York," Lieutenant Allaire recorded.
Monday, April 3rd, "Marched to Ashley Ferry, to cover the Dragoons of the Legion whilst crossing the river; marched from this up the river to Henry Middleton's plantation; passed several famous country seats, one called Drayton's Hall, belonging to William Henry Drayton, deceased, who was a member of Congress, and died at Philadelphia."
Henry Middleton was also a member of the Continental Congress. The Drayton family were very prominent in South Carolina for several generations, and had the novel experience of having one brother a General in the Confederate army and another an Admiral in the Federal navy during the Civil war.
On April 8th the British fleet, under full sail, with a fresh breeze, passed Fort Moultrie, and entered Charleston harbour. Four years previous a British fleet, under Sir Peter Parker, made the same attempt and failed.
Charleston had been hitherto invested only on the "Neck," between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, and a cavalry force under the rebel General Huger was stationed at Monk's Corner, thirty miles from Charleston, to keep communication open with the interior, and as an avenue of escape in case of evacuation. "On the 12th of April, Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton5, being reinforced by Major Ferguson's corps of marksmen, advanced to Goose Creek. Tarleton again moved on in the evening with his own and Ferguson's corps towards Monk's Corner, as had been previously concerted with the Commander-in-Chief, in order, if possible, to surprise the Americans encamped at that place. An attack in the night was judged most advisable, as it would render the superiority of the enemy's cavalry useless. Profound silence was observed on the march. At three o'clock in the morning, the advance guard of Dragoons and mounted infantry, supported by the remainder of the Legion and Ferguson's corps, approached the American post. A watch-word was immediately communicated to the officers and soldiers, which was closely followed by an order to charge the enemy's grand guard on the main road. The order was executed with the greatest promptitude and success. The Americans were completely surprised, Major Vernier, of Pulaski's Legion, and some other officers and men were killed or wounded. Gen. Huger, Colonels Washington and Jamieson, with many officers and men, fled to the swamps close to the encampment."
The British had but one officer and two men wounded in the affair. Four hundred horses, with arms and appointments, fell into the hands of the victors. Lieutenant Allaire's account does not make the surprise as complete as Colonel Tarleton's, but the latter is more graphic in description.
The defeat at Monk's Corner closed all communication with Charleston and hastened its reduction.
Lieutenant Allaire was a very chivalrous soldier, and the glimpses that we get of his character from his diary, particularly in his treatment of women, show that he was a true gentleman of the old school, high-minded and honorable, as the following incident will confirm:
Remained at Monk's Corner collecting stores, etc. About seven o'clock at night accidently a storehouse caught fire in which were two casks of powder; was very much alarmed by the explosion and all got under arms. This confusion was scarcely over when three ladies came to our camp in great distress, Lady Colleton, Miss Betsy Giles and Miss Jean Russell. They had been most shockingly abused by a plundering villain. Lady Colleton badly cut in the hand by a broadsword, and bruised very much. After my friend Dr. Johnson dressed her hand, he, with an officer and twelve men, went to the plantation, about one mile from camp, to protect Mrs. Fazssoux, whom this infamous villain had likewise abused in the same manner. There he found a most accomplished amiable lady in the greatest distress imaginable. After he took a little blood from her she was more composed, and next morning came to camp to testify against the cursed villain. He was secured and sent to headquarters for trial.
Saturday, 15th: "The army got in motion about twelve o'clock. My friend, Dr. Johnson, and myself had the happiness of escorting the ladies to their plantation. Before we got there we were met by a servant informing us that there were more plunderers in the house. This news so shocked Lady Colleton and Mrs. Fazssoux, who was some distance before us, and the young ladies in a carriage, that I am not able to describe their melancholy situation, which was truly deplorable. After their fright was a little over we passed on to their house; but the ladies, fearing to stay alone, Lady Colleton and Mrs. Fazssoux got into the carriage. Miss Giles behind me, and Miss Russell on a horse which I led for fear he should make off with my fair one; they passed on with us four miles to a plantation called Mulberry Broughton6, and here we bid adieu to our fair companions with great regret, they thinking themselves out of danger of any insults."
This incident evidently had a great effect on Lieutenant Allaire, but Major Ferguson was enraged at the occurrence, and wanted the plunderers executed at once. Colonel Webster, Ferguson's senior, did not think they had power to execute so summarily, and sent the culprits to headquarters for sentence, and they were whipped.
April 22nd Lieutenant Allaire recorded another unpleasant incident, "took up and was under the disagreeable necessity of detaining a lady of the town, on suspicion of her being a spy."
Monday, April 24th, "Lord Cornwallis joined us and took command."
Tuesday, May 2nd, "Major Ferguson, with a detachment of American Volunteers, marched down to Mount Pleasant, stormed and took possession of a little redoubt, located partly on the main, and partly on the bridge that leads to Fort Moultrie."
On Thursday, May 4th, two days after the occurrence related, our historian made the following record in his diary, the only bit of bombast he indulged in and perhaps admissable under the circumstances:
"Rode from Lempriere's Point to Mount Pleasant; dined with Captain Ord7 of the navy. After dinner rode to Hurdle's Point to view the redoubt which Col. Ferguson stormed the second of May with only six men, and never was more surprised in my life, for twenty men like the American Volunteers would have defied all Washington's army."
Sunday, May 7th: "Orders to get ready to march with two day's provision, at a minute's notice. Maj. Ferguson had obtained permission to attack Fort Moultrie. He rode forward with four dragoons to reconnoitre. We were to remain at our post till we got orders for marching. The first news we heard was the fort was in possession of the British; the rebels had surrendered themselves prisoners of war."
On Friday, May 12th, General Lincoln, the American commander, surrendered and the British troops marched in and took possession of Charleston. The first object of the expedition was accomplished, but the struggle had only commenced and a long and bloody chapter had to be added to the war history of the Carolinas.
On May 15th, a magazine blew up in the town; Captain Collins and Lieutenant Gordon of the Artillery, Lieutenant McLeod of the Forty-second Regiment, and about thirty privates perished by the explosion. May 16th, the American Volunteers relieved the navy, and took command of Fort Moultrie. May 23rd, "had the pleasing view of sixty or seventy large ships coming into the harbour." May 25th, the detachment was relieved, crossed the harbour to Charleston, marched through the town, and took up ground in front of the line.
Charleston became the base of operations for the British, and from this point several columns marched into the interior to assist the loyal inhabitants in restoring the province to the Crown.
On Friday, May 26th, 1780, the American Volunteers, Major Ferguson; Light Infantry, Major Graham; three companies of the British Seventh Regiment, Captain Peacock, and the Prince of Wales American Volunteers, Lieut.-Col. Pattinson, all under command of Colonel Balfour, of the Twenty-third Regiment in number about six hundred marched from Charleston.
The Prince of Wales American Regiment was a Loyalist corps formed in New York in 1777, and commanded by Brigadier-General Montford Brown, who did not accompany the regiment to the south. Lieutenant-Colonel Pattinson commanded during the campaigns in South Carolina, and died at Charleston in 1783. The regiment participated in many engagements in the Carolinas, and a detachment under Lieutenant Patrick Garrett was with Lord Cornwallis' army at Yorktown and became prisoners of war at the surrender. Colonel Gabriel DeVeber succeeded Colonel Pattinson, and at the peace came to St. John with the survivors of the corps and were disbanded. Colonel DeVeber and his son, Lieutenant John DeVeber, were grantees of St. John; Dr. Luke DeVeber, surgeon of the corps, was a relative. Colonel DeVeber settled at Gagetown, New Brunswick, where his descendants still reside. Captains Andrew Maxwell and Stephen Hoyt, Lieutenants Michael Ambrose, Benjamin Ogden and the eccentric James Eccles were all grantees of St. John, and settled in New Brunswick. The Adjutant's name, Lieutenant John Ness, also a grantee, is recorded in the royal charter of the City of St. John. Many of the men settled along the St. John River and their descendants still remain.
As the heat was excessive the column got in motion very early in the morning of each day, and Lieutenant Allaire noted the delicious odor which the numerous magnolias emitted on the balmy air.
Sunday, May 28th. The column reached Monk's Corner, the scene of the surprise of Huger's cavalry. "Doctor Johnson and myself went and dined with Lady Colleton, Miss Russell and Miss Giles, the ladies well protected in their distress when we were here the fourteenth of April," is Lieutenant Allaire's entry in his diary.
Next day the gallant Lieutenant "spent an agreeable afternoon at Lady Colleton's" with the same ladies. Tuesday, May 30th: "Got in motion and marched to General Moultrie's plantation."
General William Moultrie, the owner of the plantation, was very prominent in the councils of South Carolina during the early years of the rebellion, and very pronounced in his opposition to the British. He was second in command under General Lincoln, of the Continental troops, at the defence of Charleston, and was at this time a prisoner on parole. He won renown in 1775 for his bravery in successfully defending the fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor against the British fleet under Sir Peter Parker, and which was subsequently called by his name "Fort Moultrie." After the downfall of Charleston his military services ceased, but he was one of the early governors of the state after independence. A brother, John Moultrie, a distinguished physician, remained loyal, and was the last royal governor of East Florida.
Saturday, June 3rd. The column reached Campbell's plantation, seventy-seven miles from Charleston.
Monday, June 5th. "Got in motion at two o'clock in the morning, and marched to Cave Hall, St. Matthew's Parish. * * * * This day twenty militia men came in and brought the new fangled governor of Georgia prisoner; he was sent to Charleston. He had taken protection from Lord Cornwallis as a private man."
On Thursday, June 22nd, the column reached Ninety-six, a village or country town that figures considerably in the early revolutionary history of that period, containing about twelve dwelling houses, a court house and jail, in which were confined about forty rebels brought in by the friends of government, who were in the ascendancy.
Major Ferguson, with his corps, was then in the very centre of the most disturbed portion of South Carolina. A bloody and relentless partizan war was waged in that district, in which all the finest qualities of humanity were abandoned. Judge John Belton O'Neil, a South Carolina writer, attributed the bloodshed to the cruel tyranny of the rebel governor Rutledge, and the extreme measures adopted to force all into opposition to the British. There was a large loyal population in the Carolinas who resented the claim of the so-called patriots, and were ready on all occasions to assist the King's troops. Many of these were very influential people. To these the British commander appealed, and numbers flocked to the King's standard, and were formed into companies and armed; non-commissioned officers from the American Volunteers were made instructors. Several of these non-commissioned officers were captured and lost to the corps.
Major Ferguson had great confidence in the loyal population, and his influence was dreaded by the leaders of the rebellion. "We come, not to make war on women and children" was his declaration to the people, and he acted up to his promise.
Sunday, July 9th. The American Volunteers marched from Ninety-six under command of Captain dePeyster, and on the 10th crossed the Saluda river and marched nine miles to Colonel Williams' plantation, where they halted. "Mrs. Williams and the children were at home, and were treated with the utmost civility. Colonel Williams8 is with the rebels, and is a very violent persecuting scoundrel" is Lieutenant Allaire's record in the diary.
This was in marked contrast to the treatment accorded the family of Colonel Joseph Robinson, of the South Carolina Royalists, by the rebels: "After a reward had been offered for his life, and he had been compelled to abscond, a party of rebels visited his plantation and burned to the ground his dwelling house, and every building upon it," leaving his wife and family without shelter.9
Colonel Robinson was the most prominent Loyalist in South Carolina; he commanded the loyal forces that defeated the insurgents at Ninety-six in 1776, and was in active service during the whole period of the war. His property at Camden, South Carolina, was confiscated, and at the close of the war he settled on Prince Edward Island, where he died. The late Sir R. Hodgson, of that island, was a grandson.
It would make this article too long to follow the marches and counter-marches of each day. Major Ferguson was an indefatigable commander, and his second in command, Captain dePeyster, was equally as enterprising, and the men were splendid soldiers, for the service exacted from them showed that the physique of the corps was magnificent.
During the months of July and August the corps was operating in the Fair Forest district, a country made famous by the pen of William Gilmour Simms, the Carolina novelist, who has woven many of the incidents of the partizan warfare that was waged into his novels.
On Friday, September 1st, Lieutenant Allaire recorded this item, which proved to be the foreboding of a disaster, fatal in its consequences to the British cause in South Carolina: "Major Ferguson joined us again from Camden, with the disagreeable news that we were to be separated from the army, and act on the frontiers with the militia."
On Saturday, September 2nd, the American Volunteers, with a portion of the loyal militia, forming a force of about five hundred men, began the march towards the boundary of South Carolina, gradually entering the mountain district of the province, and on the 7th of September crossed the division line between South and North Carolina. The Tory or Loyalist element was very strong in that part of the Carolinas, and only kept in check by the most severe and cruel measures. Major Ferguson had great confidence in the loyalty of the militia, and the men who joined his standard deserved his confidence. "The poor deluded people of this province begin to be sensible of their error and come in very fast" is Lieutenant Allaire's description of the inhabitants of the country in which the little army was operating.
September 20th. Three officers belonging to Cruger's New York Volunteers and Allen's Third New Jersey Battalion, with fifty militiamen, reached Ferguson's army from Ninety-six.
The officers that have been represented as British regular officers with Major Ferguson's command were Americans from the loyal New York and New Jersey regiments serving at the South, and were very active in organizing and drilling the militia. Lieutenant Allaire mentions the following: Captain Frederick dePeyster, of the New York Volunteers, was a brother of Captain Abraham dePeyster, of Ferguson's corps, and commanded the militia in several skirmishes. He was a personal friend of Major Ferguson, and came to New Brunswick with the New York Volunteers; after a brief residence he returned to New York. This gentleman was the ancestor of General J. Watts dePeyster, the eminent military critic and writer of New York.
Another very active officer was Captain James Dunlap, of the Queen's Rangers, an Irishman, who was killed on the 25th of March, 1781, in Virginia. Lieutenant Richard McGinnis, of the Third New Jersey, Colonel Isaac Allen's10 battalion, killed at King's Mountain. Lieutenant William Chew and Lieutenant John Camp were also officers from Colonel Allen's battalion, and both died in New Brunswick.
Sunday, September 24th. Lieutenant Allaire recorded that "five hundred subjects came in, also a number of ladies," and declared their loyalty.
A considerable number of recruits were added during these marches, and what Lieutenant Allaire called the North Carolina Regiment was formed, increasing the force considerably, probably to eight hundred men. Each day Major Ferguson's army marched forward, getting farther away from the British forces and hope of reinforcements, the small but efficient corps of riflemen, the main dependence of the column, and on Friday, October 6th, reached King's Mountain, apparently unconscious of the strength or position of the army of mountain men that had been following and preparing for their destruction.
King's Mountain, of which so much has been written, is a stony ridge or eminence seventy feet above the surrounding country in York County, South Carolina, and a mile and a half from the boundary line of North Carolina. The sides of this eminence were covered with a growth of trees, and the top, about six hundred yards long and two hundred wide, was bare of trees, and without shelter, "so narrow that a man standing on it may be shot from either side." Here Major Ferguson's army camped, but why they lingered at this place for even a day is a mystery. The position may have presented features of defence that attracted Major Ferguson's notice and caused him to hazard a battle, but the result was disastrous.
Lieutenant Allaire's account of what happened is as follows:
Saturday, October 7th. About two o'clock in the afternoon twenty-five hundred rebels, under the command of Brigadier General Williams and ten colonels, attacked us. Major Ferguson had eight hundred men. The action continued an hour and five minutes; but their numbers enabled them to surround us. The North Carolina regiment seeing this, and numbers being out of ammunition, gave way, which naturally threw the rest of the militia into confusion. Our poor little detachment, which consisted of only seventy men, when we marched to the field of action were all killed or wounded but twenty, and those brave fellows were soon crowded as close as possible by the militia. Captain dePeyster, on whom the command devolved, saw it impossible to form six men together, thought it necessary to surrender to save the lives of the brave men who were left. We lost in this action Major Ferguson of the Seventy-first Regiment, a man much attached to King and Country, well informed in the art of war; he was brave and humane, and an agreeable companion; in short, he was universally esteemed in the army, and I have every reason to regret his unhappy fate. We had eighteen men killed on the spot; Captain Ryerson and thirty-two privates wounded of Major Ferguson's detachment; Lieutenant McGinnis of Allen's Regiment of Skinner's Brigade killed. Taken prisoners, two captains, four lieutenants, three ensigns and one surgeon and fifty-four sergeants rank-and-file, including the mounted men under the command of Lieutenant Taylor. Of the militia, one hundred were killed, including officers; wounded, ninety; taken prisoners, about six hundred. Our baggage all taken, of course. Rebels lost Brig. General Williams, one hundred and thirty-five, including officers killed; wounded equal to ours.
From Lieutenant Allaire's account of the battle the attack would appear to have been almost a surprise. The movements of the army of mountain men could not have been known to Major Ferguson, or if known, he was lulled into a feeling of security by the supposed strength of his position, which proved a veritable trap for the Loyalists. Surrounding the hill or eminence on all sides, and under cover of the trees, the mountain men rushed to the attack, while the Loyalists had to form in the open, and were exposed on all sides to the fire of an army of the best marksmen of that day. In the heat of the engagement Ferguson's riflemen, numbering only seventy men, gave evidence of their training and discipline, and charged with fixed bayonets, driving the mountain men down the rocky slope to find safety among the trees only to return again. Several times during the battle was the band of riflemen called on, until at last, depleted in numbers and disheartened at the loss of their commander, Captain dePeyster, surrendered.
In all southern histories Ferguson's corps is described as British regulars, and even as well informed a writer as General Henry B. Carrington11, of the United States army, makes an even greater mistake, and states that "the detachment of the Seventy-first British Regulars fought with such spirit that in three bayonet charges they crowded their assailants to the foot of the hill." In fact the only regular soldier in Major Ferguson's command was the commander himself.
The casualties were very large for so small a force, and was evidence of the valor of Ferguson's riflemen; Lieutenant Allaire made a serious omission in not recording in his diary the names of the killed and wounded, particularly in his own small corps. The loyal militia corps fought equally well and bravely, and deserved a more honorable reputation than southern writers have accorded them. According to Draper's account, the riflemen buried their dead together, and the following day, Sunday, October 8th, the prisoners were marched sixteen miles from the battlefield, as a rumor had reached the mountain men that the dreaded Tarleton, with his legion, was hastening to Major Ferguson's assistance.
The prisoners were again moved forty miles into the mountain districts and closely guarded, notwithstanding which a number escaped. The mountain men were sorely perplexed how to feed their prisoners, and all suffered alike from hunger. Seven days after the battle the victors perpetrated a crime that cannot be condoned, and shows to what extremes revolution will carry a people. Lieutenant Allaire's record is brief:
Saturday, October 14th. Twelve field officers were chosen to try the militia prisoners particularly those who had the most influence in the country. They condemned thirty; in the evening they began to execute Lieut.-Col. Mills, Capt. Wilson, Capt. Chitwood, and six others who unfortunately fell a sacrifice to their infamous mock jury. Mills, Wilson and Chitwood died like Romans, the others were reprieved.
The prisoners were kept marching each day without any settled destination, their numbers decreasing, until Bethabara, a Moravian settlement in western North Carolina, was reached, where a permanent camp was formed. On Sunday evening, November 5th, almost a month after the battle of King's Mountain, Lieutenant Allaire, in company with Lieutenant Taylor, Lieutenant Stevenson and a South Carolina Loyalist, William Gist12, "set off from Bethabara," with the intention of reaching the British lines, and after travelling fully three hundred miles on foot the party reached, on November 23rd, the British post at Ninety-six, where they were hospitably received by Captain John Barbarie, of the New Jersey Volunteers, the officer in command. On the 25th of November Lieutenant Allaire set out for Charleston, where he arrived on the 29th, and there the diary closed.
It has been an easy task in this sketch to follow the fortunes of the officers of the corps, and the distinguished character of the soldier who led this small band of volunteers and Loyalists in the bold attempt to win back to loyalty and peace the rebellious Carolinians deserve our admiration but what of the gallant volunteers who composed the rank-and-fyle of the historic corps? There is no record of the killed, prisoners, or missing, there had been no desertions, theirs had been indeed a "lost cause" of the one hundred non-commissioned officers and privates, the fate of only three is known to the writer, Sergeant Asa Blakesly, of the King's American Regiment; Sergeant David Ellison, of the Loyal American Regiment; and Corporal Christopher Sheek, of the First New Jersey Battalion. These found their way to the British lines and joined again their respective corps and came to St. John, where their corps were disbanded in 1783.
Sergeant Blakesly, whose business was a tallow chandler and soap-maker, established himself in the same business in the new city, and became a prominent citizen. He was a native of New Haven, Connecticut, where the family was very respectable and in good circumstances at the outbreak of the revolution. The old homestead in which he was born was standing at New Haven about twenty years ago. He died in 1843, aged eighty-seven, and is buried in the old Loyalist burying ground in St. John. His son, Asa, carried on the same business for many years.
Sergeant David Ellison, of the Loyal American Regiment, settled on the Long Reach, River St. John, King's County, where his descendants reside.
Corporal Christopher Sheek, of the First New Jersey Battalion, settled in King's County, and his descendants are still found there and in Westmorland County.
Many Loyalist family names are found in the roll of Ferguson's corps, and this publication may be the means of preserving from oblivion the names of the dead.
Of the victors, the only one in whose subsequent career we are interested was Colonel Isaac Shelby, the leader of the mountain men. Like many southerners of the revolutionary era, Shelby was an intense hater of the British, and during the war of 1812-13 led a corps of Kentucky riflemen to the frontiers of Canada in the vain attempt to conquer this country.
Few historic events of the American Revolution have received greater attention from the historians of the United States than the Battle of King's Mountain, and probably no other during the long struggle has caused more discussion of a laudatory as well as of an acrimonious nature among the victors. The battle was most decided in its results, and marked the downfall of the British and Loyalist elements in the southern provinces. It was a battle in which the courage and fortitude of the combatants was displayed more conspicuously than in any engagement during the revolutionary struggle.
The relics and traditions of that far-away mountain battle that linger with us recall the days when loyalty to King and country was not held lightly, but a sentiment to be prized; and it teaches us, furthermore, that every event of historic importance in the long struggle has some lingering connection with the United Empire Loyalists, who founded the structure of freedom which we now enjoy in this dominion.
1. National Dictionary of Biography.
2. Guillotined in Paris during the siege of terror, 1794.
3. Lord William Campbell was the third brother of the Duke of Argyle and was appointed Governor of Nova Scotia in 1766. Lady Campbell was a native of South Carolina, and a member of the Izard family, the richest family in the province. In 1773 Lord Campbell received the appointment of Governor of South Carolina, and removed to that province at the beginning of the revolutionary troubles. In his efforts he incurred the hatred of the revolutionary adherents, and in 1775 had to take refuge on board of a man-of-war in Charleston harbor. The following year he returned with the fleet under Sir Peter Parker, and while serving as a volunteer on the quarter deck of the Bristol, in the attack on the forts in Charleston harbor, was wounded and died from the effects two years afterwards.
4. Fredericton Royal Gazette, February 24, 1830.
5. Tarleton's Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 account abridged.
6. Mulberry Plantation became the property of the Chesnut family after the Revolution. It was the home of General James Chesnut, Jr., and his wife Mary Boykin, a gifted woman, at the outbreak of the civil war in 1861. Although situated in the center of a district ravaged and desolated by Sherman's Federal army in 1865, the old mansion escaped destruction and is still standing. Mrs. Chesnut kept a diary of passing events during those dark days of bloodshed and suffering in the Carolinas, and when all hope was abandoned, and she had to seek safety elsewhere, recorded her last leave-taking of the old plantation: "Took a sad farewell look at Mulberry. It is a magnificent old country seat, with old oaks, green lawns and all. So I took that last farewell of Mulberry, once so hated now so beloved." "A Diary from Dixie," as written by Mary Boykin Chesnut, wife of General James Chesnut, Jr., United States Senator from South Carolina, 1859-1861, and afterwards an aide to Jefferson Davis and a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. New York, 1905.
7. Captain Ord, in 1781, married Miss Stevens, a wealthy heiress of Charleston, and the owner of several valuable plantations, and more than a hundred negro slaves, on the island of St. Helena, one of the famed Sea Islands of South Carolina. Miss Stevens was an orphan, and had taken no part in the troubles, all her connections were "strongly favourers of the American cause;" nevertheless her estates were confiscated, and Captain Ord, on behalf of his wife, made application for indemnity to the commissioners appointed by the British parliament to investigate the claims of United Empire Loyalists.
8. Colonel Williams was killed at King's Mountain on October 7th following, and at that time was actively engaged in collecting the army of mountain men that overwhelmed Major Ferguson's command.
9. The Loyalists of America and their Times, by Reverend Egerton Ryerson, D. D., Vol. I, page 214.
10. The Third New Jersey Battalion was with Colonel Campbell's forces at the capture of Savannah in 1778, and also took part in the gallant defence of that place under General Provost in 1779, and the siege and capture of Charleston in 1780. In the campaigns that followed the corps was actively engaged until the close of the war, when, diminished in number, it came to St. John in 1783 and was disbanded. The officers and men of the corps drew land at Kingsclear, York County, New Brunswick, and settled together. Many of the most respectable families in York County are descendants of the officers and men of the corps. The late Sir John C. Allen, Chief Justice of New Brunswick, was a grandson of Colonel Isaac Allen, the commander.
11. Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781. Historical and Military Criticism. Dedicated to General W. P. Sherman. New York, page 530.
12. Eighty years after these occurrences, in 1860, a Gist, then Governor of South Carolina, a relative of this fugitive Loyalist, led the state his ancestor fought to preserve to the English crown, through the first stages of secession, into the bloody throes of a civil war that surpassed the wildest tales of revolutionary tradition.
[Published in Acadiensis Vol. 6, No. 4, October 1906, Vol. 7, No. 1, January 1907, and Vol. 8, No. 2, April 1907.]