History of the Loyalists: Defeat of the Americans at Hobkirk's Hill

Article Title
History of the Loyalists: Defeat of the Americans at Hobkirk's Hill
James Hannay
Page Number
Article Type
Article Contents
HISTORY OF THE LOYALISTS DEFEAT OF THE AMERICANS AT HOBKIRKS HILL. Fail of Several British Posts—Gallant Defense of Fort Ninety Six—Adventures of Mrs. Cruger. BY JAMES HANNAY. CHAPTER XXXVI. Soon after the battle of Guilford Lord Cornwallis began his march towards Wilmington for the purpose of opening communications with the sea, as the army was suffering from want of stores. Cornwallis reached Wilmington on the 7th of April and on the same day Greene encamped on Hobkirk's hill, to the north of Camden, and about a mile and a half from the British works at that piece. Greene had a force of about 1,200 men, of whom 900 were continental troops. Lord Rawdon, who was in command of the British force near Camden, had about 900 men with him, mostly Loyalists of the volunteers of Ireland, South Carolina Loyalists, the New York volunteers, the King’s American regiment and a few of the New Jersey volunteers. The only British regulars were the 63rd regiment and a few dragoons. Lord Rawdon resolved to strike a sudden blow at the enemy, and with his little army of 900 men, including 60 dragoons, and two 6 pounders, on the morning of April 25th he marched against Greene's force. The Americans were posted in a strong position on a high range, but by filing does to the swamps on their right, the British columns got into the woods unperceived, and by taking an extensive circuit, came down on the enemy's flank. Their presence was not discovered until the flank companies of the volunteers of Ireland, which led the column, attacked the enemy’s pickets. The 63rd regiment occupied the center of the attack, with the volunteers of Ireland on the right and the King’s American regiment on the loft. The 63rd was supported by the New York volunteers, the South Carolina Loyalists, and a body of convalescents. The British attack was made with such vigor and resolution that the Americans were immediately driven to the summit of the hill, and COMPLETELY ROUTED. The pursuit was continued for about three miles, but as the enemy had a superior force of cavalry, Lord Rawdon did not care to risk his 60 dragoons too far from the field. The British loss amounted to 258, of whom 38 were killed. The American loss was reported by Greene to be 266, but this estimate was considered to be too low. The British took upwards of 100 of the Americans prisoners. About this time several unimportant posts were lost to the British. A few days before the battle of Hobkirk hill, Colonel Lee invested Fort Watson, which lay between Camden and Charlestown, and was garrisoned by 114 men under Lieutenant McKay. The fort was surrendered, in consequence of the besiegers erecting a work which overlooked it, and enabling them to fire into the fort. In May the post of Orangeburg, which had a small garrison, surrendered to General Sumpter, and Fort Mott, on the south side of the Congeree, capitulated. It had a garrison of 150 men, under Captain McPherson. In was a very weak place and its surrender was effected by the enemy setting the buildings on fire. Fort Granby, near Columbus, the capital of South Carolina, also fell at the same time. It had a garrison of 350 men, mostly Loyalists, under the command of Major Maxwell, of the Prince of Wales regiment. Maxwell, who was a Maryland Loyalist, appears to have possessed NEITHER COURAGE NOR HONESTY, and was more zealous to fill his purse than to gather military laurels. He agreed to the surrender on condition that private property should be respected and the garrison sent to Charlestown with an escort as prisoners of war until exchanged. Lord Rawdon was marching to the relief of this post when he heard of its surrender. After the surrender of Fort Granby, Lieut. Colonel Lee marched to Augusta and joined Brigadier General Pickens, who was besieging Fort Cornwallis. This fort was under the command of Lieut. Colonel Browne, a man of great gallantry. The fort was situated on low ground and towers were erected, as had been done at Fort Watson, from which the Americans could fire into the fort. Browne made a very brave defense and held out from the 16th of April until the 4th of June, when he was compelled to surrender, the garrison numbering about 300 men were conducted to Savannah as prisoners of war. At the same time the Americans were engaged in the siege of Fort Ninety Six, which was defended by Lieut. Col. Cruger of deLancy's regiment, with about 550 men. The siege of Fort Ninety Six was commenced by General Greene on the 22nd of May by making regular approaches to the stockade to cut off the supply of water from the fort. Cruger, whose garrison was composed mainly of Loyalists, made a most gallant defense, and continually annoyed the enemy by night attacks. In the meantime Lard Rawdon was approaching to the relief of the place, and Greene perceived that he must either storm the fort at once or abandon the siege. At noon on the 18th of June, a Mayham tower, from which they could fire into the Star redoubt, being computed, and two trenches and a mine near led into the ditch of the work, the central American battery opened upon the Star redoubt as the signal for a general attack. The assault immediately took place, but as the Americans reached the ditch, Captain French of deLancey’s corps and Captain Campbell of the New Jersey Volunteers, followed by a few brave men issued from the sally port of the star redoubt and drove the Americans from the position they had gained. The assault that was made on the stockade by the Americans also failed, and on the evening of the 19th GREENE RAISED THE SEISE, crossed the Saluda and retreated rapidly towards the Eanoree. The garrison of Fort Ninety-six which consisted of 150 men of deLancey's first battalion, 200 of the New Jersey volunteers and about 200 militia won great reputation, by this gallant defense, and Colonel Cruger himself behaved like a veteran. His wife was a daughter of General deLancey, and her adventures at this time show how largely the suffering of the Loyalists were shared by their wives. This lady it will be remembered was at her father's house at Bloomingdale, New York, when it was burned by the rebels in 1777, and made her escape from it in her nightdress, and endeavored to reach a British encampment about two miles off in order to alarm the troops. But in the confusion and fright, and owing to the darkness of the night, she missed her way, and after wandering about all night, barefooted, in the month of November, found herself in the morning about seven miles from her father's boats. In October, 1779, Mrs. Cruger left New York on a transport bound to Savannah to join her husband. Upon the passage the fleet was overtaken by a dreadful storm and the whole were separated. The ship in which Mrs. Cruger was, was old and leaky, and the captain and crew gave themselves up as lost. She, however, weathered the storm, and two days afterwards was taken by a French ship of war, under the command of the Comte d’Estaign, who took Mrs. Cruger on board his own ship and treated her with every kindness. The next day the transport in which she had sailed WENT TO THE BOTTOM. Mrs. Cruger was with the French fleet during the siege of Savannah by the French and Americans and know that her husband was in that city among the besieged and in great danger. When the siege was raised the French admiral put Mrs. Cruger ashore, with all the property she had with her. Mrs. Cruger remained at Savannah while her husband went to take part in the siege of Charleston in the spring of 1790. When Colonel Cruger was appointed commandant of fort Ninety-six she went to live with him in the garrison, but when General Greene approached to besiege it Colonel Cruger sent her to the house of a Presbyterian minister, who lived about a mile distant. The siege continued for more than a month, and during all that time Mrs. Cruger was in suspense, for she could hear every shot that was fired from the fort or against it. Again, at the battle of Eutaw Springs, where Colonel Cruger commanded one wing of the British army, Mrs. Cruger was within half-a-mile of the battle field; knew that her husband was in the midst of it, and must have suffered much from anxiety for his fate. Such were the trials to which the loyal women of the revolution were expected.