Toryism in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia
English troops occupied none of the cities in Virginia, Delaware or Maryland, so loyalists could find no protection and little encouragement from the mother nation or its troops. Whatever royal support there may have been never really developed. Delaware had no frontier, but tories did manage to arouse the Amerindians to massacres in the other two states.
Delaware had a substantial loyalist population, reliably estimated at about half the population. Most of Delaware's population had been moderate in its politics in the pre-Revolutionary era. The pre-war legislature remained loyal but was circumscribed by a larger patriot climate of opinion. There are strong claims that as many as half of the people were loyal to the crown.cdlvi
Several incidents are often cited in support of the high incidence of loyalism. In June 1776 loyalists collected some 5000 signatures on a petition opposing the Declaration of Independence in Kent County while patriots could barely manage to gather 300 signers. An ensuing major insurrection in Kent County cost over $100,000 to quell. When Governor Caesar Rodney asked his militiamen to sign a petition for independence only 26 of 68 men present were willing to commit. When other loyalists attempted to deliver it to Congress they were mobbed. Robinson gathered 1500 loyalists to restore order. Having no arms they appealed to Sir Andrew Hammond, skipper of the Roebuck, for support. Hammond stayed aloof and 1500 patriot riflemen arrived on orders from the Philadelphia Council of Safety. There were few strong statements of loyalist sentiment in the state which was not directly occupied. There were, however, some active loyalists in Delaware. Colonel Alfred Clifton was a Catholic Delaware loyalist who successfully raised a troop of loyal cavalry.cdlvii
In September 1777 the British army invaded Delaware, bringing many loyalists to declare in favor of king and country. Many of the active Delaware loyalists defected to the British while Howe controlled Philadelphia and left with him when he withdrew from the city. President Rodney received complaints of tory activity in Murderkill Hundred, Duck Creek, Dover and Kent County.cdlviii Anglican minister Daniel Currie helped to persuade many of the righteousness of the royalist cause. In September 1778 Methodist preacher Freeborn Garretson attempted to preach a loyalist sermon in Dover, but a mob accused him of being a tory and a follower of Cheney Clow.cdlix
The notorious tory Cheney Clow in April 1778 had led a tory revolt near Kenton. The Delaware militia responded to a call from Colonel Pope, located more than a hundred tories entrenched in a fortified position and prepared for an assault once the full company arrived. Clow retreated. The militia burned his fort and captured about half of his followers who were forced to enlist in the patriot army. Finally, in 1782 a sheriff's posse, with some militia as reinforcements, captured Clow. He claimed protection as a prisoner of war since he had a British commission with the rank of captain. In May 1783 a jury found him guilty of robbery, plunder and murder and ordered him to be hanged. In this case did Delaware witness significant popular support for the tories.cdlx
Following Lord Cornwallis' withdrawal from the Carolinas, Sir Henry Clinton received a proposal from William Rankin of Pennsylvania to use force to establish a loyalist haven. Rankin, a loyalist militia colonel, believed that there was a substantial reservoir of royalist sentiment in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware which, if properly cultivated, could serve to augment his majesty's forces. Both Clinton and the home government were, at this moment, grasping for any evidence that royal government could be reestablished. Cornwallis, having been falsely seduced into believing similar promises about the Carolinas, opposed the idea, for he saw in it nothing that convinced him that it was in any way superior to the Carolina plan. Clinton liked the idea and thought to implement it in the autumn of 1781, which is why Clinton retained Cornwallis' army in Virginia. Although the northern army had comparatively little to do after 1778, and Clinton possessed the authority and resources to attempt to implement Rankin's plan without Cornwallis, nothing came of it. The appearance of the French navy in the Chesapeake Bay made the operation too dangerous to attempt.cdlxi
Most loyalists in Maryland were white, first-generation English immigrants, engaged in business as merchants, free professionals, small tradesmen, artisans, inn-keepers and mariners. Most lived in Baltimore or Annapolis, with a few others from Frederick.cdlxii Despite the fact that Maryland had been established as a haven for Roman Catholics from England, political power for many decades before the revolution had been firmly held by a conservative, aristocratic Protestant minority. In the last decade before the revolution, the court party had defended its own powers more readily than the king's prerogatives. In the years immediately preceding the war for independence the royalist court party, which became the core of loyalism after war came, saw its power draining away. The governor in the last royalist years (1769-1776), George Chalmers, was partially sympathetic to the American complaints and did little to oppose independence. And, as elsewhere, the Anglican clergy remained firmly royalist. The popular lower house of the legislature and the minor and local governmental officers supported the cause of independence. The British army never captured or occupied any major Maryland city, so loyalism had little chance of spreading among the timid or undecided citizenry.
Moderate loyalists defended the king's powers with pen. Daniel Dulaney had produced a refutation of the patriot arguments of the Stamp Act Congress. James Chalmers offered Plain Truth in refutation to Tom Paine's Common Sense. Reverend Jonathan Boucher attacked those fellow clergymen, notably Episcopal, who sided with the patriots.
Maryland also produced some loyal men of action. Hugh Kelly formed the Maryland Royal Retaliators which, by 1781, had raised at least 1300 men. The patriots captured Kelly, effectively closing out this chapter in Maryland loyalism. The British army commissioned James Chalmers a lieutenant-colonel, sent him to Maryland and ordered him to raise a loyalist militia. He failed to raise his quota, bit appeared in British service as late as 1782, with the notation that his militia was "deficient in numbers." In September 1783 he fled to New York and from thence to St. John, New Brunswick.cdlxiii
Virginia, with Massachusetts, led the patriot cause. Its House of Burgesses had established a remarkable record of independent action. Nathaniel Bacon's Rebellion may have been the first incident of armed American resistance to British rule; and both colonial and state governments had issued proclamations bordering on claims of sovereignty long before 1776. The last royal governor Lord Dunmore initially resisted independence, was defeated at Great Bridge in 1775 and abandoned Virginia completely in July 1776. Virginia contributed heavily to the patriot cause in the early years while suffering few depravations except joint tory-Amerindian raids on the frontier.
Loyalism was as weak in Virginia as anywhere in the former colonies.cdlxiv Two classes of men led the loyalists in Virginia: the Anglican clergy and the wealthier seaboard merchants. Most Scots living in Virginia sided with the crown. Loyalism was found primarily in the Norfolk area, which the British raided but could not afford to occupy. Additional loyalists came from Williamsburg, Petersburg and Portsmouth. Among the loyalist units formed in Virginia was the Queen's Own Loyal Virginians, later incorporated into the Queen's Rangers.
In the spring and summer of 1780 a general Tory revolt took place in western Virginia and spread to Redstone and Fort Pitt. Important lead mines in Montgomery County, Virginia, were disrupted. By September, Colonel Brodhead feared an attack upon Fort Pitt by a combined force of Tories from the western counties of Pennsylvania and Virginia and British regulars and Amerindian warriors allegedly advancing from Fort Detroit. No such force materialized, despite continual rumors, and by the spring of 1781 many of the Tories had fled to British protection at Detroit.
The British authorities recruited John Connolly, a physician from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who lived near Pittsburgh. They charged Connolly with raising a mixed force of Tories and Amerindians to be called the Loyal Forresters. This unit was active as late as 1782 although Conolly was captured before he could lead any effective raids. Lord Dartmouth, upon the recommendation of Virginia's last royal Governor Dunmore, had commissioned Connolly as a lieutenant-colonel in the Queen's Royal Rangers on 5 November 1776. Dunmore immediately sent Connolly on a secret mission among the Amerindians on the western frontier, inciting them to rise against the settlers in violation of treaty provisions. Dunmore hoped that Connolly could incite a bloody war on the frontier, moving southeastward from Detroit to Pittsburgh toward Alexandria, where Dunmore would join with him. Connolly had implemented his orders by hatching a plot, Washington wrote, to join his militia, now being formed in Quebec, with Sir John Johnson's 3000 Amerindian warriors and Tory militiamen, and invade south along the Allegheny River. The object of Connolly's attention was to be Fort Pitt. Meanwhile, Connolly, Johnson and McKee had sent spies and agitators, which may have included Elliott and one of more of the Girtys, among the inhabitants of the western frontier of both Pennsylvania and Virginia to seek support, supplies and men. Brodhead and General William Irvine brought in artificers and engineers and volunteers from the patriot militia who strengthened Fort Pitt's defenses. The bitter winter, combined with reports reaching Connolly and McKee of the strength of refurbished fort, persuaded the Tories to wait. Connolly was captured in Maryland while trying to line up additional support among the Amerindians there. General George Washington wrote to Brodhead, informing him that a notorious Tory leader, John Connolly, whom Continental authorities exchanged on 25 October 1780, was now in western Canada, recruiting militia among the loyalist refugees. The attack never took place and by the early autumn of 1782 Sir Guy Carleton had issued orders forbidding any attacks on the frontier from originating in Canada. Peace talks had begun and Carleton had never been an enthusiastic supporter of the strategy of using the Amerindians to attack the patriots.cdlxv
Why Lord Cornwallis decided to abandon the most southerly colonies and march northward to Virginia is still the subject of much speculation. Howe still believed that occupation of South Carolina, Georgia and perhaps North Carolina would bring forth a torrent of loyalist support, and, more importantly, of sorely needed manpower. He thought this policy merited a fair trial. Retreat into Virginia made no political sense for it was the state least likely of all former colonies south of Massachusetts to support tory revolt. But Cornwallis probably made his decision for military, not political, reasons, wishing to use Virginia as a base for future military actions. He had also come to distrust the tories politically and as a potential source of military enlistments. He thought that British policy after defeat at Saratoga to reestablish political control through tory assistance was not feasible based on his own observations and experience in the south. For Cornwallis, reliance on loyalists to produce substantial armed forces ended at the Battle of King's Mountain. His march into Virginia merely emphasized his opinion.cdlxvi
Lord Cornwallis continued to believe that Virginia should be the focus of British efforts to recapture the colonies. He had rejected any thought of an attack on Philadelphia, or of establishing a loyalist safe haven along the Chesapeake Bay. For uncertain reasons, Cornwallis thought more loyalists could be found in Virginia. As it was, fate took a hand and following his entrapment and subsequent surrender at Yorktown, he was never able to prove his theory about liberation of Virginia.cdlxvii
Toryism in the Southern Colonies
After 1778 the British command decided to concentrate its major efforts to the American south, largely because of the resurgence of loyalism in those states. Southern campaigns had only half-heartedly been planned and executed before 1778.cdlxviii Anticipating substantial help on every front and in every way, the British commanders thought to ease the burden on the hard pressed army. Having failed to force Washington's army into a major engagement, Clinton, under orders from the home government, was to reduce operations in the north, except for naval raids on ports from which privateers sallied forth to raid British shipping, and concentrate on reducing patriot forces in the south. The home government still believed that, at least in the southern colonies, the vast majority of Americans were loyal to the crown. Intelligence reports alleged that a considerable and constantly increasing number, of southerners wanted to reunite with the mother nation. At the very least, the British and the loyalists both believed, the southern colonies could be separated from the other colonies and perhaps reconstituted as his majesty's loyal subjects under royal government.
The home government's plan, as devised on 8 March 1778, was relatively simple. The British army would first liberate Georgia, move north against South Carolina, secure Charleston, and give encouragement to the planters who they believed were the mainstay of loyalism in the south. The loyalists were to be an integral, indeed vital, part of the operation. Against that expectation, the home government sent a considerable supply of arms, accoutrements and supplies for the recruits. The army would enlist as many regular soldiers as possible, while others, those who did not wish to commit to service for a long period of time, would serve in loyal militias. Simultaneously, diversionary actions and naval operations in Maryland and Virginia would prevent supplies and reinforcements from moving southward. Such operations would destroy the tobacco trade, damaging the colonies' finances.cdlxix
A southern campaign was politically expedient. The government was under increasing pressure from both the king and the opposition in Commons. Since the war in the northern and middle colonies had been unsuccessful, and intelligence reported great chances of success in the south, the need for some victories moved the ministry to support a full southern campaign. If the tories were correct, the cost and demands for manpower would be minimal since the loyalists would swell the ranks and provide needed relief for the army. Former royalist governors, Lord William Campbell and Sir James Wright, and their lieutenant-governors, William Bull and John Graham, reassured the government of the existence of a vast reservoir of loyalist support in the south.cdlxx Change in British command was important. Clinton supported the idea of a campaign in the south whereas Howe had not. Additionally, Indian Affairs Superintendent John Stuart assured his superiors that they could count on support from the native Americans at the small cost of a few gifts and some guns.cdlxxi
When news reached London of France's formal declaration of support for the colonies on 13 March 1778, Germain revised the instructions sent to Clinton on 8 March, ordering Clinton on 21 March to send 5000 troops to capture French colony of St. Lucia, and to divert others to the protection of the British West Indies. Three thousand additional men were sent to the protection of Florida. Clinton and his remaining 8000 men were to evacuate Philadelphia, defend New York, Rhode Island, Nova Scotia and the remainder of Canada, especially the naval facility at Halifax. Germain instructed Clinton to consider plans for evacuating the thirteen colonies completely.cdlxxii A new pessimism pervaded the ministry.
The instructions had little impact on Clinton's actual conduct of the war. He did not send the expedition against St. Lucia, did not change his focus to the West Indies and did not send any fleet against the American ports. He did evacuate Philadelphia as ordered in the second dispatch, of 21 March, and did deploy Lord Cornwallis in a southern campaign as decided in the first dispatch, of 8 March. Failure to have mounted a southern campaign would suggest that the government was abandoning the loyalists, bringing ever increasing defections to the patriot cause among them. A large expedition against St. Lucia and to the West Indies would convince them that their suspicions were correct. For the next several years the main focus of the war was on Cornwallis' campaign, as initially decided. In December 1778 troops moved into Georgia.
As the strategy of 8 March envisioned, a number of significant tory leaders emerged to assist the British army. Lieutenant-colonel Henry Rugely gathered a company of tory militia for service in his native South Carolina, but, soon after enlisting men, was captured at his plantation along with his 103 militiamen.cdlxxiii Samuel Tynes of South Carolina led a substantial tory militia, but was captured by Francis Marion in 1780.cdlxxiv
Georgia was an excellent choice as the first base from which to launch an invasion of the southern colonies. The state harbored many tories, drawn especially from the free professions, planters, Anglican ministers and former royalist officials. Scots, although not numerous in Georgia, were largely loyal. In the ten years, 1766 to 1776, preceding the war for independence, the population of Georgia had doubled, from 10,000 to 20,000. Many of the newly arrived English settlers retained strong ties to the crown. A significant portion of the state's population lived in Savannah.
On 27 November 1778, Howe sent Lieutenant-colonel Archibald Campbell with 3000 British and Hessian regulars and four battalions of loyalists to accomplish the reduction of Georgia. On 23 December Campbell arrived at Tybee Island near Savannah and was unopposed. The patriot army crossed into South Carolina. Meanwhile, General Augustine Prevost, marching northward from Florida, captured the remaining patriot militia and army at Fort Sunbury on 10 January 1779. Having eliminated both regular army units and patriot militia as a factor in Georgia, Campbell was uncertain what to do next. The home office had wished to test its theory that the tories of the southern states were just waiting to show their loyalty, and would do so in considerable numbers. So Campbell decided to spread his command and seek out loyalist supporters.cdlxxv
Assisting Lieutenant-colonel Archibald Campbell's invading British army of 1778 was Captain Daniel Murray, commander of Wentworth's Volunteers. His unit had been drilled, perhaps formed, on Long Island. In the spring of 1780, when it was stationed at Jerusalem, New York, it had 41 militiamen and officers. In the late autumn it numbered forty and was at Lloyd's Neck. Its primary and most important service was during the early stages of Cornwallis' southern campaign, beginning in Savannah, Georgia. Assisting in the British fortifications at Savannah was Lieutenant-colonel James Moncrieffe ( -1791), an engineer by profession, and uncle of General Montgomery and brother-in-law of John Jay.cdlxxvi John Thomas of Georgia received a commission as a lieutenant-colonel and ordered to recruit support among the Cherokee nation.cdlxxvii
Campbell and 1000 men soon moved toward Augusta and captured the post without loss. The government's best hopes were fulfilled when 1400 men took the oath of allegiance to the king and the recruiting officers signed enough men to fill twenty companies of loyalist militia. Heartily encouraged, Campbell made additional sorties into the back country of Georgia, but these proved to be as fruitless as the first was productive. The patriot militia retaliated, some 4000 strong, with sorties into the back country. Campbell withdrew, not wanting to be caught up in guerilla warfare against the backwoodsmen on their home turf. Without the protection of the British army, and left to their own devices, Campbell's tory militias evaporated to suffer their fate at the hands of the patriots. Since most tories were men of property, the patriots knew how best to pressure them. Patriot militias burned many of their homes and fields.cdlxxviii
Since Campbell and his deputy Lieutenant-colonel John Hamilton were themselves Highlanders they were able to recruit among the Scots in South Carolina. A certain Colonel Boyd recruited about 700 loyalist militia and marched south to join Campbell. After a minor and indecisive skirmish, Colonel Andrew Pickens surprised the tories at Kettle Creek, killed Boyd and about forty of his men, wounded and captured another 150, and scattered the remainder. Campbell sent out a relief column which was successful only in rescuing about 300 tories. Pickens took his prisoners back to South Carolina where five leaders were hanged as traitors, another 65 condemned but pardoned, and others forced to take an oath of loyalty to the republic.cdlxxix
Native to Georgia was James Robertson (1751-1818), Attorney-general in the last royal cabinet and member of the Council and the Commission of Claims. He joined the tory militia as an officer immediately after the war began.cdlxxx Now his time had come with the arrival of Campbell's army. Robertson's men took full revenge on the patriots.
Leaving Campbell in command at Savannah, Prevost moved northward into South Carolina. Meanwhile, Major-general Benjamin Lincoln rallied the patriot army and moved to Purysburg, about fifteen miles from Savannah. The swamps surrounding Lincoln's army inhibited Prevost's movements, and not wanting to become entrapped in such hostile territory, Prevost sent Major Gardiner to Port Royal Island. Lincoln sent General William Moultrie who led the Georgia militia against Gardiner who withdrew and returned to Savannah.
Prevost made another unsuccessful foray into South Carolina, which did have the effect of causing panic in Charleston and of drawing Lincoln's troops out of Georgia to the defense of Charleston. Still, the British controlled only the area immediately surrounding Savannah and the tories had been disheartened. When a party of the king's officials arrived from London to reestablish royal rule they found little support. As one authority noted, Britain's inability to restore civil government completely in captured colonies remained both a continual embarrassment and a patent weakness of her military policy with the Loyalists."cdlxxxi
Other tory units served in Georgia. As we have seen, Montefort Browne, former lieutenant-governor of West Florida, had been commissioned a brigadier-general in July 1776 with instructions to raise the Prince of Wales American Volunteers, which served primarily in New England. After Prevost moved against Georgia, the unit was sent to occupy Savannah.cdlxxxii Another important tory, Captain Howell of Georgia was killed and his entire unit destroyed in 1781 by Georgia militia.cdlxxxiii
Prevost wanted to expand his operations, but had been unsuccessful largely because he lacked a sufficiently large force to undertake the occupation of Georgia and South Carolina, and his tory allies were insufficiently powerful to occupy liberated territory on their own. Sir Henry Clinton understood the situation, and wished to support Prevost, especially after he received word of the ease with which Savannah had been captured and heard of initial enlistments in tory militia. But he could send no more troops south until his own command was reenforced. Either General James Grant's force would have to be withdrawn from the West Indies or the home government would have to send more troops from Europe if Clinton was to support his southern army. Were such troops to arrive, he planned to land them at Port Royal and march on to liberate Charleston.
Josiah Phillips of Princess Anne County, Virginia, received a commission from the last royal governor, the Earl of Dunmore, to form a loyalist militia company. He ignored the rules of war and formed a vigilante band which burned, looted, raped and burned homes and committed other crimes. The Virginia House of Burgesses passed an act specifically aimed at inducing Phillips to surrender or otherwise reducing his activity. The state's Attorney-general asked for and received an indictment in absentia on the charge of wanton murder. Finally, in late 1778 the Whig militia captured Phillips and he was hanged.cdlxxxiv
During the spring of 1779, Commodore Sir George Collier and Major-general Edward Mathew, following explicit orders of the home government to Sir Henry Clinton, raided into Virginia, to disrupt the state's economy, destroy privateers and their docks, capture and destroy food and military supplies and prevent aid from being sent to South Carolina and Georgia. When a large number of loyalists appeared, Collier and Mathew were pleasantly surprised, but concerned. They had been ordered to raid, not occupy, parts of Virginia's seacoast. They were not prepared to rescue or stand and defend these tories. They recommended creating one post, perhaps Portsmouth, to which tories could flee for protection. Perhaps such a post would encourage so many to defect that the post could be maintained by tory militia. No matter how much recruitment of Virginia's loyalists might be desirable, Clinton had no troops to spare to create the haven.
North Carolina was a hotbed of tory activity.cdlxxxv The colony may have had more tories in proportion to its population than any other state,cdlxxxvi although at least one writer argued that claims of loyalism were exaggerated.cdlxxxvii Shopkeepers, planters, wealthier farmers, tradesmen and free professionals constituted the bulk of the tories here as elsewhere. Perhaps half or more of the Scots in the state had loyalist leanings. No city of significant size yet had developed in North Carolina, although tories appeared in some towns such as Wilmington as Cornwallis crossed the state in his flight northward into Virginia. After the Battle of Moore's Creek, loyalism all but disappeared. Still, there were periodic cruel raids organized by Colonels Edmund Fanning and John Hamilton, giving rise to the belief that, at least on occasion, a state of civil war existed in North Carolina.cdlxxxviii
As early as 1776 a large number of tory militiamen was captured at the Battle of Cross Creek and taken to Philadelphia via Halifax, North Carolina. Among the most successful tories in North Carolina was Lieutenant-colonel John Moore of Tryon County, who joined the British cause in 1779. His militia's distinctive uniforms were decorated with green pine twigs. Moore enlisted 200 tory militiamen, but his force was defeated at Ransour's Mills by patriot militia. He led the thirty survivors to the British lines at Camden, South Carolina, where they were absorbed into the army.cdlxxxix
Sabine wrote that Lieutenant-colonel James Hamilton ( -1817) was the "very crest of the Tory organization in the South" and that "the British nation owed more to Col. Hamilton of the North Carolina Loyal Militia than to any other individual Loyalist in British service." As commander at St. Augustine, Florida, he was "engaged in nearly every action in the three southern colonies."cdxc Another northern loyalist unit that moved south was commanded by Colonel Edmund Fanning. The King's American Regiment was recruited, trained and initially served at Conanicut Island, Rhode Island. Fanning, a native of Staten Island and a Yale graduate, had raised £3000 from loyalist New York merchants and businessmen to support his militia. By November 1777 Fanning had recruited 481 militiamen. This unit accompanied General Tryon's raids on Fairfield and Norwalk and plundered the town of New Haven. Patriots counter-attacked and inflicted over a hundred casualties on the Tories. As they retreated to Fairfield patriot opposition increased and Tryon ordered that the town be burned in retaliation. This unit was then transferred to Savannah, Georgia, where its eight infantry companies were active, largely as guerrillas and raiders, as late as June 1782.cdxci To most Carolinians, Hamilton and Fanning were the epitome of a heartless raider and marauder who terrorized the civilian population.
John Pile was another colonel who was successful in recruiting loyalist militia in North Carolina.cdxcii Royal Governor Martin authorized Donald McDonald to raise a body of tory militia. McDonald was probably the most successful of all tory militia commanders in the Carolinas and was rewarded for his efforts by being promoted to captain-general. North Carolina militia under General Moore defeated McDonald's force, demoralizing tory recruitment efforts in the Carolinas. Moore sent McDonald to Philadelphia, where he was exchanged and left for England where he lived after the war.cdxciii Lieutenant-colonel Kay had attracted a substantial number of loyalist militiamen before the Battle of King's Mountain. He retreated following the battle, joining the British army at Hillsborough.cdxciv Governor Martin also commissioned James Glyn to enlist tory militia in the Carolinas.cdxcv
South Carolina, too, had its staunch tories, again with heaviest support from among the merchants, free professionals and high ranking members and clergy of the Church of England and wealthy planters.cdxcvi Of the southern colonies only Georgia had as high a proportion of tories as South Carolina. Charleston was the southern city which offered the greatest opportunity for royalist occupation and recruitment of men. When the British army left Charleston in 1782 more than 4000 loyalists joined them, although not all were natives of South Carolina.cdxcvii Patriots had much cause for worry with the vast numbers of slaves, the long stretch of unprotected seacoast and the constant threat of Cherokees and other Amerindians on the frontier.cdxcviii Certainly the recruitment of Amerindians to massacre frontier families alienated many tories.
The first attempt to occupy Charleston came in June 1776, although the patriots were successful in fending off the invasion. At the same time, frontier militia defeated the Cherokees who had been recruited by tories and British agents. The British continued to seduce the native aborigine with presents and arms throughout the war, while the army made no further attempt at invasion until Clinton captured Charleston in May 1780. The British occupied Charleston from May 1781 until December 1782.
Colonel McNeil commanded a large contingent of loyal Carolina militia along with David Fanning. In 1781 at Hillsborough, North Carolina, Fanning and McNeil surprised a poorly organized band of state militia, handily defeating them. They took some 200 prisoners and threatened to kill them unless Governor Burke released 60 tory prisoners from jail. As the tory militia retreated toward Wilmington, other patriot militia ambushed the tories and killed McNeil.cdxcix
Patrick Ferguson was one of the most important leaders of tory militia. After General Howe dissolved his first rifle corps, Ferguson became a provisional lieutenant-colonel and organized in New York and New Jersey the American Volunteers. This group of loyalists were known also as Ferguson's Sharpshooters. The strength of this body was approximately 7,600 men and it was sent with Clinton to Charleston. After the defeat of the tories at King's Mountain, nine of Ferguson's men were executedd
Colonel Daniel McGrath, a native of South Carolina, originally an ardent patriot, deserted to the loyalists, swearing vengeance for some unknown presumed injustice done him by patriots. Working out of Florida, he was a marauder in Georgia and South Carolina, raiding mostly isolated homesteads. He amassed a huge fortune from his raids, but was captured, imprisoned, but pardoned after his health failed. He returned to South Carolina, living out his final years in poor health and with the scorn of his neighbors.di
By mid 1780 Cornwallis was having serious doubts about the efficacy of Howe's plan to recruit and enlist loyalists in the British army. Howe's plan called for establishing save havens for loyalists at a number of strategic posts in Georgia and the Carolinas, including Savannah, Augusta, Charleston, Ninety-Six, Georgetown and Camden. Howe ordered Cornwallis to select the sites and maintain a presence with the British army. He was convinced that many loyalists would enter the secured areas and join the British army or loyal militia. Thus, Britain, with loyalist help, could maintain order in the southern colonies with a minimum armed force. Some militiamen would be deployed to occupy the liberated areas while others would assist the army in the war effort. The remainder of his forces could then be deployed elsewhere to accomplish the same mission.
But Cornwallis had seen the failure of the grand scheme. By the end of July the loyalists in the Ninety-Six District had recruited some 1500 men to fight with the army and others to act as reserves and occupation troops. Additional men were recruited at Little Peedee and in the Orangeburg District. Charleston supplied 400 occupation militia, freeing British regulars for other duties. But in other districts, such as Camden, Cheraw and Georgetown the patriot militia was successful in suppressing loyalist enlistments. Taken as a whole, the policy was a failure. Howe had expected to enlist two full battalions and failed. Cornwallis was beginning to realize that Howe's estimates of tory support were grossly exaggerated. Moreover, he considered most loyalists to be politically unreliable. They made poor soldiers and new orders coddled them, preventing their full regulation and training. Adding to his other problems was the scarcity of arms and horses. Without guns that were to have been sent from England he could not equip his loyalist militiamen. Mounted troops were a necessity to combat the very mobile patriot guerrillas, but the Americans had managed to prevent the purchase of these animals.dii
It is generally agreed that looting, rapine and pillaging was nowhere as widespread as in the Carolinas. Banastre Tarleton's American Legion shouldered much of the responsibility, but Thomas Browne's and other corps also bore much responsibility. Many Americans, especially those in the backwoods of the Carolinas, who had remained unscathed by the war, excepting only a few incursions by Amerindians, suddenly had to choose sides. The dastardly deeds of loyalist raiders, and even of the army, against civilians convinced many to adopt the patriot cause.diii
Disheartening news arrived at Cornwallis' headquarters. Patriot militia had defeated the loyalists at Ramsaur's Mill on 20 June. The principal historian of the war in South Carolina wrote, "The effect of this affair was completely to crush out the Tory element in that portion of the state and they never attempted to organize again during the war."div Having won one comparatively easy victory, the patriots pushed forward, and in a dozen small skirmishes in July and August, effectively removed all vestiges of British control from the back country.dv Initially, Cornwallis did not perceive the problem the loss at Ramsaur's Mill presented. By 2 July he heard from Lord Rawdon, commanding at Camden, that loss of all outlying posts was imminent. Next he learned that Morgan Bryan's loyalist militia of 800 men had fled to the protection of the British army in South Carolina. Then Colonel Nisbit Balfour reported that he must either reinforce the loyalist militia in North Carolina, allow them flee or lose them. So Cornwallis decided to take bold action by moving in force to Camden and reinforcing Rawdon. Since his main supply depot was at Camden, Cornwallis could use that base to arm the loyalists and move against the rebels.