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Cornwallis Plan for the Militia

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  • Cornwallis Plan for the Militia

    In early June 1780, Cornwallis moved his army into the South Carolina backcountry to occupy the state and restore order to the colony. Part of his work was the formation of local miltia to supplement his force and assist in local regulation. Additionally, he had a problem with paroles. The commissioners, Clinton and Arbuthnot, put forth proclamations in late May with a liberal grant of clemency for most of the rebel population. In order to help him deal with the situation, Cornwallis devised the following:

    "Part of a General Plan for regulating the Province and forming a Militia

    Those who have been in publick stations such as governour, Lt Governour, Members of the Council, Senate or Assembly, acting magistrates, field officers of militia, and some individuals who are particularly obnoxious to friends of Government, are to be sent prisoners on parole to James, John's, Edisto, St Helena or Port Royal Islands. Those that have been violent persecutors will be sent to prison and the remainder of the disaffected will be disarmed and permitted to remain at their own homes. The loyal subjects will be formed into militia by districts according to the present dividsion of the province. This militia is to be divided into two classes. The first to consist of men:

    Above 40 years of age

    Having four children or upwards

    Having one hundred Negroes or upwards

    Who have served three years or upwards in any regular or Provincial corps

    who have any bodily infirmity that renders them unfit to bear fatigue.

    This class will remain at home to preserve order and will not be called out of their respective districts except in case of an insurrection or invasion of the province.

    The second class to consist of the remainder of the men above eighteen years of age, and is to be liable to be called to serve six of each twelve months- during that period with pay and provisions as Provincial troops - in the provinces of Georgia, South and North Carolina when the exigencies of the publick service make it necessary.

    The prisoners, whether on parole or in confinement, and the disaffected who are not admitted into the militia are to furnish contributions from their properties for the publick service in provisions, horses, waggons etc in lieu of their personal services, and their proportions will be regulated by the militia officers of the district to which they belong.

    It is believed that there is a sufficient quantity of arms and ammunition in the country for the present purposes of the militia that will be formed, but if they should prove deficient in any district, a supply will be sent as soon as possible from Charlestown."

    So the inhabitants of South Carolina had limited options. If they had been any kind of leadership or officer or official in state or local government, they went to the islands. If they were rebels, their property was subject to confiscation to support the British Army. If they were loyal, they had to serve in the militia. For most men under 40, this meant impressment into service with the army. For older and rich men, this meant home guard duty.
    Last edited by Elijah; 16 Sep 12, 08:05.

  • #2
    Elijah - Where's you find this quote? You have any idea how many men this generated?
    Hugh T. Harrington
    author of:
    The Boy Soldier: Edwin Jemison and the Story Behind the Most Remarkable Portrait of the Civil War
    Civil War Milledgeville
    Remembering Milledgeville


    • #3
      good morning Hugh, hope all is well this AM. This plan by Lord Cornwallis is dated June 4, 1780 and was enclosed with a letter to General Patterson in Charles Town on June 10. At this point in time, the British are occupying SC and GA with three main columns. Cornwallis led his force (which included most of the British regulars along with his best Provincial fighters (NY Vols & Vol of Ireland). They moved to Camden and then branched regiments to Cheraw, Rocky Mount, and the Waxhaws. The British Legion were split into small groups and used for patrols and messaging. Balfour led the second column into the backcountry to Orangeburgh, Congaree, and Ninety-Six. They included the Prince of Wales regiment, American Volunteers (Ferguson), a few regulars, and a new South Carolina Provincial regiment from Charlestown area led by Alexander Innes. The third column consisted of Browne's Florida Rangers (now the King's Rangers) and a battalion of Delancey's Regiment under Cruegar.

      From his letters of early June, Cornwallis appears in poor humour as his bad relationship with Clinton showed in a number of ways. On May 30, Ferguson announced his appointment as Inspector of Militia along with a Proclamation from Clinton dated May 22, 1780 to the people of South Carolina. Neither was previously known to Cornwallis. He reacted quickly on receiving the letters (June 2) and instructed Ferguson to cease his activities until receiving further instructions from Cornwallis.

      The Proclamation was problematic in that Clinton appeared to give protection and immunity to all who gave up arms at that point. Cornwallis was clearly agitated at not knowing about the generous terms of the Proclamation in advance. However, he took quick note that Clinton had left Ferguson's instructions subject to Cornwallis approval and made a few changes to the plan for militia.

      Specifically, there would be 6 month terms for the first class instead of three. There would be no rebel militia officers in service. The first class of miltia would be required service outside their home state but within the southern theater. In the begining, Ferguson could only sign people up to 'Associations' and the formal militia would be formed later from that group. No rebels allowed in the Association. they would elect their own officers but none above Captain allowed. The Associators would provide names of men they felt capable of field commands and Cornwallis would take the matter up for advisement in those cases.

      Cornwallis irritation did not stop there. A second Proclamation from Clinton and Arbuthnot appeared after June 1. Again taking Cornwallis by surprise. this time, after studying the language, he cooled down and decided they had not actually given parole to those Cornwallis wanted maintained as prisoners.

      As an almost last slap, Cornwallis had been told nothing of Browne and Crugar moving from Savannah to Augusta in GA. Once again this was not really a problem and Cornwallis quickly made use of them as the permanent garrisons for Augusta and Ninety-Six. However, his embarrasment must have felt complete. EXCEPT

      One more surprise. It seems Richard Pearis (a particularly unsavory Loyalist from SC) had been sent ahead into the backcountry with secret authority from Clinton and Arbuthnot to raise the people for the Crown. This would prove very troublesome as Pearis and his men took the opportunity to set the stage by plundering all the rebel households they could find before Balfour's column actually moved into the Ninety-Six and Long Cane districts.

      All Info from The Cornwallis Papers - early June 1780.


      • #4
        Excellent. Thank you!
        Hugh T. Harrington
        author of:
        The Boy Soldier: Edwin Jemison and the Story Behind the Most Remarkable Portrait of the Civil War
        Civil War Milledgeville
        Remembering Milledgeville


        • #5
          Orangeburgh Militia

          The second part of your question is more elusive. How many men were involved in the Tory militia regulation of South Carolina? A quick look at Dornfest's book along with The Loyalist Corps from Allen and Braisted leaves only questions behind. Clearly the records do not provide clarity as to the numbers. Dornfest lists several companies and a few officers but has very incomplete muster totals. Pitiful numbers if I do say so. Braisted and Allen provided a couple of paragraphs on the South Carolina Tory militia and mentioned that up to 5,000 men participated. Not sure where that number comes from, maybe from a mention in the Cornwallis Papers that General Andrew Williamson commanded something close to that prior to 1780. Anyway, not sure how much research they did on the South Carolina militia, the book indicates the men 'joined' and doesn't really mention service was compulsory. They also have the command structure a bit off.

          From what I see,

          On June 12, 1780 Major Patrick Ferguson met with the inhabitants of Georgetown. He had a very successful day signing up 294 men and 2 captains named John Sally and Samuel Rowe. Upon getting his reports from Balfour and Ferguson, Cornwallis seemed very well pleased. The only negative from that association was the lack of Field Officers. Cornwallis was ready to give a commission but Balfour indicated discomfort with the local leadership, primarily Col Beard and Col Goodwyn who had been rebels. It might be noteworthy here that Goodwyn would later be a turncoat and get deserted by his men. (not the Orangeburgh militia who would remain among the most successful Tory militias).

          I'll get a few more references going and see if we can get an estimate of numbers.
          Last edited by Elijah; 17 Sep 12, 20:31.


          • #6
            Tyger & Ennoree Militia

            An added bit from Dornfest (Military Loyalists of the American Revolution) on Orangeburgh. He gives 32 officers and 494 rank and file for the period June 14, 1780 to December 13, 1780.

            Late in the afternoon of June 15th, Matthew Floyd of the Upper Broad region between the Tyger and Enoree rivers rode to Rocky Mount with a group of 30 loyalists seeking "to serve the king." Turnbull met with the men and agreed to appoint Floyd as Colonel and given command of the district. The meeting went very well until an express rider showed up with word that Floyd's home settlement was being raided by rebels from Hill's Iron Works who were plundering the area. This event triggered Turnbull to send Captain Huck to Hill's Iron Works to 'give these fellows a check'. It would be among the very first battles of the 1st partisan campaign of 1780.

            Dornfest says that Floyd's men deserted and joined Sumter after the battle of Rocky Mount in July. So this unit lasted about a month.


            • #7
              Waxhaws Disctrict

              Lord Rawdon and the Volunteers of Ireland arrived in the Waxhaws on June 11, 1780. He called the citizens together (via a committee) and "strongly recommended to them to take up arms for their own defence, but this they declined, wishing rather to be considered as prisoners." The people tried to keep their arms in case the rebels from NC came down. This convinced Rawdon they might follow the example of Rugeley from the Camden District if he would come and speak with them. However, I do not believe such a visit happened.

              To my knowledge, the people of the Waxhaws never formed a Tory militia. I do not see mention of one in Dornfest's book either.

              While at the Waxhaws (right across from Charlotte, NC) Rawdon sent a threatening letter to the inhabitants of Charlotte. the counties directly across (Meclenberg, Tyron, and Anson) were heavily whig and already gaining a reputation for making trouble.


              • #8
                Carolina Map from 1780

                Here is a link for an expandable map of North and South Carolina during the revolution. Many of the districts and places mentioned in this thread are easily found.



                • #9
                  Cheraw District

                  Once at Camden, General Cornwallis sent three different groups out into the back country. Turnbull to Rocky Mount, Rawdon to the Waxhaws, and Major McArthur took his battalion of the 71st (Highlanders) to Cheraw Hill near the border with North Carolina. They arrived on the 9th.

                  McArthur met with the local militia under General Alexander McIntosh who "immediately submitted and gave their paroles." One Colonel Hicks and a few men did not come in yet but "his wife was with me this day and promised to use her endeavors for that purpose. I am busy in taking paroles and forming a militia. The country people in general seem desirous to return to their allegiance and form a militia as the only means to prevent plunder from a banditti that are robbing indiscriminately." McArthur did not have access to Cornwallis instructions on forming militia and simply assumed "it will be governed by the militia laws in force during His Majesties Government before the rebellion broke out." However he had a problem in that, "the only obstacle is the want of people proper for officers from the rebellion's having been so universal, for the lower class are all desirous of being inrolled." These very optimistic remarks were made on the 14th.

                  On June 15 he met with some 150 inhabitants of the area and "administered the oath of allegiance" to them. He appointed Dr. Mills as Colonel of Militia and Robert Gray as Lt. Colonel. McArthur relied upon Mills to appoint lower officers and gave him some blank warrants.

                  In spite of McArthur's belief the 'lower class are all desirous' of being in the Tory militia, as soon as he moved back to Camden on July 24, the men mutinied and took Dr. Mills and the other officers captive delivering them to captivity in North Carolina. To my knowledge, no other militia were successfully raised in the Cheraw District although the Lt Col Robert Gray continued on with the British acting as their militia paymaster through 1782.

                  The regiment lasted about 5 weeks.


                  • #10

                    I have had great interest in the affairs of the South Carolina Royalist Reg. as I may have had two relatives that enrolled in the said unit while in exile in Florida from their South Carolina homes. This being a tory unit made up of southern colonials who fled the lower colonies to Florida upon the rebellion against the King. I notice you focus upon enrollment in South Carolina but ignore or unaware of the more numerous enrollment in Florida of same people of same area.

                    I appears my two relatives deserted after about one year service. They were apparently there at the bloody repulse of rebels at what was it Savannah where the rebels foolishly assaulted the earthworks? Negro runaway slaves were armed at this battle and seemed to have served well for the British.

                    I have been trying to solve the great mystery of how my relatives got to British Natchez/Mississippi area after the war ended. If they were tories then it may explain why the hostile Indians allowed this passage from South Carolina. It would also explain my family legend of having an Indian Grandmother in our history at this time.

                    It seems some tories fled through Indian territories (Creeks/Choctaw) toward Louisiana and Florida.


                    • #11
                      Bo, the reason I am focused on SC in this thread is that I am looking specifically at militia raised during the occupation of 1780. The South Carolina Royalists were a Provincial regiment raised prior. The Florida Rangers under Thomas Brown also organized in East Florida from Tories run out of SC in 75, 76, & 77. The Florida Regiment came north with Prevost? to join Archibald Cambell's expedition in late 78. Prior to that, many of them helped with raiding cattle in southern GA and defeating the ill fated invasions of Florida by the southern colonies.

                      Not sure cause I am out of town and away from my books but, weren't the South Carolina Royalists commanded by Innes and part of Balfour's movement into the SC backcountry in June of 1780? They would have been witness to much of the militia organizing activities but, at that moment, Cornwallis was not allowing the Provincial regiments to participate in the recruiting activities.

                      Most of the Tories were evacuated to the Carib or Gulf Coast via ship from the Evacuation of East Florida after the war. But there would also be routes of travel through Indian country which was not necessarily hostile at that time. Particularly if one had been a Loyalist during the war. However, other than the Cherokee (chicamaugans) under Dragging Canoe (which did include a few Creeks) the Southern tribes were not necessarily hostile to whites traveling to west Florida or to New Orleans.

                      I also have a loyalist ancestor who deserted in late 1782 and Settled in the new lands opening in GA. He married Susannah but I don't know her maiden name. Just O Susannah I guess.


                      • #12

                        Ok I understand now your focus. Your understanding and presentation of said history seems solid to me. I think the SC Royalists Regt. were under the command of Innes. I have studied a work on pay roll listings and enrollment listings of those units in discussion. It seems my relatives, like most, were split on their loyalties and served both sides of the struggle. After their deserting the regular British army command they appear to have enter the irregular warfare stealing cattle and slaves for resale in Florida. One name of an apparent relative appeared on Spain records in Florida as a 16 year old captured with men from Browns Raiders who were, after the formal fighting stop, still engaged in their skills of raiders. They were shipped to Havana for trial and were exiled to Mississippi Territory/New Orleans. Some escaped to same territory with stolen slaves and cattle to start a slave plantation. Some fighting men had a hard time to quit their bad habits when formal war stops. You know of any sources I could check on any of this?


                        • #13
                          Bo, I think you might find the information in these books somewhat helpful. Not sure if they will be directly on point for you.

                          Southern Indians in the American Revolution by James H. O'Donnell, III


                          Florida in the American Revolution by James L. Wright


                          The McGillivray and McIntosh Traders on the Old Southwest Frontier 1716 - 1815 by Amors J. Wright, Jr.


                          Guardians of the Valley: Chickasaws in Colonial Carolina by Ed Cashin


                          McGillivray of the Creeks by John Walton Caughey


                          The History of Georgia, by Hugh McCall


                          King's Ranger by Ed Cashin


                          Hope this is of interest.


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