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1780.] DESTITUTION OF THE ARMY. 85
to prevail to a distressing degree, and on the 6th of September, he complains that the army has for two or three days been entirely destitute of meat. “Such injury to the discipline of the army,” adds he, “and such distress to the inhabitants, result from these frequent events, that my feelings are hurt beyond description at the cries of the one and at seeing the other.” The anxiety of Washington at this moment of embarrassment was heightened by the receipt of disastrous intelligence from the South; the purport of which we shall succinctly relate in another chapter.
C H A P T E R W III.
NORTH CAROLINA-DIFFICULTIES OF ITS INW ASION.—CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE AND COUNTRY-sum TER, HIs OHARACTER AND STORY-ROCKY MOUNT—HANGING ROCK–SLOW ADVANCE OF DE KALB-GATES TAKE8 COMMAND–DESOLATE MAROH–BATTLE OF CAMDEN-FLIGHT OF GATES —SUMTER SURPRISED BY TARLETON AT THE WAXHAWS-WASHINGTON'S OPINION OF MILITIA—HIS LETTER To GATEs.
LORD CORNWALLIS, when left in military command at the South by Sir Henry Clinton, was charged, it will be recollected, with the Invasion of North Carolina. It was an enterprise in which much difficulty was to be apprehended, both from the character of the people and the country. The original settlers were from various parts, most of them men who had experienced political or religious oppression, and had brought with them a quick sensibility to wrong, a stern appreciation of their rights, and an indomitable spirit of freedom and independence. In the heart of the State was a hardy Presbyterian stock, the Scotch Irish, as they were called, having emigrated from Scotland to Ireland, and thence to America; and who were said to possess the impulsiveness of the Irishman, with the dogged resolution of the Covenanter. The early history of the colony abounds with in
1780.] SPIRIT OF NORTH CAROLINA. 87
stances of this spirit among its people. “They always behaved insolently to their governors,” complains Governor Barrington in 1731; “some they have driven out of the country—at other times they set up a government of their own choice, supported by men under arms.” It was in fact the spirit of popular liberty and self-government which stirred within them, and gave birth to the glorious axiom, “the rights of the many against the exactions of the few.” So ripe was this spirit at an early day, that when the boundary line was run, in 1727, between North Carolina and Virginia, the borderers were eager to be included within the former province, “as there they payed no tribute to God or Caesar.” It was this spirit which gave rise to the confederacy, called the Regulation, formed to withstand the abuses of power; and the first blood shed in our country, in resistance to arbitrary taxation, was at Alamance in this province, in a conflict between the regulators and Governor Tryon. Above all, it should never be forgotten, that at Mecklenburg, in the heart of North Carolina, was fulminated the first declaration of independence of the British crown, upwards of a year before a like declaration by Congress. A population so characterized presented formidable difficulties to the invader. The physical difficulties arising from the nature of the country consisted in its mountain fastnesses in the north-western part, its vast forests, its sterile tracts, its long rivers, destitute of bridges, and which, though fordable in fair weather, were liable to be swollen by sudden storms and freshes, and rendered deep, turbulent and impassable. These rivers, in fact, which rushed down from the mountain, but wound sluggishly through the plains, were the military strength of the country, as we shall have frequent occasion to show in the course of our narrative. Lord Cornwallis forbore to attempt the invasion of North Carolina until the summer heats should be over and the harvests gathered in. In the mean time he disposed of his troops in cantonments, to cover the frontiers of South Carolina and Georgia and maintain their internal quiet. The command of the frontiers was given by him to Lord Rawdon, who made Camden his principal post. This town, the capital of Kershaw District, a fertile, fruitful country, was situated on the east bank of the Wateree River, on the road leading to North Carolina. It was to be the grand military depot for the projected campaign. Having made these dispositions, Lord Cornwallis set up his head-quarters at Charleston, where he occupied himself in regulating the civil and commercial affairs of the province, in organizing the militia of the lower districts, and in forwarding provisions and munitions of war to Camden. The proclamation of Sir Henry Clinton putting an end to all neutrality, and the rigorous penalties and persecutions with which all infractions of its terms were punished, had for a time quelled the spirit of the country. By degrees, however, the dread of British power gave way to impatience of British exactions. Symptoms of revolt manifested themselves in various parts. They were encouraged by intelligence that De Kalb, sent by Washington, was advancing through
1780.] THOMAS SUMTER. 89
North Carolina at the head of two thousand men, and that the militia of that State and of Virginia were joining his standard. This was soon followed by tidings that Gates, the conqueror of Burgoyne, was on his way to take command of the Southern forces. The prospect of such aid from the North reanimated the Southern patriots. One of the most eminent of these was Thomas Sumter, whom the Carolinians had surnamed the Game Cock. He was between forty and fifty years of age, brave, hardy, vigorous, resolute. He had served against the Indians in his boyhood during the old French war, and had been present at the defeat of Braddock. In the present war he had held the rank of lieutenant-colonel of riflemen in the Continental line. After the fall of Charleston, when patriots took refuge in contiguous States, or in the natural fastnesses of the country, he had retired with his family into one of the latter. The lower part of South Carolina for upwards of a hundred miles back from the sea is a level country, abounding with swamps, locked up in the windings of the rivers which flow down from the Appalachian Mountains. Some of these swamps are mere canebrakes, of little use until subdued by cultivation, when they yield abundant crops of rice. Others are covered with forests of cypress, cedar and laurel, green all the year and odoriferous, but tangled with vines and almost impenetrable. In their bosoms, however, are fine saVannahs; natural lawns, open to cultivation and yield. ing abundant pasturage. It requires local knowledge, however, to penetrate these wildernesses, and hence they formed strongholds to the people of the country.