The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

Battle of Waxhaws
Battle of Waxhaws

On May 7, 1780 at Lenud's Ferry, Colonel Abraham Buford and 350 Virginia Continentals had watched helplessly from the far bank of the Santee River when Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton had dispersed a force of Continentals including Lt. Colonel William Washington. They had been on their way to Charleston as reinforcements.

On May 12, however, the Siege of Charleston ended when Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered to Lt. General Henry Clinton. When word of the surrender reached Colonel Buford, he held his position and awaited new orders. General Isaac Huger, who had been surprised by Lt. Colonel Tarleton at the Battle of Monck's Corner on April 14, ordered Buford to retreat to Hillsborough, North Carolina.

On May 18, 1780, Lt. General Charles Cornwallis commanding 2,500 men marched out of Charleston with orders from General Clinton to subdue the backcountry and establish outposts. He made his way to Lenud's Ferry and crossed the Santee River and made for Camden. Along the way, Cornwallis learned that South Carolina Governor John Rutledge had used the same route nder the escort of Colonel Buford. Rutledge had managed to flee Charleston during the early stages of the siege.

However, Colonel Buford was ten days ahead, so General Cornwallis' only chance was to send Lt. Colonel Tarleton after Buford. On May 27, Tarleton set out from Nelson's Ferry with 270 men. His command force included forty British regulars of the 17th Dragoons, 130 of his British Legion cavalry , 100 of his British Legion infantry, mounted on this occasion, and one three-pound artillery piece.

Since Colonel Buford had such a large lead on them, General Cornwallis had given Lt. Colonel Tarleton discretion to continue the pursuit, turn back or attack Buford if he caught up with him. Tarleton was at Camden the next day. At 2:00 A.M. on May 29, he set out again and reached Rugeley's Mill by mid-morning. There, he learned that Governor Rutledge had been ther the night before and Colonel Buford was now only 20 miles ahead.

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