Aftermath: The Controversy
The details of what happened following the battle are still under controversy. Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton claimed that his horse was shot out from under him and he was pinned. His men, thinking that their commander had been shot and killed under a flag of truce, angrily attacked again. They slashed at anyone and everyone, including men who were kneeling with their hands up in surrender.
Patriots claimed that Lt. Colonel Tarleton himself ordered the renewed attack because he didn't want to bother with taking prisoners. Based on his aggressive style and zeal for brutal charges in other engagements, the Patriot claims are usually given more credence. Although the first complete statement claiming a massacre did not appear until 1821 in a letter from Dr. Robert Brownfield to William Dobein James.
Either way, the slaughter lasted fifteen minutes. The result was 113 Continentals killed and 203 captured with 150 of those wounded. Colonel Buford himself managed to escape. There were only five killed and twelve wounded on the British side. The controversy continues to this day, but it took only days for Lt. Colonel Tarleton to be branded with the reputation for which he is remembered even now.
Lt. Colonel Tarleton became known as 'Bloody Ban' or 'Ban the Butcher.' For the remainder of the war in the South, 'Tarleton's Quarter' meant no quarter and Buford's Massacre became a rallying cry for Patriots. It was on the lips of the Over Mountain Men at the Battle of King's Mountain in October 1780 during their defeat of Major Patrick Ferguson. There was no indication that Tarleton minded the nickname. Meanwhile, Lt. General Charles Cornwallis occasionally reminded Tarleton to look after the behavior of his men.