British Colonel Banastre Tarleton
Early Life: 1754-1775
Banatre Tarleton was born in Liverpool, England on August 21, 1754 to upper middle class parents. His father had made most of his money on sugar and slaves as a merchant. His father was highly respected and had served several terms as Lord Mayor. He studied toward a law degree at the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford, but was known more for his athletic ability. When Tarleton was 19, his father died, leaving him a fortune of five thousand pounds. In less than a year, Tarleton had exhausted the inheritance through gambling and other "fashionable amusements". He was soon to begin studying law, but he now convinced his mother to buy him a commission in the British Army, and on April 20, 1775, she purchased a commission of Cornet in the King's Dragoon Guards, the First Regiment of the Green Dragoons.
Revolutionary War: 1775-1779
In late 1775, Banastre Tarleton volunteered for duty in America and on December 24, he was listed on the muster roll of the King's Dragoon Gaurds as being "absent by the King's leave." He sailed from Cork, Ireland with Lt. General Charles Cornwallis. On May 3, 1776, they arrived off the American coast at Cape Fear, North Carolina. He was present in the attempt to capture Charleston in June 1776. The expedition then sailed to New York in July 1776. When the 16th Light Dragoons arrived from England, Tarleton was assigned to that unit and was soon gaining the attention of his superiors. On December 13, 1776, Tarleton was in a patrol commanded by Lt. Colonel William Harcourt that captured Maj. General Charles Lee at White's Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Tarleton himself had been sent ahead to confirm intelligence on Lee's location.
During operations in January 1777, Tarleton was promoted to Captain in Lt. Colonel Harcourt's cavalry command and appointed Brigadier Major of the 16th Dragoons. On January 8, 1778, he became Captain of the 79th Foot, the 1st Company, Royal Liverpool Volunteers, skipping the rank of lieutenant. On January 20, he was part of a force that nearly captured Captain Henry Lee at the Spread Eagle Tavern near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Tarleton was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel Commandant in August 1778 by Lt. General Henry Clinton, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America. Now only twenty-four, he was put in charge of the British Legion, which was a mix of cavalry and light infantry. This "British" Legion was actually mostly made up of American Loyalists from Pennsylvania and New York. They had been formed in June 1778 and were trained as regular soldiers, but were entirely Provincial in origin and not entitled to the pay and retirement rights of British regulars.
When Tarleton took over the legion, he drilled it until it became one of the most efficient mounted units in the army. He led an unsuccessful raid on Poundridge, New York on July 2, 1779. He was attempting to capture Major Ebenezer Lockwood and defeat Colonel Elisha Sheldon and the 2nd Continental Dragoons. He managed to burn several buildings and capture Sheldon's regimental colors, but militia gathered and he was unable to capture Lockwood. After serving with distinction in all the major engagements in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, he was chosen as one of the officers for the Southern campaign of 1780.
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