The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

British Colonel Banastre Tarleton
Banastre Tarleton Born: August 21, 1754; Liverpool, England
Died: January 16, 1833;

Battles: Fort Sullivan, Monck's Corner, Siege of Charleston, Waxhaws, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse

Southern Campaign: 1780
Colonel Abraham Buford was ten days ahead of Lt. General Charles Cornwallis and Cornwallis realized that his infantry could not catch up, so he sent Lt. Colonel Tarleton and his dragoons after Buford. On May 27, 1780, Tarleton left Cornwallis at Nelson's Ferry with 170 cavalry and 100 infantry, who rode double with the horsemen. Even in the hot weather, Tarleton covered 60 miles to Camden, South Carolina by the following day. He rested until 2 A.M. and started again. South Carolina Governor John Rutledge had been warned of the pursuit and had ridden ahead along with Colonel Buford's supply train. By early afternoon on the 29th the leading elements of Tarleton's force had caught up with Buford near the Waxhaws on the border of North and South Carolina, but his column was strung out for several miles and many of the horses had been ridden to death.

Lt. Colonel Tarleton sent a demand for surrender to Buford, hoping to delay him while his force caught up. Buford continued to march and finally sent word that he refused to surrender. Around 3 P.M. on May 29, 1780, Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton launched his attack on Colonel Buford's column at Waxhaws. The battle hardly lasted fifteen minutes and was a complete rout. The controversial aftermath of the battle gave birth to Tarleton's nicknames of 'Bloody Ban' and 'Ban the Butcher'. It also gave birth to 'Tarleton's Quarter', which meant no quarter and became a rallying cry for Patriots in the South.

Patriots claimed that because Lt. Colonel Tarleton did not want to be slowed down by prisoners, he ordered that everyone be killed. Tarleton himself claimed no responsibility and said that his men merely reacted out of anger when they thought he had been shot and killed after a flag of truce had been raised. Near the end of the battle, Tarleton's horse had been shot from under him. After the battle the British Legion went among the wounded and killed many of them. A disputed account survived through a letter by Dr. Robert Brownfield.

At the Battle of Camden, South Carolina on August 16, 1780, Lt. Colonel Tarleton's Legion was sent in to clean up and cut down fleeing militia units. He pursued them for twenty miles before turning back to return to the field. After the battle, General Cornwalis sent Tarleton after Thomas Sumter. Tarleton took 350 men and caught up with Sumter by August 17, but Sumter was across the river. For the rest of the day, he shadowed Sumter, hoping that the rebels would cross the river. On August 18, Tarleton crossed the river and followed Sumter to Fishing Creek, North Carolina. Leaving his exhausted infantry behind, Tarleton found Sumter's camp resting from the afternoon heat. He quickly sallied an attack even though he was outnumbered four to one. Tarleton charged through their camp and broke their lines. Sumter escaped in the confusion and would not gather another force until October.

In late September 1780, Tarleton became ill with malaria and was bed-ridden for three weeks. Meanwhile, his British Legion performed poorly without his command. When he recovered, he retook command of his cavalry around Winnsboro, Scouth Carolina where General Cornwallis was now camped. Starting on November 5, 1780, he patrolled the Santee River, punishing parole-breakers and spending several days attempting to capture Francis Marion, when he supposedly proclaimed that it was impossible to catch the old 'swamp fox' and the nickname stuck.

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