British Colonel Banastre Tarleton
Southern Campaign: 1781
Lt. Colonel Tarleton soon found himself in trouble and barely escaped the field. Lt. Colonel William Washington pursued Tarleton for several miles until the wife of a captured rebel misled Washington to protect her husband. Tarleton reported to Lt. General Charles Cornwallis on the following day. Following his defeat at Cowpens where he lost 800 men, many older officers blamed Tarleton for the disaster. On January 27, he submitted his resignation and requested a courtmartial to prove his innocence, but Cornwallis did not accept it. General Cornwallis continued to send Lt. Colonel Tarleton on raids. On February 1, 1781, at Tarrant's Tavern, North Carolina, he routed a body of Colonel William Davidson's militia. Tarleton and his Legion again did well in support of General Cornwallis at Wetzell's Mill, North Carolina on March 6, 1781. At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, Tarleton served as part of the advance guard taking a wound that would cost him two fingers. He stayed in the saddle and led another attack later in the battle.
Following his Pyrrhic victory at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, General Cornwallis decided to abandon the Carolinas and go to Virginia to confront General George Washington. In May, 1781, Cornwallis and Lt. Colonel Tarleton marched north to Virginia where Tarleton continued his raiding. On June 1, General Cornwallis learned that Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia legislature were meeting in Charlottesville. On the morning of June 3, 1781, Tarleton left Cornwallis' camp for Charlottesville. That evening, rebel militia Captain John Jouett learned of the raid and got ahead of the raiders to spread the warning. One detachment from Tarleton's force missed capturing Governor Jefferson by ten minutes. Tarleton did still rout a local militia guard, capture about half a dozen members of the Virginia legislature and destroy munitions and supplies.
Lt. Colonel Tarleton's last skirmish took place near Gloucester Point, Virginia, on October 3, 1781, where French cavalry surprised and defeated his Legion. On October 19, 1781, following the Battle of Yorktown, General Cornwallis surrendered the British army to General Washington, ending the war. Following the war, Tarleton was shut out of the officers' dinners hosted by the American officers for the British and French officers. When Tarleton asked about his omission, he was told that it was intentional because of his past conduct during the war.
After the Revolutionary War: 1782-1833
When Banastre Tarleton returned to England in January 1782, he was treated as a hero and was in Prince of Wales' inner circle. He was soon promoted to General. Returning to Liverpool, he was knighted and was elected to Parliament, where he served seven terms. His reputation deteriorated, because of his public on-and-off relationship with actress-poet Mary Robinson, compulsive gambling and other vices. In 1786, he was the subject of letters published in the London papers, which criticized his decisions in the Battle of Cowpens. In his History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1780 in the Southern Provinces of North America, he defended his actions, while criticizing his former mentor, Cornwallis, who broke off all relations with him. He finally settled down and married Susan Priscilla Bertie on Decemeber 17, 1798. Tarleton died childless on January 16, 1833.
2. Boatner, Michael; Encyclopedia of the American Revolution
3. Buchanan, John; The Road to Guilford Courthouse
4. Morrill, Dr. Dan; Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution
Topic Last Updated: 7/28/2001
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