The Patriot Film Fact or Fiction: Events
Colonel Tavington burns down a church with the townspeople inside:
Colonel William Tavington orders the townspeople of Pembroke into the church. He then demands to know if anyone aids Benjamin Martin and his militia. When one man breaks down and points out Peter Howard as a Patriot supporter, Tavington thanks him and then orders the church locked up with the townspeople inside. Tavington then orders Loyalist Captain Wilkins to burn the church.
Colonel Banastre Tarleton (inspiration for Colonel Tavington) never massacred the population of an entire town.
The only massacre that Lt. Colonel Tarleton was involved in was the controversial Buford's Massacre at Waxhaws, which began as a military engagement and did not involve civilians. Patriots claimed that the Continental force attempted to surrender, but Tarleton and his men rode them down and massacred them. Whether true or not, following Waxhaws Tarleton gained his reputation as giving no quarter or mercy.
As far as a church burning massacre, there is no record of one taking place during the Revolutionary War. The most famous case of such an event took place in Oradour, France on June 10, 1944. Nazi SS soldiers herded the town's entire population of women and children into the church and burned the church down. The men were taken to another town building and shot. The SS spent several hours carrying out their destruction of the town.
Individual atrocities, such as people being burned alive in their homes, did happen during the Revolutionary War and were carried out by both sides as well as outlaws who used the war as a cover for criminal acts or revenge, but there is no evidence that Lt. Colonel Tarleton ordered the massacre of women and children.
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