The Patriot Resource - The Patriot

The Patriot Film Fact or Fiction: People

In The Patriot:
Colonel William Tavington is based on Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton first made a name for himself in December 1776, when he was part of a patrol that captured former Continental Southern Commander Maj. General Charles Lee. He would go to make a name for himself in his exploits in the South, starting with Monck's Corner. He believed in total war, which meant that civilians who helped the enemy were the enemy.

Tarleton's force of Northern Tories was called the British Legion. They also became known as the Green Dragoons because their uniform was predominantly green with red trim, rather than the recognizable red uniform with the addition of green trim as in the movie. Actually, many regiments had varied uniforms, such as the Scottish regiments, who wore tartars and kilts, rather than the one standard "redcoat" uniform that Hollywood has adopted.

Though Tarleton was unable to catch Francis Marion, he was successful in some of his efforts against Thomas Sumter. Because of this, it is unlikely that tensions between General Cornwallis and Tarleton were as bad as depicted in the movie between Cornwallis and Tavington. In fact, Tarleton considered Cornwallis his mentor and they stayed in touch for many years. They only broke off contact when he wrote his memoirs in which he blamed General Cornwallis for the loss of the South.

Tarleton never had a face-to-face with any of the militia leaders as he does with Martin in the movie. The closest he came was when he surprised Thomas Sumter the day after Battle of Camden, but Sumter wasn't dressed and escaped in the confused, unrecognized. Tarleton was not captured or killed at either the Battle of Cowpens or Guilford Courthouse. It was he, not Cornwallis, that commanded at Cowpens. Nonetheless, he returned to Britain to be hailed as a hero for a time. He even made it to the Prince of Wales' inner circle of friends, before he wore out his welcome.

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