Sunday, September 18, 2011

Revolutionary War Quick Studies

Revolutionary War
Quick Studies

Drury Ham has to be my favorite HAM Revolutionary War Veteran. His account of his activities as an Indian Spy, combined with his recollection of the Battle of Cowpens is fairly colorful material. Mordecai Ham was a dragoon at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. William Ham was at the Siege of Yorktown.

If you are looking for a quick study regarding the battles of the Revolutionary War, Jeff Weaver has a few small (and inexpensive) books listed on his Lulu web site. These brief books would be a good companion to our history. These books (below) generally have a good overview of the action, maps, graphics, and an index. These battles are considered to mark the point where the Americans began to win the Revolutionary War.

In our book "A Short History of the HAM Surname in Virginia & NC," we list some details about the Revolutionary War veterans that carried the HAM(M) surname. There were HAM(M) Revolutionary War Veterans that fought in each of the battles that are considered to have turned the tide of the war. Jeff Weaver's books should be of interest to those who want a brief overview (50+ pages) of these battles.

There were Ham(m)'s who were Revolutionary War Veterans from each of these battles:

Battle of Kings Mountain
Battle of Cowpens
Battle of Guilford Courthouse
Siege at Yorktown

Battle of Kings Mountain         (October 7th, 1780  Near Blackburn, SC and King's Mountain, NC)

During the summer of 1780, British commander Patrick Ferguson travelled through South Carolina into North Carolina  gathering loyalist support for the British. After a string of small battles (Wofford's Iron Works, Musgrove's Mill, Thicketty Fort, and Cedar Spring) the campaign culminated in August with the defeat of the Americans at the Battle of Camden. The American "Over Mountain Men" retired to their homes in North Carolina to rest.

In September, British General Cornwallis ordered commander Ferguson to the north, before joining the main British forces again at a later time. By October 7, Ferguson had camped at King's Mountain.

American Colonels McDowell, Sevier, Shelby and Campbell gathered in Tennessee and marched to (present day) Morganton, joining those serving under Cleveland and Winston. On October 6th, they joined forces with Colonel Williams at Cowpens.

The American soldiers marched through the night and arrived at King's Mountain on October 7th. They surrounded the mountain in a horshoe formation, taking cover in the heavily wooded area. The battle lasted about an hour and 225 Loyalists were killed, 716 were taken prisoner. 28 Patriots were killed.

Battle of Cowpens                  (January 17, 1781  Cowpens, South Carolina)

Maj. General Nathanael Greene needed time to recover from the Battle of King's Mountain, and split his mobile force off to be under the command of Brig. General Daniel Morgan. The British Lt. General Charles Cornwallis recognized the strategy and sent his own mobile force under Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton after Morgan. After several weeks of maneuvering, General Morgan finally had to choose his ground before Lt. Colonel Tarleton overran him.

Morgan settled on Cowpens, South Carolina. Morgan's strategy was that the British would expect a retreat. Part of Morgan's plan was for Andrew Pickens' militia to feignt a withdraw by firing three times, and then falling back. When the battle took place, the British became undisciplined and broke ranks in pursuit. This loss of discipline allowed the planned actions of the Continentals to thoroughly rout the British and destroy General Cornwallis' light troops.

Battle of Guilford Courthouse   (March 15, 1781  Greensboro,NC)

After Cowpens, the British General Cornwallis pursued the American General Nathanael Greene to Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina. By this time Greene had built a substantial force (mostly farmers who were nonprofessional temporary soldiers of short duration).

On March 15, General Greene deployed his men in three lines of battle across the Great Salisbury Wagon Road that led off to the southwest toward the camp of the British army. The front line was deployed against a rail fence that surround farm fields and extended into the forest. The second line was located within the forest behind the first line.

The British Highland Regiment attacked, and suffered heavy losses before breaking through the center of Greene's front line. The second line fought for about an hour and was broken by the British, but only after the British again suffered heavy losses. The heaviest fighting was at the third line, where the British General Cornwallis found his men being attacked from the remaining two sides of American forces. The battle culminated when Cornwallis decided to fire his cannon into the center of the struggle, killing his own soldiers in the process. When the smoke cleared, the American General Greene ordered a retreat. Cornwallis had won the battle, but suffered heavy casualties.

From King's Mountain to Yorktown

 (Siege at Yorktown   October 09, 1781  Yorktown, Virginia)

By midsummer, 1781, the Continentals under General Nathaniel Greene had gained virtual control of South Carolina. By September, 1781 Greene had an apparent loss at the Battle of Eutaw Springs to British commanders Arbuthnot and Stewart. Nevertheless, Greene put an end to British conquests in the south.

Also that month, French commander deGrasse defeated a British Fleet that had come to relieve Cornwallis (Battle of the Chesapeake). As a result of this victory, de Grasse blocked any escape by sea for Cornwallis. British General Cornwallis was stationed in Yorktown, Virginia and was surrounded by land and by sea when George Washington arrives. Trees were cleared, trenches were dug, and redoubts were taken. By October 9th, Rochambeau's French cannons would begin the bombardment.

The Revolution in Virginia
by H.J. Eckenrode

Revolutionary War Soldiers from the Upper New River Valley
by Jeffery C. Weaver

About the Publisher

Author Jeffrey C. Weaver holds degrees in American history from Appalachian State University, and after serving in the U.S. Army for several years, he worked as a contracting officer for the U.S. Department of Energy. Former manager of the Chilhowie Public Library, he founded the New River Notes web page in 1998.

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