Monday, January 25, 2010

COLONIAL DORCHESTER, SC SATURDAY FEBRUARY 6

COLONIAL DORCHESTER


STATE HISTORIC SITE

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6

9AM-5PM

250 ANNIVERSARY OF THE

FORT AT DORCHESTER





The village of Dorchester once played a key role

in the defensive strategy of Charleston and South

Carolina. Two hundred fifty years later, the fort

still stands as a reminder of the colony’s fear of

attack during the French and Indian War. On

February 6, 2010 volunteers and members of the

Independent Company of South Carolina will

help bring the village back to life with activities

and demonstrations throughout the day.

Days Events

• Raising of the Colours

• Posting of the Guards

• Musketry Drill

• 18th Century Recruiting

• Lowering of the Colours

• Colonial Medical Practices

• Blacksmithing

• Petit Sutlery

• Colonial Period Cooking
 
For more information: 843-873-7475 colonialdorchester@scprt.com



www.southcarolinaparks.com

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sir Banastre Tarleton at Cowpens

While doing some research on the Battle of Cowpens, one of the things that struck me as a big factor was the mental and physical state of Tarleton's men prior to the battle. They had been chasing Morgan for weeks. They were probably suffering from exhaustion, hunger and the stress of facing mortal combat at the end of it all.




The question that came to mind was "why didn't Tarleton rest and feed his men prior to the battle?" I know I'm not the first to ask this question, but it strikes me as vitally important.



My first thought was that Tarleton, being a rash glory hound, didn't give thought to, nor care about the physical and mental state of his men. That he was so overconfident in his men that he could push them as hard as possible and still expect them to easily defeat the emeny. Also, he was so eager that he gave little thought to tactics, either his or Morgan's, but simply wanted to rush toward victory and glory..



However, after further research on "Bloody Ban", I have a different view on his actions. I think, given his success at other places, especially Waxhaws, Tarleton thought a straight foward assault gave him the best chance to win. There are some similarities between the two battles. At Waxhaws, Tarleton was chasing an enemy that wasn't looking for an open battle. At Waxhaws, his speed led to them catching the enemy before they had time to prepare properly. Even though it wasn't a surprise attack (he had sent a letter offering to let Buford surrender), Tarleton's speed, and Buford's incompetence, led to him catching the enemy unprepared and vulnerable to a straight forward cavalry charge. So Tarleton's speed and brashness had paid off in the past.



At Cowpens, Tarleton had to believe he had the advantage. After all, he was the one pursuing a fleeing enemy. Perhaps when he heard Morgan was preparing for battle he simply thought they were desperate and had no choice but to fight (this was true). Perhaps he also surmised that his troops were so much better that a quick charge would have the same results as Waxhaws (this was not true).



Another factor could have been psychological. Tarleton probably knew that the only thing that moved faster than his men was his reputation. He may have thought that waiting for his troops to rest and eat breakfast would have been sending the wrong message to his men and his enemy. This could be seen as showing weakness.



Also, this was the largest command he ever had and the first time he was the supreme commander at a large battle. He was didn't have much experience in tactical movements on the battlefield. His tactics were to hit first, hit hard, and overwhelm the enemy.



Of course, it turns out that Tarleton did underestimate his enemy. Morgan wasn't Buford. Morgan took the time to devise a well thought out strategy to counter Tarleton's attack. With the clarity of hindsight, Tarleton would have been better served to take the extra time to rest and feed his men, but he was young, successful and invincible, so caution wasn't a quality he possessed. Besides, it went against his nature. He was a gambler and trusted his luck and ability.



I think Tarleton has gotten too much bad press from American historians. Many of his "atrocities" have been accepted as fact, even though there is little evidence to support them. I think that if you judge him by the standards of the day, and from an unbiased viewpoint, he was no worse than most of his peers. For instance, based on the statistics, "Tarleton's Quarter" is more myth and propaganda than reality, but that is a topic for further discussion.



Tarleton's decision to rush into battle was based on his past successes, his underestimation of his enemy, and his inexperience dealing with a force like the one waiting for him at Cowpens and a leader like Daniel Morgan. I don't think it was just sheer cockiness or stupidity. After all, the battle could (and almost did) go in a very different direction, resulting in a disastrous defeat for the Americans.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Battle of Cowpens

Heading back to the site of the battle to better understand and describe the events that occured there. Taking measuring tools and a better map to be able to go over the regiment alignments and field of view.


71st Highland Regiment

Patriot Forces at Kings Mountain

The forces that were at the bottom of Kings Mountain were from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and present day Tennessee, also referred to as the Watauga Settlements. When Ferguson went towards the far reaching parts of South Carolina he was doing so to show the residents of the area that England was still in control of the Royal Colony and they were its total masters. The main area he wanted to make sure that they understood the Royal Goverment was in control were the settelers over the Mountains. The problem was that Ferguson did either not understand the settlers of the Watauga Settlements or totally looked down at them. They were a proud people who were use to fighting to stay alive against the Cherokee and other Indian Nations in the West at this time. Once Ferguson told them he was going to cross the mountains and burn their towns and hang their leaders it was in fact a declaration of war against these people who were already fighting natives on a constant basis. These same people already had established an almost self sufficient government already. They had done this because they were breaking English law by settling across the mountains which was in direct violation of the Proclamation of 1763 which forbid settlements across the mountains, because of treaties with the Native Tribes. They never expected the British to come to their aid against the natives, but they expected to be left alone since they provided a barrier against raids into the colonies proper why they were between the Royal Colonies and the Natives. So by Ferguson calling them to come to the aid of the Crown caused a reaction he was not ready for. Instead of coming to the Crowns aid or at least staying neutral out of fear of Royal troops coming to ruin them, they decided to do what came naturally to them, which was to fight to protect their lives and homes. Once they decided to fight they gathered their men in the Watauga Settlements and left half to protect against Natives and the other half started towards Ferguson to let him know he would not push them around or cause them to bow to the Crown. As they gathered at Sycamore Shoals to make the journey to fight Ferguson they sent riders into the Carolinas and Virginia to notify them of their plans to fight Ferguson and to come to their assistance, and they did. As they traveled south to intercept Ferguson their numbers grow until at the bottom of Kings Mountain they were ready to Charge up the sides of it and rid themselves of the threat of Ferguson and his Loyalist Militia the only way they knew how, by fighting till the bitter end.


The Overmountain men gathering at Sycamore Shoals

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Patriot Forces at Kings Mountain


We will now be moving our research to how and why the Patriots ended up at the bottom of Kings Mountain ready to charge up that hill towards Ferguson and immortality.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why Ferguson fought at Kings Mountain

     When Ferguson put out his decree to the Overmountain Men it was one of those moments of history that changed everything. By doing this he did the one thing that Clinton and Cornwallis did not want him to do, he set the Back Country in flame against the Crown. This flame burned so bright and fierce that the population rose up against Ferguson and his Loyalist militia with a vengeance of being insulted. Once Ferguson learned that the Overmountain Men were coming for him the hunter became the hunted and Ferguson had to make a decision to stand and fight or retreat back to Cornwallis with the Back Country in Flame and no advantage for the Crown secured on the frontier. After several days of intelligence coming to Ferguson he chooses to take his inexperienced troops back to Cornwallis near Charlotte. On his retreat from the back country he was dealing with inexperienced men on the march who had little if any military training or discipline. This resulted in a less than effective march to safety. As a result, Ferguson sent messages to Cornwallis asking for him to send him a relief force to help cover his retreat back to Cormwallis. This shows how inexperienced Ferguson felt his men were and that he wanted to get the men back unscathed if possible to save them for future operations. If like other militia they suffered a defeat early in service they would run and never return to the Kings banner.


Thus when Ferguson got to Kings Mountain he felt that Cornwallis who was a day or two away knew of his situation and request for immediate assistance. This was not true since Cornwallis did not have all of the messages that Ferguson had sent because of messengers being captured by patriots and other events that caused delays in their delivery. So once on Kings Mountain which local Loyalist had told him about, Ferguson felt he had a position he could hold for a few days till help arrived from the main army that he felt sure was already on the way to him.

Once on top of the mountain, he had three steep slopes for protection and 150 Provincial troops with the bayonet to help bolster his raw militia. He was against some rag tag militia who he felt could not launch a successful attack on his position and if they did attack  he could hold out until help arrived which he felt was near and on the way to his aid.

As a result of these events and the decisions of Ferguson, he is still on Kings Mountain today.

   

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fergusons Proclamation to the "Overmountain" men

'Overmountain' men to desist from rebellion or he would bring fire and sword down upon them, and hang their leaders. This proclamation triggers a reaction that cost Ferguson his command and his life.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Ferguson at Kings Mountain

By Lazarus

After careful consideration I have come up with my best guess as to why Ferguson acted as he did (in no particular order).


1. Contempt for the rebels. As a career officer from a fairly prominent family Ferguson probably felt contempt and personal arrogance towards his enemy, (esp. the overmountain men) whom he regarded as "Barbarians", "the dregs of mankind", "a set of mongrels" and "banditti". This is in response to atrocities committed on local loyalists. Given his prior experience, he probably didn't respect their fighting ability or speed as much as he should.

(see #4)
2. Timing. It seems that Ferguson thought he had more space between himself and the enemy. I believe that he never intended to fight at King's Mountain, but he chose the high, defensible, location in case he was attacked before reinforcements arrived. Although he did feel he could hold the position if attacked.


This would explain the lack of any defensive construction. Ferguson was very smart, well educated, experienced and had years of formal military training in strategy. His lack of preparation or a well thought out strategy (not to mention his reportedly amorous escapades the night before) leads me to believe he was caught completely by surprise.

3. The location. As a trained and capable tactician, Ferguson would understand the importance of the high ground in a defensive position. However, I think if he knew he would be attacked he would have chosen a spot that was harder to surround and had a way of escape. Also, given his ability and interest in arms, I find it hard to believe that he would not have known the tendency of shooting too high when facing an enemy from higher ground. Perhaps he thought that the terrain would help his bayonet equipped troops.

After seeing the battlefield, I think Ferguson felt that the land was too steep (on three sides) for an enemy to effectively assault and that if he was attacked he would be protected by the elevation and would only have to defend an assault from one direction.

Finally, Ferguson probably couldn't foresee how ineffective a bayonet charge would be on such steep, forested terrain. A bayonet charge is pretty worthless if it isn't coordinated and is disastrous if it doesn't "break" the enemy. Given the terrain, coordination and support for a charge seems impossible.

4. Overconfidence in his men. While I don't feel Ferguson underestimated his opponents (else he might have been on the offensive), I do feel he overestimated his force at least to the point where he didn't act like he was about to make his "last stand" (see #3).

5. Failure to adapt during the battle. Whether it was arrogance, pride, or inflexibility, once he was surrounded and assaulted, Ferguson didn't fight a defensive engagement, which would seem to be the most sensible given the terrain. I would think that after the failed bayonet charge he would have considered a change in tactics. Also, Ferguson did not try to "break out" in force and retreat. This may not have been possible, but it couldn't have been any worse.

To sum it up, I think Ferguson being attacked with surprise lead to his indefensible defensive position and that the terrain probably had the biggest impact on the battle.

While a well respected and capable officer, Ferguson's lack of preparation is inexcusable.

A few questions for you:

1. Was the top of the mountain too small to afford protection to Ferguson's men? i.e. was the entire mountain top under fire from the encircling enemy? If is wasn't, could Ferguson "circled the wagons"? (the next time I'm there I'm going to send someone to the center of the top with a red coat and see if the are visible from every direction)

2. If he could have avoided fire from below and waited for the enemy to reach the top before firing or charging, could he have won? Or at least held out for a few days?

3. Why wasn't he more informed on the position and intentions of the enemy. Is this arrogance or incompetence?
 

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Study of Ferguson at Kings Mountain

      Just a quick update, we have decided to work on why Ferguson chose Kings Mountain to make his last stand. We are going to look at the troops he had at his disposal, his troop’s weapons, the experience of the troops, and the defensive position of His Majesties Loyal forces. Once we have looked at these issues, we will then look at possible military protocol, Fergusons military training, and how the Patriots advancing on him effected his decision that caused his entire force to be lost to the rugged “Over the Mountain Boys”.