Sunday, June 25, 2023

ARP275 The War Goes Dutch

We last looked in on European affairs in Episode 252, when the summer of 1780 saw several riots in London and Dublin thanks to difficulties caused by the American Revolution.

British-Dutch Naval Battle, 1781
British leaders increasingly found themselves in a political bind.  The war that started with the colonial rebellion in North America had spread, first to France in 1778, then Spain in 1779.  Britain was used to going to war with these traditional enemies.  But usually it had a few European allies by its side.  In this war, Britain was not only fighting its own colonists, and two of its traditional foes, but was also doing so alone as its traditional allies in the German states and Portugal were mostly sitting out this one.  They provided a few paid mercenaries, but major powers like Prussia were not fighting along Britain's side against powers like France and Spain.

Despite the forces allied against it, by late 1780, Britain decided it was time to add a third enemy combatant to the war, the Dutch Republic.

Anglo-Dutch Relations

I should say at the outset that the Dutch Republic was not really a republic as we use that word today. The people were not electing their leaders or anything crazy like that.  Seven small nation-states had united in a confederation to provide mutual defense protection against outside enemies, primarily France at the time, but also Austria.  The Dutch government met in the Hague, where representatives from each state could debate and vote on important issues.  As a confederation, the individual states largely ruled themselves for internal matters, coming together for issues involving foreign policy and military defense. By this time, however, states sovereignty had been reduced as the states were effectively controlled by the monarch who led the powerful House of Orange.

For most of the prior century, Britain and the Dutch Republic had largely been allies.  Both countries were protestant, which naturally, created some common interest against the Catholic powers of Europe that wanted to destroy them.  

British and Dutch leaders had gone to war three times between 1652 and 1674.  The Dutch had developed a formidable navy and trading fleet that was a challenge to British colonization and international trade.  

Oliver Cromwell
The First Anglo-Dutch War began under Oliver Cromwell when the English demanded they be recognized as “lord of the seas’ and ordered all foreign vessels to salute them.  Britain used Dutch refusals as an excuse to capture Dutch merchant fleets and enforce Britain’s monopoly trade with its colonies.

After England restored its monarchy with Charles II, the two countries went to war again in the 1660s, largely to limit the growing power of the Dutch East India Company.  It was during this war that the British took the New Netherlands colonies from the Dutch and renamed them New York.  That said, the Dutch mostly got the better of the fighting in this war.  In the Raid on Medway against Britain, the Dutch fleet destroyed or captured more than a dozen British ships of the line, forcing King Charles to sue for peace.

The Third Anglo-Dutch War only five years later in the 1670’s saw an unusual alliance of England and France against the Dutch.  King Charles II of Britain cut a deal with the King of France, who was trying to capture the Spanish Netherlands, an area that today is part of Northern France and Belgium.  King Louis paid off King Charles to provide some support to France.  The British king went along because the money gave him some independence from Parliament.  

Unsurprisingly, Parliament opposed the war, in part because it was giving the King more political leverage over them, and also because Protestant Parliament did not want to fight a war alongside Catholic France and against the Protestant Dutch Republic.  Parliament cut off other funds for the war and stopped repaying the King’s debts, leading to a domestic financial crisis.  

The Dutch did surprisingly well against the combined forces of France and Britain, using privateers to capture several thousand British and French merchant ships.  When Parliament cut off the King’s funds, he had to sue for peace and the war ended rather quickly.

For the next century though, Britain and the Netherlands got along pretty well.  There were the occasional trade disputes, but nothing that led to an all-out war.  Things got much better about a decade after the third Anglo-Dutch War.  The Dutch Prince William of Orange married Princess Mary of Britain, the niece of King Charles II of Britain.  After Charles died, his brother, Mary’s father, became King James II.  The Parliament then got rid of James II for being too Catholic, resulting in the Glorious Revolution of 1689.  So, despite the fact that William had been leading a war against Britain less than two decades earlier, now Parliament invited the Dutch Prince William and his wife Mary to become  the new King and Queen of Britain.  Royal intrigue can be funny that way.

Anyway, after the British-Dutch alliance brought about by the Glorious Revolution, the Dutch Republic became much weaker as the British East India Company dominated world trade and the British Navy dominated the seas.  The Dutch mostly tried to stay out of wars and had remained neutral in the Seven Years War.  

William V

When the American Revolution began, William the V ruled the Dutch Republic.  William’s title as stadtholder, rather than king.  That said, the position was largely the same as a king.  The stadtholder served as the head of government and as commander-in-chief of the army.  It was also an inherited position.  But it wasn’t always filled.  Before and after William III, the position was empty for decades.  The Prince of Orange in the Netherlands tended to be the most powerful man in the Dutch Republic, but he did not always have the title of stadtholder.

William V,
Prince of Orange
After William III died childless in 1702, the British monarchy went to his sister-in-law, Queen Anne.  His title as Prince of Orange in the Dutch Republic went to his cousin John William Friso, who also held the position of stadtholder of several individual states within the Dutch Republic.  After Friso’s death in 1711, his son became William IV, Prince of Orange.  William IV revived the position of Stadtholder of all the United Provinces in 1747 during the War of Austrian Succession.

When William IV died of a stroke a few years later in 1751, he was only 40 years old.  His son, William V inherited his titles and positions.  The problem was that William V was only three years old at the time.  The practical requirements of leadership during his youth were handled by his mother and grandmother until their deaths.  Another man, Duke Louis Ernest, ended up serving as the military commander and eventually as co-regent after William’s mother died. The Duke was from the German State of Brunswick, but had family ties to both Prussian and Austrian leaders. William IV (William V's father) had appointed him a field marshal in the Dutch Army.

William V turned 18 in 1766 and took over his duties as stadtholder, but kept on the Duke as a counselor.  The Duke helped to arrange William’s marriage to Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia.  She was a niece of Frederick the Great of Prussia and a cousin of George III of Britain.

While William was the titular leader of the Dutch Republic, he was not a particularly powerful leader.  It seems that Duke Ernest and William’s wife Princess Wilhelmina vied for most of the behind the scenes power.  William seemed happiest focusing on his art collection.  He opened an art gallery in the Hague in 1774.  When the war began in America the following year, he was still only 27 years old.

The Dutch in the American Revolution

The goal behind all the strategic marriages among European royalty was that they were supposed to help maintain good international relations.  After all, you wouldn’t want to go to war with a country where your daughter was Queen and where your grandson would someday rule.  

This often meant, though, that leaders had allegiances and interests that were quite different from those of the people over whom they ruled.  The Dutch Republic, also sometimes called the United Provinces, had other state leaders with influence. There were also very wealthy and influential merchants who ran Dutch trade worldwide and who had their own sets of interests. 

When the British colonies rebelled in 1775, the Dutch leader, William V, tended to be pro-British and was open to supporting Britain.  He was the cousin of George III.  It also made good sense to maintain good diplomatic ties with Britain since Britain was crucial in keeping Catholic countries like France and Austria from encroaching on Dutch territory.

Initially, Britain hoped the Dutch would be an ally. George III even tried to rent some Dutch troops to fight in America, as he did with several German states.  While William was open to this alliance, other interests in the Dutch Republic quashed that idea rather quickly.

Dutch merchants, particularly powerful in Amsterdam, were opposed to any alliance that empowered Britain.  The merchants were long frustrated by Britain’s dominance of the seas, and its willingness to use that dominance to limit Dutch trade.   

All Dutch factions knew that joining a war on either side would prove costly.  As such, they attempted to remain neutral in this fight, even while different factions pursued their own interests.  British diplomats attempted to invoke several treaties to gain Dutch support.  However, as they had in the Seven Years War, the Dutch refused to get involved in the war and remained neutral.

Amsterdam merchants saw opportunity in trade with the British colonies.  This was made possible by the rebellion.  In return for guns and munitions, the Dutch merchants got rich importing tobacco and indigo from America, primarily through its Caribbean colony at St. Eustatius.  As the war began, these merchants made a fortune in this trade.

Dutch merchants made even more money after France went to war with Britain in 1778.  The British Navy blocked imports into France.  Dutch merchants could sell military goods to France at huge profits.  Based on treaties signed after the second and third Anglo-Dutch Wars, Dutch traders were guaranteed free trade to Britain’s enemies of all but a few narrowly-defined military items.  Dutch merchants were making a fortune selling ship’s supplies to France, most of which were being used to build or repair French Navy vessels that were being used against Britain.

Britain decided that, whatever the treaties said, it was going to seize and Dutch vessels trading anything with France that might advance France’s war efforts.  The Dutch merchants continued to risk the wrath of the British given the profits they were making.  When John Paul Jones sought harbor in the Dutch port of Texel aboard a captured British naval vessel, Dutch officials had to force him to leave, but allowed Jones time to repair his ship and to escape the British ships trying to catch him.

Fielding & Bylandt Affair

About the same time Jones slipped away from the British fleet near Texel, in late December 1779, British and Dutch officials clashed over another incident.  A Dutch merchant fleet of 17 ships also left Texel, supported by 5 Dutch Navy ships.  

The British caught up with the Dutch fleet near the Isle of White in the English Channel.   British commodore Charles Fielding demanded a physical search of the ships for contraband.

Admiral Bylandt
Rear Admiral Lodewijk van Bylandt, despite being badly outnumbered, refused, although he did offer to turn over the ships’ manifests.  Overnight, twelve of the seventeen merchant ships managed to sail away under cover of darkness.  The following morning, the British tried to board and search the remaining merchant ships.

The Dutch fleet opened fire, despite being heavily outnumbered.  The British returned fire, at which time the Dutch struck their colors and surrendered.  The British then seized the merchant fleet and took them to Portsmouth as prizes.  They allowed the Dutch warships to remain at sea, as long as they fired a salute to the British flagship.  The Dutch navy followed its captured merchantmen to Portsmouth, where they filed a complaint with the Dutch Ambassador.

Back in Holland, Dutch leaders were outraged by this seizure of neutral vessels, not carrying contraband.  Up until that time, the Dutch had been bending over backwards to try to comply with most of the British demands about what their ships could or couldn’t carry.  After this incident, the Dutch, removed these restrictions.

By April of 1780 the British responded by abrogating a 100 year old treaty that respected Dutch commerce.  These incidents helped encourage Russia’s creation of the League of Armed Neutrals, where neutral European countries agreed they would support each other militarily against searches and seizures of their ships on the open sea. The Dutch south to join the league in December of 1780.

Declaration of War

The Dutch Republic’s decision to join the League of Armed Neutrals created a greater diplomatic headache for the British.  Future searches of Dutch vessels could result in Russia and other countries in the League going to war against Britain as well.

To avoid this, Britain declared war on the Dutch Republic, citing a number of other issues.  In doing this, they hoped to keep the rest of the League members, especially Russia, from joining the war against Britain.  The Dutch only had about 20 ships of the line, so if the fight could be limited to them alone, the risk to Britain was not that great.  The important thing was keeping Russia and the rest of the League of Armed Neutrals from combining with the Dutch against Britain.

Russia had no desire to go to war with Britain, and seemed willing to cut loose the Dutch if they had diplomatic cover to do so.  Britain made every effort to provide that cover by arguing that the Dutch Republic was not acting as a neutral.

One issue the British raised was the Dutch granting safe harbor to John Paul Jones aboard the captured British Navy ship Serapis a year earlier.  For more details go back and listen to Episode 233.  The main issue, however, fell into British hands a few months earlier in September 1780.

Henry Laurens

Recall that the Continental Congress had sent its former President, Henry Laurens, to the Dutch Republic in order to establish diplomatic relations and secure more loans from Dutch merchants for the American war effort.  Although Congress made the appointment in October of 1779, a series of delays prevented Laurens from crossing the Atlantic until August of 1780.

The British navy intercepted Laurens’ ship, the Mercury, and took Laurens prisoner.  Laurens had attempted to throw overboard any documents he did not want captured.  The British managed to pull at least one of Laurens’ chests out of the water.  It contained a draft treaty of commerce, worked out by William Lee and an Amsterdam Banker named Jean de Neufville.

The treaty was just a draft, not written by any Dutch government officials and with no legal basis.  It was simply a document with some ideas that the two men in Europe had discussed as something the Americans hoped would be a basis for negotiating a future treaty.  The document had been carried to America, where Laurens received it in Congress.  He took it with him in hopes that he could use it as a reference point to start negotiations with the Dutch.

The British, however, presented the document as proof that the Dutch were already in the process of negotiating a treaty with the Americans, and therefore were not neutral.  As a result, the League of Armed Neutrals should not support the Dutch Republic as part of its league.

Britain’s declaration of war caught the Dutch by surprise.  The British managed to capture several Dutch warships in the West Indies, before the Dutch officers knew that the two countries were at war.  Britain also seized hundreds of Dutch merchant ships and prevented hundreds more from being able to leave port and engage in any trade.  Much of the Dutch Navy remained anchored at Texel, unable to challenge the blockading British fleet. Over the next few months, Britain would capture several Dutch colonies, including Saint Eustatius and Saint Martin.  Britain also captured all the Dutch colonies on the Indian subcontinent.  Britain attempted to capture South Africa, but failed in that effort.

Because they were so heavily outgunned, the Dutch first turned to Catherine the Great of Russia to negotiate a resolution to the conflict.  Russia agreed to mediate.  Both sides participated in the mediation, but neither was really willing to compromise and so the mediation came to nothing.

In frustration, the Dutch Republic eventually reached an understanding with France that the two countries would act in concert against Britain.  The two countries never signed a formal treaty though.

American Treaty

Given the poor state of its Navy, the Dutch Republic could do little to impact the outcome of the war.  The British strategy of declaring war on the Dutch to prevent the League of Armed Neutrals from going to war with Britain had paid off well.  

Britain’s need to maintain a blockade against the Dutch coast helped to weaken its naval forces elsewhere and may have contributed to some naval losses against France and Spain.  A third European enemy in this war was the last thing Britain needed.

After Henry Laurens got thrown into the Tower of London, John Adams took up his role with the Dutch Republic. Adams traveled from France to negotiate with the Dutch.  Adams eventually secured more loans, and by 1782 concluded a treaty of amity and commerce between the US and the Dutch Republic.

Next Week: we are back in America, where General Washington welcomes the new year of 1781 with the mutinies of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Lines in the Continental Army.

- - -

Next Episode 275 Mutiny in the Continental Army 

Previous Episode 274 Green Takes Command

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Further Reading


Anglo-Dutch Wars:

Anglo-Dutch Wars:

The Netherlands and the American Revolution

Morgan, Kenneth. “Anglo-Dutch Economic Relations in the Atlantic World, 1688–1783.” Dutch Atlantic Connections, 1680-1800: Linking Empires, Bridging Borders, edited by Gert Oostindie and Jessica V. Roitman, Brill, 2014, pp. 119–38,

Scott, H. M. “Sir Joseph Yorke, Dutch Politics and the Origins of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.” The Historical Journal, vol. 31, no. 3, 1988, pp. 571–89,

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Edler, Friedrich The Dutch Republic and the American Revolution, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1911. 

Piggott, Francis Taylor & Omond, George W. T. Documentary history of the armed neutralities, 1780 and 1800, together with selected documents relating to the War of American Independence 1776-1783 and the Dutch War 1780-1784, London University Press, 1919. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Jacob, Margaret C. The Dutch Republic in the Eighteenth Century: Decline, Enlightenment, and Revolution, Cornell Univ. Press, 1992.

Jones, J.R. The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century, Longman, 1996 (borrow on

Schama, Simon Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands, 1780-1813, Knopf, 1977 (borrow on 

Simms, Brendan Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, Basic Books, 2008.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

ARP274 Greene Takes Command

 Over the last couple of episodes, we saw the effectiveness of relatively disorganized groups of militia fighting all over South Carolina in the fall of 1780.  These forces were never large enough to defeat the British occupation, but they did keep alive the disputed control of the state and disrupted supply lines and resources for the British.  That forced British General Charles Cornwallis to pay attention to them rather than think about invading North Carolina.

Back in North Carolina, Continental General Horatio Gates remained in command, but was mostly just waiting for his successor to arrive.  Gates had effectively ended his career at Camden, back in August.  The Continental Congress knew it was time for a new southern commander.  

In the meantime, Gates tried to support the efforts of militia led by Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter and Elijah Clark.  But Gates had no desire to enter the fight himself, and really lacked any resources to launch one if he did.

Nathanael Greene

Congress had been the body that selected General Horatio Gates to lead the Southern army earlier that year.  General Washington was never eager to pick a fight with Congress, and always wanted to show deference to its decisions.  That was especially the case with Gates, since Washington did not want to be perceived as undercutting Gates out of personal pique.  A few years earlier, leaders had discussed replacing Washington with Gates as commander of the Continental Army.  Washington would not want to be perceived as denying a great officer a deserved command because of some personal rivalry.  Washington let it be known indirectly that he had considered General Nathanael Greene to be the best person for the job.  At the same time though, he accepted that it was Congress’ decision to make and did not attempt to force his opinion on the delegates.

Gen Nathanael Greene 
General Washington had always thought highly of Nathanael Greene, but Congress was not so sure.  On several occasions, the young general had disrespected Congress.  This included threats to resign should Congress appoint French generals back in 1777.  But more recently, Congress had questioned Greene’s honesty and integrity while serving as quartermaster of the army, and that led to a whole other dispute.

Greene did not seem to have many friends in Congress.  On paper, at least, there did not seem to be much history that could recommend Greene as a field commander.  During the New York Campaign of 1776, Greene had organized the defenses on Long Island that collapsed in a day.  His poor judgment not to evacuate Fort Washington in New York led to the second largest capture of Continental soldiers, behind only the fall of Charleston.

Up until 1780, Greene had mostly remained with General Washington.  Although he commanded a division, he was not given any opportunities to go out on his own.  He had clashed with members of Congress on multiple occasions.  Delegates did not see him as being properly deferential to civilian authority. 

Washington had practically forced Greene to become quartermaster general during the Valley Forge encampment.  It was a thankless and nearly impossible job.  Nevertheless Greene struggled to keep the army in the field and supplied as best he could.  Even so, Congress regularly criticized his work and investigated the quartermaster corps for possible corruption.  Greene angrily resigned as quartermaster in 1780.  His resignation letter to Congress was so angry and critical of Congress, that many members wanted to cashier Greene from the army entirely.  Washington had to do damage control and intervene to keep that from happening.

Despite these issues, Greene had Washington’s full confidence.  Washington had told others that if something happened to him, he wanted Greene to be appointed commander in chief of the army.  On several occasions, Washington had left the army under Greene’s command for short periods while Washington attended to other business.

Although Greene was the 11th major general appointed by Congress, deaths and resignations had brought him up to number 3 by 1780.  Only Horatio Gates and William Heath were more senior.  Gates, of course, was pretty much a dead man walking in the army after his disaster at Camden.  Heath had not been trusted with a combat command since 1776.  Heath was more of a politician and administrator than a general.  Heath was not a serious choice for any command that might involve conflict with the enemy.  Next in line below Greene in seniority was Benedict Arnold.  He had a good battlefield reputation and could have been a good choice a few months earlier, but his decision to betray his country and join the enemy had kind of taken him out of the running.

After Gates’ loss at Camden, Greene was the obvious choice to replace him.  Congress, however, could not bring itself to appoint Greene themselves.  Instead, it left the appointment up to General Washington, with most people knowing full well that Washington would appoint Greene.  On October 6, the President of Congress, Samuel Huntington, wrote to General Washington, asking him to form a court of enquiry into the actions of General Gates for the loss at Camden several months earlier, and to appoint a replacement for Gates until such time as the court of enquiry could be completed.

Essentially, Congress tasked Washington with picking a temporary replacement for command of the southern army.  In this way, Congress was not giving up its authority to pick military commanders in general.  Congress could simply replace Greene if he did not appear up to the job after the months it would take to complete the inquiry into Gates’s actions.  Washington received the instructions from Congress about a week later, and almost immediately wrote to Greene to inform him that he would take command of the southern army.  At this time, Greene was still near West Point, having just overseen the court martial and execution of Major John André.

Planning a Guerilla War

General Greene faced the same problems that General Gates had previously faced in the south, but he took a very different approach.  Recall that Gates had taken command of an army that he barely understood and marched it into battle within days of taking command, to disastrous results.

Baron von Steuben

Although Greene received his command in October, it would take nearly two months to take command of his new army.  By the end of October, Greene and his new second-in-command, the Baron Von Steuben, were in Philadelphia, begging Congress for men and supplies for the southern army.  As usual, Congress had nothing.  

As Greene traveled through Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, he met with state leaders, hoping to get some support there.  Once again, state leaders offered little more than thoughts and prayers.

Greene was able to visit Mount Vernon during his trip south.  While there, he wrote a letter to Washington saying that the state leaders “promise me all the assistance in their power, but are candid to tell me, that I must place little [dependence] on them, as they have neither money nor credit”.

Virginia, of course, had much to lose from the fall of the Carolinas.  It would bring the war to Virginia's doorstep and put it at risk of falling back under British control.  The Continental Congress called on Virginia to raise 3500 Continental soldiers to defend the state.  It barely raised 1500, and most of those were sickly draftees who quickly deserted.

As Greene entered North Carolina, he had already decided he would have nowhere near the force needed to confront the British directly.  Instead, he planned to continue the guerilla war, harassing the enemy from multiple small units, and taking on British outposts when the opportunity presented itself. Mostly, he hoped to keep some Continental Army in the field so that the British could not claim undisputed control of the Carolinas.

On December 2, 1780, Greene arrived at the American headquarters in Charlotte. He took command from General Gates the following day.  Gates was already aware of his replacement, who had been on his way for some time.  

Rather than go to Philadelphia and face a board of inquiry, Gates simply packed up and went home to Virginia.  He didn’t resign his commission.  He just refused to cooperate with any investigations.  So, he never lost his commission, but he was also never again given a command within the Continental Army.  He just went into a kind of military limbo, technically retaining his commission, but just living at home doing nothing with the army or Congress.

By the time Greene had reached Charlotte to take command, he had already begun preparations.  Greene appointed a new quartermaster general for the southern army, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Carrington.  He also appointed Colonel William Davie to serve as commissary general.  I've referenced Colonel Davie in some past episodes.  

Davie’s attitude toward quartermaster was similar to that of Greene’s when Washington forced him to be a quartermaster.   He did not want the job and preferred to remain in the field.  Davie told Greene that he was a guerilla fighter and was not good with money or accounts.  Greene told Davie not to worry, the army didn’t have any money or accounts.  Greene figured that a local and well-respected combat leader would have better luck extracting the needed food and supplies from the locals than some administrator who was good with paperwork.

Greene also deployed Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko and General Edward Stevens to prepare detailed surveys of the local rivers to determine their ability to transport goods and to note points where armies could ford them.

When Greene took command, the southern army on paper consisted of about 2300 men. However only about 60% of those were present and fit for duty, less than 1500.  There were not enough uniforms or guns for all of the men.  The bulk of the army consisted of the Delaware and Maryland lines under the command of General William Smallwood.

Daniel Morgan
One new asset for Greene was the arrival of Daniel Morgan.  Colonel Morgan’s riflemen were some of the most important fighters at many critical battles earlier in the war.  Yet despite his leadership, Morgan had been passed over for promotion to general.  He had also suffered from terrible sciatica.  He returned home to Virginia in 1779 for bed rest.  

General Gates had begged Morgan to join him for what became the Camden Campaign, but Morgan begged off, claiming he was in too much pain to leave his bed. Even so, after the loss at Camden, Morgan managed to get back in the saddle and ride south to see what he could do.  Shortly after Gates informed Congress that Morgan was returning to active duty, Congress finally promoted him to brigadier general in October 1780.

Also moving south, Lieutenant Colonel Light Horse Harry Lee who received his promotion from major about the same time that Congress promoted Morgan to general. Lee had distinguished himself in the northern campaign.  General Washington recommended that Congress give him an independent cavalry corps to supplement the work being done by Lieutenant Colonel William Washington.

Given the limited size and condition of his army, Greene divided his forces so that there would be no final showdown with the British.  He instructed Colonel Marion and General Sumter to continue harassing the enemy in South Carolina.  Greene also deployed a large portion of his Continentals under the command of General Morgan and with the support of Colonel Washington’s dragoons to cooperate with Sumter’s militia in attacking and harassing the enemy.  Morgan would operate independently of Greene’s forces. 

Dividing your forces in the face of a superior enemy is almost always considered a big mistake in military tactics.  It would allow the enemy to attack and defeat each division in detail.  But Greene was not looking for a fight, and not looking to win a major decisive battle.  Each of his smaller armies would harass the enemy and retreat if attacked.  Morgan’s men moved west of the Catawba River, while Greene left Charlotte to move his forces east of the Pee Dee River in North Carolina.

All of these changes left the British commander, Cornwallis confused.  Greene’s actions seemed contrary to all sensible military strategies.  Cornwallis wasn’t sure if Greene was just a fool, or whether he didn’t really understand what Greene was up to. Cornwallis remained at Winnsboro, South Carolina, near the North Carolina border, still awaiting the reinforcements under General Alexander Leslie.  Those reinforcements had left Virginia by sea and were expected to arrive in Charleston.  But by early December there was still no word.

Much of Greene’s strategy of a guerilla war aligned with letters he received from General Sumter, suggesting these same actions.  However, by putting Morgan in command of the militia forces who had fought under Sumter, Greene risked creating a split.  As I've said in earlier episodes, southern militia had notoriously refused to cooperate with Continental strategies.  Further, Sumter hoped that they could launch an attack on the main British force at Winnsboro.  Greene was unwilling to do that.  Sumter was unhappy that Morgan was taking over the work he was doing.  But the fact that Sumter was still recovering from his wounds at Blackstock’s Plantation, and the fact that Governor Rutledge ordered him to cooperate with Greene, kept everyone on the same page.

After Morgan moved west, Greene took what was left of the army to the east, only about 1100 men, and only half of those were Continentals.  Greene’s new camp, selected by Colonel Kosciusko, protected the army from attack by the Pee Dee River.  It also allows them to strike at targets in eastern South Carolina if Cornwallis took the bulk of his army west after Morgan.  Greene was also well positioned to attack Cornwallis if the British crossed back into North Carolina.  Once in the new camp by late December, Greene focused on training and supplying his army and waited to see what the British would do next.

Andrew Pickens

As Greene waited, Morgan was looking for a fight.  He had left Charlotte on December 21 with a total of about 600 men, some on foot, others on horseback.  More than half of his force were Continentals of the Delaware and Maryland lines.  They were supplemented by about 80 Continental dragoons under the command of Colonel William Washington.  Another 200 or so were Virginia militia, also mounted.  Many of the militia on this mission, however, were former Continental soldiers who had completed their enlistments and had considerable battlefield experience.

The men marched through several days of driving rain, making it difficult to ford swollen rivers.  By Christmas day, they had marched about 60 miles from Charlotte and set up camp in South Carolina.  That day, sixty South Carolina militia under Colonel Andrew Pickens, rode into camp and offered their support.  I think I’ve only mentioned Pickens in passing before, but he was one of the most important patriot militia leaders in South Carolina, along with Marion and Sumter.

Andrew Pickens
Pickens was the son of Scotch-Irish immigrants.  He was born in Pennsylvania, but his family moved to the Waxhaws when he was still young.  As a young man, Pickens got experience as an Indian fighter in the Cherokee war of 1760-61.  Pickens later settled on a large plantation in western South Carolina.

Pickens was a patriot leader from the outset.  When the Revolution began, he was a captain of militia.  Early in the war, he skirmished with Tories near Fort Ninety-Six, and served on an expedition that destroyed a number of Cherokee Villages  He had led forces at Kettle Creek, back in early 1779, which had caused the British to abandon much of the back country after they had captured Augusta Georgia.  By 1780, Pickens had risen to the rank of colonel and commanded his own militia regiment. 

Pickens had been at Charleston when the British captured the city and its defenders, led by General Benjamin Lincoln.  Pickens accepted parole and returned to his plantation. Like other leaders who had accepted parole, Pickens was absent when loyalist forces destroyed his farm and attempted to intimidate him into accepting a commission in a loyalist militia.  As a result, Pickens once again took up arms with the patriots.

In addition to Pickens' men, other militia soon rallied to Morgan’s camp.  Although Thomas Sumter and Elijah Clark were still personally recovering from battlefield injuries, many of the men who had served under them turned to Morgan’s camp to continue the fight.  Within days, Morgan’s camp had grown to more than a thousand men.

Hammond’s Store Massacre

Morgan soon received intelligence that a regiment of mounted loyalist militia from Georgia, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Waters, was camped about twenty miles west of Morgan’s camp.  The general deployed Colonel Washington’s dragoons, supplemented by another 200 mounted patriot militia

William Washington

The loyalist commander, Waters, learned that the patriots were moving to attack his smaller militia force and retreated further to the west, toward a larger British encampment at Fort Ninety-Six.  Washington caught up with the loyalists while they were still about 25 miles from the fort.

Waters formed his loyalists on a hill and prepared to meet the attackers.  Still mounted, Washington drew his sword and led his cavalry into a direct charge at the enemy.  The patriots gave a wild war whoop as they charged, unnerving the enemy.  The loyalists turned and ran without firing a single volley.  The patriots chased down the loyalists and cut them down with their sabers.  

I’ve seen different accounts of the casualties, but the Americans killed or wounded between 100-150 of the enemy, and captured another 40, out of a total of about 260.  The Americans took no casualties.

A few of the loyalists who managed to escape made their way to the Williams' Plantation, about ten miles from the battle, where loyalist forces had established an outpost to the larger force at Fort Ninety-Six.  The following day, Washington deployed a smaller force to attack the outpost.  The loyalists there, however, had fled overnight back to Fort Ninety-Six.

The British considered the Hammond Store massacre to be an act of brutality.  Based on the lopsided outcome, that seems like a fair assessment.  Most of the patriot attackers were experienced militia who were used to the rules of no-quarter for the enemy.  The attack got the attention of General Cornwallis, who deployed Banastre Tarleton to put down this new threat.  But we’ll have to cover that British response in a future episode.

Next time, we are headed back to Europe as Great Britain declares war on the Dutch.

- - -

Next Episode 275 The War Goes Dutch 

Previous Episode 273 Fishdam Ford & Blackstock

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Further Reading


“To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 6 October 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives,

“From George Washington to Major General Nathanael Greene, 14 October 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives,

Andrew Pickens:

Hammond’s Store:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Crow, Jeffrey (ed) The Southern Experience in the American Revolution, Univ. of NC Press, 1978. 

Graham, James The Life of General Daniel Morgan, of the Virginia line of the army of the United States, with portions of his correspondence New York: Derby & Jackson, 1859. 

Greene, George Washington The Life of Nathanael Greene, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, & Vol. 3, New York: Cambridge Univ. Press 1867-1871. 

Landrum, John Belton O'Neall Colonial and Revolutionary History of Upper South Carolina, Greenville, S.C., Shannon & Co., 1897.

McCrady, Edward The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1780-1783, New York: Macmillan Co. 1902.

Weigley, Russell Frank The Partisan War: the South Carolina Campaign of 1780-1782, Univ. of SC Press, 1970 (borrow only).

Gregorie, Anne King Thomas Sumter, Columbia, SC: E.L. Bryan Co. 1931 (borrow only)  

Landrum, John Belton O'Neall Colonial and Revolutionary History of Upper South Carolina, Greenville, S.C., Shannon & Co., 1897. 

McCrady, Edward The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1780-1783, New York: Macmillan Co. 1902.

Weigley, Russell Frank The Partisan War: the South Carolina Campaign of 1780-1782, Univ. of SC Press, 1970 (borrow only). 

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Buchanan, John The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas, Wiley, 1999. 

Carbone, Gerald Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010 (borrow on 

Edgar, Walter B. Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict That Turned the Tide of the American Revolution, New York: Morrow, 2001 (borrow on

Ferling, John Winning Independence: The Decisive Years of the Revolutionary War, 1778-1781, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021. 

Golway, Terry Washington's General : Nathanael Greene and the triumph of the American Revolution, H. Holt, 2006. (borrow on

Lumpkin, Henry From Savannah to Yorktown: the American Revolution in the South, Univ of SC Press, 1981 (borrow on 

Piecuch, Jim South Carolina Provincials: Loyalists in British Service During the American Revolution,  Westholme Publishing, 2023. 

Russell, David Lee. The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies. McFarland & Company, 2000 (borrow on 

Swisher, James K., The Revolutionary War in the Southern Back Bountry, Pelican Publishing, 2008 (borrow on 

Wickwire, Franklin B. Cornwallis and the War of Independence, Houghton Mifflin, 1971 (borrow on 

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.