September 8, 1781: Battle of Eutaw Springs

“In this stage of the action, the Virginians under lieutenant colonel Campbell, and the Marylanders under colonel Williams, were led on to a brisk charge, with trailed arms, through a heavy cannonade and shower of musket balls. Nothing could exceed the gallantry and firmness of both officers and soldiers on this occasion. They preserved their order, and pressed on with such unshaken resolution that they bore down all before them. The enemy were routed in all quarters.”

Major General Nathanael Greene

The Virginia Brigade would continue to dwindle and in July 1781, Huger relinquished command of the brigade to Colonel Richard Campbell and command of the 1st Virginia Regiment passed to Captain Thomas Edmunds. Command of the 2d Virginia Regiment had passed to Major Smith Snead in May 1781.

Artwork by Don Troiani, http://www.historicalartprints.com

Their final battle would be at Eutaw Springs, another battle that went initially very well for the Americans but during which opportunity for a decisive victory was lost. Coming upon a camp of British troops under Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Stewart, Major General Nathanael Greene once again had “…second line consisted of three small brigades of continental troops…The Virginians consisted of two battalions, commanded by Major Snead and captain Edmonds, and the whole by lieutenant colonel Campbell, and posted to the centre.”

The Americans gained ground against the British with two successive pushes which were countered by British counterattacks until according to Lt. Colonel Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee: “Greene, determining to strike a conclusive blow, brought up the Marylanders and Virginians; when our line became dense, and pressing forward with a shout the battle raged with redoubled fury.”

Greene’s army pressed their way into the British camp, and “In this stage of the action, the Virginians under lieutenant colonel Campbell, and the Marylanders under colonel Williams, were led on to a brisk charge, with trailed arms, through a heavy cannonade and shower of musket balls. Nothing could exceed the gallantry and firmness of both officers and soldiers on this occasion. They preserved their order, and pressed on with such unshaken resolution that they bore down all before them. The enemy were routed in all quarters.”

Lee writes that “The battle lasted upwards of three hours, and was fiercely contested, every corps in both armies bravely supporting each other.” The offensive stalled at the British camp as a detachment of British troops under Major John Marjorbanks fiercely defended an adjacent brick house which gave Stewart’s force an opportunity to regroup and counterattack again, driving the Americans from the camp. Once again Greene retreated in good order and the British were forced to consolidate their forces closer to Charleston.

Greene considered it a victory, thinking he was “…principally indebted for the victory we obtained to the free use of the bayonet made by the Virginians and Marylanders…”, however Lee characterized the battle by saying the “…loss was uncommonly great — more than one fifth of the British and one forth of the American army being killed or wounded, as stated in the official returns, which intelligent officers of both armies considered short of the real loss sustained…. Of six commandants of regiments bearing continental commissions, Williams and Lee were only unhurt.” Greene wrote Congress “…Lieutenant colonel Campbell fell as he was leading his troops to charge, and though he fell with distinguished manner [?] of honour, yet his loss is much to be regretted: he was the great soldier and the firm patriot.”

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5 thoughts on “September 8, 1781: Battle of Eutaw Springs

  1. My Great Grandfather was there with the 4th Continental Light Dragoons…he was a trumpeter. Jeremiah Lott was his name.

    • Are you certain he hadn’t transferred to another regiment? Colonel William Washington’s 3rd Continental Light Dragoons and Lee’s Legion under Lt. Colonel Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee appear to be the only American cavalry at the battle.

      • According to his pension, Lawrence Miller (my 4 G Grand Father was the Trumpeter for the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons at Eutaw Springs and taken prisoner with Col Washington. The Washington Light Infantry in Charleston told me Lawrence Miller, the Sgt Major and Washington were all taken prisoner at the same time. I have pulled all the penion from fold3 plus I have it posted on ancestry dot come. He talks about many of the battles in South Carolina.

    • Moylan’s 4th Continental Light Dragoons were with the Main Army at Gloucester Point, across the river from Yorktown, in September 1781. See http://www.fourthdragoons.com/History.html. They were eventually combined with the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons, but did not join the Southern Army until January 1782. Perhaps his memory was clouded or he had transferred to the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons or Lee’s Legion prior to the Battle of Eutaw Springs?

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