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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