The Tracy Family History
Photo by Ron Stevenson
It was now known as the “War in the South.” Things looked pretty dismal for the Americans. The entire American army had surrendered, laying open all the South from Virginia to Florida.
A deep depression descended upon the Patriots in the Southern provinces. The Tories, long suppressed, were elated. The neutrals did not care.
When news of the Capture of Charleston reached the British people, it had an electrifying effect. Their enthusiasm for the war, long on the wane, was now revived.
After the fall of Charleston, such was the gloom throughout the South that many thought the cause was lost and accepted the inevitable. "The people at that time not much accustomed to arms & finding no troops to support them submitted when they saw the Kings troops…"
What one does not realize is that the American Revolutionary War created a complex political game in the capitals of the world. All nations, their kings and advisers, were constantly at war with one another, or between wars preparing for the next war. They did not usually fight alone, but in alliances with other nations. The leaders watched the events and battles in America with great interest.
When the French entered the war by signing an alliance in February of 1778, the British knew the colonies were lost. However, the French commitment was not absolute. What France would give in men, supplies, and money depended on how the Americas did on the field of battle. The French could pull out at any time.
One of the reasons for the British invading the Southern colonies was to counter Spain's claims on British territory. The Spanish held Florida, and like all nations were looking to expand its empire at the expense of other empires. Spain had a dangerously large navy. England was also attacking Spanish possessions.
Capturing Charleston would put political pressure on Spain, and hopefully give the English better bargaining power in what were complex diplomatic negotiations.
The British commander had all of the Southern colonies at his feet. However, he had a technical problem. He wanted to rally the Tories to the king's standard, and many of the Tories were willing (some were not). For years, under Patriot control they had accepted (military) paroles from the Patriot government which meant they could not break parole and participate in the war supporting the British in any capacity, especially as soldiers. According to the rules of war, they had to remain neutral.
The entire strategy of the South was based on the assumption that the Tories, long abused by the dominant Patriots, would flock to the British standard and fight for the king.
The British did not have unlimited regiments of soldiers to send to America. They not only had to keep a full army in the North, but the army in the South had to be supplemented with local Tory troops.
The Tories were ecstatic and cheered the British soldiers, but they did not flock to them. They came, but not in "flockable" numbers.
The British did not occupy themselves with giving parties for the Tory girls in Charleston. They quickly fanned out across the South Carolina countryside. The British army sent three sizable military units to secure the newly gained territory; to show the British presence and to rally the Tories. In addition, they sent smaller, faster, troops on raids.
A chain of military posts (forts, supply depots, outposts) were established in the countryside. These posts were mostly manned by Tory troops. (This is a little confusing as it is not clear if they were the Tory soldiers from the North who accompanied the invasion, or if they were local Tories. One report says they were manned by Tory militia. That would mean local Tories. To add to the confusion, throughout the war in the South, many times the Tory soldiers were referred to as British, because they were in fact fighting for the British army; that is, Tory soldiers under British officers.)
The British army quickly gained control of the entire South. Their chain of forts guaranteed control. ...that is, as far as the British Brown Bessie musket could fire a ball, which was 100 yards, 50 yards effective.
The people came from great distances to the British posts to take the oath of loyalty to the king. The inhabitants then turned their attentions to farming and making a living. To many of the people in the Southern colonies, the war was over.
The first British commander was amiable; but he was quickly replaced by a commander who was a despot who treated the people in a despotic way. The Patriots again rose up and fought as guerrillas. They struck isolated outposts and supply trains; attacked river and road traffic, and tied up large numbers of British troops.
When Charleston was besieged, as at Boston, many militias marched to the defense of the city. General George Washington sent all Virginia soldiers in the Continental Line to defend Charleston.
They were coming in from everywhere. In the Valley of Virginia was the 3rd Virginia Regiment, 350 Continentals on furlough to their homes. They were under the command of Colonel Buford. (Quite often in reading history many of the officers referred to as being Colonels were in fact Lieutenant Colonels, one rank below.) Buford was in fact a Lieutenant Colonel and was married to Magdelene's granddaughter.
These 3rd Regiment Virginians were gathered from their homes to go to the aide of Charleston. One of their captains, with his 50 Rockbridge men, was Adam Wallace, brother to Andrew Wallace who had escaped from the beleaguered city. One 1860 newspaper report says that Buford's Regiment marched from Pittsylvania and the other adjoining counties in Virginia. They left their homes in the spring of 1780. Another source says they left in March.
One historian disputes the above information. "Some early histories state that the 11th Virginia was the regiment cut to pieces by Tarleton at Waxhaws, but this is in error. The commanding officer of the Continentals at Waxhaws was the Colonel of the 11th Virginia (Buford) but his men were actually new recruits or recalled veterans intended for the various regiments of the Virginia Line."
For the entire war military units constantly are the same, but the names are redesignated. Units are broken up and reformed under different designations. This was caused by war casualties--being killed or wounded in action, dying through disease, enlistments ending, or officers constantly being reassigned to other units. Throughout the military history of our peoples, the designations of their regiments are confusing.
Forty miles from Charleston Buford received word that the city had surrendered. Buford was then ordered to retreat and escort Governor Rutledge, and his party, to the town of Hillsborough, North Carolina, to remove him from danger.
Buford was making a slow retreat. Earlier, British cavalry leader Colonel Banastre Tarleton had disbursed Lt. Colonel William Washington's cavalry. Buford wanted the remnants to have time to catch up with his men.
The British commander, Cornwallis wanted to capture the rebel Governor, and he wanted the 3rd Virginians. Again, Washington sent all Virginia Continentals to defend Charleston. They were all taken at Charleston ...except...Buford's men. They were the last Continental's in the South.
Cornwallis was in pursuit with 2,500 men, but it was a slow ponderous army with all of the implements of war that only slow you down: baggage wagons, artillery, etc. (The British usually attacked in style.)
He decided to detach and send his ablest cavalry commander, with handpicked troops, to overtake Buford. The man he chose was Colonel (Lieutenant Colonel) Banastre Tarleton.
Tarleton came from a well-to-do family. His father was mayor of Liverpool. The father's wealth come from the slave trade. Tarleton had graduated from Oxford, but at the age of 21 purchased a lowly position of Coronet in the army. At Oxford, and in his military life to come, he had a reputation for being wild, with a penchant for drinking and gambling. He was “roistering.”
“Out of family pride he (Banestre Tarleton’s father) purchased the old seat at Aigburth, and then Bolesworth Castle...” –Robert D. Bass, historian
Unlike many monarchs of the times, the King of England did not rule with absolute power. He was subject to the approval of Parliament, which consisted of two houses: The House of Lords and the House of Commons. In fact, Parliament ruled over the king. The House of Lords was hereditary. The House of Commons was by election.
Not every man could vote. One had to own substantial property, which automatically eliminated 85-90% of the adult male population. There were other qualifications. You had to serve without pay, which meant that you had to be independently wealthy. Of course, one had to belong to the approved religions, which eliminated all Catholics and Jews. The elimination process only allowed 4% of the population to vote. Those in the 4% were the immensely wealthy.
Both houses were equal. The hereditary House of Lords could veto any acts by the elected House of Commons. Half of the members of Parliament were elected through a sometimes wild democratic system, and half through a system of purchase with the member not necessarily living in the district that he represented. (It was common for a young man when reaching the age of 21 to be given a seat in Parliament by the family.) This guaranteed that only the upper class; the aristocracy and nobility sat in Parliament. The King controlled Parliament through a system of bribery. He had a large fund specifically for the purpose of bribing members of parliament. The ruling elite saw nothing wrong with this system. Their logical view was that those who ruled were true Englishmen who only had the best interest of every Englishman in their hearts and actions.
It was not until 1832 that the middle class English man received the right to vote. The working man could not vote until 1867. Only in 1885 were equal voting districts created. This guaranteed that no longer was it possible for a village of 10 people to hold 10 seats in parliament while a neighboring city of 10,000 had no seats.
On the eve of the American Revolution in 1776, the average Englishman had as much chance of voting as the average black person had of voting in Florida.
Tarleton arrived in New York City at the beginning of the war and quickly made a name for himself. His rise to fame came when he was involved in the capture of America's number-two general, Charles Lee. Lee was an Englishman with rank in the British army. He changed sides and brought with him valuable battlefield experience from Europe. However, Lee was more than eccentric, which would cause him ingloriously to end his military career in the middle of the war.
Tarleton was small. His looks were deceiving. He was a stocky, rough, tough, cocky, redheaded fighter. He was a brutally efficient fighter in battle, a hell-raiser, and a hard living rake off the battlefield. He was amazingly successful against superior enemies. His key to success was speed and surprise. Tarleton was a superb rider and could mount horses everyone else considered unmanageable; a good quality for a cavalry commander.
Cornwallis considered Taralton "as the most brilliant cavalry commander he had ever seen." In four years of fighting in the North he had risen to the rank of Colonel and was one of the most famous officers in the British army in America. However, many British officers who served alongside of Tarleton considered him totally incompetent and unfit to command troops in battle. These opinions were well founded. But that is for another book, which has actually been written.
Tarleton went after Buford, who now commanded the only organized resistance in the entire South.
The land was in the spring season--just perfect. (So visit in the spring season.) Visit in the summer? (You have to visit this part of the country in the summer to realize how miserable it actually is.) In the autumn? (Worse than summer!) It was almost June. It was indescribably hot, humid, miserable, unbelievably exhausting.
Buford was not worried. His intelligence told him that Cornwallis was ten days behind. Tarelton drove hard. He ran horses to their deaths, and also his men almost to death. He commandeered horses from the farms along the way, using the pretext that he was confiscating rebel property. He took whatever he could get: riding horses, wagon horses, plow horses. This upset the loyal Tory farmers greatly, as Tarleton did not always differentiate between enemy civilians and friendly Tories.
Tarleton's force consisted of 130 cavalry, 100 infantry, and 40 British dragoons. Because they were in hot pursuit, all rode double. (Dragoons were mounted infantry who would ride quickly to the scene of battle, dismount, and fight as infantry. In this case you had the cavalry up front with the dragoon hanging on behind.)
Most, if not all, were Loyalists from the Northern campaigns, for Tarleton was a commander of Loyalists troops. They were from New York and Pennsylvania and were highly trained, crack troops. These Tories had been badly mistreated by the Patriots at home and were looking for vengeance. They were known as Tarleton's Legion. (The British were red coats, or lobster backs. Not these troopers. They wore green jackets.)
A few British officers had only disdain and contempt for Loyalist soldiers. They did not think they could fight, so relegated them to menial jobs as guards, escort work, etc… not so Tarleton. He respected his Tory men, treated them well. His men loved him. Tarelton's Legion was as good as any British regulars.
By the time Tarleton caught up with Buford, he had covered 105 miles in 54 hours. A remarkable feat. He did not arrive with the same number of men that he started with. Some dropped out along the way due to exhaustion.
As for Buford and his 3rd Virginia Regiment, they continued their retreat unaware of the speed of their pursuer. By now Governor Rutledge and his party had gone their separate way. Buford joined up with a North Carolina militia the same size as his own. They combined forces. They encountered small militia groups. All were in retreat, making their way to their homes. It is possible that in these contacts upon the limited roads, that Adam and Andrew Wallace's companies' met while on this confusing retreat. Some of the smaller militias and the North Carolina militia eventually separated. It was this confused, mixed force of Patriots that Tarleton would face.
Contact was made while Buford was resting his men near the North Carolina border. It was a general area known by it's Indian name, Waxhaws.
Tarleton sent a rider ahead under a white flag. Under the flag was a green-jacketed British officer. The officer told Buford that Tarleton was close behind with a force of 700 men, and that Cornwallis was just a few hours behind with 9 battalions. The officer offered the same surrender terms as given at Charleston. (Charleston Terms of Surrender: Continental officers would be given parole but would have to remain in the city of Charleston. Continental soldiers would be made prisoners of war. Militia soldiers and armed civilians who fought in the battle would be given parole and allowed to return to their homes.) The Charleston parole terms had advantages to both sides. The advantage to the Patriots was obvious. To the British way of thinking: by paroling all these soldiers meant that they did not have to imprison, and feed them.
As for the entire British army ready to pounce on Burford: It was a bluff, and Buford knew it was a bluff. Bluffing was a standard military tactic of the time. However, what if it was not a bluff? Buford could not stand against Cornwallis' full army.
In truth, Tarleton had less than 250 men together to attack, and Cornwallis was two days behind.
Buford's intelligence told him that Tarleton was close, only 20 miles behind with mounted men. They could cover this distance in a short time on horseback.
Buford knew that Tarleton was lying, and Tarleton knew that Buford knew he was lying. In a clever maneuver, Tarleton was trying to make Buford stop in place while he considered his proposal. This brief stop would allow Tarleton’s men to catch up. But Buford did not stop, other than to confer with all of his officers, one of whom was Adam Wallace.
Buford asked his officers three questions?
1. Shall we surrender?
2. Shall we abandon the baggage train, which is slowing us down and make a more rapid retreat? (There were 26 wagons of equipment and clothing.)
3. Shall we fortify the wagons and await the attack?
The officers reject the surrender terms, "…it being incompatible with their honour as soldiers, or the duty they wed their country, either to surrender or abandon the baggage on the bare statement of Tarleton."
Keep in mind that it was entirely possible that the only British forces they faced was the officer who rode up with a white flag. It could all be a bluff. Buford continued his retreat, which meant his regiment was strung out in march.
As usual, Tarleton would be attacking a larger force with a smaller one. However, the Americans were strung out in march over a distance of several miles, with the baggage trains far in advance.
The Americas were caught by surprise as Tarleton moved faster than they had expected. Tarleton did not attack with his full force. Remember, they also are strung out due to exhaustion.
What happened next has many versions for such a small battle. Some historians don't even call it a battle because it was over so quickly. Buford ordered his men into the safety of the woods. But the woods were scattered and no obstacle to the cavalry. When the enemy appeared, the Patriots formed a single line of 150 riflemen. It was a brave move destined for disaster.
Most historians accept the figure of 350 Americans in this battle. However, reports differ from 300 to 500. Governor Rutledge estimated 400. The average age of the American soldier was 24. It was three o'clock in the afternoon.
Buford faced Tarleton with his 3rd Virginia Regiment and the remnants of Colonel Washington's cavalry and dragoons. He also had whatever scattered smaller militia units that happened to be with him at the time.
Throughout the war, Tarleton had disdain for the enemy. He followed his usual pattern; not hesitating, did not rest or feed his men, not waiting for the stragglers to catch up. He formed his men loosely. Then charged headlong with cavalry and infantry at the same time. Who charged where and when has different versions.
These Continentals had never stood before a cavalry charge, did not know the speed of galloping horse. Buford ordered his men to hold their fire until the enemy was at ten paces. When Tarleton heard these words, he knew that battle was won. For a speeding horse could cover ten yards in just one second.
The Continentals fired, emptying a few saddles. But the enemy was upon them before they had time to reload their muskets. The Americans should have formed three lines, with each rank firing in turn while the others reloaded. This would have stopped the charge. However, the biggest mistake was sending the heavy baggage wagons ahead, now some seven miles away. Buford could have used the wagons for a barrier with the riflemen safely behind. Tarleton would never have ordered a cavalry charge against fortified wagons defended by experienced troops.
What is agreed upon is that the Americans fired one volley, and did not have time to reload. They were now defenseless, as they did not have fixed bayonets. (Throughout the war, the Americans did not like to fight with bayonets. They would fight with bayonets at times, but they did not like it.) Except for the officers, the soldiers had no other weapons. The British were upon them with cavalry sabers and infantry bayonets. Seeing that their position was impossible, Buford ordered his men to lay down their arms and surrender. A white flag was raised. Did all of the men obey this order? It is open to question.
Tarelton’s Legion, Tories, began massacring their fellow Americans. "The demand for quarter, seldom refused to a vanquished foe, was at once found to be in vain." Most historians agree that Tarleton did not order the massacre, neither did he do anything to stop it. (According to the customs of war, when the enemy laid down their arms and asked to have their lives spared (quarter) they were spared and taken as captives. However, a little known variable to the procedure is this: It was not unusual for a soldier to lay down his arms, ask for quarter, watch to see which way the battle was going. If the battle turned the other way, he would then pick up his weapon and continue the fight.)
To surrender was to die, so Adam Wallace picked up his espontoon (a type of pike) and continued to fight. He would come face to face with Tarleton and they would duel. It was not just Adam Wallace against Tarleton. Enemy soldiers surrounded him. Hit from behind, his head was nearly severed. Circling his body were a ring of dead and wounded Tories. Adam Wallace had sold his life dearly. My 5th great grandmother, Martha Woods Wallace, sister to Magdelene, had lost her third son in the war.
The battle was at close quarters. There were no bullet wounds. It was all hand-to-hand fighting. In fifteen minutes not one American soldier was left standing. The Tories then, systematically, went from body to body bayoneting those who still had life. They would use their bayonets to throw off the bodies on the top to get to the men underneath.
When the massacre was finished the Tories went again from body to body and stripped the solders of anything of value.
There are many different stories about the battle. I will give the two most popular; the British view and the American.
The British say that the Americans tricked them. They raised the white flag. Tarleton rode forward to receive the flag. A shot rang out and Tarleton's horse went down pinning the leader. The British soldiers believing their leader was killed by deception, charged furiously.
Another version, and the one most popular with Patriot writers, that Tarleton tricked Buford by offering the Colonials quarter. When the Patriots laid down their arms, Tarleton ordered the British troops to attack without mercy.
Alexander Garden of Charleston wrote that it was "...one of Tarleton's most atrocious acts of barbarity, yet it exalted him in favor of Lord Cornwallis, and raised his military reputation, in the opinions of the British nation, to the most exalted degree of perfection."
One British historian wrote about Waxhaws, “...the virtue of humanity was totally forgotten.”
Those who escaped quickly spread the news of the massacre.
The British soldiers hastily dug a slit trench and buried 84 men; the enemy Tories were laid beside the enemy Patriots. One historian states that they were buried by the local Patriots attracted to the site by the sounds of the battle, which carried for miles. I think both versions are right, one more right than the other. It is known that at least two Patriots were at the site the first day. I believe, that because the region was so lightly settled, that a few, maybe a handful, arrived at the scene immediately. They would have tended to the American wounded and perhaps helped in the burial.
The British surgeon refused to tend to the American wounded. The British deny this report. However, no American at the scene testified that the British surgeon cared for the American wounded.
The British losses were minimal at 5 killed and 14 wounded. (It has long been military tradition to over estimate the enemy casualties and underestimate your own.) These casualty figures are from Tarleton's own report.
The British left the field the night of the battle.
Tarleton sent word of the wounded to the (Old) Waxhaws Meeting House. The next morning the women and children drove their farm wagons to the battle field. The men were away at war, or in British prison camps, or hiding from the British troops. It would not be a good idea for a male of arms-bearing age to be caught by the British in this part of the country, for this was the hot bed of revolt. (Taleton and Cornwallis both later stated that the local Patriots plagued their attempts to conquer North Carolina. Tarleton noted that in the region of the Waxhaws the enemy was more hostile than anywhere else in the colonies. This was”...the hornet’s nest of the Revolution,” – Cornwallis.)
On the second day, the settlers buried an additional 25 soldiers in another common grave 300 yards east of the first. The wounded were taken to the Waxhaw Meeting House (The Old Presbyterian Church) to be nursed. The Church still stands and is still active, although, this is the fourth church building to be erected on the site. The first church was destroyed by the British, for obvious reasons. In the graveyard next to the church still lie the graves of those who fought at Waxhaws, and lost.
The wounded were placed on straw, which was used for bedding, on the floor of the church. The average body received 16 wounds from saber and bayonet. There were no bullet wounds. The soldiers were nursed continuously. Among those tending the wounded were Elizabeth Jackson and her two sons, Robert and 13-year-old Andy. Andy Jackson would one day become the seventh US president.
The Americans suffered 113 killed on the field, 150 wounded, and 53 taken prisoners. Tarleton paroled the wounded on the spot. This was mostly a meaningless gesture as most of them would soon die. Indeed, many died the following day. It was a practical decision on Tarleton's part as they could not be marched or transported to prison camp. The 53 prisoners were marched to a camp in Camden.
Parole was a serious business. It meant that you agreed, under penalty of death, in no way to take part in the war in the future. Breaking parole would mean death. Both sides would liberally execute parole violators, whether they had violated their parole or not. You can now see the problem with the Carolina Tories in not wanting to break their paroles and taking up arms for the king.
Most of the American officers on horse, including Buford, made their escape.
Years later Tarleton would write, "The complete success of this attack, may in great measure, be attributed to the mistakes committed by the American commander." Those mistakes: Buford should have formed his wagons as a barricade and the Americans should have fired their first volley at 300-400 yards.
Andrew Jackson talked with some of the survivors. He says of that historical event, "…that Buford had "made no arrangement to receive an enemy although he had timely warning of their approach."
Buford requested and received a court martial. He was exonerated.
Tarleton let it be known that he did not like to take prisoners. After the battle, Cornwallis sent a letter asking him to prevent his troops from "committing irregularities."
Adam Wallace; "Enlisted 20 March 1776. 1st Lieutenant, 7th Virginia. Captain 29 June 1778, transferred to 5th Virginia 14 Sept 1778. Served to Jan 1780."
Wallace, Adam (Va). 1st Lieutenant 7th Virginia, 20th March, 1776; Captain 29th June, 1778; transferred to the 5th Virginia, 14 September, 1778, and served to January 1780.
Adam Wallace; 10th Virginia at Valley Forge the winter of 1777-1778. Incorporated into the 4th Virginia, on 10 May 1779 incorporated into the 3rd Virginia. Regiments officers captured at Charleston. (10th Virginia created October 1776, 1778 redesignated 6th Virginia.)
"Adam was the captain of one of the companies of the 10th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line…was composed of 50 Rockbridge men…the regiment had been detached from the Northern Army, and ordered to go to the relief…of Charleston…It was in this terrible encounter that Captain Adam Wallace fell. He was a young man of 25 years, and stood six feet, two inches, (and a half) in his stockings--the very picture of vigorous manhood. Colonel Buford, seeing his men in confusion, fled early in the fight, but young Wallace disdained to fly; and, standing his ground, met steel with steel--his trusty sword was wielded with tremendous vigor, and he managed to kill a number of Tarleton's dragoons before he received the fatal blow which ended his noble young life…That very sword was, a few years ago, in the possession of Major J. A. R. Varner, of Lexington, Virginia, himself a descendant of the young hero's brother, Samuel Wallace. It was an infantry captain's sword, with a buck-horn handle, heavily mounted in silver. On the clasp nearest the handle is engraved, in clear letters, his name--'Adam Wallace"'
(This story was told originally by Neander Woods [I think]1905. Then retold by George Seldon Wallace, 1927. Does the sword still exist today?)
Adam was 6' 2 1/2". You may say that he was not a giant. However, you must think of Adam Wallace in the context of the times. The average height of the soldier of the Revolutionary War was 5' 6." In the Civil War, it was 5' 8." The Revolutionary soldier was 4 inches shorter than today. Add 4 inches to the height of Adam Wallace and today he would be 6' 6 1/2". A giant? No. But, very tall indeed. (Our Wallace brothers were not the only giants in the war. Donald Long, Park Ranger at Guilford Court House, tells me that soldiers over 6 feet tall, on both sides, were not uncommon during the war. ( “Looking at period clothing I would say they were spare in body, smaller in body size more than height. A chest measurement on a grown adult male of 1781 could be easily 34-36 inches or less. Despite their size, if they survived or missed the killer childhood disease, they were tough folks.) I don’t think ours were these wiry men. Looking at the sons of Martha Wallace Moon in the famous Archibald Moon funeral photo, you see our Wallaces to be very tall, strapping men (chapter 6).
James McDowell, when Governor of Virginia (He was the one who had little respect for lawyers and was the great grandson of Magdelene), paid a tribute to his first cousin, twice removed, Adam Wallace. In a speech before the House of Delegates: “...was an eloquent orator, and also a cogent reasoner.”
"That dark and dismal page in the history of the American Revolution; that carnival of cruel and unjustifiable slaughter, stamped with the name of Waxhaw, is illuminated only by the splendid heroism of a soldier from the Valley of Virginia, whom I am proud to claim as a kinsman, Captain Adam Wallace of Rockbridge."
Governor James McDowell married his first cousin, Miss Preston, daughter of Col. William Campbell, who commanded in the battle of King’s Mountain. Col. William Campbell was wed to the sister of Patrick Henry. These people were all intermarried in this part of the Valley of Virginia. “Marriage to close relatives was acceptable practice in both humble and wealthy families.” – Donald Long
James McDowell would run for the United States Senate against John Tyler, and lose. As Vice-president, Tyler would quickly ascend to the presidency; “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”
It is strange how two people, in this case peoples, can view the same event and come away with starkly differing opinions. Thus, it was at Waxhaws. To the Americans it was a massacre. To the English people it was a glorious victory.
The Americans had a very efficient courier system. Within days, the news of the massacre was carried throughout the colonies and Banastre Tarleton became the most hated man in the Americas. His exploits, barbarity, were spoken of in the colonies every day of the war and for generations to come.
Banastre Tarleton believed in total warfare. This was in a time of chivalry. He burned houses, barns, killed live stock, destroyed crops in the field. Tarleton did whatever he thought necessary to deny the enemy their ability to wage war.
When Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Tarleton surrendered to the French. If he had surrendered to the Americans he would have been hanged on the spot. Luckily, he did not sleep in his assigned bed the night of the surrender. In the morning there were stab wounds in his mattress.
During war, all countries need a hero. Letters of the battle were sent between Tarleton and Cornwallis, which Cornwallis forwarded to Lord Germain in London. Exactly one month later these letters were printed in the "London Gazetter Extraordinary," and quickly reprinted in the newspapers throughout England.
The British public took a liking to the exploits of this dashing cavalry officer of the king. England had its hero.
Lord Germain sent Tarleton the king's personal commendation.
The British press would cover Tarleton's brilliant career. Such was the attention of the press, and adulation of the British people, that Banastre Tarleton would come out of the war the most popular soldier on the British side. He was honored everywhere he went. Banastre Tarleton was consort to the Prince of Wales. He was the sought after guest for parlors, parties, balls, all social events. He had a long running affair with England's greatest actress. (She was previously the mistress to the same Prince of Wales.) Tarleton's name and life were covered in the regular press and the gossip press. As they say today, "He was good press." Tarleton sold papers. His popularity would remain until the day he died in 1833.
In England, one's military career was politically connected. Tarleton made the mistake of backing the wrong people. This effectively ended his career. His reputation was made in only one war. He would be an officer (in reserve) on half-pay for most of his life. He would have brief recalls, which would enable him to be knighted and called Sir Banaster Tarleton, and retire at the rank of general.
Four times he was elected to Parliament. He would marry a duke’s daughter, 20 years his junior, and have no children, thus no direct descendants today. A superstar during his life, he would pass into obscurity. Until recently, no one in England would know of the man, that is until a few years go when a movie came out titled ”The Patriot.” The evil British Colonel
“Tavington” portrayed in the movie was based upon the real life Tarleton.
In correspondence with historian Rix Booraem; he tells us that "Sure, Tarleton was ambitious and ruthless, but "Tavington" in the film wasn't just a bad guy; he was a monster, a sadistic psychopath who would have been disowned by the British army in the 18th Century."
Tarleton wrote a 500 page book that is still read today. He has a biography written about his life. As we have seen, he even has a movie. 200 years later his magnificent full uniformed portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, still hangs in the National Gallery in London.
He would die in 1833, and now lies in an untended grave in the Leintwardine Church yard in Leintwardine, England.
For Adam Wallace, all we have is a common grave and signature on his will, for which we can all be proud.
An account of Adam Wallace’s death appeared in The Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser, Tuesday, July 18, 1780 issue. (Original article printed in italics.)
In justice to the memory of Capt Adam Wallace who fell in the late actions at the Wax Saws, in South Carolina, we think ourselves bound to give the Public the following account of his bravery on that unhappy occasion, as it is certified by a number of officers and soldiers, in Col. Buford’s regiment, who were eye-witnesses to the transaction. When the enemy made the attack Captain Wallace was posted on the right; after the exchange of several shot, Colonel Buford ordered his men to ground their arms to which Captain Wallace complied (as to ceasefiring) but instead of meeting with that reception which the feelings of humanity dictates, or that clemency which our conquered foes have ever received at our hands, no quarters were given; on which he ordered his men to sell their lives as dear as possible he bravely defended himself against a number who assailed him on all sides, he was seen to make several lunges at Col Tarliton (who commanded the enemy’s party) whilst he was thus engaged, he received a blow to the back of his neck, which nearly severed his head from his body, and was found dead on the field, with a British officer at his feet: thus was massacred a man whose bravery merits universal applause. Col. Tarliton, the next day publicaly mentioned his bravery; which he said, entitled him to immortal honour.
Signature of Adam Wallace, 31 March 1777
Tarleton would face our Woods and Wallaces and McDowells again, and again.
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