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attempted to make an establishment in South Carolina by the possession of Port-royal Island. For this purpose he detached Colonel Gardner with 200 men, who effected a landing; but being met by General Moultrie, (the brave defender of the fort of his name,) at the head of a like number, he was driven off with considerable loss.
In pursuance of his determination to act offensively, General Lincoln, early in February, sent General Ashe with about 1500 men to take post opposite Augusta, where Colonel Campbell had fixed himself, as the most convenient rendezvous for the tories and loyalists of the State. Here he had collected a force composed of this denomination of persons to the amount of 2000; the greater part of them were persons of infamous character, who lived chiefly by robbery and plunder. A party of them, with Colonel Boyd at their head, having crossed the Savannah, Colonel Pickens, with about 300 militia collected from the district of 96, followed them, and on the 14th bad a desperate engagement with them of three quarters of an hour. Having lost their leader, and about 40 killed, they took to fight in every direction; a few of them were enabled to reach the British posts in safety, but the greater part, being citizens of South Carolina, were apprehended and brought to trial for treason, and five of the ringleaders executed.
This check, together with the threatening attitude which General Lincoln had assumed, induced Colonel Campbell to abandon his position at Augusta on: the very night of General Ashe's arrival. In order to prevent if possible his conjunction with Prevost, General Lincoln advised Ashe to cross the river, follow the enemy, and take post at Briar creek, In obe
dience to this advice, General Ashe crossed with his troops, and on the 28th they were encamped in two divisions under Generals Brian and Elbert, near to the lower bridge on Briar creek. The bridge had been destroyed by Campbell on his march, but even for three days after the arrival of the Americans, no attempt had been made to repair it. The British commander no sooner heard of this movement of Ashe, than he determined upon measures to dislodge him; and in order the better to conceal his real design, and divert the attention of General Lincoln, he made a a feint of crossing the river between Ebenezer and Savannah, while Lieutenant Colonel Prevost, who was posted at Hudson's ferry, 13 miles below Briar creek, having made a division of his forces and sent one as if to attack the front of Ashe, made a circuitous march of fifty miles with the other, amounting to about 900 men, with two pieces of artillery, and came in upon Ashe's rear.
. General Ashe proved wholly incompetent to the charge entrusted to him; he was completely surprised in the weakest part of his camp, and when the enemy appeared on the 3d of March, instead of turning out at the head of his whole force to meet them, he ordered Elbert to sustain the shock with his continentals, amounting to no more than 100 rank and file. This brave officer did not hesitate even with this small number to meet the British light infantry, with whom he engaged for fifteen minutes, while Ashe and his militia stood idly looking on in the rear, without attempting to move to his assistance, until Elbert's men were compelled to give way, when the whole body of them fled in dismay. Thus deserted, Elbert used every exertion to bring his little band a second time to the charge, but by this time they were
completely surrounded, and further resistance was vain. He and the few who survived were taken pri
A number of the militia who fled were killed and others overtaken, to the number of more than 300 in the whole. Many of them were drowned in attempting to cross the river, and many others return ed to their homes so panick struck, that they never ventured again into the field. Colonel Prevost deservedly gained great credit for the skill and dexterity with which he had managed this enterprise ; but he has to thank the negligence and incompetence of the American General for his success. Had Elbert been in the place of Ashe, the result of the day might have been widely different. .
Thus were the British secured for the present in their possession of Georgia. The loss of seven pieces of cannon, nearly all their arms and ammunition, and the flight of so large a portion of Ashe's troops, had so much reduced the force and means of General Lincoln, that he was unable for some time to undertake any
hostile movement. The election of John Rutledge Esq. about this time to the government of South Carolina, gave an excitement to the republican interest, which soon resulted in important advantages. He was a gentleman of elegant manners, of extensive acquirements, an accomplished orator, and above all he had taken an 'active part in the earliest measures of independence. He was clothed by the Legislature with extensive powers, and he soon began to exert them for the good of the cause. The militia flocked from all quarters to the American standard, and by the 19th April General Lincoln found himself at the head of 5000 men. With these he determined once more to cross the Savannah, and take such a position as
would intercept the supplies of the enemy from the back parts of Georgia, while at the same time it would enable him to protect the Republican Legislature, then about to convene at Augusta. Leaving one thousand men under General Moultrie, at the Black Swamp and Perrysburg, he commenced his march for Augusta on the 23 of April.
General Prevost almost immediately determined to take advantage of this movement of Lincoln, and penetrate into South Carolina. With this view, having collected a force of more than 3000 men, he crossed the river in several places, and moved towards the posts occupied by Moultrie. They traversed swamps that had been deemed by the Americans impassable, and appeared so unexpectedly, that Moultrie's militia made but a feeble resistance and retreated towards Charleston. Emboldened by this success, the British General, with the advice and concurrence of his officers, determined to push his advantages as far as the capital of South Carolina. He moved
He moved on, therefore, in pursuit of Moultrie's militia, a part of which had been left under Colonel Laurens at Coosawhatchie bridge, while Moultrie himself took post at Tullifinny bridge. Laurens defended the pass with great spirit for some time, but being himself wounded, and his troops having suffered considerably, he was at length obliged to join General Moultrie. Captain Shubrick, his second in command, conducted the retreat of Laurens's corps with great order and caution.
General Moultrie's force in the mean time suffered daily diminution by the desertion of his militia, who could on no consideration be induced to pass their homes without stopping to take care of their private affairs. General Lincoln received intelligence of the
movements of the enemy, but judging that bis object (which in reality it had been at first,) was a mere feint to draw him back from the capital of Georgia, contented himself with sending Colonel Harris with about 300 continentals to the relief of Moultrie, and continued his march for three days longer. Being at length, however, convinced that the British General intended a serious operation against Charleston, Lincoln turned to the right about and recrossed the river.
Colonel Harris, with his 300 continentals, having for four successive days marched near fifty miles a day, reached Charleston as soon as Moultrie, and fortunately before the British army had crossed Ashley river. This dilatory movement of Prevost saved the city; for if he had continued his march with the same rapidity, after he had determined to convert his feint into a real operation, as he had moved at first, he must have arrived at Charleston before any part of the American forces could have entered it, and the town must have fallen. Pulaski's light legion had been sent on by General Lincoln, as soon as he himself had taken the retrogade motion, and these with a part of Moultrie's militia, made repeated stands on the retreat, and a fow slight skirmishes ensued, which only serv. ed the more strongly to convince Prevost of the facility with which he could accomplish his object.
During the movements of the two armies, Governour Rutledge had established himself with the reserve militia at Orangeburg, considerably on Prevost's left, and though in a situation from which he could conve. niently detach his troops to any post at which they might be wanted, he was too far off to have afforded any aid to General Moultrie, but for the delay of two days which Prevost made on his march. Tbis suffic.