SCETV: The Southern Campaign Collection
The Southern Campaign of the American Revolution picks up the story after the fall of Charleston in 1780. After catastrophes at The Waxhaws and Camden, victories in battles and skirmishes such as Brattonsville, Musgrove Mill, Kings Mountain, and Cowpens expelled the British invaders and defeated their loyalist friends, leading to the surrender at Yorktown, Virginia. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (North Carolina) and the siege of Ninety Six are also featured in the series.
The Southern Campaign was critical in determining the outcome of the American Revolutionary War, yet the South’s importance has been downplayed in most historical accounts to date. SCETV has previously produced a documentary for public television, The Mapping of Kosciusko’s Tunnel, about archeological work at Ninety Six National Historic Site.
Each of the eight The Southern Campaign modules includes a short video episode, photos, maps and online curriculum for South Carolina teachers. Below find a quick index to the modules and direct links to the video episodes.
The War for American independence began well for patriots in the South. In the city of Charles Town, South Carolina (known as “Charleston” after the war)—an unfinished palmetto fort remarkably withstood the cannon balls of the British fleet in 1776. Men like William Moultrie, Francis Marion, William Jasper, and others became Revolutionary War heroes.
Four years later—the American Revolution was deadlocked. In the North, battles were won and lost with little effect. General Henry Clinton and the British high command decided what they needed was a “Southern strategy.”
Colonel Abraham Buford was leading a regiment of Continental soldiers from Virginia to South Carolina to help defend Charleston. A group of soldiers coming from Charleston met them on the road and told them Charleston had already fallen into the British hands. Col. Buford decided to turn the men back towards North Carolina to keep the British from advancing into South Carolina.
On May 29, 1780, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and the British Legion caught up with Col. Buford’s army at a place called “The Waxhaws” in the Catawba River valley, located four miles south of the North Carolina border. Over in fifteen minutes and with 113 Americans dead on the field, this massacre became the first major battle of the Southern Campaign.
The Battle of Waxhaws was a turning point in the Revolutionary War, but not for reasons the British might have hoped. Their intent was to make the backcountry colonists feel the “heel of the boot.” But instead of disheartening the opposition, “Buford’s Massacre” rallied patriot support. Many patriots who had previously surrendered rejoined the fight, determined to repay the harshness of “Tarleton’s quarter” with a vengeance of their own.
After the crushing defeat at Waxhaws, the people of the South Carolina backcountry had a decision to make. Were they “Tories”—loyal to the crown; or would they become “Whigs” or “partisans” and fight the British invaders?
General Thomas Sumter gathered militia troops in South Carolina. Militia units consisted of “civilian” farmers and sometimes included Catawba Indians and slaves. The American militia and partisans couldn’t just line up and take on the British. The British forces were too well-trained and disciplined. The Americans had to whittle away at the enemy, strike their supply lines—fight dozens of little battles, rather than one big battle. This strategy became known as “guerrilla warfare.”
In June 1780, the British had established an "outpost" at Rocky Mount, in the Catawba Valley. Lieutenant Colonel George Turnbull sent troops into what are now York and Chester counties to round up and eliminate the rebels. Captain Christian Huck, a loyalist from Philadelphia, was the leader.
In the community of Brattonsville, Martha Bratton sent a message to warn her husband, Colonel William Bratton, that Captain Huck was on his way. The message was delivered by Watt, the family’s African-American slave.
On July 12, 1780, the Patriot militia, led by Colonel Bratton, defeated the British Legion. This battle became known as the "Battle at Williamson's Plantation" or "Huck's Defeat."
General Daniel Morgan’s battle plan at Cowpens was considered a masterpiece of military strategy and tactics. In Fall of 1780, General Nathaniel Greene sent a portion of his men under Morgan to fight the British in western South Carolina.
In response, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton was sent to chase after Morgan's army. Tarleton met Morgan's men on January 17, 1781 at the Battle of Cowpens.
Morgan learned a lot from the mistakes of Waxhaws and Camden. Because he understood his troops’ capabilities and the landscape of the battlefield, he was able to layout a plan that would change the entire plan of the Southern Campaign.
On August 16, 1780, General Horatio Gates' army, joined by militia men from North Carolina and Virginia, marched south toward the British outpost in Camden, South Carolina. At the same time, Lt General Charles Earl Cornwallis's army headed north. The cavalries clashed in a battle that became known as the Battle of Camden, the largest battle in the South up to that point.
August 19th 1780, three days after the Battle of Camden, another battle was fought. British Provincials from Ninety-Six were camped near Edward Musgrove’s grist mill on the Enoree River (Laurens County), with many recuperating from wounds received at the Battle of Cedar Springs.
View classroom media resources on SCETV's Knowitall PreK-12 educational portal, and download lesson plans from SCETV’s LearningWhy.
Funding and support for the production is provided by The National Park Service, The Self Family Foundation, The George Washington Endowment Fund of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, The South Carolina State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, and a contribution from Dr. Charles B. Hanna.
Kings Mountain is a rocky wooded hill on the border of North and South Carolina. On October 7, 1780, a thousand Patriots surrounded and attacked the British troops and Loyalist soldiers. This battle would become a major victory and turn the tide for the Patriots.
Ninety Six was a small frontier town near Greenwood, South Carolina—an essential part of the geography of British strongholds designed to seal off Charleston and the low country from French, Spanish, and Indian attack. At the “Star Fort” in Ninety Six, a band of Loyalists held their ground, waiting to see what would happen.
On May 21, 1781, General Greene and approximately a thousand troops marched south towards Ninety-Six, to lay siege to the Star Fort. It is was the longest field siege of The American Revolution. It lasted 28 days.
The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was fought on March 15, 1781. This battle decided the outcome for the Carolinas because even though Cornwallis won, technically, he lost 25% of his force.