Tuesday, October 8, 2013

(ROBERTS) "You...rascal! We are Americans, not British."

The Battle of Haw River of the Revolutionary War: deception, a family history tie, and a win for the Patriots add up to a great story! (You know, if you ignore the carnage part.)

In February, 1781, the British were seeking Loyalist recruits for the army in North Carolina. Dr. John Pyle answered the call, gathering at least 300 men. He asked (British) General Cornwallis to send an escort for his men. Cornwallis complied, sending (British) Lt. Col. Tarleton with about 450 men. Pyle seemed to be concerned enough about his safety to ask for an escort, yet he allowed his men, against higher orders, to linger in the area to socialize with friends and family, which resulted in their missing their rendezvous with Tarleton.

On February 24th, two men from (Loyalist) Pyle's group were out looking for (British) Col. Tarleton's force. They came across an army wearing green coats, like Tarleton's men did. Unfortunately for them, (Patriot) Col. Henry Lee and his men also wore green coats. William McAdams, my 6th-great-grandfather, was at that time serving under Col. Henry Lee. William was present for all that followed, although his specific actions are unknown.

Pyle's men assumed that (Patriot) Lt. Col. Lee was (British) Lt. Col. Tarleton, as both units dressed in green coats. The two men freely revealed the nearby location of Pyle's army. Lt. Col. Lee sent the two back to Pyle with "Colonel Tarleton's compliments," and asked them to have Pyle's force move off the road so "Tarleton's" group could pass.

Then Lee broke his army into three groups, apparently to surround the Loyalist forces, to either capture or bypass them on his way to attack Tarleton. Lee's contingent openly approached Pyle's men and began to pass them on the road, while other of Lee's forces got behind the Loyalists in the Woods. Dr. Pyle saluted Lee, assuming he was Tarleton, and even shook his hand.

At that moment, shooting commenced near the woods. Apparently, some of the Loyalists had seen the Patriots hidden in the woods and started shooting, realizing that these weren't the British. (It has alternately been suggested that the Patriots started shooting first. As the evidence is unclear, I think that's mostly irrelevant over 200 years later.) Lee dropped Pyle's hand and drew his own sword, and Patriot troops swarmed from the woods and attacked the Loyalist troops. 

"'Stop! Stop!' screamed Col. Pyle, 'You are killing your own men!'

"His cry ended abruptly as a Patriot sword knocked him from his horse. ... As each Patriot wheeled his horse to face a new opponent, he called out, 'Whose man are you?' 'The King's! The King's!' screamed the Loyalists, and the Patriot sword cut them down." [A]

Amazingly, though smitten as soon as they proclaimed to be friends of the king, the Loyalists continued to be confused about the identity of their assailants. Several who escaped later found the British camp, and they complained to the real Tarleton "of the cruelty of his dragoons." [B] One injured Loyalist, taken as a prisoner, exclaimed to Lee, "Mr. Tarleton, you have this day killed a parcel of as good subjects as ever His Majesty had." Angered, Lee replied, "You...rascal! We are Americans, not British. I am Lee of the American Legion!" [A]

The battle was a clear Patriot victory. At least 90 Loyalists were killed, and several hundred were wounded. No Patriots were killed. The head of William McAdams' regiment, Col. Moore, was injured when his horse was shot and fell on him. He was the only Patriot wounded.

The Battle of Haw River helped weaken British morale, and from the American Patriot point of view was "of infinite Service. It has knocked up Toryism [previously a big problem in that area] altogether in this part."[C] 

William McAdams served in the militia for over two years. He also participated in the Battle of Stono, the pursuit of Col. David Fanning the Tory, and various skirmishes with the Tories and British. He eventually settled in Illinois.

For the curious, the genealogy is:
William McAdams (1760 - 1843)
is your 6th great grandfather
daughter of William McAdams
daughter of Mary "Polly" McAdams
daughter of Hannah Dugger
son of Mary Anne Graham
son of William H Peter
daughter of Earl Raymond PETER(S)
and then down to me.


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