Battles of the American Revolution: siege of Augusta

Rawdon followed Greene a little way beyond the Wateree, but finding the communication between Camden and Charleston broken by American partisans, he resolved to abandon the whole country north of the Congaree. He ordered Colonel Cruger to leave Fort-Ninety-Six, and join a British force at Augusta; and on the 10th of May, after burning his stores and public and private buildings at Camden, Rawdon left that post forever, and marched down to Nelson's Ferry on the Santee, to drive off Marion and Lee, then besieging Fort Motte. But within six days afterward the post at Nelson's Ferry, Fort Granby near the site of the city of Columbia, Fort Motte on the Congaree, and Orangeburg near the waters of the Edisto, fell into the hands of the Americans. Fort Motte was composed of the fine residence of Mrs. Rebecca Motte (a widowed mother with six children), and temporary fortifications constructed around it. Mrs. Motte was an ardent Whig, and had been driven from her house by the British. She had taken refuge at her farm-house on a hill near by, when Marion and Lee approached with a considerable force. They had no artillery, and could make only a slight impression upon the fort. What was to be done had to be done quickly. Lee proposed to dislodge the enemy by hurling some combustible material upon the roof of the building and setting it on fire. Mrs. Motte readily consented to this destruction of her property. She brought out a strong Indian bow and some arrows, and with these a soldier, expert in their use, sent fire to the dry roof. When it burst into a flame, the alarmed garrison, one hundred and sixty-five in number, surrendered. The patriotic owner then regaled both the American and British officers with a good dinner at her own table.

Marion now hastened to attack a British post at Georgetown; and Lee pushed forward toward the Savannah to aid Pickens and Clarke in holding the country between Ninety-Six and Augusta, to prevent the garrison at either place joining the other. In this they were successful. Rawdon's order to Cruger to evacuate Ninety-Six reached him when the pathway between that post and Augusta was closed by the partisan rangers; and Rawdon, alarmed by the rapid and successful movements of these partisans, fled toward the sea-coast, and did not halt until he reached Monks' Corners, well down toward Charleston. Pickens and Clarke had kept watch over the British at Augusta, and when, on the 20th of May, they were joined by Lee, they proceeded to invest the fort there. Fort Galphin, twelve miles below Augusta, was taken on the 21st of May, and then an officer was sent to demand the surrender of the main fort. Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, one of the most cruel of the Tories of that region, who was in command, refused to surrender, when a regular siege began. A general assault was about to be made on the 4th of June, when Brown proposed to surrender, and on the following day this important post passed into the hands of the Americans. In that siege the Americans lost fifty-one killed and wounded, and the British parted with fifty-two in the same way, and over three hundred made prisoners. At the close of the siege, Lee and Pickens hastened to Ninety-Six, then beleagured by the forces of Greene.

Kosciuszko was Greene's chief engineer, and with that skillful officer he began the siege of Ninety-Six on the 22nd of May, with about a thousand men. The garrison numbered five hundred and fifty. The post was well fortified, and Cruger was a brave soldier. Some troops having arrived from Ireland early in June, Lord Rawdon, thus reinforced, hastened to the relief of the beleaguered fort, with about two thousand men. His approach was heralded by a horseman in the garb of a planter, who rode along the American lines at twilight one evening, and talked freely with the officers. It was a common occurrence, and attracted no special attention. When he reached the road leading directly to the fort, he put spurs to his horse and dashed toward the gate of the fortress followed by a score of bullets. He reached the portal unharmed, bearing in his upraised hand a large letter. It was a despatch to Cruger from Rawdon, announcing his approach. The former had not heard from the writer since he fled from Camden; and he was so hard pressed by the besiegers, who had cut off his water supply, that he was contemplating a surrender. The news encouraged the garrison to endure a little longer. When, on the 18th of June, Rawdon was drawing nigh, Greene attempted to take the fort by storm. It was a disastrous failure. Only one of every six of the assailants escaped unhurt; one-third of them were killed. On the following day Greene raised the siege and fled beyond the Saluda, pursued some distance by the garrison.

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