Researching the American Revolution

Your source for information on the American War of Independence

British Maj. James Wemyss Manuscripts


Several selected writings of Major James Wemyss transcribed by Jared Sparks; historian and former president of Harvard University in the 18th century.  The original transcriptions are housed in the archives of the Harvard University Library and are freely available on-line.  Below are text versions edited with clarifying notes and identifications/brief bios of military officers and other people referenced by Wemyss.[i]

Table of Contents

Assessment of the Abilities of the British General Officers During the American Revolution

Wemyss’s Evaluation of the Sir William Howe’s Performance in and around New York City during the 1776 Campaign

Lord Cornwallis’ Estimated Troop Strength prior to the Battle of Guilford Court House

Notes on the 1780-1 Southern Campaigns

End Notes

“The above three articles are copied from the MS papers of Major Wemyss, a British officer, who served with distinction during the war, particularly in South Carolina.  He died at an advanced age in New York, in the year 1833 or 1834 – and his papers were left in charge of the Rev. Wm. Ware of that city” – Jared Sparks

Assessment of the Abilities of the British General Officers During the American Revolution

(Written by Major James Wemyss of the British Army, afterwards a Lieut. Col.)


Sketches of the character of the General Staff Officers and heads of departments of the British Army that served in America during the revolutionary war (the Southern Army excepted) with some remarks, connected therewith by a Field Officer who served the whole of that war.

Lieut. Gen. Gage[ii], Commander-in-chief of moderate abilities, but all together deficient in military knowledge. Timid and undecided on every path of duty, and very unfit for command at a time of resistance, and approaching rebellion to the Mother Country. Governed by his wife (a handsome American), her brothers and relations held all the staff appointments in the army, and were with less abilities as weak characters as himself.[iii]  To the great joy of the army, he went to England, soon after that ill-judged and ominous attack on Bunker Hill.

Lieut. Gen. Sir William Howe[iv], succeeded Genl. Gage with the good opinion of the Army, but it was soon discovered, that however fit for command a Corps of Grenadiers, was all together unequal to the duties of Commander-in-chief, of which his misconduct on almost all occasions, particularly at the beginning of the war, Long Island, White Plains and Trenton are undoubtable proofs.  His manners were sullen and ungracious, with a dislike to business and a propensity to pleasure.  His staff officers were in general below mediocrity, with some of whom and a few Field Officers, he passed too much of his time on private conviviality.

Lieut. Gen’l Sir Henry Clinton[v], succeeded Sir Wm Howe, an honorable and respectful officer, of the German School; having served under Prince Ferdinand of Prussia, and the Duke of Brunswick:  Vain, open to flattery, and from a great aversion to all business not military, too often misled by aid de Camps and favorites.

Lieut. Gen’l Earl Cornwallis[vi].  A good officer devoted to services of his country.  His active and difficult campaigns in the Southern Provinces particularly in South Carolina, full proved his abilities, bravery and enterprise.  He was beloved by the Army, but erred for a time, in a mistaken partiality for Lieut. Col. Tarleton, and adopting although not frequently the opinions of those about him, in preference to his own better judgment.

Lieut. Gen’l Earl Percy[vii]; weak, capricious and unsteady to a great degree; but was ready to do his duty, to the best of his judgment.

Lieut. Gen’l Robertson[viii].  Of strong natural parts, he would have made a good officer; but having been quartermaster General and afterwards Barracks Master General in America for a number of years; now had an opportunity of acquiring a practical knowledge of his profession.  He was a man of humor, and an agreeable companion; but women, and a desire to make money, occupied too much of his attention.

Lieut. Gen’l the Honorable Alexander Leslie[ix].  Of moderate abilities; his correct and gentlemanly behavior gained him the friendship and esteem of all were honored with his acquaintance.

Major Gen’l Massey[x]; Without abilities; honorable and blundering, his short stay in America gave him but little opportunity of doing much good or harm; notwithstanding the number of Bull Dogs he brought with him to Nova Scotia.

Major Gen’l Vaughan[xi].  Without abilities; he was ill-tempered and capricious, ever censuring the conduct of others; particularly his senior officers.

Major Gen’l Sir Charles Grey[xii]; An active officer of some abilities; but too much led by the officers about him; on the choice of whom, he was no means fortunate.

Major Gen’l Daniel Jones[xiii].  As he never served, but as Commandant of New York, no just opinion could be formed of his military character; but from what we could judge, much was not to have been expected.

Major Gen’l Valentine Jones[xiv].  An honest, hot-headed Welshman, altogether destitute of abilities, but respectable and friendly and all occasions did the best he could.

Major Gen’l Grant[xv]. Without abilities, or the least knowledge of his profession; he possessed a kind of cunning, invariably directed to the promotion of his own interest.  Insensible to the ties of blood, incapable of friendship, or a generous action.  He was a Gamester, a glutton and an Epicure.  In short it may be truly said that he lived only for himself.

Major Gen’l Tryon[xvi].  Governor of the Province of New York.  The Americans having saved him from the trouble of governing, and appointed to command the Troops raised in the Province; and commanded several predatory expeditions with success, against Danbury, and other places in Connecticut; but the nature of these services were but little calculated to add, either to his popularity, or military character.  Without abilities, he was honorable and agreeable manners, but too much under the influence of the American Loyalists, by whom he was surrounded.

Major Gen’l Prevost[xvii].  A well-meaning man without abilities.  He commanded in the Floridas and Georgia, during the greater part of the war, and gained much credit, in repulsing the armies of France and America at Savannah, which was entirely owing to the zeal and judgment of Major _____ [Left blank in the Sparks transcription] of the Engineers and gallant behavior of the 71st Regiment, (Highlanders).

Major Gen’l Prescott[xviii].  Lieut. Colonel of the 7th Regiment, was made prisoner in Canada, at the beginning of the war; and on being exchanged was sent to Rhode Island, and soon after surprised, and taken from his Quarters in the night, by a small party of the enemy.  He never served again, having gone to England, on being exchanged a second time; which was no loss to the British cause.

Major Gen’l Matthews[xix].  For a time the Commanding Officer of the Guards.  A respectable and genteel man, without abilities.

Major Gen’l Pigot[xx].  Peevish, capricious, and ill-tempered. A Gamester, with merit of any kind.

Major Gen’l Campbell[xxi].  (57th Regiment), honorable and well meaning, without abilities.

Major Gen’l Cleveland[xxii].  Commanding the Royal Artillery. An old officer, good for nothing.

Major Gen’l Pattison[xxiii]. Another Artillery officer; Vain, pompous and useless.

Major Gen’l Philips[xxiv]. Another Artillery Officer, said to have same characteristics in that line.

Major Gen’l Paterson[xxv]. Adjutant Gen’l to Sir Wm Howe. Vain, pompous and formal without the smallest merit of any kind, Accustomed to pay court to the great, he flattered and cringed to his superiors.  In short, his drunkenness and folly made him very deservedly an object of general contempt and ridicule.

Major Gen’l Gunnerary[xxvi].  A Gamester, of disagreeable manners, and total unfit for the rank he held.  He was but a short time in America, and luckily never out of New York.

Brigadier Gen’l Sir Wm. Erskine[xxvii].  Lieut. Col. of the 71st Regiment.  Quartermaster Gen’l and counsellor to Sir Wm. Howe. Although he had seen a good deal of service in Germany, and at the head of a Regiment of Light Dragoons, acquired the character of a brave and active officer, was but an indifferent Brigadier Gen’l.  Confused in his ideas, he was tedious and indistinct in expressing them; was too fond of money and too much addicted to the bottle.

Brigadier Gen’l Smith[xxviii].  Lieut. Col. of the 10th Regiment, was wounded at Lexington at the beginning of the war, which rendered him unfit for future active service.  He was honorable and well meaning, but without abilities.

Brigadier Gen’l Stirling[xxix].  Lieut. Gen’l of the 42nd Regiment, without abilities, or (although an old officer) the least military knowledge, his great object being to get money; and his attempts in that way in Virginia, ought to have been investigated before a General Court Martial.

Brigadier Gen’l Dalrymple[xxx].  Quartermaster General to Sir Henry Clinton.  Pompous, consequential, and nicknamed Agamemnon, was as unfit to be quartermaster general to the Army in the Field, as to Professor of __________ [maybe clinical medicine] – in a university.  Fortunately, his services were confined to New York where he lived like a Prince, having nothing to do, but to make money, and to spend it.

Brigadier Gen’l Campbell[xxxi].  Lieut. Col. of the 71st Regiment.  An able and active officer, whose short stay in America gave him but one opportunity of showing his Gallantry and decision, in the reduction of Georgia, by gaining a complete victory at Savannah, a few hours after landing; which put an end at that time all further resistance to the British Army in that Province.

Brigadier Gen’l Agnew[xxxii].  Lieut. Col. of the 44th Regiment, a Brave officer, killed at Germantown, where he commanded a brigade.

Brigadier Gen’l Birch[xxxiii].  Lieut. Col. of the 17th Light Dragoons was commandant of New York for several years, the duties of which he discharged to general satisfaction.  He never had any service.  Gamester and dissipated character.

Brigadier Gen’l Clarke[xxxiv].  Lieut. Col. of the 7th Regiment. A respectable and attentive officer, of agreeable manners. He commanded at Savannah, sometime previous to the evacuation of Georgia, and was particularly calculated to command a Garrison town; where without neglecting his duty, could partake in the intercourse and indulgencies of society.

Brigadier Gen’l Stewart[xxxv].  Lieut. Col. of the 3rd Regiment.  A brave officer, rather of indolent habits, and a little too fond of the bottle.  He commanded the remains of the British Army, in the action at Eutaw Springs, in South Carolina, where the last battle was fought with Gen’l Greene; in which the British were finally successful; although in the first of it, their right wing gave way, and they lost two field pieces.  It was, however rallied, when the Enemy were obliged to retire in the greatest confusion, and did not assemble again until eighteen miles from the field of action.  The British recovered their field pieces, and it is believed took two from the Enemy.

Brigadier Gen’l Leland[xxxvi].  A good man, but no officer.  He belonged to the Guards, and having the rank of Col. was appointed as Brig. Gen’l.  He never had any command, having gone to England, soon after obtaining that rank.

Lord Rawdon[xxxvii].  Adjutant Gen’l to Sir Henry Clinton, and Colonel of a Provincial Regiment raised in New York, by the name of the Volunteers of Ireland.  Of Good Abilities and zealous in the service of his country; but his generous and unsuspecting character, let him to support too warmly, the interest of some of his designing countrymen and flattered.

Major Andre[xxxviii]. Succeeded Lord Rawdon as Adjutant General.  Accomplished and of good abilities, his melancholy fate will be remembered with the deepest regret.  The important office he held, and the distinguished favor, of the Commander-in-chief made him sometimes shew a degree of consequences that created him some enemies.

Major DeLancey[xxxix] of the 17th Light Dragoons succeeded Major Andre as Adjutant General.  Fat, smug, and lazy he continued to get through the duties of his office in New York, with the assistance of some deputies and six clerks.

Lord Cathcart[xl]. A appointed Colonel in the 19th Light Dragoons was on his arrival at Philadelphia in the spring of 1778 made aid de Camp to Sir William Howe; and on Sir Henry Clinton succeeding to the command a short time after, was also his Aid de Camp, and continued as such, until the arrival of the Army at Savannah, in January 1780, when he was appointed quartermaster general in room of Brig. Gen’l Dalrymple gone to England, and about the same time Col. of the Provincial Regiment, (to be raised from the Jails and Prison Ships) afterwards know by the name of Tarleton’s Legion; of which Tarleton, a Volunteer just arrived from England and was made a Lieut. Col.  His Lordship served as quartermaster general until the surrender of Charleston on May following; when he was sent home with dispatches on that event to receive the reward of a grateful country, for his long and meritorious services of about two years, but being appointed Lieut. Col. in the Guards.

Brigadier Gen’l O’Hara[xli].  A brave officer, who commanded the Guards in South Carolina.  He distinguished himself in the action at Guilford Court House, where he was wounded.  Was after made a prisoner at York Town.

Lieut. Gen’l Robertson[xlii].  Governor of the Province of New York, was appointed Commander-in-Chief in room of Sir Henry Clinton, but never served as such, Lord Dorchester having arrived before Sir Henry’s departure.  And as his Lordship was sent to regulate and conduct the evacuation of the Country; and as suspension of all military operations soon after took place, in consequence of the negotiation for peace being on the point of final conclusion, no just opinion of his Lordship’s military character (which stood high in public opinion) could be formed by us.  With truth it may however be said, that he was upright, zealous and attentive, in the discharge of every duty.

The quartermaster general – commissioner Gen’l – Engineers – Medical and Barrack master Gen’l, departments are unworthy of notice, farther, than that they all made fortunes according to the means in their power, and generally by every species of fraud, plunder and rapacity.  In the above remarks the writer does not mean to include a certain class of the medical department; being gentlemen, whose character placed them above suspicions of that nature.  For the same reason, the officers of the Engineers are also excluded, Major _______ [left blank in the Sparks transcription] excepted.

Commissionary Gen’ls Chamier[xliii], Weir[xliv] and Watson[xlv]– Quartermaster Gen’ls Sir Wm. Erskine[xlvi], Dalrymple[xlvii] and Lord Cathcart[xlviii] – Deputies Shirreff[xlix], Bruen[l], England[li], Robertson[lii], Savage[liii] and Engineers Mercer[liv], Mulcaster[lv] and Morse[lvi] – Barracks master Gen’ls Robertson[lvii], Clarke[lviii] and Crosbie[lix].

The greatest fortunes were made by Sir Wm. Erskine, Shirreff, Bruen and Clarke.  Upwards of fifty understrappers[lx] on pay from 20 w 5 per day, also made fortunes; some to an extent almost incredible.  A subaltern by the name of Haugh[lxi], was by the recommendation of Col. Clark, Barracks master General appointed deputy barracks master general at 5 shilling per day and sent to Long Island to procure fire wood for the garrison at New York.  The wood he took without authority, from persons he supposed or was told were enemies of the British Government or purchased of the inhabitants at very low rates, (which they were afraid to refuse) for which certificates were given by him, many of which were afterwards disputed, and never paid.

The wood was sent to New York by vessels employed and paid by the Barracks Master General; government being charged at the highest market prices that scarce and dear articles sold for there; but which thrice or four hundred percent was probably made.  This immense sum was divided between the Barrack Gen’l and his assistants but in what proportion is only know to themselves.

This honest assistant (having purchased a Company in the meantime) returned to Scotland after the peace, and bought an Estate that cost about 10000 pounds – supposed to be half the sum, acquired in two years, on pay of five shillings per day.[lxii]


Wemyss’s Evaluation of the Sir William Howe’s Performance in and around New York City during the 1776 Campaign


Remarks – As misconduct has been alleged by the writer, against Sir Wm. Howe, particularly at Long Island, White Plains, and Trenton; and lest he should be accused of ignorance, or prejudice on the subject, (should these sketches be ever taken notice of) thinks it necessary in justice to himself, to state his reasons as briefly as possible, for having made such charges.

The action on Long Island commenced at day break on the 27th of August 1776[lxiii]; the American Army being posted on the high grounds, between Brooklyn and Flatbush, extending from West to East, about two or three miles; their works at the former place, that carried New York; being at some distance in the war.  The British having marched silently in the night, from Gravesend and Flatlands, by the road leading to Jamaica, completely surprised the left flank of the enemy, when the action immediately commenced: and by a rapid movement of a great part of the British, in the rear of the center, and right wing of the Americans, were soon warmly engaged with that part of their enemy, then endeavoring to regain their works at Brooklyn, which they partly effected, in confusion and much loss.  The Hessians having advanced in front at the same time from Flatbush, and joined in the action.  The rest of the British being engaged with the left of the Enemy, thus cut off from their works at Brooklyn, were almost all, either killed, wounded or taken; their artillery fell also into the hands of the British.

If the complete defeat of the Enemy had been followed up by an immediate attack on their extensive and unfinished works at Brooklyn, the whole of their army must have been taken; and this would certainly have been the case, if their Company of Highland Grenadiers, under the command of the Honorable Major Stuart[lxiv], had not been stopt [sic], and ordered to fall back, by an aid de Camp from Sir Wm. Howe, at the moment he had determined (although without orders) to make the attack, then about midday, being not more than 60 or 70 yards from their works; in which at past, very few of the Enemy were to be seen; and those seemingly in great confusion, without the smallest appearance of resistance; not a shot having been fired at our troops, although at so small a distance.  The writer himself was on the spot, joined Major Stuart, in indignant observations, on his having received such an order.  A strong battalion of Grenadiers, in the immediate rear of Major Stuarts command, were also ordered to fall back, and the first Brigade were formed very near their right.

By this fatal error, a beaten and panic struck enemy were allowed to escape in the night to New York, without the smallest molestation; having to cross the East river at Brooklyn, nearly three quarters of a mile wide; and to withdraw their army from an extensive and unfinished line of works, that covered the City of New York; and so near, that if not absolutely in sight, certainly in hearing of each other.

A few days after the Escape of the Enemy from Brooklyn, the British having crossed from Long Island, to York Island, about four miles above the city; in place of extending the army from river to river, (about two miles) a public road was left open on the North River, by which Gen’l Washington with two Brigades (most unaccountably then in New York) were again allowed to escape, in the greatest confusion.  On that occasion, Gen’l Washington shewed less command of himself, that was known at any other time, at least to the British Army. It is hardly possible to allege the want of knowledge of such a road; several Loyalists, some of them inhabitants of New York, being on the ground with Sir Wm. Howe.

At White Plains, the two armies lay for several days near each other.  The British in high discipline, flushed with their former success, and anxious to be led into action.  The Americans indiscipline and dispirited by their late losses; and their dangerous situation acknowledged by their best officers, particularly General Lee who frequently represented to General Washington, observing that Howe ought to be hanged, if he lost so glorious an opportunity of destroying their Army.  Both, however, still remained inactive until Sir Wm. Howe at last determined to bring on an action, by giving orders for the army to march in the night with an intention of attacking the Enemy in the morning; but the night proving rainy (which many of the British officers thought most favorable) it was countermanded, a deserter from the British giving information of it, the Enemy commenced an immediate retreat, and were next morning, in possession of strong ground, in the neighborhood of North Castle.

On that occasion, it became a subject of argument amongst the British officers, which of the two commanders were most to blame. Howe, in neglecting so favorable an opportunity of bringing on an action, with an almost certainty of success, – or Washington, in remaining so long in such as dangerous situation, from the fatal effects of which nothing could have saved him, but the in capacity and misconduct of Sir Wm. Howe. Thus in a few weeks, the American Army saved a second time from total destruction.

The ill-judged and unsupported situation of the British Army in New Jersey in the winter ’76 and ’77, gave Gen’l Washington a favorable opportunity of beating up their quarters, by attacking and make prisoners, a Brigade of Hessians, very improperly chosen to occupy Trenton; whose exposed and advanced situation made their fall almost certain, if made with some spirit.  The loss of the Hessians was nothing, when compared to the impulse it gave to the drooping and almost last hopes of the Enemy, who from that moment shewed a renewed vigor, which enabled them to war with an army, almost annihilated by former losses; which but for that fortunate circumstance, would in all probability never have been accomplished.

To the incapacity and misconduct of Sir Wm. Howe, in the above circumstances, as well as in many others and perhaps unequalled in the history or modern warfare, at the beginning of a conflict, with a divided people, altogether unprepared for a contest with the Mother Country, may be ascribed in no small degree the issue of a war begun and conducted without ability or system, although with great Bravery; in which every Department were allowed to vie with Each other, in the most effectual means of making immense fortunes; by carrying a successful war on the Treasury of their Country.

The writer of the above sketches is very sensible that they have nothing to recommend them, but a correct knowledge of the characters, faithfully and impartially given; which from having served in several public and confidential situations, had more than common opportunities of acquiring and he trusts that a regard for truth will justify the severity he has reluctantly been obliged to use, in attempting to give the real characters of those officers, chosen to bear so conspicuous a part in the conduct of a war that ended in the independence of the United States of America.


Lord Cornwallis’ Estimated Troop Strength prior to the Battle of Guilford Court House


Supposed Strength of the Troops under Lord Cornwallis’s command, in the Provinces of South and North Carolina, before the action at Guilford Court House – 15th March 1781

In the Field with his Lordship

  • Guards 700
  • 23rd 300
  • 33rd 300
  • 2nd Battalion 17st 300
  • de Brose 400
  • NC Volunteers (?) 300
  • Jagers 100
  • Legion Calvary 300
  • Total 2700[lxv]

At Camden

  • 63rd 200 (the 63rd having lost upwards of 100 men during the action at Camden on 16th August preceding)[lxvi]
  • 64th 400
  • Volunteers of Ireland 300
  • New York Volunteers 200
  • South Carolina Vol. 300
  • Total 1400

At Charlestown

  • de Disforth 400
  • Reg de Huyne 400
  • Reg de Angillille 300
  • Browns Corps 100
  • Total 1200

At Ninety-Six

  • 1st Battalion DeLancey 200
  • 3rd Skinners 150
  • Total 350


  • Fanning’s Corps 200

On the Peedee

  • Watson’s Light Calvary 150

Grand total                                          6000

The independent artillery who cannot exceed 150 men.


Notes on the 1780-1 Southern Campaigns


After the defeat of the Rebels on the 16th August[lxvii], Lord Cornwallis determined to move into North Carolina without loss of time, in order to give the most speedy support to the Friends of Government in that Province, some of whom having taken up arms had been routed by the Rebel Militia. His Lordship at the same time taking such steps as he judged necessary to secure the internal peace of South Carolina; as well as to punish the inhabitants of the Pidee [sic][lxviii], Black River, who had revolted almost to a man on the arrival of Gen’l Gates on their frontier, notwithstanding the voluntary allegiance they had sworn to his majesty.  Lord Cornwallis, as soon as a supply of Rum and some other necessaries had arrived at Camden, proceeded on his march to Charlotte Town, with the following Corps, 23rd, 33rd, 71st Volunteers of Ireland and Legions leaving at Camden part of the 63rd, 67th, New York Volunteers, South and North Carolina Volunteers under the command of Col. Turnbull and sending Major Wemyss with a detachment of the 63rd Mounted, part of Hamilton’s Corps, and some militia to the Pidee to disarm and otherwise punish the disaffected in that part of the country.  Colonel Ferguson, who had been appointed Inspector Gen’l of the Militia, marching with his own Corps consisting of about 200 men from the Provincials, and six or seven hundred militia mostly from Orangeburgh [sic] and 96 [Ninety-Six] districts between Broad River and Charlotte Town.  Lord Cornwallis reached Charlotte about the middle of September, without any other opposition but some skirmishing between the Legion and the Rebel Militia upon their entering that town.  His Lordship soon after published a Proclamation inviting all Loyal Subjects to repair to the King’s Standard; Governor Martin issued another to the same effect, desiring the Loyalists to form themselves into Provincial Corps under his Command, and pointing out the advantages that would arise from their doing so.  Neither of these Proclamations however, had the desired Effect; probably not so much from  the disposition of the People, as from the danger of their getting with safety many numbers to Charlotte, the Rebel Militia hovering round that Place, in such a manner, as in their great measure to cut off the communication between the country and it.  This situation made the supplies of fresh provisions, mall and uncertain, and all foraging parties dangerous.  Lord Cornwallis remained nearby in this state, until the middle of October (being joined by the 7th Reg.) at which time the unfortunate defeat of Colonel Ferguson by a superior body of Militia at King’s Mountain, rendered it necessary for his Lordship to fall back to a position between Camden and 96 in order to be in readiness to support either of these places if attacked.  The later of which garrisoned by two provincial Corps appearing to be in the greatest danger, Major Wemyss having at this time returned from the Pidee [sic] and sent to reinforce with the 63rd Reg.  Lord Cornwallis at this critical time, was taken ill of a fever, and was carried in a wagon from Charlotte to Wynesborogh [sic] in a very dangerous situation; when the army took a position under the command of Lord Rawdon.  On this march, the troops met with great difficulty and delays, in crossing the Catawba River, which was very swelled by heavy rains.  Col. Ferguson’s defeat not only obliged Lord Cornwallis to fall back from Charlotte, in place of advancing to Salisbury, by which his plans were untimely disconcerted; but the damp it gave to the Militia, who before that time had turned out with forwardness, was immediately felt, and it is feared will not be got the better of.  Many of the Country people joined the Rebels, who otherwise would have at least remained in quietness at home.  Gen’l Gates on Lord Cornwallis’s retiring from Charlotte, advanced with his small army, which consisted almost entirely of Militia to the Waxhaws, detaching Gen’l Sumpter to Broad River to collect the Militia and to cut off the supplies our Army drew from that part of the Country, particularly Flour.  Major Wemyss having returned from 96 [Ninety-Six] , proposed to Lord Cornwallis an attack on Sumpter, who was then about 30 miles from Wynsborough [sic] with 400 men.  His Lordship approving of his plan, Sumpter was attacked next night at Fish dam ford on the Broad River, in which affair the Rebels were dispersed, having about 70 men killed and wounded.  On our side, five were killed, and Major Wemyss, two serjeants and 17 wounded.  Next day, Sumpter collecting as many of his men as he could crossed the River and was in a few days joined by several parties of Militia making in all about 1000 men.  Col. Tarleton with the Legion, 63rd and 71st Reg. were sent after him, and on the 20th November in the evening came up with his rear guard which they Easily defeated, but having made a forced march, Tarleton had with him only 200 cavalry, and 100 of the 63rd Mounted; the rest of his detachment being some miles in the rear.  In this situation a very imprudent action commenced, the Cavalry suffered little, the nature of the ground not permitting them to act.  Night coming on, both parties remained near each other for some time, but the Rebels not choosing to be attacked in the morning by our whole force, thought proper to move off in the night.  Gen’l Green [sic][lxix] about the beginning of December arrived to supersede Gates, and brought with him Gen’l Morgan[lxx] and some Continentals and Cavalry, amongst whom were Washington’s Regiment and Lee’s Legion.  Green soon afterwards moved to Chinas Hill[lxxi] on the Pidee (a strong point) detaching Morgan with his own Regiment, Washington’s horse and some militia to Broad River and Lee to join Marion who for some time before, had infested the lower part of the Pidee and the Country betwixt that River and the Santee.

Lord Cornwallis being joined by Gen’l Leslie with the troops from Virginia, on the 13th of January [1781] began his march towards North Carolina, detaching Col. Tarleton with the Legion and 71st Reg. after Mr. Morgan and sending the 71st to reinforce the post at 96 [Ninety-Six], but which Regiment being met with by Tarleton, was ordered to join him, Morgan’s force being met with by Tarleton, was ordered to join him, Morgan’s force being very considerable.  On the morning of the 17th, Col. Tarleton came up with Morgan on Percolet River[lxxii], attacked and at first drove him a little way, but the Rebels rallying, were in our turn obliged to give way and finally defeated; principally owing to the bad behavior of our Cavalry.  In this affair the whole of our Infantry, amounting to about 600 were either killed, wounded or taken prisoners.  The Colonel of the 7th Reg. and two field pieces fell likewise into the hands of the Rebels.  The Legion Cavalry, who were near 300 suffered very little.  The Enemy’s force was about 1300.  Lord Cornwallis who was about 30 miles from the Field of Action immediately marched after Morgan, and it is hoped, if he cannot come up with him, that he may be able to retake the wounded and perhaps some of the prisoners.  What effect this unlucky disaster will have on Lord Cornwallis’s movements, I cannot take upon me today.  At any rate, Morgan must be drove out of that country before he can with safety attempt to penetrate into North Carolina[lxxiii].

In complying with Lord Cornwallis’s orders, the 82nd Regiment with the Convelescents [sic] of the Army sailed (before the defeat of Col. Tarleton was known at Charleston) for Cape Fear, under the Convoy of the Blonde, where it is understood a post is to be taken, and all stores in that future to be conveyed to the Army lay that route; supposed them to be in North Carolina.  Sometime in the latter part of January, Lee with his Corps made an attempt at Georgetown, which was garrisoned by Col. Fanning’s Provincial Reg. under the Command of Lieut. Col. Campbell; but finding that the Redoubt could not be carried by surprise, he rode into town and carried off Campbell and several of his officers whom he found in bed.  A few days afterwards Lee crossed the Santee to Monk’s Corner about 24 miles from Charleston and burned all the quartermaster general’s stores, wagons, etc.[lxxiv]

End Notes


[i] The Sparks transcriptions can be accessed at$242i

And read in Spark’s handwriting.  Steven M. Baule’s British Army Officers who served in the American Revolution 1775-1783 (Westminster, Maryland:  Heritage Books, 2008) is the authoritative source used for both local and permanent ranks and promotion dates.

[ii] Hon. Thomas Gage (1718 or 1719-1787), Lt. Gen. April 30, 1770, commander in chief North America at the outbreak of the war.  Commanded at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. Relieved by William Howe, became a full general in 1782, resigned April 18, 1782.

[iii] Margaret Kemble (1734-1824), born in Brunswick, New Jersey, married December 8, 1758. Margaret’s two brothers served on Gage’s staff in Boston – Maj. Stephen Kemble as head of intelligence and Samuel Kemble as confidential secretary.  Also, Oliver De Lancey, nephew to Margaret served as another aid-de-camp to Gage.

[iv] William Howe (1729-1814), Maj. Gen. May 25, 1772. American General Jan. 1, 1776, Lt. Gen. August 29, 1777, relieved 1778 and returned to England.  Member of Parliament from Northingham 1758-1780.

[v] Henry Clinton (1730-1795), Lt. Gen. September 1, 1775, Commander in chief – America from February 4, 1778 to 1782.  Member of Parliament from Newark 1774-1784.

[vi] Charles, Earl Cornwallis (1738-1805), Maj. Gen. September 29 ,1775, Lt. Gen. Jan. 1, 1776 (American), Lt. Gen. August 29 ,1777 (English).  Led Clinton’s Southern Strategy in 1780-1. Captured at Yorktown.

[vii] Percy, Earl Hugh (1742-1817), American Maj. Gen. July 11, 1775, English Maj. Gen. September 29, 1775, American Lt. Gen. Jan. 1, 1776, English Lt. Gen. August 29, 1776, Member of Parliament 1763-1776, participated in the relief force at Lexington and Concord. Fought at the Battle of Brooklyn, resigned in 1777 in a dispute with William Howe and went back to England.

[viii] James Robertson (1717-1788), Col. Commandant May 25, 1772, American Maj. Gen. Jan. 1, 1776, English Maj. Gen. Aug. 29, 1777, Barracksmaster General 1775, New York Governor 1779-1783.  He commanded the 6th Brigade at the Battle of Brooklyn. Robertson was instrumental in stopping the 1776 fire in New York City.

[ix] Alexander Leslie (1731-1794), Maj. Gen. Feb. 19, 1779, Fought in the Battle of Brooklyn, White Plains, Commander of the British Troops at the Battle of Harlem Heights, NY, Princeton, NJ and the Siege of Charleston and replaced Lord Cornwallis as Southern Commander in 1782.  Wemyss mistakenly represents Leslie’s rank as Lt. Gen., as his final rank was Maj. Gen.

[x] Eyre Massey (1719-1804), deployed to Nova Scotia as a Maj. Gen. and commanded at Halifax for four years.  Returned to Britain and participated in the planning to repel a French invasion at Cork

[xi] John Vaughan (1731-1795), American Maj. Gen. Jan. 1, 1776, British Maj. Gen. Aug. 29, 1777, Wounded at Battle at Kip’s Bay on September 15, 1776, member of Parliament from 1774 to his death, Led assault on Forts Clinton and Montgomery in October 1777,  returned to England in 1779 but sent to the Caribbean from 1779-1782 where he accompanied ADM Rodney in the taking of St. Eustatius. Promoted to Lt. Gen. in 1782.

[xii] Charles Grey (1729-1807), American Maj. Gen. Mar. 4, 1777. English Maj. Gen Aug. 29, 1777. Most famous as “No-Flint Grey” after the reportedly ordering his soldiers to remove their flints and only use their bayonets during a nighttime attack on an American unit under the command of Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne.  He led several raids including ones on New Bedford, MA, Martha’s Vineyard and Old Tappan, NY.  Later became a Lt. Gen.

[xiii] Daniel Jones (?-1793), American Maj. Gen. Jan 1, 1776, Wemyss may have confused Daniel with Valentine as the NY commandant.  However, Daniel may have been in charge of the Rebel prisoners.

[xiv] Valentine Jones (ca. 1723-1779), American Maj. Gen. Jan. 1, 1776, English Maj. Gen. Aug. 29, 1777.  Participated in Howe’s 1776 New York City campaign.  Howe viewed him as “too inactive and infirm” for an independent command, gave him the post of commandant of New York in April 1778.

[xv] James Grant (1720-1806), American Maj. Gen. Jan.1, 1776, English Maj. Gen. Aug. 29, 1777, Member of Parliament 1773-1780. He famously boasted that “give me 5000 men, and I will march from one end of the colonies to the other.”  Grant had his chance at the Battle of Brooklyn, but failed to capture the Rebels in his sector. In 1779, Grant was re-deployed to the Caribbean.  After the war, he was promoted to Lt. Gen. and eventually to full Gen.

[xvi] William Tryon (1729-1788), Governor of New York from 1771 to 1780. American Maj. Gen. Jan. 1, 1776, English Maj. Gen. Aug. 29, 1777. Raided Danbury, CT in early 1777. In 1779, commanded a series of raids along the Connecticut coast. Returned to London, England in 1780 and promoted to Lt. Gen. in 1782.

[xvii] Augustin Prevost (1723-1786), Colonel-Commandant 60th Regiment of Foot 1779-1786, American Maj. Gen. (date?), Repulsed a combined French-American assault on Savannah.  He returned to Britain in Oct. 1779 and remained there until his death in East Barnet, Greater London.

[xviii] Richard Prescott (1725-1788), American Maj. Gen. Jan. 1, 1776, English Maj. Gen. Aug, 29. 1777, Captured by the Rebels twice – Canada and Rhode Island.  After second capture, had no further Revolutionary War command. Later promoted to Lt. Gen.

[xix] Edward Mathews (1725-1809), American Brig. Gen. Feb. 15, 1776, Maj. Gen. Feb. 19, 1779.  Commanded Brigade of Guards in America 1776,

[xx] Sir Robert Pigot (1720-1791), American Maj. Gen. Jan 1, 1776, English Maj. Gen. Aug. 29, 1777, Lt. Gen. Nov 30, 1782

[xxi] John Campbell (?-?), American Maj. Gen. Jul. 2, 1773, English Maj. Gen. Feb. 19, 1779, Captured at Pensacola by the Spanish

[xxii] Samuel Cleveland (?-?), Royal Artillery, Col. Jan. 2, 1762

[xxiii] James Pattison (1723-1805), Royal Artillery, Maj. Gen. Feb. 19, 1779, Lt. Gen. Sept. 20, 1787, General Jan. 26, 1797, he was aided in the captures of Verplank Point and Forts Clinton and Montgomery in October 1777.  Also served as military commandant of New York City under Sir Henry Clinton.  In September 1780, he returned to England due to ill health.

[xxiv] William Phillips (-1781), American Maj. Gen. Jan. 1, 1776, English Maj. Gen. Aug. 29, 1777, Member of Parliament from Boroughbridge 1775-1780, died from illness in Virginia while on campaign

[xxv] James Paterson (?-?), Adjutant General Jun. 9, 1776, listed in Baule as a Col. and not as a Maj. Gen.

[xxvi] Not listed in Boule

[xxvii] Sir William Erskine (1728-1795), American Brig. Gen. Oct. 7, 1776, Maj. Gen. Feb 19, 1779, Commanded the 7th Brigade during the Battle of Brooklyn, Quartermaster General to Lord Cornwallis, participated in Maj. Gen. Tryon’s raid on Danbury, CT, continued as Quartermaster General under Sir Henry Clinton, led troops at the Battle of Monmouth, Participated skirmishes around New York City. Returned to Britain in late 1779, Promoted to Col. 11th Regiment of foot in 1781, Promoted to Lt. Gen. Sept. 27, 1787.

[xxviii] Francis Smith (1723-1791), Lt. Col. Feb. 13, 1762.  Wounded in action at Lexington and Concord, Apr. 19, 1775, Promoted to Commander (Brevet Col.) of the 10th Regiment of Foot at the end of 1775, led a brigade during the August 1776 Battle of Brooklyn and Battle of Rhode Island in August 1778.  Briefly returned to England and then back to America in 1779 and was promoted to Maj. Gen. in 1779 and Lt. Gen. in 1787.

[xxix] Thomas Stirling (1722-1808) Maj. Gen. Nov. 20, 1782, distinguished in the British assault on Ft. Washington on Nov. 16, 1776. Wounded in the thigh in a battle in Springfield, MA.  Became a full general Jan. 1, 1801.

[xxx] William Dalrymple (1736-1807), Lt. Col. Mar. 27, 1765, Quartermaster General Aug. 29, 1777, promoted to Brig. Gen. in 1779 and Maj. Gen. in 1782.  Accused of corruption, but charges dropped as Dalrymple was vigorously defended by Sir William Howe.  A member of Parliament from 1784-1790. Col. of the 47th Regiment from 1794 to his death.

[xxxi] John Campbell (?-1794), Col. November 17, 1780, American Brig. Gen. 1780, from Ballimore.

[xxxii] James Agnew (1719-1777), Col. Sept. 30. 1775, Engaged at the Battle of Brooklyn. Wounded at Danbury, CT. and Brandywine, Killed at Battle of Germantown Oct. 4, 1777. Not listed as a Brig. Gen. in Baule.

[xxxiii] Samuel Birch (?-1812), American Brig. Gen. Sept. 14, 1780, Commandant of New York, Compiler of the Book of Negros and set free many African Americans in New York City.

[xxxiv] Alured Clarke (1744-1832), Lt. Col. Mar. 10, 1777, American Brig. Gen. date unknown, Assumed command of British troops in George, May 1780, supervised the evacuation of British prisoners in May 1783.  Later became Lt. Gen. and full Gen.

[xxxv] Alexander Stewart (1729-1794), Lt. Col. Jul. 7, 1775, American Brig. Gen. 1781, Member of Parliament from Afton 1786-1794, Wounded at Battle of Eutaw Springs Sep. 8, 1781. After the war became a Maj. Gen.

[xxxvi] John Leland (?-1808), Lt. Col. Jun. 13, 1774, American Brig. Gen. Sep. 20 ,1779, Col. May 16, 1782.  After the war became Maj. Gen. in 1787 and full Gen. in 1802.  Elected to Parliament representing Stamford from 1796 to 1808.

[xxxvii] Lord Francis Rawdon (1754-1826), Capt. Jul. 12, 1775, ADC to Lt. Gen. and AG America 1777, Lt. Col. Jun. 15, 1778, Col., Volunteers of Ireland May 25, 1778, Fought at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, New York City campaign, Rhode Island, Battles of the Hudson Highlands in October 1777, Monmouth, Siege of Charleston, Camden, Hobkirk’s Hill.  Promoted to Maj. Gen. in the French Revolutionary Wars.  Served in the House of Lords from 1793 to his death.

[xxxviii] John Andre (1750-1780), Capt. Jan. 18, 1777, ADC to Maj. Gen. Charles Grey, British Army Adjutant General and Major 1779, Siege of Charleston 1780, Captured as a spy and hung 1780.

[xxxix] Oliver DeLancey (1718-1785), Maj. Jun. 3, 1778, Lt. Col Oct. 3, 1781, ADC to Commander of chief 1778, Dep. Adjutant General Oct. 1780.

[xl] Lord William Cathcart (1755-1843), Cap. Dec. 10, 1777, Maj. Apr. 13, 1779, ADC to Sir Henry Clinton 1778. Fought at the Battle of Monmouth, acted as quartermaster general in America, returned to England in 1780, promoted to Full Gen. in 1812.

[xli] Charles O’Hara (1740-1802), Lt. Col. Nov. 3, 1769, Col. Apr. 18, 1782, American Brig. Gen. Oct. 25, 1778, Wounded at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse Mar. 15, 1781 and surrendered at Yorktown Oct. 19, 1781.  Personally, surrendered to both Napoleon and Washington.  Promoted to full Gen. in 1798.

[xlii] See note vii.

[xliii] Daniel Chamier (1724-1778), A Baltimore-born loyalist civilian, Commissary General 1774 until Feb.1777, Auditor General from Mar. 1777 to Feb. 1778. Contrary to Wemyss’s assertions, Chamier not only did not profit, but his heirs devastated by his role as Commissary General.  A final accounting after his death, left his heirs with only 2000 pounds out of an estate of over 1,000,000 pounds as the Treasury charged his estate for expenditures without vouchers.

[xliv] Daniel Weir (1734-1781), Also Wier, Commissary General of Stores and Provisions, 1776.

[xlv] Brook Watson (1735-1807), Born in England, but grew up in Boston, MA, merchant, Member of Parliament from London 1784-1793, Lord Mayor of London 1796-7.  By all accounts, Watson cleaned up the operations of the North American Commissary and did not personally profit from the office

[xlvi] See note xxvi

[xlvii] See note xxix

[xlviii] See note xxxix

[xlix] William Shirreff (?-?), Lt. Col. Jan. 20, 1776, Deputy Quartermaster General in America 1768 to Sept. 1778, acted as Quartermaster General until Dec 1776 when Sir William Erskine assumed the role.

[l] Henry Bruen (, Capt. Oct 29, 1763, Maj. Jul. 12, 1777, Lt. Col. Nov. 20, 1780, Extra Deputy, Quartermaster General 1777.

[li] Richard England (1750-1812), Capt. Sept. 29, 1770, wounded Battle of Bunker Hill, fought at the Battle of Quebec, Taken prisoner at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777, June 17, 1775, Maj. Aug. 3, 1781, Deputy Quartermaster General 1781, Lt. Col. Feb 20, 1783. Col. of the 5th Regiment of Foot Aug. 21, 1801.  Lt. Gen. Sept 25, 1803.  Served in Canada and the Northwest Territories after the war.  Died in London.

[lii] See note vii

[liii] Henry Savage (?-?), Capt. Apr. 15, 1774, Maj. April 28, 1781, Extra Dept. Quartermaster General Nov. 1776 through 1779, went to Rhode Island with Henry Clinton

[liv] Alexander Mercer (ca 1739-1816), Royal Engineers, (, Capt. May 25, 1772, in America 1776-1780, served in New York, after the war rose to Col. and Gen.

[lv] Frederick George Mulcaster (1739-1797), Royal Engineers, Capt. Lt. May 25, 1772, in America from 1768- 1778, ADC to Sir William Howe, after the war promoted to Maj. Gen.

[lvi] Robert Morse, Royal Engineers, (, Capt. Lt. May 25, 1772, Lt. Col. Jan. 1, 1783, Col. Jun. 6, 1788, Maj. Gen. Dec. 20, 1793. In America 1782-3, Came to New York with Guy Carleton in June 1782 and Served in New York, Chief Engineer in 1782.  On Apr. 21, 1802, Morse became the first Col.-Commandant of the Royal Engineers.

[lvii] See note vii

[lviii] See note xxxiii

[lix] William Crosbie (1752-?), Capt. May 9, 1769, Maj. Sept. 20, 1778, Lt. Col. Apr. 24, 1781, ADC to Sir Henry Clinton May 25, 1778, Barracks Master, New York July 1, 1780

[lx] Understrapper is an inferior agent, a petty fellow.

[lxi] Possibly Gilbert Waugh (35th Regiment of Foot) or Robert Waugh (57th Regiment of Foot)

[lxii] As ADC to Maj. Gen. Robertson who was Barracks Master General in New York, Wemyss indicates that he did not participate in any activities to reap fraudulent rewards from contracts and purchasing as he alleges others received.

[lxiii] Wemyss served as ADC to Maj. Gen. James Robertson who commanded the 6th Brigade during the Battle of Brooklyn.

[lxiv] Hon. Charles Stuart (1753-1801), Maj. Oct. 8, 1775, Lt. Col. Oct. 26, 1777, Promoted to Col. in 1782, Lt. Gen. 1794, Member of Parliament from Bossiney, 1776-1790.

[lxv] For an analysis of other sources to assess the veracity of Wemyss’ estimates see

Weymss’ estimate is likely high due to lack of information on actual attrition and sickness. In the run up to the Battle of Guilford Court House, Wemyss was not with Lord Cornwallis but in Charleston on parole and convalescing from his wounds

[lxvi] On this date, Wemyss was a Major in the 63rd Regiment of Foot but not with his unit

[lxvii] Wemyss is referencing the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780 in which the Rebel army under Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates was thoroughly routed by the British Southern Army under the leadership of Lord Cornwallis.

[lxviii] The Pee Dee River

[lxix] Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Greene was name by George Washington and Congress to relieve Maj. Gen. Gates of the command of the southern Continental Army.

[lxx] Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan had been convinced by Gates to return to the Army.

[lxxi] China Hill is between modern day Florence and Camden, South Carolina

[lxxii] Broad River

[lxxiii] Wemyss is describing the Battle of Cowpens which was a overwhelming Rebel victory which greatly reduced Lord Cornwallis’s prospects of subduing the Carolinas.

[lxxiv] Col. “Light Horse” Harry Lee and Brig. Gen. Francis Marion attacked Georgetown on Jan. 24, 1781.  While capturing several British officers, the attack failed to carry the town.

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