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McWhorter Lives and Times

The Snow Campaign

It was November, in 1775. Colonel Richard Richardson led his Camden regiment of South Carolina militia into the Back Country, the wilderness piedmont of the Appalachian mountains. Their purpose was to crush Tory resistance to the rebellion against the King.

He was accompanied by Captain Thomas Sumter as adjutant general, who had raised a company of local militia, probably much like the one that included John McWhorter. Colonel Francis Marion (1732-1795), known as the Swamp Fox for his successful guerrilla warfare against the British, served in this campaign as well.

Richardson had authority from South Carolina’s President Drayton the South Carolina Congress to call out the militia. Colonel William Thomson’s regiment from Orangeburg and six companies of Thomson’s rangers came from their encampment in Amelia. Militia regiments from other sections of North and South Carolina were also called.

Richardson, Thomson, and their men camped in the Congarees, preparing for a march on the fort at Ninety Six. On November 30, they set out, evading the loyalist “King’s Men” regiments.

On December 2 the militia stopped at the home of Captain Evan McLauren. More bodies of rebel militia joined Richardson, making a corps of 3000 men. Thomson’s rangers left McLauren’s and set out after loyalists, capturing some of them. Formal accusations of insurrection were issued against Tory leaders. Their surrender was demanded, along with their arms and ammunition. Among the captured was Thomas Fletchall, one of the most incendiary of the King’s Men, along with Captain Daniel Plummer and Captain Richard Pearis.

As the rebel contingent grew throughout December to 5,000 troops, Colonel Richardson moved up the Enoree River to Raeburn Creek. King’s men continued to surrender or be captured. Richardson allowed those who would swear not to oppose the rebellion to return home with their arms.

The loyalist troops who resisted headed for the Cherokee Nation territory on the Reedy River (or Reade River, as it was spelled in the McWhorter affidavit). Richardson sent Thomson with 1300 militia and rangers into the canebrake on December 21. This would not be a Christmas of peace and goodwill for these men.

If John McWhorter was part of this force, he marched 25 miles through the desolate canebrake in the cold night. They struck the King’s Men in their camp at dawn, killing six and capturing 130, while the rest vanished into the wild. Thomson and his volunteers seized prisoners, arms, ammunition, and baggage, and marched back to meet Richardson on December 23.

It began to rain, flooding the marshy country. Then the snow fell, two feet of it. Richardson led his cold, miserable men and their prisoners on a brutal seven-day march back to the Congarees. Richardson was unsurprised that his force dwindled as men were released or otherwise departed for home. His own words to the South Carolina Council of Safety said that as winter advanced upon them, the men were “illy provided, to tents, shoes worn out, and badly clothed.” Their families at home needed the firewood they would cut and the game they would hunt.

An uneasy truce settled over the Back Country, while the British army gathered on the Atlantic coast under Cornwallis, preparing to invade.

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Last updated 2/15/2003      Copyright© 2003 by Karen McWhorter Wilhelm