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The Battle of Lenud's Ferry

May 6, 1780 at Lenud's Ferry, South Carolina

American Forces Commanded by
Col. William Washington
Strength Killed & Wounded Missing / Captured
350 41 67
British Forces Commanded by
Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
150 2 ? ?
Conclusion: British Victory
Southern theater, 1775-82

Some of the surviving Continentals that had escaped from the Battle of Monck's Corner were joined by some fresh cavalry and reformed along several places on the Santee River. They were under the command of Col. Anthony White

On May 5, White crossed the river at Dupui's Ferry.

On May 6, White and his troops captured 18 British light infantrymen from Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton's command at Wambaw, the plantation of Col. Elias Ball. The Continentals then circled southeast and headed for Lenud's Ferry on the Santee River. There, White was to meet Col. Abraham Buford and 350 men of his 3rd Virginia Continental Regiment and a small body of Lt. Col. William Washington's cavalry. Buford's force was headed to reinforce the American garrison at Charleston when he learned of the town's surrender. He was then ordered by Brig. Gen. Isaac Huger to withdraw his men to Hillsboro, North Carolina.

Smarting from the loss of some of his men at Wambaw Plantation, Tarleton proceeded after Lieut. Col. Anthony White who had retreated to Lenud’s Ferry on the Santee River where the remaining American cavalry. As Tarleton was moving north with 150 dragoons, he received information about the strength and movement of the Americans from a Tory who had witnessed the action at Ball's plantation. The Tory gave him accurate information about the composition of the Americans and their movement toward Lenud's Ferry, some 200 to 300, under Lieut. Col. William Washington and Col. Peter Horry were gathering.

At about 3:00 P.M., Tarleton attacked White as he was about to join up with Buford near Lenud's Ferry. The Continentals were caught completely by surprise by a British charge. Many of Buford's men were across the river at the ferry and could do nothing to help their fellow Americans.

What Americans which were not killed or wounded, were scattered or made prisoner. A number escaped, including Washington, White, Jameson, and Horry by abandoning their horses and swimming the river, with several drowning in the process. White was one of them and made it across. The Americans had a group of British prisoners with them and were about to ferry them across. Instead, Tarleton was able to free them.

The Americans lost all their horses, arms, and accoutrements. In casualties, the Americans lost 41 men killed and wounded 67 dragoons taken prisoner. About 100 horses fell into Tarleton's hands, who was in much need of them to further better mount his men. British light infantry who had been taken prisoner were rescued. British lost 2 men and four horses in the action, though as well another 20 horses expired from fatigue.

Tarleton: “The American cavalry began to assemble on the north of the Santee river, towards the latter end of April, under the protection of two Virginia regiments of infantry and the militia of Carolina: Colonel White had brought some dragoons from the northward, and had collected those who escaped from Monk's corner; he was soon after joined by a detachment from George town, and by Colonel Horry's regiment of light horse. On the 5th of May, he crossed the Santee at Depui's ferry. Fortune favored his first attempt. He suddenly surrounded a detachment of an officer and seventeen dragoons, who were foraging the next morning at Ball's plantation, and made them prisoners without resistance: From thence he directed his march towards Lenew's [Lenud’s] ferry, with an intention to recross the river, under the protection of two hundred continental infantry, ordered by Colonel Buford to meet the cavalry at that place. Lieutenant-colonel Tarleton, without any knowledge of the misfortune which it happened to the detachment of light-infantry cavalry, was proceeding on the same day with the patrole of one hundred and fifty dragoons, to gain intelligence at Lenew's ferry, of the force and motions of the enemy: On the road, the British were overtaken by a loyal American, who had been a witness to the success which attended Colonel White in the morning, but had luckily escaped his power. The description of the troops, the assurance of their intention to pass the river at Lenew's, and the hope of retaking the prisoners, stimulated Tarleton to push forward his patrole with the greatest expedition: At the same time, the distance of Lord Cornwallis's camp, the fatigue of the march, the heat of the weather, and the sight of their infantry on the opposite bank, threw the Americans quite off their guard. At three o'clock in the afternoon, the advanced dragoons of the English arrived in presence of their videttes: Tarleton instantly formed his troops, ordered them to charge the enemy's grand guard, and to pursue them into the main body. The corps being totally surprised, resistance and slaughter soon ceased. Five officers and thirty-six men were killed and wounded; seven officers and sixty dragoons were taken prisoners; and the whole party of the light infantry were rescued, as the boat was pushing off to convey them to the opposite shore. All the horses, arms, and accoutrements of the Americans were captured. Colonels White, Washington, and Jamieson [Jameson], with some other officers and men, availed themselves of their swimming, to make their escape, while many who wished to follow their example perished in the river. The British dragoons lost two men and four horses in the action; but returning to Lord Cornwallis's camp the same evening, upwards of twenty horses expired with fatigue.”

Allaire: "Saturday, 6th. Very disagreeable, windy day. Still at Lempriere's. News just received from Lord Cornwallis, that Lieut. Nash and eleven dragoons that were patrolling, were taken by Washington and Horry's Light Horse near Santee river. Col. Tarleton was immediately ordered to pursue them. He overtook them at the river; charged and killed a number, and took a Major and thirty privates. The patrolling party that had been taken were in a boat, rowing across the river. Upon their seeing Col. Tarleton, they immediately seized the guard, threw them overboard, rowed themselves back and joined their regiment again. Col. Washington and Horry took to the river and swam across it. "

William Dobein James: "[After Monck's Corner] Col. White soon after took the command of the American cavalry, but with no better fortune. On the 5th May, he took a British officer and seventeen men of the legion, at Ball's plantation, near Strawberry, in the morning, and pushed back twenty-five miles, to Lenud's ferry, on Santee. While crossing there, Tarleton surprised him, at three in the afternoon; who states, that five officers and 36 men of the Americans were killed and wounded, and seven officers and sixty dragoons were taken; while he lost only two men, and retook his dragoons. Cols. White and Washington, Major Jamieson [Jameson], and several officers and men, escaped by swimming the river, but many perished in the like attempt. Thus the American corps of cavalry and infantry, in the open field, was completely annihilated, and from the Saltketcher to the Santee, a distance of one hundred and twenty miles, either terror or a general depression of spirits, had spread through the country. What served to increase this, was the cannonade at the town. This was a novel thing in South Carolina, and along water courses, it was heard more than one hundred miles. In that distance, there were but few families, who had not a husband, father, brother or son in the garrison; and these listened to the sound, with the deepest anxiety, and, as was natural, with no little despondency."

Lossing: “This day was marked by disasters to the Americans. On that morning, Colonel Anthony Walton White, of New Jersey, with the collected remnant of Huger's cavalry, had crossed the Santee and captured a small party of British. While waiting at Lanneau's [Lenud’s] Ferry for boats to recross the river with his prisoners, a Tory informed Cornwallis of his situation. Tarleton was detached with a party of horse to surprise White, and was successful. A general rout of the Americans ensued. About thirty of them were killed, wounded, or captured, and the prisoners were retaken. Lieutenant-colonel Washington, with Major [John] Jamieson and a few privates, escaped by swimming the Santee. Major Call and seven others fought their way through the British cavalry, and escaped.”

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