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The Battle of Halfway Swamp

December 12-13, 1780 at Halfway Swamp, and Singleton's Mill, Clarendon & Sumter County, South Carolina

American Forces Commanded by
Brig. Gen. Francis Marion
Strength Killed & Wounded Missing / Captured
300-600 10-12 ?
British Forces Commanded by
Maj. Robert McLeroth
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
300-500 ? 333 ?
Conclusion: British Victory

On December 12, Resuming operations after a lull in activity, Brig. Gen. Francis Marion had learned that Maj. Robert McLeroth and his 64th Regiment was escorting some 200 recruits of the 7th Foot from Charleston to Winnsboro. Marion, with several hundred men (McLeroth later reported 600. Ripley gives 300), including Major John James, Major John Van der Horst, Major Hugh Horry, left Snow’s Island and moved up the Santee Road, passing Nelson's Ferry. He made contact with the British some 20 miles northwest of Nelson's Ferry, just above Halfway Swamp (about a mile and a half south of present day Rimini, S.C.), he attacked the rear column of Maj. Robert McLeroth, who had about 100 to 300 of the 64th Regt. and some 200 new recruits for the 7th Regiment, As well, McLeroth had a number of supply wagons he was escorting to Camden. The Americans drove in the British pickets and attacked their rear guard. His men took cover from Marion's mounted men behind a rail fence, which apparently forestalled Marion's advance. With his path blocked, McLeRoth sent a flag to protest the shooting of his pickets and dared marion to meet him in the open.

During this pause, McLeroth sent out a flag of truce challenging Marion to a gentlemanly shooting duel between 20 men of each side. Marion responded to McLeRoths dare by saying that as long as the British forces continue to burn down civilian houses and send out raids, he would continue to shot the British pickets. Responding to the request to meet McLeRoth out in the open, Marion said "...if Major McLeRoth wishes to see mortal combat between teams of twenty men picked by each side, I will gratify him." Surprisingly, McLeRoth accepted Marion's reply.

A field was chosen and the contest organized. Marion named Maj. John Vanderhorst the team captain and carefully picked the 20 men. Vanderhorst told his men hold their fire until they were within 50 yards, picked one man keeping track of the distance and notify him when the range was right. When the plan was understood by everyone, they moved forward. The Britsh team was soon ordered to march off the field. McLeroth's own appointed duelists, after first marching out, turned about and retreated. The seeming act of cowardice, drew a cheer from Marion's select group under Maj. Van der Horst. It became apparent to marion that the British were just stalling for time.

Meanwhile, Coffin's detachment of 140 mounted New York Volunteers rode up, supposedly to escort the stalled 7th Regt. recruits to safety. When Coffin got word of Marion's presence, he refused to attack the Americans and instead retreated to Swift Creek. During the night, however, McLeroth managed to escape moving off towards Singleton's residence, where then Coffin joined him. In the process though, he was forced to abandon his heavier wagons.

On December 13, in the early hours, Maj. John James was informed of McLeRoth's maneuver and Seeking to catch and delay McLeroth, Marion sent Major John James (and or Maj. Hugh Horry) with a force mounted on the fastest horses to seize the buildings at Singleton's. He managed to beat McLeRoth there and quickly took up positions on the hill. When the British arrived, the Americans fired a volley and fled. They had discovered that the Singleton family had smallpox. Marion withdrew his forces toward Nelson's Ferry. Coffin soon joined McLeRoth at the Singleton's.

McLeroth then was able to continue safely on his way to Camden. During the course of the two day action, the British reported Capt. George Kelly and two privates wounded, while the rebel militia lost some "ten or a dozen," according to Rawdon's report to Cornwallis of 16 December. Rawdon was not pleased with McLeroth's lack of aggressiveness, while at the same time McLeroth asked he be allowed to return to Charleston. Rawdon granted his request and, says Bass, gave command of the 64th to Major John Campbell. However, there is no Major John Campbell of the 64th named on the British Army lists so this may be an error.

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