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The Battle of Dean's Swamp

May 24, 1782 at ??, South Carolina

Commanded by: Capt. William Butler
Strength: 35
Casualties: 2 killed, 8 wounded
Commanded by: Maj. William Cunningham
Strength: 70+
Casualties: ?
Conclusion: American Victory

Maj. William Cunningham learned that British and Loyalists prisoners were being held near Dean Swamp, in two bullpens. He sent some of his men to rescue the prisoners. Capt. William Butler learned that Cunningham's men were encamped on Dean's Swamp and gathered 15 of his Edgefield County militia. He met with Capt. Michael Watson and 18 of his Cloud Creek Company. The two groups rode out at sundown.

On May 24, after riding all night, the Patriot militia approached the Loyalist camp in the morning. They captured a Loyalist along the way, but he escaped and was able to warn Cunningham of the Patriot approach. The Loyalists were able to set up an ambush on the edge of the swamp. They enticed the Patriots into the ambush by having two men stand in the road. Butler and a couple of other men rushed to capture the two Loyalists and Butler detected the ambush. The Loyalists opened fire, mortally wounding two of the Patriots immediately. The Patriots started to run low on ammunition. By this time, the Loyalists started to approach the Patriot line.

Butler decided to risk it all and charge the Loyalists with swords. The Loyalists were surprised and confused by the attack. They quickly turned around and fled, even though they outnumbered the Patriots by a 2-to-1 margain.

Dean’s Swamp, South Carolina

24 May 1782

Near Dean Swamp were two bullpens that contained Loyalist and British prisoners of war. "Bloody Bill" Cunningham wanted to free these prisoners, so he sent some of his men to rescue the prisoners. Captain William Butler had learned that Cunningham’s men were encamped on Dean’s Swamp and assembled fifteen of his Edgefield County militia. He rendezvoused with Captain Michael Watson and eighteen of his Cloud Creek Company and then the two units rode out a sundown.

The Patriot militia rode all night and approached the Loyalist camp the next morning. Along the way they had captured a Loyalist by the name of Hutto. Unfortunately Hutto was able to escape and alert Cunningham that an attack was imminent.

Watson said that it was madness to proceed, but Butler did not want to turn back. Butler had lost his father at Cloud’s Creek and wanted revenge. Both officers rode on towards the enemy. Watson’s men were armed with rifles and muskets and Butler’s men were armed with pistols and cutlasses.

The Loyalists had time to set up an ambush for the Patriots on the edge of Dean’s Swamp. They enticed the Patriots into the ambush by having two men stand in the road. Butler, Watson and a sergeant named Varney rode forward to capture the two Loyalists. Watson detected the ambush near the men and shouted out, "Beware! The whole body of the enemy are at hand!"

In the first volley Watson and Varney were mortally wounded. Watson had been wounded through the hip while he was loading behind a tree. Butler moved the wounded men to a place of safety and appointed Sergeant John Corley to act as a lieutenant. Corley had to threaten some of the frightened militia, including his own brother, with death if they did not return to their posts.

Butler’s men began to run low on ammunition. The Loyalists outnumbered them by 2 to 1 and approached openly when the fire began to slow. Butler decided to risk it all and charge the Loyalists with swords. The Loyalists were surprised and confused by the attack and fled. Many of them were killed while the rest fled into the swamp. Butler lost two men killed and eight wounded. Captain Watson was carried to Orangeburgh, where he died and was buried with full military honors.

NBBAS:Four p.96:

Dean’s Swamp, South Carolina [Originally listed as Saltketcher Swamp]

October 1782

After Captain William Goodwyn broke the truce attempting to kidnap Chessher, he drew the attention of the local militia. Captain John Carter of Hammond’s militia rode with his Volunteer Scout of Horse Company to break up an assembly of the Loyalists at Dean’s Swamp.

Captain Tenison Cheshire and twenty-five of his Loyalists ambushed them as they were on the way to the swamp. Despite several casualties Carter was able to drive the ambushers into the swamp.

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