Battle of Eutaw Springs, 8 September 1781

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Battle during American War of Independence. Leaving the pursuit of Cornwallis to Washington and the French, a force under Major-General Nathanael Greene moved into South Carolina, where British garrisons and Loyalist forces held much of the state. Greene was defeated at Hobkirk's Hill (25 April) and failed to capture the main remaining British fortress (Fort Ninety-Six), but despite these failures, the British position began to weaken. A pursuit of Greene failed, and Fort Ninety-Six had to be abandoned. The British withdrew to the coast and Greene followed.

At Eutaw Springs, Greene, with around 2,200 men, came across a British camp under Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Stewart. The American force formed up in two lines, with the militia in the front line, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia regulars in the second. A British bayonet charge broke the centre of the American first line. The situation was temporarily restored by the North Carolina Continentals until they too were broken by a British charge, but the Virginia and Maryland troops were sent into the breach and not only repelled the British camp, but forced a general retreat, with the British in some disorder.

The Americans now came into the British camp, where most of them now stopped to plunder the British supplies. The tables now turned again. At the north-east corner of the camp was a strong brick house now defended by the remaining British battalion, commanded by Major John Marjoribanks. This battalion had driven off the American cavalry before pulling back to the brick house. Attempts to capture the house failed, and Marjoribanks was able to restore some order to the rest of the British force. With the newly restored force he was able to drive the American loots from the British camp. One American battalion now returned the favour, and delayed the British advance, allowing the American army to retreat without suffering a rout. The British held the field, and suffered less casualties than the Americans - 85 killed compared to 138 American dead and 41 missing.

Despite the military victory, overall the result of Greene's operations was to force the British to abandon most of their conquests in the South, leaving them isolated in Charleston and Savannah. The British attempt to pacify the south with the aid of the Loyalists had failed, even before the surrender at Yorktown.


War for America Black, Jeremy, War For America: The Fight for Independence 1775-1783. Provides a clear narrative of the war, taken year by year, with good chapters on some of the later years that are often skipped over. Also contains a good selection of quotes from participents in the conflict. cover cover cover

The Glorious Cause Middlekauff, Robert, The Glorious Cause, The American Revolution 1763-1789. A very well researched book that is especially strong on the events that led up to the Revolution, which take up the first third of the book. Unlike many similar books it also covers the years immediately after the war and up to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. cover cover cover

See Also
Books on the American War of Independence
Subject Index: American War of Independence

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (21 May 2003), Battle of Eutaw Springs, 8 September 1781, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_eutaw.html

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