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The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies
The history of the King's American Regiment is presented in 8 parts. Click below to skip to:

Part 1 - Introduction & Recruiting a Regiment,
Part 2 - From Recruits to Soldiers,
Part 3 - New York 1777,
Part 4 - Rhode Island 1778,
Part 5 - Raiders & Refugees 1779,
Part 6 - To the South 1780/1781,
Part 7 - Savannah 1781/1782,
Part 8 - Into History 1782/1783

History of the King's American Regiment - Part 7 of 8

Savannah 1781/1782

With the evacuation of Camden in May and RAWDON's inability to bring Greene to another major action, the army retired towards Charlestown. With desperate pleas for help daily arriving from Royal Governor Sir James WRIGHT of Georgia, the British decided to answer his request by sending the KAR to his assistance. Accordingly, they embarked hastily at Charlestown on board the Tartar privateer and other small sloops on 30 May 1781, arriving at Savannah within a couple days.75

The first business the regiment embarked upon in their new post was to attempt to raise a troop of cavalry. The warrant to CAMPBELL from Lord RAWDON, dated 30 May 1781, specified that the troop would consist of four officers and fifty seven other ranks.76 Each recruit was promised an elegant helmet or cap, uniform, horse, arms and accouterments, plus the higher pay given to cavalrymen.77

The new commanding officer of the troop was Captain Isaac ATWOOD, who already had a history with Lt. Col. CAMPBELL which would continue down in the South. This one troop of cavalry, joined to the other cavalry then in Georgia, would see the bulk of the fighting there for the remainder of the war.

After numerous patrols and an uneventful summer, November would prove to be as bloody to Captain ATWOOD's Troop as the rest of their history combined. On 2 November 1781 a post of the King's (Carolina) Rangers under Captain JOHNSTON was attacked by two hundred Rebels under Colonel Jackson.

Lt. Col. CAMPBELL was posted with his troop and that of the Rangers about one half mile distant. CAMPBELL immediately rushed both troops to JOHNSTON's assistance and charged headlong into the battle, routing the Rebels but rashly losing twelve men killed and wounded, including Ensign Abel HARDENBROOK of the KAR and four men of ATWOOD's Troop.78 In the days that followed, three more men in the troop were killed in skirmishing.79

While the fate of the war had been decided with the surrender of Lord CORNWALLIS and the army under his command at Yorktown in October, the war itself continued, particularly in the South. The British were getting more and more compressed towards Savannah itself and were in desperate need of more men.

As a reinforcement, the British 7th Regiment of Foot and the KAR's Light Infantry Company were ordered to Savannah from Charlestown, arriving on 22 December 1781.80 The Light Company had been through as difficult a time as the cavalry, if not worse.

They took part in all of the skirmishes in the High Hills of Santee in South Carolina throughout the first part of 1781, chasing and fighting such partisans as Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion. Their moment of glory came on 8 September 1781 when the horrific Battle of Eutaw Springs was fought against Greene's Army.

The British lost over six hundred men killed, wounded and captured, many of them Provincials, but had held the field and won the day. Again, though, they lost a third of their men, losses from which they could not recover.

And so the war in the South continued. The British could read the writing on the wall with the loss of Cornwallis' Army and their not being in a position anywhere in America to act offensively.

Discipline in the KAR was starting to ebb. The officers openly quarreled with Lt. Col. CAMPBELL and he with them. He went so far as to challenge Captain ATWOOD to a duel, but ATWOOD's friends dissuaded him from going through with it.

CAMPBELL appealed directly to the men, insinuating the officers did not look out for them, and providing them with their necessaries directly, rather than through their company officers.81 All this led to bitterness and recrimination in all the ranks.

Thomas McDONALD, one of ATWOOD's dragoons, deserted from his post on the night of 28 February 1782. He was taken the next day by a patrol and brought to CAMPBELL, by whose arbitrary order he was executed at Yamacoare at 9:30am 2 March 1782.82 Such extreme measures as subverting the Judge Advocate General's Office and inflicting instant punishment were almost unheard of in the North, but had become commonplace in the South.

One final nasty battle awaited the KAR and the garrison of Savannah. On 21 May 1782 a running fight ensued between a body of infantry and cavalry under Lt. Col. Thomas BROWN of the King's (Carolina) Rangers and a party of Continentals, state troops and militia under General Wayne near Ogeechee.83 The action became desperate on the part of the British, with the Rebels on the verge of capturing them.

In this situation Captain ATWOOD charged his troop in a column of fours down a very narrow road, stopping the Rebel advance and forcing them to retreat, but at a loss of Sergeants Benjamin REYNOLDS and Isaac DUTCHER killed and Lieutenant Dugald CAMPBELL and some others wounded.84 The party limped into Savannah immediately afterwards. In two more months, Savannah would be evacuated.

75 Nase Diary, 31 May 1781, NMB.

76 Emmet Collection, No. 15673, NYPL.

77 The Royal Georgia Gazette (Savannah), 7 June 1781.

78 The Royal Georgia Gazette (Savannah), 8 November 1781. Nase Diary, 2 November 1781, NMB.

79 Muster Roll of Captain Atwood's Troop, KAR, 24 December 1781. RG 8, "C" Series, Volume 1902, Page 72, NAC.

80 Nase Diary, 22 December 1781, NBM.

81 Court Martial Proceedings of Lt. Col. George Campbell, May, 1783. War Office 71/97/88265.

82 Nase Diary, 28 February 1782. Muster Roll of Captain Atwood's Troop, 24 April 1782. RG 8, "C" Series, Volume 1903, Page 10, NAC.

83 Wayne to Greene, 24 May 1782. Papers of the Continental Congress, M 247, Reel 175, item 155, V. 2, Pages 461464, US National Archives.

84 The Royal Georgia Gazette (Savannah), 23 May 1782. Nase Diary, 21 May 1782, NBM.

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Click here for ---> Regimental History Main Page

                               More King's American Regiment History

                               KAR History:

                               Part 1 - Introduction & Recruiting a Regiment,
                               Part 2 - From Recruits to Soldiers,
                               Part 3 - New York 1777,
                               Part 4 - Rhode Island 1778,
                               Part 5 - Raiders & Refugees 1779,
                               Part 6 - To the South 1780/1781,
                               Part 8 - Into History 1782/1783

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Updated 12/15/99

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