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Colonel Clarke and the Battle of Cedar Springs (12 July 1780)

Previous to this (that is, the Battle of Musgrove's Mill), in July, a battle was fought at the Green Springs, near Berwick's Iron Works, by Col. Clarke of Georgia, with 168 men.  The enemy, consisting of 150 volunteer mounted riflemen and sixty well equipped dragoons, were defeated with the loss of twenty‑eight killed on the spot and several wounded.  Clarke had four killed and twenty‑three wounded, all with the broadsword.  Major Smith of Georgia, a brave, intelligent and active officer, was killed, Col. Clarke was severely wounded, Col. Robertson, a volunteer; Capt. Clarke, and several other officers were also wounded.

Mr. Mills is probably mistaken in his statement that Col. Clarke was wounded in this battle; he was too soon in service again.  Besides, Mr. Sherwood, in his Gazetteer of Georgia, states that Col. Clarke was wounded in the Battle of Musgrove's Mill some three weeks subsequent to this.  We have a more detailed account of the battle at the Cedar Spring in the Magnolia Magazine of 1842, which is understood to be from the pen of a distinguished citizen of Greenville District. It is as follows:

"Col. Clarke of Georgia, well known in the American Revolution as a bold, active and useful officer, was on his march into North Carolina with a regiment of refugee Whigs for the purpose of joining the American Army then expected from the north.  The news of his march reached the ears of Col. Ferguson, who immediately despatched Major Dunlop of the British Army with a detachment of troops consisting principally of Tories for the purpose of intercepting Col. Clarke and his regiment of militia.  The colonel, not expecting an attack from the enemy, had encamped for the night two or three miles from the Cedar Spring, when he was alarmed by the firing of a gun by one of Major Dunlop's soldiers.  It is said that this soldier, whose name is not at present remembered, was a Tory who felt some compunctious visitings at the idea of surprising and capturing his countrymen and took this opportunity of giving them information of an approaching enemy.  He pretended, however, that his gun went off accidently, and he was not suspected of treachery.  Col. Clarke immediately decamped and  marched to the Cedar Spring, where he passed the night undisturbed.  Mr. Dunlop, not thinking it prudent to pursue the Americans in the night, took possession of Col. Clarke's encampment and waited for the day.

Josiah Culbertson, noted in Spartanburg for his desperate and daring courage, had left the American camp that evening for the purpose of returning home, two or three miles distant, to spend the night.  He came back about daylight, expecting, of course, to find Col. Clarke and his regiment.  But as he rode into the camp he observed that the army seemed to present a different appearance from what it did the evening before, but nevertheless rode on to where he expected to find Col. Clarke before he became conscious that he was in the midst of an enemy's camp.  With extraordinary coolness and presence of mind, he then leisurely turned around and rode very slowly out of the encampment with his trusty rifle lying on the pommel of his saddle.  As he passed along he saw the dragoons catching their horses, and other preparations being made to strike up the line of march.

When out of sight of the British he put spurs to his horse and went in the direction he supposed Clarke had gone.  While in the enemy's camp he had doubtless been taken for a Tory who was a little ahead of the others in his preparations for marching.  He overtook Col. Clarke and found him in readiness for the attack of Major Dunlop.  In a short time, too, that officer made his appearance and a warm engagement ensued.  The British and Tories were repulsed with considerable loss.  The Americans sustained very little injury.  Major Dunlop hastily fled the country and Col. Clarke resumed his march toward North Carolina.  During this engagement Culbertson was met by a dragoon some distance from the main battle who imperiously demanded his surrender, which Culbertson replied to with his rifle and felled the dragoon from his horse.

"The next day when the dead  were buried this dragoon was thrown into a hole near where he lay and was covered with earth.  He had some peaches in his pocket when buried, from which a peach tree came up and was known to bear peaches for years afterward.  His grave is yet to be seen, but the tree has long since disappeared."

The next expedition against the enemy was set on foot at the camp of Gen. McDowell at Cherokee Ford.  It was directed against a fort north of Pacolet River, on the waters of Goucher Creek. This was a strong position, well fortified and abundantly supplied with the munitions of war.  It had been for some time a place or resort for the predatory bands of Tories who had been robbing the Whig families in the adjacent parts of the country.  It was under the immediate command of that distinguished Tory chieftain, Col. Patrick Moore.

This fort was in front of McDowell's position and lay between him and Ferguson's camp and was perhaps regarded as an outpost of the battle.  To take this place Cols. Shelby, Clarke and Sevier were detached with a squadron of 600 men.

With characteristic intrepidity these commanders appeared suddenly before this fortress, threw their lines around it and demanded its surrender.  The second summons was obeyed.  Moore surrendered 100 men, with 250 stands of arms loaded with ball and buckshot and so arranged at the portholes as to have repulsed double the number of the American detachment. (See biography of Gen. Shelby, National Portrait Gallery, No. 1.)

The effective force of Col. Ferguson at this time amounted to more than 2,500 men, composed of British and Tories.  McDowell's force was too small to meet his antagonist in the field with any prospect of success.  He therefore deemed it expedient to maintain his position at the Cherokee Ford, guard against surprise and harass his adversary in hope of soon acquiring a force sufficient to expel him from the country.  He had under his command officers and men possessing peculiar qualifications for accomplishing such a task, and by no means averse to daring enterprise.

Accordingly, soon after the return of the party from the capture of Moore, Shelby and Clarke were again in the field at the head of 600 mounted rifle men, with a view of passing beyond Pacolet River for the purpose of cutting off the foraging parties of the enemy.  They crossed that stream near where the Rolling Mill Place now is and sent out patrol parties to give intelligence of the enemy and watch his movements.  Ferguson soon penetrated the designs of his adversaries and set his army in motion to drive them from the country.  Major Dunlop advanced to Cedar Spring and Ferguson with his whole force was but a few miles in his rear.  Shelby's force occupied a position near the present site of Bivingsville.  Various attempts were made to fall upon the Americans by surprise, but these schemes were baffled.

About four miles from the present site of Spartanburg Court House on the road to Union is an old plantation known as Thompson's Old Place.  It is an elevated tract of country lying between the tributaries of Fairforest on the one side and of Lawson's Fork on the other.  Cedar Spring was about a mile distant on the Fairforest side, and Shelby's position not much further on the other.  A road leading from North Carolina to Georgia by way of the Cherokee Ford on Broad River passed through this place and then by or near Cedar Spring.  A person passing at the present time from the direction of Union toward Spartanburg Court House crosses this ancient highway at Thompson's old residence.

After passing this, by looking to the left, the eye rests upon a parcel of land extending down a hollow, which was cleared and planted in fruit trees prior to the Revolutionary War.   Beyond this hollow, just where the road now enters a body of woodlands, there is yet some traces of a former human habitation.  In this orchard two patrol parties met from adverse armies.  The party from Dunlop's camp were in the orchard gathering peaches; the Liberty Party fired on them and drove them from the place.  In turn they entered the orchard, but the report of their guns brought out a strong detachment from Shelby.  The Captain of the patrol, when he saw the enemy approaching, drew up his men under cover of the fence along the ridge,  just where the old field and the woodland now meet, and where the traces of an old place of residence are now barely visible.  Here he awaited their approach.  The onset was furious, but vigorously met.  The conflict was maintained against fearful odds until the arrival of reinforcements from Shelby's camp.  The scales now turned and the assailants fell back.  The whole force of Shelby and Clarke were soon in battle array, confronted by the whole British advance, numbering 600 or 700 men.

The onset was renewed with redoubled fury.  Here it was that Clarke astonished Shelby by the energy and adroitness with which he dealt his blows.  Shelby often said he stopped in the midst of the engagement to see Clarke fight.  The Liberty Men drove back their foes, when the whole British Army came up.  A retreat was now a matter of necessity as well as sound policy.  Shelby and Clarke had taken fifty prisoners, most of them British and some of them officers.  These Ferguson was extremely anxious to re take, and his antagonists by no means willing to lose.  Hence the pursuit was pressed for miles with great vigor and the retreat managed so skillfully as to render the great superiority of the royal army of no avail.  A kind of running fight was maintained for five miles, until the prisoners were entirely out of reach.

The Various Cedar Spring Fights

The writer cannot close this account of the battles at Cedar Spring without a few remarks.  The reader who has followed him through the whole of his narrative has noticed that he has described three conflicts at or near that place.  The first is contained in the account given of the Thomas family. This is stated upon the authority of Major Mc Junkin, and was probably the last in the order of time. The second occurred when Col. Clarke was retreating from Georgia with his regiment of refugee militia.  This is here described in the language of Mills, the author of AStatistics of South Carolina@, and a writer in the Magnolia for 1842.

The third took place between the forces of Clarke and Shelby combined, perhaps two weeks subsequent to the first.  The biography of Shelby cited above and local tradition is the authority upon which I have relied in the statement given.  I have no reason to doubt that statements from local traditions in regard to these engagements are extremely liable to error and confusion.  This is especially the case from the fact that few of the citizens in that section were present.  The Whigs were from neighboring states and probably strangers to the neighborhood, and the three conflicts occurring in the same vicinity, in the same summer, the traditions would become blended and confused.  This is actually the case.  One man will tell you of the fight which commenced at the orchard and then go back to the spring and tell about that affair.

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