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Battle of Fishdam Ford (9 November 1780)

Historians generally state that Sumter's camp was on the east side of the river; this is a mistake.  His position was west of Broad River, and his camp midway between that stream and a small creek which, flowing from the west, falls into the river near a mile below the ford.  Here, says local tradition, was Sumter's camp.  The whole section between the streams is now cleared and under cultivation, and is entirely overlooked by a high ridge, along which the road leading from Hamilton's Ford to the Fishdam passed.  It is presumed that the road was then very near where it now is.  About half a mile from the creek a road leading from the mouth of Tyger River intercepts the one leading from Hamilton's Ford.  A traveler approaching the ford by this route has a fine view of Sumter's position as he descends the long hill before reaching the creek.

Again, says local tradition, on the night of Nov. 12 [sic] the fires were kindled in Sumter's camp at dark, and the soldiers began to divert themselves in various ways, apparently as devoid of care as a company of wagoners occupying the same spot for the night would be at the present day.  No special pains were taken by the general to have guards placed.

But one officer in the camp was oppressed by anxious solicitude.  That man was Col. Thomas Taylor of Congaree.  He had been out with his command during a part of the previous day toward the Tyger River.  In his excursions he had heard of the approach of the party under Wemyss, and from his intelligence of their movements he conjectured their purpose.  He went to Sumter and remonstrated in regard to the state of things in his camp.  Sumter gave him to understand that he feared no danger, and felt prepared for any probable result.  Taylor's apprehensions were not allayed by the security of his commander.  He determined to take measures to guard against surprise, and to this Sumter gave his hearty assent.  Taylor conjectured that if the enemy came that night his approach would be along the road leading from the mouth of the Tyger and hence must cross the creek at the ford to reach Sumter's position.

He placed himself at the head of his own men, marched them across the creek, built up large fires of durable material, sent out a patrol party in the direction of the enemy, examined a way for a safe retreat for his party down the creek, and took all other precautions deemed proper in the circumstances.  He withdrew his men from the fires some distance in the direction of the main army and directed them what to do in case of alarm.

They slept on their arms until midnight, when they were aroused by the fire of their sentinels. The patrol party had missed the enemy, and hence no alarm was given until the sentinels fired.  The British, judging from the extent of Taylor's fire that the main body occupied that position and that no advance guard had been placed, immediately charged down the hill with the expectation of falling upon Sumter's men in confusion.  They crowded around the blazing fires in search of their victims. Taylor's men were ready and delivered their fire at this juncture.  The enemy fell back, but were again brought to the charge, but were again repulsed and fled in consternation, leaving their bleeding commander to the mercy of their foes.

It is said that when Taylor's men delivered their first fire, a scene of confusion resulted in Sumter's camp utterly beyond description.  The soldiers and officers ran hither and thither, whooping and yelling like maniacs.  Some got ready for action and joined in it, while others ran clear off and did not join Sumter again for weeks.  Hence this action was denominated in the region round about as Sumter's Second Defeat, though the rout of the enemy was complete and the American loss was nothing.

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