Colonel Roebuck and the Battle of Mudlick Creek (02 March 1781)

Immediately after the return of Brandon's command from North Carolina a camp was formed in the vicinity of the present site of Union, with a view of protecting the Whig population in that region.  Soon after his arrival in this section Col. Brandon received orders from Gen. Sumter to collect as many men as possible and meet him on the east side of the Congaree River.  In obedience to this requisition Brandon proceeded into the vicinity of Granby, where he understood that a superior force of the enemy were maneuvering, with a view to prevent his junction with Sumter, hence he deemed it expedient to effect a retreat toward home.  When out of the reach of pursuit he received intelligence from Col. Roebuck that he designed to attack a body of Tories in the direction of Ninety Six.  

McJunkin Goes to Aid Roebuck

Brandon immediately detached part of his force under the command of Major McJunkin to co‑operate with Roebuck in this enterprise.  On the arrival of the latter in the region of the contemplated operation he received intelligence that Roebuck had already met the enemy and the result of that meeting, and hence he fell back with his party to unite with Brandon.

Battle of Mudlick Creek

This battle has sometimes been called Roebuck's Defeat.  No history of the country, it is believed, ever alludes to the transaction.  It possesses some interest, and hence we transcribe an account of it found in the Magnolia for 1842, which, upon the whole, we believe may be relied upon as a correct statement, but not without some mistakes, which we shall point out as far as we can.

"The Battle of Mudlick was fought in the summer of 1781 by the remnant of a regiment of militia under the command of Col. Benjamin Roebuck and a garrison of British soldiers and Tories stationed at Williams's Fort in Newberry District.  The Whigs did not exceed 150 men, while the enemy was greatly superior in point of numbers and had the protection of a strong fortress.  In order to deprive them of this advantage the following stratagem was resorted to by Col. Roebuck and Lieut, Col. White.

"Those of the Whigs who were mounted riflemen were ordered to show themselves in front of the fortress and then retreat to an advantageous position selected by the commanding officer.  The enemy no sooner saw the militia retreating than they commenced a hot pursuit, confident of an easy victory. Their first onset was a furious one, but was in some measure checked by Col. White and his riflemen. As soon as the 'green coat cavalry' made their appearance Col. White leveled his rifle at one of the officers in front and felled him to the ground.

"This successful shot was immediately followed by others from the mounted riflemen, which brought the cavalry to a halt until the infantry came up.  The engagement then became general and waged with great heat for some time.  The fate of the battle seemed uncertain for fifty or sixty minutes.  At length the British and Tories were entirely routed, after having sustained considerable loss in proportion to their numbers.  The loss of the Whigs was nothing like so great, but they had to lament the loss of several officers and brave soldiers.  Among the former was Capt. Robert Thomas.  Col. White was badly wounded, but recovered.  This engagement was known as the Battle of Mudlick from the creek on which Williams's Fort stood.  It is not mentioned in any history of the American Revolution, though its consequences were of the highest importance to the Whigs of Newberry and adjoining districts.  It broke up the enemy's stronghold in that section of country and relieved the people from those marauding bands which infested every part of the state where there was a British station.

"The names of Col. Benjamin Roebuck and Lieut. Col. Henry White are not mentioned in our Revolutionary history, and yet there were not two more active or useful partisan officers at the time in the service of their country.  Col. Roebuck was the beau ideal of a gallant officer, brave to a fault and as disinterested as he was brave.  There never lived a man more devoted, heart, soul and body, to the service of his country than this gentleman.  His memory is now cherished by the few surviving soldiers of his regiment with a fondness and enthusiasm bordering on idolatry.  He was, as is believed, a native of Spartanburg District, and commanded a regiment of her militia throughout the American Revolution.  He had the command of a Colonel in the Battle of Cowpens, and was the first who received the attack of the British in that memorable engagement.  He was in many other battles and in all of them displayed the undaunted courage of a hero and the skill of an experienced officer.  He was taken prisoner and confined in close custody at Ninety Six.  He was several times wounded, and suffered much from his wounds. He died at the close of the war. He was never married.

"Col. White was the intimate friend and companion‑in‑arms of Col. Roebuck.  He, too, was a most active, gallant and useful officer throughout the whole of our struggle for independence.  He served at the Siege of Ninety Six, was in the battles of Cowpens and Eutaw under Gen. Greene.  After the last named battle he returned home and was actively employed in Spartanburg District in purging the community of those predatory bands of Tories which were the terror and pest of the country.  He lived to a good old age and saw his country enjoy peace and prosperity, those blessings for which he had so manfully fought and bled in his younger days."

This long extract has been transcribed by the writer for the following reasons:  1. It falls naturally into his narrative of events.  2. It is due to the actors that their hard‑earned fame should be preserved.  3. With a view to offering criticisms in reference to some of the facts stated.  The writer, however, is far from wishing to excite unpleasant feelings in the mind of the gentleman who penned this extract. On the contrary he takes this opportunity of tendering him thanks for his industry and zeal in collecting his "Revolutionary Incidents," published in the Magnolia for 1842.

The battle above described is stated to have occurred in the summer of 1781.  The written narrative of Major McJunkin, before the writer, fixes the date on March 2 [sic]. This narrative was written in 1837, five years before the publication of above extract.  The statement of Major McJunkin is corroborated by the testimony of Mr. Samuel Smith, a surviving soldier of the Revolution who then resided in the same vicinity with Col. Benjamin Roebuck and knew him well. 

Colonel Benjamin Roebuck

The statement of Mr. Smith will be given as our criticism on the above statement in reference to Col. Roebuck.  Mr. Smith was then in his sixteenth year, the youngest of the six sons of Ralph Smith, all engaged more or less in service.  One of them, William, held a Major's commission in the same regiment with Roebuck.  His account of Roebuck is in substance as follows:

The father of Col. Roebuck removed from the North (probably Virginia) in 1777 and settled upon Tyger River a short distance above Blackstock's Ford.  Upon the first call for soldiers after his arrival his son, Benjamin, turned out and was made First Lieutenant in the company of Capt. William Smith; was with Gen. Lincoln in Georgia and participated in the various campaigns until the fall of Charleston.  Shortly after that event he fled with others into North Carolina.  During his absence he was appointed a Major in the 1st Spartan Regiment, of which Col. John Thomas Jr. was about that time appointed Colonel.  He was Lieut. Colonel at the Battle of the Cowpens.  Soon after that event Thomas received a Colonel's commission in a different department of the service and Roebuck succeeded in command of the 1st Spartan Regiment and White rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Mr. Smith further states that as soon as Col. Roebuck returned to the neighborhood after the Battle of the Cowpens he engaged actively in warfare with the Tories who came up from the direction of Ninety Six to harass the Whigs in the region round about.  (Mr. Smith had come back in a few days after that battle; Roebuck probably accompanied Morgan beyond the Yadkin.) 

Colonel Roebuck Captured

After various conflicts, marches and countermarches, Roebuck was surprised one night in the neighborhood of his home in company with Capt. Matthew Patton, and both were taken.  On the same night Mr. Smith was also taken prisoner, and perhaps a dozen more in the same section.

They were brought together and marched off in the direction of Ninety Six.  At a place of rendezvous on Little River they were all tried for their lives.  Capts. Patton and Elder, with Charles Bruce and another man named Elder, were condemned to be hung.  Col. Roebuck and the rest were sent to jail in Ninety Six and continued there until within a few days of the time when Gen. Greene laid siege to that place.  Some of the prisoners were then paroled and allowed to return to their homes, while others, and among them Col. Roebuck, were sent off to the prison ships.

Mr. Smith thinks Col. Roebuck was not exchanged until the fall.  He was taken on the night on March 10.  His death occurred in the year 1787.  Mr. Smith further states that Col. Roebuck was in the Battles of Ramseur's Mill and King's Mountain.  And the writer supposes he was also in the others in that campaign in which some of his regiments were present, viz.: Hanging Rock, Rocky Mount and Musgrove's Mill.  He was not at Blackstock's, but near, and in the course of the succeeding night was very busy in giving notice to the Whigs round about of the impending danger, by which a number escaped capture.  But unfortunately his aged father fell into the hands of the British and died of disease in confinement.

Capt. Robert Thomas, mentioned above, was the son of Col. John Thomas sr.  Mrs. McHargue of Green County, Ga., is his daughter.  His brother, William Thomas, was wounded in the same engagement.  The descendants of Col. Henry White may be found in great numbers at present in Spartanburg District.

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