Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Meeting Notes: May 25, 2011

"Tarleton and the Myth of Buford's Massacre at the Waxhaws," Jim Piecuch

Our speaker at our May 25th meeting was Jim Piecuch. Jim was born in Manchester, New Hampshire and was a city firefighter there for 13 years. At the same time he was a free lance writer publishing numerous historical articles locally as well as regionally and nationally. He holds a B.A. and Masters in History from the University of New Hampshire. His Ph.D. in history is from the College of William & Mary here in Virginia. He serves as a professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Jim has four books to his credit listed below, but the book he discussed with us was The Blood Be Upon Your Head, Tarleton, Buford, and the Myth of Massacre. The Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution Press has recently published this. If you did not have a chance to buy it at the meeting it can be ordered at the SCAR website.
Jim’s book is about what happened at the Waxhaws Settlement in South Carolina on 29 May 1780. Historically this has been thought to have been a massacre but Jim’s research has portrayed it to be more of a short lived battle. In a way he suggested that Tarleton was almost a nice, reasonable guy but, of course, we are still free to view him as the enemy. Cornwallis had directed that Buford’s troops be destroyed.

Tarleton’s cavalry, which had covered 105 miles in 54 hours, had caught up with the Continental troops led by Colonel Abraham Buford. Buford was returning to Virginia after being too late to be of help in Charleston. Tarleton had demanded Buford’s surrender but was refused. Both sides had to contend with bad weather and roads of mud.

At the time of the catch up, the battle ensued. According to Piecuch the entire battle consisted of only one volley. Of course, one volley is still deadly and one noted fatality was Tarleton’s own horse and his men initially feared that he was mortally wounded as well. This is when his men set upon the now surrendered Patriots hacking and bayoneting them. This might certainly come under the definition of a massacre, at least, that is how it was used as propaganda in the Patriot cause.

Still the term massacre was not used by the American soldiers in their pension applications but referred to it as Buford’s defeat. Call it what you will, it is still bloody war.
This was a most interesting meeting which resulted in a spirited Q & A session following.

Other books by Jim Piechuc include:

Cool Deliberate Courage: John Eager Howard in the American Revolution This is co-authored by John Beakes. Three Peoples, One King: Loyalists, Indians, and Slaves in the Revolutionary South, 1775-1782

The Battle of Camden: A Documentary History

--Brent Morgan