The Battle of Eutaw Springs: the final battle of the American Revolution took place on September 8, 1781, and was among the last in the War of Independence. It was brutal in its combat and reprisals, with Continental and Whig militia fighting British regulars and Loyalist regiments. Although its outcome was seemingly inconclusive, the battle, fought near present-day Eutawville, South Carolina, contained all the elements that defined the war in the South. In Eutaw Springs: The Final Battle of the American Revolution’s Southern Campaign, Robert M. Dunkerly and Irene B. Boland tell the story of this lesser known and under-studied battle of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign. Shrouded in myth and misconception, the battle has also been overshadowed by the surrender of Yorktown.
Eutaw Springs represented lost opportunities for both armies. The American forces were desperate for a victory in 1781, and Gen. Nathanael Greene finally had the ground of his own choosing. British forces under Col. Alexander Stewart were equally determined to keep a solid grip on the territory they still held in the South Carolina low country.
In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, both armies sustained heavy casualties with each side losing nearly 20 percent of its soldiers. Neither side won the hard-fought battle, and controversies plagued both sides in the aftermath. Dunkerly and Boland analyze the engagement and its significance within the context of the war’s closing months, study the area’s geology and setting, and recount the action using primary sources, aided by recent archaeology.
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The hard fought battle of Eytaw Springs has been over shadowed by the victory at Yorktown. When written about it had usually been dismissed as a near victory by Nathaniel Greene who lost only when his troops dissolved into a mob after looting the British camp. The battlefield itself has long thought to be submerged under flooded lake Marion. But no more. Robert Dunkerly in this new book has rescued the Battle from obscurity and given us a excellent account of one of the hardest fought actions of the war.
Fought between American General Nathaniel Greene’s Southern Army of Continental and local militia and State forces and British General Alexander Stewart’s mix regular and loyalist force on 8 September 1781 outside Charleston South Carolina. The Americans had an slight advantage in numbers (about 2,000 to 1300) and especially cavalry ((200 to 60). The battle started with the Americans capturing a unarmed foraging party of about three hundred men. Greene used his militia and State regiments to engage the British line first, and then his continental went in and broke the British. As the British fell back, the New York Volunteers created a Chew house type defense in a barricaded building, while the flank companies under Major Marjabanks held the flank giving the British a chance to rally. Greene’s exhausted veterans fell back and the Battle was over. Stewart later said if he had had more cavalry he could have routed the Americans.
Controversy plagued its history and myth making distorted the fighting. Friends and enemies attacked and defended Henry “Light Horse” Lee’s actions that day. Did Greene’s army dissolve into a mob while over running the British camp? Or was that an excuse? And what of the battlefield ? Was it really submerged under lake Marion? The lake is named for the American Revolutionary War General Francis Marion. His former home of Pond Bluff was one of those flooded when the lake was created.
The author has researched the battle and located numerous primary accounts. He reconstructed the Battle based on topography, first person accounts and archeological finds. There are very good maps and excellent order of battles. In short a great find for miniature gamers wanting to re fight this battle. I enjoyed this book very much and highly recommend it.
Eutaw Springs is a short read, rather well-written and seems to be thoroughly researched. It’s partly a military history of the battle, but also provides context, and some commentary on some disputed facts about the battle. There are a number of maps, but I found them a bit difficult to use. There are some historic photos of the spring and other areas, and some illustrations of leaders. The book seeks to integrate more factors into the battle than a usual battle history, including terrain, heat of the day and more, not exactly environmental history but some aspects of that.
The intent of the book is to call attention to a somewhat forgotten battle. It argues that the battle–essentially a draw–and its aftermath pushed the British back to a couple of ports and secured the South. Their version of General Greene is one of thorough preparation and strong leadership. The leaders of both forces, and those forces themselves, are described. Greene’s forces included about 2,000 soldiers (several hundred not in the battle were detailed to guard the baggage train), a mix of militia and Continentals. The British force was around 1,300 soldiers, a mix of veterans, some newly raised units and Loyalists. The militias and the Loyalists seem to have been as good as the regular army units (that is, as good as the British regulars and the American Continentals).
The numbers at Eutaw Springs were small compared to later wars, but it was savagely fought. Initially it looked to be a thorough American victory, then the British rallied and had they more cavalry it might have been a rout of the Americans. About 35% of the British and 25% of the Americans became casualties (including prisoners; the Americans captured several hundred).
About the Authors
Robert M. Dunkerly is a historian, award-winning author, and speaker who is actively involved in historic preservation and research. He earned a B. A. in history from St. Vincent College and an M.A. in historic preservation from Middle Tennessee State University. His research includes archaeology, colonial life, military history, and historic commemoration. Dunkerly has taught courses at Central Virginia Community College, the University of Richmond, and the Virginia Historical Society. He is currently a park ranger at Richmond National Battlefield Park.
Irene Boland (1941–2016), emeritus professor of geology at Winthrop University, held a B.A. in chemistry and biology and an M.A.T. in chemistry from Winthrop University and was a certified medical technologist. Following a rewarding career as a technologist and a medical technology instructor, Boland taught chemistry part time at Winthrop University while earning M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from the University of South Carolina. As a geology professor at Winthrop, Boland received the Kinard Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2012, and in 2014 she established the Charles A. Boland and Irene Brunson Boland Student Research Assistantship Endowment.