A year before George Washington crossed the Delaware River, Richard Richardson led his regiment of 3,000 men through snow several feet deep to “silence the discontents of the back country,” according to his his orders from the provincial government.
Of South Carolina.
At 71, the Colonel Richardson saddled up and headed out.
Born in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1704, not much is known about Richardson's early life. He had been a rival surveyor to Washington in the race to claim land, get settlers, and receive land grants. The nation was land rich and cash poor. Like many of his contemporaries, Richardson was a veteran of the French and Indian War, and the subsequent Cherokee Wars of 1760 and 1761. He married his second wife, Dorothy Sinker (his first wife, Mary Cantley, had died) in Clarendon County, South Carolina. Granted 1,000 acres of along the north bank of the Santee River, he and his wife moved to St. Mark's Parish in Craven County.
Despite his age, Richardson became involved in the protest politics of the Patriots. The South was divided and at times, the Loyalist movement was about as large as the Patriot movement.
Thomas Fletchall was the ringleader of the Loyalists. He lived in that part of South Carolina that had been thought to be North Carolina until the Cherokees finally allowed it to be surveyed in 1772, when it became part of South Carolina. He received a grant of 500 acres in 1772 and became a gentleman planter, also serving as a justice of the peace, a coroner, and a colonel of militia for the Ninety-Six Judicial District. He was loyal to the king, and later was delighted when the British captured Charleston, South Carolina. Oddly enough, Edward Rutledge defended Fletchall in a civil case in 1775 -- and became the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence the next year. The dispute was whether a 1754 patent for the land from North Carolina.
By the fall of 1775, the Patriots had taken over Charleston (then called Charles Town) and sent Royal Governor William Campbell packing. He quartered on the man of war sloop HMS Tamar off the coast, waiting to return.
The Patriots had sent a load of gunpowder to the Cherokee to bribe them to not ally with the British. The Loyalists intercepted the wagon carrying the tribute, which was the last straw for the Patriot government.
In November 1775, Richardson and 1,000 Patriots went after Fletchall in particular, and Loyalists in general. The Loyalists had 1,900 men under the command of Colonel Fletchall. The Snow Campaign was not very bloody. Along the way, as the Patriots captured Loyalists, men joined the Patriot cause and Loyalists deserted. This vacillation occurred throughout the colonies and throughout the war as people struggled with the question of whether they were Englishmen or Americans. Winning also creates a bandwagon effect.
On December 9, 1775, after trudging through now, the Patriots found Colonel Fletchall hiding in a sycamore tree. They arrested him and he spent the next six months in jail before seeing the light and returning home as a Patriot. He never took up arms against the Patriots again -- or against the king.
On December 22, 1775, the Patriots spotted 200 Loyalists camped along the Reedy River. Richardson dispatched Colonel William Thomson, whose nickname was Danger. He led a regiment of Rangers who quickly subdued the Loyalists. But Thomson recognized them as Dutch neighbors who had lost their homes in the fighting back and forth. He ordered them released rather than tried and possibly executed. While Thomson was a fighter, he also knew when not to fight.
The Snow Campaign ended shortly afterward. Having subdued Loyalists and captured Fletchall, Richardson sent his men home. Many had no shoes and no one had any tents. Winter was coming.
The war would not end well for Richardson, who was among the leaders the British captured and imprisoned on Jones Island in 1780's siege of Charleston. Richardson died in prison at age 76. His top aide in the Snow campaign was Thomas Sumter, whose heroics in the War of 1812 were honored by naming a fort after him -- Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.
Fletchall had to rebuild his plantation after Patriots destroyed it. After American gained independence, Fletchall took his family and his slaves to Jamaica, departing on October 10, 1780, as part of the exodus to other British colonies by Loyalists. Colonel Thomas Brandon bought the 2,665 acre estate -- called Fair Forest Plantation -- from the South Carolina government. It survives today as a tourist attraction.
Colonel Thomson likely lost the most in the war, and gained the most as well. Born in Pennsylvania in 1725, at a young age his family moved to what is now St. Mathews Parish, South Carolina. It was wilderness territory. He grew up in danger from Indian attacks and the like. At 30 he started a plantation, growing indigo, a plant used as a dark dye that is native to India.
He was popular, winning 15 legislative races in the various governments between 1765 and 1795. He headed the Third South Carolina Regiment -- Rangers -- in the war. Captured in the siege of Charleston in 1780, Thomson agreed to sit out the rest of the war and was paroled. He went home to a plantation that not only had been destroyed by Banastre Tarleton and his troops, but was devoid of slaves.
But Thomson had land, and at age 55 he rebuilt his plantation. Instead of indigo, whose market had fallen, this time he grew another crop from India.
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