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British win at Fishing Creek, lose at Musgrove’s Mill

On this day in 1780, following the Continental Army’s disastrous loss two days earlier at the Battle of Camden, two bloody engagements leave the Loyalist and Patriot forces each with one more victory in South Carolina’s brutal civil war.

Led by the fearsome horseman Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, 350 Loyalists located a Patriot force commanded by Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, known as “The Gamecock” for his fearless aggression, about 40 miles from Camden. Tarleton caught the Americans totally unprepared, killing 150, wounding and capturing 300 and freeing 100 British prisoners at Fishing Creek, South Carolina. Loyalist losses were just 16 killed. This battle made Tarleton, in eyes of the British, a national hero. Coming just after the Patriot loss at Camden, it appeared that the British would soon add the Carolinas to Georgia and possess what British General Henry Clinton called “three stripes… of the detestable thirteen.”

However, that same day, a second battle gave the Patriots a spark of hope. At Musgrove’s Mill on the Enoree River, Patriot Colonels Elijah Clarke and Isaac Shelby commanded a militia force that repelled an attack by Loyalists, killing 63, wounding 90 and capturing another 70. Patriot losses were only four killed and eight wounded and a day that could have cemented Patriot disaster ended instead in a draw. The site of the Patriots’ desperately needed victory is now a South Carolina state park.

Shelby would go on to guide the Patriots to a brutal victory at Kings Mountain, near the border of the Carolinas, on October 7, after which his men would proceed to shoot and hang many of their Loyalist, and fellow Carolinian, prisoners.

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