Updated:
Original:
Year
1781

Patriots ambush Loyalists as French set sail

On this day in 1781, Patriot forces led by Colonel William Harden and Brigadier General Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox,” lure British commander Major Thomas Fraser and his 450 soldiers into an ambush at Parker’s Ferry, 30 miles northwest of Charleston, South Carolina. Meanwhile, 3,000 soldiers set sail with the French fleet on their way to aid the Patriot cause.

Fraser’s command consisted of 450 Loyalists who had begun an uprising in the region. Marion, who earned his nickname for his ability to “outfox” his opponents in the swamps of the South Carolina backcountry, sent his fastest riders ahead to tempt Fraser into a waiting Patriot trap. The maneuver succeeded. Fraser ordered his men to charge, and three successive volleys of musket fire by the Patriots mowed down the ranks of the Loyalist cavalry. Only a shortage of ammunition among the Patriots saved the Loyalists, who lost half their force in the skirmish. Fraser himself was hit three times in the course of the engagement, but managed to continue in command of his men.

While Marion and Fraser tested their mettle in South Carolina, General George Washington celebrated the Patriots’ good fortune that just as the French fleet commanded by Francois DeGrasse departed St. Domingue for the Chesapeake Bay, British General Charles Cornwallis had chosen Yorktown, Virginia, at the mouth of the Chesapeake as his base. Washington realized that it was time to act. After DeGrasse beat the British at sea on September 5, Washington trapped Cornwallis at Yorktown on October 17, 1781, effectively ending the War for Independence.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Fidel Castro born

Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro is born in the Oriente province of eastern Cuba. The son of a Spanish immigrant who had made a fortune building rail systems to transport sugar cane, Fidel attended Roman Catholic boarding schools in Santiago de Cuba. He became involved in ...read more

Aztec capital falls to Cortés

After a three-month siege, Spanish forces under Hernán Cortés capture Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire. Cortés’ men leveled the city and captured Cuauhtémoc, the Aztec emperor. Tenochtitlán was founded in 1325 A.D. by a wandering tribe of hunters and gatherers on ...read more

Berlin is divided

Shortly after midnight on this day in 1961, East German soldiers begin laying down barbed wire and bricks as a barrier between Soviet-controlled East Berlin and the democratic western section of the city. After World War II, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, ...read more

New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle dies

Former New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle dies of liver cancer at the age of 63. While “The Mick” patrolled center field and batted clean-up between 1951 and 1968, the Yankees won 12 American League pennants and seven World Series championships. Mantle was born in Spavinaw, ...read more

Yosemite killer Cary Stayner born

Cary Stayner, the serial killer convicted in the grisly murders of four women near Yosemite National Park, is born on this day in 1961. In 1972, Stayner’s childhood took a tragic turn when his younger brother Steven, then seven, was kidnapped while walking home from school in the ...read more

Record day for the Berlin Airlift

Responding to increasing Soviet pressure on western Berlin, U.S. and British planes airlift a record amount of supplies into sections of the city under American and British control. The massive resupply effort, carried out in weather so bad that some pilots referred to it as ...read more