Sumter evades Wemyss in South Carolina - HISTORY
Year
1780

Sumter evades Wemyss in South Carolina

On this day in 1780, British Major James Wemyss, commanding a force of 140 horsemen, attempts to surprise 300 South Carolina militiamen under General Thomas Sumter at Fishdam Ford, South Carolina. Instead of capturing Sumter as planned, Wemyss, “the second most hated man in the British army,” was wounded in the arm and knee, and captured by Sumter.

Sumter and Wemyss were major figures in the bloody civil war that raged along the Santee River of South Carolina during the American War of Independence. British Colonel Banastre Tarleton, the man Carolinians most hated, for his brutal destruction of life and property, had burned Sumter’s plantation on the Santee in the early summer of 1780. Enraged, Sumter recruited a militia, which dubbed him the “Gamecock” for his willingness to fight, and began returning Tarleton’s terror tactics in kind.

James Wemyss found his way to the Carolinas after being commanded by British General Charles Cornwallis to find a way to defeat the cagey brigadier general of the South Carolina militia, Francis Marion, known as the “swamp fox.” Wemyss, the younger son of a British earl, was just as willing to burn homes and terrify civilians as his less noble counterparts.

Although Wemyss failed to capture Sumter on November 9, his fearsome compatriot Tarleton succeeded in wounding Sumter on November 20, forcing Sumter to give up his command. In his wake, the able Marion took the reigns of power in the Carolinas and was instrumental in driving the British out of the sister colonies to Virginia, where General George Washington would finish the job and the war less than a year later at Yorktown.

The guerilla war waged by Sumter, Marion, Tarleton and Wemyss served as partial inspiration for Mel Gibson’s film, The Patriot (2000).

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Sartre renounces communists

The French philosopher and author Jean-Paul Sartre–long an admirer of the Soviet Union–denounces both the USSR and its communist system following the brutal Soviet invasion of Hungary. Jean-Paul Sartre, born in Paris in 1905, was a leading exponent of existentialism, a ...read more

Roosevelt travels to Panama

On the first foreign trip by a U.S. president, President Theodore Roosevelt departs the United States for Panama aboard the battleship Louisiana.The visit came three years after Roosevelt gave tacit U.S. military support to the Panamanian revolt against Colombian rule. Panamanian ...read more

Willie Nelson’s assets are seized by the IRS

“We try to work with taxpayers,” Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman Valerie Thornton told TheNew York Times in the autumn of 1991, “[a]nd if we have to come up with some creative payment plan, that’s what we’re going to do, because it’s in everyone’s best interest.” The ...read more

The Great Northeast Blackout

At dusk, the biggest power failure in U.S. history occurs as all of New York state, portions of seven neighboring states, and parts of eastern Canada are plunged into darkness. The Great Northeast Blackout began at the height of rush hour, delaying millions of commuters, trapping ...read more

Nazis suppressed in Munich

In Munich, armed policeman and troops loyal to Germany’s democratic government crush the Beer Hall Putsch, the first attempt by the Nazi Party at seizing control of the German government.After World War I, the victorious allies demanded billions of dollars in war reparations from ...read more

Nazis launch Kristallnacht

On this day in 1938, in an event that would foreshadow the Holocaust, German Nazis launch a campaign of terror against Jewish people and their homes and businesses in Germany and Austria. The violence, which continued through November 10 and was later dubbed “Kristallnacht,” or ...read more

Antiwar protestor sets himself afire

In the second such antiwar incident within a week, Roger Allen LaPorte, a 22-year-old member of the Catholic Worker movement, immolates himself in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York. Before dying the next day, LaPorte declared, “I’m against wars, all wars. I ...read more

Army and Notre Dame fight to a draw

On November 9, 1946, the second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the first-ranked Army Cadets play to a historic 0-0 tie at Yankee Stadium in New York. Notre Dame-Army was college football’s biggest rivalry, and more than 74,000 people crowded the stands. At a time when ...read more

Kodak Theatre, new home of Oscars, opens

On this day in 2001, the 3,400-seat Kodak Theatre, which was designed as the permanent home of the Academy Awards, opens in Hollywood. The Oscars were held at the Kodak Theatre for the first time on March 24, 2002. During the show, which was hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, A Beautiful ...read more

Fire rips through Boston

On this day in 1872, a fire in Boston destroys hundreds of buildings and kills 14 people. In the aftermath, the city established an entirely new system of firefighting and prevention. The fire also led to the creation of Boston’s financial district.The fire began in the basement ...read more

East Germany opens the Berlin Wall

East German officials today opened the Berlin Wall, allowing travel from East to West Berlin. The following day, celebrating Germans began to tear the wall down. One of the ugliest and most infamous symbols of the Cold War was soon reduced to rubble that was quickly snatched up ...read more