Sumpter Flees Before Tarleton
While engaged in this manner he received the intelligence of the defeat of Gen. Gates and the dispersal of the army under his command. He made a forced march for several days up the river to get out of striking distance of the British Army. At length, having reached the bank of Fishing Creek, on the west side of the Catawba, he halted to allow his men to refresh. Here, as is generally known, he was overtaken, surprised, and his force dispersed by Col. Tarleton of the British Army. The way in which this surprise was accomplished so completely was as follows:
The writer is indebted for this information to the late William Ashe of Franklin County, Ga., who was at the time with Sumpter. Mr. Ashe stated that the army was almost worn out with fatigue and watching when they stopped on the bank of Fishing Creek. It was near noon and the heat excessive. Sumpter had received no intelligence of the enemy since the retreat commenced and thought they might enjoy repose without danger. No great attention was paid to order, but a guard was placed at some distance in the rear.
The wearied soldiers had leave to prepare food and take rest for several hours before resuming their march. It happened that two Tory women passed the place soon after Sumpter halted and went on in the direction whence Sumpter had come. They had passed the rear guard about half a mile when they met Tarleton’s force. They gave Tarleton precise information as to Sumpter’s position and the arrangement of things connected with his army. They also informed him of a way by which he could leave the main road and fall into a road leading to Sumpter’s position at right angles to the main road. This way was taken by the British and hence came upon wholly unexpected. The guard placed in that direction was small and near the army. No alarm was given until the whole squadron was dashing up in full view. “Here,” said the late Samuel Morrow of Spartanburg District, S. C., “I seized my gun and shot a Capt. Campbell of the British light horse. I looked around me and saw Sumpter’s men running in every direction. I snatched up another gun and saw Col. Bratton rallying on a little eminence near me. I joined the little band that stood with him, fired again and the man at whom I took aim dropped. By this time the British were passed us in pursuit of those retiring and we saw no chance and our escape.”