Sumpter Ordered to Join Gates
On this march Sumpter was joined by Col. James Williams, and also received instructions from Gen. Gates to co-operate with him in the contemplated attack on the British forces at Camden.
Williams preferred a return toward Ninety Six to a march down the Wateree, took that direction. Such of Sumpter’s force as desired it joined Williams. Among these were Steen and McJunkin.
Col. Williams, having separated from Sumpter, turned his face toward the British post at Ninety Six. He was probably induced to take this course from several considerations. He resided but a short distance from that place, and his friends were suffering from the domination of the British Tories. Gen. McDowell had advanced with a considerable force into the northern portion of the state.
The Northern Army under Gates was advancing toward Camden. The recent spirited conflicts in which the command of Sumpter had been engaged had rekindled the spirit of liberty and taught the militia that it was possible for them to conquer a foe superior to them in number and equipment.
Williams, therefore, crossed the Catawba and took post near Smith’s Ford on Broad River. Gen. McDowell lay at the Cherokee Ford, a few miles above, on the same river. The latter detached a part of his command under Cols. Shelby and Clark to unite with Williams for the purpose of surprising a body of 500 or 600 Loyalists who were understood to have taken post at Musgrove’s Mill, Enoree River, forty miles distant. This arrangement was completed Aug. 18. Just before sundown this combined force, consisting of about 700 horsemen, crossed at Smith’s Ford. They kept through woods until after dark. They also turned off the route to avoid the army of Col. Ferguson, which lay in their way. Through the whole night they pressed forward, often at a gallop, and at dawn of day met a strong patrol party half a mile from the enemy’s camp. With this a skirmish ensued, but it soon gave way and communicated the alarm to the main body. Just at this time a man residing in the community joined them and communicated the intelligence that the Tories had been reinforced by a body of 500 or 600 British troops under command of Col. Innis. To attack, under the circumstances, seemed imprudent; to escape, impossible. It was therefore determined to wear out the day as safely as possible and use the darkness of the ensuing night in effecting their retreat. A breastwork of old logs and brush was hastily constructed. Parties were thrown out to watch the movements of the enemy.