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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Eutaw Springs and Bunker Hill

Almost as many Americans (138) were killed at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, South Carolina on September 8, 1781 as were killed at Bunker Hill (140).The British suffered 85 killed (they lost 226 at Bunker Hill) and 351 wounded (to 828 at Bunker Hill).  American wounded 375, more than the 271 at Bunker Hill.  Eutaw Springs serves as a bloody bookend to the war at the tail end, around the time of Yorktown.

American General Nathanael Greene, having lost his assault on Ninety-Six, continued to harass the British as their forces consolidated in South Carolina at Charleston.  British Colonel Alexander Stewart was in charge of the British forces at Charleston, following Lord Rawdon's return to England.  He took 2,000 men to search for Greene's army and while camped at Eutaw Springs, Greene attacked him with about 2200 men.  Though his men drove the British back and should have won, they started plundering the British tents.  The British made a well-defended stand around a brick house near the river, under command of Major John Marjoribanks, and turned the tide against the Americans.  Marjoribanks was killed and is buried on the site, shown here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Quinby Bridge and the Hubris of Command

Two markers identify the spot of this engagement typical of the bitter warfare in South Carolina.  The South Carolina historical marker calls it Quenby Bridge; the Francis Marion Trail marker spells in Quinby Bridge.  Here, on July 17, 1781 at this location on the creek, British forces retreating from Monck's Corner towards Charleston were attacked by militia forces under American General Thomas Sumter.  American Colonel Henry Lee attacked the British about a mile from this area, and the British fell back to here.

The British again fell back after the fight at the bridge to nearby Shubrick's Plantation established a defensive position.  Against the advice of General Francis Marion, Sumter nonetheless ordered an attack; after three hours, it failed and Sumter retreated.

Quinby (or Quenby) Bridge is a place to contemplate the hubris of command.  Thirty Americans died and thirty more were wounded, in an engagement involving some 550 Americans and approximately 600 Regulars and Loyalists.  Many of Marion's men deserted after this and Marion did not fight under Sumter again.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Battle of Quebec and the Preemptive Strike

This month also marks the anniversary of the failed American assault on Quebec City, on December 31, 1775.  The invasion of Canada, primarily directed at Quebec and Montreal, was at its worst a primary and early example of American aggression and, at best, an honest effort to include Quebec in the American independence movement.  In a December 4, 1775 letter to the Continental Congress, George Washington wrote "Upon the whole I think, Affairs carry a pleasing aspect in that Quarter, the reduction of Quebec is an Object of such great importance, that I doubt not the Congress will give every Assistance in their power for the accomplishing it this Winter."

Here is what the Americans faced.

The leaders of the American forces were the young General Richard Montgomery, who easily took Montreal, and then Colonel Benedict Arnold, whose arduous journey through severe weather and terrain to get there brought him comparison to Hannibal crossing the Alps.  Montgomery was killed, and Arnold wounded.

Quebec provides an interesting departure point for consideration of the roots of American foreign policy in terms of the justification for preemptive strikes and when invasion of foreign soil for such purposes is warranted.