Wateree Ferry, South Carolina

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Wateree Ferry, South Carolina

WATEREE FERRY, SOUTH CAROLINA. 15 August 1780. After Major General Horatio Gates approved General Thomas Sumter's secondary efforts against British communications in the action known as the Camden campaign, Sumter asked for reinforcements to attack a post guarding the Wateree River ferry crossing connecting Camden with Ninety Six. Gates detached one hundred Maryland Continentals, two guns, and three hundred North Carolina militia, under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Woolford of the Fifth Maryland Regiment, who joined Sumter on 14 August.

The British garrisoned a small redoubt called Fort Cary, named after Loyalist Colonel James Cary (Carey) who commanded it, at the west end of Wateree Ferry, On 15 August, the day after Woolford joined him, Sumter sent Colonel Thomas Taylor, with his Kershaw District militiamen, to surprise Fort Cary. Taylor captured Colonel Cary, thirty men, and thirty-six wagons loaded with clothing, food, and rum. Later that day, fifty-six more wagons with supplies and baggage, seventy British invalid soldiers, and a cattle herd coming from Ninety Six were taken.

Sumter initially wanted to hold the river crossing, but started withdrawing up the Wateree's west bank after he learned that the British were preparing to cross the river and retrieve their prisoners and stores. After hearing the fighting at the battle of Camden (16 August), and then learning of Horatio Gates's defeat shortly thereafter, Sumter moved further north. He made camp at Fishing Creek on 18 August. His encampment was inadequately secured, however, and his troops were surprised by the enemy. His 800-man command was annihilated and the supplies they carried were retaken by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton with only 160 dragoons and light infantry.

SEE ALSO Camden Campaign; Fishing Creek, North Carolina; Sumter, Thomas.


Kirkland, Thomas J., and Robert M. Kennedy. Historic Camden. Part I. Camden, S.C.: Kershaw County Historical Society, 1968.

Tarleton, Banastre. A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North American. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1967.

                              revised by Lawrence E. Babits