Bigger's Ferry


During September 1780, South Carolina militiamen mustering under Colonel Thomas Sumter were gathered on the east side of the Catawba River at Bigger’s Ferry as British General Lord Cornwallis was marching north toward Charlotte Town. This was “Indian Land,” the home of the Catawbas, and the place where Sumter had been mustering with this militiamen since he decided to join the active resistance to Cornwallis’s invasion of South Carolina. In late May 1780, a detachment from Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s Green Dragoons had terrorized his wife, then looted and burned his house. Sumter was then persuaded to join with the Whigs. He made his way north and began rallying militiamen to resist the advance of the British Legion.

In June, Sumter had mustered a force of militiamen and trained them near Nation Ford along the Catawba River near today’s Fort Mill, South Carolina. He had not trained them in the traditional manner of marching and drilling, firing in rank; he prepared them for a new kind of warfare. He trained them through competitions in strength, wrestling, swimming, running, and jumping. By the end of June, he had 500 men ready for battle. Among them were fellow colonels William Hill, Edward Lacey, and William Bratton. Many of these officers and militiamen were from the New Acquisition District and Chester County, the northern upcountry in the Catawba River valley. These officers and these men believed in Sumter and they petitioned South Carolina Governor-in-exile John Rutledge to make Sumter a brigadier general.

But Sumter’s fortunes soured greatly in August 1780 as Cornwallis advanced. Shortly after the Battle of Camden in mid-August, British Colonel Banastre Tarleton captured or scattered Sumter’s entire command during a surprise attack at Fishing Creek. But Sumter was resilient. Within a month afterward, the colonel had again recruited another band of militiamen eager to take on the British Legion as best they could.

In late September 1780, it was this newly recruited force Sumter chose to withdraw into North Carolina to join with others to build up their numbers. On September 25, as Cornwallis advanced toward Charlotte Town, the British general sent a detachment of dragoons under Lord Francis Rawdon to surprise Sumter. In response, patriot colonels Sumter, Hill, and Lacey crossed with their men to the west bank of the Catawba River at Bigger’s Ferry and marched north. They camped that night in “an uncommon thick wood where we supposed we were safe from the horse of the enemy,” William Hill later wrote. That night General Cornwallis was camped only 10 miles south of Charlottetown on Little Sugar Creek. On the next day, he would invade the small community.

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Biggers Ferry

Biggers Ferry was between Nation Ford and Amer Ford on the Catawba River in the Upcountry of South Carolina. During September 1780, South Carolina militiamen mustering under Colonel Thomas Sumter were gathered on the east side of the Catawba River at Bigger™s Ferry as British General Lord Charles Cornwallis was marching northward to Charlotte Town. [View Additional File Details]

Nation Ford historic marker

Historic Nation Ford is about two miles downstream from the historic marker which is on the west side of the US Hwy 21 bridge over the Catawba River. [View Additional File Details]

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Randell Jones (, “Bigger's Ferry,” Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, accessed April 22, 2021, http:/​/​bythewaywebf.​webfactional.​com/​omvt/​items/​show/​61.​
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