A Crisis of Leadership

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After the capture of Charlestown in May 1780 and during the initial advance of the British Legion into South Carolina, the top leaders of the South Carolina backcountry militia, Brig. General Andrew Williamson and his likely successor, Col. Andrew Pickens, stopped fighting. They laid down their weapons and took parole under the British. They encouraged their men to do the same. Because the rebel governor, John Rutledge, had escaped to safety in North Carolina and was operating in exile from Hillsborough, no Whig government was in place to organize a successor command structure for the militia. Any South Carolina officer who could step forward and act confidently could take charge. Several did. Two among those valiant leaders to step forward in the backcountry were colonels Thomas Sumter and James Williams. These men were from different regions—Sumter from the High Hills and Williams from Little River of the Saluda River valley. Each had the confidence and support of the officers and men he had mustered, trained, and led. (The militia was quite a democratic organization.) In the fall of 1780 with Cornwallis marching toward Charlottetown, these two officers found themselves in the central Upcountry along the Catawba River, both away from home and each with their own experiences in defending his homeland.

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The British Legion marched north through South Carolina

British General Lord Cornwallis marched north during the summer of 1780 after General Sir Henry Clinton captured Charlestown, the fourth largest city in the 13 American colonies. Clinton sailed back to New York and assigned the land campaign to his second-in-command, Cornwallis. | Creator: Randell Jones [View Additional File Details]

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Randell Jones (www.danielboonefootsteps.com), “A Crisis of Leadership,” Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, accessed July 22, 2017, http:/​/​bythewaywebf.​webfactional.​com/​omvt/​items/​show/​75.​
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