Carolina campaign, 1780–81, of the American Revolution. After Sir Henry Clinton had captured Charleston, he returned to New York, leaving a British force under Cornwallis to subordinate the Carolinas to British control. Cornwallis swept north and capped his success in the battle of Camden on Aug. 16, 1780. The American force was completely routed, the gallant Baron de Kalb was mortally wounded, and the American commander, Horatio Gates, fled from the field, outdistancing officers and men in retreat. Patriot defense was broken in the Carolinas, where only the swift and secretly moving guerrilla bands of Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens harassed the invaders. The American cause was advanced, however, with the remarkable battle of Kings Mt. (Oct. 7, 1780), where bands of frontier riflemen under Isaac Shelby, John Sevier, and William Campbell surrounded a British raiding party under Patrick Ferguson; the British commander fell, and his men surrendered. This victory prefaced the campaign fought in North Carolina by Gen. Nathanael Greene (who had been appointed to succeed Gates) and his lieutenants, notably Light-Horse Harry Lee and Daniel Morgan. It was Morgan who at the head of a raiding party met and all but annihilated Cornwallis's raiders under Banastre Tarleton at Cowpens (Jan. 17, 1781). Cornwallis pushed north and at Guilford Courthouse (Mar. 15, 1781) won a Pyrrhic victory over Greene; the British had technically won but had to retreat to British-held Wilmington, N.C., and then to Virginia. Greene then joined the guerrilla leaders in freeing South Carolina. Again the Americans were defeated—by Lord Rawdon at Hobkirks Hill (Apr. 25, 1781) and by Col. Alexander Stewart at Eutaw Springs (Sept. 8, 1781)—and again the British had to retreat, returning to Charleston. The campaign was a British failure and was, moreover, a triumph for the patriots because it set the stage for the Yorktown campaign.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.