A Brief memoir of the life and revolutionary services of
Major William Hazzard Wigg
of South Carolina.
Transcribed by G. G. Stokes, Jr.
To the reader;
I stumbled across this work in the spring of 2007 and subsequently used it as the basis for my historical novel Letters For Catherine: A Novel of Charleston During the American Revolution. As far as I know, there are only a handful of the original copies of this memoir left. The copy housed in The Historical Society of South Carolina archives was used for this transcription. Amazing as it may sound, it has not been reprinted prior to this. With this in mind, I have transcribed it as accurately as possible and posted it free of charge on www.georgiawriter.com for the enjoyment, education, and use of interested parties. I felt compelled by honor and respect to complete this task. The men who escaped from the prison ship Packhorse deserve to be remembered. I hope that this work, along with Letters For Catherine, will resurrect their memory in the minds of those who read these two works.
G.G. Stokes, Jr.
June 12, 2010
Notes on the transcription.
I attempted to render this work as accurately as possible, but was constrained by limits of computer savvy and technology. Some of these instances are:
Page breaks have been inserted at the end of each page of the original manuscript, which accounts for the odd placement of the lines at the beginning and end of some pages.
Since the page numbers in the original manuscript restarted after the Intorductory, those on the computer copy do not match the pages of the original.
Some of the symbols used for footnotes could not be reproduced with my computer. I have used modern footnotes.
Misspellings, along with grammatical and historical errors, have been left as they appeared in the original pamphlet.
Of course, all of the margins, etc., changed when uploaded to the website.
A Brief memoir
Life, and Revolutionary Services,
Major William Hazzard Wigg,
Of South Carolina
Illustrative of the claim, for the indemnification, upon
The government of the United States for the
Plunder, and destruction of his property,
During the war, by British Troops.
Prepared by the Claimant, for the use of Committees of Congress
C. Alexander, Printer,
Up to the latest moment of time, which the convenience of the publisher and the necessity of publishing permitted, the Memorialist fostered the hope and expectation, of receiving a preface, from the pen of W. Gilmore Simms, Esq., L.L.D., the historian of South Carolina. The foundation of this hope, rested upon the following extract from a private letter, which he had the honor of receiving from that distinguished writer and gentleman, under date of the 24th of August last:-
“Believe me, my dear sir, I should be most happy to assist you in your effort, and quite pleased to revise your memoir – provided you are willing to wait on me. But I am now driven by my publishers; and engaged in revising, and rewriting, my History of South Carolina, which we must have printed by the first of October: and am busy besides, in contributions to the American Cyclopaedia, which cannot wait when the alphabet calls. If you will take your chance, and can wait, I will cheerfully examine and revise your manuscript. Should you need illustration of any one point, I may suggest the clue.”
Fresh from the field of his professional labor, Mr. Simms, is eminently and particularly well qualified to decide all questions relating to the Revolutionary policy, and practice of his native State; and hence, the extreme desire of the Memoralist, to make use of his valuable services. Availing himself, therefore, of this friendly, and courteous permission, he forwarded to Mr. Simms, the proof sheets, as soon as they could be make ready; but he regrets to say, that up to this time, (the latest to which the press-work can be delayed,) he has received no communication in reply; and is constrained to believe, that uncontrolable circumstances have occurred, to defeat the generous, and friendly intentions so promptly expressed; and to disappoint the earnest wishes of the Memorialist, who is fully sensible of the great weight, which would have been added to his narrative, from an endorsement of its historical fidelity by such high authority. He possesses the satisfaction, however, of being able to present the opinion of Mr. Simms, taken from another letter of the date of the 12th of November last, upon the point, whether or not the discrimination, between the Continental, and the Militia officers, which is alleged, in the course of this memoir, to have existed under the treaty for the capitulation of the city of Charleston in 1780, is an established fact of history? Mr. Simms says, in the extract alluded to: - “The different treatment of Continentals, or Regulars, and that of the Partizan Militia, was proverbial.”
The important bearing of this fact, upon the theory, which it is the design of this memoir to establish, as the foundation of the validity of the claim, based upon it, cannot be overstated; and consequently, it is a cause of congratulation to the Memorialist, that the evidences on that point, previously adduced in the text, is now reinforced so clearly, and conclusively, and by such high authority. In this connection it cannot be too strenuously insisted upon, or too often repeated, that the unlawful discrimination between classes of the besieged army of Charleston, in 1780, directly and indirectly, led to consequences which produced not only the pecuniary misfortune, and personal sufferings of the subject of this memoir, but also involved in destruction the lives, of a large class of as brave men, and as illustrious patriots, as any, who were engaged in the achievement of the Independence of the United States.
It is perhaps an oversight in the compilation of this memoir, that the hardships, privations, and persecutions, leading to death in such a large number of cases, was not longer dwelt upon, and painted in stronger colors, for, such treatment of prisoners is certainly without parallel, in the history of the Revolution, or of modern warfare. The wanton exposure of prisoners of war, entitled to parole and protection, under the sacred guaranty of a treaty of capitulation, to the infection of the small pox, as a means of seducing them from their allegiance to their country, involves ideas of turpitude and barbarity, on the part of the British Nation, scarcely credible. Yet, such exposure is attested upon highest authority; while in another instance, one Captain Bocquet, having the yellow fever upon him, was placed in a small open boat, by himself, and anchored in the river; and there forced to remain, entirely exposed, form the rising to the setting sun upon a summer day, in that low latitude.
The Memoralist cannot part from his work, (which, brief as it is, has occupied so much time, and occasioned to him such labor, and anxiety,) without reluctance. Yet, he commits it to its fortune, with the consciousness, that in its compilation, he has sedulously striven after the attainment of truth; and it only. That he is the representative of a clear, a just, a lawful, and an honorable claim upon the Government of the United States, he unwaveringly believes; and that belief stimulates him to expend all the energies of his mind, upon the diligent pursuit of it to the end, as the noblest labor of his life. W.H.W.
Inservio virtutis arvorum praemium.
Major William Hazzard Wigg, the subject of this memoir, and the grandsire of the memorialist, was born in the town of Beaufort, in the then colony of South Carolina, on the 24th of November, in the year 1746. His ancestors emigrated from England, amongst the earliest settlers of the country.
At the commencement of the Revolutionary struggle, Major Wigg, then in the prime of life, received the commission of a captain of cavalry, in the militia service of South Carolina. He enjoyed all the advantages of talents, education, fortune, and social position which were requisite to give weight and influence to his services in the cause which he had embraced. He entered upon the war with characteristic energy, and discharged the various duties of his position with zeal, fidelity, and devotion.
The first military service of any magnitude, upon which it is known he was engaged, was under General Howe, of North Carolina, who, in the summer of 1778, led the disasterous expedition of the Southern Army into the territory of East Florida, whence less than a third part of his brave troops ever returned.
In the next year, we find him serving under General Lincoln, upon the Savannah River. He was also present at the battle (or, more properly skirmish,) of Coosahatchie, (or Tulifinni, as it is sometimes called:) at the battle of Stono: at the siege of Savannah; and finally, at the siege of the City of Charleston, which capitulated to the enemy on the 12th of May, 1780, where his military services in the field were concluded; for upon that occasion, he was surrendered, together with the
whole of the American Army, prisoners of war; in which condition he remained, varied only in manner, as will be hereafter related, until triumph finally crowned the heroic struggle of the Colonies.
Besides these several services, which of themselves, judging from their respective dates and localities, must have kept Major Wigg continuously employed, from the commencement of the war up to the period of his captivity, he is believed to have taken part in many, if not all, of the numerous conflicts that occurred upon the seaboard of South Carolina, and which has given a distinctive character to the war into which the country was plunged. The long line of undefended southern sea coast, in both of the Anglo-American wars, afforded advantages to the assailants, which, in neither, were neglected: - hence the large number of, (so to speak,) amphibious affairs, or battles, partly upon land, and partly upon the water, which characterized both of those wars.
One of the most remarkable of such conflicts, was the aquatic expedition of a party of landsmen, fitted out jointly by citizens of Beaufort and Savannah, having for its object the capture of a ship laden with gunpowder, and destined for the use of the enemy at the latter place. The expedition encountered the ship at sea, just beyond the bar of the Savannah river, and was fully successful in its object. A portion of the gunpowder then captured, is believed to have been the same which was subsequently forwarded to Boston, and expended by the Americans at the battle of Bunker’s Hill.
Major Wigg is traditionally represented, (unfortunately the fame of South Carolina Revolutionary heroes depends, mainly, upon narratives of tradition,) as having been one of the bravest
of men; and he is also remembered as one of the most impulsive, uncompromising, and self-sacrificing, patriots of the illustrious age in which he lived. The love of country, was one of the cherished sentiments of his mind, and the achievement of the freedom, and independence of his country was, in his estimation, the great mission of his life: - hence, no sacrifices could deter, no labors could discourage, and no dangers could dismay him. He freely periled life and fortune upon the cause of his affections, and joyfully met the hazard which brought success to it, although attended by fatal consequences to himself.
At the battle of Coosahatchie, it is related, upon the authority of the historian, Garden, that Major Wigg saved the life of the wounded American commander, Colonel John Laurens, (the same whose portrait, at the side of that of Alexander Hamilton, now adors the rotunda of the capitol,) by bearing him to a place of safety in the rear; and in tradition, it is further related of him, that upon returning to the field of battle, he met the American troops upon the retreat. From them he learned that the enemy were victorious: - were then advancing: - had made several prisoners, and that amongst the number was a near relative, and highly valued personal friend of his own.
Upon receiving this intelligence, Major Wigg immediately resolved to attempt the rescue of his friend. For this purpose he selected a suitable place, at the side of the high way over which the enemy would be compelled to pass, and placing himself in ambush, he quietly awaited the coming up of the British Army, consisting of four thousand troops, and a body of Indian, and Tory allies, under General Provost, destined for an assault upon Charleston. Allowing the advance guard to pass by, as soon as the prisoners came up in front of his
place of concealment, he singled out his relative, dashed suddenly into the midst of them, seized him, placed him upon the saddle before him, and escaped, under cover of the evening twilight, into the deeper shade of the adjacent swamp, followed by the harmless vollies of the startled, and amazed guards.
This memoir might be extended indefinitely, with such reminiscences, but the design of the narrative is conciseness, while brevity, is a controling necessity. Hence, one other anecdote, of like nature to the one just related, shall suffice. – It is related of Major Wigg, that on another occasion, while the bearer of despatches, upon arriving at the public ferry on the Port Royal River, he found at hand no means of crossing, but sooner than submit to any delay upon his important errand, he swam over on horseback. The Port Royal River is a deep, rapid and turbulent arm of the ocean, where the swiftness of the current, and the ferocity of the terrible shark, have proved sufficient, in all time past, to deter every other man from the same fearful exploit.
These traditional reminiscences of Major Wigg’s characteristic daring and intrepidity, are introduced into this memoir, for the purpose of illustrating that he was habitually, influenced by a reckless contempt of danger, no matter in what form appearing, and by the loftiest instincts, of a brave, generous, and chivalrous disposition.
The rescue, single-handed, during the hours of day time, of a prisoner, out of the heart of a victorious army, while upon its march, and consequently prepared for all surprises, and to bear him off in triumph, and unscathed, from under the very muzzles of their muskets, is unquestionably an action of successful temerity, scarcely realizable, and unsurpassed by any of the romantic legends of that eventful war.
In the year 1780, the fourth year of the Revolution, it is well known to readers of history, that the zeal with which the conflict had been waged, on the part of the Americans, up to that period, had sensibly diminished, all over the confederacy, under the pressure of adverse circumstances, and the severe disasters which had latterly attended their arms. As well at the North, as at the South, the face of affairs wore the same gloomy, and inauspicious foreshadowings of the future. All their late military enterprizes had been attended with disaster, or equivocal advantages only; while the inability of Congress any longer to supply the sinews of war, or to mitigate the public embarrassments, seemed ominous of evil. At the South especially, (which had now, in its turn, been made the point of concentrated attack,) the failure, of the combined Franco-American forces, to expel the enemy from their stronghold at Savannah, had served to emas-
culate the energies of the people, and measurably, to quell the moral power of resistance.
It was at this particular juncture of affairs when Sir Henry Clinton, at the head of one of the most numerous, and best appointed armies which had ever displayed its colors upon this continent, debarked within thirty miles of Charleston, and proceeded to lay siege to that vulnerable city.
In the emergency of the moment, John Rutledge, the governor and Dictator, finding the State thrown entirely upon her own resources to repel the invasion, issued his proclamation, commanding the whole force of the militia to repair to the city for its defence. This command a large number of the people, disheartened by late reverses, doubtful of the policy of exhausting the already impaired resources of the State, in the defence of a single point, and for other reasons ably discussed, and explained by Mr. Simms in his recent history of the State, were not disposed to obey, but were intent rather upon private measures of defence, and safety, than upon making preparations to carry on, what was so generally considered, an ill-advised siege. Happily, there was a class of her sons of a different
temper. These brave men, whose bosoms, burning with the fires of patriotism, and whose ambition, restricted to the single object of independence, knew no alternative but triumph, or the embrace of death. This class flocked of the scene of honor and danger, unseduced by the flattering proclamations of the enemy, (which held out to them peace, and safety under the Royal banner,) and unappalled by gathering perils. Leaving all that was dear to them, their wives, their children, and their property, far behind them, in their unprotected country homes, under the stewardship of their slaves, with minds alive to the full perils of their situation, they hastened to the city, to encounter, in unequal strife, the haughty cohorts of the foe. History has been unfaithful to the memory of these brave men, and posterity, ignorant of their virtues, has exhibited no just appreciation of the high example, which they have bequeathed to mankind. Nor to them only, but also to the land of their birth, has injustice been done, in the great tribunal of history; for while the unhallowed tongue of slander, in late years, has ruthlessly assailed the Revolutionary fame of South Carolina, the facts of her career, truly and fully elicited, will show, that no one of the Old Thirteen Colonies performed better, or suffered more severely, in the war of the Revolution, than herself. From causes easily understood, from first to last, her Tories, in numbers, in wealth, and in influence, were nearly, or quite, the equals of her Whig, or Patriot citizens. Hence, there was an unrelaxed, and a ferocious war waged between these two factions, which was far more bitter and exhausting, than was experienced in any of the other States. Their battlefields cover over her territory, and to this day, every ancient landmark, has its romantic legend of blood and violence. Her Tories moved not about stealthily, in the hours of darkness, like the Tories of other States, but they banded together in large, organized, and disciplined bodies, and marched, and countermarched, with banners streaming, and in the broad glare of the sun. The “Bloody Scouts” were the equals of any similar troops which ever existed; while her Robinsons, her McGirths, and her Cunninghams have left behind, a terrible
and bloody fame. The foreign foe, was ever the feeblest enemy, with whom the Revolutionary Patriots of South Carolina had to contend.
This class of men – the Country Militia – who so readily and cheerfully repaired to the city for its defence, at the period of which we are speaking, had nothing to gain to themselves, but every thing to lose. It was in the darkest hour of the Revolution, and at a time when the general lukewarmness of the people rendered obedience to the proclamation of the Dictator, less easy, and far more dangerous, than disobedience would have been. Yet they came, willingly, readily, and recklessly came, under the sole promptings, of exalted sentiments of patriotism. Of this Spartan band, of whom we are speaking, the subject of this memoir was one individual.
Making such provision for the safety of his family, and the preservation of his property, as circumstances permitted, (but which the sequel will show was wholly inadequate,) he manfully girded on his sword, and hastened to his post. He left his wife and children, in the enjoyment of affluence and comfort. When next he embraced them, after years of toil and hardships, they were in poverty and distress. He left his broad fields, teeming under the nursing of his judicious care. He never more beheld them with mortal eyes, save only the remnant thereof, which man’s rapacity could not distrain. He came to the city, a single-handed volunteer, attended only by one faithful servant. In that season of profound despondency, he found himself powerless to persuade those, whom he had
often before commanded to follow. He found his influence with his friends and neighbors, insufficient to break the fetters, which doubts, and despondency, had fastened upon their minds.
Attended only by his servant, (Robin, the faithful slave, who was the companion of all of his Revolutionary dangers and escapes,) he arrived in the city, and forthwith, at the side of Robin, by day and by night, in the midst of the missiles of death, he toiled, with mattock and spade, upon the earthworks of defence, - those broad mounds, and deep trenches, which remain to this hour, the honorable monuments of the hardy enterprise, and patient labors, of the chivalry of South Carolina, “in the times which tried men’s souls.”
The siege of the city progressed, during several weeks, attended with all the varying vicissitudes of war, until at length proposals for surrender were tendered, discussed with the usual formalities, and finally agreed upon by the respective belligerents.
It is now precisely known, what share was allowed, in the discussions which preceded the acceptance of the terms of the capitulation, to that class of the besieged which was composed of the Volunteers, or Country Militia, whose footsteps we have thus far followed, and who will hereafter occupy so prominent a place in these pages. But it may be reasonably conjectured, from their well known character, that if they had been permitted, in any measure, to control events, they would have taken better care of their own interests, than to have allowed the possibility of the evils to exist, which the surrender precipitated, in the fullness of time, upon their heads. They would have insisted upon reliable safe-guards, or otherwise they would have embraced the alternative, of cutting their way out of the city,
or of perishing beneath the ruins, which they could no longer defend.
These Volunteers, or Country Militia, as has been already intimated, were the flower of the State, and the representatives of her embodied spirit and patriotism; and this fact was well understood by the enemy. Hence, the possession of this class of men, as prisoners, was an object of great importance to them, for it would be placing in their hands the strings of the rebellion, whereby they reasonably calculated they would be able to crush it out.
The city of Charleston, in May 1780, was followed in the month of August of the same year, by the defeat of General Gates at Camden. These two, rapidly succeeding misfortunes, smote upon the minds of the people of South Carolina, and of the Confederacy at large, with terrible force. The first, paralized the energies of the Confederacy, while the last, annihilated for a time, the hope of independence. To recruit another army at the South, at that time, was believed to be a work of difficult ac-
complishment, while the sending of another by Congress was known to be not less so.
It was in view of this situation of affairs, that Sir Henry Clinton, the Royal Commander-in-chief at the South, forwarded his congratulations to His Majesty’s Ministers, upon the early, and certain suppression of the rebellion of the Colonies. Of south Carolina, in particular, he said, that she had again become English, and had returned to her duty to her Sovereign. That every prominent inhabitant of the Province, had either been transported out of the country, was a prisoner of war, or was in arms under the Royal flag, - and concluded by recommending the sending out of a Royal Governor, and the re-establishment of the civil power of the Crown.
It may be observed in passing, that these anticipations, and congratulations of the British general, were however, made upon insufficient warrant, for at no period of the war was the State ever in the condition represented; for although overwhelmed, and sorely pressed, so long as her gallant partizans were in the field – her Marions, Sumpters, and Pickenses – it could not be justly said either, that she was reconquered, or that she had returned to her duty to the Crown. Cotemporaneously with this temporary triumph of the royal arms at the South, it has already been stated, that matters at the North, were not less discouraging to the friends of freedom. But while upon the one theatre, these evils were the legitimate consequences of sieges and battles, upon the other, they were brought about, by other, and more reprehensible causes.
The privations of the Armies, arising from the inability of Congress to raise supplies, were endured at the South with
stoical fortitude, while at the North, they unhappily led to mutiny, and rebellion, which fortunately, the genius of Washington enabled him to quell, before any great head had been gained; but it was beyond his power to arrest its demoralizing tendency. Nor was this misfortune, the only one, which befel the Northern Army at this period; for it was shortly followed by the odious treason of Benedict Arnold. One of the disastrous consequences of this treason, was the mutual distrust and suspicion, with which it filled the minds of the officers exposed to it. No one knew whom to trust, and, consequently, jealousies, and animosities were unavoidable. To so great an extent did these feelings prevail, that for a time, the army was rendered ‘hors de combat,’ and the hope of independence waxed faint and low; so that the hearts of the stoutest sunk within them, while the minds of the most sanguine, wavered at the issue. Even the iron soul of Washington himself, could not resist the contagion, and gloomy foreboding tincture all his correspondence of the period.
In the month of September 1780, it will be remembered by readers of history, that one of the overt consequences of the treason of Arnold, was the arrest of Major André, of the Royal Army, as a spy, (confederated with the traitor) and his execution, which took place a few days later. After the conviction of André, the British commander-in-chief at the North, Lord Howe, resorted to every means in his power, to save the unfortunate officer, from the penalty which he had incurred. To this end, as a last resort, he proposed to Washington the appointment of Commissioners to discuss the subject. Washington readily assented, and appointed General Greene, to meet General Robertson, who had been sent by Lord Howe for the purpose. These officers had their interview at Dobb’s Ferry,
On the banks of the Hudson. After General Robertson had unavailingly exhausted all the arguments at his command, and saw that the doom of the hapless officer was fixed, he changed his tone, and resorted to the use of threats. He threatened that, in case André perished, his death should be atoned for by RETALIATION, which would inevitably lead to the sacrifice of many valuable lives upon both sides, and give a feature of shocking barbarity, to the character of the war. Finally, upon taking his leave, he placed in General Greene’s hand a letter, addressed to Washington, by Arnold. The traitor, anticipating the fruitlessness of the commission, in vehement language, not only repeated the threats of General Robertson, but he went a step further, and pointed out FORTY particular individuals, who should be held as the victims of retaliation, in case André perished. That is to say, he informed Washington that there were “FORTY GENTLEMEN, INHABITANTS OF SOUTH CAROLINA,” thus indicated, and appropriated beforehand, to the work of death, the subject of this memoir was one individual.
It will be shown, in the progress of this memoir, that the threat of Arnold was not an idle threat, but was treasured up in memory, and a few months later acted upon.
After the defeat of General Gates at Camden, the command of the Southern Army, (or rather Department, for there was, in fact, no army at the South to command,) was conferred upon General Greene, who was, unquestionably, one of the ablest officers of the war. He arrived at the South early in December, and established his headquarters at Charlotte, in North Carolina.
Without money, or essential means of any description, necessary for the organization and equipment of an army, General Greene labored diligently in the work before him. Never was
any officer charged with a more difficult duty, and never did any officer exhibit more fitness for the duty with which he was charged; for he was so far successful, that by the month of March following he found himself at the head of a force which he judged, he might venture to take the field. Hence, he courted a conflict with the enemy, nor remained long ungratified; for, on the fifteenth of that month, he met Lord Cornwallis at Guilford Court House in a general battle, but had the misfortune to be defeated. Undaunted by his defeat, but rendered more cautious, he met the enemy again, in the ensuing month, at Hobkirk’s Hill; but was again defeated.
Besides the two pitched battles just mentioned, General Greene in person, or by his lieutenants, encountered the enemy in many minor affairs – such as those of Black Stocks, Cowpens, Ninety-Six, and elsewhere; and although victorious in several, still the aggregate of results, was very decidedly, against the American arms, and upon the whole, had the effect of depressing, rather than elevating the animus of his men; while the enemy, on their part, flushed with repeated successes and a corresponding belief in their own invincibility, and superiority in arms to the Americans, had grown to be proportionately insolent and daring.
The whole theatre of the war in the South, at that period, was tracked with the footsteps of desolation. In the language of the historian, “The Royal standard we have seen overspreading all the country, penetrating into every quarter, and triumphing over all opposition. Their defeat at Hanging Rock, and at Williams’s, in the upper part of South Carolina, made little impression upon an army grown familiar with victories.”
Such was the condition of the State of South Carolina, and of the cause of the confederacy down to the date of the battle at Hobkirk’s Hill, in April, 1781.
The thread of the narrative now leads back to the city of Charleston, in the month of May of the same year, (1781) and to details, in which the subject of this memoir was more immediately involved. At that particular date, the British, finding themselves in undisturbed possession of the city, and
with no enemy in the vicinity of sufficient consideration to annoy, or alarm them, deemed the fit time arrived, when they might safely take vengeance for the execution of Major André. Consequently, on the 17th of that month, they suddenly caused the arrest of all that class of prisoners of war, in the city, to which the subject of this memoir belonged. The number, by the severities, and the transportations of the enemy, had now been reduced, to one hundred and thirty individuals. As soon as arrested, they were all sent to the prison hulk Torbay. From this number, the FORTY GENTLEMEN, INHABITANTS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, previously designated by Arnold, on the following day were selected, and transferred to the schooner of war Pack-Horse, and immediately subjected to close, and rigorous wardship. As soon as they were safely secured, a letter to them from Colonel Balfour, the military Commandant of Charleston, was placed in their hands, in which they were informed that they had been seized, and would be held as HOSTAGES, to secure the good treatment of such “loyal militia”– (meaning the Tories,) – as were then, or might thereafter, fall into the hands of the Patriots. With the letter, they were offered a flag, to carry any communications, they might desire to make, to such American officer as they might be pleased to select.
The next step of the British was to secure a victim. It was not their policy to make either of the hostages the victim. They preferred an officer, who should be taken in arms; who was superior in rank to Major André, (which none of the hostages were,) and also, one who stood high in the estimation of his fellow citizens. Such an one, was not easily to be
procured; for under the transportation policy, and the removal of actual hostilities from the vicinity of Charleston, very few officers, possessing the several requisites, were within their reach. Finally, however, fate threw Colonel Isaac Hayne into their power, and in him, all their requirements were fulfilled. He was captured, while pursued by a party of cavalry sent for the purpose, through the failure of his horse, about forty miles from Charleston, and brought to the city.
It is not designed to speak of the martyrdom of this gentleman, who was one of South Carolina’s bravest, and most virtuous citizens, further than is rendered essential, by the lineal connection of the subject to this memoir with his fate. The English public, at the date of the transaction, strongly reprobated, and condemned the execution, and an inquiry into the facts was commenced in Parliament. But Lord Rawdon, who had returned home, and upon whom the odium chiefly rested, had the address by brow-beating, and intimidating His Royal Highness the Duke of Richmond, to suppress the proceedings before any considerable progress had been made. But the general verdict of mankind, confirmed by time, has affixed to it the seal of reprobation, while the name of MARTYR, will forever adorn the page of history.
Colonel Hayne, by chance, was the brother-in-law of Major Wigg. They had grown up together from childhood, and were intimate personal friends. They followed the same profession – that of planting. Their political sentiments were identical upon all important measures, which in those days was the surest, and strongest bond of friendship, between individuals. And, finally they entered at the same time into the military service of the State; in the same arm of the service, and had been companions in arms. Hence it may be inferred, their personal relations, were of the strongest, and most enduring character; and such as would have excited the sympathies of either, upon the occasion of any injury to the other; and could not fail to arouse a less impulsive man, than Major Wigg is know to have been, to resent or avenge such injury, by any means in his power.
The historian Ramasy, though an eye witness to the execu-
tion, has not given a very minute account of the circumstances attending it. He relates, in the second volume of his History of the Revolution in South Carolina, that the martyr was attended to the fatal place, by three gentlemen, and followed by a large concourse of lamenting citizens, but he omits to state who the three gentlemen were.
The current belief is, that the historian himself, who was upon intimate terms of friendship with Colonel Hayne, was one of the three, and that the other two, were General John Barnwell, and the subject of this memoir, both of whom were, not only intimate friends, but also bore to him, the relationship of brothers-in-law, as has already been stated with respect to Major Wigg. That they were the parties alluded to, seems to be very probable; for who so likely as tried friends, and near relatives, to be selected to discharge the last sad offices of friendship, and affection, which the occasion demanded?
On the other hand, at the time of the execution, both of the gentlemen mentioned, were in imprisonment as hostages, on board of the schooner Pack Horse, to which they had been sent on the 18th of the preceding month of May; while the severity with which all of that class of men, to which they both belonged, had been uniformly treated by the enemy, would seem to forbid the presumption that any favor was shown to them; not even the melancholy favor, of being permitted to administer
the consolations of friendship and affection, in the hour of ignominious death.
But be that as it may: - Whether Major Wigg, was actually present at the place of execution or not, is immaterial. If he was present, the sight of his friend, suspended above his head, and writhing in mortal agony, was cause sufficient to lead him to the fearless utterance of the feelings, which oppressed his bosom; regardless alike of the cordon of glittering bayonets around him, the paraphernalia of death at hand, and of the relentless character of the enemy, into whose power he had fallen a helpless, manacled prisoner. Nor upon such an occasion was it probable, that a man like himself, would have refrained from endeavoring to inspire his friends around him, with sentiments kindred to his won, and with the resolution to avenge upon the enemy, the immolation of their honored, and respected countryman. Such is believed actually to have been the fact: that is to say – it is believed that, being present at the place of execution, his haughty, and contemptuous bearing, in the presence of the enemy, - his fearless, and vehement denunciation of the atrocious deed, and this appeals to his friends for vengeance, constituted the offence of which he was guilty; and for which he was punished by the loss of his property. But be that as it may: dismissing all conjecture, the broad fact is undeniable, that it was this execution, which furnished the motive to the enemy, for the plunder of his estates; and this is shown by the quick following of the depredation, upon the heels of the catastrophe of blood; and hence, it is perfectly immaterial when, where, or in what manner the offence was perpetrated – whether by word, or gesture, or rather on the land, at the foot of the scaffold; or afloat, upon the deck of the Pack Horse.
The enemy, partly with the view of justifying to the world, the unlawful seizure of a body of prisoners of war upon parole; already confined to the limits of a city, but chiefly with the view of concealing, and thereby rendering more certain of success, the still more unlawful, and inhuman work upon which they were about to engage, found it convenient to hold up, as a blind, the declaration of other motives. But the pretext was of the shallowest, for at that time, there were no “loyal militia,” in the hands of the Patriots. The game was running rather upon the other cards. Moreover, the fostering, and not the suppressing,
of internecine strife, was from the first, the policy of the enemy, from which they never departed; for it was a truism, that of Whigs and Tories, whichsoever slaughtered the other, so long as the life of a native-born citizen was lost, the gain was to the British, inasmuch as it reduced the quantity of the fuel, upon which fed the flames of rebellion. Hence it is evident, the alleged motive for the arrest of the prisoners of whom we are speaking, was false, and unreal, while it is equally evident, that the true motive can only be referred to the solution, which the threat of Arnold, RESPECTING THESE VERY MEN, gives to the affair. But if further evidence of the fact was needed, it would be sufficient, to state that one of the petitions on behalf of the officer who was unlawfully and inhumanly sacrificed, was returned to the parties presenting it, with the brief, but pointed endorsement by Balfour, of the words, “Major André.”
We possess no clue by which to determine the reasons, which influenced the enemy, in making the selections of these particular forty gentlemen, inhabitants of South Carolina, save that which their respective names discloses – that they were, at the time of André’s execution, forty of the most valuable, and prominent prisoners, which death and transportation, had left remaining in the State. But to continue.
The prisoners of war upon parole, now tyrannically converted into HOSTAGES by the enemy, availed themselves of the offer of the flag to cover their communications to their countrymen, and accordingly forwarded the letter they had received from Balfour, with one of their own, to General Greene, which last contains this memorable language: “WE WOULD JUST BEG LEAVE TO OBSERVE THAT, SHOULD IT FALL TO THE LOT OF ALL, OR ANY OF US, TO BE MADE VICTIMS, AGREEABLE TO THE MENACES THEREIN CONTAINED, WE HAVE ONLY TO REGRET, THAT OUR BLOOD CANNOT BE DISPOSED OF, MORE TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE GLORIOUS CAUSE, TO WHICH WE HAVE ADHERED.” In passing, it will not be considered out of place to remark, with respect to this letter, that the spirit, and the patriotism, which it exhibits, marks it, as one of the noblest monuments of the Revolution.
With respect to the execution of Colonel Hayne, in parting from the subject. It was the capital error of the war committed by the enemy. Its effect, which was undoubtedly designed to be altogether political, in every respect disappointed their expectations, and kindled a spirit throughout the land which could not be quelled, but which led directly to the most portentous consequences. It was the pivot, upon which the war turned, at the South. Garden, in his anecdotes, says of it, that-
“Colonel Hayne, as the object of his deadly hate” (the author refers to Lord Rawdon) “was condemned, and suffered with the patience of a martyr, while from his tomb a flame arose which, widely diffused, gave constant increase to the spirit of revolt, till the expulsion of the enemy caused justice to triumph, and confirmed the independence of the Union.”
With respect to Major Wigg. Immediately after the execution, a special expedition by water, was despatched wit orders, to plunder, and destroy the property, on his two plantations lying on the Okeetee river, in St. Luke’s parish, Beaufort district: distant about one hundred and twenty miles from the city; and never, since the time of Highland forays, upon Lowland Plains, was plunder and destruction made more absolute. Surpassing all nation of the earth, (as the records of this war will bear witness,) in the ruthless art, and practice of devastation, the British upon this occasion, excelled themselves in the thoroughness of the ravage, with which they visited the banks of the Oketee.
Within a period of about fifteen, or twenty days, all the perishable property, possessed by Major Wigg, (except three servants, who were absent,) was swept away from him. His slaves were taken on board the vessel, and conveyed to San Augustine, in Florida, and sold. His crops were left to waste. His building were devoted to the torch. His flocks and his herds, were given to the slaughter knife, and his horses were carried off to the enemy’s lines at Savannah. In short, the plantations which Major Wigg had left (upon the call of his country, at a time when that call was a mission of peril,) flourishing under his skillful husbandry, were now converted into a wilderness. Even the very site was blotted from
the map, as far as human powers of destruction, could erase the lines, laid down by the hand of the Almighty. Himself a captive, undergoing inflictions, privations, and indignities, the greatest which the refinements of cruelty could invent, and the hands of brutal hirelings could inflict. His family, (his wife, and tender offspring,) driven forth houseless, homeless wanders, in the land of their fathers. Such was the price which it was the hard fate, of this patriot of South Carolina, to be forced to pay for his devotion to his country, and his fidelity to the ennobling instincts, of humanity, and friendship.
Having brought the narrative to this point, we leave the Pack Horse, with her company of hostages on board, securely anchored, and safely guarded, in Charleston harbor, while we return to General Greene.
This commander, although his army was still very indifferently equipped, and suffering from the want of necessaries, fearlessly sought the enemy again; - (relying upon the new influences, planted in the minds of his troops, by the death of Hayne;) – and upon the field of Eutaw, decided the great battle of the Revolution. – Great, not only in the skill of the Commanders, and the severity of the conflict, but in the results achieved. Though not precisely a victory, inasmuch as both armies after the battle rested upon the field, yet it failed to be such only in name, and from accidental causes, while it was recognized by Congress, and the Country, as a GREAT VICTORY. And all the fruits of victory, accrued to the American arms, while not the least amongst these, was the restoration of the lost prestige of victory, and the corresponding loss to the Royal forces of their previously claimed invincibility; for from that day forward to the end of the war, the American arms knew reverses no more, but triumphed in every conflict. Moreover, the battle of Eutaw was the last battle of the Revolution in South Carolina, as well as the era of the decadence of
British colonial authority upon the continent. It also materially aided in preparing the way, for the final conflict at Yorktown, by the moral influence which it exercised upon the minds of the belligerents, in elevating the confidence of the one, and depressing that of the other.
When the British, whose power in the State had rapidly declined, as we have seen, from the battle of Eutaw, found themselves no longer able to retain their foothold, and were about to evacuate, they ordered the Pack Horse to proceed to the port of New York. Still feeling the possession of those hostages of paramount importance to themselves, as a means of restraint upon General Greene, whose power had become so greatly enlarged, with the view of preventing the possibility of escape, they also ordered a frigate to convoy her to her destination. But their precaution proved to be unavailing. The Pack Horse never reached the port of New York. She was captured at sea by her prisoners. In the night, (as it is traditionally related,) a few days after leaving Charleston. Everything having been prearranged, the prisoners released themselves from their manacles, and rising upon the officers and crew, made a gallant capture of the vessel, without sustaining the loss of a single man of their party. So quietly and so masterly had the affair been conducted, that although her consort was but a little way off, and in a calm sea, yet when the day dawned she evidently entertained no suspicion of what had taken place. During the day, the two vessels continued sailing in company, and still no alarm or distrust was excited. Throughout the day, as the voyage progressed, the hostages resorted to a variety of expedients, both to conceal the affair, and to increase their distance from the convoy, and happily they succeeded so well, that when the evening came they were far beyond the reach of her shot; whereupon, the frigate fired a gun, as a signal for the convoy to close with her, when , this not being obeyed as promptly as was expected, a boat was dispatched to bring her up, but before the boat could reach her, darkness had set in. The Pack Horse then, needing concealment no longer, spread her sails upon another
course, and safely escaped into one of the ports of North Carolina, carrying with her as prisoners, the men who had so lately, for so long a time, and so inexorably, exercised the office of jailors over those who had now, in turn, become the masters. The prisoners thus captured by the hostages of the Pack Horse, are believed to have been the last prisoners, made in the war of the Revolution.
In reviewing the case of this capture, the conclusion cannot be resisted, that, taking all the circumstances into consideration, it is one of the mot remarkable naval achievements upon record; and that it exhibits, in an eminent degree, the predominant characteristic of daring which the actors possessed, and which so fully justified the sentiments of their memorable letter to General Greene. It must be borne in mind, that, upon the one hand, none of the hostages were seamen; probably few of them had ever before been out of sight of land. They were prisoners, manacled, watched, and on ship-board. They had been prisoners for nearly a year, crowded into a small vessel, in a southern latitude, and during the whole of the period, they had been treated with great rigor, and consequently their health must have been seriously impaired, and their bodily strength diminished in proportion. On the other hand, the vessel on board of which they sailed, was a British cruiser, fully manned, armed, equipped and disciplined, having on board a crew which at the least must have been twice as great in number as their own number, and whose business it had been for many months, to guard these prisoners with unusual vigilance. And finally, the schooner was under the guns of a heavy frigate, doubtless having strict orders of watchfulness. Yet, in the face of such disadvantages, the capture was not only attempted, but successfully accomplished. In view of all these circumstances, it cannot be denied that the capture was most remarkable; and had it not been for the modesty of those engaged, (who, while living, boasted not of their achievement, nor, when dying, left any memorial to speak, when they could speak no more) its fame would have been made the theme of song, and its memory perpetuated in columns of brass and marble.
The hostages, after their escape, disembarked in one of the ports of North Carolina, as already stated, and about the end of spring, we find them assembled at Halifax. In that State; whence they started, mostly on foot, (having with them only
one or two horses,) upon their weary pilgrimage, through arid pine barrens, and tangled swamps, back to their loved homes – where, in due time, toil worn, they safely arrived: - Major Wigg to find his home scathed by the ruthless hand of war, and himself bereft of all, save honor, and the consolations of knowing that he had faithfully performed his duty to his country.
Such was the effect of the severities of their long imprisonment on ship-board, in a southern latitude, upon the constitutions of the hostages, that it is believed not one of the number ever reached old age: - Major Wigg himself dying at the early age of fifty-one years, and three others of the number, all of whom were nearly related to himself, are known not to have survived a much greater age.
During the period of Major Wigg’s incarceration, he received military promotion, in the same manner as if his duties had never been interrupted; and after the close of the war, the State, mindful it may be inferred, of the value of his services, and aware of the total wreck of his fortune, authorized the sale to him, upon a liberal credit, of a large number of confiscated slaves, and subsequently, whenever from loss of crops or other causes, he was unable to meet his obligation, as often as solicited, he was, by resolution of the Legislature, granted such indulgence in his payments, as was
desired by himself or by his executors, after his death. Subsequently to the war Major Wigg gave to the public service of the State the benefit of his wisdom, and experience in the reconstruction of the Government, by serving during several years in the Legislature. And finally he expired, at Myrtle Bush, his country seat, near the town of Beaufort, after a few days illness, from pleurisy, on the 20th of April, 1798.
It has been found necessary by the memorialist, in order to develop fully, the nature of his claim upon the government of the United States, for compensation, for the Revolutionary losses of his ancestor, through the depredations of the enemy, to sketch somewhat elaborately, the history of the State of South Carolina, which is embraced within the period of the war. In doing this he has endeavored, to follow closely, such authorities, as were within his reach, and he relies upon the tenour of the copious notes which he has appended, to exhibit his general accuracy.
Before bringing this memoir to a close, it is proper to explain the views, and expectations of the memoralist, together with the several grounds upon which he relies, for the enforcement of both.
In the first place, he takes occasion to remark, that the sketch of the life and character of Major Wigg which has been presented is designed solely, as illustrative of the history of the events which form the basis of the Claim upon government for relief, and not, by any means, is it considered as of itself, creative of any claim. That Major Wigg exhibited courage upon all proper occasions, energy of character whenever demanded, and patriotism throughout the Revolution, must be admitted; yet not for those reasons is aught demanded, for such attributes were possessed in common with the whole of that class of his countrymen, of which he was an individual. The claim rests upon other and higher ground. Upon two simple, broad, and unquestionable FACTS, inwoven with its history:
First, that Major Wigg was an hostage to the enemy according to the established principles of international law.
He was declared such, in express and explicit terms, by the enemy, at the date of the transactions, as has been shown herein. Moreover, upon the reception of the flag of truce, covering the communications of the hostages to General Greene, we do not find that he protested against, or remonstrated with the enemy, on account of the unlawfulness of he act of converting prisoners of war upon parole, into hostages. On the contrary, he was silent upon the subject; hence, the condition of hostageship was fully recognized by him, and thus the measure was rendered complete, and binding upon all parties: according to the rule laid down by the best writers upon international law.
The doctrine of hostages, is lad down by Grotius, in the following language:
“Hostages, we have already said, are either such as freely give themselves, or are given by him that hath the sovereign power. For he that is possessed of the supreme civil power, has a right, both on the actions and the goods of the subject, but the Prince, or State, shall be obliged to make satisfaction to him, or to his friends, for any losses he may sustain.”
With respect to the escape of hostages, he says:
“The quere is, whether hostages may lawfully escape? and certainly he may not, if at first, or since, he hath engaged his word, ( in order to obtain a little more liberty,) that he would not, otherwise, it does not seem to be the intent of the State that sent him, not to oblige their subject from making his escape, but to allow the enemy to secure him as he pleased.”
The next, or second fact in the history of this claim, (and upon which alone the memorialist is both ready, and willing, to rest his cause,) is the treatment Major Wigg (together with all that class of Patriots to which he belonged) received at the hands of the constituted authorities of the United States, upon the occasion of the surrender of Charleston in 1780, wherein his rights, as a citizen soldier, were sacrificed, or bartered away, to the end, that another class of citizen soldiers, (the Continentals,) with whom he was serving, might escape certain pains and penalties, to which he was subjected, in their stead.
But before proceeding further, it is essential to a full development of the point, to explain the fact, that the besieged consisted of three several, and distinct classes of men: First, the
Resident Population; Second, the Continental Troops; and Third, the Volunteer Militia, from the country. By the first class, as a class, the chief part of the real, and personal property, of the city, was owned. This class was composed, principally, of the merchants and tradesmen. Many, if not most of whom, were foreigners. Such men were naturally tender of the rights of property, and were of loose principles of allegiance. Consequently, as a body, they were Royalists at heart, and opposed to the defence of the city; and throughout the siege, as was afterwards made known, they carried on a clandestine correspondence with the enemy, and exerted their influence to the utmost, from first to last, in secretly thwarting operations, and producing discord amongst the besieged.
The Second Class, the Continentals, were chiefly of the same description of men as at present compose the army of the United States, with the difference, perhaps, of a preponderance in their ranks, of native citizens. They were, however, brave men, and good soldiers, as well as patriotic citizens; - against whose valor, and services, the word of reproach has never been uttered. Still, they were hirelings, and not denizens of the soil, they were professionally engaged in defending.
The Third Class, was the Volunteers, or Country Militia. These men have already been fully described. The historian, Ramsay, says of them:
“The commanders of the militia from the country, who were mostly people of the first rank, influenced by a sense of honor, repaired to the defence of the town, though they could not bring with them a number of privates equal to their respective commands.”
Of such were the component classes, of the defenders of the city of Charleston in 1780.
The Treaty, in general terms, as already stated, stipulated for the surrender, as prisoner of war, of the whole of he besieged. But under the Third Article it was provided, with respect to the Continentals, that they should be marched out with all their baggage, and should be assigned convenient quarters in or near the city, where they were to remain until regularly exchanged, and in the mean time, they were to be supplied, and furnished
in the same manner, as if they were British soldiers. In conformity with this stipulation of the treaty, the non-commissioned officers and privates, were assigned to the barracks, which they had previously occupied, while the commissioned officers, with General Moultrie at their head, were located on Haddrel’s Point, distant several miles from the city, with Cooper river flowing between. These officers doubtless, suffered such hardships as were inseparable from their condition; but upon the high authority of General Moultrie, himself one of the number, they were comparatively well provided for. He says:
“When we got to Haddrel’s Point, it was very difficult to get quarters in the barracks for the number of officers that were sent over. They went to the neighboring houses, within the limits of their parole, (I was , at this time, allowed to come to town whenever I pleased,) and many others built huts about in the woods, and in a little time were very comfortably settled, with little gardens about them. * * Colonel Pinckney and myself were in excellent quarters, at Mr. Pinckney’s place, called Snee Farm.”
To these means of comfort were superadded the full control of their time, which may be inferred, was spent in cultivating vegetables, and in other similar pursuits, conducive to their general comfort. But first, and above all, they were, THROUGH THE ARRANGEMENTS OF THE SURRENDER, DELIVERED FROM THE CITY, (which was shortly to be converted into pandemonium, by the cruelties inflicted upon others, from which they were themselves exempted,) and from the ODIOUS SURVEILLANCE of the enemy.
The First Class, or the Resident Population, already the fast friends of the enemy, as soon as the gates were open, met them at the portals with open arms, and with an ADDRESS OF
CONGRAGULATIONS upon the result of the siege, and with swelling protestations, of their UNIMPARED LOYALTY TO THE CROWN OF ENGLAND.
General Moultrie, in his memoirs, makes mention of this class of the besieged. He says:
“About 11 o’clock a.m., on the 12th of May, we marched out between 1500 and 1600 Continental troops, (leaving five or six hundred sick and wounded in the hospital,) without the horn of the work, on the left, and piled our arms; the officers marched the men back to the barracks, where a British guard was placed over them: the British asked, where our second division was? They were told, these were all the Continentals we had, except the sick and wounded. They were astonished, and said we had made a gallant defense. * * While we were in the horn work, together in conversation, he said, ‘Sir, you have made a gallant defence, but you had a great many rascals among you, (and mentioned names,) who came out every night and gave us information of what was passing in your garrison.’ * * The militia remained in Charleston.”
By this course of conduct, as soon as the enemy were in possession of the city, they obtained from them (doubtless under prior and clandestine arrangements,) total exemption from all the pains and penalties of the rebellion, together with perfect freedom from personal restraint, and readmission into the ranks of Royal subjects. Consequently, they returned immediately to their ordinary pursuits, and probably were in many respects in as good, if not in a better position, than they formerly occupied; and were immediately used by the enemy, as tools, in operating upon the fidelity of their late associates, and upon other not more honorable services. So much for this class of the besieged, the Resident Population, considered as a class. Amongst them, of course, there were some, if not many, of the truest, and best patriots of the State.
The Third Class – THE BRAVE AND PATRIOTIC VOLUNTEERS: Upon these hapless patriots, unfortunately fell, ALL THE EVILS OF THE SURRENDER, which were so manifold and terrible, as to make the record thereof, “the bloodiest picture in the book of time.”
Surrendered as prisoners of war to the enemy, under the following conditions of the treaty: -
“Article IV. – the militia now in garrison shall be permitted to return to their respective homes as prisoners upon parole, which parole, as long as they observe, shall secure them from being molested in their property by the British troops.” They were entitled to parole, (with the privilege of retiring to their homes,) and to the protection of their property, from the ravages of the enemy. But in every particular they were cruelly deceived. The enemy never regarded, as of binding force, and never designed so to regard, this article of the treaty. They looked upon it, in the words of the historian, “as the expedient of the day.” It was only intended as a lure, to gain possession of the persons of the volunteers, which would be a more valuable acquisition, than the possession of every other individual in the State. Having accomplished this prime object, and being now in the possession of the persons of these men, their first efforts were directed, mainly with the aid of the first class of prisoners, their late friends and associates, to convert them from the heresy of independence, into orthodox sentiments, of loyalty to the King. To this end their treatment at first was comparatively mild and humane, but meeting with little success in their missionary labors under such regimen, (for the fidelity of these Volunteers was as incorruptible, as the Palmetto battlements of the glorious fort, which had so lately withstood their artillery,) a sterner method was very shortly after resorted to. In the first place, NOT A MAN OF THE NUMBER WAS PERMITTED TO LEAVE THE CITY, but were all retained, to be made victims of the foulest system of outrage, and inhumanity, which disgraces the annals of modern times. They were deprived of all their property: every article of value was taken away from them. They were constantly harrassed by petty, and unfounded complaints, upon which they were dragged up to military tribunals: and as constantly, unjustly punished. There were inadequately supplied with food and raimant, and
were prohibited to increase the supply, by the practice of their former professions. Young maidens were harshly treated, and imprisoned in noisome dungeons, already occupied by the vile, and debased of both sexes. The sick were purposely placed in improper hospitals, and wantonly exposed to the fatal infection of the small pox. But we will not dwell upon such loathsome details. Sufficient for the purpose to state, that from these various causes, in the brief space of a few months, the number of this ill-fated class were reduced to less than one-third of the original number who were surrendered, while the survivors were attenuated into living shadows of their former selves, and with injuries to their physical constitutions, from which few, if any of them, ever recovered. Such was the condition to which these brave men were reduced by the consequences of he surrender of the city. And in this de-
deplorable condition they continued to exist, not only until every man of the Continentals, Officers and Soldiers, had been exchanged, and were again as free as the winds of Heaven, but up to the very latest moment, the British had the power of holding them.
Comment upon the case of these brave and unfortunate men is unnecessary. The broad fact looms up in history that they were SACRIFICED. They their hardships and sufferings, which resulted in such fearful mortality, was the price paid for the IMMUNITY OF THE CONTINENTAL OFFICERS, from like ill-usage, and for their earlier liberation. Surely this sacrifice of one class of the officers, of a beleaguered army, for the benefit of another class, HAS NO PRECEDENT, AND NO PARALLED, IN THE AMERICAN SERVICE. That this result was intentional on the part of the American Commander, is not alleged. He, doubtless, animated with sentiments of good faith, judged that the enemy felt the same influences. But this admission does not change the state of the case in any respect. A GENERAL COMMANDING AN ARMY UNDER THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES, NOT ONLY, HAS NO LAWFUL POWER TO DISCRIMINATE BETWEEN THE INDIVIDUALS UNDER HIS COMMAND, AS WAS DONE AT CHARLESTON, BUT HE CANNOT DO ANYTHING WHICH MAY AFTERWARDS SO OPERATE AS TO PRODUCE UNEQUAL, AND UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION.
Under this view of the subject, no single man, or officer, of the Continentals should have been allowed to leave the city, so long as a single Volunteer remained in it, exposed to the evils which the whole practice of the English, during the Revolution, might have led to the supposition as being likely to follow, the power to inflict. HENCE, THE RANKS OF THE ARMY NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN SEPARAED, and the fate of one, should have been made the fate of all.
With respect to the general Commanding: - As soon as the treaty was signed, he gave up the command of the Continental forces to General Moultrie, and was provided, IN VIRTUE OF THE TREATY, with a vessel, on which, TOGETHER WITH HIS STAFF, he sailed for Philadelphia, LEAVING THE VOLUNTEERS TO THE MERCY OF THE ENEMY.
From this historical statement of the facts of the case, the deduction is inevitable, that the general commanding the American forces at the siege of Charleston in 1780, when forced to surrender to the enemy, made unlawful discrimination between the troops under his command; surrendering one class – the Continental officer – to a comparatively mild, and human treatment; inasmuch as they were removed away from the city to Haddrell’s Point, several miles distant; where they were free from all surveillance, and control of the enemy: in which condition they remained until they were exchanged, and restored to the service of their country: And the other class – the Volunteers, of whom Major Wigg was one individual - to a close and most cruel imprisonment in the city, where they were deprived of all the advantages and privileges enjoyed by the Continental officers; and where they were exposed to, and actually made to suffer, such privations and severities, as consigned a large portion of the whole number to the grave; and that they continued in this state, until long after the Continental officers were exchanged. There is no fact of the Revolutionary history, more clearly established, than this fact, of unlawful discrimination; while it is equally clear, that by reason of it alone, the misfortune of losing his property, was brought upon Major Wigg; for it is evident that if he had been exchanged, as he ought to have been, when the Continental officers were exchanged, in June 1781, he would have gone home to his family, and necessarily, would have been absent from the city in the following month of August, which is the date of his pecuniary misfortunes.
Moreover, when Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army at Yorktown, the occasion was a fitting one for the American Officers to demand the release of Major Wigg and his companions, who were at the time, still in confinement on board this Pack Horse in Charleston harbor, and also to require indemnification for the ravage of his estates, - both the one and the other, they, the American officers, had the power to enforce, and yet the occasion was neglected, He and his companions were not thought of, while a military indignity place upon General Lincoln at the surrender of Charleston, by Sir Henry Clinton, was borne in mind and atonement required of Lord Cornwallis, by the infliction of the same indignity upon himself.
It was an impossibility that a single officer of the American army, before Yorktown, could have been ignorant of the transactions at Charleston, for many of them had been eye-witness of the barbarities, which had converted that ill-fated city into a charnel house. Hence, it can only be inferred that reasons of State existed, to prevent interference in their behalf.
The cause and character of the punishment inflicted upon Major Wigg, in the plunder of his property by the enemy, is marked and verified, with perfect clearness, by the fact that the expedition sent for that purpose, in going upon its errand, although it passed through the wealthiest, and perhaps, the most unguarded, region of the State, molested the possessions of no other man. Particularly, it passed and repassed the Island of Calawassie, lying in the Oketee river, exactly midway between the two plantations of Major Wigg, upon opposite banks, without disturbing it in any way, although upon it there was at the time a large number of slaves, and all the requisites of a first class plantation. The business of the expedition was the plunder of Major Wigg’s property, and to that single object, its work was restricted. He alone had offended, and he alone was aimed at: and great indeed must that offence have
been considered by the enemy, to demand such condign, and instantaneous punishment.
The records of the Thirty-Second Congress will show that this claim, now brought up a second time, was investigated by that body, and favorably acted upon. But the payment made was at the time considered inadequate, inasmuch as the interest was withheld. Hence, the present suit is to recover, either the interest, or, in lieu of it, the usu fruct, of the property, for the number of years Major Wigg survived, after the date of the loss, which seems to be a most reasonable demand.
It was the memorable, and somewhat singular, misfortune of this claim, at the time of its first appearance before Congress, to have its striking features of justice – strict, clear, legal justice – eclipsed by the brilliant halo with which the chivalrous character of the incidents of the narrative, upon which it is founded, encircled it. This probably arose, in some measure, from the fact, that the period of its advent was soon after the close of the Mexican war, when the Halls of Congress, and the Country were overflowing with men, fresh from the tented fields, bearing upon their brows the unwithered laurels they had won. Such men, heroes themselves, very naturally, were alive to recitals of heroism, regardless whether the narrative told of deeds, newly consummated in the palaces of the Montezumas, by themselves, or ran back to “the times which tried men’s souls,” when their ancestors were the actors. This, though flattering to the claimant, and gratifying to his feelings in one respect, was, in another, very irksome to him, for it drew away the attention of Congress from the points upon which its attention ought to have been concentrated, and expended it in another direction.
Such unfortunate diversion, inflicted a gross, and a double wrong upon him, inasmuch as, on the one hand, it curtailed the measure of relief which he feels assured would have been meted out to him, under a clearer understanding of the case. And upon the other hand, it gave to that measure the appearance of a gratuity, bestowed without just warrant of law, by generous men, in commemoration of the brilliant achievements of one whose inspirations were kindled at the same altar, whence came the fires glowing in their own heroic bosoms.
Under these impressions, coupled with a firm conviction of the justice of his claim, the memorialist now solicits of Congress a reinvestigation of the whole subject, and desires that the
same shall be conducted with the most rigid scrutiny, for he entertains no fears of the clearness, and conclusiveness, of the facts upon which he relies, nor apprehensions of the result, when those facts, shall be fully developed, and clearly understood by Congress.
Whether success shall attend upon his efforts, or whether disappointment only awaits him, is a problem which time alone can solve. But be the issue what it may, he hath already a recompense, of which he cannot be deprived. It is the knowledge of the fact, that he has rescued from oblivion the memory of one who, in his narrow sphere of action, was an hero, amongst heroes, in the age of heroism. And beyond this, he hath another recompense, of not inferior value. It is the consciousness of having contributed, with his feeble pen, to vindicate, in some small measure, the Revolutionary history of his native State; that traduced, but misunderstood – ever honored, and ever honorable, Republic; whose history in time past, and time present – in peace, and in war – in paths of virtue, and in fields of enterprise, like the unwrought diamond, needs only the craftsman’s hand, to draw forth all of its hidden splendors, and perpetuate the blaze forever.
WILLIAM HAZZARS WIGG,
Of South Carolina.
Washington City, January, 1860
Note 1 – Page 2.
The following article is from the pen of the venerable Dr. Joseph Johnson, of Charleston, South Carolina, author of “Unpublished Traditions of the Revolultion.” It was prepared for a second edition of that work; and was published in the Charleston Courier for January, 1853:
“Major William Hazzard Wigg. – This gentleman was a native of the town of Beaufort, and was related to the Barnwells of that district. At the commencement of the American Revolution he was very independent in his circumstances, and took an active part in support of the patriot cause against the aggressions of Great Britain, and bore a commission in the militia of the State. Under this commission he served in Georgia under General Howe, of North Carolina, when opposed to the invasion of the British troops from Florida. On General Lincoln’s taking command, Wigg served under him, on Savannah River, and fought under Colonel John Laurens, in the battle of Tulifinni, also in that at Steno, and in the siege of Savannah, and in that of Charleston. He became a prisoner of war on the capitulation of this city, in May, 1780, and remained in it, expecting to be exchanged, and then resume his command.
“On the 4th of August , 1781, Colonel Isaac Hayne, the brother-in-law and bosom friend of Major Wigg, having been taken in arms, was executed by the joint order of the Commandant, Colonel Balfour, and of the Commander-in-chief, Lord Rawdon, known afterwards as the Earl of Moira.At this unjust and unmerciful act, Major Wigg, being much incensed, spoke so freely as to provoke the British authorities. He was accordingly imprisoned on board the schooner Pack Horse, on the 17th of May, and an expedition sent by water to destroy is property. They ravaged his two plantations on the Oketee river, about one hundred and twenty miles south of Charleston; took from them ninety-six negroes, with all the horses, cattle, and other stock – everything, in short, which it was in their power to remove. All this was done, in violation of the terms under which Charleston capitulated: That the prisoners under that capitulation should, when paroled, remain in peaceable possession of their property, until exchanged. That it was the design of the British to make this the peculiar punishment of Major Wigg, was demonstrated by the fact, that they left un-
injured the valuable property on Callawassie Island, which lay exactly between the two plantations of Major Wigg, the only intervening property between them.
“When put on board the Pack Horse, Major Wigg was still more irritable and disposed to irritate his enemies. As usual in large establishments, the food was there cooked in copper boilers, which, when kept clean, can be used. Whether the copper was not clean, or whether the prisoners were unreasonably apprehensive of danger, we know not; they certainly formed a party, seized the copper boiler, and threw it into the river, alleging their belief that Balfour had provided it for the purpose of poisoning them, as the easiest way of getting rid of them.
“The negroes taken from Major Wigg’s plantations were carried to East Florida and sold in St. Augustine. About twenty of them were purchased by Mr. Leavitt, a citizen of Georgia, and brought to his plantation in that State. After the peace, Major Wigg went for them, into Georgia, identified the negroes as his, and claimed them as property illegally taken from him by the British, and insisted on their being returned to him. Mr. Leavett gave them up, without resistance, and Major Wigg retained possession of them as long as he lived. At his death, they were inherited by his son, but a suit was commenced soon after, in the Federal Court, and decided against him, by which he was compelled either to give up the negroes or pay the full value for the acknowledged property of his father. As this portion of his people had now intermarried with others on his plantations, and were attached to his family, they entreated that they might not be separated, and he bought them at their full valuation.
“Shortly after Major Wigg’s confinement in the Pack Horse, General Greene notified Colonel Balfour that he would make retaliation for the execution of Colonel Hayne, on the first British officer of that rank who should be captured. Balfour returned the threat of further retaliation on the prisoners in Charleston and at St. Augustine. This notice, having been given to the seventy-eight prisoners in the Torbay, and the forty in the Pack Horse; they all signed, in alphabetical order, the following letter addressed to General Greene, enclosed it to the commandant, and requested that he would forward it to the General:
“ ‘ We have the honor to enclose the copy of a letter from
‘Colonel Balfour, Commandant of Charleston, which was
‘handed us immediately on our being put on board this ship.
‘the letter speaking for itself, needs no comment; your wisdom
‘ will best dictate the notice it merits. We just beg leave to
‘ observe, that should it fall to the lot of all, or any of us, to be
‘ made victims agreeable to the menaces therein contained, we
‘have only to regret that our blood cannot be disposed of more
‘to the advancement of the glorious cause to which we have
“The firm, unbending spirit manifested by the unanimous signature of the prisoners, to this calm, dignified and modest, but brave and unfaltering letter, was highly commended throughout the United States. It was transmitted to Congress by General Greene, with Balfour’s letter, and both published by Congress, in all the American journals of the day. A royalist, but little inferior to Colonel Hayne in rank, was captured soon after, and the question discussed, whether he should be made the victim. It was said at the time that General Marion decided the other members of the conference by observing, that the proposed execution would not affect the British: that the retaliation should be on a native of England, as Balfour did not care a pin how many Americans cut each other’s throats, and heightened the prevailing virulence of parties. Colonel Balfour found troublesome customers in these obstinate rebel prisoners, and wishing to get rid of them, ordered off the Pack Horse to New York, that her prisoners might have a better chance of being disposed of among the typhus fever inmates of the prison ship, in the Wallabach at Long Island, She accordingly sailed under the convoy of a man-of-war, with a number of merchant vessels. When three days out from Charleston, a little before daylight, most of the prisoners having got off their irons, seized the arms of those in the morning watch, soon overpowered them, battened down the hatches over those in the hold. and clothed themselves in the uniform of their prisoners, to avoid discovery. This disguise was highly necessary, as at daylight the man-of-war was but a quarter of a mile off. Their only chance was to continue with the convoy all day, as if nothing had happened, change their course at night, and make good their escape. This plan succeeded; they gradually edged off from the convoy, but were recalled a little before dark by a gun fired and a signal made for the Pack Horse to rejoin the convoy. This not being presently executed, the man-of-war backed her topsails and lowered a boat, to enforce the order. But they were too late; it was nearly dark; the Carolinians crowded all sail to run the Pack Horse into a port in North Carolina, and succeeded in reaching Halifax, from whence they returned home by land, and joined the army of General Greene.
“When Major Wigg landed in North Carolina, he had the good fortune to meet with his favorite war horse, that had been lost to him at the surrender of Charleston, and taken by the British as one of the spoils of war, or of the
military equipments, but brought into North Carolina by a British transport, that had been driven in by stress of weather. This horse was a full blooded roan, foaled on his own plantation, or homestead, on
the 4th of July, 1776, and called Independence, from that circumstance. Having been trained with great care and kindness by Major Wigg, the animal exhibited remarkable docility and instinct on various occasions during the campaigns made under his master. It was on his back, on one occasion, that Major Wigg, when the bearer of important despatches, swam over Port Royal river at the Ferry. It was also on his back that the wounded Colonel John Laurens was borne from the disastrous field of Coosahatchie, or Tulifinni as it is sometimes called. He survived all the hardships and dangers of the Revolution, and was cherished as a friend, often tried and never found wanting, by Major Wigg to the day of his death. After his death, also by the son of Major Wigg, until finally he ceased to live in 1807, at the advanced – the extraordinary – age of about 31 years.
“When the British carried off the slaves of Major Wigg in 1781, three of his most valuable personal attendants were saved, they being absent from the plantations when plundered. Of these, one was his body servant, named Robin, who was with him in the prison ship, and at the capture of the Pack Horse. It was from him that many of these particulars are derived, and who bore no unimportant part in their transaction. In Moultrie’s Memoirs, he speaks as if despleased at the little resistance made by the militia under Colonel John Laurens at Coosahatchie, and reflects upon Colonel Laurens, for not having arranged his men under shelter, as might have been done. Laurens was more exposed than any of them, and encouraged the men by saying, that the enemy fired at his white plume and not at them. To Moultrie he answered that he was among the men, in all their exposure, but that his militia could not stand fire. It is very doubtful if the result could have been otherwise, under any circumstances. His militia had no experience; they were on a retreat, and were opposed to British veterans with their field artillery.”
Note. – The writer might have added, that the American force consisted of not over two hundred men, while they were opposed to four thousand regulars of the enemy and one thousand allies – Indians and Tories. The enemy also fired from the houses of the village at the Americans on the opposite side of the river, who had neither cover, nor artillery. The object was to resist the crossing of the river by the enemy, and to have done that effectually, would have required a force, at least equal to the enemy.
In the foregoing narrative it is left to be inferred, that Major Wigg was imprisoned on the Pack Horse, in consequence of his conduct upon the occasion of the execution of Colonel Hayne. Such inference is not correct. He was imprisoned on the 17th of May, and the execution took place on the 4th of
August. The facts are correctly stated in the text of the Memoir. His conduct, on the occasion of the execution, was punished by the plunder of his property. Again: the Pack Horse was not dispatched to New York until after the enemy found themselves no longer able to keep her safely in Charleston, and that was not until the whole State, with the exception of Charleston, had been redeemed from their grasp.
Note 2 – Page 6.
The Assembly then sitting immediately broke up, and delegated “till ten days after the next session, to the Governor, John Rutledge, Esq., and such of his Council as he could conveniently consult, a power to do anything for the public good, except the taking away of the life of a citizen without a legal trial.” Invested with his authority, he immediately ordered the militia to rendezvous. Though the necessity was great, few obeyed the pressing call. A proclamation was soon after issued, “requiring such of the militia as were regularly draughted, and all the inhabitants of the town, and owners of property in the town, to repair to the American standard, and join the garrison immediately, under pain of confiscation.” This severe, though necessary measure, produced very little effect. – Ramsay’s Hist. Rev. in S.C., vol. 2, pp. 47-48.
Vested with such authority, Rutledge called out the militia, but few displayed their colors. * * The inhabitants of the country seemed plunged into a kind of stupor. – Botia’s American War, Book xii, page 134.
Though the greatest exertions had been made by the gentlemen in power to reinforce the garrison, and to strengthen the lines, yet their endeavors were not seconded by the people. No more country militia could be brought into the town, and very few could be persuaded to embody in the country. – Ramsay’s Hist. Rev. in S.C., vol. 2, page 52.
The almost uninterrupted march of General Provost through the richest part of South Carolina to the gates of the capital; the conduct of the planters, who, on that occasion, were more attentive to secure their property by submission, than to defend it by resistance. – Ibid.
Note. – It must be borne in mind, that at this period South Carolina was in a very exhausted condition. She had lost heavily in the various affairs of Howe’s invasion of Florida, of
the siege of Savannah, and in Lincoln’s trial of strength with Provost, wherein, upon several occasions, he had suffered very severely. Superadded to these causes, the small-pox, which in those days was a more terrible scourge than at present, was known to be raging in Charleston, and consequently, that particular service, to which the miliria was now called was regarded with great and just fears, and doubtless contributed largely to their lukewarmness, and supineness. In short, such was the condition of the State, at the period of the landing of Sir Henry Clinton, in 1780 – taking into consideration the failure of Congress, and of all of her sister States, to aid her by any essential means, to defend her chief city, or any portion of her soil, from the invaders, (which condition was solely brought about by her lavish, and generous expenditure, of both blood, and treasure in behalf of her contiguous sisters,) – that she would have been fully justified in an absolute, and unconditional surrender, of her whole territory, to the invaders. –
Note 3 – Page 24.
The numbers, 1781, in the endorsement upon the account stated by Mr. Huntt, is evidently a clerical error in said endorsement, and is intended for 1780.
It is known of Major Wigg, that he was surrendered a prisoner of war, upon the fall of Charleston, on the 12th of May, 1780. That he continued such, in the city, until he was arrested, and committed to the Pack Horse as an hostage on the 17th of May, 1781, and that he remained, in that condition, on board of that vessel, until he liberated himself, a short time prior to the 1st of March, 1782, when he returned to the State, and resumed his duties.
This resumption of duties, by Major Wigg, on the 1st of March, 1782, is the most reliable testimony which exists, as to the precise period of the capture of the Pack Horse, for it is presumable, that he returned to the State, from North Carolina, as early after his landing as possible, and that immediately after his return, he resumed his duties: - hence, the capture of that vessel, may be stated to have occurred “a short time prior to the 1st of March, 1781.” – W.H.W.
Note 4 – Page 31.
Upwards of eight hundred of these brave men, nearly one-third of the whole, exhausted by a variety of sufferings, expired
in the short space of thirteen months’ captivity. When the general exchange took place in June, 1781, out of nineteen hundred taken at the surrender of Charleston, on the 12th of May, 1780, and several hundred more, taken afterwards at Camden and at Fishing Creek, on the 16th and 18th of August of the same year, there were only seven hundred and forty restored to the service of their country. – Ramsay’s Hist. Of Rev. in S.C., vol. 2, page 288-9.