January of 1780
January 1, 1780
Mutiny at West Point, New York (Mutiny of Massachusetts Line)
On New Year’s Day, 100 soldiers from Massachusetts mutiny and attempt to return home at the expiration of their enlistment, or in some cases, shortly prior. Some are punished although the majority is pardoned.
January 16, 1780
“The Moonlight Battle” (The First Battle of Trafalgar)
British Admiral George Rodney, with 21 ships of the line, engages an inferior Spanish squadron of 11 ships that departs Cadiz. Rodney, on his way to the Americas, gleans information about the Spanish squadron from a captured merchantman and reverses his course. The Spanish, being outnumbered, try to flee back to port. Only one Spanish ship manages to return to the safety of the port of Cadiz. Although the victory has no major strategic significance, Rodney’s order of “general chase” and fighting by moonlight make this a legendary engagement.
February 29, 1780
Russia creates the League of Armed Neutrality
Catherine the Great establishes the League of Armed Neutrality to halt British interdiction of neutral merchant vessels on the high seas. Later that summer, Denmark and Sweden join, followed by the Dutch. Eventually, Prussia, Austria, and Portugal will also become members.
April of 1780
April 8, 1780
The British commence an attack upon Charleston, South Carolina
The British, commanded by General Henry Clinton, begin what is termed “the one solid British triumph of the war.” This bold move is intended to subjugate the South from Georgia to the Chesapeake.
April 14-15, 1780
Staten Island Expedition
A force of 3,000 men is led by General William Alexander (Lord Stirling) from Elizabethtown Point to Staten Island, in an attempt to surprise the British. The British are informed of the raid and after spending an entire day in snow and below freezing weather, the Americans withdraw after capturing 17 prisoners and a marginal amount of booty. Alexander’s losses total 6 men killed. The unruly behavior of the militia accompanying his forces causes the British to retaliate by burning the Elizabethown courthouse and the academy at Newark.
May of 1780
May 12, 1780
The worst American defeat during the Revolution
Charleston surrenders on 12 May. The British capture in excess of 3,000 Patriots and themselves lose about 250 killed and wounded. Carelessness causes a massive explosion of 180 barrels of captured powder and somewhat mars the victory. Neither Clinton nor the American commander, General Benjamin Lincoln, displays any inspiring leadership. When Clinton learns of an impending French expedition, he determines that he should be in New York, and General Charles Cornwallis assumes command of British forces in the South.
May 29, 1780
Waxhaws, South Carolina
After the surrender of Charleston on May 12, the 3rd Virginia, commanded by Colonel Abraham Buford, is virtually the only organized Patriot formation in the colony. British Colonel Banastre Tarleton is given the mission to destroy any colonial resistance. A cavalry charge breaks the Continental line, and Ensign Cruitt is cut down as he raises the white flag of surrender. This brings about the term “Tarleton’s Quarter,” which in the eyes of the Patriots is no quarter at all. The Continentals lose 113 killed and 203 captured, the great majority of these prisoners being wounded. British losses total 19 men and 31 horses killed or wounded. The defeat becomes a propaganda victory for the Continentals as they exploit the “massacre” that ensued.
June of 1780
June 3, 1780
Clinton abrogates the articles of Charleston’s surrender. He requires that all male residents of Charleston take an oath of allegiance to the Crown and also demands that they take up arms against their former comrades.
July of 1780
July 12, 1780
Captain Christian Huck, a prominent Loyalist attorney from Philadelphia, leads a mixed force of British dragoons and Loyalists from Rocky Mount against the backwoods Scotch-Irish, whom he loathes. The engagement takes place at Williamson’s Plantation when the Patriots launch a surprise attack at dawn inflicting complete defeat on the British forces. British losses are variously given at 25-50 killed, including Huck, at least twice as many wounded, and 29 captured. Continental morale receives a boost.
July 20-21, 1780
Action at Bull’s Ferry, New Jersey
Led by General ”Mad” Anthony Wayne, 2 brigades of Pennsylvania militia, supported by 4 artillery pieces, attempt to destroy a fortified blockhouse located approximately 4 miles north of Hoboken. The 70 Loyalists are able to hold on despite the best efforts of the Americans. The Patriot losses amount to 18 men killed and 46 wounded in this unsuccessful assault.
July 25, 1780
General Gates takes command of the Southern Army
General Horatio Gates takes command of the Southern Army from General Johann De Kalb at Coxe’s Mill, North Carolina. The Americans number about 1,200 regulars that are severely debilitated by hunger and are in need of equipment. This force is supported by a large group of militia whose number is unknown. De Kalb remains with the force as part of Gates’ headquarters staff.
July 30, 1780
Capture of Thicketty Fort (Fort Anderson)
This action precedes the Battle of Kings Mountain. Patriot forces numbering 600, led by Colonel Isaac Shelby, take the fort, located ten miles southeast of Cowpens and held by a Loyalist garrison, without firing a shot.
August of 1780
August 1, 1780
Battle of Rocky Mount, South Carolina
A Patriot force consisting of 600 men, led by Thomas Sumter, attempts to overcome a force of 150 Loyalists led by Lieutenant Colonel George Trumbull. Trumbull’s men hold 3 log cabins that have been loopholed. The Americans set fire to the buildings but a sudden deluge comes down, saving the small garrison. Each side loses about a dozen men killed or wounded.
August 1-2, 1780
Located in the Mohawk Valley, these settlements are raided by the Mohawk Indian Chief Joseph Brant. Brant and his Indians kill 16 settlers, burn a large number of homes and other buildings, while killing or driving off over 300 head of cattle. He avoids forts and other fortified positions and contents himself with the destruction of the countryside. There were no massacres of settlers, which many attribute to his being in sole command and the fact that no Loyalists accompany him.
August 15, 1780
Action at Port’s Ferry, South Carolina
General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” and his irregular cavalry force of 250, rout a party of Loyalists commanded by Major Micajah Gainey. Marion has 2 men wounded, while the losses of the Loyalists are unknown.
August 16, 1780
Battle of Camden, South Carolina
This battle is a major defeat for the Continental army. General Horatio Gates seriously overestimates the number of soldiers he has available for combat and it is too late to withdraw when he realizes his mistake. Baron Johann De Kalb receives numerous wounds and succumbs a few days later. Over 900 Americans die and another 1,000 are captured. Additionally, 22 wagonloads of equipment, along with 2,000 muskets and a large amount of ammunition, fall into British hands. The British, led by Lord Cornwallis, lose 68 killed and another 245 wounded in this lopsided victory.
August 18, 1780
Battle of Fishing Creek, South Carolina
Led by Banastre Tarleton, 350 Loyalists locate an American force commanded by General Thomas Sumter about 40 miles from Camden. Tarleton catches the Americans totally unprepared killing 150, capturing 300, and freeing 100 British prisoners. British losses are 16 killed. This battle makes Tarleton, in British eyes, a national hero.
August 18, 1780
Action at Musgrove’s Mill, South Carolina
This engagement is another action that follows Camden and precedes Kings Mountain. Patriot Colonels Elijah Clarke and Isaac Shelby command a militia force that repels an attack by Loyalists. The Americans make a stand at Musgrove’s Mill on the Enoree River, killing 63 Loyalists, wounding 90, while capturing another 70. Patriot losses are only 4 killed and 8 wounded.
Sepetmber of 1780
September 3, 1780
Henry Laurens Captured
Henry Laurens, a member of the Continental Congress, departs Philadelphia on 13 August, for a mission to Holland on the brig Mercury. He is captured off Newfoundland by the British frigate H.M.S. Vestal. Laurens throws his confidential papers overboard but they are recovered by the British and later used as a pretext for declaring war against Holland. He serves 15 months as a prisoner in the Tower of London before being released, in large measure, because of the combined efforts of Benjamin Franklin and Edmund Burke.
September 4, 1780
Action at Blue Savannah, South Carolina
Following up on his success at great Savannah, Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” and 52 of his men ride to the east to escape pursuing Loyalists. However, another force of
Loyalists, over 250 strong, come at him from the northeast. After routing the advance guard, Marion causes the main body of 200 to panic and flee by a sudden charge. This breaks the Loyalists in the area and attracts another 60 volunteers to the Patriot cause.
September 12, 1780
Engagement at Cane Creek, North Carolina
This was part of the Loyalist invasion of North Carolina and preceded the battle at King’s Mountain. Led by Patrick Ferguson, the Loyalists encounter Patriot militia and begin a fighting withdrawal to Kings Mountain.
September 14-18, 1780
Actions at Forts Grierson and Cornwallis (Augusta, Georgia)
Colonel Elijah Clarke and Lieutenant Colonel James McCall raise a force of volunteers to capture the Loyalist stronghold of Augusta. The forts are easily captured while the remnants of the Loyalists and some Indians retreat to a strong point known as the White House. A relief force compels the Patriots to break off the assault. American losses come to 60 killed, and about 20 Indians also die. Loyalist losses are unknown.
September 23, 1780
Major John André captured
Three American militiamen capture Major André, who is dressed in civilian clothing and carrying information that the American General Benedict Arnold intends to become a traitor and surrender the vital installation of West Point on the Hudson River. Arnold learns of André’s capture two days later and flees to the safety of the British warship Vulture in the Hudson. André is hanged at Tappan, New York, on 2 October despite his plea to be executed by a firing squad. He faces execution with courage that is greatly admired by the Continental forces.
October of 1780
October 7, 1780
Battle of Kings Mountain, South Carolina
Major Patrick Ferguson and his entire force of 1,100 Loyalists are either killed, captured, or wounded in this engagement with 1,400 frontiersmen led by Colonel William Campbell. Ferguson is the only individual in the battle that is not an American. The Loyalists forces rely on massed fire from volleys and the bayonet while the Americans use long rifles to pick the Loyalists off at long range, including Ferguson, who is killed by being shot off his horse while leading a charge. This is not the most glorious day for the Americans as they kill many Loyalists while they try to surrender. This battle forces Cornwallis to abandon his invasion of North Carolina.
October 15, 1780
Action at Middleburg (Middle Fort), New York
A combined force of 1,000 British regulars, Hessians, Loyalists, and Indians led by Sir John Johnson and Chief Joseph Brant attempt an unsuccessful attack upon Middleburg. The fort is manned by Major Melanchthon Woolsey and only 200 Continental soldiers that, unknown to the British, are low on ammunition. The British forces retreat in the direction of the Schoharie Valley and content themselves with destroying everything in their path.
October 19, 1780
Battle at Fort Keyser (Palatine or Stone Arabia), New York
Colonel John Brown commands a force of 130 militia at the fort located in Palatine. Brown receives assurances that General Robert Van Rensselaer’s forces will arrive in time to succor the garrison. Based on this information Brown sallies forth from the fort and attacks his besiegers led by Sir John Johnson, whose force is ten times as large as Brown’s. Brown and one-third of his men die when Van Rensselaer’s force fails to attack Johnson’s rear.
October 19, 1780
Battle of Klock’s Field, New York
After his victory at Fort Keyser, Sir John Johnson’s force is pursued by General Robert Van Rensselaer’s militia. Johnson ambushes his pursuers near Fort Plain. The American militia manages to repulse the British attack but misses an opportunity to decisively defeat the British when Van Rensselaer refuses to mount a counterattack.
November of 1780
November 9, 1780
Action at Fishdam Ford (Broad River), South Carolina
Major James Wemyss, commanding a force of 140 horsemen, attempts to surprise General Thomas Sumter and his 300 militia. Sumter manages to evade capture by Wemyss, who is “the second most hated man in the British army” and is wounded in the arm and the knee during the engagement. Casualties are light on each side.
November 21-23, 1780
Americans raid Coram (Smith Point), Long Island, New York
A force of 300 Continentals from Connecticut, commanded by Major Benjamin Tallmadge, captures the fort without encountering any resistance. He burns over 300 tons of hay and is later praised by Congress for this action.
December of 1780
December 4, 1780
Engagement at Rugeley’s Mills, South Carolina
A force of Continental dragoons commanded by Colonel William Washington obtains the surrender of a Loyalist force by guile. They use the “Quaker gun trick,” i.e., fabricating a cannon from a pine log. The approximately 100 Loyalists led by Colonel Rugeley surrender rather than face “bombardment.”
December 12-13, 1780
Engagement at Halfway Swamp, South Carolina
Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” discovers that Major Robert McLeroth is moving approximately 200 recruits from Charleston to Winnsboro. McLeroth offers to have 20 men from each side engage in combat to decide the issue in a ploy for more time. That night the British force skulks away, leaving their campfires burning to deceive the Americans.
December 21, 1780
Great Britain declares war on the Netherlands
In response to the Dutch joining the “League of Armed Neutrality,” the British declare war upon the Netherlands (United Provinces). The Dutch previously have given refuge to a squadron commanded by John Paul Jones, in command of the captured British Serapis; they have also refused British demands for assistance in combating the French and Americans.
December 27-30, 1780
Americans raid Hammond’s Store (Williamson’s Plantation), South Carolina
Brigadier General Daniel Morgan detaches a force of approximately 275 dragoons commanded by Colonel William Washington to destroy a force of Loyalists terrorizing the countryside in the vicinity Fairfort Creek. Without incurring any losses to his force, Washington kills or wounds 150 of the Loyalists and takes 40 prisoners.