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Battle of Hanging Rock - Revolutionary War

The following article was compiled

by Warren W. Carothers

For genealogists:

Family names mentioned in the article include:  Carothers, Neely, Erwin, Irvin, Alexander, Davie, Richardson, McDowell, Jackson, Sumter, Buford, and Tarleton.

The Battle of Hanging Rock was a timely but small victory in the fight against the British in South Carolina.  Charles Town fell to the British on May 12, 1780.  Seventeen days later British General Banastre Tarleton slaughtered Abraham Buford’s colonials six miles east of Lancaster at Waxhaw Creek.  Until the Tarleton slaughter, many of the up state Scotch-Irish were neutral in the conflict.  The Battle of Hanging Rock was an indication of the growing strength of the colonials.  The Battle of Fishing Creek, also in August, was a small defeat for the Colonials.  The Battle of Kings Mountain, which occurred only two months later, is recognized as the turning point of the War.  It was fought October 1780.     

The Battle of Hanging Rock was fought August 5th, 1780 in what is now Lancaster County, South Carolina.  Thomas Sumter’s forces attacked the British at dawn.  For the British units there were the Prince of Whales’ American Regiment, the Loyalists of the North Carolina Volunteers under Major Carden, and also regular British troops.  Of 181 officers and men of the PWAR that had taken the field that day, 93 were dead, wounded or missing.  The Royal North Carolina lost 50 officers and men. Sumter’s loses were twelve killed and 41 wounded although the colonials were outnumbered two to one.  This would have been a complete victory for the patriots had they not started looting the stores of the British Camp that included their alcohol stores.  An interesting item to remember about this battle is it was the first battle that thirteen-year-old Andrew Jackson fought in. 

The battle site, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is about a mile and a half from this huge outcropping of rock above Hanging Rock Creek.  This historic area includes the site of James Ingram’s house and is about three miles south of Heath Springs off Highway No. 58.  The property is owned by the State of South Carolina but has not been developed as a battle site.  The site is difficult to locate unless you know where it is.  Some of the area has been vandalized.   

William McDowell and Major William R. Davie were commanders of part of the colonial forces from South Carolina that surprised the British force and killed or wounded most of them.  William Richardson Davie was born in England in 1756 and came to the Waxhaws in 1764 were his uncle, William Richardson, was a pastor.  Davie’s tombstone marker and grave are at the Waxhaws Presbyterian Church cemetery.  He served as Governor of North Carolina and was founder of the University of North Carolina.  His plantation was named Tivoli at Landsford in Chester County, South Carolina, and was the assembly point for the colonials.  He died in 1820.  

Colonel Robert Erwin commanded the Mecklenburg North Carolina Militia in the Battle of Hanging Rock.  He was the son of William Erwin and was born August 20, 1738, in Chester, Pennsylvania, and died December 23, 1800, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.  He is buried at Steele Creek Presbyterian Church.  He married Mary Alexander, who was born in 1754, in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  In the Battle of Hanging Rock, the center consisted of Colonel Irwin’s Mecklenburg Militia that made the first attack.     

Participating in the Mecklenburg Militia were the Carothers brothers: Robert, James, and John - sons of John Carothers and Sarah Neely of Pennsylvania.  The three brothers are documented as recipients of U. S. Government pensions for their service in this battle.  The Ervin (Irvin) name has been used for many generations in the Carothers family.  This is an indication of the high regard the family had for Colonel Robert Ervin (later promoted to General), their military leader as well as community leader and Presbyterian Elder. 

Reference is made to U. S. Pension Application #8182 and also to Soldiers from North Carolina in the Revolutionary War.  Also refer to D.A.R. National File numbered 532103.


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