|Military Exploits of
For use by McCall's State Dragoons Living Historians (AKA 3d CLD)
by Ron Crawley
James McCall was born August 11, 1741. His parents, James and Janet Harris McCall, immigrated from Ireland, likely Scots Irish, and began farming on Conachcocheque Creek, Pennsylvania about 1730. The family moved to New River, Virginia about 1750 but left for Anson County, North Carolina about 1760 to escape Indian attacks in the area. James McCall, Sr. had a brother, Thomas, who settled in the same county (now Mecklenburg) on the Reedy Creek whose daughter, Elizabeth, married James McCall (Jr.) in 1763.
Around 1770, James McCall (Jr.) and Elizabeth, with three children, moved to the Calhoun settlement on Little River (a branch of Long Cane Creek) in what is now Abbeville County, South Carolina. It is said that James became a captain of “SC Minute Men” in 1774 and a captain of “SC Rangers” in 1775. Both units are likely to be part of the patrols that regularly guarded the Indian frontier in the Western Carolinas. James went on to fight for the Patriot cause in at least 18 engagements, in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, rising in rank from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel of SC State Troops, and was wounded during the battle at Long Cane. Elizabeth gave birth to five more children before her husband's untimely death of smallpox in April-May of 1781.
During the period of the American Revolution, James McCall and his men were in the engagements at Ninety-Six (1775), Cherokee Nation, the Third Florida Expedition, Kettle Creek (GA), Fort Anderson, Old Iron Works, Musgrove's Mill, Fishdam Ford, Blackstock's, Rutledge Ford, Augusta (GA), Long Cane, Hammonds Store, Cowpens, Harts Mill (NC), Pyle's Defeat (NC), Wetzel's Mill (NC), and Beattie's Mill as detailed below.
James McCall appears in a return of Whig militia and volunteers on duty in a fortified camp at Ninety-Six, 19 November 1775 under the command of Major Andrew Williamson. McCall commanded the largest single group (3 officers, 3 sergeants, and 48 privates) in this camp of 564 men. The camp was under siege by Loyalists for two days after which Williamson agreed to a surrender and his men were sent home unmolested. Note: In some accounts he is mistakenly identified as a commander of "Georgia Militia."
On 20 June 1776, Captain James McCall was entrusted with a mission to lead a party of 33 men into the Cherokee Nation to capture Alexander Cameron, the appointed agent by the British government for the Cherokees. He was to proceed in a friendly and hospitable manner and, on 26 June, entered a large town (perhaps near modern Clemson) and arranged a conference with several leaders. As the discussion began, McCall and his interpreter were taken prisoner and two hundred warriors attacked the camp. The men managed to cut their way out of the ambush and return home several days later but McCall was held for some weeks. More than once, he was forced to witness executions of his men (one of whom was a 12 year old boy). He effected his escape, traversing the mountains for 300 miles on horseback, riding without a saddle, until he entered Virginia and fell in with a body of Virginian troops and returned to SC. (Click here for an account of this event from "South Carolina and the American Revolution")
In 1778, Georgia troops under Governor John Houston and South Carolina troops under Colonel Andrew Pickens, teamed with Georgia and South Carolina continentals under the overall command of General Howe and traveled toward St. Augustine in the Florida Expedition. Sporadic fighting began soon after crossing the St. Mary’s River. Skirmishing occurred 29 - 30 June on the flanks of the advancing Whigs. Then, on 1 July, a significant force of British Regulars surprised a group of Americans that were, essentially, rear echelon support. This was the biggest battle of the Third Florida Expedition. As the days wore on the food ran out and expected relief never showed up. Over a period of days in the middle of July the Whig forces began the long trip back to Savannah.
About 700 Tories from South and North Carolina, under the command of Colonel James Boyd set up camp at Kettle Creek in Georgia on 14 February 1779. An earlier skirmish at Vann's Creek alerted Colonels John Dooly and Andrew Pickens to the Loyalist's presence in Wilkes County. With a combined force of South Carolina and Georgians, including Captain James McCall, totaling just 340 men, Colonel Pickens achieved a hard-fought victory for the Patriot cause. (Click here for an excellent account of this battle, the tactics of which were studied afterwards by the US Army).
In June 1780, McCall and several small bands of Georgians, joined Colonel Elijah Clarke's forces who were again moving into South Carolina to join Thomas Sumter on the Catawba River. Sumter sent Clarke to aid in the suppression of Patrick Ferguson's men who were then operating west of the Broad River near Thicketty Creek. At Cherokee Ford, McDowell, Shelby, Clarke, Hampton, and others gathered (some 600 in number) with the intention of taking Fort Anderson. The men holding the fort, 93 Loyalists and one British Sgt-Major, surrendered and were paroled on 30 July 1780.
Colonel McDowell detached Shelby, Clarke, and Graham (about 600 strong) to watch Ferguson's 1,800 troops in present day Union County. McCall and his men were again serving under Clarke at this time. They were soon forced, by superior numbers, out of the area and, on the evening of 7 August 1780, Clarke went into camp on Fair Forest Creek about 2 miles west of Cedar Springs. He was compelled to fall back to the Old Iron Works on Lawson Fork on 8 August. McDowell's total force now numbered about 1000 men which slightly outnumbered the advancing British forces under Major James Dunlop, provincial dragoons and mounted militia. Dunlop commenced the conflict but was beaten back with some difficulty yet, after having been reinforced by Ferguson's entire command, it was soon the Patriots turn to withdraw. The stand-up fight was won by the Patriots but the overall victory fell to the British as they retained the field after forcing McDowell's withdrawal. Note: also known as "Wofford's Iron Works" or "Second Battle of Cedar Springs" or "The Peach Orchard" among other names.
On 17 August 1780, McDowell again detached Shelby and Clarke (including McCall), along with troops under Colonel James Williams who had recently joined the party at Smith's Ford on the Broad River (York County), to attacked Ferguson's garrison at Musgrove's Mill. Some 200 men rode all night to arrive at Musgrove's at dawn the next day. The small garrison had recently been reinforced by Colonel Alexander Innes who led 200 Provincial troops and 100 Tories. The resulting battle ended in a complete rout of the British forces.
After the battle at Musgrove's Mill, Colonel Clarke was determined to return to Georgia and recover a portion of the state which had been his home since 1765. The weakened garrison at Augusta made a likely target and Lieutenant Colonel McCall later joined Clarke, hoping to raise 500 volunteer from his home around Ninety-Six. The area proved to be a Tory stronghold and the few Whigs present were reluctant to violate the paroles that had resulted from their earlier capture. Instead of 500, McCall raised just 80 men and marched to Soap Creek in Georgia, joining Clarke whose command now numbered 350. On 14 September 1780, Clarke was on the outskirts of Augusta and engaged the garrison, 150 Provincial troops and about 200 of their Cherokee allies, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Browne. Browne gained possession of Robert McKay's Trading Post, also known as the "White House", which Clarke surrounded and laid siege for four days until the morning of the 18th. British reinforcements across the river compelled the Patriots to retire, the men scattering across the country side until they rendezvoused with Clarke later in the month.
On the evening of 8 November 1780, Colonel McCall and his party from Long Cane joined General Sumter's camp on the Broad River at Fishdam Ford in present Chester county. Despite the warnings of a reconnaissance party top withdraw across the river, Sumter maintained his camp but put his men on alert. Major James Wemyss and his 63rd Regiment, marching faster than expected, arrived at the ford early on the morning of the 9th and decided to proceed with an attack before sunrise. Driving in the pickets, Wemyss' dragoon found an empty camp with campfires blazing, and became excellent, silhouetted targets for Sumter's men. Wheeling about, the dragoon were joined by dismounted infantry but were forced to withdraw under heavy fire from the front and flanks. Wemyss was wounded early in the engagement and Sumter escaped an assassination attempt by dashing from his tent to the safety of the river bank, leaving both forces without an overall commander. After a 20 minute fire fight the British troops remounted and retreated.
On 20 November 1780, Sumter was encamped at Blackstock's farm near the ford on the Tyger River. Tarleton detached 170 Legion cavalry and 80 mounted Infantry of the 63rd Regiment from his force in an effort to engage the Patriots before they could gain safety by crossing the river. He met a numerically superior (420 men) and well deployed force. McCall and other South Carolinians, led by Sumter himself, held the ground to the right of the house and gained the flank of the attacking infantry. Col. Edward Lacey's mounted infantry dealt a serious blow to the onrushing Legion cavalry and the men of Col. Henry Hampton, secure within the farm buildings, mauled the 63rd. In the end, 192 of Tarleton's men were killed or wounded while Sumter's force suffered one dead and three wounded, one of the wounded being Sumter. That evening, the Patriots slipped across the river and Tarleton claimed the field, and a victory, the next morning.
After the action at Blackstock's Farm, Sumter's command, now under
Edward Lacey, established a camp at Liberty Hill on Turkey Creek (York
County). Clarke and McCall took leave of Lacey and were
determined to move on Ninety Six
and, after a few days rest at Wofford's Iron Works, they headed toward a
Loyalist party at Hoil's (or "Hoyles") Old Place on the Saluda River. Upon learning that the Patriots were approaching, the Tories abandoned the
location and crossed the Saluda at Rutledge's Ford
(or Fort Rutledge), seventeen or eighteen miles down stream. The
opposing parties fought a skirmish across Rutledge Shoals at rifle
range. Although they were separated by the Saluda River, this affair was
conducted in such deadly earnest that several people were killed on both
sides (including Captain Benjamin Hatcher of the Patriot side).
The date of the engagement is not know but has been said to be 1
According to the James McCall Chapter of the DAR (Washington, D.C.) yearbook history:
Col. James McCall "was born in 1746; Prior to the Revolution, he served in an Indian uprising as captain of the South Carolina Rangers. On June 26, 1776, he was taken prisoner by the Indians at Cherokee Town, D.C. Shortly afterward he made his escape. During the Revolution, he served as Lieutenant Colonel of SC Troops under General Thomas Sumter. In December 1780, he was wounded twice; on the 4th, in the area at Rugley's Mills, on the 11th at Long Cane, S.C. Later he narrowly escaped death by entanglement with his falling horse when it was shot from under him. In May 1781, at the age of 35 years he died of small pox. Mrs. Ells Marcus Bull was the Organizing Regent of our chapter which was named after her great grandfather.
(cf. Heitman's Register, pp.383: History of Georgia by Capt. Hugh McCall, written in 1784, McCall, Tidwell and Allied Families by Ettie T. McCall)
[Note: Most accounts show McCall was born in 1741 and NOT 1746. Cherokee Town is obviously not in "D.C." and is believed to have been in vicinity of modern Clemson, SC. McCall was mostly likely not at Rugeley's Mill but this encounter may have been mistaken for Rutledge Ford.]
James McCall, Jr., son of James McCall and Janet Harris McCall, was born in Pennsylvania in 1741. He was taken by his parents to southwestern Virginia about 1750 and then to Mecklenburg County about 1760. He was married there in 1763 to Elizabeth McCall, his cousin, daughter of Thomas McCall and Margaret Greenfield McCall. In 1771 they removed to Calhoun Settlement, South Carolina. In 1774 he was a captain of the South Carolina Minute Men. In 1775 he was a captain in the "South Carolina Rangers," a militia company. He served under Gen. Elijah Clarke in the siege of Augusta, Georgia. He fought in 17 battles, was wounded in the Battle of Long Cane, South Carolina and emerged a lieutenant colonel in the Continental army. He fought with Gen. Marion in the Battle of Cowpens, Battle of 96, Battle of Guilford Courthouse and the Battle of King's Mountain. He died of smallpox April 16, 1781 in Georgia at the age of 40.
[Note: It is believed that McCall's commission was NOT in the Continental Army, but rather a state commission from the SC governor. McCall never fought under Francis Marion, although at times he served under Pickens, Clarke, Sumter, Wm. Washington, and possibly Henry Lee. He was NOT present at Kings Mountain, although he may have been mistaken for a James McCall from Washington County VA who did fight in that engagement. The date of death is questionable but other accounts show he contracted smallpox in GA but died in SC near the home of Dr. Joseph Swearington (or Swearingin).]
This from http://www.net-magic.net/ameliaislanddar/pages/Georgia.html :
Born 11 Aug. 1741 - Died 1 Apr 1781 (May)
Married 1760 to Margaret McCall (his cousin), Born 1745 - Died 1805
James McCall moved to South Carolina during the war years around 1771-1772. He served as a captain in the rangers and was taken prisoner at Cherokee Town on 26 June 1776. Shortly thereafter, he escaped from the Indians. He became a lieutenant colonel in the state troops and was wounded during the battles at Rugeley's Mill on 4 December 1780 and at Long Cane on 11 December, 1780. In addition he was in the siege of Augusta and the battles at Fish Dam Ford, Blackstock's Plantation, Ninety Six and Cowpens. He died during May, 1781, of smallpox.
[Note: With the exception of the mention of "Rugeley's Mill", this seems to an accurate, although far from complete, account]
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