on-line book icon

table of contents

National Military Park
NPS logo

Scene at the Battle of Camden, August 16, 1780, which gave the British almost complete control of South Carolina.
From a painting by Chappel. Courtesy The Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Whigs and Tories in 1780

The British victories at Charleston and Camden in the summer of 1780 increased the bitter strife between the loyalists (Tories) and the patriots (Whigs) in the South. Both groups had been active in partisan warfare since the invasion of Georgia in 1778. Cornwallis' march through South Carolina greatly encouraged the Tories. Many of them from the coastal and interior regions of the Carolinas now joined him as active recruits. Overawed by British force, other inhabitants of this area renewed their allegiance to the King or remained neutral to escape damage to themselves and their property. To counteract the Loyalist movement, daring partisan leaders including Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens, now took the leadership in strengthening Whig resistance. Desperate and unexpected assaults by day and night upon the advancing British and their outposts quickly began throughout the lowlands and upcountry. While Cornwallis was gathering supporters by threats and force or by allowing only Loyalists to trade, the Whigs remained steadfast in their devotion to personal and political freedom. Soon the merciless nature of the Tory attacks upon outlying Whig settlements and Whig guerrilla fighters so disgusted the neutral citizens of the region that many of them turned to the Whig cause.

The seriousness of the day-to-day combat between Whig and Tory in the Carolinas is shown in a military report of the time:

The animosity between the Whigs and Tories of this State renders their situation truly deplorable. There is not a day passes but there are more or less who fall a sacrifice to this savage disposition. The Whigs seem determined to extirpate the Tories and the Tories the Whigs. Some thousands have fallen in this way in this quarter, and the evil rages with more violence than ever. If a stop cannot be put to these massacres, the country will be depopulated in a few months more, as neither Whig nor Tory can live.

The southern Whigs included among their numbers both rich and poor. They were people who placed principle above personal gain. They came, or were descended from people who had come, from Western Europe to America to escape religious and civil persecution and to find a new life where the dignity of the individual would be respected.

Among these immigrants were numerous Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. They had settled first in the eastern sections of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Later, they migrated in considerable numbers to the interior of the Carolinas and present-day eastern Tennessee. As they cleared new land for settlement and established their churches, they enjoyed for the first time complete religious and civil liberty. Moreover, they believed in the family as the important unit in all human life and patterned their lives accordingly. The invasion of the South now threatened to destroy their democratic society. They also feared it would lead to the loss of their hard-won individual liberty and force them to give up their right to develop the frontier and its resources as they wished.

Recruits for the British Army.
Drawing by H. W. Bunbury, London, 1780. Courtesy New York Public Library.


top of page

History  |   Links to the Past  |   National Park Service  |   Search  |   Contact

Last Modified: Mon, Dec 2 2002 10:00:00 am PDT

ParkNet Home