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American Withdrawal

General Greene was faced with a difficult decision at this juncture. On the one hand a desperate charge by his Continentals, or even a determined stand in their established position, might conceivably have shattered the little English force already weakened by extensive casualties. Either of these courses, however, involved the risk of sacrificing completely, or materially weakening, his two small brigades of regulars—the only thoroughly dependable force in his entire command.

On the other hand, a general retirement from the field with his remaining troops involved no risk and would leave him situated to renew the contest at his own discretion. His Continentals had not, thus far, suffered many casualties. They were entirely under control and fully capable of immediate or future action. He was fully aware that much further campaigning would be necessary if the South were to be redeemed from British domination. He had dealt a blow to his adversary while suffering little himself. He therefore ordered a general retreat, leaving to his enemy the field of conflict and hence the claim to victory.

British arms had gained another hard-fought field. Disciplined, organized, regular troops had triumphed again over greatly superior numbers of raw militia. No more than this had been accomplished. A victory had been won, but won at such cost that it could not be exploited. Of the entire British force at the beginning of the battle, nearly 600, or more than one-fourth of the whole, were casualties at its close 2-1/2 hours later.

The Americans, on the other hand, suffered only about half as many casualties. A large number of men were missing, principally from among the troops of the first line, but the majority of these found their way back to the army within a few days.


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