Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tarleton's Southside Virginia Raid

Sometimes the places you read about during your research are just as interesting as the people.

How many of you saw the movie, The Patriot?  Remember how evil British Colonel Tavington was? Tavington was a fictional character based in part on Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton served under Lord Cornwallis during the American War of Independence. Like Tavington, Tarleton adhered to the concept of "total war" (civilians who helped the enemy were the enemy), but, apparently, with a "kind spirit" -- whatever that means!

Jason Isaacs as Col Tavington (photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)
The real Lt Col Banastre Tarleton (image courtesy of
The book, Notes on Southside Virginia, by Walter Allen Watson, describes Tarleton's Revolutionary War raid:

"Cornwallis' order to Lt Col Tarleton, dated 8 Jul 1781, directed him to set out the next day on his raid of Southside Virginia. The force consisted of "the corps of cavalry and mounted infantry under your command" and the destination was Prince Edward Courthouse, and from thence to New London in Bedford County" The object was the destruction of the military stores, to cripple the subsistence of Greene's army in Carolina.  The order set forth, "all public stores of corn and provisions are to be burned, and if there should be a quantity of provisions or corn collected at a private house. . .destroy it, leaving enough for the support of the family," etc.: "all persons of consequence, civil or military, brought to me before they are paroled."

Tarleton's force consisted of the British Legion and 80 mounted infantry (the returns of the surrender at Yorktown show 241 men in the Legion.) A detachment was left at Suffolk to receive him on his return; also to intercept any American light troops on the way northward from Carolina, or any British prisoners. The command left Cobham on 9 Jul 1781 and made long movements in the mornings and evenings, thus avoiding heat and darkness. The troops soon reached Petersburg and advanced to Prince Edward Courthouse, and from there toward the Dan River. The stores, which were the principal object of the expedition, had been sent from Prince Edward to Hillsboro and Greene's army about a month before. Tarleton halted two days in Bedford. He returned by a different route, completing an expedition of 400 miles in 15 days, and rejoined the troops at Suffolk.

Tarleton's dragoons captured old James Cooke at Jennings Ordinary. He lived there at the time and was perhaps the first resident of the Ordinary. A dragoon make Cooke mount behind him on the horse and carried him to Tarleton's headquarters, which were then at the home of old Charles Knight, who lived at Burkeville. On the way, the soldier took Cooke's silver shoe and knee buckles. At headquarters, Tarleton made the man restore them and sent Cooke home. The soldier, however, waylaid him on the return and got the buckles.

The wife of Col Ben Ward was captured just above Burkeville in her carriage, endeavoring to escape to relatives in Charlotte with her fine equipage and personal effects. She was pillaged by some dragoons. Captain Fowlkes' brother witnessed the act from a tree top nearby.

Burke Tavern
Photo courtesy of the Nottoway Historical Association
On leaving the Ordinary, after deploying toward what is now Jetersville, they flushed Col William Craddock. The British pursued him from his home in hot haste until he was forced to take shelter, with his horse, in a barn on the road to Jetersville. Here the troops passed him, but he was fearful lest his horse should neigh to those passing and so reveal his presence. He escaped.

Old Map of Nottoway County
The British encountered Peter Francisco at West Creek. They burned Daniel Jones' mill at Mount Airy on West Creek and old Amelia Courthouse, together with part or all the records. They also burned a granary on the Richmond road near Mannsboro. Charred wheat from it is still preserved, and some was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. The British followed the Namozine road towards Petersburg and Chesterfield Courthouse.

My grandmother thinks Tarleton behaved, in the main, generously towards the inhabitants during the raid. He visited Captain Jo Fowlkes' mother, a widow, who lived in Prince Edward, and turned a chair down for a pillow and lay on the floor to rest. He set guards to watch and did not allow anything to be molested. He would always rebuke his men for depredations and in many instances showed a kind spirit."
W. R. Turner's book, Old Homes and Families in Nottoway, describes Jennings Ordinary:
Jennings Ordinary in Nottoway County was first settled by Col William Jennings, who was born in England and died in Amelia, now Nottoway County, in 1775. The house in which Col Jennings lived is still standing, an old tavern from which Jennings Ordinary received its name. Col Jennings married Mary Jan Pulliam of Hanover County in 1724. He is supposed to have been the heir to the Jennings fortune about which there has been so much litigation in recent years.
 I wrote about the inheritance here and here.

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