Mary, Soldier Tom and other family at Thomas Sumter’s house when the British arrive in May 1780:

A cursory review of “Thomas Sumter” by Anne King Gregory and “African-American Patriots in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution” by Bobby G. Ross and Michael C Scoggins reveals some interesting facts about the home of one of the heroes of the War of Independence in South Carolina.

Thomas Sumter, also known as the “Gamecock”, owned a trading post and home near the Santee River Crossing at Nelson’s Ferry, SC.  He also owned a home in the “High Hills of the Santee” located in Stateburg, SC. This is thought to have been a vacation home of sorts to retreat from the heat of the low country, where malaria is rampant at certain times of the year.

In May of 1780 Tarleton was in pursuit of Colonel Buford and Governor Rutledge as they were attempting to flee the state just after the fall of Charleston.  As Tarleton’s men came near Sumter’s home in the High Hills, Captain Charles Campbell was dispatched to find Sumter and burn the home.  Campbell failed in the former, but completed the latter.  Campbell’s men left Sumter’s invalid wife, Mary, seated outside with a ham placed under her chair.  The ham being the small relief of an otherwise desperate day.

Tom Sumter Jr. was there when the British arrived.  He was a young lad of about 12-13 years of age.  He actually heard that the red-coats were coming up the road and warned his father in time for him to get away.

A neighbor girl, Nancy Davis, was there helping keep house for Mary.  She went about locking up various doors and outbuildings before the British Legion rode into the yard.  In an effort to keep the valuables from falling into the enemy hands she threw the key away in the yard before they arrived.

A frail young man by the name of Archie Henson was doing carpentry work on the property when he was accosted by members of the Legion.  They jeered him for being so weak looking. Whether he lashed out at them is uncertain, but the incident resulted in him immediately joining the Patriot cause.

Polly, an African-American woman, was listed as a servant of General Sumter.

Mack Sumter was a 15-year-old body-servant to General Sumter who was later given to Tom Jr. He is listed in Moss and Scoggins’ book as “Uncle” Mack Sumter.

Soldier Tom was the personal manservant for Thomas Sumter.  He was born in Africa and became Sumter’s slave before the revolution.  He was with Sumter in all of his campaigns and helped in his recovery after the General was shot at the battle of Blackstocks, SC in November 1780.

Edmund  is listed as a son of Soldier Tom and was therefore a body-servant to the General as well.

What gets lost in the broad strokes of history are the smaller details.  Thanks to the work of the authors mentioned, we know something about these real-life participants.  The struggles were tough and complex and varied from person to person. 

Freedom Reigns at EKBarnes.com.

“Thomas Sumter” by Anne King Gregory

“African-American Patriots in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution” by Bobby G. Ross and Michael C Scoggins

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