The Battle of Lenud's Ferry

May 6, 1780 at Lenud's Ferry, South Carolina

The Battle of Lenud's Ferry was fought in present-day Berkeley County, South Carolina. All of the "British" soldiers who took part in the battle were Loyalists who had been born and raised in the colony of South Carolina, with the sole exception being their commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. The unit was known as the Loyalist British Legion, under the command of Tarleton.

The Loyalist British Legion scattered a company of Patriot militia at Lenud's Ferry, a crossing point on the Santee River, north of which lies present-day Georgetown County.

Facts about the Battle of Lenud's Ferry

  • American Forces was commanded by Col. William Washington and consisted of about 350 Soldiers.
  • American Casualties were estimated to be 41 killed/wounded and 67 captured. British casualties were 2 killed.
  • British Forces was commanded by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton and consisted of about 150 Soldiers.
  • British Casualties were 2 killed.
  • Outcome of the Battle was a British victory.
  • The battle was part of the Southern Theater 1775-82.


General Henry Clinton arrived before Charleston, South Carolina in late March 1780, and began siege preparations as the opening move in British plan to gain control over North and South Carolina. The city was defended by Continental Army troops under the command of Major General Benjamin Lincoln.

Many of the Americans fighting in the battle of Lenud's Ferry were survivors of the Battle of Monck's Corner.

As part of his plan to cut off Lincoln's avenues of escape from Charleston, Clinton sent out troops under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis to identify places to impede or block potential Continental Army movements north of the city. Cornwallis stationed himself near the forks of the Wando River, and sent out patrols to watch the area.

Lieutenant Colonel William Washington's company of Patriot cavalry had been scattered by Tarleton and the British Legion at Monck's Corner in mid-April. These troops regrouped several weeks later north of the Santee River, where they came under the command of Colonel Anthony Walton White, who had recently arrived with a company of dragoons from Virginia.

On May 5, White crossed the Santee on a probe to the south, while Col. Abraham Buford remained on the north side. They captured 18 British soldiers about four miles north of Awendaw Creek, and returned to the Santee at Lenud's Ferry with their prisoners.

Tarleton happened to be on a patrol with 150 dragoons heading toward Lenud's Ferry when he learned from a local Loyalist of the Patriot movements.

Battle Begins

On May 6, Colonel White and his troops captured 18 British light infantrymen from Tarleton's command at Wambaw, the plantation of Colonel Elias Ball. The Continentals then circled southeast and headed for Lenud's Ferry on the Santee River.

Colonel White was to meet Colonel Abraham Buford and 350 men of his 3rd Virginia Continental Regiment and a small body of Lieutenant Colonel William Washington's cavalry.

Buford's force was headed to reinforce the American garrison at Charleston when he learned of the town's surrender. He was then ordered by Brigadier General Isaac Huger to withdraw his men to Hillsboro, North Carolina.

Smarting from the loss of some of his men at Wambaw Plantation, Tarleton proceeded after Lieutenant Colonel Anthony White who had retreated to Lenud’s Ferry on the Santee River where the remaining American cavalry.

As Tarleton was moving north with 150 dragoons, he received information about the strength and movement of the Americans from a Tory who had witnessed the action at Ball's plantation. The Tory gave him accurate information about the composition of the Americans and their movement toward Lenud's Ferry, some 200 to 300, under Lt. Col. Washington and Colonel Peter Horry were gathering.

At about 3:00 P.M., Tarleton attacked White as he was about to join up with Buford near Lenud's Ferry. The Continentals were caught completely by surprise by a British charge. Many of Buford's men were across the river at the ferry and could do nothing to help their fellow Americans.

What Americans which were not killed or wounded, were scattered or made prisoner. A number escaped, including Washington, White, Jameson, and Horry by abandoning their horses and swimming the river, with several drowning in the process.

White was one of them and made it across. The Americans had a group of British prisoners with them and were about to ferry them across. Instead, Tarleton was able to free them.

The Americans lost all their horses, arms, and accouterments. In casualties, the Americans lost 41 men killed and wounded 67 dragoons taken prisoner. About 100 horses fell into Tarleton's hands, who was in much need of them to further better mount his men. British light infantry who had been taken prisoner were rescued.

British lost 2 men and four horses in the action, though as well another 20 horses expired from fatigue.


Cornwallis claimed that this action,

"totalled demolished their Cavalry"

The battle showed that the British had control over the northern escape routes from the city of Charleston.

On May 12, Lincoln surrendered the city and his army, more than 5,000 men.

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