Buchanan (former archivist at Cornell and the Metropolitan Museum of Art) reminds us that the war for the southern colonies, a struggle "long, bloody, and obstinate," was of crucial importance to the revolution's outcome, yet it has received less attention than some of the northern campaigns. Determined to regain the rich Carolina farmland, the British, under Lord Cornwallis, combined their forces with considerable numbers of local Tories. They eventually captured Charleston and destroyed the American forces at the battle of Camden (largely because of the inept leadership of General Horatio Gates). Tarleton's hated British Legion rode roughshod over the countryside, launching repeated swift, brutal attacks against civilians and militias, burning homes, confiscating livestock, and hanging some who resisted. The violence only rekindled opposition among Carolinians, who flocked to such ingenious guerrilla chiefs as Thomas Sumter, Dan Morgan, and Francis (the "Swamp Fox") Marion. Their groups constantly harassed both the crack British regulars and the Tory militia. Buchanan vigorously describes the nature of guerrilla warfare in the South, and traces the series of skirmishes waged by rejuvenated American forces, culminating in the great American victory at Kings Mountain.The battles of Cowpens and Guilford Court House, although technically victories for the British, proved to be the last gasp for the Crown's badly damaged forces. Buchanan provides fine sketches of the many remarkable men who fought on both sides during the campaign, and vivid descriptions of 18th-century warfare.
A tense, exciting historical account of a little-known chapter of the Revolution, displaying history writing at its best.