Not long after reading Ilario Pantano’s Grand Theft History, I came across the history of the Second Spartans, a South Carolina patriot militia regiment formed during the American Revolution. The beauty of the Second Spartans is that it was made up of men drawn from the northwest section of South Carolina (Union, Chester, Fairfield, York counties/districts to name a few) who were there during those critical years when the British initiated their Southern strategy against the colonies of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, and they were there at that last critical juncture beginning with Patrick Ferguson’s defeat at King’s Mountain, which Lord Clinton, commander-in-chief of British forces, said put in motion a “chain of events that followed each other in regular succession until they at last ended in the total loss of America.” This timely publication of Oscar and Catherine Gilbert’s True For The Cause of Liberty dovetailed sweetly with Pantano’s book.
The co-authors’ individual talents dovetail nicely, too, which, no doubt, explains this exceptional work; he at one time a Marine Corps artilleryman with an interest in battlefield history, she a genealogist. Together, their interests testify to hours upon hours of research required for deciphering the battle actions—some, such as Cowpens, with contradictory accounts—and the painstaking scouring of pension applications and family histories, letters, and diaries reiterated in the book to create a remarkable look at what proved to be the strategic scenario that convinced Lord Cornwallis he really did need to get out of the Carolinas and ultimately convinced mother England she’d be better served without this entire war.
I stated in an earlier post that I knew the war in the South to have been particularly nasty. This book, drawn from the statements of the men who actually fought it, leaves the reader with no doubt as to just how nasty. It also speaks of dedication, determination, and sacrifice. In their struggle against the king and his agents, these men had to leave their families vulnerable to their loyalist counterparts, British regulars, and Britain’s Indian allies, and there were many, many militias throughout the South, so take this sketch of the Second Spartans and magnify it a hundred times. It was no easy decision and no small sacrifice, and the bloody battles, skirmishes, revenge killings, retribution, hangings, tortures, rapes, and pillaging went on, constantly, for years—even well after the war.
For the purposes of this blog post—one in an ongoing series to do justice to the South’s role in the founding of this nation and in securing that nation in the aftermath, and to emphasize my unwavering belief in the Confederacy’s place as the true link to our Founders’ lost Republic, I direct readers to the “Author’s Preface.” There note is made of the systematic marginalization of Southern history since the mid-nineteenth century (before South Carolina seceded). After the secession crisis and the South’s defeat, the South’s role in the Revolutionary War was relegated to only a few lines of text in mainstream history books, and it’s been shrinking since.
To their credit, for it’s not the purpose of their book, the only place the authors point out the current injustice being fomented against the South is in the preface. [Pointing out the current injustice is my purpose in writing this post.] That said, general lovers of American history and of the Revolution—and I refer to those without an agenda either for or against the South—will find much of value in this well-written, fast-paced work. Truly, there is never a dull moment, and there is so much to learn and questions answered—like “How, when all the battles were fought and won in the north, did Cornwallis manage to get himself surrounded in Yorktown, Virginia? And why, with Cornwallis’ surrender, did the British just up and say, “We don’t want to play anymore, we’re going home”? I mean, really, our history books make that surrender of Cornwallis sound as if we’d razed London itself. He surrendered one army. Clinton was still alive and kicking in New York.
Yes, there’s a lot more to the Revolutionary story on, actually, both sides of the Atlantic, and it’s been missing from the mainstream for a long time now—and a big chunk of that missing narrative lies in the South.
Thanks for reading,