The American Revolution in South Carolina

Congaree River

October 31, 1775

Patriot Cdr:

Lt. Thomas Charlton
Loyalist Cdr:

Patrick Cunningham






Old District: 

Orangeburgh District
Present County:

Lexington County

In hopes to avert an outbreak of Indian raids and to appease the Cherokees, South Carolina President Henry Laurens sent 1,000 pounds of gunpowder upcountry for them to use for hunting, and for good will. This powder and associated lead for making shot was escorted by a detachment of the SC 3rd Regiment of Rangers under the command of Lt. Thomas Charlton.

Loyalists learned of this and they sent Patrick Cunningham to intercept the shipment. He stopped the first wagon which was driven by Moses Cotter at the Congarees. Cunningham asked Cotter what he had in the wagon, to which he replied "just some rum." Sixty Loyalists then rose up from the nearby fields and swarmed the wagon. They removed kegs of powder and dumped it into bags they had earlier prepared, then they cut the lead bars into smaller pieces with their tomahawks and passed them around.

Lt. Charlton and his Rangers soon appeared and Cunningham's men hid in the trees until he arrived and then they surrounded him. He was greatly outnumbered and facing rifles at point-blank range, so he quickly surrendered. The Loyalists then marched off with their loot and their Ranger prisoners. Moses Cotter drove his wagon to Ninety-Six and reported the incident to Major James Mayson, the commander of the fort.

Four days later, Major Andrew Williamson of the Ninety-Six District Regiment of Militia learned of this incident and called out his men. They marched to Ninety-Six with the stated objective of retrieving the gunpowder, but also used this as an excuse to round up local Loyalists.

The following affadavit, to be found on page 97 of William Moultrie's Memoirs (1802), gives an account of the seizure at Mine Creek:

South Carolina, Ninety-Six District

Personally appeared before me, James Mayson, one of his majesty's justices of the peace, for the district aforesaid: Moses Cotter, of the Congarees, waggoner, who being duly sworn on the holy evangelist, of Almighty God, makes oath, and says, that on Tuesday morning last, at about 9 o'clock he left the Congarees, with his waggon, containing the ammunition that was delivered him in Charlestown, by the honorable the council of safety, to carry to Keowee under an escort of Col. Thomson's rangers consisting of Lt. Charlton and Mr. Uriah Goodwin, a cadet, 2 sergeants, and 18 privates, and continued on their journey there, without the least molestation or interruption, until about noon this day, when the deponent perceiving some men on horseback, ahead of the waggon, came towards him; a few minutes after, two of Patrick Cunningham's men, coming up to the deponent and asking him what he had in the waggon, the deponent answered, rum; Then up came a large body of armed men, in number, I suppose, at least one hundred and fifty, headed by Patrick Cunningham and Jacob Bowman. Cunningham ordered his men to halt, and then came up to the deponent and said, I order you to stop your waggon in his majesty's name, as I understand you have ammunition for the Indians to kill us, and I am come on purpose to take it all in his majesty's name. He then ordered the deponent to take off the waggon cloth, which he refused; upon which Cunningham mounted the waggon himself, loosed the strings of the cloth and took up a keg of the powder; 'there,' said he, 'is what we are in search of.' I immediately took the keg from him and laid it in the waggon. Cunningham said, 'it is in vain for you to attempt to hinder us from taking this ammunition, as you have no arms;' then he handed out every keg to his men who were along side the waggon and prepared his bags to receive it; after they finished with the powder, he, with messrs Griffin and Owen, and several others, took out the lead which they unfolded, cut into small pieces with their tomahawk's, and distributed it among the men. When the rangers were at some distance behind the waggon, and were riding up pretty fast, Cunningham's party said, 'there comes the liberty caps; damn their liberty caps, we will soon blow them to hell'; and such like scurrilous language. Cunningham's men, as soon as Lt. Charlton came up with his guard, retreated behind the trees on the road side, and called out to him to stop and not to advance one step further, otherwise they would blow out his brains; at the same time, a gun was fired by one of their men, but did no damage. Lt. Charlton, with his men, were soon surrounded by the opposite party, with their rifles presented, who said, 'don't move a step; deliver up your arms, otherwise we will immediately fire upon you.' Lt. Charlton continued moving on, when Cunningham's men marched up to him, with their rifles presented at him, and repeated, 'deliver up your arms without moving one step further, or you are a dead man'; they then took his arms, together with his men's; afterward they tied Lt. Charlton, Mr. Goodwin, and William Witherspoon, a private, by their arms.

Lt. Charlton seemed very much displeased at their behavior, and said 'he would rather have been shot, than used in such a manner, had he expected it; that he did not value his own life; thought he had acted prudently by not ordering his men to fire on them, as it would be throwing away their lives, without answering any good purpose; especially as their party were so numerous, that he was sorry to see them behave in such a base manner, and that he would very willingly turn out his pary against twice the number of theirs, and give them battle.' Cunningham and Bowman, some little time after asked Lt. Charlton, 'whether if they were to unloose him he would be upon his honor, not to go off;' to which he replied, 'I scorn to run, and all your force cannot make me;' they then marched off with the ammunition, and the 'prisoners," (as they called them), and left the deponent, desiring him to return to the Congarees; but as soon as they were out of sight he took a horse from out the waggon and came to Ninety-Six, to inform me of what had happened, and where he arrived this night about 8 o'clock. This unfortunate accident of taking the ammunition, happened 18 miles below Ninety-Six.

Moses Cotter

Sworn, before me, this

3d of Nov. 1775

James Mayson, J.P.

This incident is the same as that called Mine Creek, which allegedly happened on November 3rd. Interesting that two different accounts put the incident on different dates and in completely different locations.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

SC 3rd Regiment detachment led by Lt. Thomas Charlton, with 22 men

Moses Cotter - wagon driver (civilian)

Patrick Cunningham

Approximately 60 Loyalists 

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