The American Revolution in South Carolina

Parker's Ferry #2

August 31, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Brigadier General
Francis Marion
British Cdr:

Lt. Col. Ernst Leopold
von Borck






Old District: 

Charles Town District
Present County:

Colleton County/
Dorchester County

This Author has seen both August 30th and August 31st as the date for this engagement. The local historical marker says the engagement occurred on August 30th, but many pensioners later said August 31st.

Robert D. Bass asserted in his 1959 book, entitled, "Swamp Fox," that this engagement happened much earlier, on August 13th, and that Marion had but 200 men. In his notes later in the same book, he also states it probably happened on August 31st.
Brigadier General Francis Marion with a large force of his Patriots, including men from Col. William Harden, ambushed a large force of British and Loyalist militia (over 650) led by Lt. Col. Ernst Leopold von Borck, killing and wounding a considerable amount of them.
After the aborted ambush at Godfrey's Savannah on August 27th, Brigadier General Francis Marion sent Lt. Col. Peter Horry to Chehaw where there were three British schooners taking on rice, guarded by thirty men. The British heard Lt. Col. Horry's approach and sailed downriver before the Patriots arrived.

Brigadier General Marion also sent out other patrols to reconnoiter British positions and they found the enemy too strong to attack. He then decided to ambush them on the causeway leading to Parker's Ferry. That night he placed men on the causeway to observe the British movements. A British patrol came out looking for Brigadier General Marion's force and the men moved off the causeway. The British were not able to find the Patriot camp in the dark, so they rode on to Hyrne's Plantation.

The next morning, Brigadier General Marion followed and put his men in a line of battle along the tree line. A few long-range shots wounded two British soliders, but they did not fall for the bait and were not lured out into an ambush. After two hours of sniping the Patriots returned to their camp.

On August 29th, the British moved to Hayne's Plantation and Brigadier General Marion followed again. Still looking for a fight, he set up his camp only five miles away. On the 31st, Brigadier General Marion concealed his men in a swamp beside the causeway. He had Col. William Harden's men move back 100 yards from the ambush line so they could be used as reserves. Major Samuel Cooper and sixty swordsmen were told to attack the rear of the enemy after the ambush was initiated. They then waited for the enemy to appear.

Lt. Col. Ernst Leopold von Borck left Hayne's Plantation in mid-afternoon with his infantry. He had two pieces of artillery in front of the column while Major Thomas Fraser and his mounted SC Royalists were in the rear of the column. It was almost dark when they stumbled into a firefight between Brigadier General Marion's men and handful of Loyalist that had just discovered them. Lt., Col. von Borck ordered Major Fraser to drive off the Patriots.

Major Fraser sent Lt. Stephen Jarvis charging forward while he placed three other divisions on the road, and to the left and right of the road. Brigadier General Marion's mounted men charged Lt. Jarvis, who reversed course quickly. Major Fraser believed that these were Col. William Harden's men and ordered his cavalry in full gallop to intercept them.

Brigadier General Marion now had the enemy right where he wanted them. He signaled his hidden men, and instantly Major Fraser's horsemen were surrounded. At a distance of 40 yards, the Patriots opened up with buckshot and the dragoons went down.

Major Fraser rallied his men and tried to charge, but the Patriots delivered a second volley, and then a third. There was no way for Major Fraser to attack in the swamp, so he had to withdraw down the causeway, down the length of the ambush. Capt. Archibald Campbell was wounded twice. Major Fraser was badly bruised when his horse was killed and the rest of his cavalry rode over him as he lay in the road. Brigadier General Marion reported that 20 Loyalist dragoons and 23 horses were dead on the spot.

The Patriots continued to occupy the causeway for three more hours until Brigadier General Marion saw a large body of infantry with a field piece coming their way. His riflemen fired upon the field piece, wounding and killing many accompanying it. Brigadier General Marion could have easily slaughtered more of the SC Royalists with his rifles, but he was low on ammunition. His men had also not eaten in 24 hours, so he had them all just slip away into the swamp.

Brigadier General Marion lost one man killed. Col. William Stafford lost three wounded.

The British evacuated the area and moved back to snug Charlestown. Brigadier General Marion sent a party after them and found 40 dead horses on the road. He then returned "home" with his prisoners.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Brigadier General Francis Marion - Commanding Officer

Lower Craven County Regiment of Militia led by Col. John Ervin and Major Samuel Cooper, with 200 men

Horry's Light Dragoons (Militia) detachment led by Lt. Col. Peter Horry, with 15 men

Lower Granville County Regiment of Militia led by Col. William Stafford, with 150 men, and three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Charles DuPont
- Capt. John Leacraft
- Capt. William Maynor

Upper Granville County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Major Charles Harden, with 80 men

Kershaw Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. William Nettles

Total Patriot Forces - 445

Lt. Col. Ernst Leopold von Borck - Commanding Officer

30th Regiment of Foot - "Unknown," with 150 men

Artillery - "Unknown"

Hesse-Kassel Fusilier Regiment von Ditfurth led by Lt. Col. Ernst Leopold von Borck with 180 men

SC Royalists led by Major Thomas Fraser with 150 men in the following companies:

SC Light Dragoons - Capt. Archibald Campbell with Lt. Stephen Jarvis

NC Independent Dragoons - Capt. Robert Gillies

Queen's Rangers detachment led by Capt. John Saunders with 80 men

Cunningham's Troop of Dragoons Loyalist Militia led by Major William Cunningham with 100 men

Total British/Loyalist Forces - 660

© 2020 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved