The final resolution of back country Tory resistance at the opening of the American Revolution in the South.
This was the high point of Tory resistance in the Back Country in 1775. The treaty was not worth the paper it was written on, because the Rebels refused to recognize it. On 30 November Colonel Richardson held a council of war at which it was decided that the army was not bound by the treaty Major Williamson had signed. On 8 December Richardson issued a proclamation stating that Patrick Cunningham and others had violated the Drayton and Fletchall Treaty of Ninety Six, and demanded they surrender the captured arms and powder and the arms and ammunition of their followers. Richardson gave them five days to comply. Otherwise, “I shall be under a necessity of taking such steps as will be found disagreeable but which I shall certainly put in execution for the public good.” Patrick Cunningham spurned the proclamation. Richardson, true to his word, marched on the insurgents.
It was a walkover. Richardson had built up an army of between 4,000 and 5,000 militiamen and state troops from the Low Country, the Back Country, and North Carolina. This was a very large force for the time and place, and it had the intended effect, both military and psychological. Meeting little resistance, Richardson’s army swept through Tory strongholds. He reported to the Council of Safety that the army “proved to them what government can do in putting down opposition. That . . . they are much terrified and come in with fear and trembling—giving up their arms, with contrition for their late conduct.” The “great and mighty nabob,” Thomas Fletchall, was found hiding inside a hollow sycamore tree, all 280 pounds of him, and sent under arrest to Charleston. Only Patrick Cunningham and some two hundred diehards held out. They fled westward, just inside Cherokee country, and camped “at a place called the Great Cane Break on Reedy River.” Colonel Richardson had no intention of allowing what William Henry Drayton called “this nest of sedition and of turbulent spirits” to go free. On the afternoon of 21 December he detached from the army 1,300 cavalry and infantry under the command of Colonel William Thompson. Readers will remember “Old Danger” from the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. After a twenty-three-mile march, in the wee hours of the following day they could see Cunningham’s campfires about two miles away. Just before daybreak they moved out and attempted to surround the camp. They had almost succeeded when they were discovered. Some Tories fled through the gap in Rebel lines. Of the 200 about seventy got away, including Patrick Cunningham, who had not even time to saddle a horse but galloped off bareback. According to Rebel sources, he called out for every man “to shift for himself.” The rest were taken prisoner, along with all the baggage, arms, and ammunition. The Tories lost five or six killed; the Rebels had one wounded.