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The Court Martial of General John Ashe

"After the battle there at Briar Creek, we ferried our way across the river best we could with rafts we built and some men even swam across. There was a ferry there that could haul a few men at a time. One officer drowned as he tried to swim across the river.

"After most of the troops was reorganized at Purrysburgh, north of Augusta, where we met up with General Lincoln and camped with his troops there. Once we'd arrived at the camp we learned there was talk of a court martial upon General John Ashe.

"The next day Captain Fall come to me and said 'Samuel, there's to be a trial of General Ashe and I've been asked to testify. I'm to bring one of my men also to affirm my testimony.' So he asked me to testify along with him which I agreed to do. At this time I was a Lieutenant, so I outranked the rest of the men in the company which was the main reason I was chosen I suppose.

"The next mornin' a small group of us officers entered the main camp tent. All the generals was there seated to the side dressed in their finest, their swords all polished. We was still fairly ragged and tired from the long marches, but my clothes was washed in the river the day previous so as to be presentable.

"General Moultrie was the chief judge over the court martial trial and straight off he asked General Ashe if he wished to speak before the witnesses was called and Ashe said 'yes' he did.

"General Ashe spoke a bit about where we was camped, which was between the Briar Creek and the Savannah up a mile, and that the creek was easily crossed in that spot. The left of the camp was beside the creek and the right side was up close to the swamp alongside the river. In advance, up the road, a piquet of men was posted with groups of sentries in advance. This is where I was posted, matter of fact. In the rear, beside the bridge which the British had burned upon their retreat from Augusta, was posted a light infantry company with artillery.

"Ashe went to say that it was scarce an hour before the British came upon us that he learned of their approach. He ordered the drums beat to arms and drew up the men and passed out cartridges and advanced the troops a quarter mile to meet the enemy.

"It was about mid afternoon when the Redcoats came marching down the road, havin' suprised us by coming around our rear by fordin' the creek above us a few miles. At about three hundred yards they commenced to fire, which continued with both small arms and several grasshoppers. After just five minutes our first line broke and ran.

"Ashe made a pause, and said that it was true that he had had little time to prepare for the battle. He had no tools to make entrenchments and we was camped there too short a time to learn the lay of the land. Also he said, the troops was not provided with cartouch boxes to keep their ammunition in. He said that of course that further delayed the readiness for battle. The men was too tired and unprepared for the battle, which is why they quit the field so quick.

"General Ashe said that it was true that he had galloped off at the beginnin' of the battle but that his purpose was to rally the men back to fight that had run. As he saw, and discussed with his officers, it was impossible to rally the troops and he decided that it was best to retreat into the swamp and cross the river to avoid death or capture by the British.

"After General Ashe spoke his peace, they called Ashe's aid de camp - that's the fancy name for assistant - to give his testimony. He remarked that he had been sent off to bring Colonel Lytle to the field and when he returned to the battlefield there was great confusion and the general was tryin' to rally the men. The Georgia troops was still fightin' but the first line had all fled without firin' their weapons he said.

"A couple of officers testified that they also saw Ashe try to rally the men and testified to pretty much the same things which Ashe had said right from the start. My captain, Captain Falls, was asked for his account and said that he had been visitin' with Colonel Lytle by the burned bridge, having just crossed over from General Rutherford's brigade not long before with 15 light horse. They mounted and rushed to the battle and met Ashe about half a mile down the road from the battle. He testified that the General was calm but in a great hurry.

"These first witnesses was all called up by General Ashe and he said that they was all the witnesses he would call but he thought General Bryant might have some testimony to give which the generals agreed to hear.

"General Bryant talked of the state of the encampment and of the lack of equipment for the men. He testified that we was all greatly worn out from the long marches and lack of equipment and provisions. He spoke then about the battle and that he agreed with all that General Ashe had done.

"Next came testimony that hit hard against the General. One Lieutenant testified that Ashe had left the battle within minutes of shots being fired. Also he said that the men were unable to fire their weapons as in the rush to muster the troops they was issued the wrong caliber ammunition.

"Another officer said he thought General Ashe was a coward and that he had ordered a retreat too early and that it was Ashe's fault the men were issued the wrong ammunition. Also, General Ashe was accused of failin' to learn of the enemys movements in advance.

"One officer said that it was too late to try to rally the troops as most of the men was already in the swamp ahead of Ashe who was trying to get them to come back to fight.

"After a few hours, they called out for 'Lieutenant Samuel Patton of Captain Fall's company.' I stood before the generals and held my hat in my hand by my side. They asked me to give my recollections of the battle and I said that it was just as Captain Fall had said but that the piquets were absolutely suprised and had never even fired on the British. Mostly the firin' came from the advance sentries, some of which was asleep when the Recdcoats approached. They thanked me for my testimony and I sat the rest of the time.

"After all this General Moultrie read a document which he and General Rutherford had wrote concerning these events. They said that it was true that General Ashe was awaiting reinforcements and intrenchin' tools as well as several boats of corn down from Augusta. Also they agreed that he did not have proper time to learn the lay of the land.

"General Ashe then asked to give a few remarks. He observed again about his preparations of the camp by the river and about the order of the battle. He was asked about the crossin' of the river and said that that decision was made at the urgin' of the other officers present. General Ashe seemed very confident throughout the trial, but he was terrible angry at being called a coward.

"Towards the end of the day the trial was ended, and that next morning General Rutherford issued my papers of discharge as I had completed my 5 months of service in the militia. I spent the next night to learn the outcome of the trial and to prepare for my long journey home. The following mornin' it was announced that General Moultrie declared that General Ashe had failed to prepare for the battle but that he could not be called a coward for leavin' too early."

"So, Mr. Patton, was this the end of your service in the militia?" interrupted the first judge.
Samuel leaned upon his cane and looked intently towards the window, then fixed his gaze back upon the judge.

"Well, yes for a time it was. I did happen to serve for a period of about three months followin' the trial of General Ashe. Following the trial a General Williamson came into camp roundin' up men to serve as waggoners to carry supplies to his fort in the northern part of South Carolina. As I was with no other means, I joined this party with promises of pay to come followin' the war, and the General give me and the other men papers which I kept until later and got my pay for this service back in 1784.

"We was marched across Fair Forest, Tiger and more rivers and through a small village called Ninety Six, and finally we crossed the Saluda River to a place called Fort White Hall at which place General Williamson resided where a military store was kept. We delivered supplies from this fort to militias servin' throughout the countryside for a period, some three months as I recall, until the General dismissed us and I returned home to Rowan county as it was time to harvest the crops there."
The Battle at Monck's Corner

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