The Battle of Huck’s Defeat (July, 1780)
In May of 1780, Charleston, South Carolina fell to the British who quickly overran much of the state. The only part of the region to mount any sizable resistance to the British and Tory campaign was the area of present-day York and Chester Counties. Under the leadership of General Thomas Sumter, William Bratton and other men of this area formed militia companies. Colonel William Bratton became active in raids of British outposts and Tory meetings. Outraged at this “Rebel” activity, the British sent a Loyalist force to arrest Colonel Bratton. The ensuing action, taking place at Williamson’s Plantation, would come to be called the Battle of Huck’s Defeat.
The Battle of Huck’s Defeat took place in modern-day Brattonsville, SC. Captain Christian Huck, a Philadelphia Loyalist, came south as part of The British Legion, whose name is deceiving. The Legion was actually made up of American Loyalists, also called “Tories”, from the northern colonies, whose numbers were augmented by recruiting efforts when the Legion traveled South. Captain Huck commanded a cavalry unit of about 115 Loyalists and was given marching orders to “push the rebels as far as you deem convenient.”
On his list of rebels to push was Colonel William Bratton. Huck and his cavalry arrived at Bratton’s home on July 11, 1780. After attempting to gain the Colonel’s whereabouts from Bratton’s wife Martha, Huck made camp just west of Bratton’s home at Williamson’s Plantation.
Martha sent word to her husband’s camp and at dawn on July 12th, Colonels William Bratton, Andrew Neel, William Hill and Edward Lacey and their forces surrounded Huck’s camp and ambushed the waking Loyalists early in the morning. Huck attempted to rally his men but was killed almost immediately with a wound to the head. After the smoke cleared, only about twenty-five of the Loyalists managed to escape the ambush. On the American side, there was only one Patriot death.
After the May 1780 Battle of the Waxhaws, also referred to as Buford’s Defeat or Buford’s Massacre, area settlers who had not yet chosen sides became outraged at what they saw as an example of British and Loyalist cruelty. The Battle of Huck’s Defeat, along with several other small battles in the area, were important morale boosters for the patriots, as the tide of the war was turning in their favor. These winning efforts culminated in the American victory at the Battle of Kings Mountain, months later.
Historians credit the victory at the Battle of Huck’s Defeat as the first link in the chain of events in the South that ultimately led to victory at Yorktown, Virginia, in October of 1781.
– Scott T. Farb