February 18, 1779, Captain Abraham Shepherd of the Virginia Rifles wrote to Lieutenant Henry Bedinger, still a prisoner of the British, describing his efforts to get the imprisoned Bedinger exchanged, and giving news about their friends and families. In a letter, dated March 29, 1779, written from Long Island, Bedinger informed his mother, "the prospect of an exchange of Prisoners taking place, appears much nearer and favourable than formerly." In the same letter he also noted a consequence of his time as a prisoner of war, "I am much hardened and can undergo almost Anything".[i] Henry Bedinger was paroled by the British in the spring of 1779. His official prison release was dated November 1, 1780. It was usual for the British to parole American officers on the condition, sworn to by the parolee, that they not re-engage in the fight against the British for a specified period of time. The conditions of his parole were respected by Henry Bedinger as were commonly done by paroled American officers.
Abraham Shepherd, in a letter to his brother Col. David Shepherd in August of 1780 wrote: “Henry Bedinger has returned home on parole Very low and weak, has been Unwell this 15 months past, hope he will soon Recover, he is Anxious to join me here and I should be happy he should as his Abilities and honesty may be depended on and should we Continue our Scheme it will be Really Necessary to have him.” The “scheme” referred to by Abraham Shepherd was a business arrangement in which the partners would buy salt, furs, and other necessities and sell them to supply the American army. In December of the same year he writes, “Bedinger is now capable of joining us, he can advance ten Thousand pounds,[ii] we shall buy all the wheat we can and pray you don’t lose one skin of no kind, Bear skins will sell extremely well….”[iii]
The Continental forces under the command of Gen. Horatio Gates had suffered serious losses. In addition to the capture by the British of Charleston, South Carolina,May 12, 1780, the cities of Savannah, Georgia and Camden, South Carolina also had fallen to the British.
In October 1780 General Nathanael Greene was placed in command of the Continental forces in the southern theater by Gen. George Washington replacing General Gates. Gen. Greene fought a dozen skirmishes in North and South Carolina against Cornwallis and his officers. General Greene conducted a campaign of avoidance and attrition against the British in a string of battles that were tactical victories for the British but weakened the British by the high cost of casualties. About 2,000 British troops died in these engagements. Greene summed up his tactics in a motto that became famous: “We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again”.
Daniel Bedinger was able to enlist again and rejoin the fight[iv], which he did probably in the fall of 1779 or in 1780. Daniel Bedinger. Ironically his initial assignment was guarding Hessian prisoners of war held at Winchester, Virginia.[v],[vi] George Michael Bedinger returned from Kentucky to Shepherdstown in the fall of 1779. With Henry Bedinger now released from imprisonment by the British, he, George Michael and his mother were concerned about the welfare of Daniel with the Virginia Regiment in the south. They knew that Daniel's health still suffered from the results of his confinement, but he had been eager to rejoin the fight. George Michael Bedinger knew that he could aid the patriot cause by taking supplies to the army in the south and that such a venture would allow him to see his brother Daniel. But first he finished building his mother a house in Shepherdstown which would be more convenient and safer for her and her family during his absence.[vii]
It may have been supplies that Abraham Shepherd obtained for the army that George Michael Bedinger set out to deliver in the autumn of 1780. The destination of the supplies was the High Hills of the Santee in South Carolina where Daniel’s regiment was serving under General Greene.[viii] The expedition was hazardous in view of the fact that the Tories in the south were gaining ascendancy and carrying on a war of extermination with the Whigs.[ix] George Michael completed this expedition successfully and returned with a load of indigo from General Rutledge.
In December of 1780 General Daniel Morgan reported for duty to General Greene at Charlotte, North Carolina. General Greene split his forces, giving General Morgan the region west of the Catawba River in the upper Santee River Basin in which to protect civilians and ordered him not to face the British in a serious frontal engagement. Daniel Bedinger’s Virginia Regiment under the command of General Morgan marched northward to avoid being caught between the British units of Cornwallis and Col. Banastre Tarleton. Cornwallis ordered Tarleton to pursue and face Morgan. Tarleton asked for reinforcements of British regulars which were sent. Tarleton was in hot pursuit when Gen. Morgan[x] reached a place called Cowpens, a grazing area for cattle on the Broad River. The river stage then was high in flood water from winter rains and difficult to cross. Tarleton’s scouts informed him that Morgan was blocked from escape by the raging Broad River without time to build boats or ford the river. Tarleton smelled blood; He roused his troops, 1,150 officers and men, at 2:00 a.m. on January 17 and continued his march to reach Gen. Morgan at Cowpens. Tarleton’s brigade reached the battlefield exhausted and malnourished. Tarleton’s brigade included cavalry and infantry of the British Legion, a troop of dragoons, a battery of artillery, a regiment of fusiliers and a regiment of Scottish Highlanders. In the five days before Cowpens, the British were subjected to stress that could only be alleviated by rest and proper diet. In the forty-eight hours before the battle, the British ran out of food and had less than four hours of sleep. Ignoring the impoverished condition of his troops, Tarleton sensed victory and nothing would persuade him to delay. Tarleton attacked at dawn, his line extending across the field, with artillery in the middle and Dragoons on each side. He held the Scottish Highlanders in reserve.
General Morgan had placed his men on a small hill between the Broad and Pacolet Rivers, making escape impossible if his army was routed. His reason for doing so was to ensure that the untrained militiamen would not, as they had been accustomed to do, turn in flight at the first hint of battle and abandon the regulars. He set up his soldiers in three lines: one, of 150 selected battle seasoned sharpshooters 150 yards in front of a second line of the 300 untrained militiamen from North Carolina and Georgia and a third line of sharpshooters. Among the riflemen in the third line higher on the hill was Daniel Bedinger with other experienced expert riflemen from Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Col. William Washington’s cavalry was shielded from Tarleton’s view by a low hill behind the third line.
At the onset of the British charge the sharpshooters out front and hiding behind trees picked off Tarleton’s charging Dragoons, especially the officers. The Dragoons retreated; the sharpshooters withdrew to the second line of militia. Morgan had asked the militia, his weakest unit, to fire two volleys and fall back to the third line. As the militia withdrew, Tarleton’s Dragoons,thinking they were in retreat, chased after them. Then, William Washington’s cavalry, which had been held unseen behind the patriot forces, thundered onto the field. Faced with the third line of Morgan's sharpshooters and the advancing cavalry, the surprised British Dragoons scattered. Tarleton then ordered this Scottish Highlander regiment to charge. They came forth bagpipes blaring, the wild wail of bagpipes adding to the noise and confusion. The Highlanders saw the Continental second line moving to the rear to join the main line and thinking they were retreating broke into a wild charge. But, the Continental’s retreat was orderly. Gen. Morgan spurred his horse on to the field and ordered the retreating troops to face about and then, on order, fire in unison. The firing took a heavy toll on the British and a fierce bayonet charge by the patriots broke the British charge and turned the tide of battle.
Tarleton and some of his army fought valiantly on; others refused his orders and fled the field. Finally, Tarleton, himself, saw the futility of continued battle and with a handful of his men, fled from whence he came, down the Green River Road. In one of the most dramatic moments of the battle, William Washington, racing ahead of his cavalry, dueled hand-to-hand with Tarleton and two of his officers. Washington’s life was saved when his young bugler fired his pistol at an Englishman with raised saber. Tarleton shot Washington’s horse and with his remaining forces galloped away to Cornwallis’ camp. Stragglers from the battle were overtaken, but Tarleton escaped to tell the awful news to Cornwallis.
The battle was over in less than an hour. It was a complete victory for the Patriot force. British losses were staggering: 110 dead, over 200 wounded and a total of 829 captured. Morgan lost only 12 killed and 60 wounded, a count he received from those reporting directly to him. General Morgan’s strategy is considered to this day one of the most brilliant in military history. The Battle of Cowpens moreover was the turning point of the war in favor of the American patriots.
Knowing Cornwallis would come after him, Gen. Morgan, burdened as he was by the prisoners, pressed northeastward gaining distance on the pursuing Cornwallis. The prisoners were taken to the prison at Winchester, Virginia. It was probably at Winchester that George Michael, during his journey in the spring of 1781 to carrying supplies to the patriot army, found Daniel with Gen. Morgan’s detachment.[xi]
Gen. Cornwallis, having failed to overtake Gen. Morgan, turned his attention to Gen. Greene. In his zeal to travel swiftly in order to overtake Gen. Greene, Gen. Cornwallis burned his baggage. With Cornwallis far from his supply centers and short on food, Gen. Greene eventually felt confident enough to face Cornwallis directly. Positioning his forces at Guilford Court House, South Carolina, he fought Cornwallis 15 March 1781 with some success employing the tactics Gen. Morgan had used at Cowpens. Here, Cornwallis was the tactical victor, but his casualties forced him to retreat for supply and reinforcement.
To summarize Daniel Bedinger’s movements in the southern campaign, we infer that Daniel was at Big Hills on the Santee in South Carolina with Gen. Greene, resting his troops there in the fall of 1780, when George Michael carried to the Patriot troops wagon loads of supplies. Daniel with the Virginia Militia had thus been in the engagements and skirmishes under Greene in the months preceding[xii]. During his service under Gen. Greene, Daniel Bedinger was commissioned Ensign in February 1781 [xiia] and may have seen action in the Battles of Guilford Court House and Eutaw Springs.
Despite winning a tactical victory the Battle of Eutaw Springs, the British again lost strategically to Gen. Greene. The British inability to stop Greene's continuing operations forced them to abandon most of the British operations in the South, leaving them in control of a small number of isolated enclaves at Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah. The British attempt to control the South with Loyalist support had failed even before Gen. Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.
Lt. Daniel Bedinger attracted Gen. Greene's notice under his command as a valuable officer.[xiii] From Henry Bedinger’s journal it appears that Daniel was in Virginia through most of 1781. Daniel Bedinger was appointed Ensign of Infantry of the 4th Virginia Regiment 14 February 1781. [xiv]
[i] Swearingen-Bedinger Papers, 1759-1948, Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Finding aid created by Shannon Wait, June 2011.
[ii] The amount quoted, “Ten thousand pounds”, is an inordinately large amount considering the financial condition of Henry and his family and must represent an error in transcribing the original hand-written document.
[iii] Letter from Abraham Shepherd writing his brother Col. David Shepherd in August of 1780, quoted in Dandridge, Danske, 1909, George Michael Bedinger, A Kentucky Pioneer: The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 232 p., pp. 82-83.
[iv] Danske Dandridge, unpublished manuscript, in Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
[v] Levin, Alexandra Lee, 1995, For A Brave America the Bedinger Brothers in War and Peace, 1775-1843, Shamrock Hollow, John Day, Oregon, 215 p.
[vi] Published statements are found that Daniel was captured by the British at the battle of Brandywine that took place in September of 1777. The published statements: (1) Bittinger (1904), p. 55-56, states Daniel was taken prisoner at Brandywine and held prisoner until summer of 1778, (2) Heitman, Francis B., 1893, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775 to December, 1778: Washington, 552 p. In addition, a statement is found in the Bedinger and Dandridge papers at Duke University (my notes p. 34 from copies made at Duke, 1012) in a series of unrelated topics without discussion or source: “Daniel was taken prisoner at Brandywine in 1777.”
According to Daniel Bedinger’s daughter, Henrietta Bedinger Lee, her father’s papers and journals were destroyed when the home Daniel built, “Bedford”, was destroyed by fire by the order of Gen. David Hunter of the Union Army. Any records or journals that Daniel may have kept with regard to his military record were probably destroyed in the fire. The military record we have for Daniel Bedinger is based largely on journals of Henry Bedinger and depositions and notes left by George Michael Bedinger. These sources reveal that Daniel was not at the Battle of Brandywine. We know from Henry Bedinger’s journal and statements of George Michael Bedinger that Daniel was captured at Fort Washington in 1776. We know also from statements written by George Michael Bedinger who rescued Daniel in January 1777 in Philadelphia that Daniel was in Shepherdstown at the time of the Battle of Brandywine. Thus, we attribute as erroneous the statements that Daniel Bedinger was at and captured at the Battle of Brandywine. The probable source of the erroneous placement of Daniel at the Battle of Brandywine is from a letter written by Dr. B.F. Bedinger, son of George Michael Bedinger, in which Dr. Bedinger recalls his father telling of Daniel Bedinger’s military career. He mentions remembering somewhat vaguely that Daniel was at the Battle of Brandywine. This appears to be the source of the statement that we find not credible and we attribute it to the span of many years and a faulty memory on the part of B. F. Bedinger.
[vii] The house George Michael built for his mother was at the corner of Princess and New Streets (Lot 119) in Shepherdstown, Virginia.
[viii] Dandridge, Danske, 1909, George Michael Bedinger, A Kentucky Pioneer: The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 232p., p. 78, 202.
[ix] The Tories were Americans loyal to the British many of whom fought against the Revolutionary Army. The Whigs were American patriots loyal to the revolutionary cause.
[x] The events of battle of Cowpens is taken from several sources including the National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/cowp/historyculture/the-battle-of-cowpens.htm) and the Wikipedia account (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cowpens) which is based largely upon the following references: Babits, Lawrence E., 1998, A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press and Buchanan, John, 1997, The Road to Guilford Courthouse, The American Revolution in the Carolinas, John Wiley and Sons, New York.
[xi] Dandridge, Danske, 1909, George Michael Bedinger, A Kentucky Pioneer: The Michie Company, Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 232 p., pp. 78, 202.
[xii] Dandridge, Danske, 1910, Historic Shepherdstown, The Michie Company Printers, Charlottesville, Virginia, 389 p., pp. 222-224.
[xiii] “To George Washington from Josiah Parker, 1 July 1789,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-03-02-0044. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 3, 15 June 1789–5 September 1789, ed. Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989, pp. 102–104.]
[xiv] Compiled Service Records of Soldiers who served in the American Revolution, Fold3, Ancestry.com.
Page modified September 3, 2015 and August 3, 2016.
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