In the summer of 1780, the Patriots became increasingly bold in their attacks in South Carolina, especially after guerrilla forces destroyed a British detachment commanded by Captain Christian Huck on July 12. On July 30, Patriot forces under the command of Colonel Thomas Sumter attacked the British outpost at Rocky Mount. Despite a determined effort, however, Sumter was unable to dislodge the enemy. Meanwhile, a detachment under the command of Major William Richardson Davie engaged a British force at the Hanging Rock outpost in order to draw attention away from Sumter’s mission. Although Davie’s attack was merely a diversion, he enjoyed more success than Sumter, inflicting a number of casualties and capturing valuable supplies.
After the failure at Rocky Mount, Sumter and Davie decided to launch a larger attack on Hanging Rock.
The British commander at Hanging Rock, Major John Carden, had roughly 1,400 men fit for duty. His forces consisted of a mixture of regular troops and Loyalist militiamen. On the morning of August 6, 1780, Sumter split his forces, numbering roughly 800 men, into three columns and began advancing against the British outpost. Losing their way, the columns fortuitously converged on the weakest part of the British line, held by Col. Morgan Bryan's North Carolina Loyalists. Sumter and Davie soon gained the upper hand, drove the North Carolinians from the field and advanced toward the British camp. Upon their approach, the British Legion and Loyalists under John Hamilton engaged the Americans. However, the Patriots were able to maintain their momentum and the British line collapsed.
As Davie's men entered the camp, Tories from Col. Thomas Brown's Ranger unit counterrattacked. Brown's men threatened to turn Davie's flank but the Americans met the assault and sent the British reeling once again. In a last ditch effort, the surviving British companies formed a defensive square. Fortunately, the Crown force was aided by the fact that many of Sumter’s and Davie’s men were distracted from the fight by the opportunity for plunder. This gave Carden time to rally and prepare to reenter the fight. Davie, however, managed to maintain some discipline in his ranks and quickly dispersed the remainder of Carden's force.
The British lost 200 men killed and wounded out of 1,400 men engaged. One British unit, the Prince of Wales Regiment, was essentially wiped out. The Patriots, on the other hand, lost 12 men killed and 41 wounded out of 800 engaged. The victory at Hanging Rock served to further embolden Patriot efforts to dislodge the British. The battle was also significant because it represented the first military experience for a young messenger serving Davie: Andrew Jackson.