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Southern Theater 1780 - 1783

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By 1780, the British made a goal of consolidating their gains and subjugating the lower south. British General Sir Henry Clinton moved his force from Savannah toward Charleston in March of 1780, bent on capturing the city that he previously failed to. The Battle of Charlestown was a British victory as a lack of numbers and fortifications forced American General Benjamin Lincoln to surrender on May 12th, 1780. Building on their momentum, the British under General Charles Lord Cornwallis decided to invade North Carolina. American General Horatio Gates was sent to defend against Cornwallis’ forces. On August 16th, 1780, Gates and Cornwallis clashed at the Battle of Camden. An utter defeat for the Americans, Gates fled the battlefield and was replaced by General Nathanael Greene. A much-needed boost to American morale, the Battle of Cowpens, in January of 1781, marked a turning point in the southern theater as the Americans proved swift, cunning, and ultimately victorious. In February, Patriots further cemented victory during Pyle’s Defeat, an American ambush that led to 93 Loyalist casualties. By March the British’s hold on the Southern colonies was unraveling. This was evident at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Despite defeat, the Americans under Greene inflicted significant British casualties. Another British victory, the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill in April of 1781 further diminished British numbers. In May, Greene failed in capturing the town of Ninety Six after a lightning campaign across the Carolinas. The Battle of Ninety Six resulted in American retreat but also British withdrawal and the burning of Ninety Six. With the element of surprise, Greene nearly routed a British force at the Battle of Eutaw Springs in September of 1781. Greene’s army, while unsuccessful, proved that American resistance was alive and well in the South.

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