Buford's Massacre / Battle of Waxhaws

On the afternoon of May 29, 1780, a fifteen-minute battle ensued between rebel American and loyalist British forces on an open field south of the North Carolina/South Carolina line.  The aftermath was a one-sided rout - 113 rebel American forces killed compared to five loyalists.  150 Americans were badly wounded to only 13 British.  The Battle of Waxhaws would become known as Buford's Massacre.

Approximately 350 American forces were led by Abraham Buford, while the British force of about 250 men was led by Banastre Tarleton.

The decisive British victory was not without controversy.  Buford had ordered his men not to fire until the British were approximately 10 yards before them.  The Patriots could only fire one volley before being attacked by the Tory forces.  Amid the battle, Tarleton's horse was shot dead from under him. (1)  

It is at this point of the battle that the controversy - and Tarleton's bloody reputation throughout the rebelling colonies - began.  The British immediately began routing through the Patriot lines, killing their opposition with their sabers, including many Patriots kneeling with their hands up in surrender. (1)  The killing of the American troops is not in dispute.  But what led to the massacre is.

Replica of the flag of the Buford's 3rd Virginia Detachment - the Patriot regiment that was routed in the Battle of Waxhaws.

Tarleton and the British claimed that his men, seeing Tarleton trapped under his fallen horse, believed he was dead and attacked the Patriots ruthlessly.  American accounts differ.  The Patriot accounts are that Tarleton ordered his men to attack because he did not want to take many prisoners.  Tarleton's reputation of offering 'No Quarter' and his nickname, 'Bloody Ben.' (1)

The small battlefield park is owned and maintained by Lancaster County.  Memorializing the battle and those who fought and died here dates back to 1860.   On June 2, 1860, a 10-foot-tall obelisk was dedicated at the grave site of 84 American soldiers.  Over the next century, the monument was consistently damaged by souvenir seekers and others.  Both the 1860 monument and gravesite are now protected by an iron fence.

In 1955, the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument to honor those who fought at Waxhaws.  Fifty years later, in 2005, a new monument was added to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the battle.  Throughout the small park, there are a handful of interpretative and historical markers that describe the fighting.

In addition to the monuments and gravesites, the wayside park is home to several walking trails ranging from one-quarter mile to just over one mile in length.  In addition, the American Battlefield Trust has preserved an additional 51 acres adjacent the park and battlefield site.

All photos taken by post author - July 2023.

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