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Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict that Turned the Tide of the American Revolution, by Walter Edgar

New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Pp. 198. Illus., maps, illus., glossary, biographical sketches, chron., footnotes, index. $12.95. ISBN:0-3808-0643-6.

Almost all accounts of the American Revolution focus on the larger battles, and spend relatively little time recounting other aspects of the war. One of those other aspects is the divisive nature of the conflict, in certain areas at certain points in the war. In South Carolina, for instance, the war took on many aspects of a Civil War within the state, as various Loyalist militias, supplemented by British soldiers, took on a variety of Rebel militias in a back country partisan war that was especially bloody and savage. his book is an attempt to describe that war, and highlight one particular battle in it. That small battle, prosaically named Huck’s Defeat (after Captain Christian Huck, the Loyalist officer who lost his life in the fight), was the first Rebel victory in the aftermath of the fall of the city of Charleston, and the author ascribes to this victory an important place that he feels is often overlooked. Huck’s Defeat, and several subsequent partisan and militia victories, convinced most locals to side with the Rebel forces and oppose the English. This, in turn, ultimately led to the Rebel victories of King’s Mountain and the Cowpens, which in turn led the British to leave the state, a path that led to Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown.

While I agree with the author’s main premise, which is that this battle has been overlooked by historians, I do think he somewhat overstates his case. The fight was very small (115 Loyalist and British soldiers vs. ca. 250 Rebels) and took no more than an hour. Though the Loyalist force was wiped out, the result wasn’t decisive in any real fashion. The one thing the battle did do was bump up Rebel morale, but that could have happened anyway. The British did themselves much harm by trying to intimidate people rather than convince them, and this left the Rebel cause easy pickings among the unaligned community.

I liked this book, and I felt I learned something from it. Unfortunately, I also think it overstates its case (as I said above) and overestimates the influence of the main event the book covers. Therefore, my recommendation is only partial.

Reviewer: David W. Nicholas   

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