Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton | Battle of Waxhaws

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton
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Artwork by Joshua Reynolds

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton led the British Legion which was a combination of infantry, cavalry, and artillery forces into battle against Colonel Abraham Buford's men. Col. Buford was leading a regiment of Continental soldiers from Virginia to South Carolina to help defend Charleston.

At age twenty-six, Tarleton was a driven person and the British officer displayed aggressiveness in battle that far exceeded his experience and age.  On May 29, 1780, the British Legion caught up with Col. Buford’s army at a place called “The Waxhaws” in the Catawba River valley,  located four miles south of the North Carolina border. Over in fifteen minutes and with 113 Americans dead on the field, this massacre became the first major battle of the Southern Campaign.

The Battle of Waxhaws also became a turning point in the Revolutionary War, but not for reasons the British might have hoped.  Their intent was to make the back country colonists feel the “heel of the boot.”  

Many patriots who had previously surrendered rejoined the fight to repay the harshness of “Tarleton’s quarter” with a vengeance of their own.