South Carolina Provincials
Origin and History
In the 1740’s, a unit from South Carolina, known as Vanderdusson’s Regiment, served on campaign against Spaniards in Florida under general Oglethorpe.
In July and August of 1756, South Carolina first raised two companies of Provincials (60 men each). These two companies were commanded by Captain John Stuart and Captain John Postell. Although these companies were militarized and armed, their primary purpose was to be used as construction workers at Fort Loudoun. These two companies were finally disbanded in August 1757.
On July 6, 1757, the South Carolina Provincial Regiment was created by an act of the Assembly. The regiment was to be made up of 7 companies of 100 men each. The regiment was commanded by Lieutenant-colonel Probart Howarth. Howarth, a veteran of Braddock’s campaign, also held a commission as lieutenant in the Independent Companies.
- ”They have passed a Vote here for granting a Sum for raising 700 Men subject to the Orders & Disposal of Lord Loudoun, have put them on the same Establishment with our Troops, and have given your old Acquaintance Howarth the Command of Them, as Lieut. Colo. & Commandant of the So. Carolina Provincials.” (George Washington Papers (memory.loc.gov/), Captain George Mercer to George Washington, August 17, 1757.)
Each company was led by 1 captain , 2 lieutenants and 1 ensign. Each company also had 4 sergeants, 4 corporals and 2 drummers.
The regiment was also known as the Buffs, due to the facing colour of their uniforms. Men were only recruited with great difficulty, and by mid 1758 the regiment contained only about 550 privates. Attempts were made to fill up the regiment by enlisting vagrants.
- ”all idle, lewd, disorderly men, who have no habitations or settled place of abode, or no visible way or means of maintaining themselves, all sturdy beggars, and all strolling or straggling persons.” (Statutes at Large of South Carolina, Vol. IV; Act no.872: An Act Impowering Magistrates To Enlist Vagrants In The South Carolina Regiment; Article I; p.51. )
This measure proved to be largely unsuccessful. In July of 1759, enlistments had dropped below 400 and the Assembly voted to disband the regiment. Three companies, however, were kept up in a manner similar to the Independent Companies of Regulars. In order to keep some troops on foot several troops of mounted rangers were established.
In response to a looming war with the Cherokee, another regiment was established in 1760. This regiment, commanded by Richard Richardson was to be composed of 10 companies of 100 men each. This regiment was never fully embodied as there was never enough men to even fill one company. Colonel Montgomery of the 77th Regiment thought little of this attempt at a regiment. When Montgomery withdrew, the South Carolinians felt abandoned. In August of 1760, Richardson’s Regiment was disbanded, and a new regiment was created to replace it. This new regiment was to be commanded by Thomas Middleton. Like its predecessor this South Carolina regiment was to consist of 10 companies of 100 men each. The remains of Howarth’s regiment were to be incorporated into this regiment. Recruiting was slow.
- ”the Carolina Regt. was, on the 17th Dec., only 400 strong; that the Rangers, or Light Horse, then consisted only in 510 privates, effective; that the Lt. Gov. did not expect that the Province could furnish above 1,200 provincials, but that he had taken great care that none were mustered but men of able bodies & fit for such hard service” (Mays, 174. Amherst to Grant, January 14, 1761)
After reviewing the provincials, Grant reported his opinion to Amherst.
- ”The Provincial Regt. I fancy, will be about 500, but as to their being all young and able for service, I’m afraid it is rather saying too much, and I think my information is good. However, I do expect that they will be of use, for I have seen several of their officers who I have a good opinion of, and shall be much disappointed if they do not do their duty. I have endeavored to show them every little civility in my power, and I flatter myself that things will go on with harmony.” (Mays, 211. Grant to Amherst, March 15, 1761)
This regiment unlike its predecessor served with some distinction during Grant’s Campaign against the Cherokee in 1761. The regiment was disbanded after the successful completion of Grant’s campaign.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:
- from July 6, 1757 to July 1759: Lieutenant-colonel Probart Howarth
- From February 10 1760 to August 1760: Richard Richardson
- from August 1760 to September 1761: Thomas Middleton
Service during the War
Two companies of Provincials 1756-1757
In 1756, the two newly raised companies of Provincials, along with a composite company from the Independent Companies of South Carolina, were sent hundreds of miles beyond the frontier and deep into Cherokee territory to build a fort in the Overhill Cherokee towns. The fort was largely built to insure the Cherokee remained allies with the British. The Cherokee wanted the fort as protection for the women and children, while the men were off fighting against the French. The fort was named Loudoun after the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America. Construction lasted some ten months. After only two months problems with the engineer led to mutinous talk among the men of Postell’s company. To prevent an outright mutiny, Captain Raymond Demere, of the regulars, stripped the provincials of their weapons.
In the Spring of 1757, weapons were returned to the two companies of Provincials. In July 1757, 15 volunteers of the provincials and 15 of the independent regulars were sent to way lay a group of Savannah (Shawnee) Indians who were said to be lurking near the Cherokee town of Tellico. The two companies of provincials were disbanded in August 1757.
Howarth’s Regiment 1757-1759
The Buffs served mainly as defensive troops during this period. Captain Stuart’s company were sent to build Fort Lyttelton at Beaufort SC from February 1758 until about mid 1759. A Detachment of some 25 privates was sent to Fort Loudoun in late 1758 under the command of ensign John Bell. They arrived in January of 1759. Stuart’s company was also marched some 450 miles to Fort Loudoun, as a reinforcement for the regulars of that garrison, when problems with the Cherokee began. Another 100 men remained in Charlestown while the remainder of the regiment was split between various frontier outposts. As Cherokee relations worsened, governor Lyttleton became determined that force would have to be used to prevent the Cherokee from breaking into an open war. To this end Lyttelton marched an army of militia to Fort Prince George in the Lower Cherokee Towns, to demand that Cherokee turn over warriors guilty of attacking white settlements on the Yadkin River (North Carolina). The Charlestown garrison of the Buffs served as the cadre around which Lyttelton’s army formed. At Fort Prince George, governor Lyttelton negotiated a settlement with the Cherokee. An outbreak of small pox in the Cherokee town of Keowee led most of the militia to desert and showed the Cherokee how weak the South Carolinians were. Within weeks of governor Lyttelton’s departure, the Cherokee were once again on the warpath. Lyttelton was then forced to ask general Amherst for assistance from the King’s troops. Fort Loudoun was held under siege by the Cherokee for most of 1760. The garrison surrendered to the Cherokee on August 8, 1760. Under the terms of the surrender the Cherokee would allow the troops to march back to South Carolina. Claiming the British had violated the treaty by burying part of the fort’s powder, the Cherokee attacked the garrison on the morning of August 10, 1760. All the officers were killed except Captain John Stuart who was ransomed by the Cherokee headman Attakullakulla, the Little Carpenter. Some 20 soldiers shared the fate of their officers and the remainder were carried into the Cherokee towns as prisoners.
Richardson’s Regiment 1760
The regiment was authorized on February 10, 1760, but only to be kept up until July. That left very little time for the men to be recruited and trained. Perhaps the Assembly hoped that the Crown would take up their pay after this time. They accompanied Montgomery on his campaign against the Cherokee, but contributed very little toward the outcome of the campaign. The Scottish colonel did not believe the regiment mustered more than 80 men, half of which would not even be fit for service.
- ”We have not a single man with us that is of any consequence in the Provincials.” (Mays, 105. Montgomery to Amherst, May 24, 1760.)
The expedition was also accompanied by several troops of mounted rangers, which Montgomery also found practically worthless.
Middleton’s Regiment 1760-1761
The regiment was trained at the Congaree Fort over the winter of 1760-1761. Grant’s opinion of this regiment was much higher than Montgomery’s opinion of the former regiment. In early April, 200 men of the Provincial Regiment, under Major Moultrie, marched to the town of Ninety Six to establish a fortified depot for the provisions needed for the campaign. The regiment accompanied Grant. At Ninety Six, he reported that he was pleased with the discipline of the provincial infantry but not with the rangers.
- ”The Provincial Regt. I fancy will turn out well, their officers have been very diligent and are Gentlemen. The Rangers are good for nothing, the officers rather worse than the men, if possible. I wish we may get as many of them kept together as will be able to take care of our cattle, I expect no other service from them, and even that they did ill last year.” (Mays, 243. Grant to Amherst April 25, 1761.)
A detachment from the provincials even served with the “Indian Corps” under Captain Quienton Kennedy during the campaign. They even performed well under fire, during his attack on the Cherokee Middle towns. The Cherokee attacked the head of the column near Cowee, but the army pushed past the Cherokee defenders. The regiment distinguished itself at the battle of Cowee when the pack train was attacked. The army proceeded to burn some 15 Cherokee towns as well as destroying crops and orchards and forcing the Cherokee to sue for peace. Grant praised all the troops but also took the opportunity to single out the Provincials.
- ”The Provincials have behaved well, as I always expected they would do, and the Rangers who I had not so favorable an opinion of, have been very useful & alert, they never made a difficulty, & they now seem to despise the Indians as much as they were suspected to fear them before.” (Mays, 278. Grant to Amherst, July 10, 1761).
Although the campaign ended in July, a preliminary peace was not signed until September. By this time, however the Provincials considered themselves disbanded and had began to leave in groups.
Privates Howarth’s Regiment 1757-1759
Howarth’s regiment was known as the Buffs because of their uniforms. The Uniforms arrived from England around July of 1758 and consisted of:
- ”seven Hundred suits of Cloaths with Hat shoes and stockings for the Private Men and serjeants Corporals and Drummers Cloaths with Hat shoes and stockings for the serjeants Corporals and Drummers of the said Regiment”... (CO 5/42 Act no. 866.)
|Coat||blue cloth lined with buff serge with white metal buttons
|Waistcoat||buff cloth with white metal buttons|
|Stockings||one pair of coarse white thread stockings|
Soldiers were issued muskets of various sorts, mostly 1730 model Long Land Pattern Musket’s as well as some “Dutch” Muskets. They were also issued Cartridge Boxes and Bayonets.
- ”220 stands of Arms delivered to the Buffs with as many Bayonets & Cartidge Boxes.” JCHA,134 Report of Public Armory, March 17,1758
- ”and only 5 Cartouch Boxes, the rest having been given out to the South Carolina Regiment together with 508 Musquetts, with Bayonets to each” JCHA, 336. Report of the Public Armory, March 9, 1759.
Evolution of the uniform throughout the war
The uniform may have changed in 1759. This, however, most likely only concerned those members of the regiment that accompanied governor Lyttelton on his expedition. This may be illustrated by Captain John Stuart’s reflection on the worn out clothing of his men after their march from Charleston to Fort Loudoun in the fall of 1759.
- ”The people are all in Good Health and Spirits. But the Buffs very Ragged and Complain much of the Cold and look with Envy on the new warm Cloaths of their Brother Soldiers.” (Lyttleton Papers, www.accessgeaneology.com; Stuart to Lyttelton, November 15, 1759.)
The new uniform was similar to that of the other colonies at this time. Blue breeches, red waistcoats and a blue coat without turn backs but cuffed and lapelled in red.
The 1760 Richardson’s Regiment was not issued clothing or other gear, but were to procure their own out of the high rate of pay.
By the time the 1761 Middleton’s Regiment took the field the uniforms had once again changed, but this time only slightly. In an attempt to be fashionable, the provincial uniforms were cut similar to those of the light infantry company of the 1st Royals (4 battalion companies of the Royal had remained in Charleston after Montgomery’s departure in 1760). To this end the provincial regiment also adopted the leather light infantry caps.
No information has been found yet on the officer uniform.
Officers in 1757-1759
- Lieutenant-colonel Probart Howarth
- Major Henry Herne
- Captain John Stuart1
- Captain Gaillard
- Lieutenant James Adamson2
- Lieutenant Edward Wilkinson1
- ensign William Wintle2
- ensign John Bell1
- ensign James Nowell
- surgeon James Forrester
(1) These officers remained in service when the regiment was reduced until it was absorbed into Middleton’s Regiment.
(2) Lieutenant Adamson and ensign Wintle were killed at Cane Creek when the Cherokee attacked the Fort Loudoun garrison.
Officers in 1760
- Colonel Richard Richardson
- Captain John Morrison3
- Lieutenant Patrick Calhoun3
(3) Carolina in Crisis: Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756–1763 by Daniel J. Tortora; South Carolina Gazette, 12-19 July 1760, page 2
N.B.: this book contains additional information on officers of the unit
Officers in 1761
- Colonel Thomas Middleton
- Lieutenant-colonel Henry Laurens
- Major John Moultrie
- Captain John Stuart
- Captain William Moultrie
- Captain Elias Vanderhorst
- Captain Charles Vanderhorst
- Captain John Creighton
- Captain Owen Roberts
- Lieutenant Francis Marion
- Lieutenant Thomas Vanderdusson
- Lieutenant John Bell
- Lieutenant John Lloyd
- Lieutenant Joseph Levey
- Lieutenant Edward Wilkinson
- Lieutenant William Little
- Lieutenant David Toomer
- Lieutenant Arthur How
- Lieutenant William Partridge
Each company was authorized to have two drummers on their establishment.
no information found yet
An Act for Granting his Majesty an Aid of one hundred and sixty thousand Pounds Current Money to defray the Expence of raising Cloathing and Maintaining for One year a Regiment... Passed 6th of July 1757. Photocopy of microfilm from South Carolina Manuscript Acts sent to England Nov. 1756-1760 CO 5/42 Act no. 866 by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
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William Jack for the initial version of this article
Daniel J. Tortora, author of Carolina in Crisis: Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756–1763, for additional information on officers of the unit