Parker's Ferry, Battle of

August 30, 1781

On August 30 the patriot force took position in the thick woods of a swamp about forty yards from the road and within a mile of Parker’s Ferry. A few light horsemen were sent forward as decoys. As the British force approached in the late afternoon, a Tory sentry noticed a white cockade—the mark of Marion’s men—in a soldier’s cap in the woodline.

(August 30, 1781). During the summer of 1781, Tories roved the countryside surrounding Charleston. Patriot colonel William Harden commanded a dwindling militia force south of the Edisto River and requested assistance from Brigadier General Francis Marion to counter this threat. Arriving at the village of Round “O” on August 22, Marion set out to gather intelligence. He learned that a force of one hundred Tories under Colonel William “Bloody Bill” Cunningham was assembling on the banks of the Pon Pon River (present-day Edisto River) to join a larger body of British and Hessian regulars and Loyalist militiamen. Marion quickly prepared an ambush to prevent the juncture.

On August 30 the patriot force took position in the thick woods of a swamp about forty yards from the road and within a mile of Parker’s Ferry. A few light horsemen were sent forward as decoys. As the British force approached in the late afternoon, a Tory sentry noticed a white cockade–the mark of Marion’s men–in a soldier’s cap in the woodline. Musket fire was exchanged, and the horsemen charged, forcing the Tories back toward the ferry. From a distance, British lieutenant colonel DeBorck watched the engagement and ordered Major Thomas Fraser to charge with his dragoons. Fraser’s men galloped blindly into the trap. As the British cavalrymen came abreast of the American position, they received several volleys of fire. Low on ammunition, Marion withdrew when a column of enemy infantrymen arrived on the scene. British losses were estimated at about twenty-five killed and eighty wounded, with minimal harm to Marion’s force. This small but effective engagement checked the British cavalry and put a stop to the marauding of the Tories so that they never posed a threat in the region again.

Daso, Dik A. “Colonel William Harden: The Unsung Partisan Commander.” Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association (1995): 95–111.

James, William Dobein. A Sketch of the Life of Brig. Gen. Francis Marion. 1821. Reprint, Marietta, Ga.: Continental Book Company, 1948.

Lumpkin, Henry. From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Parker's Ferry, Battle of
  • Coverage August 30, 1781
  • Author
  • Keywords Patriot colonel William Harden, Brigadier General Francis Marion, Colonel William “Bloody Bill” Cunningham, put a stop to the marauding of the Tories
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 1, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 5, 2017
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