In November 1775 Richardson and Colonel William Thomson were given command of 2,500 men and ordered to scatter the large concentration of Loyalists gathering in the South Carolina backcountry.
Legislator, soldier. Richardson was born in Virginia and immigrated to South Carolina in the 1730s, settling on the upper Santee River in Prince Frederick’s Parish. Through grants he amassed substantial landholdings and became a prosperous planter. On October 11, 1738, he married Mary Cantey. The couple had seven children. Mary died in 1767, and Richardson then married Dorothy Sinkler. His second marriage produced four sons. Richardson would be the founder of one of South Carolina’s leading political families, with six of his descendants becoming governor of the state.
In the 1750s and 1760s Richardson emerged as a leading political figure in the backcountry, regularly representing Prince Frederick’s and St. Mark’s Parishes in the Commons House of Assembly from 1754 to 1765. In 1768 Richardson was instrumental in negotiating an end to the violent Regulator movement in the backcountry. He was a member of the First and Second Provincial Congresses of South Carolina and was a well-respected militia officer at the start of the Revolutionary War.
In November 1775 Richardson and Colonel William Thomson were given command of 2,500 men and ordered to scatter the large concentration of Loyalists gathering in the South Carolina backcountry. As Richardson and his men advanced through the Loyalist stronghold between the Broad and Saluda Rivers, Loyalists put up brief stands along the way but kept retreating in front of the patriot force. Richardson continued his pursuit, pushing four miles beyond the Cherokee tribal boundary to the Great Cane Break on Reedy River. When he learned that the Tories were encamped there, Richardson sent Thomson to attack them. On December 22, 1775, a sharp fight ensued after the rebels nearly surrounded the Tories. Although the Tory leader Patrick Cunningham managed to escape, the patriot mission of dispersing the Loyalists had been an unquestionable success. Without a leader to guide them, Loyalist resistance fell apart. After Richardson dismissed his men and started on his march home, a heavy snow fell, lending the nickname “Snow Campaign” to the venture.
The Snow Campaign was Richardson’s first and last active duty during the Revolutionary War. He was promoted to brigadier general, but his advanced age led him to resign his commission in late 1779. He was captured by the British at the fall of Charleston in May 1780. After several months of harsh treatment at the hands of his British captors, Richardson died at his home plantation, Big Home, in September 1780, and was buried there.
Buchanan, John. The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas. New York: Wiley, 1997.
Edgar, Walter, and N. Louise Bailey, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Vol. 2, The Commons House of Assembly, 1692–1775. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977.
Lumpkin, Henry. From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.