Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 6, 1782: As Predicted

The Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia) of 16 April 1782 reprinted a report with dateline of Richmond, Virginia, April 6, 1782.  According to the report, American forces retook most of South Carolina from the British: “By accounts from the southward…we are informed our army is still in possession of every part of that country, except Charlestown.”  In 1783, Charlestown, South Carolina officially changed its name to Charleston

William Churchill Houston, a New Jersey Congressman born in South Carolina, predicted that the misconduct of British soldiers would cost them the province they conquered.  Houston based his forecast for South Carolina on New Jersey's experience in 1776-77. 

In a July 11, 1780 letter to John Adams of Massachusetts, Houston acknowledged that British forces overran much of South Carolina but “as their Cruelties and Oppressions will probably soon work up the Spirits of the People to Fury and Desperation, they will be expelled from the Country.”

Houston observed, “It seems to be the Ordination of Providence, and, though the Sufferings are severe, it seems to be the Interest of the Union, that each State, in it’s Turn should be vexed with their Depredations and Barbarities.  It operates an amazing Change in the Temper and Sentiments of the People….

According to Houston, “Every Person who has attended to the Course of our Revolution knows the Meaning of what in Words is a Paradox, that our misfortunes are our Safety.”

Houston wrote, “The Capture of Charlestown is much to be regretted when we reflect that our Soldiers will be starved and scourged into the Enemy’s Service; that the Citizens must suffer Pillagings, Conflagrations and Brutality, but it is obvious to every one that it will promote, under the Favour of Heaven, the general Cause.  It has awaked a Spirit superior to any Thing I have seen since the year 1775 and 6….”

In a 1782 sermon in Princeton, New Jersey, Rev. John Witherspoon remarked that “this impolitic oppression was the true and proper cause of the general concourse of the inhabitants of this State to the American standard, in the beginning of the year 1777, and their vigorous exertions ever since against the incursions of the enemy from New York.” 

Paul H. Smith, editor, Letters of Delegates to Congress: Vol. 15: April 1, 1780-August 31, 1780 (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1988), pages 429-430.
John Rodgers, ed., The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon… 3 vols. (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1800), 2:467.
For more on the loss of South Carolina, please consult this brief post.
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