The Battle of Lenud’s Ferry — Tarleton Smashes American Forces

May 6, 1780

The Battle of Lenud’s Ferry took place on May 6, 1780. British forces led by Banastre Tarleton routed Americans at Lenud’s Ferry, during the Siege of Charleston.

Banastrae Tarleton, Portrait, Reynolds

Banastre Tarleton. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Battle of Lenud’s Ferry Summary

The Battle of Lenud’s Ferry — also known as the Battle of Lanneau’s Ferry —  was fought by the United States of America and Great Britain on May 6, 1780, in present-day Berkeley County, South Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War.

While the Siege of Charleston was taking place, British General Henry Clinton ordered General Charles Cornwallis to scout the area around Charleston to identify potential escape routes for the American forces. One of the scouting parties was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who had recently beaten American forces at the Battle of Monck’s Corner.

At some point on May 5 or the morning of May 6, some of Tarleton’s men were captured by Americans under the command of Colonel Anthony Walton White near a plantation. From there, White and his men took the prisoners and moved toward Lenud’s Ferry on the Santee River, where American forces were gathering.

Tarleton found out and went in pursuit of White and caught up with him soon after he arrived at Lenud’s Ferry. Tarleton and his men surprised White and the other American forces gathered there and easily routed them, inflicting heavy casualties in a brutal fashion.

Battle of Lenud’s Ferry Facts

  • Also Known As: The Battle of Lenud’s Ferry is also known as the Battle of Lanneau’s Ferry.
  • Date Started: The Battle of Lenud’s Ferry started on May 6, 1780.
  • Date Ended: It ended on May 6, 1780.
  • Location: The battle was fought at Lenud’s Ferry, South Carolina.
  • Theater: The battle took place in the Southern Theater of the American Revolutionary War.
  • Campaign: The Battle of Lenud’s Ferry was part of the British Southern Campaign of the American Revolutionary War.
  • Who Won: Great Britain won the Battle of Lenud’s Ferry

What Happened at the Battle of Lenud’s Ferry?

During the Siege of Charleston, British General Henry Clinton sent Lieutenant Banastre Tarleton to capture an American outpost at Monck’s Corner, north of Charleston. Tarleton and his men captured the outpost and scattered the Americans on April 14 at the Battle of Monck’s Corner.

While the siege continued, British forces moved around the area, looking for escape routes the American forces trapped in Charleston might use. Meanwhile, the Americans who were beaten at Monck’s Corner gathered at Lenud’s Ferry, along the banks of the Santee River. This included Lieutenant Colonel William Washington and his men, along with Colonel Peter Horry and his men. 

Ball’s Plantation

Another group of Americans, led by Colonel Anthony Walton White, crossed the Santee River at Dupui’s Ferry on May 5, as they moved toward Lenud’s Ferry. Either that day or the next morning, White and his men encountered a British patrol at Wambaw, a plantation owned by Loyalist Colonel Elias Ball. 

The Americans captured around 18 British infantrymen, who were from Tarleton’s command. From there, White and his men took the prisoners and marched on to Lenud’s Ferry.

Later that day, Tarleton and his men, about 150 dragoons, were moving toward Lenud’s Ferry and passed by the plantation. Ball informed Tarleton of the situation and Tarleton immediately went in pursuit of White.

General Anthjony Walton White, American Revolution
Anthony Walton White. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

American Forces at Lenud’s Ferry

By the time White arrived at Lenud’s Ferry, Washington, Horry, and their men were on the south side of the Santee River. On the north side, there was a large force of 350 men under the command of Colonel Abraham Buford, who were on their way to Charleston. 

White joined Washington and Horry on the south side of the river and his men rested. Soon after, White prepared to ferry his men and the prisoners to the other side of the river where Buford was.

Tarleton Attacks

Around 3:00, Tarleton and his men reached Lenud’s Ferry and rode hard at White and his men. Just like at Mock’s Creek, the attack was swift and brutal. 

The Americans were easily overwhelmed. From the other side of the river, Buford and his men watched the attack but could do nothing about it because they were completely unprepared for action.

Many of the Americans, including White, Washington, and Major John Jameson, escaped the attack by swimming to the other side of the river. Unfortunately, many of them also drowned as they tried to swim to safety. Others survived by running off into the surrounding swamps.

The prisoners on the ferry were able to escape by pushing the Americans overboard

The Outcome of the Lenud’s Ferry Battle

The Americans suffered heavy casualties, and Tarleton captured all their horses and supplies. Tarleton’s report of the incident said that “resistance and slaughter soon ceased” and that the Patriots “availed themselves of their swimming, to take their escape, while many who wished to follow their example perished in the river.”

White and Washington went to Halifax, North Carolina to start rebuilding their regiments. Buford received orders to return north, so he started the march back to North Carolina.

The Siege of Charleston ended a few days later, on May 12. General Benjamin Lincoln was forced to surrender the city and more than 3,300 American troops to the British. On May 18, Clinton set sail for New York and left Cornwallis in charge of the Southern Army.

While Buford was marching back to North Carolina, he met up with Americans who escaped from Charleston, including South Carolina Governor John Rutledge. When Cornwallis found out, he sent Tarleton in pursuit of Buford. Although Buford was about 10 days ahead, Tarleton and his men moved quickly and caught up with Buford at Waxhaws on May 29.

Significance of the Battle of Lenud’s Ferry

The Battle of Lenud’s Ferry is important to United States history because the outcome contributed to the surrender of Charleston in May 1780. The battle also boosted the reputation of Banastre Tarleton as a ruthless commander. A reputation that was enhanced further a month later at the Battle of Waxhaws on May 29, 1780.

What led to the Battle of Lenud’s Ferry?

On October 9, 1779, the British repulsed an attack by French and American forces during the Siege of Savannah. Within a few days, the Siege ended and General Benjamin Lincoln marched back to Charleston, South Carolina.

When news of the victory reached General Henry Clinton in New York, he made plans to send an army and warships to lay siege to Charleston. He believed if he could take Charleston, he could reclaim South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and bring an end to the war.

Clinton organized his forces and then chose Hessian General Wilhelm von Knyphausen to command troops in New York. He sailed for Charleston on December 26, 1779, with General Charles Cornwallis as his second-in-command and Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot commanding the fleet.

Siege of Charleston 

Clinton had more than 8,500 troops, along with 14 warships that were crewed by 5,000 sailors. Most of the men were transported in 90 smaller ships. The armada was delayed by stormy weather off the coast of North Carolina but arrived near Tybee Island and the mouth of the Savannah River around January 27.

After repairing the ships, Clinton sailed for Charleston on February 10 and entered North Edisto Inlet on February 11. Later that day, he started landing troops on present-day Seabrook Island.

From there, Clinton’s army moved northeast, across Johns Island, across the Stono River, to James Island. By March 3, the army was on the mainland and it took until the end of the month for it to march to Charleston Neck.

On May 29, Clinton’s army arrived at Charleston, and the Siege of Charleston started.

Battle of Monck’s Corner

While the Siege of Charleston was taking place, American forces under the command of General Isaac Huger were posted at Monck’s Corner, 30 miles north of Charleston. The position was vital to American communication and supply lines, and, if necessary, General Benjamin Lincoln’s escape route from Charleston.

General Henry Clinton sent Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and a contingent of troops to engage Huger. Tarleton and their men attacked the Americans before dawn on April 14 and quickly routed them in a brutal fashion at the Battle of Monck’s Corner.

It was Tarleton’s first victory in the South and helped earn him a reputation for having no mercy for the enemy. American forces scattered and gathered at Lenud’s Ferry in May.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title The Battle of Lenud’s Ferry — Tarleton Smashes American Forces
  • Date May 6, 1780
  • Author
  • Keywords Battle of Lenud's Ferry, Siege of Charleston, Banastre Tarleton, Battle of Lenud's Ferry APUSH
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 16, 2024