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Blood Be Upon Your Head

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USCL conference to look at Battle of the Waxhaws

By Greg Summers

For more than 200 years, the debate has raged over what happened in eastern Lancaster County between British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton and Col. Abraham Buford’s Virginia Detachment.

What is known is that on May 29, 1780, Tarleton’s dragoons and mounted infantry caught up with the Continentals about 3 p.m.

Within 15 minutes, 113 of Buford’s infantry had been killed, 150 were wounded and 53 were missing or captured.

Tarleton’s force of 275 men had only four killed and 15 wounded.

Trying to unravel the events of that battle – known as the Battle of the Waxhaws or Buford’s Massacre – has become a mixture of history and mystery.

No matter what you believe, one thing about that day is crystal clear, said Camden lawyer David Reuwer of the American Revolution Association.

“Warfare is hell,” Reuwer said. “The bloodshed and butchery of the battle at Buford’s Crossroads was real, no matter what side you come at the fight from.”

In the aftermath, Buford managed to escape. Tarleton was branded with “Bloody Ban,” a nickname and legacy that hounded him until his death in 1833. 

Now, in an effort to realistically look at Buford’s Massacre, the controversy that surrounds it and its place in history, the American Revolution Association, along with Andrew Jackson State Park, Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution, the Friends of Andrew Jackson State Park and the Friends of Medford Library have joined forces for a one-day conference.

“Blood Be Upon Your Head,” Tarleton and Buford at the Waxhaws is Saturday at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster. Registration is 8:30 a.m. and the conference starts at 9 a.m. Participants will also tour the battleground site Saturday afternoon.

Speakers include Todd Braisted, a British Legion expert of the On-line Institute of Loyalist Studies, Dr. Jim Piecuch of Kennesaw State University, living historian David McKissack and Scott Miskimon. 

McKissack is well-versed in the history of the Virginia Continentals. Miskimon, an author, is one of the leading authorities on the Battle of the Waxhaws.

Physician and historian Lee McGee will discuss the tactics and training of Revolutionary War-era cavalry and Bill Anderson, a map specialist, will track the daily movements of Buford’s and Tarleton’s forces. Archaeologist Scott Butler will lead the battleground tour.

Anthony Scotti, author of “Brutal Virtue: The Myth and Reality of Banastre Tarleton,” writes that misunderstanding and anger have always fueled the fire of Buford’s Massacre.

“How one views this engagement depends upon which side of the political fence one is sitting,” he wrote.

With that type of background, Reuwer said it’s no wonder that interest in the Buford Massacre remains strong.

“We already have more than 100 people coming,” he said. “It’s kind of exciting. It’s a big deal because all of these are the leading experts, if there is such a thing.

“You rarely get them together at one place like this,” Reuwer said.

Want to go?

WHAT: “Blood Be Upon Your Head” Tarleton and Buford at the Waxhaws, a conference and debate on Buford’s Massacre

WHERE: The Bradley Arts and Sciences Building at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster

WHEN: Registration is 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The conference begins at 9 a.m. There will also be a tour of the battleground Saturday afternoon.

HOW MUCH: $65 per person or $120 per couple, which includes lunch.

INFORMATION: For details, contact Andrew Jackson State Park at (803) 285-3344 or by e-mail at andrewjackson@scprt.com.