The Skirmish at Cary's Fort

August 15, 1780 at Carey's Fort, Kershaw County, South Carolina
(aka Carey's Fort)

American Forces Commanded by
Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
800 ? ? ?
British Forces Commanded by
Col. James Cary
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
270 7 ? 220
Conclusion: American Victory

Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter got the approval from Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates for a secondary effort against the British line of communications between Camden and Charleston. Gates reinforced Sumter's forcewith 300 to 400 of his men, and Col Thomas Woolford detachment of 100 Maryland Continentals, 300 North Carolina militia and 2 brass three pounders. This reinforcement detachment was commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas Woolford. The American objective was at Wateree Ferry. The British had built a small redoubt on the west side of Wateree Ferry, which they called Fort Carey. The name Fort Carey was named after the fort's British commander's name.

On August 14, Woolford and the reinforcement detachment joined up with Sumter and his force.

On August 15, Sumter with 700 SC militia (probably some NC militia included in this total as well), Sumter with 300 to 400 of his men, and Col Thomas Woolford detachment of 100 Maryland Continentals, 300 North Carolina militia and 2 brass three pounders surprised and captured a redoubt, Ft. Cary, on the west bank of the Wateree Ferry, commanded by Col. James Cary, a South Carolina loyalist. In the same operation, Col. Thomas Taylor attacked and captured a convoy containing arms, clothing, corn, rum and other stores, a number of sick, on its way to the redoubt from Ninety-Six, which were being escorted by about 50 light infantry, many of whom themselves were invalids. Seven loyalists were killed, and all together Sumter and his men took 70 British soldiers, 150 loyalists, some horses, 44 wagons loaded with supplies, a drove of three hundred cattle and a flock of sheep. When Sumter learned of the british preparing to cross the river and retrieve there American prisoners and stores, they then made a hasty retreat up the west side of the Wateree River. Bass states that Taylor both surprised the fort and captured the convoy. From the Wateree Ferry on the same day, Sumter wrote Gates:

“I have just time to inform you, that early this morning I took possession of all the passways over the Wateree river, from Elkins' ford to Mr. Whitear's ferry, five miles below Camden. The enemy had guards at many different places upon the river, all of which were evacuated last night or this morning, and the guards ordered into Camden, except those at Wateree ferry, which was continued on both sides of the river, of which the guard upon the west side was surprised by a party of my men, who killed seven, and took about thirty prisoners, among which was Colonel [James] Cary, the commander, together with thirty-eight waggons, loaded with corn, rum, &c. also a number of horses: The boats are all upon the opposite side of the river; the ground upon this side is very bad; the enemy keep up a constant fire, but I have received no damage yet. I intend to keep possession if I can, until I am honoured with your excellency's farther command. I should not have been so precipitate in my movements, but foresaw the excessive disadvantage that would result from their having the communication open, whereby they were constantly receiving both men and provisions.…..P.S. I have the pleasure to inform your excellency, that I have this instant made about seventy prisoners, all British, six waggons, baggage, &c. just from Ninety-Six; many of the prisoners are sick.”

On August 16, upon hearing the gunfire at the Battle of Camden, and learning that Gates had been defeated, Sumter attempted to escape north but was surprised. He was drawn into the Battle of Fishing Creek.