Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ Loyalist David Blakeney's Military Career



The year was 1775, David Blakeney (my 6th great grandfather) and his family had lived on the shores of Cane Tail Creek in the Ninety Six District of South Carolina since 1767. Having received a Crown Grant of 100 acres, David had built a house, a barn, stables, and a loom house. His farm had horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs. He harvested wheat, Indian corn, and flax.



As tensions began to boil over in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, particularly in the South Carolina backcountry, it often was a struggle of conscience for many settlers, and David may have faced this conflict with mixed allegience. There is evidence to suggest that he initially served in the "rebel militia," probably under Andrew Williamson, "in some degree forced into it." Williamson, the first major double agent in the American colonies, later joined the Loyalist cause, and David possibly followed suit.

By 1780, it became apparent to the British command that more vigilant defenses were essential to retaining the Southern territory. 

"Keeping possession of the backcountry is to utmost importance, indeed the Success of the War in the Southern District depends totally upon it." 
– Lord Cornwallis to Lt. Col. Cruger, August 5, 1780

The eight-pointed Star Fort at Ninety Six was the result. Upon completion the walls stood 14 feet high and it is estimated the walls were 10-15 feet thick. In addition, the defense included abatis (felled trees with sharpened branches), a steep ditch, fraise (sharp stakes protruding from the walls), and sandbags which surrounded the Star redoubt. Approximately 200 soldiers were stationed inside to keep guard.


Fort Ninety Six
[http://www.nps.gov/nisi/learn/photosmultimedia/online-tour-stop-11.htm]

David served as a Private in Colonel John Cotton's regiment of the Stevenson's Creek militia (the 96 Brigade), and narrowly avoided being involved in the King's Mountain conflict on October 7, 1780.

By May of the next year, approximately 1000 Patriot forces under Nathanael Greene were trying to seize the fortified settlement, and failing that, began the Seige of Ninety Six.There is evidence to suggest that David served continually throughout the 28-day seige, from May 21st to June 18th, the longest field siege of the Revolutionary War. As British Lieutenant Colonel Francis Rawdon ("Lord Rawdon") attempted to rescue the Loyalists who were manning the Fort, Greene's forces tried unsuccessfully to breech the enemy defenses on June 19th. but eventually retreated. The Loyalist forces, under Rawdon's influence, decided to abandon the Fort and concentrate their military efforts on the coast. By the time the British left Ninety Six of their own accord, on July 1, 1781, it was the last Loyalist fort in South Carolina.

David and his fellow militiamen proceeded to destroy the wooden structures and fort, and marched to Charleston.  When David left Ninety Six, he did so without his family. Taking only what they could carry, they were eventually sheltered by other Loyalist settlers.

For the remainder of 1791 and through much of 1792, David served in the Loyalist militia on James Island, near Charleston, and apparently saw little action as a non-commissioned officer in Colonel Baily Cheney's regiment. The following is from Clark's Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 1, p.339.




In November of 1792, Charleston was finally evacuated. David, along with his family, sailed with the troops on the troop transport ship "Argo" and landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on November 21st.

Notes: 

  • I have used here David's surname spelled Blakeney. Be advised, however, that there are many variations through the insuing generations, namely Blakney, Blakeney, Bleakeny, Bleakny, Bleakney, Bleakly, and even Bleachly.
  • The Seige of Ninety Six began 224 years ago today.
  • I descend from David on this line:







Sources:

1779 Census of Ninety-Six District (http://files.usgwarchives.net/sc/districts/census/1779_96d.txt)

96 Revolutionary (http://www.townofninetysixsc.com/?page_id=70)

Blakney, David, in Loyalist Directory (http://www.uelac.org/Loyalist-Info/detail.php?letter=b&line=348)

Cann, Marvin L. “War in the Backcountry:  The Siege of Ninety Six, May 22- June 19, 1781.”  South Carolina Historical Magazine 72 (1971):  1-14. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/27567019)

Clark, Murtie June, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War, Vol. 1, pp.339-340 (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1981) (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=48291)

Moss, Bobby Gilmer. The loyalists in the siege of Fort Ninety Six (Blacksburg, S.C.: Scotia-Hibernia Press, 1999.

Online Tour Stop 11 - Star Fort (http://www.nps.gov/nisi/learn/photosmultimedia/online-tour-stop-11.htm)

Our Loyalist Ancestors, by members of the Halifax-Dartmouth Branch of UELAC in 1983; made available online in 2015 by Brian McConnell, UE, Nova Scotia Branch (http://www.uelac.org/Loyalist-Info/extras/MISC-MULTI/OLA83.pdf)

Patriot siege of Ninety Six, South Carolina, begins (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/patriot-siege-of-ninety-six-south-carolina-begins)

The Revolutionary War in South Carolina (http://sciway3.net/clark/revolutionarywar/index.html)

South Carolina Townships, 1731-1765, map
(http://www.southern-style.com/Write%20Life/South%20Carolina%20and%20Fort%20Mims.html)

Tarleton, Banastre. A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (London: Printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1787) (via Google Books)

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing! I've included this post in my NoteWorthy Reads post for this week: http://jahcmft.blogspot.com/2015/05/noteworthy-reads-15.html

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  2. I have published a book on David and his brother Chambers - My Help Comes From Above. I now know for certain that they both were involved in the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780 and were captured and were freed or escaped to fight at Ft. 96 in 1781. Ray Blakeney

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