Deanís Swamp, South Carolina
24 May 1782
Near Dean Swamp were two bullpens that contained Loyalist and British
prisoners of war. "Bloody Bill" Cunningham wanted to free these
prisoners, so he sent some of his men to rescue the prisoners.
Captain William Butler had learned that Cunninghamís men were encamped on
Deanís Swamp and assembled fifteen of his Edgefield County militia. He
rendezvoused with Captain Michael Watson and eighteen of his Cloud Creek
Company and then the two units rode out a sundown.
The Patriot militia rode all night and approached the Loyalist camp the
next morning. Along the way they had captured a Loyalist by the name of
Hutto. Unfortunately Hutto was able to escape and alert Cunningham that
an attack was imminent.
Watson said that it was madness to proceed, but Butler did not want to
turn back. Butler had lost his father at Cloudís Creek and wanted
revenge. Both officers rode on towards the enemy. Watsonís men were
armed with rifles and muskets and Butlerís men were armed with pistols
The Loyalists had time to set up an ambush for the Patriots on the edge
of Deanís Swamp. They enticed the Patriots into the ambush by having two
men stand in the road. Butler, Watson and a sergeant named Varney rode
forward to capture the two Loyalists. Watson detected the ambush near
the men and shouted out, "Beware! The whole body of the enemy are at
In the first volley Watson and Varney were mortally wounded. Watson had
been wounded through the hip while he was loading behind a tree. Butler
moved the wounded men to a place of safety and appointed Sergeant John
Corley to act as a lieutenant. Corley had to threaten some of the
frightened militia, including his own brother, with death if they did not
return to their posts.
Butlerís men began to run low on ammunition. The Loyalists
outnumbered them by 2 to 1 and approached openly when the fire began to
slow. Butler decided to risk it all and charge the Loyalists with
swords. The Loyalists were surprised and confused by the attack and
fled. Many of them were killed while the rest fled into the swamp.
Butler lost two men killed and eight wounded. Captain Watson was carried
to Orangeburgh, where he died and was buried with full military honors.