Snipes Plantation, South Carolina
3 June 1781
Captain William Snipes had been with Horry’s South Carolina Regiment, but when Marion was made a brigadier general Snipes was overlooked for promotion and he resented it. Snipes formed an independent company and refused to have his militia serve under Marion. He operated under the command Sumter. Marion protested to Sumter, but Sumter denied that Snipes operated in Marion’s area, since that would interfere with any militia operations east of the Santee River.
Snipes usually dealt with the Loyalists cruelly. In early June he was operating near his plantation and he decided to stop and spend the night at his home. What Snipes didn’t know was that he had been followed by Captain Saunders and a party of horsemen that consisted of the Queen’s Rangers, a troop of the South Carolina Royalists and Colonel Robert Ballingall’s Colleton County Regiment.
After Snipes examined the plantation and received an account of things that were done in his absence he retired for the night. That night Saunders’s Loyalists swam their horses across the Edisto River and approached the plantation. Alexander Chesney wrote of the crossing, "we crossed Pond Pond River at parker's Ferry, and the boats having been removed to impede our march I swam my horse over, accompanied by some others, and procured feather beds to transport those who could not swim across the river; we then proceeded rapidly and reached Snipe's Plantation by daylight."
Saunders had approached to within fifty yards and saw that a large gate would slow their progress and give away their surprise raid. Saunders chose Cornet Meritt, Corporal Theobald Franks, and four men to create an opening for the detachment. Meritt was detected and came under fire from the house while he was trying to make an opening. An ox chain had strengthened the gate and fence, but Meritt was able to create a hole through which Saunders and his Rangers rushed through. When Captain Chesney leaped his horse over a fence a man hidden there wounded him in the leg with a spear.
Lieutenant Stephen Jarvis of the South Carolina Royalists wrote, "We received the fire of the Enemy which wounded some of our men. We charged them. They quit the house and retreated towards the woods. There was an open field between the house and the wood where we came up with them and cut them to pieces. They were much scattered and every one singled out his man. I saw one who had nearly gained the wood before I should overtake him and as I was the only person who was in pursuit he deliberately turned and faced me, recovered his rifle and waited until I came very close. I was aware of his intentions. I could not retreat. My only chance was to charge him, I laid my head down by the side of my horse and put him at full speed. He levelled his piece and fired. He missed both myself and horse and before he could recover his rifle I gave him a blow across the face and he fell to rise no more. He died without a groan."
Snipes was awakened from his sleep by the cries of his Black driver, Cudjo. He was ready to take shelter in his barn, but Cudjo pointed to the flames coming out of the barn already. He was barely able to escape the house, covered only by his nightshirt. Fifty yards from the house he hid in patch of briars. The shirt had been ripped from his back by the briars, helping conceal him from the searching Loyalists.
The Loyalists grabbed Cudjo and demanded to know where Snipes was, but the driver would not speak. The Loyalists were wary of going into the Mill House where some of the partisans were still shooting, and instead set fire to it. Snipes’ plantation house soon caught fire too and the heat blistered his skin while he lay hiding.
The Loyalists put a rope around Cudjo’s neck and ran him up a tree. After almost choking him to death, they would let him down, and demand to know where Snipes was. The servant never told. Three times he was hung from the tree, but they could get nothing out of him.
Captain Saunders was able to capture eighteen partisans who had been with Snipes. Only Snipes and three of his men were able to escape. The eighteen partisans were killed after they surrendered. Others may have been killed when the Mill House was set on fire.
Jarvis wrote, "Only one man was taken prisoner and he was ordered to be killed, by Captain Saunders. The most disgraceful thing I ever heard of a British officer. The poor fellow was severly hacked, but whether he died of his wounds or not I do not know. I once pulled out my pistol to put the poor fellow out of his misery but I had not the power to discharge, and said to myself ‘This blood shall not be charged to me.’ I do not know but have reason to believe that as many as twenty were killed." After the raiders had left Snipes immediately rode with Cudjo to join with Marion’s forces.