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Corey Heyward, Wexler Curatorial Fellow at Drayton Hall, updated us recently on findings in her ongoing research into the Revolutionary War period at Drayton Hall.
John Drayton, who constructed Drayton Hall as his masterpiece, died in 1779 as he evacuated Drayton Hall. We don’t yet know if his family evacuated with him and when they ultimately returned to Drayton Hall. In the meantime, research in the journals of German soldiers active in the region indicates British troops en masse likely spent the night at Drayton Hall before crossing the river in 1780 to lay siege to Charleston. General Cornwallis, First Marquess of Cornwallis (pictured here) used Drayton Hall as a field headquarters from August through November of 1780. There is indication British troops plundered the house which was storing possessions belonging to city families who sent them to Drayton Hall for safety while the house was unoccupied.
South Carolina would prove to be uncontrollable as the colony’s local militia waged a vicious campaign to retake their home and Cornwallis elected to move into North Carolina and Virginia to engage.
Cornwallis is often remembered as the man who lost the American colonies for the British; surrendering at Yorktown in 1781 in the sandwich of the overwhelming buildup of American and French troops and the powerful French Navy awaiting him by water.
We were asked on Facebook in posting about this new research two questions which deal with additional scenarios surrounding these events and Corey’s findinds on these subjects will prove of additional interest to our readers so, we share them here:
What became of the enslaved persons on both sides of the Revolutionary conflict?
There is primary source material indicating both the British and Colonial Americans forced enslaved persons to work for them and into battle on their sides. They laid the lines of the Battle of Charleston in 1780 and sadly represent the group with the highest number of casualties; The British gaining slave labor as they commandeered them or in some cases, an enslaved person might believe they would have more freedoms with the British – only to regret the decision. Some Colonial American pressed their own slaves into service, while others abandoned their plantations leaving slaves behind who would be forced to fight for one side or the other.
How did John Drayton, builder of Drayton Hall, die?
John Drayton died while evacuating in 1779 with the Revolutionary War waging around him. He suffers a “seizure” on a boat on the Cooper River and is brought ashore where he died in what seems to be a pub alongside the river. He did not make it far from Drayton Hall. He was 64 at the time of his death (b. 1715 – d. 1779).