A Student of History

June 21, 2006

More on those Rev. War flags…

Filed under: The strange place called the South,Wars — John Maass @ 10:52 pm

 I previously posted some information on the much-reported sale of 4 Revolutionary War battle flags for over $17,000,000 (which is more than I make in two years!). An additional account is here, and here, with a picture as well.  I just stumbled over aome additional inforamtion though, that is a little interesting: the Virginia legislature, or at least some of its delegates, expressed a wish to get the flags of Col. Buford's Regiment back to Virginia. This was House Joint Resolution #106, from January 2006.  It was for the purpose of "Encouraging the return of the four American Revolutionary War flags captured by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in 1779 and 1780 to their rightful homes in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Connecticut."  The text of this proposal is at this spot.

A few of the facts that this resolution claims are, well, in dispute even today. Here's whatthe JR states:

WHEREAS, on May 29, 1780, the three Virginia flags were captured in a controversial battle on the North Carolina-South Carolina line at Waxhaws, where Tarleton's troops crushed Colonel Abraham Buford’s force of about 350 Continentals, consisting of the 3rd Virginia Regiment and two companies of the 2nd Virginia Regiment; and

WHEREAS, the facts of what happened after Buford’s regiment raised a flag of surrender at Waxhaw are disputed–Americans contended that Colonel Tarleton ordered the slaughter of more than 100 Virginia soldiers who had already surrendered; while Colonel Tarleton maintained that his Loyalist troops ran amok when they believed he had been killed after the truce was declared; and

WHEREAS, Colonel Tarleton’s alleged conduct during his command of the battle came to symbolize British cruelty in the Revolutionary War and earned him the epithet “Bloody Ban or “The Butcher”; and

WHEREAS, after the British surrender at Yorktown, Colonel Tarleton, with the four flags, returned home to England as a hero; and

WHEREAS, Colonel Tarleton’s military exploits were commemorated by Sir Joshua Reynolds in a famous portrait of the colonel painted in 1782, in which the captured American flags appear at his feet…..

Then the JR asks that the flags' owner (who has by now sold the flags) "Captain Christopher Tarleton Fagan, the great-great-great-great nephew of Colonel Tarleton, be encouraged to return the four American Revolutionary War flags captured by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in 1779 and 1780 to their rightful homes in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Connecticut."  Gee, I wonder if the person who just spent $17,000,000 is going to turn over the flags to their rightful homes?  I hate to tell the Virginians this but when the battle flags were captured, they no longer have a rightful home in the Old Dominion!  Had Buford's men defeated or rebuffed Tarleton, they could have kept the flags in a much more efficient and rightful manner.  This is just plain embarassing silliness from my home state, I hate to admit. 

Now, about those "facts" stated above in the JR, it shows why history should be left to those who can do history.  I'm not just talking about professional historians–I include those who can research and interpret facts, which they presumably will get right. For example–the battle occurred in SC, not NC and not "on the North Carolina-South Carolina line." Yes, it was near the line–but couldn't the Virginia Assembly get that part right?  In addition, there is no truth to the claim that "Tarleton ordered the slaughter of more than 100 Virginia soldiers who had already surrendered."  I haven't seen anything definitive that Tarleton ordered the alleged post-surrender fighting.  Then the account jumps to this claim: "Colonel Tarleton’s alleged conduct during his command of the battle…."   Who is alleging this?  Some popular histories that get it wrong, and of course the Virginia delegates.  In other words, the Resolution rehashes a few old claims, then treats them as facts in order to get the flags back! 

While it may be true that Tarleton's men roughly handled the Virginians who refused to surrender at first, and the casualties were quite high, there is strong evidence that the "massacre" took place after the Virginians had given up, because a Virginia Continental took up his musket and shot at Tarleton, killing his horse. Once this violation of standard conduct took place, all bets were off at least for some time.  I do not see mention of this in the Resolution…

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