Michael C. Scoggins, York County Historical Center, July 2002
Lacey’s Fort was constructed by Col. Edward Lacey of Chester County in 1780 near Quinn’s Road on Turkey Creek, in southwestern York County . The fort was also known as Fort Lacey , Lacey’s Blockhouse or “Rebel’s Folly” by local Patriots, and was described by the British as a “rebel redoubt.” A redoubt was a square fort built of timber logs, in this case about 15 feet high, and a blockhouse was a fortified building used for shelter or for housing prisoners-of-war. Lacey’s Fort was constructed on a large hill known as Liberty Hill overlooking the area where Quinn’s Wagon Road crossed Turkey Creek, near the modern Turkey Creek Bridge on Highway 322, about six miles west of McConnells. Quinn’s Road was one of the major local thoroughfares of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; it ran from Rutherfordton , NC , to Chester , SC , where it connected with the Charleston Road and continued south. Quinn’s Road was used by both American and British troops during the Revolution, and portions of it are still in use today in both Chester , York and Cherokee Counties .
Edward Lacey was a resident of what is now Chester County , formerly part of the old Camden District. In the fall of 1775 he organized the Turkey Creek Volunteer Militia Company and was elected its captain. In the summer of 1780 he was given the command of a regiment of troops in Gen. Thomas Sumter’s partisan brigade, and he was involved in the battles of Huck’s Defeat, Rocky Mount , Hanging Rock, King’s Mountain, Cowpens, Eutaw Springs, and many other engagements during the Revolution. Lacey’s Fort was probably constructed in the late summer or early fall of 1780. Lacey and his troops, consisting primarily of militia from York and Chester Counties , occupied the fort until about December 25, 1780. At that time Lacey’s men rendezvoused with Gen. Daniel Morgan’s infantry and Col. William Washington’s cavalry at Lacey’s Fort and proceeded north to the Cowpens, where they decisively defeated the British forces under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton on January 17. The British general Lord Cornwallis moved up Quinn’s Road and camped at the nearby plantation of William Hillhouse, another rebel militiaman, from January 16 until January 18 or 19, 1781, before proceeding north to join Tarleton. Cornwallis destroyed the Hillhouse plantation before leaving the area, and it seems likely that he would have destroyed Lacey’s Fort while he was there, although I have yet to find any documentation that indicates that he actually did so. If Cornwallis did burn the fort, it must have been rebuilt and reoccupied after the Battle of Cowpens, and it apparently continued in operation throughout 1781 and 1782. Local tradition indicates that there may have been a skirmish on Turkey Creek at some point during the Revolution, and the pension application of Lt. Elijah Fleming (see below) would seem to confirm that this might have been at Lacey’s Fort, although no details have surfaced as yet to substantiate this belief. The fort was not abandoned until after the British evacuated Charleston in December 1782. In the 1870’s, the Wisconsin historian Lyman C. Draper corresponded with Daniel Stinson concerning Lacey’s Fort, but the research was never published, and the existence of the fort was all but forgotten until local historian Jerry West of the Broad River Basin Historical Society became interested in commemorating this important local Revolutionary War landmark.
There are numerous references to Lacey’s Fort in the pension applications of Revolutionary War veterans from the York and Chester area. But the earliest references are found in letters and correspondence between Lord Cornwallis and his officers, including Col. Tarleton and Maj. Archibald McArthur of the 71st Regiment of Foot. This correspondence dates from the winter of 1780-1781, when Cornwallis was camped in Winnsboro. The following are a collection of statements made by Revolutionary War veterans and nineteenth-century historians concerning Lacey’s Fort (notes in brackets are mine—MCS):
“Lord Rawdon had received intelligence, which, however, he does not credit, that [Gen. Daniel] Morgan’s corps and the cavalry had passed the Catawba. I have sent out every body I could engage to go; but the friends hereabout are so timid, and so stupid, that I can get no intelligence.
“I apprehend we must first dislodge Lacey, &c. from Turkey creek, and then march up the west side of Catawba to some of the fords above the Tuckaseege. I wish you would take pains to inform yourself as thoroughly as possible of the state of the roads, provisions, forage, mills, &c.” (Letter from Lord Charles Cornwallis in Winnsboro , SC , to Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton of the British Legion, Dec. 18, 1780. Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America , 242)
“The only thing I have learned respecting the Enemy since I last did myself the honor to write you is that a person arrived here yesterday who left Turkey Creek two days ago & says the Rebels had pressed all the waggons in that neighborhood & gave out they were to be sent to Salisbury for salt. I have the honor to send your Lordship a little sketch of the ground where the Rebels have made the redoubt on Turkey Creek, Lieut. McDonald had made it from the information of Mr. Lane who was at the place when prisoner, he does not know the size of it but is positive there was no place for cannon. I likewise inclose a plan of the action at Blackstocks drawn by Lt. McDonald, which is pretty near the mark.”
[Lt. McDonald’s sketch shows the “rebel redoubt” on the east side of the Turkey Creek Road or Quinn’s Waggon Road, southeast of where the road crossed Turkey Creek at Barrow’s Mill, 30 miles from “Mobley’s Settlement” in Fairfield County . The caption on the map reads, “REFERENCE A Stockade Fort 15 Feet High.”] (Letter from Maj. Archibald McArthur, 71st Regiment of Foot, at Brierly’s Ferry on Broad River , to Lord Cornwallis in Winnsboro, Dec. 20, 1780. Cornwallis Papers, British Public Record Office, 30/11/4/364)
“A man came this morning from Charlotte town; his fidelity is, however, very doubtful; he says, that [Gen. Nathanael] Greene marched on Wednesday last towards the Cheraws, to join General [Richard] Caswall, and that Morgan, with his infantry and one hundred and twenty-four of [Col. William] Washington’s light horse, crossed Biggar’s ferry [on the Catawba River], on Thursday and Friday last, to join Lacey. I expect more certain intelligence before night, when you shall hear again from me.” (Letter from Lord Charles Cornwallis in Winnsboro to Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, Dec. 26, 1780. Tarleton, 243)
Robert Barnwell of York District “helped build a fort on Turkey Creek.” (Bobby G. Moss, The Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution, 48)
James Brice “served under Capt. Saddler during 1779 and during 1780 was at Fort Lacey , at Fort Congaree and lost a horse in Sumter ’s Defeat.” (Moss, 99)
John Black lived on Broad River in York District. “Shortly after Ferguson ’s defeat [Oct. 7, 1780], he volunteered again and served at Turkey Creek and Sandy River .” (Moss, 72)
John Downing lived in York District and served in the New Acquisition Militia. “From 1 November to 21 December 1780, he served as a quartermaster under a Capt. Mills at Lacey’s Fort.” (Moss, 266)
Lt. Elijah Fleming “was in the battles at Briar Creek, Ramsour’s Mill, Blackstock’s Plantation, Fort Lacey, the [Wright’s] Bluff [Feb. 27, 1781], Congaree Fort, Quarter House and Orangeburg.” (Moss, 317) [Fleming’s list seems to indicate some sort of skirmish at Fort Lacey, and the chronology would place it after the battle of Blackstock’s Plantation on Nov. 20, 1780, and before the battle of Wright’s Bluff on Feb. 27, 1781.—MCS]
William Moore “served thirty days as a lieutenant at Fort Lacey .” (Moss, 699)
Samuel Morrow Jr. of Spartan District stated that “During 1782, he served three weeks at Lacey’s Blockhouse.” (Moss, 705)
David Neely “served thirty-five days at Fort Lacey under Col. [Joseph] Boggs during 1780.” (Moss, 720)
George Porter “served in the militia and was at Lacey’s Fort during 1779 and 1780.” (Moss, 779)
Ephraim Pursley “served in the militia on foot and on horseback during 1778 and 1780. During 1781, he served as a horseman under Gen. Sumter. In addition, he served during 1783 under Gen. Henderson and was at Lacey’s Fort.” (Moss, 792)
David Stevenson “served as a horseman under Capt. James Jamison and was in the battle at Blackstock’s Plantation . In addition, he served as a footman at Fort Lacey .” (Moss, 896)
William Summerford “was drafted, while residing in York District, under Capt. Jacob Barnett and Col. Hill and was sent to ‘Rebel’s Folly,’ a fort on Turkey Creek. Next, he was under Capt. Barnett and Col. Sumter and served at Congaree Fort until driven out by the British [Feb. 24, 1781].” (Moss, 908)
Andrew Townsend of York District stated that “During 1780, he drove cattle to Lacey’s Fort.” (Moss, 937)
Samuel Townsend “enlisted during May 1778, while residing in the Camden District, as a horseman under Col. Lacey. During 1781, he was at Fort Lacey under Lt. John Hanna. Next, he was under Capt. William Hanna and Col. Bratton and was at the siege of Fort Congaree .” (Moss, 938)
Joseph Waddle “served as a horseman during February 1779 and was at Briar Creek. During September 1780, he was a wagoner under Col. Hill and in November 1780, he served under Alexander McWorter, wagonmaster, and Gen. Sumter. From 12 November to 15 December 1780, he was at Fort Lacey under John Amor.” (Moss, 958)
George Weir of Chester District was under Col. Lacey at Wright’s Bluff in Feb. 1781 and was afterwards taken prisoner. “He was later paroled and was in the skirmish at Juniper [June 18, 1781]. Afterward, he was stationed at Lacey’s Blockhouse.” (Moss, 976)
Samuel Morrow Jr. stated that “In 1782 [he] did some service under Col. Lacey, & was stationed some weeks guarding at the blockhouse at Col. Lacey’s with a sargeant’s guard while Col. Lacey and his command were out on service. The blockhouse was built for a safeguard for his [Lacey’s] house & family, & a safe retreat for small parties, to fly to, in time of danger, & to reinforce it.” (Lyman C. Draper Manuscripts, 11VV421-2)
Francis Wylie of Chester District “was in Fish Dam Ford skirmish, & Blackstock’s—then lay at a fort on Turkey Creek to keep down the Tories, by patrolling, arresting Tories & keeping them in a blockhouse at Col. Lacey’s. Then marched under Capt. Hugh Knox, Col. Lacey & Gen. Sumter to Mason’s Church, near Monck’s Corner, where they fought with a party of British—Gen. Marion, Col. Lee & Col. Washington were there [Feb. 2, 1781].” (Draper Manuscripts, 11VV377)
Col. David Hopkins of Chester District was stationed at Fort Lacey on Turkey Creek in December 1780. He addressed a letter to his sons Ferdinand and Newton dated “S.C. Fort Lacey Turkey Creek Dec. 20th. 1780.” (Draper Manuscripts, 12VV276-8)
“Lacey’s Fort was on the north side of Turkey Creek about a mile from the stream on a high ridge on the Howell’s Ferry road—about 12 or 15 miles south west from Yorkville. The country immediately around hilly—This position was taken by Lacey the day after the battle of Blackstocks. Sumpter was carried north from this camp, his scouts went out through the country. Lacey was able to hold that part of the country for some time. It was near this place that Cornwallis army lay at the time of the battle of the Cowpens. I should be very glad to furnish you with a plat of this Fort but don’t think I can.” (Letter from Chester historian Daniel G. Stinson to Lyman C. Draper, April 28, 1874. Draper Manuscripts, 5VV37-38)
“Col. Lacey kept the field [after the Battle of Blackstock’s Plantation] with his mounted Infantry; his camp and headquarters were at Liberty Hill, on Turkey Creek in York District, S. C., at Williams’ (now Wright’s) Mill. Many of the Patriots flocked to his standard for saftey, and enrolled themselves under his banner. He greatly annoyed the enemy by cutting off their large foraging parties. On the 23d of November (1780) Cornwallis was forced to say, in a letter to Tarleton, ‘Sumter’s corps has been our greatest plague in this State;’ and on the 18th December the Earl says to Tarleton, ‘You must dislodge Lacey from his camp on Turkey Creek, so that I can move up on the left hand road.’ [This is not an exact quote; see Cornwallis quote for Dec. 18 above—MCS]
“Lacey also kept the Tories in check: none of the ‘Bloody Scout’ ever ventured across Broad River. It was a matter of great importance to the Patriots in that section, to show that they still had a force in the field who were always ready to fight on anything like equal terms.
“About the 25th of December, (1780), before Gen. Green left Charlotte he ordered Gen. Morgan and Col. Washington to go and menace Ninety-Six. On their way they joined Col. Lacey at Liberty Hill, who broke up his camp and marched with his Regiment under the command of Gen. Morgan until after the battle of the Cowpens, Jan. 17, 1781, where Col. Tarleton met with his worst and greatest defeat. His loss was upwards of eight hundred killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. The loss of the Patriots were comparatively light. Col. Lacey retreated with Morgan as far as the Tuckaseige [sic] Ford on the Catawba, where he was ordered to make a stand to prevent the enemy from crossing at that place.” (Maurice A. Moore, The Life of Gen. Edward Lacey, 23-24)
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