Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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TARLETON, Sir Banastre, bart., British soldier, born in Liverpool, 21 August, 1754 ; died in England, 23 January, 1833. He came to America with Lord Cornwallis in Sir Peter Parker's squadron in May, TARLETON 1776. He was major in Colonel Harcourt's regiment of dragoons, and accompanied Harcourt in the raid upon Baskingridge, New Jersey, which resulted in the capture of General Charles Lee, 13 December Little is heard of him during the next three years. In December, 1779, he accompanied the expedition of Sir Henry Clinton to South Carolina with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He raised and organized a troop known as the "British legion," or sometimes as "Tarleton's legion." It comprised both light infantry and cavalry, with a few fieldpieces, and was thus a miniature army in itself. It was made up partly of British regulars, partly of New York loyalists, and was further recruited by loyalists of South Carolina. At the head of this legion Tarleton soon made himself formidable in partisan warfare. In the difficult country of the Carolinas, with poor roads, frequent swamps or pine-barrens, and scant forage, he could move far more rapidly than the regular army, and his blows were delivered with sudden and crushing effect. After Clinton's capture of Charleston, 12 May, 1780, Colonel Buford's regiment, which had been marching toward Charleston, began its retreat to Virginia, but Tarleton, giving chase, overtook and overwhelmed it at Waxhaw Creek, near the border between the two Carolinas. Nearly all Buford's men were slaughtered, and thenceforth the phrase " Tarleton's quarter " was employed to denote wholesale butchery. At Camden, 15 August, Tarleton completed the ruin of General Gates's left wing. At Fishing Creek, 18 August, he surprised General Thomas Sumter, and utterly routed and dispersed his force; but at Blackstock's Hill, 20 November, Sumter returned the compliment, and severely defeated Tarleton. Early in January, 1781, Lord Cornwallis sent Tarleton, with 1,100 men, westward to the mountain country to look after General Daniel Morgan, who was threatening the British inland posts. At the Cowpens, 17 January, Morgan, with 900 men, awaited his attack and almost annihilated his force of 1,100 men in one of the most brilliant battles of the war. Tarleton accompanied Cornwallis during his campaigns in North Carolina and Virginia. In June, 1781, he made a raid upon Governor Jefferson's house at Monticello; but the governor, forewarned, had escaped to the mountains a few minutes before Tarleton's arrival. He remained with Cornwallis until the surrender at Yorktown. On returning to England he was promoted colonel. In 1790 he was elected to parliament from Liverpool, and was so popular that all the expenses of the election were borne by his friends. He was member of parliament in 1790-1806, and again in 1807-'12. In 1817 he reached the grade of lieu-tenant-general, and was made a baronet, 6 November, 1818. Ross, the editor of Cornwallis's "Correspondence," says (p. 44) that, in the house of commons, Tarleton " was notorious for his criticisms on military affairs, the value of which may be estimated from the fact that he almost uniformly condemned the Duke of Wellington." He published a "History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America " (London, 1787). This book has value in so far as it contains many documents that cannot elsewhere be obtained except with great labor. As a narrative it is spoiled by the vanity of the author, who distorts events for his self-glorification to a degree that is seldom paralleled in books of this character. The work was severely criticised by Colonel Roderick Mackenzie, "Strictures on Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton's History" (London, 1787). Mackenzie in turn was answered by Tarleton's second in command, Major George Hanger, afterward Lord Cole-rain, " Address to the Army in Reply to Colonel Mackenzie's Strictures" (London, 1787). The best-known portrait of Tarleton is the one by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1782), representing him in full uniform, with his foot on a cannon, from which the accompanying vignette is copied. Among the English colonel's American friends was Israel Halleck, a loyalist, father of Fitz-Greene, who was for a time a member of his military family, and between whom and Tarleton there was an enduring friendship.
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