The dawn was still some minutes in the future. The gloom, which had been black, was now a shadowy, twilight grey. We reached the Militia line. Colonel Andrew Pickens was walking up and down the line encouraging his men. “Boys! Hold on! Wait till you see them clearly! We’re going to introduce them to Hell today!”
We reloaded. The Militia line stiffened as the first British soldiers reached the crest of the ridge in front of us. General Morgan had placed this line on the reverse side of the second ridge. So, we were down in a small swale looking up at the top of the ridge. The British reached the top of the ridgeline and were silhouetted against the lighter grey sky. The Militia line erupted in a volley. We added our shots to the volley of the Militia. Some of the Militia ran after their first shot. Daniel and I, as did many of the skirmishers, continued our retreat, as planned, to left of the Continental line. Our long rifles took about a minute to reload, while the muskets of the Militia and the British took about one-half a minute. We could not stay for a second shot, when the British were so close. Our Pennsylvania rifles, while great shots at 150 yards, were poor clubs in hand to hand combat. They broke too easily. They were fragile. Neither could they be fitted with a bayonet, although some tried putting a butcher knife on the end.
The Militia and the British traded a volley and then another volley. Some of the Militia left after each volley. Colonel Pickens ordered, “Stand boys, and deliver another one!” The remaining men of the Militia volleyed a third time and then retreated towards and through the Continental line.
It was then that the British Fusiliers began to think that we had been beaten, they charged towards the Continental line. They were cheering. “God save the King!” “Huzzah!”
Colonel John Edgar Howard, the commander of the Continentals yelled to his men, “Steady boys! Wait till they’re in the killing range! Marylanders, hold steady!”
The British were running up the slope of the third ridge. The Maryland Regulars were like a rock. The British wave sweep up the beach and crested right at the feet of the Maryland Regulars.
Daniel and I had walked all the way around our Continentals Regulars from left flank to the right flank. We were now standing with the Virginians. We had reloaded and we started to walk up to their line to join them, when it happened. Someone, somehow, had heard something that was not there: an order to retreat. Howard, I heard, had ordered, “Refuse the flank!” That was an order to turn slightly to the right to prevent the British from going around us on our right. The Virginians heard: “Retreat!”
The Virginians began a retreat, but they retreated in a manner such that they “tailed their guns”, that is the dragged their muskets along the ground and were reloading as they backed up. Morgan rode up, saw what was happening, and rode over to Howard. They conferred for what was a long moment. Morgan pointed, while Howard nodded. Morgan rode over to the Marylanders.