Sunday, December 30, 2012
South Carolina 4: Hezekiah Maham (Rice Grower)
When South Carolina congressmen became more vociferous about the supposedly false theories of modern science, I began to wonder how Charleston had ever produced the important innovations in botany that underlay its lifestyle: the selection of new types of rice and roses. Periodically, I’ll be publishing the result of my inquiries into the lives of two innovative growers, Hezekiah Maham (rice) and John Champneys (roses). Previous entries can be found under “South Carolina” in the index at the right.
In this entry in the first paragraph, we see the first signs that Maham had the mind of an innovator, and farther down, an indication of the agricultural cultural crisis he faced after the war.
Weather: Last snow 12/24/12; 9:47 hours of daylight today.
The snow has been evaporating, then condensing into clouds when the heat of the sun disappeared. The clouds trapped the heat, and kept the nights a bit warmer than otherwise. One day, the moisture even precipitated into a light dusting of snow. When the snow is gone, there will be nothing left to insulate us from the cold of the altitude.
What’s still green: Few rose stems; juniper, pine, and other evergreens; Madonna lily, yucca, pet garlic, grape hyacinth, vinca, sea pink, snapdragon, moss phlox, alfilerillo, sweet pea, some hollyhock and winecup mallow leaves; needle grass cores.
Arborvitae and Japanese honeysuckle have browned; many vinca leaves have died.
What’s red: Cholla; apple, apricot and sandbar willow branches; coral beardtongue, pink, small-leaved soapwort, exposed pink evening primrose leaves.
What’s grey or blue: Snow-in-summer, winterfat, golden hairy aster leaves; western stickseed seedlings.
What’s yellow: Globe willow branches.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia, petunias.
Animal sightings: Small brown birds.
Weekly update: For nearly ten years, war dominated Hazekiah Maham’s life. His easy years of promotion, and one assumes, comradery and competence peaked in April, 1781, when he built a log tower to give rebel soldiers the height necessary to fire at the otherwise impregnable Fort Watson. While others credit Thomas Taylor with devising the first temporary structure from fence rails at Fort Granby in February, Maham was the one who adapted the idea and improved the construction with logs, so that it became a tactic used the end of May at Augusta.
Four months later, in July, the nature of Maham’s war changed when Thomas Sumter led an attack on the British near Charleston. At the first skirmish at Biggin’s Church on July 16, one of Peter Horry’s troops betrayed their position with a gun that failed to fire and they retreated. A slave told the British where they went, and they were ambushed in camp.
The next day, the British attacked at Quinby Bridge near the Cooper River. Maham’s troops charged to take the howitzer. In the fierce, close combat Maham’s horse was killed. The rebels fell back to Thomas Shubrick’s plantation. Many in Francis Marion’s Brigade of Partisans were killed or wounded when Sumter failed to send artillery to support them. Of the 555 involved 30 were killed and 30 wounded. The dead were buried near where they fell.
In September, the Continental army, commanded by Nathaniel Greene, engaged the British at Eutaw Springs, to stop them from going north to join Charles Cornwallis in Virginia. Technically, Greene lost in the deadliest battle in the south, but not before neutralizing the British troops. Maham’s commander, William Henderson was wounded.
The Swamp Fox’s unit was so badly depleted he was ordered to raise two new regiments, one led by Maham, the other by Peter Horry. The two men had been feuding, and Maham refused to work with Horry.
One reason for the conflict may have been the tensions that arise when an aristocratic society is confronted by the realities of prolonged war where military talent is more widely distributed among the lower orders, and men no longer tolerate incompetent commanders. Thomas Taylor had publically refused to obey an order from the Gamecock, Thomas Sumter, after Shubrick’s plantation.
At some time, Maham was staying with friends when he woke in the night, thinking he was being attacked, grabbed his sword and began slashing clothes that hung by the window. His wife’s wealthy relatives rather thought it a funny anecdote to tell about a man who had married into their family, but modern readers will recognize a common post-combat reaction made worse by an environment where the enemy had eyes everywhere.
After Cornwallis surrendered in November, Maham’s men were attacked in January at Vidau’s Bridge and in February at Durant’s plantation and Tydiman’s plantation. In each case, the British commanders knew the numbers of men Marion commanded. In February they not only knew Marion and Maham were attending the General Assembly at Jacksonborough and that Maham and Horry were feuding, but that the man Maham left in charge had left camp.
Four were killed and 14 wounded in January; 14 were killed and 9 wounded in February. The last battle left the units of both Horry and Maham so ravaged, the governor, John Rutledge, ordered the two merged. When Marion, made Maham commander, ostensibly because he had been a colonel longer, Horry resigned in protest.
When Horry returned to the plantation he’d inherited from his father near Wiynah Bay, he found his neighbor’s slaves had run away, leaving sweet potatoes and cotton they’d been growing for themselves. He asked to harvest the crops to support his own slaves.
In March, Maham returned home to see a doctor about a lingering fever. A runaway slave informed the loyalists. James Robins, a captain at Tydiman’s Plantation, appeared to force him to sign papers he wouldn’t fight any longer, and left him on parole. Greene ordered him to stay home and accept his situation.
Frederick Porcher remembers that when Maham returned the area “was full of disaster to the agriculturist.” The primary crop had been indigo, which no longer was supported by British subsidies, and the Santee swamp was too prone to floods for other crops. To make matters worse, the state was refusing to pay Marion’s men, and the credit breakdown that sparked riots in Charles Town spread to the hinterland.
Maham’s wife Mary died in January, 1784. By September he was so deeply in debt, the sheriff was serving him papers. When his deputy appeared, Maham drew his sword and forced the man to eat the papers. Marion appeared to smooth over the situation, but his family says Maham continued to be “more and more irritable.”
He died in 1789, only 50 years old.
Hazekiah Maham’s War:
Mar Elected captain in Isaac Huger’s 1st Regiment of Riflemen
Sep 24-Oct 19 Stono Ferry, captain of grenadier company under Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Nov 8 Major in the SC 1st Regiment, resign 11/8
nd Major under Daniel Horry in SC Light Dragoons, cousin of Peter Horry
Feb 18-22 Stono Ferry, major with Daniel Horry’s SC State Dragoons
Mar 6-7 Ferguson’s Plantation, major, SC State Calvary
May 12 Charleston surrender
Aug Lieutenant colonel under Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox
Apr 15-23 Fort Watson, major SC State Calvary under Francis Marion
Jul 16 Biggin’s Church, Lieutenant Colonel under Thomas Sumter, SC Continentals
Jul 17 Quinby Bridge and Shubrick’s Plantation, lieutenant colonel, Maham’s Light Dragoons, under Thomas Sumter, SC Continentals
Aug 31 Parker’s Ferry under Francis Marion, SC Continentals and Militia
Sep 8 Eutaw Springs, lieutenant colonel under William Henderson, SC State Troops and Militia
Nov 10 Charles Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown
Nov Colonel and commander of SC 3rd Regiment of State Dragoon under Francis Marion
Nov 18 Fair Lawn under Francis Marion
Jan 3 Vidau’s Bridge, Maham’s Light Dragoons under John Caraway Smith, SC State Troops
Feb 24 Durant’s Plantation, Strawberry Ferry, Maham’s Light Dragoons under John Caraway Smith
Feb 25 Tydiman’s Plantation, Mahan’s Dragoons under John Caraway Smith
Mar Captured by British at home, paroled
Oct 16 Monck’s Corner
nd Chase down thieves who steal his relatives prize horse
Gordon, John W. South Carolina and the American Revolution, 2003.
Horry, Peter. Letter to Colonel Grimké, 10 June 1782, quoted by Joyce E. Chaplin, An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South, 1730-1815, 1993; probably John Faucheraud Grimké who may have been the nominal owner of the neighbor’s land. Grimké was married to Mary Smith, a descendant of the second landgrave Thomas Smith, who bought the grant of Wiynah Bay in 1711; the Grimkés were centered to the south in Beaufort.
Johnson, Joseph. Traditions and Reminiscences, Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South, 1851.
Lewis, J. D. The American Revolution website.
O’Kelley, Patrick. Nothing but Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas, 4 volumes, 2004-2005.
Porcher, Frederick A. Historical and Social Sketch of Craven County, no date.
Photographs: What’s not dormant.
1. Small-leaved soapwort, in the shadow of the wood retaining wall, 25 December 2012.
2. Pink evening primrose, under last year’s leaves and near the wood retaining wall, 25 December 2012.
3. Western stickseed in gravel driveway, 29 December 2012.
4. Mossy phlox near the wood retaining wall, 29 December 2012; there appears to be new growth since the snow
5. Grape hyacinth leaves as the sun melts on the western side of the house, 29 December 2012.
6. Narrow leaved yucca, on the west side of the house where the snow melts quickly, 25 December 2012.
7. Pet garlic in the south drip line where the snow never lasts, 28 December 2012; there were more green leaves before the snow.
8. Alfilerillo in the gravel drive, near the stickseed, 28 December 2012; the darkening and reddening at the edges occurred after the snow.
9. Vinca near the house where snow disappears quickly, 25 December 2012; many leaves died after the snow.
10. Cholla cactus in the open, 25 December 2012; the stems continue to redden.
11. Madonna lily above the western drip line in the shadow of the garage, 25 December 2012.
12. Shasta daisy in the ice of the western drip line of the garage, 25 December 2012; the leaves look in better condition than those of the plant farther north that does not get a little sun every day.