Birth of the Bloody Legion (Islands Divided, Part 2)
The residents of Hilton Head Island were out for blood. Their sworn enemies on neighboring Daufuskie Island had burned their homes to the ground and then sailed safely back across Calibogue Sound. Revenge was in order.
Vengeance Gone Wrong
The Revolutionary War had made friends and family into enemies as each colonial town and city declared its loyalty to either the British crown or American independence. In the Lowcountry, that division was felt strongly as Hilton Head Island proudly served the Patriot cause while neighboring Daufuskie Island declared itself a Tory community loyal to England.
That rivalry came to a head in the Sea Islands in October 1781 when Captain Philip Martinangele, Jr. led the Daufuskie Royal Militia in a successful mission to burn the Patriot homes that lined Hilton Head's Skull Creek. (For the complete story, see "The Burning of Skull Creek: Islands Divided, Part 1".) The Patriots of Hilton Head were hungry for revenge and immediately plotted to respond in kind.
The Daufuskie Tories, however, expected
retaliation and decided to beat their foes to the punch. On the evening of October 22 (just four days after the burnings), members of the Tory militia, again led by Martinangele, arrived on Hilton Head--this time sneaking up the middle of the island via Broad Creek and disembarking at the Patriot militia's muster house (at the site of what is now the Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum). They had hoped to catch and destroy the entire Hilton Head militia at their usual gathering spot, but instead found one man, Private Charles Davant, on patrol alone. Faced with the enemy militia, Devant raised his gun but was immediately shot.
As the Tories fled, Davant struggled the short distance to his home, Two Oaks Plantation, at the head of Broad Creek. As his wife cradled him in her arms and his young son looked on, Devant's dying words were, "Get Martinangele!"
Out for Blood
Following Davant's death, the Hilton Head militia was more determined than ever to make their Daufuskie neighbors pay. On Christmas night, Captain John Leacraft (assisted by Davant's brother James) led the militia across the sound to Daufuskie, where they snuck through the woods to the home of Tory Captain Philip Martinangele. Fueled by their anger over the home burnings and death of their beloved friend, the men crept unnoticed into Martinangele's house. There they found him asleep, his infant daughter beside him. Without a sound, they slit the man's throat, killing him instantly. Some reports claimed that the baby nearly drowned in her father's blood before servants heard her crying and came to her rescue. Hearing this story, one Savannah newspaper referred to the killers as "the Bloody Legion"--a name for the Hilton Head Patriot militia that has stuck ever since.
Unsurprisingly, members of the Daufuskie militia did try to avenge Martinangele's death, but without success. Soon word had spread that the Revolutionary War was over. The Patriots had won, and remaining Loyalists had to either leave the new United States of America or learn to live with their fellow countrymen in peace. Thankfully, that peace between the Sea Islands still continues today, despite the cycle of tragic vengeance that once entrenched itself in the Lowcountry.
Traces of the Past
You can still visit some of the sites that played roles in the Islands Divided story. The Talbird
Oak (see Part 1) stands inside the Cypress (rear) Gate of Hilton Head Plantation and includes a marker telling of its historical significance. The Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum on William Hilton Parkway on Hilton Head stand at the former site of the Patriot muster house. Charles Davant, who is said to be the only Patriot killed on Hilton Head during the Revolutionary War, is buried in the cemetery. Nearby is a historical marker noting the site of his attack by the Tories. On Daufuskie Island, you can visit Philip Martinangele's burial site at the Mary Dunn Cemetery near Martinangele Road.
For more (real and fictional) details concerning this chapter in Lowcountry history, check out my latest Delta & Jax Mystery: The Sea Witch's Revenge at www.SusanDiamondRiley.com/books .