Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Un-Conservative & the Superbowl!

Banastre Tarleton -- The Un-Conservative and...NY Giants fan?

I would like to nominate Banastre Tarleton as my candidate for Un-Conservative.  You can find an elegant portrait of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the National Gallery in London, not far from the Fighting Temeraire (Fighting Temeraire, posted on 1/16/12).

General Sir Banastre Tarleton was born in 1754 in Liverpool the son of a wealthy slave trader.  He attended Oxford.  In 1773, he inherited the sum of 5,000 pounds on his father's death which he squandered by gambling.  In 1775, he purchased an officer's commission in the 1st Dragoon Guards.

He then joined the British Army becoming the Colonel of the British Legion which fought in the American War for Independence.  His most notorious action was in 1780 at the battle of Waxhaws or the "Massacre at Waxhaws," as the Americans called it.  Here is Wikipedia on the subject...

"Tarleton sent Captain David Kinlock forward to the rebel column, carrying a white flag, to demand Buford's surrender. Upon his arrival, Buford halted his march and formed a battle line while the parley took place. Tarleton hugely exaggerated the size of his force in his message—claiming he had 700 men—hoping to sway Buford's decision. The note also stated firmly to Buford, "Resistance being vain, to prevent the effusion of human blood, I make offers which can never be repeated", indicating that Tarleton would ask only once for Buford to surrender. Buford refused to surrender with the message: "I reject your proposals, and shall defend myself to the last extremity."[6] Buford then reformed his troops into a column, and continued the northward march, with his baggage train near the front of the column. Tarleton, arguably in violation of accepted rules of war, had continued his march while the parley took place.[6]

Battle of Waxhaws, 1780
Around 3:00 pm the leading edge of Tarleton's force caught up with Buford's rear guard. According to a Patriot eyewitness, a field surgeon named Robert Brownfield, the five dragoons of the rear guard were captured, and their leader, Captain Pearson, was "inhumanely mangled" by saber cuts, some inflicted after he had fallen.[6] Buford stopped the column (except for the artillery and the baggage, which he ordered to continue on), and formed a single battle line near some open woods.[7][8] Tarleton, some of whose horses were so tired out from the pursuit that he was unable to bring is field artillery into range, established a command post on a nearby hill, and organized his forces for the attack. According to his account of the battle, he arrayed 60 British Legion dragoons and a like number of infantry on the right, the dragoons of the 17th along with some additional British Legion dragoons in the center, and he personally took command of the left, commanding "thirty chosen horse and some infantry".[7] Stragglers were to form a reserve corps atop the hill.[7]

What happened next is the subject of much debate, due to the controversial nature of the events and significant inconsistencies in the primary accounts. Tarleton's line charged, and Buford waited until the enemy was within 10 yards (9.1 m) before giving the order to fire.[7] This was a tactical mistake on Buford's part, for it enabled Tarleton's formations to hold, while only giving Buford's men time to fire a single volley before the British riders were attacking the line.[9] As Tarleton's cavalry tore Buford's inexperienced line to pieces, many of the Americans began laying down their arms and offering to surrender. According to Patriot accounts, Buford, realizing the cause was lost, dispatched a white flag toward Tarleton in an attempt to surrender. However, Tarleton had been unhorsed (exactly when differs among the accounts), and may never have received it. Although it is clear from Patriot accounts that a flag was sent, they differ both on who carried it, and how its messenger was treated. What is also apparent is that fighting continued on both sides even though the flag was visible, and the conflicting Patriot accounts (none of the British accounts of the battle mention the flag) agree that flag was effectively refused. Buford and some of his cavalry then escaped the battlefield.[10]

By conventional historical accounts, Tarleton's unhorsing gave some of the Loyalist cavalry the impression that the rebels had shot at their commander while asking for mercy, and they began what became a slaughter. According to the Patriot surgeon Brownfield, whose account was written many years after the war, the Loyalists attacked, carrying out "indiscriminate carnage never surpassed by the most ruthless atrocities of the most barbarous savages". Tarleton's men stabbed the wounded where they lay, regardless of implied surrender, for fifteen minutes after the battle had ended.
According to Tarleton's report of the battle, the American rebel casualties were 113 men killed, 147 wounded and released on parole, and the 2 six pounders and 26 wagons captured. The British losses were 5 killed, 12 wounded, with 11 horses killed and 19 horses wounded. Tarleton's men were also able to recover the American baggage train.

Waxhaw Monument, SC
Historians in the 19th century blamed Tarleton for the massacre, even though most contemporary references to it did not describe it as such.[11] Tarleton in his report to Cornwallis described the battle as a "slaughter", but claimed that his men, thinking their commander dead, engaged in "a vindictive asperity not easily restrained" after he was unhorsed. William Moultrie noted that the lopsided casualty count was not unusual for similar battles in which one side gained a decided advantage early in a battle. Historian Jim Piecuch argues that the battle was as much a massacre as similar events led by Patriot commanders.[12] David Wilson, on the other hand, holds Tarleton responsible for the slaughter, noting that it represented a loss of discipline, something Tarleton would have been responsible for maintaining. (Tarleton had been reprimanded for transgressions by his men at the Battle of Moncks Corner in April, and a Cornwallis aide, Charles Stedman, wrote of British actions at Waxhaws that "the virtue of humanity was totally forgot.")[13]"  Source:

As a result of the Waxhaw massacre, "Tarleton's Quarter" became an American rallying cry used by the Revolutionaries who sometimes offered none to surrendering Redcoats.

After the war, he was elected to Parliament.  He had hoped to command British forces during the Napoleonic wars in the peninsula but instead the Crown wisely chose the Duke of Wellington.  Tarleton became a slave trader who was well-known for taunting and mocking abolitionists.

In his personal life, the had an affair with the actress Mary Robinson, whom he initially seduced on a wager.

He died in 1833.

The Colonel Tavington character in the 2000 film, The Patriot, was loosely based on Tarleton's life.  Tavington, you may remember, was the character who kills Mel Gibson's two sons, including one played by Heath Ledger.

Why does he deserve full consideration as an Un-Conservative?

1) From an American perspective, he fought to destroy the American Revolution whose principles American conservatives cherish.

2) He commanded in a particularly brutal manner that dishonoured his uniform with the massacre at Waxhaws.

3)  He certainly was not, in any sense, Pro-life!

4) He actively supported human slavery--a clear enemy of liberty.

5) He was a cad in his personal life.

Commander Kelly says Tarleton was a Prize s__t all around!  If Tarleton (rhymes with Tarkenton!) were alive today and still wagering, he would certainly take the Giants and the points over the Pats in the upcoming Superbowl this February 5th.  Manhattan was, of course, a hotbed of Tory support during the American War for Independence.

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