The Revolutionary War Battle of Wofford's Iron Works

The South Carolina Upcountry was the site of many battles and skirmishes during the Revolutionary War.  One of these took place in and around the site of the Iron Works in August of 1780. It is known as the Battle of Wofford’s Iron Works or sometimes as The Second Battle of Cedar Springs.  The following account is based on the books   Battleground - South Carolina in the Revolution by Warren Ripley published by the Charleston Post Courier and Spartanburg - Facts, Reminiscences, Folklore by Vernon Foster published by the Reprint Company Publishers.

The Battle has gone by a variety of names, including Wofford's Iron Works, Cedar Springs No.2, the Peach Orchard, the Old Iron Works, and Buffington. It was largely a running engagement along the road between present-day Camp Croft and Glendale. It started about a mile from Cedar Spring near Wofford's Iron Works, also called the Old Iron Works and, occasionally, Buffington for a previous owner. Part of the action was in a peach orchard, hence the confusion. Regardless of name, it was a bit more extensive and bloody than the first Battle of Cedar Springs.

Following the fall of Charleston on May 12, 1780, the British had moved inland and one of the main leaders in pacifying rebellious elements of the Upcountry was Maj. Patrick Ferguson. Later in the year he would die at King's Mountain. But in August 1780, he was a terror to the Whigs. Ferguson had about 1,800 men. Opposing him was a Patriot force of 1,000 or so that was trying to keep watch on the British major without letting itself become engaged in a major battle until it had grown to more equal size.

To accomplish its mission, 400 men were left to consolidate a base camp and the remainder, a mounted force of some 600 under Cols. Isaac Shelby, Elijah Clarke and William Graham, was sent into nearby Union County to shadow Ferguson and, when possible, cut off his foraging parties.

However, the Whigs found themselves badly outnumbered and fell back to the Spartanburg area, where Aug. 7 found them encamped for the night about two miles west of Cedar Spring. This was near the crossroads where Foster's Tavern (at Highways 56 and 295) would be erected in 1807. Scouts brought word shortly before dawn Aug. 8 that the enemy was within half a mile and the Patriots hastily broke camp and moved via the existing road from Camp Croft to Glendale to a an advantageous position near the old Iron Works. Here, they were attacked by a large detachment of British dragoons and mounted militia riflemen from Ferguson's command under Maj. James Dunlap. The first skirmish lasted about half an hour. Dunlap's mounted riflemen received the initial fire and fell back. After considerable difficulty, Dunlap managed to rally them and, putting himself at the head of the dragoons, initiated a second assault.

The dragoons charged into the Patriot line, where the fighting raged hand-to-hand. But the British riflemen were reluctant to close and before long the badly outnumbered dragoons were thrown back and, together with the riflemen, were pursued for about a mile back along the present road to Camp Croft from Glendale by the victorious Americans before action was broken off and the Patriots returned to their line near the iron works.

Dunlap continued his retreat another mile towards the direction of Camp Croft and met Ferguson with the entire Loyalist force. Ferguson and several hundred of his troops were heading towards the Iron Works. The combined units now moved back towards the Iron Works, where the Americans took one look at the British, decided they were too badly outnumbered to fight, and began a hasty, but organized, withdrawal.  The Americans retreated across Lawson's Fork Creek and along much of what is now the Clifton Glendale Road. At the time this route was part of the Old Georgia Road. There was a running battle to the site of present day Clifton. Ferguson was hoping to attack and rescue the British prisoners, but the American leaders took advantage of every favorable position to form their men for battle. This delayed close pursuit until the prisoners could be hurried beyond hope of recapture. Ferguson broke off the battle after the Americans crossed the Pacolet River at what is now Clifton.

Casualty estimates vary widely. Depending on which source you prefer, American losses ran from three killed and 21 wounded to 50 killed, and the British from eight to 34 killed. Based on the type action, probably the lower American figure is more accurate and somewhere between the two extremes for the British. Graves of the dead could be seen at the site of the Iron Works until recent years.

In addition, both sides likely had a number of wounded and Dunlap left quite a few prisoners in American hands, many of them probably also wounded.

Both sides claimed victory and probably the honors should be shared. The Americans certainly won the hand-to-hand contest, probably had fewer casualties and captured more prisoners. The British, on the other hand, held possession of the field and were advancing against a retreating foe when the fighting ended.

Click on this link for map showing location of the Iron Works.

(Click on cover for larger view)

.Junior History Press has a new book that gives a fresh insight about the importance of the Iron Works and the atmosphere around it during the Revolutionary War. The book is "Spirit Up the People - Four Days to the Cowpens". This book details the events of the battle and the days leading up to it. The Iron Works plays a prominent part in the book. Col. William Washington and 80 of his American cavalrymen were at the Iron Works the day before the battle having their horses reshod. With the approach of Tarleton and the British army, Washington and his men had to flee to rejoin Morgan and his army.

One of the main characters of the book lives closeby the Iron Works. Her name is Mary Corn and her grandfather Johnathan Corn is a blacksmith and works at the Iron Works. When Washington and his men had to leave suddenly to join Morgan, he asked
Johnathan to go with him to finish shoeing the horses. Johnathan took Mary with him to operate the bellows for his forge. Mary and Johnathan wind up being eye witnesses to the Battle of Cowpens.

More information about the book, including sample pages and ordering details can be found on the Junior History Press web site at

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