Today, the George Washington Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin tells the tale of William Washington and his successful subterfuge in South Carolina in 1780.
First, for background, Colonel William Washington was General Washington’s second cousin, once removed.
While the General was occupied in the north, Colonel Washington and his troops were fighting in the south.
In fact, Colonel Washington fought the British Colonel Tarleton for almost a year in the wild backcountry of South Carolina prior to the events below.
In October, Washington retreated to North Carolina to regroup.
Though, he did not have the artillery to rout the Loyalist forces, Brigadier General Morgan ordered Washington back to fight in South Carolina.
On December 1, 1780, Colonel Washington with his light cavalry scouted the home of Colonel Rowland Rugeley in Kershaw County. The home, called “Clermont,” was near the Flat Rock and Grannys Quarter Creeks roughly 13 miles above Camden.
Earlier, the British had established a military post at Rugeley’s home and fortified his barn with logs and abattis (a barricade of felled trees placed with their branches outwards).
With him in his fortification, 100 or so Loyalists joined Rugeley.
Observing the site, Colonel Washington knew he and his small group could not take the fortified location with force.
Instead, Washington tasked his men with finding just the right pine log and shaping it into a believable artillery gun.
After positioning the “gun” facing the barn, Colonel Washington demanded Colonel Rugeley and his Loyalists to surrender.
Fearing he and his Loyalists were defenseless against the Continental Army’s artillery, Colonel Rugeley surrendered without firing a single shot.
Now, before the war, Rugeley had a mercantile business in Charleston with several stores around the South Carolina countryside. But, within the Tory army, Rugeley rose to the rank of colonel.
In 1780, General Cornwallis considered promoting Rugeley to the rank of brigadier depending on his performance commanding soldiers in battle.
That promotion did not happen.
From Wynnesboro on December 4, 1780, Cornwallis wrote in a note to Tarleton,
“Rugeley will not be made a Brigadier. He surrendered without firing a shot, himself and 103 rank and file, to the cavalry only. A deserter of Morgan assures us that the infantry never came within three miles of the house.”
So, what is a Quaker gun?
The Quakers professed to be non-violent, but they were not averse to using the deception of potential violence. They fashioned rather believable guns out of wood or other items to deter attacks upon them.
As for Colonel William Washington’s Quaker gun, some claimed it was a pine log mounted on its branches and pointed toward the fortified barn. Others claimed it was more elaborate, even with cartwheels.
Regardless, the deception worked to the mortification of the Loyalists and to the success of the Continental Army.
The George Washington Commemorative Gold Five-Dollar Coin shows against a version of a Quaker gun used during the Civil War.