Banastre Tarleton

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"Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton" by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Banastre Tarleton (August 21, 1754January 25, 1833) was a British soldier and politician.

Born to a Liverpool merchant named John Tarleton, he was educated at Oxford University and then entered the army. In December 1775 he sailed as a volunteer to America with then-Earl Cornwallis, and his services to the British during the American War of Independence in the year 1776 gained for him the position of a brigade major of cavalry. His habit of killing prisoners earned him an enduring place among the villains of American and Irish history.

Tarleton was present at the Battle of Brandywine and at other engagements in 1777 and 1778, and as the commander of the British legion, a mixed force of cavalry and light infantry called Tarleton's Raiders, he proceeded at the beginning of 1780 to South Carolina, rendering valuable services to Sir Henry Clinton in the operations which culminated in the capture of Charleston, South Carolina. He was responsible for the Waxhaw Massacre in May 1780, and he materially helped Cornwallis to win the Battle of Camden in the succeeding August. He was completely victorious in an engagement with Thomas Sumter at Fishing Creek, or Catawba Fords, but was not equally successful when he encountered the same general at Blackstock Hill in November 1780; then in January 1781, in spite of much personal valour, he was defeated with heavy losses at the Battle of Cowpens.

Having been successful in a skirmish at Tarrants House, and having taken part in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in March 1781, he marched with Cornwallis into Virginia, and after affording much assistance to his commander-in-chief he was instructed to hold Gloucester. This post, however, was surrendered to the Americans with Yorktown, Virginia in October 1781, and Tarleton returned to England on parole.

In 1790 he entered the Parliament of Great Britain as member for Liverpool, and with the exception of a single year he remained in the House of Commons until 1812. In 1794 he became a major-general; in 1812 a general; and he held a military command in Ireland and another in England. In 1815 he was made a baronet. He died without issue at Leintwardine, Shropshire, England.

For some time Tarleton lived with the actress Mary Robinson (Perdita), whom he seduced for a bet, and his portrait was painted both by Joshua Reynolds and by Thomas Gainsborough. Sir Banastre wrote a History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America (London, 1781), which, although of some value, is marred by the author's vanity and by his attacks on Cornwallis. It was criticized by Colonel Roderick Mackenzie in his Strictures on Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton's History (1781) and in the Cornwallis Correspondence.

The Hollywood movie The Patriot (2000) controversially portrayed a character based on Tarleton as a sadistic, cruel leader who massacred prisoners of war and innocent civilians. [1] (http://dir.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/2000/07/03/patriot/index.html?pn=1).

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