The Siege of Charleston was a major engagement and major British victory, fought between March 29 to May 12, 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. The British, following the collapse of their northern strategy in late 1777 and their withdrawal from Philadelphia in 1778, shifted their focus to the American Southern Colonies.
The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.
The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.
The Battles of Saratoga marked the climax of the Saratoga campaign, giving a decisive victory to the Americans over the British in the American Revolutionary War. British General John Burgoyne led a large invasion army southward from Canada in the Champlain Valley, hoping to meet a similar British force marching northward from New York City and another British force marching eastward from Lake Ontario; the southern and western forces never arrived, and Burgoyne was surrounded by American forces in upstate New York. He fought two small battles to break out which took place 18 days apart on the same ground, 9 miles (14 km) south of Saratoga, New York. They both failed.
After approximately six weeks of siege, Major General Benjamin Lincoln, commanding the Charleston garrison, surrendered his forces to the British, resulting in one of the worst American defeats of the war.
Benjamin Lincoln was an American army officer. He served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Lincoln was involved in three major surrenders during the war: his participation in the Battles of Saratoga contributed to John Burgoyne's surrender of a British army, he oversaw the largest American surrender of the war at the 1780 Siege of Charleston, and, as George Washington's second in command, he formally accepted the British surrender at Yorktown.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
By late 1779, two major British strategic efforts had failed. An army invading from Quebec under John Burgoyne had surrendered to the Americans under Horatio Gates at the Battles of Saratoga, compelling the Kingdom of France and Spain to declare war on Great Britain in support of the Americans. Meanwhile, a strategic effort led by Sir William Howe to capture the Revolutionary capital of Philadelphia had met with limited success. Having replaced his superior as Commander-in-Chief of the American Station, Sir Henry Clinton withdrew all his forces back to New York City to reinforce the city against a possible Franco-American attack.
Quebec is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada. It is bordered to the west by the province of Ontario and the bodies of water James Bay and Hudson Bay; to the north by Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay; to the east by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and to the south by the province of New Brunswick and the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It also shares maritime borders with Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Quebec is Canada's largest province by area and its second-largest administrative division; only the territory of Nunavut is larger. It is historically and politically considered to be part of Central Canada.
General John Burgoyne was a British army officer, dramatist and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1761 to 1792. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, most notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762.
Horatio Lloyd Gates was a retired British soldier who served as an American general during the Revolutionary War. He took credit for the American victory in the Battles of Saratoga (1777) – a matter of contemporary and historical controversy – and was blamed for the defeat at the Battle of Camden in 1780. Gates has been described as "one of the Revolution's most controversial military figures" because of his role in the Conway Cabal, which attempted to discredit and replace General George Washington; the battle at Saratoga; and his actions during and after his defeat at Camden.
Stymied by the Fabian strategy adopted by George Washington, and, under increasing political pressure to deliver victory, the British turned to launching their "Southern Strategy" for forcing a capitulation of the Americans. The British were persuaded that there was a strong Loyalist sentiment in the south. It was expected that these Loyalists would rise against the American Patriots in large numbers. The opening British move was the Capture of Savannah, Georgia in December 1778. After repulsing an assault on Savannah by a combined Franco-American force in October 1779, the British planned to capture Charleston, South Carolina, intending to use the city as a base for further operations in the southern colonies.
The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy through skirmishes to cause attrition, disrupt supply and affect morale. Employment of this strategy implies that the side adopting this strategy believes time is on its side, but it may also be adopted when no feasible alternative strategy can be devised.
George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who also served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. He led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War of Independence, and he presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which established the new federal government. He has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.
Loyalists were American colonists who stayed loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolutionary War, often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men at the time. They were opposed by the Patriots, who supported the revolution, and called them "persons inimical to the liberties of America". Prominent Loyalists repeatedly assured the British government that many thousands of them would spring to arms and fight for the crown. The British government acted in expectation of that, especially in the southern campaigns in 1780-81. In practice, the number of Loyalists in military service was far lower than expected since Britain could not effectively protect them except in those areas where Britain had military control. The British were often suspicious of them, not knowing whom they could fully trust in such a conflicted situation; they were often looked down upon. Patriots watched suspected Loyalists very closely and would not tolerate any organized Loyalist opposition. Many outspoken or militarily active Loyalists were forced to flee, especially to their stronghold of New York City. William Franklin, the royal governor of New Jersey and son of Patriot leader Benjamin Franklin, became the leader of the Loyalists after his release from a Patriot prison in 1778. He worked to build Loyalist military units to fight in the war, but the number of volunteers was much fewer than London expected.
Sir Henry Clinton evacuated Newport, Rhode Island in Oct. 1779, and left the substantial garrison of New York City under the command of Wilhelm von Knyphausen. In December, the day after Christmas 1779, Clinton and his second in command Charles Cornwallis, sailed southward with 8,500 troops and 5,000 sailors on 90 troopships and 14 warships. After a very stormy voyage, the fleet anchored in Savannah River on 1 Feb. 1780. By 12 Feb., Clinton had landed his army 30 miles south of Charleston on Simmons Island. By 24 Feb., the British had crossed the Stono River onto James Island, and by 10 March, Lord Cornwallis had made it to the mainland. By 22 March, they had advanced to Middleton Place and Drayton Hall, and on 29 March 1780, crossed the Ashley River. 39–40,42,44:
Newport is a seaside city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, located approximately 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, 20 miles (32 km) south of Fall River, Massachusetts, 73 miles (117 km) south of Boston, and 180 miles (290 km) northeast of New York City. It is known as a New England summer resort and is famous for its historic mansions and its rich sailing history. It was the location of the first U.S. Open tournaments in both tennis and golf, as well as every challenge to the America's Cup between 1930 and 1983. It is also the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport, which houses the United States Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and an important Navy training center. It was a major 18th-century port city and also contains a high number of buildings from the Colonial era.
The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.
Wilhelm Reichsfreiherr von Innhausen und Knyphausen was a general officer of Hesse-Kassel. He fought in the American Revolutionary War, during which he commanded Hessian auxiliaries on behalf of Great Britain.
Cutting the city off from relief, Clinton began a siege of the city on April 1st, 800 yards from the American fortifications located at today's Marion Square. Whipple, deciding the bar was undefendable, ended up scuttling his fleet at the mouth of the Cooper River. Then Arbuthnot, on 8 April, brought his 14 vessels safely into the harbor, past the roaring guns of Fort Moultrie, the same day Woodford arrived with 750 Virginia Continentals. 46,52–53,55–57:
Marion Square is greenspace in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, spanning six and one half acres. The square was established as a parade ground for the state arsenal under construction on the north side of the square. It is best known as the former Citadel Green because The Citadel occupied the arsenal from 1843 until 1922, when the College of Charleston moved to the city's west side. Marion Square was named in honor of Francis Marion.
A mouth bar is a bar in a river that is typically created in the middle of a channel in a river delta. It is created by a positive feedback between mid-channel deposition and flow divergence. As the flow diverges near the ocean, sediment settles out in the channel and creates an incipient mouth bar. As flow is routed around the incipient bar, additional sediment is deposited on the incipient bar. This continued process results in the formation of a full-fledged mouth bar, which causes the channel to bifurcate. This continued process leads to the characteristic fractal tree pattern found in some prograding river-dominated deltas.
Scuttling is the deliberate sinking of a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull. This can be achieved in several ways—seacocks or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives. Scuttling may be performed to dispose of an abandoned, old, or captured vessel; to prevent the vessel from becoming a navigation hazard; as an act of self-destruction to prevent the ship from being captured by an enemy force ; as a blockship to restrict navigation through a channel or within a harbor; to provide an artificial reef for divers and marine life; or to alter the flow of rivers.
In order to consolidate British control of the immediate area, Clinton dispatched Banastre Tarleton and Patrick Ferguson to capture Monck's Corner on 14 April. On 18 April, Lt. Col. Lord Rawdon arrived with 2,500 men, including the 42nd Highlanders, the Hessian von Ditfurth Regiment, the Queen's Rangers, Prince of Wales American Volunteers, and the Volunteers of Ireland. Charleston was then completely surrounded. 60–64:
Governor John Rutledge escaped on 13 April, before Cornwallis crossed the Cooper River, and joined Webster in blocking escape from the left bank. On 21 April, Lincoln requested a surrender with "honours of war", which was rejected by Clinton. On 25 April, civilians led by Christopher Gadsden prevented any action on Lincoln's part in withdrawing the Continental regiments. On 6 May, Tarleton won another engagement in the Battle of Lenud's Ferry, while the British siege works had advanced far enough towards the Charleston fortifications to drain the canal in front. 66–67:
On 7 May, Fort Moultrie surrendered without a fight. On May 8, Clinton called for Lincoln's unconditional surrender, but Lincoln again attempted to negotiate for the honours of war. On May 11, Gadsden and other citizens asked Lincoln to surrender. While on the same day, the British fired heated shot into the city, burning several homes, compelling Lincoln to call for a parlay to negotiate terms for surrender. On May 12, Lincoln formally surrendered 3,371 men to the British. 69–70:
When word reached the back-country, the American troops holding Ninety-Six and Camden also surrendered to the British.
The British captured some 5,266 prisoners, 311 artillery pieces, 9,178 artillery rounds, 5,916 muskets, 33,000 rounds of ammunition, 15 Regimental colours, 49 ships and 120 boats, plus 376 barrels of flour, and large magazines of rum, rice and indigo. 70Following the surrender, the captured ordnance was brought to a powder magazine. A Hessian officer warned that some of the guns might still be loaded, but he was ignored. One prematurely fired, detonating 180 barrels of powder, further discharging 5,000 muskets in the magazine. The accident killed approximately 200 people and destroyed six houses. The prisoners of the siege were diverted to multiple locations, including prison shops, the old barracks where the College of Charleston is today, and the Old Exchange and Provost "Dungeon". Prison hulks awaited the majority of the 2,571 Continental prisoners, while parole was granted to the militia and civilians who promised not to take up arms. However, this also meant there no longer existed an American army in the South. :
The defeat was a serious blow to the American cause.It was the largest surrender of an American force under arms, until the 1862 surrender of Union troops at Harper's Ferry during the Antietam Campaign. The surrender left no substantial army in the South, and the colonies were wide open for a British advance. The British troops consolidated their hold, and had driven the remaining Continental Army troops from South Carolina consequent to the May 29 Battle of Waxhaws.
During their surrender the American forces were denied honours of war, leading General George Washington to deny the same to the British during their surrender at the Siege of Yorktown, with Washington saying "The same Honors will be granted to the Surrendering Army as were granted to the Garrison of Charles Town."
On June 5, Clinton sailed back to New York City, believing his presence necessary to defend against a potential Franco-American attack, leaving command of the southern theatre to Lord Cornwallis, with orders to reduce opposition in North Carolina. Though the effects of the surrender at Charleston were substantial, the British error in strategy soon became apparent. There was no popular uprising of Loyalists, making control of the countryside difficult. Instead, resistance in South Carolina degenerated into a period of chaotic guerrilla warfare in the outlying areas.
The joint British naval-army forces were led overall by Sir Henry Clinton, with his subordinate, Lord Cornwallis as his second-in-command. The British regular troops were led by Brigadier General Alexander Leslie.
The ground and naval forces were composed thus:
|British Order of Battle|
The Franco-American garrison of Charleston was overall led by Benjamin Lincoln. The Continental Army troops were nominally led by Brigadier General William Moultrie
The ground and naval forces were composed thus:
|Franco-American Order of Battle|
The American Battlefield Trust and its partners have acquired and preserved 88 acres (0.36 km2) of historic land in Charleston related to the siege.
Timeline of the American Revolution — timeline of the political upheaval culminating in the 18th century in which Thirteen Colonies in North America joined together for independence from the British Empire, and after victory in the Revolutionary War combined to form the United States of America. The American Revolution includes political, social, and military aspects. The revolutionary era is generally considered to have begun with the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 and ended with the ratification of the United States Bill of Rights in 1791. The military phase of the revolution, the American Revolutionary War, lasted from 1775 to 1783.
The Siege of Savannah or the Second Battle of Savannah was an encounter of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), in 1779. The year before, the city of Savannah, Georgia, had been captured by a British expeditionary corps under Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell. The siege itself consisted of a joint Franco-American attempt to retake Savannah, from September 16 to October 18, 1779. On October 9 a major assault against the British siege works failed. During the attack, Polish nobleman Count Casimir Pulaski, leading the combined cavalry forces on the American side, was mortally wounded. With the failure of the joint attack, the siege was abandoned, and the British remained in control of Savannah until July 1782, near the end of the war.
The Battle of Waxhaws took place during the American Revolutionary War on May 29, 1780, near Lancaster, South Carolina, between a Continental Army force led by Abraham Buford and a mainly Loyalist force led by British officer Banastre Tarleton. Buford refused an initial demand to surrender, but when his men were attacked by Tarleton's cavalry, many threw down their arms to surrender. Buford apparently attempted to surrender. However, the British commanding officer Tarleton was shot at during the truce, causing his horse to fall and trap him. Loyalists and British troops were outraged at the breaking of the truce in this manner and proceeded to fall on the rebels.
South Carolina was outraged over British tax policies in the 1760s that violated what they saw as their constitutional right to "no taxation without representation". Merchants joined the boycott against buying British products. When the London government harshly punished Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party, South Carolina's leaders joined 11 other colonies in forming the Continental Congress. When the British attacked Lexington and Concord in the spring of 1775 and were beaten back by the Massachusetts Patriots, South Carolina rallied to support the American Revolution. Loyalist and Patriots of the colony were split by nearly 50/50. Many of the South Carolinian battles fought during the American Revolution were with loyalist Carolinians and the part of the Cherokee tribe that allied with the British. This was to General Henry Clinton's advantage. His strategy was to march his troops north from St. Augustine, Florida, and sandwich George Washington in the North. Clinton alienated Loyalists and enraged Patriots by attacking a fleeing army of Patriot soldiers who posed no threat. Enslaved Africans and African Americans chose independence by escaping to British lines where they were promised freedom.
The 1st South Carolina Regiment (Infantry) was authorized on June 6, 1775, at Charleston, South Carolina, for service with the South Carolina State Troops. On November 4, 1775, the unit was adopted into the Continental Army and on February 27, 1776 was assigned to the Southern Department. The regiment saw action at the Siege of Savannah and the Siege of Charleston. The British Army captured the regiment at Charleston on May 12, 1780, together with the rest of the Southern Department.
The 2nd South Carolina Regiment was raised on June 6, 1775, at Charleston, South Carolina, for service with the Continental Army.
The Southern theatre of the American Revolutionary War was the central area of operations in North America in the second half of the American Revolutionary War. During the first three years of the conflict, the largest military encounters were in the north, focused on campaigns around the cities of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. After the failure of the Saratoga campaign, the British largely abandoned operations in the Middle Colonies and pursued peace through subjugation in the Southern Colonies.
The Battle of Stono Ferry was an American Revolutionary War battle, fought on June 20, 1779, near Charleston, South Carolina. The rear guard from a British expedition retreating from an aborted attempt to take Charleston held off an assault by poorly trained militia forces under American General Benjamin Lincoln.
The Capture of Savannah, or sometimes the First Battle of Savannah, was an American Revolutionary War battle fought on December 29, 1778 pitting local American Patriot militia and Continental Army units, holding the city, against a British invasion force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell. The British seizure of the city led to an extended occupation and was the opening move in the British southern strategy to regain control of the rebellious Southern provinces by appealing to the relatively strong Loyalist sentiment there.
The Battle of Beaufort, also known as the Battle of Port Royal Island, was fought on February 3, 1779, near Beaufort, South Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War. The battle took place not long after British forces consolidated control around Savannah, Georgia, which they had captured in December 1778.
The Battle of Monck's Corner was fought on April 14, 1780, outside the city of Charleston, South Carolina, which was under siege by British forces under the command of General Sir Henry Clinton in the American Revolutionary War. The Loyalist British Legion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, surprised an American force stationed at Monck's Corner, and drove them away. The action cut off an avenue of escape for Benjamin Lincoln's besieged army. Aside from the British Legion, and the 33rd Foot and 64th Foot led by Lt. Col. James Webster, the force included Loyalists, the American Volunteers, led by Maj. Patrick Ferguson.
The Battle of Lenud's Ferry was a battle of the American Revolutionary War that was fought on May 6, 1780 in present-day Berkeley County, South Carolina. All of the British soldiers who took part in the Battle of Lenud's Ferry were in fact Loyalists who had been born and raised in the colony of South Carolina, with the sole exception being their commanding officer Banastre Tarleton. The unit was known as the Loyalist British Legion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. The Loyalist British Legion scattered a company of Patriot militia at Lenud's Ferry, a crossing point on the Santee River, north of which lies present-day Georgetown County.
The Siege of Ninety Six was a siege in western South Carolina late in the American Revolutionary War. From May 22 to June 18, 1781, Continental Army Major General Nathanael Greene led 1,000 troops in a siege against the 550 Loyalists in the fortified village of Ninety Six, South Carolina. The 28-day siege centered on an earthen fortification known as Star Fort. Despite having more troops, Greene was unsuccessful in taking the town, and was forced to lift the siege when Lord Rawdon approached from Charleston with British troops.
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis KG, PC, styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as The Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army general and official. In the United States and the United Kingdom he is best remembered as one of the leading British generals in the American War of Independence. His surrender in 1781 to a combined American and French force at the Siege of Yorktown ended significant hostilities in North America. He also served as a civil and military governor in Ireland and India; in both places he brought about significant changes, including the Act of Union in Ireland, and the Cornwallis Code and the Permanent Settlement in India.
Charles, Earl Cornwallis (1738–1805) was a military officer who served in the British Army during the American War of Independence. He is best known for surrendering his army after the 1781 Siege of Yorktown, an act that ended major hostilities in North America and led directly to peace negotiations and the eventual end of the war.
James Moncrief was a trained engineer and military officer of Scottish Highlander descent in the British Royal Engineers. Moncrief graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, England in 1762 at the age of 21 and would become a career military man who would rise to the rank of colonel. He saw extensive service in the American colonies in the late 18th century and upon Britain's takeover of Spanish Florida in 1763, he drafted a current map of St. Augustine the capital of East Florida, and its defenses while serving under military governor James Grant.
James Hogun was an Irish-American military officer who was as one of five generals from North Carolina to serve with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Born in Ireland, Hogan migrated to North Carolina – then a British colony – in 1751. Settling in Halifax County, he raised a family and established himself as a prominent local figure.