|Siege of Charleston|
|Part of the American Revolutionary War|
Siege of Charleston 1780 by Alonzo Chappel
| United States |
|Commanders and leaders|
| Mariot Arbuthnot |
Henry Francis Evans
| 12,847 regulars and militia|
6 ships of the line
4 armed galleys
| 6,577 regulars, sailors and militia|
3 armed galleys
|Casualties and losses|
| 89 killed,|
All ships captured
The siege of Charleston was a major engagement and major British victory in the American Revolutionary War, fought in the environs of Charles Town (today Charleston), the capital of South Carolina, between March 29 and May 12, 1780. 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.
After approximately six weeks of siege, Major General Benjamin Lincoln, commanding the Charleston garrison, surrendered his forces to the British. It was one of the worst American defeats of the war.
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, which inspired both 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.
Stymied by the Fabian strategy adopted by Continental general George Washington and, under increasing political pressure to deliver victory, the British turned to launching their "Southern Strategy" to force a capitulation of the Americans. The British were persuaded that there was a strong Loyalist sentiment in the South, where major planters and merchants had a variety of economic and familial ties with Great Britain. It was expected that these Loyalists would rise against the American Patriots in large numbers. The opening British action 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.
Sir Henry Clinton evacuated Newport, Rhode Island in October 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 the Savannah River on 1 February 1780. By 12 February, Clinton had landed his army 30 miles south of Charleston on Simmons Island. By 24 February, 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
Clinton had issued a proclamation in 1779, promising freedom for slaves of rebel Americans who escaped to British lines and aided their cause. Slaves left both the city and countryside around Charleston to join the British around the city. Among those former slaves (known as Black Loyalists) evacuated by the British after the war was John Kizell, who had been captured as a child from the area of Sierra Leone. By the end of the eighteenth century, he had been transported back to that area on a British ship.
Cutting the city off from relief, Clinton began a siege on 1 April, 800 yards from the American fortifications located at today's Marion Square. Whipple, deciding the bar was indefensible, scuttled 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
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 completely surrounded by the British. : 60–64
Governor John Rutledge escaped on 13 April. On 21 April, Continental leader Benjamin Lincoln requested a surrender with "honours of war", which was rejected by Clinton. On 23 April, Lord Cornwallis crossed the Cooper River with the Volunteers of Ireland and Carolina Tory militia, joining Lt. Col. James Webster's 33rd Foot and 64th Foot, blocking further escape from the left bank. 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. : 61, 66–69
On 7 May, Fort Moultrie surrendered without a fight. On May 8, Clinton called for Lincoln's unconditional surrender, but Lincoln attempted to negotiate for the honours of war. On May 11, Gadsden and other citizens asked Lincoln to surrender. On the same day, the British fired heated shot into the city, burning several homes, and Lincoln felt forced 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 backcountry, the American troops holding Ninety-Six, South Carolina 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 ships, the old barracks where the College of Charleston is today (two barracks buildings are shown on early maps of the campus ), 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. This ended the power of 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. Washington said, "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 theater 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. As no popular uprising of Loyalists took place, control of the countryside was 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.
William Moultrie was an American planter and politician who became a general in the American Revolutionary War. As colonel leading a state militia, in 1776 he prevented the British from taking Charleston, and Fort Moultrie was named in his honor.
The Battle of Camden, also known as the Battle of Camden Court House, was a major victory for the British in the Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War. On August 16, 1780, British forces under Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis routed the numerically superior U.S. forces led by Major General Horatio Gates about four miles north of Camden, South Carolina, thus strengthening the British hold on the Carolinas following the capture of Charleston.
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 British Legion was a British provincial regiment established during the American Revolutionary War, composed of British Loyalist American infantry and dragoons. It was colloquially known as Tarleton's Raiders, the Green Devils, the Green Horse, and the Green Dragoons, after the British officer who led most of its day-to-day activities, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, and the green uniform coats of its officers. It was a unit the size of a regiment, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and able to operate independently.
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.
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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 eleven 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 Patriots rallied to support the American Revolution. Loyalists 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 Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War was the central theater of military operations in the second half of the American Revolutionary War, 1778–1781. It encompassed engagements primarily in Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina. Tactics consisted of both strategic battles and guerrilla warfare.
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The Capture of Savannah, or sometimes the First Battle of Savannah, or the Battle of Brewton Hill, 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 capture 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.
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Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis,, 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 later served as a civil and military governor in Ireland, where he helped bring about the Act of Union; and in India, where he helped enact the Cornwallis Code and the Permanent Settlement.
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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.
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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.
de la radiere.