Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Battle of Stono Ferry Part III: The Conclusion

On the morning of June 20th General Lincoln was now set to attack the British works protecting the Stono Ferry with the Southern Continental Army. His two prong plan of attack using General Moultrie as a diversion on James Island is sound to keep the attention of the main British force from coming to the aid of the troops at the Stono Ferry while he attacks with the main force. His pickets and skirmishers are already in contact the with their British counter parts taking shots at each other and he is ready to begin the attack at 7AM. On the British side they know that the Americans are camped not to far away and they are waiting for a possible attack, they are not surprised when the Americans start to advance towards them. They were however caught in an interesting situation, with the main part of their army on Johns Island with the rest still holding the position on the Stono Ferry. Remember Prevost was trying to get back to Savannah with his army in tack and this was his most vulnerable point on the way back. So he was hoping to avoid a fight but had set his defenses up to give him the most effective defense with the least amount of troops. He also had a British Navy barge armed with heavy cannons on his left flank in the Stono River to add to his defenses.

With these two enemey armies in the initial phase of combat the American attack was dealt a major blow to its efforts without General Lincoln realizing it. General Moultrie and his diversionary force of militia had not crossed in significant numbers onto James Island because of a shortage of boats and as a result General Moultrie called of his diversion. This allowed the British to have their main army ready to reinforce the troops at Stono Ferry, because they were not threatened elsewhere once the American attack was known to be in full force at the Stone bridge head.

General Lincoln started his attack without knowing his diversion from General Moultrie was not happening. He sent his North Carolina militia to attack the Hessians on the British left flank and his Continentals from North and South Carolina to attack the British right flanks which were both guarded by cannon fortified redoubts. As they moved towards their objectives the attack started to gain steam as they started to push the British pickets back to the fortifications. However the attack on the British right by the Continentals was halted almost immediately, not by the British fire but by a marsh creek that was unknown to the Americans. For those who don’t live in the Low Country these marsh creeks are filled with pluff mud that’s like quick sand and water mixture. Once the Continentals reach this marsh creek it stopped their part of the attack instantly. On the British left flank the North Carolina militia was making head ways against the Hessians stationed there until the British barge on the Stono River started to open fire along with members of the 71st who were sent to that section to help secure their flank.

Once the attack was going the British started to send reinforcements back across the Stono River as fast as the boats could take them. The British started to rush down the cause way to get to the boats that were stationed there. General Lincoln saw that he was not making head way and that the British reinforcements were already crossing back across the river, so he called off the attack after only 55 minutes. He ordered a retreat back away from the battle field to be covered by his reserve force of Brigadier General Count Kazimierz Pulaski and his Legion along with Andrew Pickens and his upstate militia which had not been deployed in the battle. This was a good thing because the 71st sallied out towards the retreating Americans and was driven back by Count Pulaski and his force as the main force retreated towards their camps.

In the after math of the battle it was learned that out of the 900 originally deployed by Prevost 26 were killed and 163 wounded. Lincoln’s force of 1200 reported 146 killed/wounded and 150 men missing or captured after the battle in reports. These numbers are not great, but the battle won by the British allowed them to evacuate the Stono Ferry bridge head three days later with no more loss of life and to make their way to Savannah without further inference from the Americans.

The result of this battle was that South Carolina was still free of British troops near Charleston, but the British army which was out in the open and vulnerable was allowed to escape back to Savannah and its defenses. If the Americans would have been able to defeat this British force it would of been a major blow to Prevost and his army’s chances of holding Georgia. Instead as the future would show this Prevost and his army that made it back to Savannah would play a major role in the defeat of the combined French/American force that attacks Savannah and in the final attack on Charleston.

Below is a map of the South Carolina and Georgia's coast line and the roads system from around the time of the Revolution. By looking at it you can see the trail Prevost used to get to Charleston and his escape route using the coast and the sea islands to make his way back to Savannah.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Happy Patriot's Day April 19th

Thank you to the men who stood at Lexington and Concord against the British. Without this stand our great nation would not be here today!!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Battle of Stono Ferry Part Two

As we left off last time, General Prevost has decided to move his British troop back to Savannah using the Sea Islands as protection since the Royal Navy controls these waters and so that he can move his troops through areas where they can find supplies. To accomplish this, he first selected the Stono Ferry as his main land disembark point to start his plan of island hopping back to Savannah. From the Stono Ferry he was shipping his troops across from the river from main land to John’s Island. So this is the point where he needed to protect his beach head the most. This was the one spot where the Continentals could attack him without having to chase him from island to island. Also this point gave him an avenue to allow any Tories to join his ranks and to forage if possible.

To accomplish this goal, he built a position guarding the ferry. This included three redoubts with cannons, an abates all along the perimeter of fallen trees with the limbs and points sticking out to slowing the enemy advancing, and around 900 men under the command of Lt. Col John Maitland of the 71st Regiment of Foot (Frasier’s Highlanders). With Lt. Col Maitland at Stono Ferry he had his First battalion of the 71st, a detachment of Royal Artillery, a detachment of Hesse Kassel Regiment (Hessians), the Royal North Carolina Regiment (Provincial Unit), a royal navy barge, and South Carolina Tory Militia. Their job to hold the ferry landing on the Charleston side until the main British force had made its way across Johns Island. They were not looking for a fight since the main bulk had already crossed the river and they were exposed until they got across the Stono also.

The date that started the British retreat from Charleston back to Savannah was May the 12th when the bluff was up and Prevost decided the time was right to leave. Some time on June the 12th General Lincoln decided it was time to follow the British with his full Continental Army. Charleston was secure from the British attack and this was his chance to attack them with a superior force. To accomplish this he decided on a two prong attack. The first prong was to be himself with the 4rth North Carolina, the 5th North Carolina, the 4rth South Carolina (Artillery), North Carolina Militia, the Sixth South Carolina, the 3rd South Carolina (Rangers), the 1st Georgia, the 2nd Georgia, the 3rd Georgia, the 4rth Georgia, South Carolina Militia, Count Pulaski’s Legion, North Carolina Dragoons, South Carolina Dragoons, South Carolina Militia, and Virginia Militia. This main force was to proceed directly from Charleston down the Jacksonboro Road to Stono Ferry and attack the British position there. While he was doing that General Moultrie of the first attack of Charleston fame was to take a mixture of militia and some Continental troops from the garrison of Charleston and move across the Wappoo River to James Island. Once on James Island he was to make a demonstration to catch the main British forces attention while he attacked the exposed force on the main land. The big problem for this was that he needed to cross the river before the attack was to begin to accomplish this diversion of the main British force, which as events pan out he does not accomplish.

On the morning of June 20th almost six weeks since Prevost asked Charleston to surrender, General Lincoln had forced marched his army 8 miles and was now ready to attack the Stono Ferry with his main force.  The British force was behind its defensive works and readying its self for the American attack. This sets the stage for part three of the Battle of Stono Ferry which will be up next week.

The American Forces at the Battle of Stono Ferry

Brig. General Benjamin Lincoln

Right wing of Attack
Commander Brig. General Jethro Sumner of North Carolina

4th North Carolina
Hillsborough District Militia NC
4th SC Artillery detachment

Left Wing of Attack
Commander Brig. General Isaac Huger

1st South Carolina
3rd South Carolina
4rth SC Artillery detachement
6th South Carolina
1st Brigade of South Carolina Militia
2nd Brigade of South Carolina Militia
3rd Brigade of South Carolina Militia
4rth Brigade of South Carolina Militia

Commander Brig General Count Pulaski

Pulaski’s Legion
South Carolina Light Dragoons
Lower Ninty six District regiment
Virginia Militia
Catawba Indian Company
Virginia Militia Artillery

Flags of the Hesse Kassel and 71st Regiments

Monday, April 5, 2010

Grand Review

Below you will see troops marching in review at one of the unfinished batteries surrounding Charleston. On this special day a truce was signed and different units formed together to form a Grand Review of friend and foe in Charleston on this day. The units that took part in this Grand Review are the 2nd South Carolina, the 3rd South Carolina, a detachment of Continental Marines, the 38th Regiment of Foot of his majesty's service, and the Hesse Hanau Erbprinz Regiment. Peace is in the air today but tomorrow of course is a new day.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter Matthew 28:6

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:6

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Battle of Stono Ferry June 20th, 1779 Part 1

         The Battle of Stono Ferry is an end result of the second battle of Charleston. The second battle of Charleston has not drawn much attention as the first Battle of Charleston with the heroic siege of the fort built out of palmetto logs has in history with names such as Marion, Jasper, and Moultrie that now grace the history books. The story of the heroic little fort standing up to the might of the British army and navy during the first battle of Charleston and thus giving the United States even before the Declaration of Independence was signed their first great victory against the British. This historic victory is still celebrated in South Carolina unofficially as Carolina Day in Charleston with a parade and other events. The third battle of Charleston was one of sorrow and disgrace as the entire American army of the South under the leadership of General Lincoln surrendered to Cornwallis and his army without honor. This third battle stripped the South of any Continentals until Gates came South for his ill fated battle at Camden. Of course this battle did allow South Carolina’s heroes such as Marion, Pickens, and Sumter to come to center stage, which is a discussion for a different day.

       The Battle of Stono Ferry was basically a major rear guard action as the British General Prevost was heading back to Savannah after his failed attempt to bluff Charleston into surrendering which almost worked. While General Lincoln and the Southern Continental Army were near Augusta trying to bring that area into Continental control Prevost saw an opportunity to relieve the pressure on Augusta by driving his force into South Carolina from his base in Savannah and towards Charleston. His thoughts were that once Lincoln saw this threat he would leave his Augusta operations and race back to Charleston for its defenses which were very light consisting primarily of General Moultrie with a few Continentals and local militia. On this initial feint against Charleston to relieve pressure on Augusta, Prevost came to a realization on the march. Lincoln was not doing as expected; instead he was staying around Augusta and not racing back to Charleston. This lack of interest by Lincoln gave Prevost a great opportunity if he was daring enough to take it. The opportunity was to take Charleston while the primary defense force was too far away to assist. To Prevost credit, he took the chance and started to race towards Charleston with all speed capturing other smaller ports such as Beaufort and Port Royal along the way. Once at the gates of Charleston with no siege equipment or significant forces to storm Charleston, General Prevost did what had gotten him to the gates of Charleston, he tried to bluff the city into surrender. Sadly enough this almost worked since the city leaders were willing to put Charleston into a sort of neutrality until the war of Independence was decided. This has been debated by many as either this was a ruse to stall for Lincoln and his force to raise the siege or a real proposal for neutrality to save the business of Charleston. The bottom line is that the debate inside the walls was real and heated between the local government and General Moultrie the hero of the first battle of Charleston to decide the fate of the city. The good news was that the decision was made for them once General Lincoln and his army started to race towards the relief of Charleston. This was the result of Lincoln finally and almost too late to rescue the crown jewel of the South from British control. So after two days Prevost lifted the siege and decided to return to Savannah with his army in tow. The only question now was how he was going to accomplish this. He had two main ways to accomplish this, the first was to return the way he had come or by the islands that dot the coast of South Carolina and Georgia all the way to Savannah. There were two problems that caused him to not choose the first option. The first was the Continental army which was now bearing down on him with the militia turning out in force to extract him and his force out of South Carolina by force of battle. Prevost could not risk losing his army in a major battle because as a result Savannah would be lost back to the Americans and the British Southern strategy would be lost. The other problem was that on the way from Savannah to Charleston he had stripped the land he passed of food and material to keep his army moving towards Charleston. On the way back this way he would have little food stuffs to feed his army since they had just travelled this way. So the choice he made was a daring one, he would retreat back to Savannah with his army via the coastal islands using the water ways as a means to transport his troops through as General MacArthur during World War Two would refer to as “island hoping”. The second result of this route was that he could use the water ways as defensive positions to help keep the American Army in check since they did not have any real navel support as he to interfere with the crossings. The other advantage of this move was that it allowed the Royal Navy to help keep him supplied and protected. Thus we are now at the battle of Stono Ferry.