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.


  1. Thanks for posting. I'm curious as to how you put the map together. Did you (also) use MS Paint?

  2. Sure did use MS Paint, it took longer to figure out how to best do the route online than the research. Prevost and his troops burned lots of farms and other buildings on thier way to Charleston which people wrote about. The most interesting was a "Sports Complex" which was a fancy deer stand built out of granit in Colleton County. As always thanks for commenting.

  3. Eleven Fraser Highlanders (71st)of the two companies engaged in this battle survived unscathed according to Lumpkin(1983).