Monday, May 31, 2010

Battle of Sullivans Island Part Two

 Lord Dartmouth (pictured to the right) and Lord Germain (pictured to the left) with the approval of King George III and Prime Minister Lord North in London had decided on a plan of action to start retaking control of the rebellious colonies with a Southern Strategy. The strategy was for Major General William Howe to send troops that were massing in Ireland the 15th, 37th, 53rd, 54rth, and 57th of Foot plus others under the command of Lord Cornwallis, along with any extra troops he could spare from service in the Americas to the Cape Fear area in North Carolina. Once they were in North Carolina, they would retake the colony for royal control and then turn it over to the Loyalist who Royal Governor Josiah Martin of North Carolina and Royal Governor Lord William Campbell of South Carolina had told anyone who would listen that the Loyalist were ready to rise up if they felt safe and had support from the crown in the South. The interesting part of this argument is that both of these governors that had been ejected from their post by the colonist in North and South Carolina with no resistance from the large amount of Loyalist they kept telling the crown would help. Ground zero for the North Carolina campaign would be the former royal capital of North Carolina, South Port on Cape Fear. Once royal control had been assumed in South Port, then the army could start to move into the country side to quell the rebels there. General Howe chooses Major General Henry Clinton to lead the army for the expedition to the South with Gov Martin and Gov. Campbell with him to retake control of their respective colony. To round out the Royal Armies command structure was Major General Cornwallis who would lead the first brigade and Major General John Vaughan who would lead the second brigade.

  The navel part of this combined army and navy operation would be Admiral Peter Parker (pictured to the right). His main job was to give support to the army initially as they went ashore and to protect the transportation ships in route to North Carolina from Ireland. Admiral Parker would be in charge of over 50 ships with nine of them being ships of the line with two fifty gun ships in the fleet. He left from Ireland in December of 1775 with his transports in tow to start the retaking of the colonies in the South.

     On January 20th, 1776 Clinton leaves Boston with his small force of the 4th and 44th Regiments of Foot Light Comapanies along with the 84th to rendezvous with Admiral Parker on the coast of North Carolina at Cape Fear. On March 12th, 1776 Clinton and his force arrives off the coast of North Carolina at Cape Fear. Once Clinton arrives off the coast of North Carolina he learns from locals of the defeat of the loyalist force that was coming to his aid on the coast to retake the colony. This force of Loyalist numbering over 1500 men under the command of Donald McDonald was defeated by a Patriot force lead by Col. Richard Caswell at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge on February 27th, 1776. This defeat had totally routed the Loyalist in North Carolina who had now gone into hiding and were not to be relied upon for help with Clintons force on the coast. On May 3rd in 1776 Admiral Peter Parked arrives in Cape Fear with part of his fleet which had already started to arrive in late April and continued to follow him into Cape Fear for two weeks. The fleet had been dispersed on their crossing of the Atlantic by storms which had caused the staggered arrival of the fleet into Cape Fear.

     Once all the principals were in Cape Fear, a meeting took place between General Clinton and Admiral Parker about the prospects of taking North Carolina back for the crown. After this meeting it was decided that North Carolina would not be at this time be an appropriate target with the resources available to the crown and no more Loyalist support coming from the colonist. So the next decision was to decide if they were going to call of the mission or attack a different colony. The only two colonies that fit the bill for the second option of conquest was Virginia to the North or South Carolina to the South of Cape Fear.

     Charleston was the third largest and richest port in the colonies and was producing war materials for the rebels in New England. With her navel stores and great harbor up for grabs the two commanders made a quick decision and decided on Charleston as the new target for their force. If it could be captured it would reduce the rebel supply line and provide a great base of operations for the next domino to fall in the Southern Strategy. General Howe had already written to Clinton telling him that his services would not be needed in Howe’s summer campaign for New York and its harbor after he had been ejected from Boston in March and Howe was now in Halifax. Also intelligence had been gathered about an unfinished fort guarding the northern entrance to the harbor of Charleston from British ships which had been sent to there to gather intelligence about the harbors defense. The report told of an unfinished fort on Sullivan’s Island on the Northern entrance to the harbor and Fort Johnson on the Southern entrance to the harbor on James Island. These two coastal defenses were the only two things stopping the British from entering the harbor proper and Charleston. Admiral Parker felt with the information that he had obtained from his scout ships that he could reduce the unfinished fort on Sullivan’s Island with his fleet, thus allowing the British to take control of the Northern entrance to the harbor and shutting the port down as the army moved in to secure key points on the main land from a secure base of operations on Sullivan’s Island while the navy blockaded the port.

     Thus on May 30th, 1776 the sites of the British Empire were set on Charleston with the fleet leaving Cape Fear to start their journey southward towards Charleston. The fleet included 52 ships including HMS Bristol (Flagship, 50 guns), HMS Experiment (50 guns), HMS Actaeon, HMS Active, HMS Solebay, HMS Syren, HMS Sphinx, HMS Friendship, HMS Lady Williams, bomb vessel HMS Thunder, transports, supply ships and others with totaling around 300 heavy navel guns. The army on board the transports included the Light Infantry companies of the 4th “The Kings Own” and 44th, Grenadiers, the15th, 28th, 33rd, 37th, 46th, 53rd, 54th, 57th, 84th “Royal Highland Emigrants” of foot, Royal Artillery with 20 heavy field guns plus several 3 pounders, Royal Engineers, totaling 2200 Royal Army personnel and 700 Royal Marines totaling 2900 soldiers and marines. This large force was bearing down on Charleston like a hurricane wanting to unleash its fury against the colonist who had rebelled against their king’s rule in Charleston.

     However, Charleston knew the British were coming and was in the process of preparing a gala reception for the British Empire as it tried to bring its rule back to these rebellious colonists. The city known Worldwide for its hospitality was in no mood to welcome them back with open arms, instead it was preparing a welcome the British Empire and World would soon not forget.

The next article will be on how the city prepared for the British invasion.

Thank you

Yesterday we had our 1000th visitor to the blog. We hope that you will continue to come back to the blog as we are already began working on the Battle of Sullivans Island series now and are gearing up for the Battle of Savannah Series in the near future. Once again thank you and we hope you enjoy our humble blog as we try to shed light on the American Revolution in South Carolina.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

Happy Memorial Day weekend, but please remeber those whos sacrificed to give us our freedom on thier weekend.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Battle of Sullivans Island Part 1

     Sullivan’s Island sits on the North East entrance to Charleston Harbor, right beside the main shipping channel for large vessels coming into the port proper. Its geographic location makes it the perfect site to build a fort on the northern side of the harbor to protect this entrance. From this vantage point all shipping would have to come within range of its guns before passing into the harbor. On the Southern side of the harbor sits Fort Johnson which protects the Southern entrance to the harbor on James Island. This fort had been in service for many years on and off with the threat coming from the French and the Spanish for the decades. In 1775 there was no fortification on Sullivan’s Island and no need until the Colony decided to join the other colonies in breaking away from Britain. In January of 1775 a Provincial Congress was called for in South Carolina and it voted to break away from England and formed a rebel government in Charleston. As a result the Royal Governor Lord William Campbell escaped their capture by boarding one of the Royal Navy ships in the harbor for protection.

     Here, in the harbor, Lord Campbell tried to continue Royal rule in South Carolina by trying to get Loyalist to rise up against the rebels and writing to General Howe in Boston and Lord North in London, England to send troops to retake Charleston for the crown. In his letters he told them of the Loyalist presence still in the colony that only need the support of Royal Troops to help them to rise up against the rebels. For months Lord Campbell wrote letters from the harbor to London and tried to secretly contact Loyalist in the interior of the colony to rise up against the rebels. The support of neither the Loyalist nor the Royal Troops materialized so he left with the Royal Navy leaving Charleston Harbor in the fall of 1775 and thus the last Royal presence in the colony left with him.
Lord North
While this was playing out in South Carolina, General Howe and General Washington were in a stalemate in Boston before Howe left Boston with the British army and loyalist in March of 1776. With the stalemate going on in New England a plan was being formed by Lord North the Priminister of Great Britian and Lord Germain Secratory of State for the American Department in London on how to take back the colonies starting with the South and then like dominos moving northward to retake the colonies. This strategy was based upon the information give to them by the Royal Governor of South Carolina Campbell and North Carolina Josiah Martin. Their main contention was that if Royal troops came to the Carolinas that the Loyalist in great numbers would turn out in support of the King. This would allow the Royal troops to take an area and then the Loyalist could hold it as they moved to the next colony to subdue it. If this could happen then the rebellion could be put down quickly and his majesties power restored.

Below is a map of Charleston Harbor

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Battle of Charleston Next Topic

Our next subject will be on the events leading up to, the actual battle, and the events afterwords of the First Battle of Charleston. This will be the lead up to the anniversary of the battle on June 28th, Carolina Day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Surrender of Charleston 230 Years Ago Today

On May 12th, 1780 General Lincoln surrendered Charleston to Sir Henry Clinton after the siege of Charelston that started on March 12th ,1780. This was the third attempt of the British to take Charleston and Clinton's secound. Thus bringing South Carolina back under the control of the Royal Crown.

Sir Henry Clinton

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Francis Marion “Character counts when hope is lost”

   After the third attempt of the British to take it, Charleston, South Carolina finally fell to the British. This surrender in Charelston left the colony in a unique situation. With the fall of Charleston there was no government in South Carolina except British. Governor Pickens had already been taken out of Charleston just before the fall to prevent his capture by the British. His escape route leads him to North Carolina where he was given protection. There was no Continental force in South Carolina and all military stores in the state where lost to the British in South Carolina. Under these circumstances who would have even contemplated continuing to fight for liberty? Who would under these circumstances step into this obis of hopelessness? What type of person would do this hopeless job with no military supplies, no money, and no chance of help from the Continental Government or Army to continue the fight for liberty in South Carolina?

   The answer is very simple now; it would be Francis Marion “The Swamp Fox.” In those bleak days after the fall of Charleston this was not the simple answer as it is for school children in South Carolina today. After the fall of Charleston he was a wanted man with a bad ankle injury on the run from the British and their Tory supporters who were trying to find him. Not the sly fox that would torment them for years from the swamps and back country roads of South Carolina.

   He escaped the fall of Charleston because of his ankle injury, a blessing later for causing his departure from Charleston before its fall, but at the time of his hiding a major hindrance. During this time of hiding with his family and friends in the Low Country on plantations and small farms he was safe as if he was with a full regiment. With the British and the Tories in full control of South Carolina he could have been turned over for the reward from the British or to prevent lose of farm, jail time or death for those who hide him. Instead he was protected by the people who knew him and his character and they were prepared to risk it all for their Francis Marion not the myth of the Swamp Fox as later would occur. They would protect him until he was well enough to go to North Carolina to join with General Gates as he rebuilt the Southern Continental Army. Why would these people from Kingstree to Georgetown hide Francis Marion with all they could lose if he was found with them? The answer is that these people knew Francis Marion and what he was made of. They protected him because he was one of their own; he was no stranger who would be viewed with suspension to the clannish people of Scots Irish decent and French Huguenots of which Marion was one. Marion is who they had chosen to represent them in the South Carolina Assembly to vote for independence. He was also the commander of the 2nd South Carolina Continental Regiment of the Line a full Lt. Col. of the National Continental Army who had fought at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island to protect South Carolina and lead part of the attack on Savannah as the Americans tried to retake Savannah and failed. His patriotism was without question as he had shown with his vote in the assembly and his sword. Once he was well enough to travel he started towards North Carolina to join Gates with a small group of around twenty men with just their own clothes, horses, and weapons to rejoin the fight against the most powerful nation in the World.

   As we have talked about in other articles, Marion’s reception was not that of a great warrior who had shown his metal many times and had gone through enemy territory at great risk to himself and his followers to rejoin the fight. Instead he was greeted with ridicule by the new Continentals who were reforming the army under Gates. The lone exception was Count Polanski who had fought with Marion in South Carolina and Georgia and he told Gates and all the others who would listen about the abilities of Marion which fell on deaf ears. Gates and his supporters could not get passed the external of Marion, a small man, up in age, still with a bad ankle, and with civilian clothes except for his leather cap of the 2nd SC. Gates character shown here by judging a man by his outer appearance instead of his deeds and words. Gates sent Marion and his band back into South Carolina to destroy boats to prevent Cornwallis and the British Army in Camden form escaping once he attacked him. As history shows Gates plans didn’t go as planned and a second Continental l Army was destroyed in South Carolina, again without Marion being taken or tarnished by defeat.

   This left Marion and his small band three choices, the first was to give up and take the kings pardon. The second was to go back into hiding in North Carolina and wait to see what happens. The third was the hardest, to stay in the Low Country and to keep the fight going. Marion chose the third option, which was to stay and fight. He did this with no military supplies, no money, and no hope of help from anywhere to continue the fight for liberty. Only a man of true character and dedication to the cause would have chosen this hopeless looking path.

   Once Marion had determined his course to continue the fight, who would fight with him? The answer is the militia of Williamsburg. These people were so loyal to Marion that if Marion was given the slightest rebuke or insult the men of Marion would at once went go after the man with or without Marion’s permission. On the other hand if a man was to let Marion or his brigade down it was a slight one ones character that would not be forgiven in the community for ever. Even after the war stories are told of how the worst thing a man could get was a rebuke from Marion, because all knew it was not given without reason and it followed him and his family to the end of days. These people of Williamsburg gave Marion the trust of their lives and the lives of their families, something that he never abused or forget unlike other leaders in South Carolina. These Scotch Irish fought for honor and not riches, which is something people must remember. The men of Marion were not after land or gold, but freedom. This fight for freedom and family shows how people with character and a righteous cause make much better soldiers and leaders.

     You might ask how many of these men followed Marion with the promise of nothing. A core group of sixty was at all times with Marion, with many more ready to come if they were called. The reason for this is twofold, the first is that Marion could not feed a big standing army and the second was that the smaller the group the less chance for the British to find them. When the call of Marion went out at times upwards of two thousand would come with their home spun clothes and personal weapons to fight with Marion. They came from the farms, plantations, and shops from Kingstree to Georgetown and all places in between. This is when the character of Marion and his men shine for liberty and keep the flame of liberty going in the dark times of occupied South Carolina.

   Character doesn’t show when people are looking and the times are good, character shows when times are bad and nobody is looking. This was that time in South Carolina’s history that tried men souls as Thomas Paine talks about. Out of this time of disappear Francis Marion and his Brigade road out of the swamps to attack the British when no one else would and rode nor only on to victory but also on the pages of history to never be forgotten by a state or a nation.