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.

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