Sunday, June 6, 2010

Battle of Sullivan's Island Part Three

As the British began to pull anchors and set sail for Charleston Harbor, the Patriot forces there were putting their defenses in the ready. This process had already started in January of 1775 when the colony voted to leave the British Empire and set up its own government. This was done after they had sent five representatives to the Continental Congress in September of 1774 in hopes of repairing the relationship between colony and mother country. The Continental Congress was unable to solve the problems and all hope was lost when word reached South Carolina of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts in May of 1775. Once the South Carolines knew there was to be a shooting war they began to build up defenses and recruit troops.

The first troops raised to fight the British Empire in South Carolina were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th South Carolina. The first two were to be of the line with the third being a ranger regiment to control the inland region of South Carolina and the forth was designated an artillery regiment. Also in the fall of 1775 South Carolines started to take control of key military sites in the harbor and the city proper. This included the fort on James Island, Fort Johnson, the powder magazine in downtown Charleston, and other strategic points in the harbor. The other strategic points included Haddrell Point and at the water front of Charleston, where cannons were placed to defend the city and to help dislodge Governor Campbell from the harbor, where he was still trying to govern from two British warships sitting there. The other keep point that the Patriots began to place guns was on Sullivan’s Island. Sullivan’s Island is located on the Northern approach to the harbor and with it being fortified caused the governor and the British fleets to leave before damage could be done to them in the late fall of 1775. While this was going on in Charleston, militia in the outer parishes of South Carolina began to drill and prepare for the British.

While the South Carolina Provincial Government was preparing for the expected British attack the merchants in Charleston were producing goods as fast as they could. These goods were for the war effort in the North and also for the new trade routes that opened once South Carolina decided to leave the Empire. The workshops and the docks were at full capacity bringing in much need war material and profit for the local merchants. Ships from many nations were in and out of Charleston harbor as fast as they could load and unload. These ships were not involved in diplomatic relations; they were involved in moving valuable cargo to and from Charleston to the Caribbean and other points on the globe. This preparing for war and making a profit for the local merchants and farmers went on for a few months. That was until the return of John Rutledge in February of 1776 from the Continental Congress with word of a British fleet heading south from New England. In February of 1776 the first meeting of the General Assembly occurred and they elected John Rutledge President of South Carolina.

The election of John Rutledge (pictured to the right) marked a turning point in creating a stronger defense of Charleston. Besides the election of Rutledge in February in March the Continental Congress also started to take the threat of a British invasion of the South very seriously and they appointed General Charles Lee as Commander of the Southern Theater of operations. General Lee made his head quarters in Williamsburg, Virginia as he felt that either Virginia or South Carolina would be the place that the British struck in the South. Also in March of 1776 President Rutledge ordered a fort built on Sullivan’s Island to defend the Northern approach to the harbor. He gave this task to Col. William Moultrie and his command, the 2nd South Carolina.

In the next article we will discuss how the fort was built on Sullivan’s Island and
how other defenses were created in Charleston.

Col. William Moultire

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