Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Francis Marion enters the picture: Part 8 Battle of Sullivan's Island

With this blog being named after Marion’s Brigade you would figure it would be about Marion. Well to be honest it is, but we had to set the tone for Marion to enter the picture and there are lots of interesting stories about the revolution in South Carolina that we want to share also. So we will try to blend the two at times and concentrate on one or the other at other times.

Francis Marion by the fall of 1775 was a respected elected official in South Carolina politics which had voted for independence and was an officer in the 2nd South Carolina. He was also an experienced militia soldier who had served as an enlisted member of South Carolina Provincial Calvary with his brother and as a lieutenant in the infantry fighting the Cherokee in the back country of South Carolina and Eastern Tennessee in two different wars serving with such men as William Moultrie, Andrew Pickens, and Peter Horry. This military experience served him well in the inner circles of planter aristocracy in Charleston where they selected him to become a captain in the 2nd South Carolina, serving under his old commander from fighting the Cherokees, William Moultrie.

He first is to see action when he was chosen along with two other highly recognized militia military leaders who had join the line infantry Captain Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Captain Barnard Elliot to take Fort Johnson from the British on June 21st, 1775 by the South Carolina Council of Safety. However, Marion and his men did not take part on the assault against Fort Johnson, which was not defended, since Lord Campbell had already left it earlier and spiked the cannons to keep them out of Patriot use. Marion and his men were still off loading at the transport when the others decide to attack because of  fear of alerting the fort to their presence. With Marion being selected for this assignment it shows just how highly he was thought of in early South Carolina military circles.

After the taking of Fort Johnson the Patriots started to build up defenses in the harbor proper to eject Lord Campbell and the two British ships which he maintained in the harbor to try to keep some control of the colony and to rally Loyalist support to the crown which never materialized. As a result a military depot to store powered, munitions, cannons, and important papers was established at the old fort at the town of Dorchester thirty miles up the Ashley River from Charleston. This fortification  was built in 1757 to protect a brick powder magazine and surrounded by a tabby wall for extra protection during the French and Indian War. As the supplies built up the fears of Loyalist coming from the back country of South Carolina to take the material there increased. As a result Moultrie sent Marion on November 19th, 1775 to Dorchester with command of his company and Captain Huger’s to secure the tabby fort there and make it ready for any possible attack. This was accomplished by Marion without incident and he remanded at Dorchester for some months protecting the very valuable material stored at this site.

The order reads as follows

Dated: November 19, 1775

"To Captain Francis Marion

     You are to proceed with all expeditions with yours, and Cap. Huger's companies to Dorchester, to reinforce the troops there, and to take specialcare in guarding and defending the cannon, gunpowder, and public records at that place. you are to take command of the whole of the troops at that place, till further orders. You are to apply to the commottee in Dorchester, for a sufficient number of negroes in the public service, to remove the cannon lying by the water-side to a spot more safe, and convenient, near the fort or bacrraks, etc.

Willaim Moultrie"

In late January or early February Marion and his detachment was ordered to Fort Johnson on James Island and then to Haddrell’s Point where a battery was nearing completion by the Continental forces while Moultrie and most of the 2nd South Carolina was starting in earnest to build the main fortifications on Sullivans Island. While at the fortifications at Haddrell’s Point, Marion was promoted to Major in the 2nd South Carolina and took his place as second in command to Moultrie. Once this occurred he along with his detachment transferred to Sullivans Island to help with the work on the fortifications there.

So in early June 1776, we find Francis Marion, a Major in the 2nd South Carolina and second in command of the major fortification on the South Eastern side of the island ready to meet their fate against the British Empire.

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