Wednesday, July 14, 2010

South Carolina’s Navy at the Battle of Sullivan's Island part 7

South Carolina Navy Jack

                                                                                           Defence in action by Conner
On September the fifth, 1775 the South Carolina Provincial Congress ordered three ships for the defense of Charleston Harbor. The ships would provide the back bone for the newly formed South Carolina Navy. This was a time period where each state still provided for its own defense with assistance from other states. As a result each state provided its own army and navy, thus the South Carolina Navy was born in Charleston to defend the harbor. The South Carolina Navy went into action with three ships at first the Defence, Hibernia, and Hawke with a forth Prosper coming on line in December of 1775. These ships provide escort, helped with troop movements, patrolled the South Carolina coast looking for prize opportunities, and helping to secure the harbor. On November the 12th, 1775 the Defence got into the first navel fight of the short history of the South Carolina Navy when it was trying to sink old hulks as obstacles near Hog Island channel to block British ships from attempting to enter the harbor through this channel. The SC Navy Defence traded shots with the HMS Cherokee and HMS Tamar for three hours as she helped place the hulks for sinking in the channel. Fort Johnson with the First South Carolina tried to join the battle but the distance was to far for its cannons and it stopped firing after the shots if fired were not able to reach its targets. These are the same ships that Royal Gov. Campbell was on trying to keep royal control over South Carolina through. The exchange causes no real harm to either of the forces with Defence taking three minor hits, but it did show South Carolina was not ready to back down.

Defence vs Tamar and Cherokee by Conner
On January 10th, 1776 the Defence was the ship selected to carry the troops selected to form the battery on Sullivans Island to the island. After she got the men and material off board safely she then stayed near the island to provide protection to the work force as they began to build the first primitive battery on the island.

Also in the spring of 1776, the Defence and a newly commissioned ship in the South Carolina Navy the Comet began patrolling the coast of South Carolina collecting some prizes for the new navy. This was accomplished while they were also watching out for the British Fleet that was rumored to be heading from Boston to the South. In late May, both of the ships returned to Charleston at different times bring with them captured prizes. Defence was able to bring her prize into the port safely while Comet ended up with her prize grounded as two British ships gave her chase. 

This action in late May ended the open ocean role of the South Carolina Navy as the British Fleet blockaded the harbor on June 2nd. Upon their arrival closing up the harbor until the battle was decided. The new role of the fleet was to help with troop movements around the harbor, to become floating batteries, and to refit while they were in port if supplies were available. Two of the ships that would play a role in the defense of Sullivans Island would be the Defence and Prosper.

The unified defence plan of Charleston which included the harbor and the town called for the navy to place the Defence and the Prosper in key positions in the harbor to offer support to the main two forts. The Prosper would be placed close to James Island near Fort Johnson and the Defence would be placed near Hog Island channel to offer support to the battery on Haddrell's Point and the fort on Sullivans Island.

Thus, once the Royal Navy shows up outside the harbor, the unified defence plan is put into action and the South Carolina Navy gets ready for action.

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