William Moultrie

5th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1785 to 1787 and 1792 to 1794

Date Born: November 23, 1730

Date Died: September 27, 1805

Place Born: Charles Town, SC

Place Buried: Windsor Hill Plantation,
Charleston, SC

Residence: Charles Town, SC

Occupation: Soldier


William Moultrie was an American Revolutionary general, born in Charles Town, SC. He fought against the Native Americans (1761) and served in the colonial assembly before the advent of the American Revolution. In June of 1776, his gallant defense of a small fort on Sullivans Island (later named Fort Moultrie in his honor) prevented Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Peter Parker from taking Charlestown. Even Moultrie's skill failed to prevent the fall of Savannah, Georgia to the British in 1778. He was captured in the Fall of Charlestown to the British in May of 1780 and remained a prisoner until mid-1782.

After the war he served twice as governor of South Carolina (1785-1787 and 1795-1797). He wrote his "Memoirs of the Revolution as Far as It Related to the States of North and South Carolina" in 1802.


William Moultrie was born in Charles Town, South Carolina on November 23, 1730. His father, John Moultrie, a prominant physician, and his mother, Lucretia (Cooper) Moultrie, had come from England in 1728. He lived on a plantation in Berkeley County. In 1749, he married Elizabeth Demaris de St. Julien. After her death, he married a second time, to Hannah Motte Lynch.

In 1757, William Moultrie was elected to represent St. John's, Berkeley Parish in the:
- 22nd Commons House of Assembly that met from 1757-1760.

In 1761, William Moultrie was first elected to represent Prince Frederick's Parish in the:
- 24th Commons House of Assembly that met in 1761
- 25th Commons House of Assembly that met in 1762

In 1762, William Moultrie was elected to represent St. Helena's Parish in the:
- 26th Commons House of Assembly that met from 1762-1765.

In 1765, William Moultrie was elected to represent Prince Frederick's Parish in the:
- 27th Commons House of Assembly that met from 1765-1768.

In 1768, William Moultrie was first elected to represent St. John's, Berkeley Parish in the:
- 28th Commons House of Assembly that met in 1768
- 29th Commons House of Assembly that met from 1769-1771
- 30th Commons House of Assembly that met in 1772
- 31st Commons House of Assembly that met in 1772
- 32nd Commons House of Assembly that met in 1773

Moultrie rose to prominance after serving as a militia Captain in the Cherokee expedition under Lt. Colonel James Grant in 1761. Even though William Moultrie was a political moderate, when the American Revolution came, he joined the rebellion. He was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774, but declined to serve. On June 17, 1775, he was given the commission of Colonel in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment of Provincial Troops, later to become State Troops and placed on the Continental Line.

In 1775, William Moultrie was first elected to represent St. Helena's Parish in the:
- First Provincial Congress that met in 1775
- Second Provincial Congress that met from 1775-1776

In 1776, William Moultrie was elected to represent St. Helena's Parish in the House of Representatives in the:
- 1st General Assembly that met in 1776
- 2nd General Assembly that met from 1776-1778

In 1779, William Moultrie was elected to represent St. John's, Berkeley Parish in the SC Senate of the:
- 3rd General Assembly that met from 1779-1780

In 1776, Col. William Moultrie was second-in-command of Charlestown, South Carolina's defenses. He was charged with construction of Fort Sullivan, which had been planned out in January 1776. Moultrie did not have stone available to construct the walls, so he used palmetto logs to build two parallel walls sixteen feet apart and filled in the gap with sand. At the time of the British arrival on June 2nd, only the south and east walls were complete. The new Southern Department Commander, Maj. General Charles Lee arrived a couple of days later on June 4th.

Maj. Gen. Lee inspected the incomplete fort and felt that it should not be defended, but South Carolina Governor John Rutledge overruled him. Moultrie himself was also confident in the fort's capability. Meanwhile, General Sir Henry Clinton landed on the adjacent Long Island, planning to ford the two islands and attack Fort Sullivan from that direction, but he was having difficulty crossing over. Moultrie ordered fortifications built there, so that even sending troops across by the few boats he had was now out of the question.

At 11:00 a.m., on June 28, 1776, Commodore Peter Parker began his bombardment of the fort with around one hundred guns and the Battle of Fort Sullivan had begun. When three ships attemped to move into the harbor west of the fort, they got stuck on a shoal. Moultrie began a steady reply with his guns. The fort itself withstood the assault thanks to the spongy palmetto logs and the sand, which absorbed the cannon balls. Under his command that day were Lt. Colonel Thomas Sumter and Major Francis Marion. When Maj. Gen. Charles Lee visited the fort during the action, he was pleasantly surprised with how well the fort was withstanding the assault. The action ended at 9:30 p.m. and the beaten British ships slipped away at 11:00 p.m.

When word of Moultrie's stout defense of Charlestown reached the other colonies, it gave the rebels new hope in their cause. Moultrie became a national hero. However, his easygoing manner allowed some criticism to begin that he had been somewhat derelict in his preparations. This criticism would continue. On September 16, 1777, Moultrie was commissioned a Brigadier General in the Continental Army. However, he did not participate in any significant field operations until after the British capture of Savannah, Georgia on December 29, 1778.

Under Southern Commander Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, Brig. Gen. Moultrie was given a measure of independence of command. He commanded at Beaufort (Port Royal Island), South Carolina on February 3, 1779 where he defeated 200 British troops. This defeat discouraged Colonel (later Brigadier General) Augustine Prevost from pursuing operations north into South Carolina until May of 1779. Moultie helped organize Charlestown's defenses when Brig. Gen. Prevost threatened the city on May 11-12, 1779. Brig. Gen. Moultrie was involved in the American defeat at Stono Ferry, South Carolina on June 20, 1779.

He was again elected to the Continental Congress, but declined to serve. In 1780, Brig. Gen. William Moultrie was captured following the Siege of Charles Town on May 12, 1780 and remained inprisoned for the next two years. He was exchanged for Maj. General John Burgoyne in February 1782. On October 15, he was promoted to Major General, the last such appointment to that grade by the Continental Congress, and the highest ranking officer in South Carolina.

Click Here to go to his SC Military Webpage herein.

In 1783, William Moultrie was first elected to represent St. John's, Berkeley Parish in the House of Representatives of the:
- 5th General Assembly that met from 1783-1784 - also Lieutenant Governor in 1784
- 6th General Assembly that met from 1785-1786

The last general assembly above elected him as the next governor of South Carolina and he gave up his seat in the House. While governor, he created the county court system and the capital was moved from Charleston to Columbia in 1786.

In 1787, William Moultrie was elected to represent St. John's, Berkley Parish the SC Senate in the:
- 7th General Assembly that met from 1787-1788

In 1792, William Moultrie was elected to his second two-year term as governor in 1792. He retired from public office 1794.

In 1802, his "Memoirs of the American Revolution" were published in two volumes. Moultrie died in Charleston on September 27, 1805. He was interred at Windsor Hill Plantation.


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