Stephen Bull was from a very wealthy family with distinctive political ties way back to the early days of the colony of South Carolina. He was the nephew of William Bull, Jr., the acting governor of South Carolina prior to the arrival of Lord William Campbell in 1775 - the last Royal Governor of SC. He and a cousin named John Bull were the only two from this prominent family with Patriot leanings - all others were Loyalists.
In 1747, he was a trustee for the building of the Prince William Parish Church, which was built right next to his father, William Bull's, plantation, named Sheldon, in the Beaufort District. Stephen inherited Sheldon upon his father's death.
During the War of Jenkins Ear (1739-1742), Stephen Bull commanded a militia company at the Siege of St. Augustine during 1740.
Stephen Bull was elected to the First Provincial Congress as a delegate from St. Peter's Parish on December 19,. 1774. He was also elected as the Colonel and commander of the Beaufort District Militia in February of 1775. The Beaufort District provided the smallest number of volunteers to either side during the Revolutionary War. Many Patriots demanded cash for their services and they pursuaded Col. Stephen Bull to petition the Council of Safety for payment in advance, which he passed along half-heartedly, knowing their response. Such reliance on the leadership qualities of the local militia commanders in the Beaufort District proved to be a nettlesome problem for civil authorities all during the war.
In March of 1776, the British moved far up the Savannah River to seize several embargoed ships, and they landed troops on Hutchinson Island. Shots were exchanged in the town of Savannah. The SC Council of Safety ordered Col. Stephen Bull to march to Savannah to bolster the Patriot cause. The Loyalists were isolated, arrested, or forced out of Savannah, and the morale of the Patriots improved greatly. However, Royal Marines remained on Tybee Island, and British and Loyalist forces from East Florida ranged without impunity throughout most of south Georgia.
Col. Stephen Bull was promoted to Brigadier General in March of 1778 with command of all regiments of militia from the Beaufort District, Colleton County, and Granville County. Much of his brigade was included in the Florida Expedition of 1778, a costly failure. None of the South Carolina troops ever engaged any British forces, yet the East Florida Rangers under Col. Thomas Brown harassed their line most of the march. The expedition collapsed before reaching the St. John's River due primarily to disunity between the Continental Army, led by Maj. Gen. Robert Howe, and the SC Troops and Militia, with various commanders.
In the Fall of 1778, a strong force of British Regulars, Loyalist militia, and mixed naval forces under the command of Brig. Gen. Augustine Prevost moved against Georgia. By December of 1778, this force was at the gates of Savannah. The town fell on December 30th, with little help from South Carolina. Brig. Gen. Prevost set his sights on Charlestown.
The early days of 1779 were spent jockeying for position along the banks of the Savannah River. Brig. Gen. Stephen Bull was headquartered at Purrysburg, but soon moved to Port Royal Ferry, joined by Brig. Gen. William Moultrie on January 31st. On the morning of February 3rd, British forces commanded by Maj. Valentine Gardiner met the Patriots, who won the brief skirmish.
Brig. Gen. Stephen Bull was captured at the Fall of Charleston on May 12, 1780, and the British gave him immediate parole - he and his family lived in exile in Virginia and Maryland until the war was over. Since his uncle had been an acting Royal Governor and fled the state, many tied Stephen Bull to Loyalist sympathies and he suffered greatly after the war was over. He died in 1795.
GENERAL ORDERS BY COL. STEPHEN BULL
Purrysburgh, March 9, 1776.
Order, The Troops are to embark this day in different boats now at the landing, on board of which the commanding officers of each detachment are to have their baggage put.
Order, The detachments are to take post in the line of march as follows; the Charlestown Light Infantry to take the right; the Charlestown Volunteers on their left; the Charleston Fusiliers on their left; and the Charlestown rangers on their left. The Beaufort Light Infantry take post on the left of the line, the St. Helena Company on their right; the Huspa Volunteers on the right, and Euhaw Volunteers on their right; the officers of line not to take post according to seniority, but to act and command their own detachments.
Order, The officers and men of the Charlestown Light Infantry with Sergeant Black, and the Beaufort Artillery men or matrosses to embark in the decked armed host as an advanced guard to the line, who are to keep about one hundred and fifty yards before the line, and then the line follow.
Order, That a Sergeant and thirteen men of the Euhaw Volunteers form the rear guard, and follow in the rear of the line.
Order, The guns of the advanced and rear guards are to be loaded before embarkation with running ball; the swivel guns on board the boats to be loaded and charged with cannister or grape shop The LINTSTOCKS, wads, and every thing necessary to be on board.
Order, That as officer of each detachment before embarkation do examine and see that the cartridges are not too deep in the boxes, but that the caps may be so far out, as to be readily taken out, in time of action. Should the cartouch boxes be too deep for the cartridges, then in that case let there be a wad of moss put to the bottom of each so as to raise them to a proper height; the officers to see that the cartridges are so fitted that they will readily go down the barrels of the guns even after many firings.
Order, That the officers do instruct their men how properly to charge with cartridge; that is after uncapping, to let the whole of the powder, run down the barrel, before they ram down the paper and ball; for by neglecting this and ramming before the powder is out, the paper is apt to stop the touch holes and prevent firing.
Order, That the officers do examine the guns of the line, and that none be loaded but upon appprehension of an attack, and then the first charge be with running ball, for which purpose each man should be provided with moss wadding in his pocket.
Order, That when the line is disembarked and landed in Georgia, the whole line is to form two deep, the right of the line to march foremost with the advanced guard, about one hundred and fifty yards a head; the light horse before them about a quarter of a mile, who are to examine every thicket, suspicious place or swamp near the road, where an ambuscade or armed force may lay concealedas soon as they discover such suspicious place, the commanding officer of the light horse is to send a non-commissioned officer or intelligent private to give information to the commanding officer of the line, which is to halt; when the commanding officer of the light horse has examined and finds there is no enemy in the place suspected, he is to make a report accordingly, upon which the line will march.
Order, That if the advanced guards are attacked they are by no means to retreat, but at all hazards maintain their ground as they may depend on being supported by the line.
Order, The detachments to be told off in platoons in proportion to the number of officers and men.
Order, That no soldier do fire his gun without orders from an officer; no soldier to quit his rank or platoon without leave of an officer.
Order, That a roster be kept of the officers and men, that each officer and private may take the tour of their different duties.
Order, That Sergeant Black do distribute the cartridges and shot in size of the swivels, and that the eighteen pound shot, spare powder and lead, be properly stowed in the boat, in which the rear of the line do embark, of which the commanding officer of the Beaufort Light Infantry is to take charge.
Order, All orders delivered by Capt. Doharty are to be obeyed, he being one appointed by Col. Bull, for that purpose.
Order, That a Sergeant and six men do march as a flanking party on the right, and another Sergeant and six men on the left, to march at one hundred yards distance from the line in Indian file, each man to be about fifty yards distance from each other, and should they discover any enemy they are to fire on them, and to retreat to the line, and give notice that the line may face towards the enemy, and not be attacked to disadvantage. The two Sergeants and their men to be relieved every half hour alternately, by those detachments who have not any men on duty in the advanced and rear guards.
A true copy from the Col.'s Order Book.
THOS. RUTLEDGE, Adjutant.
Order, The troops, for sufficient reasons, do not embark this day, but Capt. John Huger of the Volunteers, Lieutenant Fenwicke of the Rangers, and Capt. John Jenkins of the St. Helena Volunteers, do order their drums to beat and muster their men on the parade joining the Church; from thence march them to the landing where the Pettiaugers are; there to embark as many men as they will conveniently hold, in order to judge of the number of boats that will be necessary.
Order, That the General do beat by dawn of day to-morrowthe baggage stowed, and the tents left standing till breakfast is over, and two only to be carried to shelter the guards that be at any out-post.
A true copy from the Colonel's Order Book.
THOS. RUTLEDGE, Adjutant.