The American Revolution in South Carolina

Charlestown Harbor

May 19-22, 1776


Patriot Cdr:

Capt. Joseph Turpin
British Cdr:

Major James Moncrief
Killed:

0
Killed:

0
Wounded:

0
Wounded:

0
Captured:

0
Captured:

0
Old District: 

Charles Town District
Present County:

Charleston County

Admiral Peter Parker sent Major James Moncrief of the Royal Engineers in the armed schooner HMS Pensacola Packet to conduct a reconnaissance of Charlestown. On May 20th, Capt. Simon Tufts and the HMS Defense arrived with a recently captured New York brigantine that had been whaling. The Royal Navy frigate HMS Sphinx spotted the Defense entering the harbor and followed her, then waited at the entrance to the harbor with HMS Pensacola Packet.

HMS Pensacola Packet lowered three boats to allow Major Moncrief sound the bar. He determined that the British fleet could make it over the bar and then noticed the half-finished fort on nearby Sullivan's Island. He was able to get inside the fort and walk around and sketch the construction. When he went back to his boats Patriot sentinels figured out what was going on and fired at him.

On May 21st, Capt. Joseph Turpin and his Comet arrived with a new prize - the St. James. [author's note, this account is not 100% accurate because the St. James had been captured back in March, so perhaps the two skirmishes are blended together, or the St. James had been recaptured and put back into operations]. According to the account, it is now the HMS Sphinx that pursued the Comet, but the St. James had to be abandoned and set onfire.

HMS Sphinx continued to patrol the harbor because Major Moncrief needed to scout the other defenses around Charlestown. HMS Pensacola Packet captured a small coasting sloop from Georgetown with a load of turpentine. The same day five deserters of the SC 2nd Regiment rowed out to HMS Sphinx and were welcomed aboard.

Even though the British ships captured a few small prizes they were not able to complete their mission of thoroughly scouting Charlestown's defenses. The Comet repeatedly drove them off.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

SC Provincial Navy brig. Comet - Capt. Joseph Turpin, with eighteen 6-pounders

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Sloop HMS Pensacoal Packet - Unknown captain

Major James Moncrieff - Royal Engineers

HMS Sphinx - Unknown Captain



© 2008 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved