The American Revolution in South Carolina

Fort Johnson

February 26-March 2, 1780

Patriot Cdr:

Commodore Abraham Whipple
British Cdr:

Major General Heinrich Julius von Kospoth






Old District: 

Charles Town District
Present County:

Charleston County

General Sir Henry Clinton's troops landed at Fort Johnson on February 26th and seized the small garrison and captured the already ruined fort. It had been burned and demolished by the Patriots prior to their arrival.

USS Ranger and Providence fired on British troops that had entered old Fort Johnson outside of Charlestown.

The next day the Continental Navy ships Boston and Ranger, and the South Carolina frigate Bricole, moved from Sullivan’s Island and fired on Fort Johnson. Three British were killed in the bombardment. To counter the naval firepower the British moved in a 24-pounder, a 12-pounder, and an 8 inch howitzer.

On February 27th, some transport ships arrived from Savannah with the grenadier companies of the 63rd and 64th Regiments of Foot, and one battalion of the 71st Highlanders. There were also “two companies of Negroes from Savannah. The remainder were supply and horse ships.” The horses would be used to haul cannons to the newly-constructed positions, but the horses were not put to work for a few more days, so the soldiers had to drag the artillery to their camps.

On February 28th, while work was being done on a new redoubt in Fort Johnson, the Boston and Ranger both fired into the fort from an unprotected side. A Hessian captain brought up some of the Hessian grenadiers and two artillery pieces, and returned fire. One shot by the Boston killed a gunner, and two grenadiers of the Grenadier Battalion von Graff. The 42nd Highlanders moved a fieldpiece into the road leading to Fort Johnson and also fired upon the ship. Major General von Kospoth recalled the grenadiers and the fieldpieces and the frigates moved away from the fort. The British moved two 24-pounders, “en barbette,” into the unprotected side of the fort.

General Clinton rode out to the fort and ordered Major General von Kospoth to “retire into the woods with his Brigade, so that he should not be exposed to the cannonading.” Carl Bauer described Fort Moultrie as the fort that:

“General Prévost destroyed last year and of which one can still see the ruins… consist of tabby bricks and the trunks of palmetto trees… Behind Fort Johnson a redoubt was built on an old cemetery, to which heavy cannons and ammunition were brought. A great number of corpses were dug up, which struck us as all the more curious since this island was not thickly inhabited. Therefore, we asked about the cause and learned that these were all soldiers from two English regiments, who had been quartered in a nearby and now destroyed barracks. Both regiments had died out almost completely in one year after their arrival from Europe. This news caused us to wish that we would not remain here very long.”

On March 2nd, the Providence, Boston, Ranger, Bricole, Notre Dame, and several other galleys, fired into Fort Johnson again, with no effect. When the first British schooners appeared off the bar the American fleet ceased the shelling of Fort Johnson.

The capture of Fort Johnson allowed the British to protect their ships when they crossed the bar, and send occasional harassment fire into Charlestown.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Continental Navy Sloop Providence - Commodore Abraham Whipple with Lt. Robert Davis, 32 guns, and 16 Continental Marines

Continental Navy Sloop Ranger - Capt. Thomas Simpson with Lt. William Morris, 20 guns, and 35 Continental Marines

Continental Navy Frigate Boston - Capt. Samuel Tucker with Capt. Richard Palmes and his 50 Continental Marines, and 30+ guns

SC Provincial Navy Frigate Bricole - Capt. Thomas Curling, with 44 guns

Major General Heinrich Julius von Kospoth

42nd Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Regiment) Detachment - Grenadier Company - led by Capt. John Peebles

Royal Regiment of Artillery with five guns

German Auxiliaries, 4th Battalion led by Major Wilhelm Graff with 450 men

Hesse-Kassel Grenadier Battallion von Graff Artillery with two field pieces.


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