The American Revolution in South Carolina

Fort Watson

April 15-23, 1781


Patriot Cdr:

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion
British Cdr:

Lt. James McKay
Killed:

2
Killed:

0
Wounded:

6
Wounded:

0
Captured:

0
Captured:

114
Old District: 

Camden District
Present County:

Clarendon County

aka Wright's Bluff.

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion and his Patriots joined with Continentals under Lt. Col. Henry Lee laid siege to the fort. A Maham Tower (designed and constructed by Lt. Col. Hezekiah Maham) was constructed and used successfully by the Patriots.


On April 14th, Lt. Col. Henry Lee, reinforced with a regiment of North Carolina Continentals, met up with Brig. Gen. Marion near Fort Watson, and the next day they laid siege by cutting off British access to Scott Lake. Brig. Gen. Marion placed Capt. Robert McCottry (might've been William McCottry) and his riflemen to watch over the water supply, and Maj. Michael Rudolph was detached with Lee's Legion Cavalry to watch for any movements of the enemy, perhaps coming from Georgetown.

Lt. McKay had plenty of food and ammunition and the morale of his men was very high. He had men to dig a well inside the stockade for water, then dug a trench from the lake to fill it. Since the fort was so well built and protected, he refused all offers to surrender, waiting for reinforcements, which had to be coming sooner or later.

Brig. Gen. Marion had problems from the onset - some of his men came down with Smallpox, which severely tainted his men's morale, those who didn't get it. Then, bickering arose among his officers and morale plunged even further.

Since they had no artillery, Lt. Col. Hezekiah Maham suggested a way to take the fort, and his dragoons began construction of his idea - soon to be known throughout the American continent as the Maham Tower. For five days, his men felled and notched many trees out of sight from the fort. On the night of April 22nd, his men assembled a 40-foot tall, oblong tower, which was higher than Fort Watson's rampart. The front of the tower was reinforced with a shield of timber.

At daylight of April 23rd, Capt. McCottry's riflemen climbed the tower and began firing into the fort through loopholes in the floor. The men inside the fort crawled around attempting to avoid being shot. With the fort's men thus occupied, Patriot volunteers ran around outside to clear the abatis surrounding the fort. When Lt. McKay saw the results of this and the Patriots readying to charge the fort, Lt. McKay raised the white flag.

The terms of surrender were quite generous for the times. The officers were granted paroles, kept their swords, and were able to take their baggage with them to Charlestown, where they were to await regular exchange.

Brig. Gen. Marion then destroyed the fort that had been a thorn in the side of all Patriots since the fall of Charlestown almost a year earlier. He and Lt. Col. Lee then marched their men to the High Hills of the Santee for a much needed rest.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion - Commanding Officer

Berkeley County Regiment detachment led by Col. Richard Richardson, Jr., with six (6) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Capers
- Capt. William Dukes
- Capt. John Malone
- Capt. Robert McCottry
- Capt. William McCottry
- Capt. John Singleton

Horry's Light Dragoons led by Lt. Col. Peter Horry, with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Garner Bachelor
- Capt. John Baxter
- Capt. William Black
- Capt. Daniel Conyers

Kershaw Regiment detachment led by Lt. Col. James Postell, with two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Marshall Jones
- Capt. William Nettles

Lower Craven County Regiment detachment led by Col. Hugh Giles, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Weathers

Cheraws District Regiment detachment led by Lt. Col. Lemuel Benton, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Peter DuBose

Georgetown District Regiment detachment led by Lt. Col. Alexander Swinton, with one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Handlin

Kingstree Regiment detachment led by Col. Archibald McDonald with unknown number of men

Maham's Light Dragoons detachment led by Lt. Col. Hezekiah Maham, with unknown number of men

Nottoway County Volunteers (VA) detachment led by Capt. Charles Troy

Lee's Legion of Continentals led by Lt. Col. Henry Lee with 200 men in the following known companies:
- 4th Dismounted Troop - Capt. Allen McClane
- 5th Dismounted Troop - Capt. Henry Archer
- 6th Dismounted Troop - Lt. Edward Manning

1st NC Regiment of Continentals led by Maj. Pinketham Eaton with 115 men

Maryland Light Company led by Capt. Edward Oldham


Total Patriot Forces - 400

Lt. James McKay - Commanding Officer

64th Regiment of Foot - 78 men

Provincial Light Infantry - 36 men


Total British/Loyalist Forces - 114

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