The American Revolution in South Carolina

  Fort Moultrie

  June 28, 1776


Patriot Cdr:

Major General
Charles Lee
British Cdr:

Vice Admiral
Sir Peter Parker
Killed:

12
Killed:

91
Wounded:

24
Wounded:

170
Captured:

0
Captured:

Unk
Old District: 

Charles Town District
Present County:

Charleston County

This event is most often tied to the Breach Inlet Naval Battle and described as one battle since they both occurred on the same day. This Author tends to separate to the engagements since each one included different participants on both sides at different locations.


In late January of 1776, British General Sir Henry Clinton sailed from Boston, bound for Cape Fear, North Carolina. John Rutledge, a member of the Continenal Congress, arrived in Charlestown with information of a British move into South Carolina. Named as the newly-appointed President of the General Assembly that remained as the backbone of South Carolina's revoluationary government, President Rutledge organized a defense force under the command of 46-year-old Col. William Moultrie, a former militiaman and Indian fighter. Col. Moultrie saw Sullivan's Island, at the mouth of the entrance to Charlestown Harbor as a good place suited to build a fort to protect the entrance from intruding enemy warships.

Sullivan's Island was chosen because at the time because it was a geographic obstacle that shielded the harbor. A large vessel sailing into Charlestown first had to cross Charlestown Bar, a series of submerged sand banks lying about eight miles southeast of the city. Col. Moultrie and his SC 2nd Regiment arrived on the island in March of 1776 and began construction of a fortress to defend the island and channel to Charlestown Harbor. The construction moved slowly in which an observer, Captain Peter Horry, later described the site as a "an immense pen 500 feet long, and 16 feet wide, filled with sand to stop the shot." The workers constructed gun platforms out of two-inch planks and fastened them together with wood spikes.

During late May, British frigates arrived to scout the area and observe the construction of the enemy fort on Sullivan's Island. The main British fleet arrived outside of Charlestown Harbor on June 1. Col. Moultrie observed a British scout boat observing possible landing points on nearby Long Island (now called Isle of Palms) just a few hundred yards from Sullivan's Island. Major General Charles Lee, the newly-appointed leader of all Patriot troops in the Southern Theater, arrived a few days later and was put in command of the land forces around Charlestown. On June 8th, after most of the British fleet had crossed the bar and anchored in Five Fathom Hole, General Sir Henry Clinton sent a proclamation to the Patriot rebels to lay down their arms or face military action, which President Rutledge rejected. With the fort on Sullivan's Island only half complete, Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker was confident that his warships would quickly blast the fort into pieces.

The square-shaped Fort Sullivan made up of only the completed seaward wall, with walls made from Palmetto logs 16-feet wide and filled with sand, which rose ten feet above the wooden platforms for the artillery. A hastily erected palisade of thick planks helped guard the powder magazine and unfinished northern walls. An assortment of thirty-one (31) hard-to-get cannons, ranging from 9- to 12-pounders, as well as a few English 18-pounders and French 26-pounders, dotted the front and rear walls.

The British finally attacked on June 28, 1776 - in concert with a naval attack at Breach Inlet.

The British attempted an assault from Long Island by landing small boats on the northern end of Sullivan's Island. The attack was covered by an armed British schooner. The boats were turned back when the Americans fired at point-blank range, causing very heavy casualties in the British assault party. With this rebuff, General Clinton called off the attack and no other attempts were made. By 9:30 p.m., all firing ceased. At 11:30 p.m., the British ships withdrew to Five Fathom Hole.

With their efforts repulsed at both ends of the island, the British halted their attack late in the day. Still, they had a major problem. Of the three ships which had run aground, the HMS Acteon was still unable to extract herself, despite the best efforts of her crew. The captain requested Vice-Admiral Parker's permission to abandon ship, and destroy her to keep the ship from falling into the hands of the Americans. This was received and the captain set ablaze one of the British Navy's finest ships, commissioned less than a year before. An American salvage party went out after it was abandoned and was able to gather the ship's bell, the colors, and various stores before the spreading fire endangered their safety. Half an hour later, the ship's magazine exploded.

The results of the victory were many-fold. For the Patriots, it was their first decisive victory. For South Carolina, it produced a confidence in the government led by President John Rutledge and forestalled another British effort to take Charlestown for over three years. More importantly to both South Carolina and the new nation, this daring feat against large odds fired the imagination of its citizens.

Here was the model for future triumph. It was here, in a day-long battle, that a gallant and spirited band defeated in desparate conflict an overwhelming naval and military force and having utterly whipped them, drove them from their shores. For the new nation, pride in the victory was unbounded.

For the British, the results were humiliating. A superb naval flotilla and army had been thwarted, in a large degree, due to the imprudent mistakes made by veteran officers. Poor planning and the refusal of the army and navy to cooperate sealed the doom of the British. The British lost all element of surprise and failed to take advantage of American weaknesses in early June of 1776. There were no naval officers in the fleet familiar with Charlestown harbor. Instead, Vice-Admiral Parker relied on impressed pilots to guide the ships to their crucial anchorage.

The British did not attempt to renew the battle or try to take the fort again this year, and by mid-August, the fleet withdrew northward to help the main British army in the campaign against New York. Within days of the battle, South Carolinians learned of the signing of the Declartion of Independence in Philadelphia, which was a sign of their capacity to oppose British arms.

The victory on June 28th stood to them as their own phsycial Declaration, which the upsetting of the British plans in the southern colonies helped win uncommited Americans to the struggle for independence from Great Britain. It also enabled the Southern colonies to support vital campaigns in the north. Most importantly, the victory at Fort Moultrie helped keep Charlestown free from British occupation for more than three years.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Major General Charles Lee, Continental Army Southern Command - Commanding Officer

City of Charlestown's Defenses:

Brigadier General Robert Howe (NC) - Continental Army with the following units:

SC 3rd Regiment detachment with five (5) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Francis Boykin
- Capt. John Lewis Peyer Imhoff
- Capt. Eli Kershaw
- Capt. Richard Winn
- Capt. Thomas Woodward

SC 4th Regiment of Artillery led by Lt. Col. Owen Roberts with:
- Capt. Charles Drayton with 28 guns at Broughton's Battery
- Capt. Bateman with unknown number of men and guns

Charles Town District Regiment - 6th Independent SC Artillery Company, led by Capt. Thomas Grimball with 100 men and 12 guns.

SC 5th Regiment led by Col. Isaac Huger with 329 men in the following eight (8) known companies, led by:
- Capt. David Anderson
- Capt. John Blassingame
- Capt. John Bowie
- Capt. George Cogdell
- Capt. Thomas Potts
- Capt. Francis Prince
- Capt. Calvin Spencer
- Capt. Benjamin Tutt

SC 6th Regiment led by Lt. Col. Thomas Sumter and Major William Henderson with 360 men in the following five (5) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Brown
- Capt. Richard Doggett
- Capt. James Duff
- Capt. William McClintock
- Capt. George Warley

2nd NC Regiment led by Col. Alexander Martin with 419 men in the following seven (7) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Robert Gaston
- Capt. James Gee
- Capt. John Heritage
- Capt. Nathaniel Keais
- Capt. William Knox
- Capt. Hardy Murfee
- Capt. Joseph Tate

3rd NC Regiment led by Col. Jethro Sumner with the following seven (7) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Barret
- Capt. William Brinkley
- Capt. Pinketham Eaton
- Capt. James Emmett
- Capt. Thomas Granbury
- Capt. John Gray
- Capt. Jacob Turner

Charles Town District Regiment of Militia led by Col. John Harleston with 700 men in the following two Battalions:

1st Battalion led by Lt. Col. "Unknown" in the following five (5) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Daniel Cannon - Cannon's Company of Volunteers
- Capt. William Greenwood - True Blue Company
- Capt. John McCall - Grenadier Company
- Capt. John McQueen - Charles Town Rangers
- Capt. Alexander Moultrie - Charles Town Musketeers

2nd Battalion led by Lt. Col. "Unknown" in the following three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Baddeley - Charles Town Light Infantry - Capt. William Livingston - German Fusiliers
- Capt. James Skirving, Jr. - Gentlemen Volunteers of St. Bartholomew's Parish

SC Militia totalling 1,372 men with the following known nine (9) known companies (has to be many companies missing):

Berkeley County Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Akin

Camden District Regiment detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Nixon
- Capt. Robert Patton

Cheraws District Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. George King

Fairfield Regiment detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Kennedy
- Capt. Alexander Turner

Little River District Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Williams

New Acquistion District Regiment detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Byers, Sr.
- Capt. Finney McClenahan

Haddrell's Point Defenses (Mount Pleasant):

Brigadier General John Armstrong - Continental Army, with the following units:

SC 4th Regiment of Artillery Detachment led by Capt. Sims White with 40 men, including Lt. Felix Lewis Massenbach, and six guns

Cheraws District Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Henry William Harrington

1st NC Regiment detachment led by Col. Francis Nash with two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Henry "Hal" Dixon
- Capt. Thomas Hogg

2nd NC Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Armstrong with 100 men

4th NC Regiment detachment of three (3) known companies, led by:
- Capt. John Nelson
- Capt. Joseph Phillips
- Capt. Robert Smith

NC Light Dragoons Detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. James Jones - 3rd Troops, with 41 men

8th VA Regiment led by Col. Peter Muhlenberg, Lt. Col. Abraham Bowman, and Major Peter Helphenstone, with at least one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Stevenson

Fort Johnson's Defenses (James Island):

Col. Christopher Gadsden with Major Charles Cotesworth Pinckney - SC 1st Regiment, with the following units of Provincial Troops and SC Militia:

SC 1st Regiment detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. William Richardson
- Capt. Samuel Taylor

Berkeley County Regiment of Militia detachment of two (2) known companies led by:
- Capt. Benjamin Marion with 38 men
- Capt. Daniel Linder with 42 men

Colleton County Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. William Skirving with 40 men

Lower Craven County Regiment of Militia detachment with four (4) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Peter Buckholdt with 30 men
- Capt. Jacob Feneret with 7 men
- Capt. Archibald McDaniels with 25 men
- Capt. Edward Plowden with 17 men

Cheraws District Regiment of Militiadetachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Robert Lide with 18 men

Ninety-Six District Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Redmond with 15 men

Beaufort District Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. John Barnwell with 60 guns

Hyrne's Battery Defenses (A Slave Battery West of Fort Johnson):

SC 1st Regiment detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Thomas Pinckney with 60 men and 110 slaves

Charles Town District Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company. led by:
- Capt. Benjamin Stone with 30 men

Fort Moultrie's Defenses (Sullivan's Island):

Col. William Moultrie - SC 2nd Regiment, with Lt. Col. Isaac Motte, Major Andrew Dellient, Major Francis Marion, and 413 men in the following fourteen (14) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Richard Ashby
- Capt. John Blake
- Capt. William Brown
- Capt. Nicholas Eveleigh, with Lt. Gabriel Marion
- Capt. Jacob Fulmere
- Capt. John Graham
- Capt. Isaac Child Harleston, with Lt. Henry Gray
- Capt. Peter Horry
- Capt. Francis Huger
- Capt. James McDonald
- Capt. Charles Motte
- Capt. William Oliphant
- Capt. Richard Shubrick
- Capt. George Wade

SC 4th Regiment of Artillery detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. Bernard Beeckman with 22 men and 31 guns

Known NC Militia Units - Locations Unknown:

Col. Willis Alston - Halifax County Regiment of Militia detachment of one (1) known company, led by:
- Capt. William Brinkley

Lt. Col. Thomas Brown - Bladen County Regiment of Militia detachment, with unknown number of men

Capt. James Duff - Tryon County Regiment of Militia detachment, with unknown number of men

Capt. John Polk - Mecklenburg County Regiment of Militia detachment, with unknown number of men

In and Around Charlestown Harbor:

SC Provincial Navy with three ships:

Frigate Prosper - Capt. "Unknown" - no guns.

Brig. Comet - Capt. Joseph Turpin with 90 men and 18 guns

Schooner Defense - Capt. Simon Tufts with 12 guns

Total Patriot Forces in and around Charlestown - 2,400


Robert Black was mortally wounded in this battle and he died later on July 11th.

Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Parker - Commanding Officer

Royal Navy - 1st Division in the following ships:

HMS Man of War Bristol - Capt. John Morris with 50 guns

HMS Man of War Experiment - Capt. Alexander Scott with Lt. Riddle and 50 guns

HMS Frigate Active - Capt. William Williams with 28 guns

HMS Frigate Solebay - Capt. Thomas Symonds with 28 guns.

Royal Navy - 2nd Division in the following ships:

HMS Frigate Actaeon - Capt. Christopher Atkins with 28 guns

HMS Frigate Syren - Capt. Tobias Furneaux with 190 seamen and 28 guns

HMS Frigate Sphinx - Capt. Anthony Hunt with 20 guns

HMS armed vessel Friendship - 1st Lt. Charles Hope with 22 guns

HMS bombship Thunder Bomb - Capt. James Reid with 8 guns

HMS Schooner St. Lawrence - Lt. John Graves with 19 guns

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© 2013 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved