The American Revolution in South Carolina

Off Hilton Head

September 24, 1779


Patriot Cdr:

Brigadier de Brach
British Cdr:

Capt. Sir James Wallace
Killed:

0
Killed:

0
Wounded:

Unknown
Wounded:

Unknown
Captured:

0
Captured:

Unknown
Old District: 

Beaufort District
Present County:

Beaufort County

The Royal Navy Man of War HMS Experiment had lost her masts and bowsprit in a gale while she was on her way from New York to Savannah. On board the Experiment were twenty British officers and £30,000 in silver for paying British troops in Georgia. Also on board was Major General Garth, who was supposed to replace Brigadier General Augustine Prevost as commander in Savannah.

Cruising in the same area was the French frigate Lively who had captured two ships loaded with provisions. The Lively learned that the British ships had separated from HMS Experiment during the gale. Three French ships were immediately dispatched to cruise off Port Royal to find the Experiment.

On September 24th, the HMS Experiment was near Hilton Head where she rendezvoused with a British store ship and a Navy victualer from New Providence. The store ship had a cargo of sixty-five prisoners. The captain of the store ship warned HMS Experiment that he had seen twenty large ships below Hilton Head.

At 3:45 p.m., HMS Experiment spotted three large sails in the distance. Sir James Wallace, the captain of the Experiment, tried to put as much distance between him and the unknown ships as he could. 45 minutes later, two more ships appeared to the west also bearing down on him.

At 8 p.m. that night, the unknown ships hoisted the French colors and closed with the Experiment. The French ship of the line Sagittair gave the Experiment two broadsides. Due to the range, only a few shots reached the Experiment. Capt. Wallace hoisted more sail and put some distance from the Sagittair. At 8:30 p.m., Capt. Sir James Wallace decided to fight, hoisted his colors, and came to action.

In a very short time every single one of the French ships, three ships of the line and two frigates, were within range of HMS Experiment. After having his masts shot away, Capt. Wallace finally surrendered.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

French ship of the line Magnifique - Brigadier de Brach, with 74 guns

French ship of the line Sphinx - Capt. Compte de Soulange, with 64 guns

French ship of the line Sagittair - Capt. Albert De Rions, with 54 guns

2 Unknown frigates

Man of War HMS Experiment - Capt. Sir James Wallace, with 60 guns

Store ship Cartel Champion - Capt. "Unknown"

Navy victualer Myrtle - Capt. "Unknown"

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