The American Revolution in South Carolina

Pocotaligo / Fort Balfour

April 11, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Col. William Harden
Loyalist Cdr:

Col. Nicholas Lechmere






Old District: 

Beaufort District
Present County:

Beaufort County

One source asserts that this engagement happened on April 13th. Another says it happened on April 15th. William Dobein James asserted it happened on April 18th.

After regrouping from their recent defeat at Pocataligo Road the small detachment of Brigadier General Francis Marion’s Patriots under the command of Col. William Harden laid siege to the fort. The Patriots captured all of the fort's officers who had been found at VanBibber's Tavern nearby. These included Capt. Edward Fenwick and Col. Nicholas Lechmere.

Next they demanded the fort to surrender for if they did not they told the Loyalists that they would spare no one once they stormed the walls. The Loyalists gave up without firing a shot. These included Lt. Col. Fletcher Kelsall and Major Andrew DeVeaux.

Col. William Harden's men worked all night and the next day paroling the prisoners, arranging transportation for them, and destroying the fort. They threw the 6-pounder into a nearby creek.

Fort Balfour overlooked the Pocotaligo River Bridge, halfway between Charlestown and Savannah. Col. William Harden with about 80 men crept into position around the fort. He sent Capt. Tarleton Brown, Jr. with thirteen (13) men on horseback to lure the garrison out of the fort.

In the meantime, Capt. Edward Fenwick and Col. Nicholas Lechmere were visiting their troops at the hospital, then stopped at a house that was a short distance outside the gates of the small fort, at Vanbibber's Tavern. Col. Harden's hidden men spotted the two officers riding towards the fort with seven dragoons, and within minutes all nine were captured. The command of Fort Balfour now fell to Lt. Col. Fletcher Kelsall.

As expected, Col. Harden demanded that the fort surrender, and as expected, Lt. Col. Kelsall refused. After much posturing and two more hours, Lt. Col. Kelsall finally agreed to surrender the fort. He and his men all marched out, tied their horses to the nearby abatis, advanced a little further from the fort, and formed a line - 110 of them.

After several crucial losses, Col. William Harden finally had his first "win." By May of 1781, the British in Charlestown reported up their chain of command that their land communications between Charlestown and Savannah had now ceased thanks to Col. William Harden.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Col. William Harden - Commanding Officer

Upper Granville County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Col. William Harden and Major John Cooper with 80 men in the following two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Tarleton Brown, Jr.
- Capt. James Moore



Col. Nicholas Lechmere - Commanding Officer

SC Light Dragoons Loyalist Militia detachment led by Capt. Capt. Edward Fenwick, with Lt. Thomas Burn and Cornet Robert Gregory and 25 men

Granville County Loyalist Militia led by Col. Nicholas Lechmere, with 92 men and the following known officers:
- Lt. Col. Fletcher Kelsall
- Major Andrew DeVeaux

Artilllery - One 6-pound cannon

© 2009 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved