The American Revolution in South Carolina

  Port Royal Island

  February 3, 1779


Patriot Cdr:

Brigadier General
William Moultrie
British Cdr:

Major Valentine Gardiner
Killed:

8
Killed:

40
Wounded:

22
Wounded:

included in above
Captured:

300 slaves
Captured:

7
Old District: 

Beaufort District
Present County:

Beaufort County

aka Battle of Beaufort.


British Major Valentine Gardiner was ordered to conduct a naval landing and occupy Port Royal Island. They landed first at Hilton Head Island on February 1st and was immediately fired upon by Capt. James Doharty's militia. The British pursued the militia. The British ships that had been accompanying the landing force continued up the Broad River and anchored opposite Bull's Plantation on Port Royal Island.

Capt. Patrick Murray was ordered to go ashore and burn the plantations of the owners who had fled. The first plantation he burned belonged to Capt. Thomas Heyward, Jr. On February 2, the armed brigantine HMS Lord George Germaine bombarded the house of Brigadier General Stephen Bull, chasing the militia out into the open. A British landing force chased them into the nearby woods and kept them away from the area.

The British force that had attacked Hilton Head and Bulls Plantation during the past two days found out about the Patriots destroying their own garrison at Fort Lyttleton and decided that the time was right to seize all of Port Royal Island and thereby gain the largest deep-water harbor on the Atlantic coast south of New York. If this could be done it would give the British a harbor deep enough and large enough for a fleet that could then easily move on Charlestown.

After making a successful amphibious landing and securing a nearby ferry, the British light infantry and sailors were engaged in battle outside the town of Beaufort by Patriot Militia forces under command of Brigadier General William Moultrie. After a long fight both sides ran out of powder and the British troops withdrew to their ships. The capture of Beaufort and Port Royal Island would have to wait for another day.


At daybreak of February 3rd, three British companies were taken ashore, with a howitzer manned by two artillerymen and six sailors. After marching about two miles, they exchanged shots with some Patriots, firing the howitzer and the retreating cavalry, to no effect. Major Valentine Gardiner organized the troops into nine platoons and continued to Roupelle's Ferry. What he didn't know was that Brigadier General William Moultrie and Brigadier General Stephen Bull had arrived in Beaufort the day before - they were conducting a reconnaissance of the town and Fort Lyttleton when they received word that Major Gardiner was within five miles of their location.

Brigadier General Moultrie attempted to deploy his forces in a wooded swamp but discovered that Major Gardiner had beaten him to the wooded terrain. The SC Militia lined up across the road in the open near the Halfway House, two hundred yards from the British forces. Brigadier General Moultrie placed two 6-pounders in the middle of the road and a 2-pounder on the right in some woods. His artillery only had forty rounds.

Major Gardiner rode forward to the Patriot lines with a white handkerchief on his drawn sword. He told the Patriots to lay down their arms and send him an officer. Capt. Francis Kinlock came forward and informed Major Gardiner that he was out-numbered and that he was the one who should surrender.

The British howitzer fired upon Capt. Thomas Heyward's artillery and killed Lt. Benjamin Wilkins. Capt. Heyward's artillery returned fire and the SC Militia advanced. On Capt. Heyward's second shot, he disabled the howitzer, killing Lt. Calderwood and Lt. Finlay, and hitting Major Gardiner's horse.

After Brigadier General Moultrie's forces began to take casualties, he ordered them into the trees on the side of the road. The two opposing forces attempted to flank each other, with no success. British officers - Major Colin Graham, Capt. George Bruere, and Capt. Patrick Murray - were all wounded in the fight. After about 45 minutes, both sides started to run out of ammunition, and the Patriots used this opportunity to start their withdrawal.

Later, Brigadier General William Moultrie ordered Capt. John Barnwell to pursue the retreating British and to make sure that they did not return. Capt. Barnwell was able to capture fifteen men, including the wounded Capt. Bruere. But, the British regrouped and were able to rescue Capt. Bruere and seven of the prisoners.

The British marched in the darkness back to their landing point, where forty Loyalist marines had set up a defensive perimeter.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Brigadier General William Moultrie - Commanding Officer

SC 3rd Regiment (Rangers) detachment led by Capt. Edward Richardson

SC 4th Regiment of Artillery detachment led by Capt. John Francis DeTreville, with Lt. John Brown and Lt. Richard Brown and nine men, one 2-pounder

SC 5th Regiment (Riflemen) detachment led by Capt. George Jervey

1st Brigade of SC Militia led by Brigadier General Stephen Bull with 300 men in the following units:

Charles Town District Regiment of Militia detachment of six (6) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Archibald Brown
- Capt. Thomas Heyward, Jr. (Artillery)
- Capt. Francis Kinlock
- Capt. William Livingston
- Capt. Richard Lushington
- Capt. Edward Rutledge

Beaufort District Regiment of Militia detachment of two (2) known companies, led by:
- Capt. Edward Barnwell
- Capt. John Barnwell

Colleton County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Capt. Thomas McLaughlin

Upper Craven County Regiment of Militia detachment led by Capt. Henry Council


Known Casualties:
- S. Wilkins - Mortally wounded
- John Fraser - Mortally wounded
- Joseph Solomon - Mortally wounded
- John Anthony (Charles Town District Regiment) - Wounded
- John Calvert - Wounded
- Anthony Watts - Wounded
- John Green - Wounded
- John Laurence - Wounded
- John Collins - Wounded
- John Righton - Wounded
- John D. Miller - Wounded

Major Valentine Gardiner

60th Regiment of Foot (Royal Americans), two companies:

3rd Battalion of Light Infantry - Capt. George Bruere

4th Battalion of Light Infantry - Capt. Patrick Murray

16th Regiment of Foot Light Infantry - one company led by Major Colin Graham

Royal Regiment of Artillery led by "Unknown" Sergeant with two men and six Royal Navy seamen and one howitzer

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