The American Revolution in South Carolina

Coast off Charleston

September 6, 1781

Patriot Cdr:

Capt. George Geddes
British Cdr:

Capt. Charles Stirling






Old District: 

Charles Town District
Present County:

Charleston County

Early in September the crew of the HMS Savage plundered General George Washington's estate on the Potomac River and then sailed south. On the morning of September 6th, the HMS Savage spotted the Pennsylvania privateer Congress "10 leagues east of Charles Town."

Both ships maneuvered to gain advantage of the other and around 11 a.m. the Congress fired a shot across the bow of HMS Savage. Capt. Stirling of the Savage thought that the Congress was a simple privateer with little armament, however, he quickly learned that he was taking on a frigate with twenty 12-pound cannons. The Savage returned fire with muskets and the battle commenced with both ships firing their guns into each other's decks.

The Savage had her bowlines and sails shot away, but Capt. Stirling managed to keep the ship in a position that would not let the Congress rake her with its cannons. When the cannons could not be used both ships fired with muskets and pistols.

There was hardly a man aboard the British ship who was not killed or wounded, and they had only five of their sixteen guns left operational. Capt. Stirling wrote, "The Savage was now almost a wreck, her sails, rigging, and yards so much cut that it was with the utmost difficulty we could alter our position time enough to avoid being raked."

Even during a lull in the battle when both ships were unable to get into position to fire their cannons, the muskets and pistols continued fierecly. On HMS Savage, the quarter deck and the forecastle were soon cleared, with every man either killed or wounded.

For the next hour, the Savage fought with its remaining five 6-pounders with the fire from each ship's guns scorching the men who opposed them. Finally, after the mizzen mast was shot away and the main mast tottering with only three shrouds standing, and with only forty men left to fight, Capt. Stirling lowered his colors. The battle had lasted for almost three hours.

On the return trip, the Royal Navy frigate Solebay pursued and damaged the Congress. The Savage was unable to sail fast enough to keep up, so Capt. Geddes let her go, only to be retaken by the Solebay. Though the ship was recaptured by the British, Capt. Stirling and his crew remained in captivity.

Known Patriot Participants 

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Pennsylvania privateer, frigate Congress - Capt. George Geddes with 215 sailors, twenty 12-pounders, and four 6-pounders

Philadelphia Militia - Major Samuel Allen McLane

Royal Navy sloop HMS Savage - Capt. Charles Stirling, with 40 sailors and sixteen 6-pounders


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