The American Revolution in South Carolina

March 1, 1775

June 21, 1775

November 21, 1775

February 29, 1776

April 15, 1776

June 4, 1776

October 31, 1776

February 15, 1777

October 30, 1777

March 28, 1778

January 10, 1779

October 10, 1779

January 20, 1780

May 12, 1780

August 16, 1780

January 20, 1781

May 15, 1781

September 30, 1781

November 15, 1781

January 31, 1782

December 14, 1782


On May 12, 1780, nearly 4,000 Patriot troops surrendered to the British Army at Charlestown, including much of the military leadership. Most prisoners were held at Haddrell's Point (mostly officers), some within Charlestown (only high-ranking officers), some on prison ships (mostly enlisted men), and some at St. Augustine in Florida (very high-ranking officers and civilians). Most of the militia were paroled and sent home soon after the surrender, to await formal exchange. The remaining prisoners were retained until it later became necessary to exchange them for subsequently captured British and/or Loyalist prisoners by the Patriots. A very small number of Patriot prisoners were held until the end of the war.

Brig. Gen. Isaac Huger was the only South Carolina Continental Army general not captured at Charlestown - yet, he had virtually no troops assigned to him. The SC State Troops assigned to the Continental Army were all captured and imprisoned, except for a handful who managed to escape Charlestown before the official surrender on May 12th. The SC 1st Regiment, SC 2nd Regiment, SC 3rd Regiment, and SC 4th Regiment continued to exist - but, only on paper. All were officially disbanded in early 1781, but as of June of 1780, none were functional. Of the four, only one commander was not imprisoned - Lt. Col. Francis Marion. However, 90%+ of his regiment was imprisoned and would be for quite some time.

Although not captured at the Fall of Charlestown, several high-level militia leaders chose to accept British protection and lay down their arms - Brig. Gen. Andrew Williamson, Col. Andrew Pickens, Col. Joseph Kershaw - and these left a large vacuum in the leadership of in the state's militia. Williamson and Pickens sat at home, while the British seized Kershaw and took him to Honduras.

Within days of hearing this news, several new militia groups were created in the backcountry and the upcountry. And, those who had not been part of the Fall of Charlestown or capitulating as a result began to re-assemble and start to figure out what they wanted to do. Most were unsure of what to do next, but as soon as the British Army began moving out of Charlestown and into other parts of South Carolina, it did not take the Patriots very long to realize that it was up to them to retake their homeland from the invading and occupying British Army. They could no longer wait on the Continental Army.

However, there simply was no one to assume the overall leadership role of the many disparate militia groups. Governor John Rutledge was in North Carolina with a handful of his congressmen - some were imprisoned by the British, while many others were simply hiding out at home and waiting to see what might happen next. Therefore, the militia struggled to barely maintain some semblance of order within their own jurisdictions and could not mount a cohesive attack against the excursions into the countryside of the British Army and the growing number of Loyalists. With no State Troops and no leadership to direct them, the militia provided no great threat to the expansion of the British outside of Charlestown, who soon established over thirty (30) fortified outposts across the state.

Lt. Col. Edward Barnwell took over the Beaufort District Regiment (militia). Col. Thomas Taylor took over the Camden District Regiment (militia). Col. Alexander Moultrie took over the Charles Town District Regiment (militia). Col. Abel Kolb took over the Cheraws District Regiment (militia). Col. Robert Anderson took over the Upper Ninety-Six District Regiment. Col. Charles Heatley took over the Orangeburgh District Regiment (militia). Col. Richard Winn took over the Fairfield Regiment (militia). Col. Andrew Neel took over the New Acquisition District Regiment (militia). Col. Richard Richardson, Jr. took over the Berkeley County Regiment (militia). Col. Jacob Baxter took over the Upper Craven County Regiment (militia). The Granville County Regiment was split into two - Upper Granville County Regiment, led by Lt. Col. William Harden; and, Lower Granville County Regiment, led by Lt. Col. William Stafford. Other regiments continued to be led by Colonel/Commandants who were officially "on parole," and therefore had no real leadership until these officers were formally exchanged. Most were exchanged in late 1780 or early 1781.

Two new regiments of militia were created at this time - the Kershaw Regiment, led by Col. James Postell; and, the Turkey Creek Regiment, led by Col. Edward Lacey.

By August 16th, several local militia leaders in the Georgetown District convinced Lt. Col. Francis Marion to lead them. Some historians assert that he was "elected" as Colonel over the Williamsburg Regiment (militia) upon the request of Col. Archibald McDonald. This Author tends to believe that Marion had most likely been approached by many militia leaders in the Georgetown District as well as other nearby units, such as militia regiments from Berkeley County, the Cheraws District, what remained in the Charles Town District, and even as far south as the Beaufort District. Yet another source asserts that Gov. John Rutledge personally asked Marion to take the reins of all the militia along the Pee Dee River. It is even possible that all are true.

Soon, all of these militia units slowly assembled with very small numbers of men rallying to their normal muster locations to see who else might show up. The few SC Continentals who were not captured at the Fall of Charlestown were soon "elected" to lead local militia units. Many of the regiments shown above began to re-muster with as few as ten men. Most would not be able to muster over 100 men for several more months, but none could keep them very long. As "citizen soldiers," the militia leaders soon learned to accept the fact that their "army" would ebb and wane for the remainder of the long war. Although none of the military leaders liked this fact of life, they all begrudgingly let the militiamen come and go as they wanted. However, other military leaders found a solution - the creation of new "State Troops" regiments, beginning in early 1781.

© 2014 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved