King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain October 7th, 1780 and The Events that Led To It.
By Lyman Copeland Draper, Peter Gibson Thompson, Anthony Allaire, Isaac Shelby (1881)
1768 to May, 1780.
Causes of the Revolution—Alternate Successes and Disasters of the Early Campaigns of the War—Siege and Reduction of Charleston.
For ten years before the outbreak of the American Revolution, the great question of taxation without representation agitated the minds of the American people. They rejected the stamps, because they implied a tax; they destroyed the tea, because it imposed a forced levy upon them without their consent, to gratify the insatiate demands of their trans-Atlantic sovereign, and his tyrannical Ministry and Parliament. Should they basely yield one of their dearest rights, they well judged they might be required, little by little, to yield all. They, therefore, manfully resisted these invasions as unbecoming a free people.
See also History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part XV October-November, 1780
See also October 7, 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain
When, in 1775, Great Britain determined to enforce her obnoxious laws, the people, under their chosen leaders, seized their arms, forsook their homes and families, and boldly asserted their God-given rights. A long and embittered contest was commenced, involving mighty interests. Freedom was threatened—an empire was at stake. Sturdy blows were given and received, with various results. The first year of the war, the Americans beat back the British from Lexington and Concord, and captured Crown Point, but were worsted at Bunker Hill; they captured Chambly and St. Johns, and repulsed the enemy near Longueil, but the intrepid Montgomery failed to take Quebec, losing his life in the effort.
The second year of the contest, which brought forth the immortal Declaration of Independence, proved varying in its fortunes. The Scotch Tories in North Carolina were signally defeated at Moore’s Creek, and the British, long cooped up in Boston, were compelled to evacuate the place: and were subsequently repulsed at Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston; while the Americans, on the other hand, were defeated at the Cedars, and were driven from Montreal, Chambly and St. Johns, worsted at Long Island and White Plains, and lost Fort Washington, on the Hudson. Meanwhile the frontier men of Virginia, the Carolinas, East Tennessee, and Georgia, carried on successful expeditions against the troublesome Cherokees, whom British emissaries had inveigled into hostilities against their white neighbors.
Yet the year closed with gloomy prospects—despair sat on many a brow, and saddened many a heart—the main army was greatly reduced, and the British occupied New York, and the neighboring Province of New Jersey. Washington made a desperate venture, crossing the Delaware amid floating ice in December, attacking and defeating the unsuspecting enemy at Trenton; and, pushing his good fortune, commenced the third year of the war, 1777, by securing a victory at Princeton. While the enemy were, for a while, held at bay at the Red Bank, yet the results of the contests at Brandywine and Germantown were not encouraging to the American arms, and the British gained a firm foot-hold in Philadelphia. And subsequently they captured Forts Clinton and Montgomery, on the Hudson.
Farther north, better success attended the American arms. St. Leger, with a strong British and Indian force, laid siege to Fort Stanwix, on the Mohawk ; but after repelling a relieving party under General Nicholas Herkimer, he was at length compelled to relinquish his investiture, on learning of the approach of a second army of relief, retiring precipitately from the country ; while the more formidable invading force under General John Burgoyne met with successive reverses at Bennington, Stillwater, and Saratoga, eventuating in its total surrender to the victorious Americans.
In June, 1778, the fourth year of the war, the British evacuated Philadelphia, when Washington pursued their retreating forces, overtaking and vigorously attacking them at Monmouth. A large Tory and Indian party defeated the settlers, and laid waste the Wyoming settlements. As the result of Burgoyne’s signal discomfiture, a treaty of alliance between the new Republic and France brought troops and fleets to the aid of the struggling Americans, and produced some indecisive fighting on Rhode Island.
The adventurous expedition under George Rogers Clark, from the valleys of Virginia and West Pennsylvania, down the Monongahela and Ohio, and into the country of the Illinois, a distance of well nigh fifteen hundred miles, with limited means, destitute of military stores, packhorses and supplies — with only their brave hearts and trusty rifles, was a remarkable enterprise. Yet with all these obstacles, and less than two hundred men, Clark fearlessly penetrated the western wilderness, killing his game by the way, and conquered those distant settlements. Though regarded at the time as a herculean undertaking, and a most successful adventure, yet none foresaw the mighty influence it was destined to exert on the subsequent progress and extension of the Republic.
Varied fortunes attended the military operations of 1779, the fifth year of the strife. The gallant Clark and his intrepid followers, marched in winter season, from Kaskaskia across the submerged lands of the Wabash, sometimes wading up to their arm-pits in water, and breaking the ice before them, surprised the garrison at Vincennes, and succeeded in its capture. The British force in Georgia, having defeated General Ashe at Brier creek, projected an expedition against Charleston, and progressed as far as Stono, whence they were driven back to Savannah, where the combined French and Americans were subsequently repulsed, losing, among others, the chivalrous Count Casimir Pulaski. At the North, Stony Point was captured at the point of the bayonet, and Paulus Hook surprised; while General John Sullivan’s well-appointed army over-ran the beautiful country of the Six Nations, destroying their villages, and devastating their fields, as a retributive chastisement for their repeated invasions of the Mohawk and Minisin settlements, and laying waste the lovely vale of Wyoming.
The war had now dragged its slow length along for five successive campaigns, and the British had gained but few permanent foot-holds in the revolted Colonies. Instead of the prompt and easy conquest they had promised themselves, they had encountered determined opposition wherever they had shown the red cross of St. George, or displayed their red-coated soldiery. Repeated defeats on the part of the Americans had served to inure them to the hardships of war, and learned them how to profit by their experiences and disasters.
New efforts were demanded on the part of the British Government to subdue their rebellious subjects; and South Carolina was chosen as the next field of extensive operations. Sir Henry Clinton, who had met such a successful repulse at Charleston in 1776, and in whose breast still rankled the mortifying recollections of that memorable failure, resolved to head in person the new expedition against the Palmetto Colony, and retrieve, if possible, the honor so conspicuously tarnished there on his previous unfortunate enterprise.
Having enjoyed the Christmas holiday of 1779 in New York harbor, Sir Henry, accompanied by Lord Cornwallis, sailed from Sandy Hook the next day with the fleet under Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, transporting an army of over seven thousand five hundred men. Some of the vessels, however, were lost by the way, having encountered stormy weather in the gulf-stream—one bark, carrying Hessian troops, was dismasted and driven across the ocean, an ordnance vessel was foundered, while several transports were captured by bold and adventurous American privateers, and most of the horses for the expedition perished. The place of rendezvous was at Tybee Bay, near the entrance to Savannah river, whence Clinton, on his way towards Charleston, was joined by the troops in Georgia, making his force nine thousand strong, besides the sailors in the fleet; but to render his numbers invincible beyond all peradventure, he at once ordered from New York Lord Rawdon’s brigade, amounting to about two thousand five hundred more.
Charleston, against which this formidable British force was destined, was an opulent city of some fifteen thousand people, white and black, and was garrisoned by less than four thousand men—not near enough to properly man the extended works of defence, of nearly three miles in circumference, as they demanded. Governor Rutledge, a man of unquestioned patriotism, had conferred upon him by the Legislature, in anticipation of this threatened attack, dictatorial powers, with the admonition, ‘to do every thing necessary for the public good; “but he was, nevertheless, practically powerless. He had few or none of the sinews of war; and so depreciated had become the currency of South Carolina, that it required seven hundred dollars to purchase a pair of shoes for one of her needy soldiers. The defeat of the combined French and American force at Savannah the preceding autumn, in which the South Carolinians largely participated, had greatly dispirited the people; and the Governor’s appeal to the militia produced very little effect. The six old South Carolina regiments had been so depleted by sickness and the casualties of war as to scarcely number eight hundred, all told; and the defence of the city was committed to these brave men, the local militia, and a few regiments of Continental troops—the latter reluctantly spared by Washington from the main army, and which, he thought, was “putting much to hazard” in an attempt to defend the city, and the result proved his military foresight. It would have been wiser for General Benjamin Lincoln and his troops to have retired from the place, and engaged in a Fabian warfare, harassing the enemy’s marches by ambuscades, and cutting off his foraging parties; but the leading citizens of Charleston, relying on their former success, urged every argument in their power that the city should be defended to the last extremity. Yet no experienced Engineer regarded the place as tenable.
On the eleventh of February, 1780, the British forces landed on St. John’s Island, within thirty miles of Charleston, subsequently forming a depot, and building fortifications, at Wappoo, on James’ Island; and, on the twenty-sixth of that month, they gained a distant view of the place and harbor. The dreaded day of danger approached nearer and nearer; and on the twenty-seventh, the officers of the Continental squadron, which carried one hundred and fifty guns, reported their inability to guard the harbor at the bar, where the best defence could be made; and “then,” as Washington expressed it, “the attempt to defend the town ought to have been relinquished.” But no such thought was entertained. Every thing was done, that could be done, to strengthen and extend the lines of defence, dig ditches, erect redoubts and plant abatis, with a strong citadel in the center.fn1
Preparations, too, were steadily progressing on the part of the enemy. On the twenty-fourth of March, Lord Cornwallis and a Hessian officer were seen with their spyglasses making observations; and on the twenty-ninth, the British passed Ashley river, breaking ground, on the first of April, at a distance of eleven hundred yards from the American lines. At successive periods they erected five batteries on Charleston Neck.
Late in the evening of March thirtieth, General Charles Scott, commanding one of the Virginia Continental brigade, arrived, accompanied by his staff, and some other officers. “The next morning,” says Major William Croghan, “I accompanied Generals Lincoln and Scott to view the batteries and works around town ; found those on the Cooper river side in pretty good order, and chiefly manned by sailors ; but the greater part of the remainder not complete, and stood in need of a great deal of work. General Scott was very particular in inquiring of General Lincoln as to the quantity of provisions in the garrison, when the General informed him there were several months’ supply, by a return he had received from the Commissary. General Scott urged the necessity of having officers to examine it, and, as he expressed it, for them to lay their hands on it.”fn2
A sortie was planned on the fourth of April, to be commanded by General Scott—one battalion led by Colonel Elijah Clarke and Major Lee Hogg, of North Carolina; another by Colonel Elisha Parker and Major Croghan, of Virginia, and the light infantry by Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens; but the wind proved unfavorable, which prevented the shipping from going up Town creek, to fire on the enemy, and give the sallying party such assistance as they might be able to render, and thus it failed of execution. General William Woodford’s Virginia brigade of Continentals arrived on the sixth, and some North Carolina militia under the command of Colonel George F. Harrington. They were greeted by the firing of a feu de j’oie [bonfire], and the ringing of the bells all night.fn3
Admiral Arbuthnot’s near approach to the bar, on the seventh of April, induced Commodore Abraham Whipple, who commanded the American naval force, to retire without firing a gun, first to Fort Moultrie, and afterward to Charleston; and the British fleet passed the fort without stopping to engage it—the passage having been made, says the New Jersey Gazette fn4 while a severe thunder storm was raging, which caused the ships to be “invisible near half the time of their passing.” Colonel Charles C. Pinckney, who commanded there, with three hundred men, kept up a heavy cannonade on the British ships during their passage, which was returned by each of the vessels as they passed—the enemy losing fourteen men killed, and fifteen wounded, while not a man was hurt in the garrison.fn5 One ship had its fore-topmast shot away, and others sustained damage. The Acteus transport ran aground near Haddrell’s Point, when Captain Thomas Gadsden, a brother of Colonel Christopher Gadsden, who was detached with two field pieces for the purpose, fired into her with such effect, that the crew set her on fire, and retreated in boats to the other vessels. The Royal fleet, in about two hours, came to anchor within long shot of the American batteries.
By the tenth of April, the enemy had completed their first parallel, when Clinton and Arbuthnot summoned the town to surrender. Lincoln answered: “From duty and inclination I shall support the town to the last extremity.” A severe skirmish had previously taken place between Lieutenant-Colonel John Laurens and the advance guard of the enemy, in which the Americans lost Captain Bowman killed, and Major Edmund Hyrne and seven privates wounded. On the twelfth, the batteries on both sides were opened, keeping up an almost incessant fire. The British had the decided advantage in the number and strength of their mortars and royals, having twenty-one, while the Americans possessed only two;fn6 and the lines of the latter soon began to crumble under the powerful and constant cannonade maintained against them. On the thirteenth, Governor Rutledge was persuaded to withdraw from the garrison, while exit was yet attainable, leaving Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden with five members of the Council.
On the same day, General Lincoln, in a council of war, revealed to its members his want of resources, and suggested an evacuation. “In such circumstances,” said General Mcintosh, ” we should lose not an hour in attempting to get the Continental troops, at least, over Cooper river; for on their safety, depends the salvation of the State.” But Lincoln only wished them to give the matter mature consideration, and he would consult them further about it. Before he met them again, the American cavalry at Monk’s Corner, which had been relied on to keep open the communication between the city and the country, were surprised and dispersed on the fourteenth ; and five days later, the expected British reinforcements of two thousand five hundred men arrived from New York, when Clinton was enabled more completely to environ the devoted city, and cut off all chance of escape.
A stormy council was held on the nineteenth, when the heads of the several military departments reported their respective conditions—of course, anything but flattering in their character. Several of the members still inclined to an evacuation, notwithstanding the increased difficulties of effecting it since it was first suggested. In the midst of the conference, Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden happened to come in—whether by accident, or design, was not known—and General Lincoln courteously proposed that he be allowed to take part in the council. He appeared surprised and displeased that a thought had been entertained of either evacuation or capitulation, and acknowledged himself entirely ignorant of the state of the provisions, etc., but would consult his Council in regard to the proposals suggested.
In the evening, an adjourned meeting was held, when Colonel Laumoy, of the engineer department, reported the insufficiency of the fortifications, the improbability of holding out many days longer, and the impracticability of making a retreat; and closed by suggesting that terms of honorable capitulation be sought from the enemy. Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden, with four of his Councilors, coming in shortly after, treated the military gentlemen very rudely, the Lieutenant-Governor declaring that he would protest against their proceedings; that the militia were willing to live upon rice alone, rather than give up the town on any terms; and that even the old women had become so accustomed to the enemy’s shot, that they traveled the streets without fear or dread; but if the council were determined to capitulate, he had his terms ready in his pocket.
Mr. Thomas Ferguson, one of the Councilors, declared that the inhabitants of the city had observed the boats collected to carry off the Continental troops; and that they would keep a good watch upon the army, and should any attempt at evacuation ever be made, he would be among the first to open the gates for the admission of the enemy, and assist them in attacking the retiring troops Colonel C. C. Pinckney soon after came in abruptly—probably having been apprised by the Lieutenant-Governor of the subject under discussion—and, forgetting his usual politeness, addressed General Lincoln with great warmth, and in much the same strain as General Gadsden, adding that those who were for business needed no council, and that he came over on purpose from Fort Moultrie, to prevent any terms being offered to the enemy, or any evacuation of the garrison attempted; and particularly charged Colonel Laumoy and his department with being the sole authors and promoters of such proposals.fn7
It is very certain, that these suggestions of evacuation or capitulation, occasioned at the time great discontent among both the regulars and militia, who wished to defend the city to the last extremity, and who resolved, in view of continuing the defence, that they would be content, if necessary, with only half rations daily.fn8 All these good people had their wishes gratified—the siege was procrastinated, and many an additional death, suffering, sorrow, and anguish, were the consequence.
General Lincoln must have felt hurt, it not sorely nettled, by these repeated insults—as General Mcintosh acknowledges that he did. When matters of great public concern result disastrously, scape-goats are always sought, and all participants are apt to feel more or less unamiable and fault-finding on such occasions. Or, as Washington expressed it, referring to another affair, “mutual reproaches too often follow the failure of enterprises depending upon the cooperation of troops of different grades.” Looking at these bickerings in the light of history, a century after their occurrence, one is struck with General Lincoln’s magnanimous forbearance, when he confessedly made great sacrifices in defending the place so long against his better judgment, in deference to the wishes of the people, who, we may well conclude, were very unfit judges of military affairs.
At another council of officers, held on the twentieth and twenty-first, the important subject of an evacuation was again under deliberation; and the conclusion reached was, “that it was unadvisable, because of the opposition made to it by the civil authority and the inhabitants, and because, even if they should succeed in defeating a large body of the enemy posted in their way, they had not a sufficiency of boats to cross the Santee before they might be overtaken by the whole British army.”fn9 It was then proposed to give Sir Henry Clinton quiet possession of the city, with its fortifications and dependencies, on condition that the security of the inhabitants, and a safe, unmolested retreat for the garrison, with baggage and field pieces, to the north-east of Charleston should be granted. These terms were instantly rejected. On searching every house in town, it was found that the private supplies of provisions were as nearly exhausted as were the public magazines.
On the twenty-fourth, at daybreak, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson sallied out with two hundred men, chiefly from Generals Woodford’s and Scott’s brigades, surprising and vigorously attacking the advance flanking party of the enemy, bayoneting fifteen of them in their trenches, and capturing a dozen prisoners, of whom seven were wounded, losing in the brilliant affair, the brave Captain Thomas Gadsden and one or two privates. A considerable body of the enemy, under Major Hall, of the seventy-fourth regiment, attempted to support the party in the trenches; but were obliged to retire on receiving a shower of grape from the American batteries.fn10 A successful enterprise of this kind proved only a momentary advantage, having no perceptible influence on the final result.
It is said Colonel C. C. Pinckney, and Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens, assured General Lincoln they could supply the garrison with plenty of beef from Lempriere’s Point, if they were permitted to remain on that side of Cooper river with the force then under their command; upon which the Commissary was ordered to issue a full allowance again. But unfortunately the first and only cattle butchered at Lempriere’s for the use of the garrison were altogether spoiled through neglect or mismanagement before they came over. These gentlemen, are said, also, to have promised that the communication on the Cooper side could, and would, be kept open. Being inhabitants of Charleston, and knowing the country well, perhaps the General, with some reason, might be inclined to the same opinion; and besides furnishing the garrison with beef, they were to send a sufficient number of negroes over to town for the military works, who were much wanted. But Colonel Pinckney with the greater part, or almost the whole of his first South Carolina regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens with the light infantry were recalled from Fort Moultrie and Lempriere’s fn11—and thus ended this spasmodic hope. Probably this failure caused a strict search to be made, about this time, in the houses of the citizens for provisions; “some was found,” says Major Croghan, ” but a much less quantity than was supposed.”
The Americans were not slow in perceiving the utter hopelessness of their situation. On the twenty-sixth, General DuPortail, an able French officer and Engineer-in-Chief of the American army, arrived from Philadelphia, having been sent by Washington to supervise the engineer department. He frankly informed General Lincoln that there was no prospect of getting any reinforcements very soon from the grand army—that Congress had proposed to General Washington to send the Maryland Line to their relief.fn12 As soon as General DuPortail came into the garrison, examined the military works, and observed the enemy, he declared the defences were not tenable—that they were only field lines; and that the British might have taken the place ten days ago. “I found the town,” wrote DuPortail to Washington, “in a desperate state.”fn13 He wished to leave the garrison immediately, while it was possible; but General Lincoln would not allow him to do so, as it would dispirit the troops. On learning General DuPortail’s opinion, a council was called the same day, and a proposition made for the Continental troops to make anight retreat; and when the citizens were informed of the subject under deliberation, some of them came into the council, warmly declaring to General Lincoln, thatif he attempted to withdraw the troops and abandon the citizens, they would cut up his boats, and open the gates to the enemy. This put an end to all further thoughts of an evacuation.fn14
As late as the twenty-eighth, a supernumerary officer left town to join the forces in the country; but the next day the small party remaining at Lempriere’s Point was recalled, the enemy at once occupying it with a large force; and thus the last avenue between the city and country was closed. General Lincoln informed the general officers, privately, this day, that he intended the horn work as a place of retreat for the whole army in case they were driven from the lines. General Mcintosh observing to him the impossibility of those then stationed at South Bay and Ashley river, in such a contingency, being able to retreat there, he replied that they might secure themselves as best they could. And on the thirtieth, in some way, Governor Rutledge managed to convey a letter to General Lincoln, upon which the General congratulated the army, in general orders, on hearing of a large reinforcement, which may again open the communication with the country.fn15 It was the old story of drowning men catching at straws.
It is unnecessary to dwell upon the daily details of the protracted siege. Some of the more unusual occurrences only need be briefly noticed, so that we may hasten on to the melancholy catastrophe. Eleven vessels were sunk in the channel to prevent the Royal fleet from passing up Cooper river, and enfilading the American lines on that side of the place; while a frigate and two galleys were placed above the sunken obstructions, to cooperate with the shore batteries in thwarting any attempt on the part of the enemy for their removal.
But the work of destruction went steadily on. Cannon balls by day and by night went streaking through the air, and crashing through the houses. One morning, a shell burst very near Colonel Parker, a large piece of which fell harmless at his feet, when he said, with much composure, “a miss is as good as a mile;”fn16 and, that very evening, while the gallant Colonel was looking over the parapet, he was shot dead. Shells, fire-balls, and carcasses, ingeniously packed with combustibles, loaded pistol barrels, and other destructive missiles, were thrown into the city, setting many buildings on fire, and maiming and destroying not a few of the citizens and soldiery. On one occasion, when a pastor and a few worshipers, mostly women and invalids, were gathered in a church, supplicating the mercies of heaven on themselves and suffering people, a bomb-shell fell in the chuch-yard, when all quickly dispersed, retiring to their several places of abode.
Some of the cases of fatality were quite uncommon. Mever Moses’ young child was killed while in the arms of its nurse, and the house burned down. A man and his wife were killed at the same time, and in the same bed. A soldier who had been relieved from serving at his post in the defence of the city, entered his humble domicile, and while in the act of embracing his anxious wife, with tears of gladness, a cannon ball passed through the house, killing them both instantly. Many sought safety in their cellars; but even when protected for the moment from the constantly falling missiles of death and destruction, they began to suffer for want of food, since all the avenues to the city for country supplies, had been cut off.
General Moultrie has left us a vivid picture of this period of the siege: “Mr. Lord and Mr. Basquin, two volunteers, were sleeping upon the mattress together, in the advanced redoubt, when Mr. Lord was killed by a shell falling upon him, and Mr. Basquin at the same time had the hair of his head burnt, and did not awake until he was aroused from his slumbers by his fellow soldiers. The fatigue in that advanced redoubt was so great for want of sleep, that many faces were so swelled they could scarcely see out of their eyes. I was obliged to relieve Major Mitchell, the commanding officer. They were constantly on the lookout for the shells that were continually falling among them. It was by far the most dangerous post on the lines. On my visit to the battery, not having been there for a day or two, I took the usual way of going in, which was a bridge that crossed our ditch, quite exposed to the enemy, who, in the meantime, had advanced their works within seventy or eighty yards of the bridge, which I did not know. As soon as I had stepped upon the bridge, an uncommon number of bullets whistled about me; and on looking to my right, I could just see the heads of about twelve or fifteen men firing upon me from behind a breastwork—I moved on, and got in. When Major Mitchell saw me, he asked me which way I came in? I told him over the bridge. He was astonished, and said, ‘Sir, it is a thousand to one that you were not killed,’ and told me that he had a covered way through which to pass, by which he conducted me on my return. I staid in this battery about a quarter of an hour, giving the necessary orders, during which we were constantly skipping about to get out of the way of the shells thrown from their howitzers. They were not more than one hundred yards from our works, and were throwing their shells in bushels on our front and left flank.”fn17
Under date of the second of May, Major Croghan records in his Journal, which is corroborated by General Mcintosh’s Diary, that the enemy threw shells charged with rice and sugar. Simms tells us, that tradition has it, that it was not rice and sugar with which the shells of the British were thus ironically charged, but wheat flour and molasses—with an inscription addressed: “To the Yankee officers in Charleston,” courteously informing them that it contained a supply of the commodities of which they were supposed to stand most in need. But the garrison could still jest amid suffering, volcanoes and death. Having ascertained that the shell was sent them from a battery manned exclusively by a Scottish force, they emptied the shell of its contents; and filling it with lard and sulphur, to cure them of the itch, and sent it back to their courteous assailants, with the same inscription which originally accompanied it. “It was understood,” says Garden, “after the siege, that the note was received, but not with that good humor that might have been expected, had it been considered as jeu d’esprit, resulting from justifiable retaliation.”
“Provisions,” as we learn from Johnson’s Traditions, “now failed among the besieged. A sufficiency had been provided for the occasion; but the beef and pork had become tainted and unfit for food.” But the British “were misinformed,” says Moultrie, “if they supposed us in want of rice and sugar.” Of the latter article, at least during the earlier stages of the siege, such was its plentifulness that it was a favorite amusement to pursue the spent hot shot of the enemy, in order, by flinging sugar upon the balls, to convert it into candy. But towards the close of the siege, the supply of sugar must have become limited. “On the fourth of May,” says Major Croghan, “we received from the Commissary, with our usual allowance of rice, six ounces of extremely bad meat, and a little coffee and sugar. It has been very disagreeable to the northern officers and soldiers to be under the necessity of living without wheat or Indian bread, which has been the case during the whole siege.” So that the Scotch jokers who sent their shot, laden with either rice and sugar, or flour and molasses, ironically hinting at the deficiencies of the beleaguered garrison, did not, after all, hit very wide of the mark.
Clinton, on the sixth of May, renewed his former terms for the surrender of the garrison. With the limited store of provisions on hand, with no prospects of receiving further supplies or reinforcements, and with the admission on the part of the Engineers that the lines could not be maintained ten days longer, and were liable to be carried by assault at any time, General Lincoln was disposed to accept the terms tendered; but he was opposed by the citizens, as they were required by Clinton to be prisoners on parole, when they wished to be regarded as non-combatants, and not subject to the rigorous laws of war. It was only putting off the evil day for a brief period; and again the twentyfour and thirty-two pound carronades, the mortars and howitzers, belched forth their shot, shell and carcasses upon the devoted town and garrison, setting many buildings on fire, and keeping up the most intense excitement. So near were now the opposing parties, that they could speak words of bravado to each other; and the rifles of the Hessian Yagers were so unerring, that a defender could no longer show himself above the lines with safety; and even a hat raised upon a ramrod, was instantly riddled with bullets.
Captain Hudson, of the British Navy, on the fifth of May, summoned Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island to surrender; the larger portion of its garrison having previously retired to Charleston. Lieutenant-Colonel William Scott,fn18 who commanded, sent for answer a rollicking reply: “Tol, lol, de rol, lol—Fort Moultrie will be defended to the last extremity.” The next day, Hudson repeated his demand, threatening that if he did not receive an answer in fifteen minutes, he would storm the fort, and put every man to the sword. Scott, it would seem, was at first disposed to resort to bravado of the “last extremity” character; but recalled the officer bearing it, saying on further reflection the garrison thought better of it—the disparity of force was far too great—and begging for a cessation of hostilities, proposed terms of surrender, which were granted by Captain Hudson. The surrender formally took place on the seventh.fn19 Thus the historic Fort Moultrie, which four years before had signally repulsed a powerful British fleet under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, now surrendered to the enemy without firing a gun.
The seventh of May was further noted by an unfortunate disaster—the partial destruction of the principal magazine of the garrison, by the bursting of a shell. General Moultrie had most of the powder—ten thousand pounds—removed to the north-east corner of the exchange, where it was carefully bricked up, and remained undiscovered by the British during the two years and seven months they occupied the city. Another summons was sent in by Clinton on the eighth—a truce was granted till the next day; when Lincoln endeavored to secure the militia from being considered as prisoners of war, and the protection of the citizens of South Carolina in their lives and property, with twelve months allowance of time in which to determine whether to remain under British rule, or dispose of their effects and remove elsewhere. These articles were promptly rejected, with the announcement on the part of Clinton that hostilities would be re-commenced at eight o’clock that evening.
“After receiving his letter,” says Moultrie, “we remained near an hour silent, all calm and ready, each waiting for the other to begin. At length, we fired the first gun, and immediately followed a tremendous cannonade—about one hundred and eighty, or two hundred pieces of heavy cannon were discharged at the same moment. The mortars from both sides threw out an immense number of shells. It was a glorious sight to see them, like meteors, crossing each other, and bursting in the air. It appeared as if the stars were tumbling down. The fire was incessant almost the whole night, cannon balls whizzing, and shells hissing, continually among us, ammunition chests and temporary magazines blowing up, great guns bursting, and wounded men groaning along the lines. It was a dreadful night! It was our last great effort, but it availed us nothing. After it, our military ardor was much abated, and we began to cool.”
When, on the eleventh of May, the British had crossed the wet ditch by sap, and were within twenty-five yards of the American lines, all farther defense was hopeless. The militia refused to do duty.fn20 It was no longer a question of expediency ; but stern necessity demanded a speedy surrender, and the stoppage of farther carnage and suffering. General Lincoln had proved himself brave, judicious and unwearied in his exertions for three anxious months in baffling the greatly superior force of Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot. Hitherto the civil authorities, and citizens of Charleston, had stoutly contended that the city should be defended to the last extremity; but now, when all hope was lost, a large majority of the inhabitants, and of the militia, petitioned General Lincoln to accede to the terms offered by the enemy. The next day articles of capitulation were signed.
The loss of the Americans during the siege was ninetyeight officers and soldiers killed, and one hundred and forty- six wounded; and about twenty of the citizens were killed by the random shots of the enemy. Upward of thirty houses were burned, and many others greatly damaged. Besides the Continental troops, less than two thousand, of whom five hundred were in hospitals, and a considerable number of sailors, Sir Henry Clinton managed to enumerate among the prisoners surrendered, all the free male adults of Charleston, including the aged, the infirm, and even the Loyalists, so as to swell the number of his formidable conquest. In this way, his report was made to boast of over five thousand six hundred prisoners, when the Loyalist portion but a few days afterwards offered their congratulations on the reduction of South Carolina. The regular troops and sailors became prisoners of war until exchanged; the militia from the country were permitted to return home on parole, and to be secured in their property so long as their parole should be observed.
(fn1 There was published, first in a Williamsburgh, Va.. paper of April 8th. 1780. copied into Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet of April 18th. and into the New York Royal Gazette of same date, an account of a Colonel Hamilton Ballendine having made drawings of Charleston and its fortifications, was directing his course to the enemy, when an American picket guard sent out to Stono. captured him; he. thereupon, exhibited his drafts, supposing that the party belonged to the British army. They soon disabused him of his error, carried him to General Lincoln, who ordered him for execution, and he was accordingly hanged on the 5th of March. As none of the South Carolina historians, nor any of the Charleston diarists or letter-writers during the siege, make the slightest reference to any such person or circumstance, there could have been no foundation for the story.)
(fn2 MS. Journal of Major William Croghan, of the Virginia Line. Siege of Charleston, 123.)
(fn3 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn4 May 12th, 1780.)
(fn5 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn6 Such is the statement of Dr. Ramsay, who was present during the siege. The British official returns show nine mortars, ranging from four to ten-inch caliber, and one eight-inch howitzer, surrendered at Charleston, and a ten-inch mortar taken at Fort Moultrie; but probably the most of these were either unfit for use, or more likely, the limited quantity of shells enabled the defenders to make use of only two of this class of ordnance.)
(fn7 The details of this military council are taken from Major Crojthan’s MS. Journal; and from General Mcintosh’s Journal, published entire in the Magnolia Magazine. Dec. 1842. and cited in Simms’ South Carolina in tin Revolution. U7-129, both of which are, in this case, identical in language.)
(fn8 MS. letter of John Lewis Gervais, cited in Simms, 129.)
(fn9 The enemy were constantly on the watch for any attempted evacuation on the part of the Americans. Capt J. R. Rousscict. of Tarleton’s cavalry, has left this MS. note. written on the margin of a copy of Steadman’s American War, referring to the closing period of the siege: “Some small vessels, taken from the Americans, were armed, manned with troops, and stationed off Town Creek, to prevent the escape of the garrison should they attempt to evacuate the town by that channel. Capt. Roussclet commanded an armed sloop, with his company on board, under Capt. Salisbury. Royal Navy.”)
(fn10 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn11 Croghan’s MS. Journal; and Mcintosh’s Diary.)
(fn12 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn13 Letters to Washington, ii, 450.)
(fn14 Moultrie’s Memoirs, i, 80.
(fn15 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn16 Virginia Gazette, May 16, 1780.)
(fn17 Moultrie’s Memoirs, i, 83.)
(fn18 Scott was a brave, experienced officer. He served as a Captain during the attack on Charleston, in 1776. and died in that city in June, 1807.)
(fn19 Gordon’s History 0/ the Revolution, in. 354; Moultrie’s Memoirs, ii, 84; Ramray’s Revolution in South Carolina, ii, 56. nancroft. x, 305. and others, give May 6th as the date of surrender, but that the 7th was the true date of this occurrence mr.y be seen by com. paring Tarleton’s Campaign, 53-55; Rotta’s Rrvnlntion, New Haven edition, 1842. ii. 249; Johnson’s Traditions, 259; Pimms’ South Carolina in the Revolution, 146; and Siege of Charleston. Munselt, 1867, p. 167.)
(fn20 Du Portail to Washington, Msy 17th, 1780.)