THE MEANING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE by Col Robert G Ingersoll

IngersollTHE MEANING OF THE DECLARATION An Oration By Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, Delivered At The Centennial Celebration At Peoria, Illinois, July 4, 1876.

Fellow-citizens.—You have just heard read the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by man. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom. I say of physical courage, because it was a declaration of war against the most powerful nation then on the globe; a declaration of war by thirteen weak, unorganized colonies; a declaration of war by a few people, without military stores, without wealth, without strength, against the most powerful kingdom on the earth; a declaration of war made when the British navy, at that day the mistress of every sea, was hovering along the coast of America, looking after defenseless towns and villages to ravage and destroy. It was made when thousands of English soldiers were upon our soil, and when the principal cities of America were in the possession of the enemy. And so, I say, all things considered, it was the bravest political document ever signed by man. And if it was physically brave, the moral courage of the document is almost infinitely beyond the physical. They had the courage not only, but they had the almost infinite wisdom to declare that all men are created equal. Such things had occasionally been said by some political enthusiasts in the olden time, but for the first time in the history of the world, the representatives of a nation, the representatives of a real living, breathing, hoping people, declared that all men are created equal. With one blow, with one stroke of the pen, they struck down all the cruel, heartless barriers that aristocracy, that priestcraft, that kingcraft had raised between man and man. They struck down with one immortal blow, that infamous spirit of caste that makes a god almost a beast, and a beast almost a god. With one word, with one blow, they wiped away and utterly destroyed all that had been done by centuries of war—centuries of hypocrisy—centuries of injustice.

“What more did they do? They then declared that each man has a right to live. And what does that mean? It means that he has the right to make his living. It means that he has the right to breathe the air, to work the land, that he stands the equal of every other human being beneath the shining stars; entitled to the product of his labor—the labor of his hand and of his brain.

What more? That every man has the right; to pursue his own happiness in his own way. Grander words than these have never been spoken by man.

And what more did these men say? They laid down the doctrine, that governments were instituted among men for the purpose of preserving the rights of the people. The old idea was that people existed solely for the benefit of the state—that is to say, for kings and nobles.

And what more? That the people are the source of political power. That was not only a revelation, but it was a revolution. It changed the ideas of the people with regard to the source of political power. For the first time it made human beings men. What was the old idea? The old idea was that no political power came from, nor in any manner belonged to, the people. The old idea was that the political power came from the clouds; that the political power came in some miraculous way from heaven; that it came down to kings, and queens, and robbers. That was the old idea. The nobles lived upon the labor of the people; the people had no rights; the nobles stole what they had and divided with the kings, and the kings pretended to divide what they stole with God Almighty. The source, then, of political power was from above. The people were responsible to the nobles, the nobles to the kings, and the people had no political rights whatever, no more than the wild beasts of the forest. The kings were responsible to God: not to the people. The kings were responsible to the clouds; not to the toiling millions they robbed and plundered.

And our forefathers, in this declaration of independence, reversed this thing, and said, No; the people, they are the source of political power, and their rulers, these presidents, these kings, are but the agents and servants of the great, sublime people. For the first time, really, in the history of the world, the king was made to get off the throne and the people were royally seated thereon. The people became the sovereigns, and the old sovereigns became the servants and the agents of the people. It is hard for you and me now to imagine even the immense results of that change. It is hard for you and for me at this day to understand how thoroughly it had been ingrained in the brain of almost every man, that the king had some wonderful right over him; that in some strange way the king owned him; that in some miraculous manner he belonged, body and soul, to somebody who rode on a horse, with epaulettes on his shoulders and a tinsel crown upon his brainless head.

Ingersoll1Our forefathers had been educated in that idea, and when they first landed on American shores they believed it. They thought they belonged to somebody, and that they must be loyal to some thief, who could trace his pedigree back to antiquity’s most successful robber.

It took a long time for them to get that idea out of their heads and hearts. They were three thousand miles away from the despotisms of the old world, and every wave of the sea was an assistant to them. The distance helped to disenchant their minds of that infamous belief, and every mile between them and the pomp and glory of monarchy helped to put republican ideas and thoughts into their minds. Besides that, when they came to this country, when the savage was in the forest and three thousand miles of waves on the other side, menaced by barbarians on the one side and by famine on the other, they learned that a man who had courage, a man who had thought, was as good as any other man in the world, and they built up, as it were, in spite of themselves, little republics. And the man that had the most nerve and heart was the best man, whether he had any noble blood in his veins or not.

It has been a favorite idea with me that our forefathers were educated by Nature; that they grew grand as the continent upon which they landed; that the great rivers—the wide plains—the splendid lakes—the lonely forests—the sublime mountains—that all these things stole into and became a part of their being, and they grew great as the country in which they lived. They began to hate the narrow, contracted views of Europe. They were educated by their surroundings, and every little colony had to be, to a certain extent, a republic. The kings of the old world endeavored to parcel out this land to their favorites. But there were too many Indians. There was too much courage required for them to take and keep it, and so men had to come here who were dissatisfied with the old country, who were dissatisfied with England, with France, with Germany, with Ireland and Holland. The kings’ favorites stayed at home. Men came here for liberty, and on account of certain principles they entertained and held dearer than life. And they were willing to work, willing to fell the forests, to fight the savages, willing to go through all the hardships, perils and dangers of a new country, of a new land, and the consequence was that our country was settled by brave and adventurous spirits; by men who had opinions of their own and were willing to live in the wild forest for the sake of expressing those opinions, even if they expressed them only to trees, rocks, and savage men. The best blood of the old world came to the new.

When they first came over they did not have a great deal of political philosophy, not the best ideas of liberty. “We might as well tell the truth. When the Puritans first came, they were narrow. They did not understand what liberty meant—what religious liberty, what political liberty, was; but they found out in a few years. There was one feeling among them that rises to their eternal honor like a white shaft to the clouds—they were in favor of universal education. Wherever they went they built school houses, introduced books, and ideas of literature. They believed that every man should know how to read and how to write, and should find out all that his capacity allowed him to comprehend. That is the glory of the Puritan fathers.

They forgot in a little while what they had suffered, and they forgot to apply the principal of universal liberty—of toleration. Some of the colonies did not forget it, and I want to give credit where credit should be given. The Catholics of Maryland were the first people on the new continent to declare universal religious toleration. Let this be remembered to their eternal

honor. Let this be remembered to the disgrace of the Protestant government of England, that it caused this grand law to be repealed. And to the honor and credit of the Catholics of Maryland let it be remembered that the moment they got back into power they re-enacted the old law. The Baptists of Rhode Island also, led by Roger Williams, were in favor of universal religious liberty. And these were the only colonies that were in favor of religious freedom. Yet it may truthfully be said that they did not understand the idea of religious liberty as we understand it, to-day.

But the people finally met in congress in the old city of Philadelphia. They had become tired of being colonists—of writing and reading and signing petitions, and presenting them on their bended knees, to an idiot king. They began to have an aspiration to form a new nation, to be citizens of a new republic instead of subjects of an old monarchy. They had the idea—the Puritans, the Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Baptists, the Quakers, and a few Free Thinkers, all had the idea—that they would like to form a new nation.

Now, do not understand that all of our fathers were in favor of independence. Do not understand that they were all like Jefferson; that they were all like Adams or Lee; that they were all like Thomas Paine or John Hancock. There were thousands and thousands of them who were opposed to American independence. There were thousands and thousands who said, “When you say men are created equal, it is a lie; when you say the political power resides in the great body of the people, it is false.” Thousands and thousands of them said, “We prefer Great Britain.” But the men who were in favor of independence, the men who knew that a new nation must be born, went on in full hope and courage, and nothing could daunt or stop or stay these heroic, fearless men.

They met in Philadelphia; and the resolution was moved by Lee of Virginia, that the colonies ought to be independent states, and ought to dissolve their political connection with Great Britain.

They made up their minds that a new nation must be formed. All nations had been, so to speak, the wards of some church. The religious idea as to the source of power had been at the foundation of all governments, and had been the bane and curse of man.

Happily for us, there was no church strong enough to dictate to the rest. Fortunately for us, the colonists not only, but the colonies differed widely- in their religious views. There were the Puritans who hated the Episcopalians, and Episcopalians who hated the Catholics, and the Catholics who hated both, while the Quakers held them all in contempt. There they were, of every sort, and color, and kind, and how was it that they came together? They had a common aspiration. They wanted to form a new nation. More than that, most of them cordially hated Great Britain; and they pledged each other to forget these religious prejudices, for a time at least, and agreed that there should be only one religion until they got through, and that was the religion of patriotism. They solemnly agreed that the new nation should not belong to any particular church, but that it should secure the rights of all.

Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world. Recollect that. The first secular government; the first government that said every church has exactly the same rights, and no more; every religion has the same rights, and no more. In other words, our fathers were the first men who had the sense, had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword; that it should be allowed only to exert its moral influence. You might as well have a state united by force with art or with property, or with oratory, as with religion. Religion should have the influence upon mankind that its goodness, that its morality, its justice, its charity, its reason, and its argument give it, and no more. Religion should have the effect upon mankind that it necessarily has, and no more. The religion that has to be supported by law is without value, not only, but a fraud and curse. The argument that has to be supported by a musket, is no argument. A prayer that must have a cannon behind it, had better never be uttered.

So, our fathers said, ” We will form a secular government, and under the flag with which we are going to enrich the air we will allow every man to worship God as he thinks best. They said, “Religion is an individual thing between each man and his Creator, and he can worship as he pleases and as he desires.” And why did they do this? The history of the world warned them that the liberty of man was not safe in the clutch and grasp of any church. They had read of and seen the thumb-screws, the racks and the dungeons of the inquisition. They knew all about the hypocrisy of the olden time. They knew that the church had stood side by side with the throne; that the high priests were hypocrites, and that kings were robbers. They also knew that if they gave to any church power, that power would corrupt the best church in the world. And so they said, power must not reside in a church or in a sect, in a few or in a nobility, but power must be wherever humanity is, in the great body of the people; and the officers and servants of the people must be responsible to them. And so I say again, as I said in the commencement, this is the wisest, the profoundest, the bravest political document that ever was written and signed by man. They turned, as I tell you, everything squarely about. They derived all their authority from the people. They did away forever with the theological idea of government.

And what more did they say? They said that whenever the rulers abused this authority, this power, incapable of destruction, returned to the people. How did they come to say this? I will tell you. They were pushed into it. How? They felt that they were oppressed; and whenever a man feels that he is the subject of injustice, his perception of right and wrong is wonderfully quickened. Nobody was ever in prison wrongfully who did not believe in the writ of habeas corpus. Nobody ever suffered wrongfully without instantly having ideas of justice.

And they began to inquire what rights the king of Great Britain had. They began to search for the charter of his authority. They began to investigate and dig down to the bed rock upon which society must be founded, and when they got down there, forced thereto by their oppressors, forced against their own prejudices and education, they found at the bottom of things, not lords, not nobles, not pulpits, not thrones, but humanity and the rights of men. And so they said we are men; we are men. They found out they were men. And the next thing they said, was, we will be free men; we have got weary of being colonists; we are tired of being subjects; we are men; and these colonies ought to be states; and these states ought to be a nation; and that nation ought to drive the last British soldier into the sea. And so they signed that brave Declaration of Independence.

I thank every one of them from the bottom of my heart for signing that sublime declaration. I thank them for their courage —for their patriotism—for their wisdom—for the splendid confidence in themselves and in the human race. I thank them for what they were, and for what we are—for what they did and, for what we have received—for what they suffered, and for what we enjoy.

What would we have been if we had remained colonists and subjects? What would we have been to-day? Nobodies,—ready to get down on our knees and crawl in the very dust at the sight of somebody that was supposed to have in him some drop of blood that flowed in the veins of that mailed marauder— that royal robber, William the Conqueror.

They signed that Declaration of Independence, although they knew that it would produce a long, terrible, and bloody war. They looked forward and saw poverty, deprivation, gloom, and death. But they also saw on the wrecked clouds of war, the beautiful bow of freedom. These grand men were enthusiasts; and the world has only been raised by enthusiasts. In every country there have been a few enthusiasts who have always given a national aspiration to the people. The enthusiasts of 1776 were the builders and framers of this great and splendid government; and the enthusiasts there saw, although others did not, the golden fringe of the mantle of glory that will finally cover this world. They knew it and they felt it; and they said, notwithstanding the horrors of war, notwithstanding the privations of war, we will give a new constellation to the political heavens ; we will make the Americans a grand people,—grand as the continent upon which they live.

The war commenced. There was no money, no credit. The new nation had no means and but few friends. To a great extent each soldier of freedom had to clothe and feed himself.

What did the soldier leave when he went? He left his wife and and children. Did he leave them in a beautiful home, surrounded by civilization, in the security of a great and powerful republic? No. He left his wife and children on the edge, on the fringe of the boundless forest, in which crouched and crept the red savage, who was at that time the ally of the still more savage Briton. He left his wife to defend herself, and he left the prattling babes to be defended by their mother and by nature. The mother made the living; she planted the corn and the potatoes, and hoed them in the sun, raised the children, and in the darkness of night, told them upon what a sacred expedition their brave father had gone.

The soldiers of 1776 did not march away with music and banners. They went in silence, looked at and gazed after by eyes filled with tears. They went not to meet an equal, but a superior —to fight five times their number—to make a desperate stand—to stop the advance of the enemy, and then, when their ammunition gave out, seek the protection of rocks, of rivers and of hills.

Let me say here: The greatest test of courage on the earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. That army is the bravest, that can be whipped the greatest number of times and fight again.

Over the entire territory, so to speak, then settled by our forefathers, they were driven again and again. Now and then they would meet the English with something like equal numbers, and then the eagle of victory would proudly perch upon the stripes and stars. And so they went on as best they could, hoping and fighting until they came to the dark and somber gloom of Valley Forge. There were very few hearts then beneath that flag that did not begin to think that the struggle was useless; that all the blood and treasure had been spent in vain. But there were some men gifted with that wonderful prophecy that fulfills itself, and with that wonderful magnetic power that makes heroes of everybody they come in contact with.

And so our fathers went through the gloom of that terrible time, and still fought on. Brave men wrote grand words, cheering the despondent, brave men did brave deeds, the rich man gave his wealth, the poor man gave his life, until at last, by the victory at Yorktown, the old banner won its place in the air, and became glorious forever.

Seven long years of war—fighting for what? For the principle that all men are created equal—a truth that nobody ever disputed except a scoundrel; nobody, nobody in the entire history of this

world. No man ever denied that truth who was not a rascal, and at heart a thief, never, never, and never will. What else were they fighting for? Simply that in America every man should have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nobody ever denied that except a villain; never, never. It has been denied by kings—they were thieves. It has been denied by statesmen— they were liars. It has been denied by priests, by clergymen, by cardinals, by bishops and by popes—they were hypocrite’s.

What else were they fighting for? For the idea that all political power is vested in the great body of the people. The great body of the people make all the money; do all the work. They plow the land, cut down the forests; they produce everything that is produced. Then who shall say what shall be done with what is produced except the producer? Ts it the non-producing thief, sitting on a throne, surrounded by vermin?

Those were the things they were fighting for; and that is all they were fighting for. They fought to build up a new, a great nation; to establish an asylum for the oppressed of the world everywhere. They knew the history of this world. They knew the history of human slavery.

The history of civilization is the history of the slow and painful enfranchisement of the human race. In the olden times the family was a monarchy, the father being the monarch. The mother and children were the veriest slaves. The will of the father was the supreme law. He had the power of life and death. It took thousands of years to civilize this father, thousands of years to make the condition of wife and mother and child even tolerable. A few families constituted a tribe; the tribe had a chief; the chief was a tyrant; a few tribes formed a nation; the nation was governed by a king, who was also a tyrant. A strong nation robbed, plundered, and took captive the weaker ones. This was the commencement of human slavery.

It is not possible for the human imagination to conceive of the horrors of slavery. It.has left no possible crime uncommitted, no .possible cruelty unperpetrated. It has been practiced and defended by all nations in some form. It has been upheld by all religions. It has been defended by nearly every pulpit. From the profits derived from the slave trade churches have been built, cathedrals reared and priests paid. Slavery has been blessed by bishop, by cardinal and by pope. It has received the sanction of statesmen, of kings and of queens. It has been defended by the throne, the pulpit and the bench. Monarchs have shared in the profits. Clergymen have taken their part of the spoil, reciting passage of scripture in its defense at the same time, and judges have taken their portion in the name of equity and law.

Only a few years ago our ancestors were slaves. Only a few years ago they passed with and belonged to the soil, like coal under it and rocks on it. Only a few years ago they were treated like beasts of burden, worse far than we treat our animals at the present day. Only a few years ago it was a crime in England for a man to have a Bible in his house, a crime for which men were hanged, and their bodies afterwards burned. Only a few years ago fathers could and did sell their children. Only a few years ago our ancestors were not allowed to speak or write their thoughts that being a crime. Only a few years ago to be honest, at least in the expression of your ideas, was a felony. To do right was a capital offense; and in those days chains and whips were the incentives to labor, and the preventives of thought. Honesty was a vagrant, justice a fugitive, and liberty in chains.

As soon as our ancestors began to get free, they began to enslave others. With an inconsistency that defies explanation, they practiced upon others the same outrages that had been perpetrated upon them. As soon as white slavery began to be abolished, black slavery commenced. In this infamous traffic nearly every nation of Europe embarked. Fortunes were quickly realized; the avarice and cupidity of Europe were excited; all ideas of justice were discarded; pity fled from the human breast; a few good, brave men recited the horrors of the trade; avarice was deaf; religion refused to hear; the trade went on; the governments of Europe upheld it in the name of commerce—in the name of civilization and of religion.

Our fathers knew the history of caste. They knew that in the despotisms of the old world it was a disgrace to be useful. They knew that a mechanic was esteemed as hardly the equal of a hound, and far below a blooded horse. They knew that a nobleman held a son of labor in contempt—that he had no rights the royal loafers were bound to respect. The world has changed.

The other day there came shoemakers, potters, workers in wood and iron from France, and they were received in the city of New York as though they had been princes. They had been sent by the great republic of France to examine into the arts and manufactures of the great republic of America. They looked a thousand times better to me than the Edward Alberts and Albert Edwards—the royal vermin, that live on the body politic. And I would think much more of our government if it would fete and feast them, instead of wining and dining the miserable imbeciles of a rotten royal line.

Our fathers devoted their lives and fortunes to the grand work of founding a government for the protection of the rights of man. The theological idea as to the source of political power had poisoned the web and woof of every government in the world, and our fathers banished it from this continent forever.

What we want to-day is what our fathers wrote down. They did not attain to their ideal; we approach it nearer, but have not reached it yet. We want, not only the independence of a State, not only the independence of a nation, but something far more glorious—the absolute independence of the individual. That is what we want. I want it so that I, one of the children of Nature, can stand on an equality with the rest; that I can say this is my air, my sunshine, my earth, and that I have a right to live, and hope, and aspire, and labor, and enjoy the fruit of that labor, as much as any individual or any nation on the face of the globe.

We want every American to make to-day, on this hundredth anniversary, a declaration of individual independence. Let each man enjoy his liberty to the utmost—enjoy all he can; but be sure it is not at the expense of another. The French convention gave the best definition of liberty I have ever read: “The liberty of one citizen ceases only where the liberty of another citizen commences.”‘ I know of no better definition. I ask you to-«lay to make a declaration of individual independence. And if you are independent, be just. Allow everybody else to make his declaration of individual! independence. Allow your wife, allow your husband, allow your children to make theirs. Let everybody be absolutely free and! independent, knowing only the sacred obligation of honesty and affection. Let us be independent of party, independent- of everybody and everything except our own consciences and our own brains. Do not belong to any clique. Have the clear title deeds in fee simple to yourselves, without any mortgage on the premises to anybody in the world.

Only a few days ago I stood in Independence Hall—in that little room where was signed the immortal paper. A little room, like any other; and it did not seem possible that from that room went forth ideas, like cherubim and seraphim, spreading their wings over a continent, and touching, as with holy fire, the hearts of men.

In a few moments I was in the park, where are gathered the accomplishments of a century. Our fathers never dreamed of the things I saw. There were hundreds of locomotives, with their nerves of steel and breath of flame—every kind of machine, with whirling wheels and curious cogs and cranks, and the myriad thoughts of men that have been wrought in iron, brass, and steel. And going out from one little building were wires in the air, stretching to every civilized nation, and they could send a shining messenger in a moment to any part of the world, and it would go sweeping under the waves of the sea with thoughts and words within its glowing heart. I saw all that had been achieved by this nation, and I wished that the signers of the Declaration—the soldiers of the revolution—could see what a century of freedom has produced. That they could see the fields we cultivate—the rivers we navigate—the railroads running over the Alleghenies, far into what was then the unknown forest—on over the broad prairies— on over the vast plains—away over the mountains of the West, to the Golden Gate of the Pacific.

All this is the result of a hundred years of freedom.

Are you not more than glad that in 1776 was announced the sublime principle that political power resides with the people? That our fathers then made up their minds nevermore to be colonists and subjects, but,that they would be free and independent -citizens of America?

I will not name any of the grand men who fought for liberty. All should be named, or none. I feel that the unknown soldier who was shot down without even his name being remembered—who was included only in a report of “a hundred killed,” or “a hundred missing,” nobody knowing even the number that attached to his august corpse—is entitled to as deep and heartfelt thanks as the titled leader who fell at the head of the host.

Standing here amid the sacred memories of the first, on the golden threshold of the second, I ask: Will the second century be as grand as the first? I believe it will, because we are growing more and more humane. I believe there is more human kindness, more real, sweet human sympathy, a greater desire to help one another, in the United States, than in all the world besides.

We must progress. We are just at the commencement of invention. The steam engine—the telegraph—these are but the toys with which science has been amused. Wait; there will be grander things; there will be wider and higher culture—a grander standard of character, of literature, and art.

We have now half as many millions of people as we have years, and many of us will live until a hundred million stand beneath the flag. We are getting more real solid sense. The school-house is the finest building in the village. We are writing and reading more books, we are painting and buying more pictures; we are struggling more and more to get at the philosophy of life, of things —trying more and more to answer the questions of the eternal sphinx; we are looking in every direction—investigating ; in short, we are thinking and working. Besides all this, 1 believe the people are nearer honest than ever before. A few years ago we were willing to live upon the labor of four million slaves. Was that honest? At last, we have a national conscience. At last, we have carried out the Declaration of Independence. Our fathers wrote it—we have accomplished it. The black man was a slave—we made him a citizen. We found four million human beings in manacles, and now the hands of a race are held up in the free air, to-day, without a chain.

I have had the supreme pleasure- of seeing a man—once a slave —sitting in the seat of his former master in the Congress of the United States. I have had that pleasure, and when I saw it, my eyes were filled with tears. I felt that we had carried out the Declaration of Independence,—that we had given reality to it, and breathed the breath of life into its every word. I felt that our flag would float over and protect the colored man and his little children—standing straight in the sun, just the same as though he were white and worth a million. I would protect him more, because the rich white man can protect himself.

All who stand beneath our flag are free. Ours is the only flag that has in reality written upon it: Liberty, Fraternity, Equality —the three grandest words in all the languages of men.

Liberty: Give to every man the fruit of his own labor—the labor of his hands and of his brain.

Fraternity: Every man in the right is my brother.

Equality: The rights of all are equ«il: Justice, poised and balanced in eternal calm, will shake from the golden scales, in which are weighed the acts of men, the very dust of prejudice and caste: No race, no color, no previous condition, can change the rights of men.

The Declaration of Independence has been carried out in letter and in spirit.

The second century will be grander than the first.

Fifty millions of people are celebrating this day. To-day, the black man looks upon his child and says: The avenues to distinction are open to you—upon your brow may fall the civic wreath—this day belongs to you.

We are celebrating the courage and wisdom of our fathers, and the glad shout of a free people, the anthem of a grand nation, commencing at the Atlantic, is following the sun to the Pacific, across a continent of happy homes.

We are a great people. Three millions have increased to fifty —thirteen States to thirty-eight. We have better homes, better clothes, better food and more of it, and mjre of the conveniences of life, than any other people upon the globe.

The farmers of Peoria county live better than did the kings and princes two hundred years ago—and they have twice as much sense and heart. Liberty and labor have given us all. I want every person here to believe in the dignity of labor—to know that the respectable man is the useful man—the man who produces or helps others to produce something of value, whether thought of the brain or work of the hand.

I want you to go,away with an eternal hatred in your breast of injustice, of aristocracy, of caste, of the idea that one man has more rights than another because he has better clothes, more land, more money, because he owns a railroad, or is famous and in high position. Remember that all men have equal rights. Remember that the man who acts best his part—who loves his friends tho best— is most willing to help others—truest to the discharge of obligation —who has the best heart—the most feeling—the deepest sympathies—and who freely gives to others the rights that he claims for himself, is the best man. I am willing to swear to this.

What has made this country? I say again, liberty and labor. What would we be without labor? I want every farmer, when plowing the rustling corn of June—while mowing in the perfumed fields—to feel that he is adding to the wealth and glory of the United States. I want every mechanic—every man of toil, to know and feel that he is keeping the cars running, the telegraph wires in the air; that he is making the statues and painting the pictures; that he is writing and printing the books; that he is helping to fill the world with honor, with happiness, with love and law.

Remember that our country is founded upon the dignity of labor and the equality of man. Remember this, and the second century will be grander than the first.

Battle of King's Mountain

History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part I 1765 to May, 1780

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.

Revolutionary War Localities North and South Carolina

Revolutionary War Localities North and South Carolina

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.

Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge

Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge

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.

The Battle of Germantown - October 24, 1777

The Battle of Germantown – October 24, 1777

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.

Forts Clinton and Montgomery battle map

Forts Clinton and Montgomery battle map

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.

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth

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.

George-Rogers-ClarkThe 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.

hero_of_vincennes1Varied 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 Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

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.

Americans holding off the attack of 10 British ships at Sullivans Island - 1776

Americans holding off the attack of 10 British ships at Sullivans Island, Charleston, S.C. – 1776

Surrender of Hessian troops to General Washington
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.

Cape_St_VincentHaving 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.

Battle of Charleston

Battle of Charleston

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.

abatis1On 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

Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie

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.

CowpensOn 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.

sfmuralcutAt 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.

StandIt 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.

carronadecrewClinton, 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.

revolutionary_warThe 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.)