Ill. Brother General Wilmot Gibbes DeSaussure, 33°
By: Ill. Brother McDonald “Don” Burbidge, 33°
NOTE: For further info on DeSaussure, also authored by Ill Bro Burbidge, see the note at the end of this article.
Ill. Brother Wilmot Gibbes DeSaussure, 33° was born at Charleston, South Carolina on July 23, 1822.
He graduated from the South Carolina College in 1840 at the age of 18.
In 1861 after the U. S. Army evacuated Fort Moultrie, he was placed in charge of the abandoned fortress. At the time of the bombardment of Fort Sumter by Confederate military forces he was in command of artillery on Cummings’s Point. He later took command of the Fourth Brigade, South Carolina Militia, and held this position to the close of the War. He commanded the force of reserves, which engaged in the defence of Charleston and, after the resignation of General States Rights Gist (Mason Union Kilwinning Lodge No.4) who was the son of General Mordecai Gist one of General George Washington’s General’s during the Revolutionary War.
During his lifetime Ill. Bro. Wilmot Gibbes DeSaussure, 33° wrote many various speeches and Orations for the masons and the Society of the Cincinnati for the State of South Carolina. These talks provided the listener with details, facts, and sources from where he obtained these facts.
The speeches have just been rediscovered and due to their content are important to the South Carolina Masonry and how our earlier Brethren fought for our freedom along with the hardships they encountered along the way.
When the British troops took possession of Boston the battle of Bunker Hill was the first battle fought for American Independence, and in it fell General Joseph Warren, Grand Master of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge. His life was the first grand offering of American Masonry at the altar of liberty.
In the first of a series of his speeches he tells of how Charleston, South Carolina, fell to the British during the Revolutionary War.
In the coming months we will be presenting to the Masons of South Carolina additional speeches as he wrote them and presented them in an effort that all can learn from.
THE SIEGE OF CHARLESTON,
By Gen. Wilmot G. DeSAUSSURE.
(FROM THE CITY YEAR BOOK-1884)
CHARLESTON, S. C.
THE NEWS AND COUIER BOOK PRESSES.
THE SIEGE OF CHARLESTON-1780
The British campaigns of 1776-1777 not having resulted in the Northern States so successfully as the British commanders had anticipated, in 1778 they began to turn their attention to the Southern States, hoping to subjugate these and restore them to their allegiance to the British Crown. In pursuance of this plan an expedition was undertaken against Georgia, which resulted in the capture of Savannah, its capital, on 29th December 1778. During 1779, the sending troops into the interior of Georgia, the futile attempt of General Prevost to capture Charleston by surprise, and the defense of Savannah against the siege laid to it by the combined forces of America and France, and which resulted so disastrously to the America cause, prevented any very determined efforts by the British in the prosecution of the proposed plan of campaign. Stedman, in the History of American War, says: “Sir Henry Clinton having been cramped in his operations by the proceedings of the French fleet under the Count d’Estaing, whose unsuccessful attack upon Savannah, together with his final departure from the American coast, has already been related, no sooner received certain information of the departure of d’Estaing than he set on foot an expedition, the object of which was the taking of Charleston and the reduction of the Province of South Carolina. The troops designed for this expedition were immediately embarked on broad the transports; and these escorted by Admiral Arbuthnot with an adequate naval force sailed from Sandy Hook on the 26th December 1779. Sir Henry Clinton (British Commander-in-chief in America) accompanied the expedition, leaving the garrison at New York under the command of Lieut. -Gen. Knphausen. The passage might have been expected to be performed in ten days, but such was the uncommon severity of the season that the fleet was very soon separated and driven out of its course by the tempestuous weather, and scarcely any of the ships arrived at Tybee, the appointed place of rendezvous, before the end of January. Some few straggling vessels were taken, some others were lost, and all received more or less damage. Almost all the horses belonging to the artillery or cavalry perished during the passage; and amongst the ships that were lost was one which contained the heavy ordnance; the crews were all saved. Those ships being refitted from Tybee to North Edisto Sound, in the Colony of South Carolina; and on the 11th February the troops were disembarked on John’s Island, about thirty miles from Charles town. Part of the fleet was immediately sent round to block up the harbor of Charles town by sea, whilst the troops slowly advancing through the country passed from John’s Island, and from thence, over Wappoo Cut, to the main land, until they at length reached the banks of Ashley River, opposite to Charles Town.”*
*The strength of Sir Henry Clinton’s expeditionary army is stated in Tarleton’s memoirs as “four flanked battalions, twelve regiments and corps, British, Hessian, and Provincial, a powerful detachment of artillery, two hundred and fifty cavalry, and complete supplies of military stores and provision.”
The purpose of this paper is to give as clear an account as practicable of the siege of Charleston, with references to the locations as known to this date.
The North Edisto empties into the Atlantic about twenty-five miles South of Charleston; John’s Island is on its Northern or left bank, and that Island has for its Northern boundary the waters of Charleston harbor with the Stono River, about twenty miles above its outlet into the Atlantic. The Stono Ferry is about seven or eight miles higher up the Stono River, and that ferry is distant by land from Charleston about twelve or fourteen miles, but by the old road across Ashley Ferry (now Bee’s Ferry or Savannah Railroad Bridge crossing) about twenty miles. The Wadmalaw River is an inland water communication between the North Edisto River to the Southward, and the Stono River to the Northward, and the connection between the two is made a little higher up, say two or three miles above Stono Ferry.
Tarleton says: “On 10th February the transports, with great part of the army on board, convoyed by a proper force, sailed from Savannah to North Edisto, the place of debarkation which had been previously appointed. They had a favorable and speedy passage, and through it required time to have the bar explored and the channel marked, by the activity of the navy these difficulties were surmounted, the transports all entered the harbor the next day, and the army immediately took possession of John’s Island and Stono Ferry; James Island, Peronneau’s Landing, Wappoo Cut and other adjacent places were soon afterwards obtained, and by a bridge thrown over the canal the necessary communications were secured and the advanced part of the King’s army occupied the bank of the Ashley River, opposite to Charles Town.
On the retreat of Gen. Prevost in May 1779, he had taken the route by these Sea Islands. In June 1779, a stubborn battle had taken place near Stono Ferry, the American army endeavoring to cross at that place so as to attack the rear of the British then on John’s Island. Sir Henry Clinton was, therefore, acquainted with these water-ways, and knew that if he was to be molested on John’s Island, it was almost necessarily by the way of Stono Ferry. The promptness with which he possessed himself of Stono Ferry showed his appreciation of its value to him. In all probability the flat bottomed and light draught vessels required to pass over the Church Flat Shoals, where the Wadmalaw and Stono Rivers connect their waters, had been all prepared prior to his sailing from Savannah, so as to allow him to act with dispatch. Stedman says: “The flat bottomed boats had been brought from North Edisto Sound, through the inlets by which the coast is intersected, until they entered Ashley River by Wappoo Cut.” The possession of this ferry enabled him to prepare more leisurely and effectively for his future operations against Charles Town. It was scarcely possible for the American army to attack him on John’s Island by way of James Island, for the Stono River, during the whole of its course separating it from John’s Island, is a bold, navigable stream, in which the British fleet could send light vessels, and so render any attack very hazardous to the American army.
Simmons’ Island, now known as Seabrook’s Island, is an island lying between John’s Island and the ocean; it is separated from John’s Island by Bohicket Creek and its marshes. It presented a good landing, and near its northern end, the marshy ground which separates it from John’s Island is about two to three hundred yards wide, a fairly firm sandy marsh. From there a road runs nearly parallel with the with the creek to near Church Creek Bridge, from whence one fork leads to a Stono River and another fork to the plantation on Stono Ferry and another fork to the plantation on Stono Ferry known as Head-quarters, now owned by Mr. D. J. Townsend, but then owned by Thomas Fenwick, a loyalist. Opposite to this plantation, which has a fair landing, on the James Island side of Stono River, was and is a good landing, then known as Peronneau’s landing; it is on the plantation owned by the late James M. Lawton, and is about a short mile from Wappoo Ferry at its junction with Stono River. Tarleton says Pernneau’s landing was seized; and it probably was by a detachment sent across from this Headquarters plantation. Near this landing on James Island the road forked; the right hand fork ran through James Island and entered Fort Johnson on the rear or landside; the left-hand fork led to Wappoo Cut, a short mile distant.
On 12th February 1780, General Lincoln wrote to General Washington: “I have received information that on 3d inst. The enemy landed about eight thousand troops, commanded by Sir Henry Clinton. I am told that fifty sail of vessels got into North Edisto this day by a person just from Edisto I learn that the number of vessels in the harbor there is little fifty. On 14th February Lieut. Col. John Laurens wrote General Washington: “The day before yesterday, we had certain intelligence of the arrival of forty-five sail at North Edisto. A debarkation immediately commenced on Simmon’s Island, and advanced corps, it is said, of five hundred proceeded the following day to John’s Island.” This letter is, so far as I know, the only positive statement as to the place of debarkation, the only positive statement as to the place of debarkation.
On 4th March 1780, General Lincoln wrote General Washington: “Sir Harry seems to be collecting his force on James Island, and is there throwing up some works; one among the ruins of Fort Johnson, another a little to the Westward of it. It is said that he is also throwing up a bomb battery opposite the town. Drawing his principle force to this island, hauling his galleys and other armed vessels of small draught of water near the mouth of the Wappoo, collecting a number of boats there, indicate that an attempt on the Southerly part of the town by boats will be made." ”On 14th March, Lieut. -Col. Laurens writes General Washington: “His (the enemy’s) transports and store ships have removed from Edisto up Stono River, where they lie contiguous to Wappoo Cut, which is the water communication from thence to Ashley River. At a point of the main land, formed by the issuing of the former into the latter, he raised in the course of a night, the 11th inst., and a battery of six embrasures. This situation, naturally advantageous, he will probably render very strong, and establish in it his deposit of military stores and provisions. He may then either force a passage over Ashley River or turn it by a circuitous march, fortify a camp on the neck and open his trenches. The best communication between his magazines and camp will be across Ashley River, from a bluff, marked Bull in your large map.”
Stedman, writing from the British standpoint, says: “So great were the impediments that they met in their progress, or such the extreme caution of the Commander-in-chief in establishing and fortifying posts to preserve his communication with the sea, that it was not until the 29th March that the advance of the army crossed Ashley River at the ferry, and landed on Charles Town Neck, some miles above the town. The flat-bottomed boats had been brought from North Edisto Sound through the inlets by which the coast intersected, until they entered Ashley River by Wappoo Cut; and the passing over of the troops was conducted with much address by Capt. Elphinstone, of the navy. On the following day the troops encamped in front of the American lines; and on the 1st of April began to break ground before Charles Town, at the distance of eight hundred yards from the Provincial works.” As there were no impediments, the slow approach was due to Sir Henry Clinton’s caution. As previously stated, he had ordered reinforcements to be sent him from New York and Savannah. The latter, over twelve hundred under General Patterson, marched by land, and had some immaterial skirmishing with small bodies of militia; this was the only impediment the advance met with. General Moultrie was stationed at Bacon’s Bridge, on the head of the Ashley River, but was never in contact with the enemy, except to capture a few picquets.
General Moultrie, writing to General Lincoln on 22nd February, 1780, says: “I did not write you sooner, as I waited for the return of a party of horse that had gone out towards the enemy’s lines at Stono, which might returned last night. Major Jemeson informs me he has within view of the centries of their picquets, posted at the cross-roads; that he had not heard of any number coming out, except the first day or two, to drive in some stock. By the accounts he got, he believes there are not so many at Stono as when they first took post there; that some of them are returned to John’s Island.” The crossroad alluded to, are doubtless the intersection of the roads about a half-mile from Stono Ferry on the main land, where the roads to Ashley Ferry and the lower part of St. Andrew’s Parish meet; and the British piquet was for the Stono Ferry. On 25th February, the same officer writes, that yesterday, “I took the two Majors and a party with me to reconnoitre the enemy on James and John's Island. We proceeded to Wappoo Cut, from whence we had a very good view of their whole encampment: their left on Stono River, extending their right along the ditch in Mr. Hudson’s pasture, to the end of the ditch, near Wappoo Creek, which I take to be a quarter of a mile; by the stacks of arms, and number of men moving about, I judge them to be about one thousand or twelve hundred, British and Hessians: in Stono River I saw gallies and two schooners, and some small boats sailing down the river: one galley lay at the mouth of Wappoo Cut; another lay at Hudson’s landing, and one at Fenwick’s lower landing: they have thrown up a work near the cut.” Richard Hutson at that time owned the plantation on James Island, immediately at the junction of Wappoo Cut and Stono River, and the ditch above alluded to is probably what is now known as Elliott’s Cut. William Elliott had opened this Elliott’s Cut prior to 1777, through “high and loose land,” and almost certainly is the ditch alluded to. In the map accompanying Stedman’s History of the American War, a fleche or redoubt is shown directly at the intersection of Wappoo Cut and Stono River, and another, apparently a square redoubt, is shown on Wappoo Creek, about a half mile near Charleston.
On 28th February, Col. Daniel Horry writes: “I am just returned from Lucas’ old field and Wappoo Cut: and with a small party I went over to a point called Long Island: the galley is at her old station, and about twenty-four or twenty-five at Mr. Hudson’s landing, with four armed schooners, and two other schooners, with a number of armed boats are now going up Stono; probably with a view to bring off the baggage from that post; which we are told now consists of a command, with six hundred men to guard their provisions and boats.” The reinforcements under General Patterson were now advancing along the road by Stono Ferry, for on 29th February, Major Richard Call says, “the officer who went down the Pon Pon Road reports that their drums beat and their horns sounded about eight o’clock.” This approach enabled a concentration on James Island preparatory to an advance. On 1st March, Captain Philip Neyle writes: “I this moment received intelligence from Major Vernier, that all enemy have crossed Wappoo, and are approaching this way” (Bacon Bridge). On 7th March, he again writes: “By accounts received from Major Vernier, and a prisoner taken this morning, the enemy crossed Wappoo last night at eight o’clock, with one thousand grenadiers and light infantry: the last accounts we had of them they were about three miles from Ashley Ferry; we cannot learn what their intentions were, unless they designed to surprise Major Vernier’s post.”
The British troops which were thus crossed over Wappoo, proceeded, apparently, first to make a footing at Fenwick’s place. On 19th March, general Moultrie writes: “The enemy are at Fenwick’s place, at the mouth of Wappoo Creek, making batteries and other works directly opposite the town.” This agrees with Tarleton’s account, and Stedman’s map shows the location of Fenwick’s to be at, or near, where the present phosphate of Mr. C. C. Pinckney, formerly Sardy’s, is now situate. On 24th March, General Lincoln writes: “The enemy are now extending their works on Ashley River, from the mouth of Wappoo, with a design to cover their stores, which they can land near the first work, at the mouth of the creek, and remove them a mile or two across land to the head of another creek which empties into the Ashley, where they have a work also, which is opposite a good landing on this side. I think they will throw their troops across above, take post at this landing, and then transport their stores, which will save them a very long land carriage.” The creek thus referred to is now known as Old Town or Lining’s Creek, and there is a bold landing on it, at the plantation called OLD Town, lately the property of William M. Parker, deceased. The admirable map prepared under the direction of Hon. William A. Courtenay, Mayor of Charleston, and forming part of his Year Book, 1883, for which every student of history should be grateful to him, shows not only this creek and its proximity to Wappoo, but shows the lines of defense and attack during the siege of Charleston, and probably elucidates this account better than words can do. In Stedman’s map, the work on Old Town Creek, referred to by General Lincoln, is shown.
On 20th and 21st March the British fleet were crossing the bar. It had been at first contemplated that the American fleet, under Commodore Whipple, should resist the crossing; but he “did not choose to risk an engagement,” as General Moultrie phrases it; brought all his vessels up to the town, and sunk them in Cooper River between Schulte’s Folly and the town, so as to prevent the British fleet getting into Cooper River, and flanking the town. On 7th April the British fleet passed Fort Moultrie, not stopping to engage it, and suffering but comparatively little damage, “anchored under Fort Johnson.” Col. Charles C. Pinckney was thereupon ordered up from Fort Moultrie, and Lieut. -Col. Scott left in command there. General Moultrie, who had been in command of the cavalry and militia, at Bacon’s Bridge, was relieved in consequence of illness, and on 9th March returned to Charleston, and Gen. Isaac Huger took his place.
The British troops having thrown up works at Fenwick’s place, on the right bank of the Ashley River, as before told, continued to advance by the road to Bee’s Ferry, and on 29th March crossed the Ashley River at or near that ferry, Sir Henry Clinton’s map says, “at Drayton’s, in force. Tarleton says: “Capt. Elphinstone, of the navy, having stationed the gallies to protect the boats on their passage with the troops to the neck, twelve miles above Charles Town, the main body of the forces moved from their ground, embarked and crossed the river on the 29th March, without opposition. On the following day Sir Henry Clinton ordered the Light Infantry and Yagers, supported by the Grenadiers and the other corps and regiments, to gain the principal road, and move on towards the lines of the enemy. A few scattered parties of the Americans skirmished with the head of the column, and after wounding the Earl of Carthness, acting Aid-de-camp to the Commander-in-chief, and a few private men, fell back to their fortifications. The Royal army without further molestation took a position across the neck, about a mile and a half from Charles Town, and effectively invested it between the Rivers Ashley and Cooper. Great part of Brig.-Gen. Patterson’s command was left near Wappoo Cut, in order to guard the magazines, till the main body should gain the neck; when a passage across Ashley River was to be sought for nearer the town, for the convenience of transporting all the requisites of a siege. Capt. Elphinstone soon discovered a landing place, which shortened the trouble and delay attendant upon land carriage, and by which the King’s troops received supplies of cannon, stores, provisions and baggage with facility and expedition.” On 26th March General Moultrie wrote: “The enemy are advancing slow; the head of their army is about John Cattels, but I image they intend crossing over to Gibbes’ place with their main body: they are busily employed on the opposite shore, in making fascines and other things.” In his journal of the siege, his entries are: “Tuesday, March 28th, 1780. The enemy crossed Ashley River, in force, above the ferry. Wednesday 29th. The enemy advanced on the neck. The Light Infantry were this evening reinforced with two companies, and the command given to Col. Laurens. Thursday 30th. The enemy came on as far as Gibbes’, where they continued skirmishing throughout the day with our Light Infantry: the enemy were reinforced in the evening with two field pieces and ninety men, which obliged our party to retire into garrison about dark. Capt. Bowman of the No. Ca. Brigade killed; Major Hyrne and seven privates wounded. The enemy were all this day transporting troops from Old Town, on Wappoo Creek, to Gibbes.” On 9th April General Lincoln wrote: “The enemy crossed the Ashley in force, near the ferry, on the 29th ulto. and the next day moved down and encamped about 3,000 yards from our lines. Before this, they had transported their heavy baggage, ordnance and stores, from out of Wappoo, across land, about two miles, to Old Town Creek, on the West Side of the river, opposite their encampment.” On the same day Lieut. -Col. Laurens wrote: “On the 29th ulto. They crossed Ashley River in force, one mile above the ferry. The next day they advanced to Gibbes’, a convenient landing, about two miles from town, having previously collected a number of boats at the opposite shore, for the purpose of crossing their heavy artillery and stores. My battalion of Light Infantry, posted there to prevent a surprise, or to sudden approach of the enemy, was ordered not to engage seriously, but skirmish with advanced parties, retiring slowly and orderly towards town, as there was no object in maintaining an advanced post, And the advantages of a serious affair were all on the side of the enemy.”
The place of arms at Fenwick’s having been made secure, it would appear that Sir Henry Clinton advanced the main body of his forces from there by the river road running parallel with the Ashley River and falling into the main road at Ashley (now Bee’s) Ferry, crossed at Drayton’s, very near Drayton Hall, and marching down the Dorchester Road fell into the State Road at the quarter or six mile house, down this main State Road he marched until his advance reached the neighborhood of what is now known as Grove Street, and in that neighborhood went into camp; his right extending towards Ashley River to cover and protect the proposed landing at Gibbes Farm, and his left probably occupying the high land about the present Cool Blow Farm, having New Market Creek on its front. It must be borne in mind that at that time the present King Street Road was the only road into the country, the Meeting Street Road not then existing. So that the British forces extended from the Ashley River on their right to the marshes of the Cooper River on their left. Stedman’s map shows that this was about their disposition. At that time Charleston nominally extended to Calhoun, formerly Boundary Street, although a great part of that above Beaufain and Hassle Streets was very little built upon, so that the British camp was a little under two miles from the Northern limit of the town. At that time the present driving park owned by Capt. Frederick W. Wagner, together with the lands South of it, were owned by John Gibbes, and a fairly hard landing place with little marsh was to be found at the Ashley River end of the present Grove Street on this Gibbes Farm; this landing is very nearly opposite to the mouth of Old Town Creek; it afforded the nearest firm landing to Charleston, as nearly all South of it was an extensive marsh. This Gibbes landing was then, that discovered by Capt. Elphinstone, and by which the King’s troops received supplies, &c., with facility and expedition.
The main army being now encamped about two miles from the town, and their stores of cannon, &c., being transported across at Gibbes’ landing, Sir Henry Clinton lost no time in commencing the active operations of the siege. As Col. John Laurens tells, he skirmished with the advance on 30th March; and, as Gen. Moultrie tells, Col. Laurens’ command retired into the garrison about dark of that day. The 31th March and 1st April were spent by the garrison in “mounting cannon, throwing traverses, &c., “ and by the besieging force was probably spent in transporting fascines, cannon, &c., and moving them towards the places at which they were to be used.
Tarleton says: “The defenses of Charles Town on the land side consisted of a chain of rebouts, lines and batteries extending from one river to the other, and furnished with eighty cannon and mortars; the front works of each flank were strengthened by swamps originating in the neighboring rivers, and tending towards the centre, through which they were connected by a canal passing from one to the other. Between these outward impediments and the redoubts were two strong rows of abbaits; the trees being buried standing in the earth with their branches facing outwards formed a heavy fraize work against the assailants, and these were further secured by a ditch double picketted. In the center the natural defenses were inferior to those on the flanks; to remedy this defect, and to cover the principal gate, a horn-work of masonry had been constructed, which being closed during the siege formed a kind of citadel. The fortifications facing the two rivers and the harbor had been erected with uncommon labor and expense. Ships with chevaux de fuse, connected by spars and booms, were employed to block up the channels in order to hinder a near approach of the King’s frigates, and piles of pickets wee fixed in the ground at all the landing places to prevent any debarkation from the boats; the whole extent was likewise covered by batteries formed of earth and pimento (probably palmetto) wood, judiciously placed and mounted with heavy cannon. The garrison, under the orders of Gen. Lincoln, was composed of ten weak Continental and State regiments of militia drawn from the Carolinas and Virginia, and of the inhabitants of the town, amounting in the whole to near six thousand men, exclusive of the sailors. The body of regular troops destined for service, though assisted by the militia and by the inhabitants, was scarcely adequate to the defense of such extensive fortifications.” Stedman, without giving as much detail, confirms the above. Moultrie gives the number of batteries on the lines as six-teen, and facing the rivers as ten; those on the lines mounted seventy-nine guns, those on the rivers mounted ninety-five guns; he does not give the locations of those on the lines, but gives the names of those on the rivers. Beginning with those on the North facing Cooper River, and proceeding South, and then West on Ashley River, these river batteries were:
1. Liberty Battery, called on the French map, “du quai de Gadsden,” about Washington and Charlotte Streets.
2. Laurens Battery, called on the French map, “vieux Indien,” about Eastern foot of Laurens Street. There may be some doubt whether these are the same.
3. Craven’s, Governor Bridge, called on the French map, “du Pont du Governeur,” on the site of the present United States Customs House.
4. Exchange, called on the French map, “de la Bourse,” nearly back of the present Post Office.
5. Grenville’s, called on the French map, “de l’extremitede la Baye,” about the site of the house now occupied by Col. W. L. Trenholm, No. 1 East Bay.
6. Lyttleton’s, called on the French map, “de Darrell,” near the site of the residence of the late James G. Holmes, No. East Battery.
7. Broughton’s called on the French map. “Wilkins,” between Church Street and Meeting Street, in the present White Point Garden.
8. Gibbes, near the Western end of South Bay Street.
9. Bretigney’s called in the French map, “Ferguson’s,” near the Western end of Gibbes Street.
10. Sugar House, about where Broad and New Streets meet.
The French map gives another battery facing Ashley River and calls it, “Du vieux Magasin.” This was about the West End of Magazine Street, near a battery there; it was at the head of a creek, which ran through the old Rutledge Street pond; that entire creek pond is now built upon.
The same map shows another battery called, “de la Pointe Nd Quest,” near the West End of the present Montague Street, and another called, “de la Pointe de Coming,” near the West End of Beaufain Street. Both of these were probably about Lynch Street.
The French map shows very well the wet ditch and cheveaux de fuse (the abattis of Tarleton) with the interval in the latter, and the crossing over the former by which troops could pass; the interval is in the form of a loop.
The location of these river batteries are well shown on the map prepared under direction of Mayor Courtnenay; some are also shown on Stedman’s map, but the scale is too small to show them distinctly; and are remarkable well shown upon a French map recently obtained by Daniel Ravenel, Esq., which is very interesting, and the scale of which allows a tolerably fair measurement for locations. This French map is probably a copy of Brig.-Gen. Du Portail’s engineers’ map; he was in Charleston during the siege. “The lines,” Dr. Joseph Johnson says, “which defended Charleston were on that ridge of land where St. Paul’s Church, the Orphan House, the Citadel and the Second Presbyterian Church now stand, extending to the river on both sides. On East side of King Street there war a strong elevated fortress or citadel, aced with tapia or tabby, a remnant of which is still visible on the East side of it, about forty yards from the street, on a vacant lot between the picket guard house and Dr. Boylston’s, owned by Mr. Mordecai Cohne (this remnant, enclosed by an iron rail on the present Marion Square, is, it is believed, the only now existing relic of the lines of the Revolution). These were called horn-works; this was the post of honor.”
On a map drawn by John Diamond in 1807, for the cutting of a proposed canal across what was then called the neck, the marshes or swamps (as Tarleton calls them) from Cooper and Ashley Rivers are well shown. That from Cooper River began just North of Chapel Street, and run a little North of the present Northeastern Railroad depot; its course was, Southwestwardly, and terminated near the corners of King, John and Warren Streets. That from Ashley River was marshes of Comings’ Creek; the creek bifurcated, the Northern fork extending about on the line of Morris Street to St. Philips Street; the Southern fork ran a little below the line of Warren Street, nearly to St. Philip. It will thus be seen that the width between King Street and St. Philip Street separated these marshes, but the wet ditch was actually extended much further both East and West. On the Eastern end of the lines a heavy battery was erected, very near where the Northeastern Railroad passenger depot now is, and on the Western end a heavy battery was erected, this was between Warren and Morris Streets on the South and North, and Thomas and Smith Streets on the East and West: these two batteries looked through the wet ditch. The Western battery was a little outside of the lines, but there was a covered way into the lines, and a battery just within covered the way leading into the lines. Diamond’s plat of 1897 shows the remains of these old batteries and the French map makes the whole lines, ditch, abattis, batteries, &c., very clear.
The lines of defense being above stated, with their locations described so as to be intelligible to those who know the Charleston of today, the operations of Sir Henry Clinton are told by Tarlenton as follows: “The General and his engineers having fixed upon the mode and point of attack, a large working party broke ground, under cover of an advanced detachment, on the night of 1st April. Two large redoubts were thrown up within eight hundred yards of the American lines, and were not discovered before daybreak, when the fire from the town had very inconsiderable effect. The next evening another redoubt was added, and for five successive days and nights the labor of the artificers and soldiers was directed to the construction of batteries, which, on the 8th, were completed with artillery.” The French map has this note: “Redoutes, approaches et batteries de l’armee Britannique sous le commandement du Lieu’t-General Sir Henry Clinton, Chev. Du Bain.Redoubtes numerotees 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, et 6, commercees le 1st Avril pour etablir la premiere parallele. O. Seconde parallele terminees le 19 de avril. P. Troisieme parallele terminee le 6 Mai et canal raigne par une Sappe condiute juisqu’s l’Ecluse. 9 batteries de cannons, 2 batteries de mortiers.” Gen. Woodford (American) on 8th April says: “The first of this month they broke ground in our front. Their nearest work is upon our right (Cooper River), at six hundred yards distance from ours, and they fall off from eight and nine to eleven hundred yards on our left. They have done a great deal of work: their battery upon Cooper River is in the greatest forwardness. They have been employed for several days and nights, in opening lines of communication between their batteries, which appear in great forwardness. Exclusive of these, they have a battery upon our left flank at Wappoo Cut, and some galleys brought in by the passage of Stono River. These are mounted with 32 and 24 pounders, but the distance is at least a mile and a quarter from our left, too far to do any considerable execution." On 9th April, General Lincoln says: “On the morning of the 1st inst. We discovered that they had opened ground in several places in our front, about eleven hundred yards therefrom. The next night they threw up a work on our left, distance nine hundred yards. The next which appeared was on Cooper River, six hundred yards from our right; these, and some which they have since raised, seem to be closed. They have been some nights perfecting their works and opening lines of communication. What they have done seems rather calculated to cover their approaches than to annoy us from them.” On the same day Lieut. -Col. Laurens says: “On the night of the 1st inst. The enemy broke ground and have been working slowly eve since. I scarcely know how to denominate what they have executed hitherto. It consists of several redoubts, with a covered communication from right to left, which is still unfinished. Their nearest work is an enclosed battery on their left, which induces me to believe that they intend the line in question for a first parallel, although some parts of it are rather too remote. Our shells and shot have disquieted them and interrupted their operations; but General Lincoln, sensible of the alue of these articles in a siege, economizes them a much as possible. Fatigue parties are constantly employed in improving our works. The whole front of our lines within the abattis is armed with wolf traps. All this affords an excellent defense against storm, but must finally yield to a perseverance in regular approaches, which appears to be Clinton’s present plan, unless we can work under his fire as fast as he can, and afford time for the arrival of your Excellency.” General Moultries diary reads: “Sunday, 2d (April). Last night the enemy broke ground, and this morning appeared two redoubts: one nearly opposite the nine-gun battery, on the right of the horn work; the other a little to the left of the same, at about twelve hundred yards distance from our lines. Monday, 3d. The enemy employed in completing their two redoubts, and erecting one on our left at an equal distance from the road.” On the same day he wrote to a friend in the country: “The enemy are before our lines, and throwing up works very fast: they have four redoubts abreast finished: one at the Broad Road at Watson’s, one at Hampstead, where Sir Edmund Head’s house stood, one between these two, another they have on our left, near Cummins’ Point; I suppose tonight they will have one where Tagart’s house stood.” His diary of Wednesday, 5th, says: “Last night the enemy continued his approach to Hampstead Hill, on which they erected a battery for twelve cannon; and a mortar battery a little in the rear. The battery from Wappoo and the gallies have thrown several shot into town, by which one of the inhabitants in King Street was killed. Thursday, 6th. The enemy approached from their center redoubt and erected a five-gun battery on the angle between 11 and 12. Friday, 7th. This afternoon twelve sail of the enemy’s vessels passed Fort Moultrie, under a very heavy fire. Sunday, 9th. The enemy last night continued their approach from their redoubt on the left, and threw up a battery for ten cannon against the angle of our advanced redoubt, and the redan No. 7. Monday, 10th. Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot summoned the town.” General Lincoln refused to surrender.
Sir Henry Clinton’s map, and the French map, both give the positions and numbers of the British redoubts upon their first parallel. Sir Henry Clinton’s gives also the head quarters of himself and his general officers, the positions of his troops, his artillery park, and his store of commissary tools. In giving the positions of his troops, it states that he had two battalions of British Grenadiers; four battalions of Hessian Grenadiers; two battalions of Light Infantry; two battalions of the 41st Regiment; Hessian Yagers (or Jagers), and Artillerists: aggregating twelve battalions, two full regiments, the Yagers and Artillerists. This would probably make a force of about ten to twelve thousand, and agrees with what Stedman had said, viz: he brought 8,000 men from New York, was reinforced by 2,500 men under Cornwallis from New York, and by 1,200 under Prevost from Savannah. The Americans, who surrendered, aggregated officers, men, musicians and all, 5,570, of whom 2,152 were officers without commands, militia, citizens, and a French local company.
From Sir Henry Clinton’s map, his own headquarters must have been somewhere between Sans Souci Street and the Northern boundary of the city, probably on or about Dr. Geiger’s farm. Lord Cornwallis headquarters I cannot locate. Gen. Leslie’s headquarters were somewhere in the neighborhood of Congress Street and Rutledge Avenue. Gen. Kosborth’s headquarters somewhere in the neighborhood of Cool Blow Farm. The Artillery Park was about the present Washington RaceCourse, and the store for the commissary tools on the farm West of that RaceCourse. On that map, the British batteries on the first parallel are numbered from Ashley to Cooper River; his right as a matter of course being opposite the American left, and his right redoubt, No. 1, facing the left redoubt of the American’s; but in fact overlapping it a little, Gen. Moultrie, in stating the American batteries begins, “No.1, Beginning on the left” so that, taking his manner of enumeration, the American and British batteries No. 1, nearly faced each other.
The diary and letter of Gen. Moultrie, with the several maps referred to, allow us to approximate very closely to the line of the British first parallel. The diary says on 2d April: “This morning appeared two redoubts, one nearly opposite the nine gun battery, on the right of the horn work, the other a little to the left of the same.” In the batteries enumerated by Gen. Moultrie, there was only one nine gun battery on the American lines: judging, from the faces of the lines as they appear upon the French map, and apparently from Sir Henry Clinton’s map, this nine gun American battery would have been located somewhat East of the present Meeting and North of Charlotte Street, probably very much on the site of the present Second Presbyterian Church (Flynn’s Church). In the letter of 3d April, he says of the British redoubts: “One at the Broad Road at Watson’s.” The redoubt thus mentioned must have been about the present Line Street, and a little West of King, and is No. 3 on the maps. Watson’s garden was the square bounded by the present Line and Columbus Streets on the North and South, King Street (or the Broad Road as it was then called) on the West, and a line a little East of the Present Meeting Street (not then laid out) on the East. The other a “little to the left of the same” must have been the British No. 4, and was, in all probability, on Line Street, a little East of Meeting Street. The “one at Hampstead where Sir Edmund Head’s house stood,” was apparently the British No. 5, and probably near the corner of Blake and Aiken Streets. “The other on our left, near Cummins Point,” is the British No. 1, and apparently was located a little West of Smith and South of Boisgard Street. The twelve-gun battery, Hampstead Hill, referred to in Gen. Moultrie’s diary of 5th April, was somewhere near Blake and Bay Streets, between Blake and Columbus Streets. The American lines trended from Northeast to Southwest, and the British lines followed the same direction: the flanks of both lines were nearer than the centers, by probably two hundred yards.
The Western or left, American, battery before mentioned as appearing on Diamond’s plat, and which was about Warren, Smith and Thomas Streets, was probably the “advance redoubt” of Gen. Moultrie’s enumeration. Nos. 1 and 2 were parts of the lines, and were a little West of the advance redoubt, probably, partly, looking across Cannon’s pond to the high land on the opposite side near Rutledge and Doughty Streets. No. 3 was probably a little East of the advance redoubt, say about Vanderhorst and Coming Street. No. 4 was probably on Vanderhorst Street, East of Coming. No. 5 was somewhere near the Orphan House Chapel. Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were probably all grouped near the horn work, and extended from King Street, to near Anson, a little North of Hudson Street. The position of No. 12, the only nine-gun battery mentioned by Moultrie, has already stated. Nos. 13 and 14 probably adjoined it nearly on the East and covered the point up to Chapel Street, on which the Northern Railroad passenger depot now is, and in front was a creek and marsh. Cambray’s Battery was possibly an interior work covering the opening in the lines to the advance redoubt.
During the night of the 8th they had “continued their approaches from their redoubt on the left, and threw up a battery for ten cannon, against the angle of our advanced redoubt and the redan No. 7.” This battery, it appears by the maps, was somewhere in the neighborhood of the present Hampstead Mall, a little West of it; and a mortar battery seems to have been erected a little East of it.
The town was summoned on 10th April; on the 11th and 12th “the enemy busied in completing their works and mounting cannon.” The diary continues: “Thursday 13th between 9 and 10 o’clock this morning, the enemy opened their cannon and mortar batteries. The cannonade and bombardment continued, with short intermissions, until midnight; the gallies and battery at Wappoo also fired. Some women and children killed in town. They threw several carcasses from 8 and 10-inch mortars, by which two houses burnt.
Friday, 14th. The enemy began an approach on the right, and kept up a fire of small arms. Cannonade and bombardment continued.
Saturday, 15th. The enemy continued approaching on the right. A continual fire of small arms, cannon and mortars. A battery of two guns opened by the enemy at Stiles place, on James Island. Major Grimball’s corps of militia relieved from the advanced redoubt, by a detachment of Continental artillery commanded by Major Mitchell.
Tuesday, 18th. We advanced a breastwork to the left of the square redoubt, for riflemen, to annoy the enemy on their approach. The enemy continued their approaches to the right, within 250 yards of the front of the square redoubt.
Wednesday, 19th. The enemy began an approach from the left battery, towards our advanced redoubt; and moved some mortars into the former.
Thursday, 20th. The approaches continued on the left; their mortars removed from their battery.” Sir Henry Clinton’s map says: “O. The second parallel finished the 19th April.” The French map says the same.
This second parallel, which was made by approaches from both the right and left of the British lines, was across the neck, somewhere very near the present Judith Street, and about Morris Street. The second erected on King Street, or slightly West of it, somewhere near Reid Street, a battery for cannon.
Gen. Lincoln, when summons of 10th April had been sent in, had been so urgently pressed by the Governor and Council and inhabitants, to refuse a surrender that he had done so promptly. But the effect of the bombardment had shown the almost futility of the defense.
Friday, 21st April, Gen. Lincoln sent a flag “to enter into the consideration of terms of capitulation.” The terms proposed by Gen. Lincoln contemplated the marching out of the garrison, with leave to go where they pleased, with “the usual honors of war, and carry off at that time their arms, field artillery, ammunition and baggage, and of such stores as they may be able to transport.” The terms proposed by Gen. Lincoln were rejected. Gen. Lincoln thereupon called a council of war to consider the propriety of evacuating the town. The council were of opinion “that it was unadvisable because of the opposition made by the civil authorities and the inhabitants, and because, even if they could succeed in defeating a large body of the enemy in their way, they had not a sufficiency of boats to cross the Santee before they might be overtaken by the whole British army. The Council therefore recommended a capitulation. The recommendation was not adopted.
n the meantime, the American cavalry under Gen. Huger, had been surprised at Biggin Church, near the head of Cooper River, and utterly routed. This enabled the British to head such river, and occupying the left bank of Cooper River, to cut off any reinforcements to the garrison from that side. It is true the American’s still held a post at Lemprier’s or Hobcaw Point, but the British army under Cornwallis commanded the road to such point.
The rejection of Gen. Lincoln’s terms renewed the siege operations.
Saturday, 22d. Approaches continued on our left in front of the advance redoubt.
Sunday, 23d. Approaches to within twenty yards of the wet ditch.
Monday, 24th. A party composed of 300 men under the command of Lieut. -Col. Henderson made a sortie upon the enemy’s approaches, opposite the advanced redoubts, at daylight; they were completely surprised. The greatest part of the First South Carolina Regiment came into garrison this morning, with Col. C. Pinckney, from Fort Moultrie.
Tuesday, 25th. Between 12 and 1 this morning a heavy fire of cannon and musketry commenced from our advanced redoubt and the right of the lines, occasioned as it was said by the enemy’s advancing in column. It is certain they gave several huzzas, but whether they were out of their trenches it is not clear. 2 o’clock, P. M. Lord Cornwallis at Mount Pleasant.
Wednesday, 26th. The enemy were very quiet all-day and last night; we suppose they are bringing cannon into their third parallel. Brig.-Gen. DuPont arrived from Philadelphia. On Gen. DuPortial declaring that the works were not tenable, a Council was again called upon for an evacuation, and to withdraw privately with the Continental troops; when the citizens were informed upon what the Council were deliberating, some of them came into Council, and expressed themselves very warmly, and declared to Gen. Lincoln that if he attempted to withdraw the troops and leave the citizens, that they would cut up his boats and open the gates to the enemy: this put an end to all thoughts of an evacuation of the troops, and nothing was left for us but to make the best terms we could.
Thursday, 27th. About 1 o’clock in the afternoon, four of the enemies gallies, an armed sloop and a frigate, moved down the river, and anchored opposite the mouth of Hog Island Creek. Our post at Lemprier’s ferry retreated across the river in the night, to Charles Town, after spiking up four eighteen pounders they were obliged to leave.” At this time, Tarleton says, “Charles Town was completely invested.”
Friday, 28th. The enemy busy in throwing up their third parallel, within a few yards of the canal.
Saturday, 29th. We are throwing up a redoubt on the right of the horn work; the enemy seem to intend erecting two batteries in their third parallel, one at the gate opposite the horn work, the other in front of Col. Parker’s regiment. A deserter from them says they are preparing a bridge to throw over the canal.
May 1st. Our fatigue employed in erecting another redoubt on the left of the horn work. The enmey appear to be about another battery in their third parallel, opposite No. 12 on our right.
Tuesday, 2d. Last night the enemy were making a ditch on the right to drain the canal. The enemy threw shells at us charged with rice and sugar.
Thursday, 4th. Our rations of meat reduced to six ounces; coffee and sugar allowed to the soldiers.
Saturday, 6th. Fort Moultrie is in the hands of the enemy.
According to Sir Henry Clinton’s and the French maps, the British third parallel was “completed 6th May, and canal drained by a sap carried to the dam.” This third parallel, began at the marsh of Cannon’s pond, somewhere about Radcliffe Street, and a little West of Smith, and running Southeastwardly terminanated very near the wet ditch at or near the corner of Warren Street (a little South) and between St. Philip and Coming Streets. The parallel on the right was more angular, the apex of the angle beginning about Reid and Hanover Streets, the left leg running Southwestwardly terminated just in front of the British battery at King, and between Mary and Ann Streets, and the left leg running Eastwardly to about opposite American battery No. 12, turned sharply to the South by East, and reached the wet ditch about where Judith Street crossed the marsh at the bridge known for years afterwards as Cooter Bridge. The battery mentioned by Gen. Moultrie on 29th April as “at the gate opposite the horn work,” is mentioned by Dr. Joseph Johnson in his traditions as “within point blank shot, about 300 yards off, on the lot in Mary Street formerly used as the lower railroad depository and long known as the Fresh Water Pond.” And in speaking of the wet ditch he says: “Which, on the East side of King Street, was a little North of Mr. Joseph Manigault’s house (now John S. Riggs’, corner of Meeting and John Street), and was confined by an embankment North of the house built by the late Col. Vanderhorst and now owned by Mr. C. Heyward (the residence of the late Arnoldus Vanderhorst, corner of Judith and Chapel Streets). This embankment was guarded by a battery constructed on that lot, and at night fire balls were thrown to the opposite end of the bank where Mr. J. L. Nowell now lives to show if any attempt was made to cut and let off the water. ”Mr. J. L. Nowell resided at the corner of Reid and Bay Streets, and this tolerably well establishes that Gen. Moultrie’s batteries, No. 13 and 14, were those a little to the west of, near what is now the Northeastern Railroad passenger depot lot.
“Sunday, 7th (May). Our principal magazine near being destroyed by a 13-inch shell bursting within ten yards of it.” This magazine was a brick building in a lot on the South side of the present Cumberland Street; it is about one hundred and fifty feet West of Church Street, and is still in fair preservation; it is in the rear lot, and touching on the Western graveyard of St. Philip’s Church. Gen. Moultrie says that, “in consequence of that shell falling so near, I had the powder (100,000 pounds) removed to the Northeast corner under the Exchange, and had the doors and windows bricked up. Not withstanding the British had possession of Charleston so long, they never discovered the powder, although their Provost was the next apartment to it, and after the evacuation when we came into town we found the powder as we left it.”
Monday, 8th. A second summons from Sir Henry Clinton informing us of the fall of Fort Moultrie, and that remains of our cavalry were cut to pieces the day before yesterday. (This was the surprise and defeat of Col. Anthony Walton White at Lenud’s Ferry.) Our meat quite out; rice, sugar and coffee served out.” The 8th and part of the 9th were spent in negotiations, and resulted in the siege being continued. Sir Henry Clinton said in rejecting the American’s proposals: “Hostilities will in consequence commence afresh at 8 o’clock.” Gen. Moultrie tells the closing scene as follows: “After receiving the above letter 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 180 or 200 pieces of heavy cannon fired off at the same moment, and 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 amongst 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 a dreadful night. It was our last great effort, but it availed us nothing. After this our military ardor was much abated; we began to cool, and we cooled gradually, and on the 11th of May we capitulated, and on the morning of the 12th we marched out and gave up the town.” About 11 o’clock A. M. on the 12th of May we marched out between 1,500 and 1,600 Continental troops (leaving 500 to 600 sick and wounded in the hospital) without the horn-work, on the left, and piled out arms: the officers marched the men back to the barracks, where a British guard was placed over them; the British then asked where our second division was? They were told these were all the Continentals we had, except the sick and wounded; they were astonished, and said we had made a gallant defense.” “We marched out with the Turk’s march.” Stedman says: “And Major-Gen. Leslie took possession of the town.” Of the casualties, he says: “The loss of the British troops during the siege amounted to 76 killed and 189 wounded: that of the garrison was not, in the whole, quite so much; but in the number of the dead was greater.”
Dr. Johnson says: “The families which remained in Charleston, amidst these exciting and alarming scenes of danger, removed generally into their cellars and places of this kind for safety, and were generally safe; but about 20 of them were killed.” The venerable Mrs. Lingard, grandmother of Gov. William Aiken, who resided during the siege in Lingard Street, used, long after, to tell how she and her family were obliged to take refuge in the cellar of her residence on that street.
Gen. Lincoln, in his letter of 4th March, speaks of a battery on James Island, one to the Westward of Fort Johnson. Gen. Moultrie’s diary, of 15th April, calls it “a battery of two guns at Stiles’ place.” This battery was on the present Hinson place, a little East of the clump of trees known as the Hundred Pines; it was sometimes called the Watermelon battery. And it was a shot from this battery which took off the right arm of the Pitt statue, now standing in Washington Square, but which at the time stood on a high pedestal at the intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets.
This paper has extended to such great length that it would render it tedious to mention instances of gallantry during the siege; it must, therefore, be concluded with the following extract from Gen. DuPortail’s letter to Gen. Washington, dated 17th May, 1780, and telling of the surrender: “Fortunately, in all this honor of the American arms is secure, and the enemy have not yet great subject to triumph. To remain forty-two days in open trenches before a town of immense extent, fortified by sandy intrenchments, raised in two months, without covered way, without out-works, open in several places on the water, and exposed everywhere to an open attack, and defended by a garrison which was not by half sufficient, to remain, I say, forty-two days before such a pace, and display all the apparel of a regular siege, is nothing very glorious. The British general has, perhaps, followed the rules of prudence in this conduct, but, at least, the troops under his command will never have subject of boasting of their audaciousness and enterprising spirit. The American troops, on the contrary, have given certain proof of their firmness in supporting a tremendous fire, and remaining all the while exposed to the danger of surprise and open attack, of which the success was almost certain if the enemy had taken the proper measures.”
WILMOT G. DeSASSURE
NOTE: Click here for further information on DeSassure (with several photos), authored by Ill. Bro. Don Burbidge. The article was printed in the Scottish Rite Journal of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, October, 2002.
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