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Winter, 1974

XXI: 23

South Carolina
Revolutionary Battles: Part II
By 1778 British efforts to suppress the Ameri-
can Revolution in the North had produced a
stalemate. Their military forces had been unable
to destroy George Washington's army or to
divide the colonies and conquer them separately.
The Saratoga campaign had ended in a decisive
British defeat, and France had entered the conflict
on the side of the Americans. In view of this
less than spectacular record, it is understandable
that toward the end of 1778 the King's strategists
turned their attention to the South, where it was
assumed that Loyalist aid would help secure a
rapid victory.

The Southern campaign opened with an expe-
dition against Georgia, comprising an army from
New York commanded by Lieutenant Colonel
Archibald Campbell, which invaded by sea, and
another marching north from Florida, commanded
by Major General Augustine Preyost. Campbell
won an easy victory over General Robert Howe's
Continentals at Savannah on December 29, 1778,
and restored the Royal government in that city;
he then marched up river and occupied Augusta.
Soon afterwards, however, the British advanced
into north Georgia received a serious check, which
intimidated their allies in the back country. On
February 14, 1779, Colonel Andrew Pickens,
Colonel John Dooly, and Lieutenant Colonel Elijah
Clarke attacked and defeated a large force of
Loyalists at the Battle of Kettle Creek, southwest
of present Washington.

At the same time Campbell was moving up the
Savannah River, Prevost was advancing on Beau-
fort, attempting to gain an initial foothold in
South Carolina. Major Gardiner was sent with a
detachment of troops to occupy Port Royal Island,
which was defended by General William Moultrie
with three hundred militia, many of whom were
General Stephen Bull's Beaufort militia. The
British were defeated and driven from the island
on February 3, 1779, in a battle near the old
Halfway House, which stood a few miles north of
Beaufort near the present community of Grays
Hill. This battle was notable for the role played
by militia (General Moultrie said that there were
only nine Continental soldiers in his entire army.)
and because two signers of the Declaration of
Independence, Thomas Heyward, Jr. and Edward
Rutledge, played a decisive role as members of the
Charleston battalion of artillery.1

severe defeat at Brier Creek in Georgia, and that
province was lost to the enemy. General Benjamin
Lincoln, whom Congress had given command of
Continental forces in the South, decided to move
against Augusta with most of his army. General
Prevost countered this move by crossing the
Savannah River with the greater part of his own
army and advancing toward Charleston. Thus
commenced Prevost's Raid, an expedition as re-
nowned in the Carolina low country as the later
march of General Sherman, and for similar rea-
sons. The British were again opposed only by
William Moultrie, who at this time commanded
a larger force containing two Continental regi-
men'ts; he was nevertheless vastly outnumbered
by Prevost's army. Moultrie determined to offer
battle at Tullifinny Hill, in present Jasper County.
However, Colonel John Laurens, who was en-
trusted by Moultrie with the withdrawal of his
rear guard at Coosawhatchie, crossed the river
there on May 3, 1779, and engaged the British,
contrary to his orders. The skirmish was a defeat
for the Americans, in which Laurens himself
and a number of his men were wounded. The
morale of Moultrie's army was so affected by
this reverse, that a retreat to Charleston was
the only practical course.2 The site of this inci-
dent was on the west side of the Coosawhatchie
River, at or near the present town of that name.

The British army followed, crossed the Ashley
River, and besieged the town on May 11. Some
skirmishes took place on the lines, one involving
the noted Polish officer, Casimir Pulaski, in an
engagement with the British advance guard.
Moultrie and Governor John Rutledge carried on
negotiations, stalling for time. Finally, Prevost
received intelligence of General Lincoln's advance
from the west, evacuated his army under the
cover of night, and was gone on the morning of
May 13. The British retreated through the sea
islands, leaving a rear guard on the mainland at
Stono Ferry under Lieutenant Colonel John Mait-
land. On June 20, 1779, General Benjamin Lincoln
attacked this position, and began one of the most
hotly contested battles of the war. The Battle of
Stono was a major conflict of the Revolution in
terms~ of its scale, but it was indecisive because
both sides held their ground so resolutely. There
were many casualties, the most notable being
Colonel Owen Roberts, commander of the Fourth
South Carolina Regiment, who was killed at
Stono.~ This battle site is one of the few which
Robert Mills specifically located on his 1825 atlas
of South Carolina. It took place on the north side
of the Stono River, due south of the modern com-
munity of Rantowles.

Only a month later the Patriots suffered a

There were a number of minor battles during