The Patriot Resource - American Revolution


Siege of Charleston
Siege of Charleston


The Siege
On April 2nd, siege works were begun about 800 yards from the American fortifications. During the first few days of the siege, the British operations were under heavy artillery fire. On April 4th, they built redoubts near the Ashley and Cooper Rivers to protect their flanks. On April 6th, a warship was hauled overland from the Ashley River to the Cooper River to harass crossings by the besieged to the mainland. On April 8th, the British fleet moved into the Harbor under fire only from Fort Moultrie.

On April 12th, Lt. General Henry Clinton ordered Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton and Major Patrick Ferguson to capture Monck's Corner, which was a crossroads just south of Biggins Bridge near the Santee River. General Isaac Huger was stationed there 500 men under orders from General Lincoln to hold the crossroads so that communications with Charleston would remain open. On the evening of April 13, 1780, Lt. Colonel Tarleton gave orders for a silent march. Later that night, they intercepted a messenger with a letter from Huger to Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln and thus learned how the rebels were deployed. At three o'clock in the morning on the 14th, the British reached the American post, catching them completely by surprise and quickly routing them. Following the skirmish, the British fanned out across the countryside and effectively cut off Charleston from outside support.

South Carolina Governor John Rutledge left Charleston on April 13th. On the 21th a parlay was made between Lincoln and Clinton, with Lincoln offering to surrender with honor. That is, with colors flying and marching out fully armed, but Clinton was sure of his position and quickly refused the terms. A heavy artillery exchange followed. On April 23rd, Lt. General Charles Cornwallis crossed the Cooper River and assumed command of the British forces blocking escape by land. Finally on April 24th, the Americans ventured out to harass the siege works. The lone American casualty was Tom Moultrie, brother of Brig. General William Moultrie. On April 29th, the British advanced on the left end of the canal that fronted the city's fortifications with the purpose of destorying the dam and draining the canal.

The Americans knew the importance of that canal to the city's defenses and responded with steady and fierce artillery and small arms fire. By the following night, the British had succeeded in draining some water. By May 4th, several casualties had been sustained and the fire had been so heavy that work was often suspended. On the 5th, the Americans made a countermove from their side, but by the 6th, almost all of the water had drained out of the heavily damaged dam and plans for an assault began.

On that same day, May 6th, Fort Moultrie surrendered. On May 8th, General Clinton called for unconditional surrender from General Lincoln, but Lincoln again tried to negotiate for honors of war. On May 11th, the British fired red-hot shot that burned several homes before Lincoln finally called for parlay and to negotiate terms for surrender. The final terms dictated that the entire Continental force captured were prisoners of war. On May 12th, the actual surrender took place with General Lincoln leading a ragged bunch of soldiers out of the city.








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