Mordecai Gist was a member of a prominent Maryland family who became a general in command of the Maryland Line in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Gist was born in Baltimore, the fourth child of Thomas and Susannah Cockey Gist. Thomas Gist's father, Captain Richard Gist, was the surveyor of Maryland's Eastern Shore and one of the commissioners who laid out Baltimore Town in 1729. Richard Gist's father, Christopher Richard Gist, was an English emigrant who came to the Province of Maryland before 1682 and settled in "South Canton" on the south bank of the Patapsco River. Christopher Richard Gist married Edith Cromwell, believed to have been a relative of Oliver Cromwell. Gist was the nephew of a son of Richard Gist. Christopher Gist was a Colonial-era explorer and frontier settler, employed by the Ohio Company and had served with 21-year-old Colonel George Washington. Mordecai Gist was distantly related to John Eager Howard. Mordecai Gist was educated for commercial pursuits.
At the beginning of the American Revolution, the young men of Baltimore associated under the title of the "Baltimore Independent Company" and elected Gist as their captain. It was the first company raised in Maryland for the defense of popular liberty. In 1776, Gist was appointed major of a battalion of regulars, was with them in the Battle of Long Island where they fought a delaying action at the Old Stone House, allowing the American army to escape encirclement. In January 1779, the Continental Congress appointed him as a brigadier general in the Continental Army, he took the command of the 2nd Maryland Brigade, he fought stubbornly at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina in 1780. At one time after a bayonet charge, his force secured fifty prisoners, but the British under Lord Cornwallis rallied, the Marylanders gave way. Gist escaped, and, a year he was present at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, he joined the southern army under Nathanael Greene, he was given the command of the light corps again when the army was remodelled in 1782.
On August 26, 1782, he rallied the broken forces of the Americans under John Laurens after they had been defeated by a small British foraging party. After the war, Gist relocated to plantation near South Carolina, he was admitted as an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati in both Maryland and South Carolina. He served as the grand master of Freemasons in South Carolina, he had two children, both sons, one of whom he named "Independent" and the other "States." He died on September 12, 1792, at the age of 50, in Charleston and is buried in St. Michael's Churchyard next to his son, States Gist, daughter Susannah Gist. Mordecai Gist was distantly related to States Rights Gist, a brigadier general in the Confederate army during the American Civil War who died of wounds received while leading his brigade in a charge against U. S. fortifications at the Battle of Franklin in November 1864. States Rights Gist was the great-grandson of brother of Mordecai Gist, his papers are held at the Maryland Historical Society.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, J. G.. "Gist, Mordecai". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 3. New York: D. Appleton. P. 663. "Documenting the American South: Colonial and State Records of North Carolina". Docsouth.unc.edu. Retrieved 2015-06-20
Battle of Green Spring
The Battle of Green Spring took place near Green Spring Plantation in James City County, Virginia during the American Revolutionary War. On July 6, 1781 United States Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, leading the advance forces of the Marquis de Lafayette, was ambushed near the plantation by the British army of Earl Charles Cornwallis in the last major land battle of the Virginia campaign prior to the Siege of Yorktown. Following a month of marching and countermarching in central Virginia by Cornwallis and Lafayette, Cornwallis in late June moved to Williamsburg, where he received orders to move to Portsmouth and send some of his army to New York City. Lafayette followed Cornwallis closely, emboldened by the arrival of reinforcements to consider making attacks on the British force. On July 4, Cornwallis departed Williamsburg for Jamestown, planning to cross the James River en route to Portsmouth. Lafayette believed. Cornwallis anticipated Lafayette's idea, laid an elaborate trap. General Wayne's forces were nearly caught in the trap, only a bold bayonet charge against the numerically overwhelming British enabled his forces to retreat.
Cornwallis did not follow the victory instead following his plan to cross the river. The action reinforced the perception among contemporaries that justified the moniker "Mad" to describe Wayne, although opinion on the merits of his actions was divided; the battlefield has been preserved, reenactments are sometimes staged. In May 1781, Earl Charles Cornwallis arrived in Petersburg, Virginia after a lengthy campaign through North and South Carolina. In addition to his 1,400 men, he assumed command of another 3,600, under the command of the turncoat Benedict Arnold, was soon thereafter further reinforced by about 2,000 more sent from New York; these forces were opposed by a much smaller Continental Army force led by the Marquis de Lafayette located at Richmond. Following orders given to Arnold's predecessor in command, William Phillips, Cornwallis worked to eliminate Virginia's ability to support the revolutionary cause, giving chase to Lafayette's army, which numbered 3,000 and included a large number of inexperienced militia.
Lafayette avoided engaging Cornwallis, who used his numerical advantage to detach forces for raids against economic and political targets in central Virginia. After about one month of this activity, Cornwallis turned back to the east, marching for Williamsburg. Lafayette, whose force grew to number about 4,000 with the arrival of Continental Army reinforcements under General Anthony Wayne and additional experienced militiamen under William Campbell, followed Cornwallis. Buoyed by the increase in his troop strength, Lafayette became more aggressive in his tactics, sending out detachments of his force to counteract those that Cornwallis sent on forage and raiding expeditions. One such foray led to a clash at Spencer's Ordinary, a crossroads not far from Williamsburg, in late June; when Cornwallis arrived at Williamsburg, he received orders from General Sir Henry Clinton to go to Portsmouth and prepare a detachment of troops to return to New York City. Pursuant to these orders, Cornwallis began moving south on the Virginia Peninsula on July 4, planning to cross the wide James River at the Jamestown ferry.
Lafayette followed, with advance units and most of his Continentals reaching Norrell's Mill, about 8 miles from the ferry on July 5. Lafayette saw an opportunity to attack the British force as it made the difficult crossing of the James. Cornwallis recognized the possibility, decided to lay a trap, hoping to capture a portion of Lafayette's army, he only sent his baggage train and John Graves Simcoe's Queen's Rangers across the river, concealed his main force near the crossing. Cornwallis sent men to "desert" to the Americans with information that most of the British force had crossed, leaving only a rear guard on the north side of the river; the position where Cornwallis hid his army was well-chosen. To the left, impassable swampy terrain sloped down toward the river. To the right, there was a few ponds; the access from the rest of the mainland toward the ferry was via a 400-yard causeway from the Green Spring Plantation, surrounded by marshlands that an advancing army would have to negotiate.
The earl arranged his army in two lines, with the 76th and 80th regiments along with part of the 43rd and Banastre Tarleton's British Legion on the left, the Brigade of Guards, Hessian auxiliaries on the right. Both wings included light infantry companies. Cornwallis left a small company of German jägers and a few men from the Legion to give the appearance of a rear guard picket, gave them specific orders to resist the American advance as much as possible. Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne led Lafayette's advance company, about 500 men, out early on July 6 from Norrell's Tavern; when Wayne reached Green Spring, he surveyed the terrain and noted the presence of the British guards. When Lafayette came up with his main force, the two men decided to go ahead with the attack, but Lafayette ordered more troops forward from Norrell's Tavern around 1 pm; some minor skirmishing took place. Wayne's 500 soldiers included 200 Virginia riflemen under Majors John Willis and Richard Call backed by additional light infantry led by John Francis Mercer, William Galvan, McPherson.
Colonel Walter Stewart's Pennsylvania Continental battalion formed the reserve. Lafayette sent forward two Pennsylvania Continental battalions under Colonels Richard Butler and Richard Humpton, Major John
Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War
The Southern theatre of the American Revolutionary War was the central area of operations in North America in the second half of the American Revolutionary War. During the first three years of the conflict, the largest military encounters were in the north, focused on campaigns around the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia. After the failure of the Saratoga campaign, the British abandoned operations in the Middle Colonies and pursued peace through subjugation in the Southern Colonies. Before 1778, the southern colonies were dominated by Patriot-controlled governments and militias, although there was a Continental Army presence that played a role in the defense of Charleston in 1776, suppression of Loyalist militias, attempts to drive the British from Loyalist East Florida; the British "southern strategy" commenced in late 1778 with the capture of Savannah, followed in 1780 by operations in South Carolina that included the defeat of two Continental Armies at Charleston and Camden. General Nathanael Greene, who took over as Continental Army commander after Camden, engaged in a strategy of avoidance and attrition against the British.
The two forces fought a string of battles. In all cases, the "victories" strategically weakened the British army by the high cost in casualties, while leaving the Continental Army intact to continue fighting; this was best exemplified by the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Several American victories, such as the Battle of Ramseur's Mill, the Battle of Cowpens, the Battle of Kings Mountain served to weaken the overall British military strength; the culminating engagement, the Siege of Yorktown, ended with the British army's surrender. It marked the end of British power in the Colonies. In most colonies British officials departed as the Patriots took control. In Virginia, the royal governor resisted. In the Gunpowder Incident of April 20, 1775, Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, removed gunpowder stored in Williamsburg to a British warship in the James River. Dunmore saw rising unrest in the colony and was trying to deprive Virginia militia of supplies needed for insurrection. Patriot militia led by Patrick Henry forced Dunmore to pay for the gunpowder.
Dunmore continued to hunt for caches of military equipment and supplies in the following months, acts that were sometimes anticipated by Patriot militia, who would move supplies before his arrival. Dunmore issued an emancipation proclamation in November 1775, promising freedom to runaway slaves who fought for the British. After an incident at Kemp's Landing in November where Dunmore's troops killed and captured Patriot militiamen, Patriot forces defeated Loyalist troops at the Battle of Great Bridge on December 9. Dunmore and his troops retreated to Royal Navy ships anchored off Norfolk. Patriot forces in the town completed the destruction of the former Loyalist stronghold. Dunmore was driven from an island in Chesapeake Bay that summer, never returned to Virginia. Georgia's royal governor, James Wright, nominally remained in power until January 1776, when the unexpected arrival of British ships near Savannah prompted the local Committee of Safety to order his arrest. Georgia Patriots and Loyalists alike believed the fleet had arrived to provide military support to the governor.
Wright reached the fleet. In the Battle of the Rice Boats in early March, the British left Savannah with a number of merchant vessels containing the desired rice supplies. South Carolina's population was politically divided; the lowland communities, dominated by Charleston, were Patriot in their views, while the back country held a large number of Loyalist sympathizers. By August 1775, both sides were recruiting militia companies. In September, Patriot militia seized Fort Johnson, Charleston's major defense works, Governor William Campbell fled to a Royal Navy ship in the harbor; the seizure by Loyalists of a shipment of gunpowder and ammunition intended for the Cherokee caused an escalation in tensions that led to the First Siege of Ninety Six in western South Carolina late November. Patriot recruiting was by outstripping that of the Loyalists, a major campaign involving as many as 5,000 Patriots led by Colonel Richard Richardson succeeded in capturing or driving away most of the Loyalist leadership.
Loyalists fled, either to the Cherokee lands. A faction of the Cherokee, known as the Chickamauga, rose up in support of the British and Loyalists in 1776, they were defeated by militia forces from North and South Carolina. Crucial in any British attempt to gain control of the South was the possession of a port to bring in supplies and men. To this end, the British organized an expedition to establish a strong post somewhere in the southern colonies, sent military leaders to recruit Loyalists in North Carolina; the expedition's departure from Europe was delayed, the Loyalist force, recruited to meet it was decisively defeated in the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in late February 1776. When General Henry Clinton arrived at Cape Fear, North Carolina, in May, he found conditions there unsuitable for a strong post. Scouting by the Royal Navy identified Charleston, whose defenses were unfinished and seemed vulnerable, as a more suitable location. In June 1776, Clinton and Admiral Sir Peter Parker led an assault on Fort Sullivan
Pyle's Massacre known as Pyle's Hacking Match or the Battle of Haw River, was fought during the American Revolutionary War in Orange County, North Carolina, on February 24, 1781, between Patriot and Loyalist North Carolina militia troops. Patriot cavalry commander Continental Army Colonel Henry Lee surprised Loyalist militia under Dr. John Pyle, who thought Lee was the British cavalry commander Banastre Tarleton sent to meet Pyle. Lee's men opened fire and scattering Pyle's force, with Colonel Lee pursuing Tarleton in the direction of Hillsborough, NC, intending to capture or kill his command. British general the Earl Cornwallis had been unable to catch Nathanael Greene's army, who strategically retreated using a screening feint column under Col. Otho Williams, to Dix's Ferry allowing Greene to cross the Dan River at Irwin's and Boyd's Ferry and out of North Carolina. Cornwallis, who had burned his baggage train at Ramsour's Mill, in chasing Greene exhausted his men, who were starving in wet freezing weather with little forage from locals.
All the boats for crossing the Dan River were taken by Greene so that Cornwallis was stranded on the NC side of the river. Cornwallis made an exhaustive trip South,establishing a headquarters to regroup and recover at Hillsborough, North Carolina, a colonial outpost city, on February 21 to rally Loyalists to his side. Dr. John Pyle had moved to Chatham County in 1767. Noted for his loyalty to the King, he had assisted the Governor in the War of the Regulation, though he was not at the Battle of Alamance; when Cornwallis appealed for Loyalist volunteers, Pyle gathered between 400 men. He requested Cornwallis provide his men with an escort, Banastre Tarleton with his cavalry and a small force of infantry, a total of about 450 men, marched to lead Pyle to safety. General Greene spent days in Virginia from the 15th to the 22nd, where he was able to resupply, feed his troops, medically recover his wounded and gain reinforcements. On February 17 he detached Colonel Henry Lee with his cavalry, Colonel Andrew Pickens with Maryland infantry and South Carolina militia, to recross the Dan and monitor British activity.
This force crossed the Dan on February 18 and set up a hidden camp along the road between Hillsborough and Haw River crossing points. From there Lee sent scouts to watch for British movements. Word came the next morning. Lee and Pickens followed behind Tarleton, they learned, had camped near the Haw. A planned attack was called off when scouts reported that Tarleton had again moved, after the militia companies he was expecting to meet did not show up. Pyle's force had delayed its movement to visit with family and friends before setting off. At noon on February 24, Lee and Pickens captured two British staff officers and learned through interrogation that Tarleton was only a few miles ahead. In the waning hours of the day, Lee's Legion, who wore short green jackets and plumed helmets, encountered two of Pyle's men, who mistook them for Tarleton's dragoons, who wore similar uniforms. Lee learned that Pyle's troops were nearby. Lee instructed Pickens' riflemen to flank Pyle's position, trotted into the camp in full salute.
Lee exchanged customary civilities with Colonel Pyle and began shaking his hand when the sounds of battle commenced. The most accepted account of the battle, pieced together from reports from Lee and Captain Joseph Graham, indicates that Lee's deception was purely chance, that he had intended to avoid the Loyalists, intending instead to encounter Tarleton's Dragoons, the more important objective; the sounds of battle commenced when the militia at the rear of Lee's Legion, recognizing the strips of red cloth on the hats of Pyle's men as the badge of Loyalists, alerted Captain Eggleston, new to the South and was not familiar with local Whig and Tory badges. When he asked one of the Loyalists which side he was on, the man replied "King George", Eggleston responded by striking him on the head with his sabre. Seeing this, Pickens' riflemen joined in the attack; the cavalry line turned and attacked the Loyalists. Pyle's men broke and ran. Many Loyalists, believing the attack to be a mistake, continued insisting they were on King George's side, to no avail.
After 10 minutes, the remaining Loyalists had fled, 93 Loyalists were known to be dead more were wounded and others were seen being carried off by friends. According to local legend, John Pyle was badly wounded in the battle and crawled into a nearby pond where he concealed himself until he could be rescued. After recovering from his wounds, he surrendered to the local militia, they were pardoned because of Dr. Pyle's care for wounded patriots. Pickens and Lee never caught up with Tarleton, since Cornwallis ordered him to rejoin the main army on the night of February 24. Though pursued, Tarleton got too close to the main British army for Pickens and Lee to attack safely. Additionally, Nathanael Greene's recovered army crossed the Dan River back into NC on February 22, proceeding for contact and action at Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. Lee and Pickens broke off to screen and join the campaign, their task to demoralize and discourage Loyalist volunteers from adding to the diminishing British forces having been successful.
Battle of Musgrove Mill
The Battle of Musgrove Mill, August 19, 1780, occurred near a ford of the Enoree River, near the present-day border between Spartanburg and Union Counties in South Carolina. During the course of the battle, 200 Patriot militiamen defeated a combined force of 300 Loyalist militiamen and 200 provincial regulars. By the summer of 1780, the war that raged in the backcountry of South Carolina had become America’s first civil war. Few men engaged on either side had seen Great Britain, backcountry fighting tended to be brutal and retaliatory. On the evening of August 18, two hundred mounted Patriot partisans under joint command of Colonels Isaac Shelby, James Williams, Elijah Clarke prepared to raid a Loyalist camp at Musgrove’s Mill, which controlled the local grain supply and guarded a ford of the Enoree River; the Patriots anticipated surprising a garrison of about an equal number of Loyalists, but a local farmer informed them that the Tories had been reinforced by about a hundred Loyalist militia and two hundred provincial regulars on their way to join British Major Patrick Ferguson.
With their position compromised by an enemy patrol and horses unable to go on without rest, the Patriots understood that they must stand and fight despite being outnumbered better than two to one. At the top of a ridge across the road leading down to Musgrove Mill, the partisans formed a semicircular breastwork of brush and fallen timber about three hundred yards long. In the best tradition of guerrilla tactics, a band of about twenty men under the leadership of Captain Shadrach Inman crossed the Enoree and engaged the enemy. Feigning confusion they retreated back toward the line of ambush until the Loyalists were nearly on the Patriot line; when the Loyalists spotted the Patriot line, they fired too early. The Patriots, held their fire until the Loyalists got within killing range of their muskets. Patriot musket fire operated “with devastating effect.” Nonetheless, the Tory regulars were well disciplined and nearly overwhelmed the Patriot right flank with a bayonet charge. Isaac Shelby ordered his reserve of “Overmountain Men” to support him, they rushed into the battle shrieking Indian war cries.
The Tories wavered, when a number of their officers went down, they broke—although not before Captain Inman, who had a key role in implementing the Patriot strategy, was killed on the battlefield. Patriots ran from their positions “yelling and slashing on every hand.” The whole battle took an hour. Within that period, sixty-three Tories were killed, an unknown number wounded, seventy were taken prisoner; the Patriots lost only about twelve wounded. Patriots, 200 to 300 men:North Carolina and Georgia militia under command of Colonel Isaac Shelby: Sullivan County Regiment of North Carolina militia Burke County Regiment of North Carolina militia Washington County Regiment of North Carolina militia Wilkes County regiment of Georgia militiaSouth Carolina militia under command of Col. James Williams and Major Samuel Hammond 1st Spartan regiment 2nd Spartan regiment Roebuck's Battalion of Spartan Lower District regiment Little River District regimentBritish and Loyalists under the command of Lt. Col. Alexander Innis South Carolina loyalists New Jersey Volunteers DeLancey's Brigade, 1st Battalion Fanning's South Carolina Loyalist militia Dutch Fork Regiment of Loyalist militia Some Whig leaders considered attacking the Tory stronghold at Ninety Six, South Carolina.
Shelby’s forces covered sixty miles with Ferguson in hot pursuit before making good their escape. In the wake of General Horatio Gates’ blundering defeat at Camden, the victory at Musgrove Mill heartened the Patriots and served as further evidence that the South Carolina backcountry could not be held by the Tories. Shelby and his Overmountain Men fled back over the Appalachian Mountains and into the territory of the Watauga Association at Sycamore Shoals in present-day Elizabethton, by the next month on September 25, 1780, Colonels Shelby, John Sevier, Charles McDowell and their 600 Overmountain Men had combined forces with Col. William Campbell and his 400 Virginia men at the Sycamore Shoals muster in advance of the October 7, 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain near present-day Blacksburg, South Carolina; the Musgrove Mill battlefield is preserved at the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Musgrove Mill State Historic Site. Loyalist Institute website, photographs of battle site.
National Register Properties in South Carolina, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, includes photographs of the park and battle site
Battle of the Chesapeake
The Battle of the Chesapeake known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American Revolutionary War that took place near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781. The combatants were a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves and a French fleet led by Rear Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse; the battle was strategically decisive, in that it prevented the Royal Navy from reinforcing or evacuating the besieged forces of Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. The French were able to achieve control of the sea lanes against the British and provided the Franco-American army with siege artillery and French reinforcements; these proved decisive in the Siege of Yorktown securing independence for the Thirteen Colonies. Admiral de Grasse had the option to attack British forces in either Virginia. Admiral Graves learned that de Grasse had sailed from the West Indies for North America and that French Admiral de Barras had sailed from Newport, Rhode Island.
He concluded. He sailed south from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, outside New York harbour, with 19 ships of the line and arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake early on 5 September to see de Grasse's fleet at anchor in the bay. De Grasse hastily prepared most of his fleet for battle—24 ships of the line—and sailed out to meet him; the two-hour engagement took place after hours of maneuvering. The lines of the two fleets did not meet; the battle was fairly evenly matched, although the British suffered more casualties and ship damage, it broke off when the sun set. The British tactics have been a subject of debate since; the two fleets sailed within view of each other for several days, but de Grasse preferred to lure the British away from the bay where de Barras was expected to arrive carrying vital siege equipment. He broke away from the British on 13 September and returned to the Chesapeake, where de Barras had since arrived. Graves returned to New York to organize a larger relief effort. During the early months of 1781, both pro-British and rebel separatist forces began concentrating in Virginia, a state that had not had action other than naval raids.
The British forces were led at first by the turncoat Benedict Arnold, by William Phillips before General Charles, Earl Cornwallis, arrived in late May with his southern army to take command. In June he marched to Williamsburg, where he received a confusing series of orders from General Sir Henry Clinton that culminated in a directive to establish a fortified deep-water port. In response to these orders, Cornwallis moved to Yorktown in late July, where his army began building fortifications; the presence of these British troops, coupled with General Clinton's desire for a port there, made control of the Chesapeake Bay an essential naval objective for both sides. On the 21st of May Generals George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau the commanders of the Continental Army and the Expédition Particulière, met to discuss potential operations against the British and Loyalists, they considered either an assault or siege on the principal British base at New York City, or operations against the British forces in Virginia.
Since either of these options would require the assistance of the French fleet in the West Indies, a ship was dispatched to meet with French Rear Admiral François Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse, expected at Cap-Français, outlining the possibilities and requesting his assistance. Rochambeau, in a private note to de Grasse, indicated that his preference was for an operation against Virginia; the two generals moved their forces to White Plains, New York, to study New York's defenses and await news from de Grasse. De Grasse arrived at Cap-Français on 15 August, he dispatched his response to Rochambeau's note, that he would make for the Chesapeake. Taking on 3,200 troops, De Grasse sailed from Cap-Français with his entire fleet, 28 ships of the line. Sailing outside the normal shipping lanes to avoid notice, he arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on August 30, disembarked the troops to assist in the land blockade of Cornwallis. Two British frigates that were supposed to be on patrol outside the bay were trapped inside the bay by de Grasse's arrival.
British Admiral George Brydges Rodney, tracking de Grasse around the West Indies, was alerted to the latter's departure, but was uncertain of the French admiral's destination. Believing that de Grasse would return a portion of his fleet to Europe, Rodney detached Rear Admiral Sir Samuel Hood with 14 ships of the line and orders to find de Grasse's destination in North America. Rodney, ill, sailed for Europe with the rest of his fleet in order to recover, refit his fleet, to avoid the Atlantic hurricane season. Sailing more directly than de Grasse, Hood's fleet arrived off the entrance to the Chesapeake on 25 August. Finding no French ships there, he sailed for New York. Meanwhile, his colleague and commander of the New York fleet, Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves, had spent several weeks trying to intercept a convoy organized by John Laurens to bring much-needed supplies and hard currency from France to Boston; when Hood arrived at New York, he found that Graves was in port, but h
Siege of Charleston
The Siege of Charleston was a major engagement and major British victory, fought between March 29 to May 12, 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. The British, following the collapse of their northern strategy in late 1777 and their withdrawal from Philadelphia in 1778, shifted their focus to the American Southern Colonies. After six weeks of siege, Major General Benjamin Lincoln, commanding the Charleston garrison, surrendered his forces to the British, resulting in one of the worst American defeats of the war. By late 1779, two major British strategic efforts had failed. An army invading from Quebec under John Burgoyne had surrendered to the Americans under Horatio Gates at the Battles of Saratoga, compelling the Kingdom of France and Spain to declare war on Great Britain in support of the Americans. Meanwhile, a strategic effort led by Sir William Howe to capture the Revolutionary capital of Philadelphia had met with limited success. Having replaced his superior as Commander-in-Chief of the American Station, Sir Henry Clinton withdrew all his forces back to New York City to reinforce the city against a possible Franco-American attack.
Stymied by the Fabian strategy adopted by George Washington, under increasing political pressure to deliver victory, the British turned to launching their "Southern Strategy" for forcing a capitulation of the Americans. The British were persuaded, it was expected. The opening British move was the Capture of Savannah, Georgia in December 1778. After repulsing an assault on Savannah by a combined Franco-American force in October 1779, the British planned to capture Charleston, South Carolina, intending to use the city as a base for further operations in the southern colonies. Sir Henry Clinton evacuated Newport, Rhode Island in Oct. 1779, left the substantial garrison of New York City under the command of Wilhelm von Knyphausen. In December, the day after Christmas 1779, Clinton and his second in command Charles Cornwallis, sailed southward with 8,500 troops and 5,000 sailors on 90 troopships and 14 warships. After a stormy voyage, the fleet anchored in Savannah River on 1 Feb. 1780. By 12 Feb. Clinton had landed his army 30 miles south of Charleston on Simmons Island.
By 24 Feb. the British had crossed the Stono River onto James Island, by 10 March, Lord Cornwallis had made it to the mainland. By 22 March, they had advanced to Middleton Place and Drayton Hall, on 29 March 1780, crossed the Ashley River. Cutting the city off from relief, Clinton began a siege of the city on April 1, 800 yards from the American fortifications located at today's Marion Square. Whipple, deciding the bar was undefendable, ended up scuttling his fleet at the mouth of the Cooper River. Arbuthnot, on 8 April, brought his 14 vessels safely into the harbor, past the roaring guns of Fort Moultrie, the same day Woodford arrived with 750 Virginia Continentals. In order to consolidate British control of the immediate area, Clinton dispatched Banastre Tarleton and Patrick Ferguson to capture Monck's Corner on 14 April. On 18 April, Lt. Col. Lord Rawdon arrived with 2,500 men, including the 42nd Highlanders, the Hessian von Ditfurth Regiment, the Queen's Rangers, Prince of Wales American Volunteers, the Volunteers of Ireland.
Charleston was completely surrounded. Governor John Rutledge escaped on 13 April, before Cornwallis crossed the Cooper River, joined Webster in blocking escape from the left bank. On 21 April, Lincoln requested a surrender with "honours of war", rejected by Clinton. On 25 April, civilians led by Christopher Gadsden prevented any action on Lincoln's part in withdrawing the Continental regiments. On 6 May, Tarleton won another engagement in the Battle of Lenud's Ferry, while the British siege works had advanced far enough towards the Charleston fortifications to drain the canal in front. On 7 May, Fort Moultrie surrendered without a fight. On May 8, Clinton called for Lincoln's unconditional surrender, but Lincoln again attempted to negotiate for the honours of war. On May 11, Gadsden and other citizens asked Lincoln to surrender. While on the same day, the British fired heated shot into the city, burning several homes, compelling Lincoln to call for a parlay to negotiate terms for surrender. On May 12, Lincoln formally surrendered 3,371 men to the British.
When word reached the back-country, the American troops holding Ninety-Six and Camden surrendered to the British. The British captured some 5,266 prisoners, 311 artillery pieces, 9,178 artillery rounds, 5,916 muskets, 33,000 rounds of ammunition, 15 Regimental colours, 49 ships and 120 boats, plus 376 barrels of flour, large magazines of rum and indigo. Following the surrender, the captured ordnance was brought to a powder magazine. A Hessian officer warned that some of the guns might still be loaded. One prematurely fired, detonating 180 barrels of powder, further discharging 5,000 muskets in the magazine; the accident killed 200 people and destroyed six houses. The prisoners of the siege were diverted to multiple locations, including prison shops, the old barracks where the College of Charleston is today, the Old Exchange and Provost "Dungeon". Prison hulks awaited the majority of the 2,571 Continental prisoners, while parole was granted to the militia and civilians who promised not to take up arms.
However, this meant there no longer existed an American army in the South. The defeat was a serious blow to the American cause, it was the largest surrender of an American force under arms, until the 1862 surrender of Union troops at Harper's Ferry during the Antietam Campaign. The surrender left no substantial army in the South, the colonies were