Battle of Sullivan’s Island
June 28, 1776: The first decisive American victory takes place during the American Revolutionary War. The Battle of Sullivan’s Island found the army of South Carolina under William Moultrie facing attack by Great Britain under Peter Parker and Henry Clinton. Fort Sullivan housed 435 militia and had 31 artillery pieces. Also fighting for the Americans were 3 shore batteries and over 6,000 regulars and militia. The British had 2,200 infantry, 2 fourth-rates (a British ship holding between 46 to 60 guns), 6 frigates, and one bomb vessel. Sullivan’s Island is located at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, one of the most important harbors of early American life. This Battle is sometimes also referred to as the First Siege of Charleston since there was a more successful siege in 1780.
The British had planned an earlier expedition to quell the rebellious southern colonies but it was delayed by logistical concerns and bad weather. The expedition finally reached American waters off the coast of North Carolina in May 1776. The conditions there were not in favor of the British, so General Clinton and Admiral Parker decided to act against Charleston, instead. They arrived in early June and landed on Long Island which was near Sullivan’s Island where Colonel Moultrie was in command of a partially constructed fort. Land assault from one island to the next was impossible since the water between the two was too deep to wade and the American defenses made an amphibious landing untenable. The sandy soil and palmetto log construction of the fort made bombardment ineffective.
In 1775 when the Revolutionary War began, Charleston was a center of commerce in the colonies. The citizens banded together in solidarity against their British tax assessors. When word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord reached Charleston, militia recruitment increased. Throughout 1775 and 1776, fresh recruits from the backcountry, also known as the low country because of the marshy conditions, came to the city to enlist. The city’s manufacturers and tradesmen also prepared for war by turning raw material into war goods, useful for the upcoming confrontations. While most of the fighting was taking place around the Siege of Boston, the British thought to capture lands in the South to give them a better base to work from.
Around 9 AM on this day, a British ship fired a gun, signaling their readiness to engage. In less than an hour, nine ships had arrayed themselves in positions facing the fort and as they reached position and dropped anchor, they began to fire. Moultrie’s men had a limited supply of gunpowder and so had to judiciously pace their shots. They took time and made sure that each shot counted and their guns, according to a British observer, were “exceedingly well directed”. During maneuvers, three British ships were grounded on a sandbar and taken out of action. Moultrie concentrated attacks on the two large man-of-war ships and managed to destroy most of the rigging. As their gunpowder ran low, supplies were shipped in from the mainland so they could continue. The British were driven off and Charleston was safe – for a time.
Always. Ye don’t win with defense–ye only hold the other feller off, or wear him down. Attack and have done with it! – Tamora Pierce
If you suffer an attack your best ally is to keep calm. – Michelangelo Saez
Is there any instinct more deeply implanted in the heart of man than the pride of protection, a protection which is constantly exerted for a fragile and defenceless creature? – Honoré de Balzac
Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength; attacking, a superabundance of strength. – Sun Tzu
Also on this day: The Kelly Gang – In 1880, Ned Kelly was captured.
Going Home – In 2000, Elián González was sent back to Cuba.
Conformation Dog Show – In 1859, the first show was held.
Boxed In – In 1948, Dick Turpin won his boxing match.