Revolutionary War in Mount Pleasant

Haddrell’s Point Fascine Battery (circa 1775)

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In December 1775, the Council of Safety ordered Colonel William Moultrie to erect a “fascine battery for four cannon, 18-pounders, at Haddrell’s Point with all convenient dispatch.” He was directed to use two hundred men commanded by a major to construct this battery. Captain Barnard Beekman would provide the artillery regiment to serve as the garrison. The battery was placed at a strategic location on the southern tip of Haddrell’s Point to defend the inner harbor and the Hog Island channel. Named for an early settler, Haddrell’s Point was along the shore facing Charles Town and extended from Shem Creek to Cove Inlet.

Major Charles Cotesworth Pinckney commanding four captains, eight junior officers, and two hundred privates joined by a number of mechanics and laborers crossed the harbor under the cover of darkness on December 19, 1775. John Drayton recorded that “on landing at Haddrell’s Point, they fell to work with such spirit, that by daylight they were covered from the shot of the ships,” meaning the walls of the battery were erected. On the following day, the embrasures were completed, gun platforms laid, and the four guns were mounted.

The battery was fifty-eight feet long and protected along the exposed front with 228 fascines. Fascines were long bundles of sticks bound together and used in the building or strengthening of military earthworks and batteries. They were used as early as the Roman Empire era and the technique continued through World War II. As instructed, the new battery was armed with four 18-pound guns on field carriages.

In late December, the new battery successfully chased off the HMS Tamar and HMS Cherokee, still anchored in Charleston Harbor. The British ships moved and set anchor off Sullivan’s Island until they left the region completely on January 6, 1776.

The battery was located at the end of present-day Schweers Lane, adjacent to Pitt Street. The site of the fascine battery was later the site of the Mount Pleasant Mortar Battery and Battery Gary during the Civil War.

Fort Sullivan (circa 1776)

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In early January 1776, the Charles Town Council of Safety decided to build a fascine battery on Sullivan’s Island until a more permanent fort could be constructed. Men from the 1st and 2nd Regiments were transferred to Sullivan’s Island as a covering party for the laborers. When the battery was ready, Colonel William Moultrie was ordered “to fire upon any ships of war, boats, or other vessels belonging to the enemy attempting to approach, pass, or land troops upon the island …”

In the winter of 1776, Sullivan’s Island was a wilderness, with deep swamps, and covered with live oak, myrtle, and palmetto trees. Laborers and mechanics were assigned to make a clearing for the new fort. On March 2, intelligence reached Charles Town that the British at New York were preparing an expedition against the city. Moultrie was given command of the efforts on Sullivan’s Island to build “a large fort sufficient to contain 1,000 men.” Captain Peter Horry described the fort as an “immense pen, 500 feet long and 16 feet wide, filled with sand to stop the shot.”

On June 8, General Charles Lee arrived in Charles Town to assume command of all American forces. He was unimpressed with the Sullivan’s Island fort, feeling that any British ships that could reach the Cove would enfilade the fort’s front platform. To address this vulnerability, Moultrie ordered that an earthen traverse be thrown up to divide the fort and shield the gun crews on the front platforms. With no line of retreat for Moultrie and his men, Lee felt that the fort was nothing more than “a slaughter pen.” He proposed to withdraw Moultrie and abandon the fort. John Rutledge, president of the Republic of South Carolina, disagreed and ordered Moultrie to stay.

The fort was a square with a bastion at each angle. The walls, made of palmetto logs bolted together, were twenty feet high and sixteen feet wide. The vast interior of the walls was filled with sand and was ten feet above the platforms where planks, two inches thick, and fastened with wooden spikes served as the gun platforms. The platforms were supported by brick pillars.

Only the southeastern and southwestern walls of the fort were finished when the British fleet arrived in June 1776. The northern walls were unfinished with palmetto walls only installed to a height of seven feet. The fort was armed with an assortment of thirty-one guns ranging from 9-pounders to as large as French 26-pounders. Narrow banquettes were constructed along the walls for soldiers to stand on and fire muskets and rifles through the loop-holes installed.

While the unfinished fort was intended for a garrison of 1,000 men, Moultrie only had 344 officers and men from the 2nd South Carolina Regiment and twenty men from the 4th South Carolina Artillery. Colonel William Moultrie served as commander with Lt. Col. Isaac Motte commanding the right flank and Major Francis Marion commanding the left.

The attacking British fleet was composed of nine man-of-war ships with a total of nearly 300 guns. The British ships unleashed a fearsome barrage of shot, but they had little to no effect, either bouncing off the palmetto log walls or burying in the sand. With only a tenth as many guns and a shortage of gunpowder, Moultrie’s men fired in volleys of four guns at a time. One British engineer reported, “Their fire was surprisingly well served” and was “slow, but decisive indeed; they were very cool and took care not to fire except their guns were exceedingly well directed.” In the twelve hour battle, British casualties were more than 220, while American casualties were only 37.

The Battle of Fort Sullivan was the first significant American victory of the Revolutionary War. After the battle, the fort was renamed Fort Moultrie, in honor of its intrepid commander. Fort Sullivan was located on the beach just in front of present-day Fort Moultrie.

Redoubt on Inland Waterway (circa 1776)

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In June 1776, General Charles Lee strategically positioned troops and guns around the Charles Town region. Brigadier General John Armstrong commanded all American troops in Christ Church Parish. He spread 1,500 men, including troops from Virginia, North Carolina, the 5th & 6th South Carolina Infantry, and the militia artillery, from the Haddrell’s Point Fascine Battery along the shoreline facing Sullivan’s Island for the defense of the mainland.

There were several small redoubts constructed along the shoreline of the mainland including this square redoubt at a boat landing along the inland waterway. Lt. Colonel Thomas Sumter and the 6th South Carolina Regiment with the militia artillery were stationed here as reinforcements during the June 1776 attack on Fort Sullivan.

The earthen redoubt, just more than two miles northeast of Haddrell’s Point, was armed with two 12-pounders, capable of defending the Sullivan’s Island Narrows Creek. The redoubt did not see any action during the June 28 Attack on Fort Sullivan and it was later abandoned by the American army. The same site was later used as Kinloch’s Landing Battery during the Civil War.

Haddrell’s Point Barracks (circa 1777)

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Sometime after late 1777, the American army began construction on a barracks complex for soldiers at Haddrell’s Point. In 1780, the barracks were being used as a hospital when it was captured by the British on April 26. Uzal Johnson, a Loyalist surgeon with the British army, noted that they were “… very good Barracks if finished…”

On May 12, 1780, General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered the American army and Charles Town to British General Sir Henry Clinton. The American enlisted men totaling 2,861 were held as prisoners-of-war in barracks located on the Charleston Neck. The 274 American officers were all sent to be held as POWs, confined to the Haddrell’s Point barracks. As part of the surrender terms, officers were allowed to keep their swords, pistols, and baggage. One Hessian officer theorized that the officers were separated “to reduce the threat of a secret uprising.”

The brick barracks, located a mile from the harbor, were too small to accommodate the large number of officers. Some officers built small huts in the woods nearby for their quarters. Colonel William Moultrie and Colonel Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were allowed to confine themselves at Snee Farm, and Lt. Colonel Samuel Hopkins of Virginia was confined at Lempriere’s Point.

Officers were held on the honor system that they would not escape. However, after frequent escapes in May and June, Moultrie and other senior officers housed elsewhere were returned to Haddrell’s Point in hopes that they could maintain order per the conditions of surrender. Officers could move within the limits of Christ Church Parish, and some traveled to the harbor and other waterways to fish and collect shellfish.

Tensions did arise on July 4, 1780, when American officers gathered at the barracks “to celebrate the Anniversary of Independence.” British Captain J. B. Roberts, commander of Fort Arbuthnot (formerly Fort Moultrie), complained “that the conduct of the rebels at the barracks at Haddrell’s-point, during the course of this night, has been very irregular and improper. Not contented to celebrate this day, of their supposed Independence, with music, illuminations, etc. they have presumed to discharge a number of small arms …”

Moultrie, writing British Brigadier General Pattison in Charles Town, offered, “I had the satisfaction of being there, and can assure you I saw no ‘indecent abuse, or gross outrage’ in any manner committed … some women danced for two or three hours. I am sorry to find that some pistols were fired, which, at the same time, I disapprove. I trust they will not take it in the light, they seem to have done; that they will not imagine any gross outrage was meant, where none was intended; but impute it to the warmth of a cause which the continental officers at Haddrell’s-point have embraced through principle; in which some of them bled; and for which all of them are now suffering.”

Even though conditions were already overcrowded, American officers captured at the Battle of Camden in August 1780 were also sent to the Haddrell’s Point barracks.

The three brick buildings of the barracks were arranged in a horseshoe at modern-day McCants, Pherigo, and Adulah streets.

Gadsden Bridge Redoubt (circa 1780)

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Prior to the June 28, 1776 British attack on Fort Sullivan, American engineer Captain J. Ferdinand DeBraham served as the Chief Engineer for Colonel Moultrie and was tasked with building a useable bridge across the Sullivan’s Island Narrows Creek as an avenue of escape from Sullivan’s Island. It was considered at first to build a “bridge of boats,” but there were not enough boats to cover the distance of almost a mile. DeBraham then planned to build a “floating bridge” using empty hogsheads anchored by a series of hooks and clamps. After the hogsheads were in place, planks were installed across the floating hogsheads.

In order to test the floating bridge, Lt. Colonel Thomas Clark and 200 men marched from Haddrell’s Point to attempt to cross the bridge. The men were less than halfway across before the bridge started to sink. Fortunately, Clark and his men quickly withdrew before a catastrophe occurred. Frustrated, General Lee replaced DeBraham with Lt. Nicholas Massenburg in late June as a result of his failed bridge.

In September 1776, General Christopher Gadsden oversaw the construction of a new permanent bridge which took nine months to complete. The bridge had four arches built in the supports to allow for the free movement of the tides. It was said to be “3,517 feet long and wide enough for a dozen men to walk abreast.” One observer asserted there was “nothing like it on the continent.”

At the Haddrell’s Point side, a small redoubt was built on the causeway leading to the bridge. The number and size of guns is unknown. The causeway redoubt was approximately 150 yards from the mainland. After the fall of Lempriere’s Point Battery on April 28, the only fortifications controlled by Americans east of the Cooper River were the Gadsden Bridge Redoubt and Fort Moultrie. The redoubt was held by twenty men with the 1st South Carolina Regiment commanded by Captain John Williams.

On May 2, British Major Patrick Ferguson led sixty troops on an attack on the Gadsden Bridge Redoubt. Ferguson divided his men with one-half attacking from the right flank and the other attacking down the causeway at the center of the redoubt. The tide was so low that the troops approaching on the right flank were moving across dry land. The other British troops, led by Captain Abraham DePeyster, were approaching in knee-deep water. Williams’s men offered little resistance, but Ferguson’s men were under fire from guns at Fort Moultrie until dark. The capture of this redoubt now cut off all American communications with Fort Moultrie, leaving them isolated.

Haddrell’s Point Redoubt (circa 1780)

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The Haddrell’s Point Redoubt, located along the shoreline just north of the 1776 Fascine Battery, was positioned to defend the mouth of the Hog Island Channel. Anticipating the advance of Admiral Arbuthnot and his fleet, General Lincoln placed obstructions, including three large ships, two brigs, and a variety of smaller vessels, in the channel between Shute’s Folly and Charles Town. The American warships were moved to take position in the Cooper River. The only route for the British fleet to reach Charles Town or the Cooper River was via the Hog Island Channel, which was both narrower and shallower than the main channel.

On April 8, Admiral Arbuthnot and the British fleet dashed past Fort Moultrie to anchor in the harbor just off Fort Johnson, now controlled by the British army. The three gun redoubt, armed with formidable 18-pound guns, was an effective deterrent, giving Arbuthnot serious pause about attempting to send his ships through the Hog Island channel. With Fort Moultrie’s strategic role diminished after the British fleet sailed past it, Colonel Charles Cotesworth Pinckney moved from Fort Moultrie to the Haddrell’s Point Redoubt.

British General Sir Henry Clinton needed Arbuthnot’s ships in the Cooper River to compliment his ground troops’ attacks on the Charles Town neck, but Arbuthnot would not attempt the movement unless Clinton’s troops controlled Christ Church Parish and silenced the American fortifications there. On April 22, Arbuthnot communicated to Clinton that “Rebel” batteries at Haddrell’s Point “prevents me from sending armed vessels I intended through Hog Island Channel.”

On April 29, a British galley Comet ran aground at the entrance to the Hog Island Channel. Americans at Haddrell’s Point destroyed the ship as it sat helpless in the shallow water.

The Haddrell’s Point Redoubt was in the vicinity of modern-day Middle Street in Mount Pleasant.

Shem Creek Lunette (circa 1780)

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A small temporary earthwork lunette was constructed just south of Shem Creek behind the Jacob Motte house (now known as the Hibben House). This lunette was constructed to defend the Hog Island Channel.

Lord Cornwallis moved with troops beginning at 2:00 am on April 26, 1780, from his camp at Wappetaw Bridge and marched seventeen miles to Haddrell’s Point. At the time, this lunette was armed with one 18-pounder. The small post of American troops at the battery learned of Cornwallis’ advance and abandoned the battery prior to the arrival of the British troops.

When Cornwallis did arrive in the afternoon he found the battery evacuated. Surprisingly, Cornwallis did not remain and occupy Haddrell’s Point. Understanding that General Clinton did not want him to take a fixed position, Cornwallis was determined to return to Wappetaw Bridge to avert the escape of any American troops in Charles Town. The British troops spiked the one gun at the battery, foraged for food and supplies, and rested for a short term. His countermarch started at 1:00 am on April 27, less than twelve hours after he occupied the American battery.

The site of the Shem Creek Lunette was used by Confederate troops during the Civil War to construct the Hibben Street Battery. The site of the fortifications from the two wars is located behind the Hibben House on a high bluff at the western terminus of Hibben Street in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant overlooking Charleston Harbor.

Lempriere’s Point Battery (circa 1780)

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Lempriere’s Point was located on the northwest shore of Mount Pleasant at the mouth of the Wando River. The property was part of a plantation owned by Captain Clement Lempriere and the location of Lempriere’s Ferry that offered daily runs to and from Charles Town.

In April 1780 as he faced the British laying siege on Charles Town, American General Benjamin Lincoln needed the Wando and Cooper Rivers open so reinforcements and supplies could reach Charles Town via the Santee and Wando Rivers. Lincoln sent Colonel Francois Lellorquis, Marquis de Malmedy and 200 North Carolina militia to “secure the seaward passes on the Cooper River.” They established a defensive work at Cainhoy, nine miles from Charles Town. They also fortified Lempriere’s Point with the assistance of Colonel Louis Antoine Jean Baptiste, Chevalier de Cambray-Digny, one of Lincoln’s engineers.

The strong fortification was built in two parts. An extensive battery was built along the shoreline overlooking the mouths of the Wando and Cooper Rivers. Earthworks were also constructed facing inland. The terrain at Lempriere’s Point afforded natural protection from an infantry attack landside given an extensive marsh area on the southern flank.

On April 11, four 18-pound guns were transferred from Fort Moultrie to Lempriere’s Point. They were placed on the harbor wall to sink any British ships that might run for the Cooper and Wando Rivers. Two 4-pounders and five swivel guns were also sent to the new fortification. These guns were placed along the east wall as anti-infantry weapons.

Lincoln, in writing to Malmedy, expressed, “I need not remind you that your post is critical and that the greatest precaution is necessary.” Colonel Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was sent from Fort Moultrie to Lempriere’s Point to help oversee the final construction. Additionally, Lt. Colonel John Laurens with 100 light infantry was sent to join the 200 troops already at Lempriere’s Point.

The Lempriere’s Point Battery was the last open communication between Charles Town and the South Carolina backcountry. It was also the only reliable escape route for the American army if Lincoln chose to leave the city to avoid capture.

On April 19, Cornwallis sent troops from the American volunteers, North Carolina Loyalist militia, 33rd Regiment of Foot, and the 64th Regiment of Foot commanded by Colonel Patrick Ferguson to attack the Lempriere’s Point Battery. After a brief exchange of fire, Ferguson promptly determined that the battery was too strong given the number of men in his command. The British begged a quick retreat. Lord Cornwallis reported to General Clinton that he determined he could not attack the fort in the day because of support from American ships in the Cooper River and could not attack at night because of the intricate design of the earthworks. He asserted that “the works as they appeared to me … would subject an attempt to storm them to considerable loss.”

Lincoln decided to return Laurens and his light infantry to Charles Town and sent Malmedy 75 additional North Carolina militiamen instead.

Early on April 26, Cornwallis, commanding troops from the American Volunteers, the 23rd Regiment of Foot, and the Volunteers of Ireland, marched seventeen miles from Wappetaw Bridge to Haddrell’s Point. After meeting no resistance, Cornwallis returned to Wappetaw.

Malmedy assumed that Cornwallis would next set his sights on Lempriere’s Point. On April 27, American scouts encountered a patrol of British dragoons in Christ Church Parish. When they reported back at Lempriere’s Point, Malmedy incorrectly assumed that Cornwallis was marching in strength to attack his position. Without waiting to see the arrival of the British, Malmedy spiked his guns and ordered a hasty retreat by boat to Charles Town. General Lachlan McIntosh in Charles Town noted that Malmedy “retreated in great confusion across the River.” In fact, one boat transporting three officers and eighty men mistakenly sailed into the Hog Island Channel and was captured by the British. The British quickly occupied Lempriere’s Point.

Lincoln was shocked to see Malmedy in Charles Town. With Lempriere’s Point now in the hands of the British, the Americans lost the last route for supplies, reinforcements, or escape.

The Lempriere’s Point Battery was located at just south of Molasses Creek and Hobcaw Point in the footprint of modern-day streets On the Harbor Drive, 5th Avenue, and 2nd Street at Remley Point. During the Civil War, the Hobcaw Point Battery was located north of Lempriere’s Point and Molasses Creek.