Statistics of Siege at Charleston

Patriot Commander:
Major General Benjamin Lincoln
British Commander:
Major General Henry Clinton

Images of the Siege at Charleston


Siege Of Charleston

In the summer of 1776 the British made an attempt to seize Charleston, South Carolina but were unsuccessful. The British troops at sea were relying on the troops on land to get rid of any coastal continental armies. The land troops of the British encountered swamps and deep trenches in their attempt to attack Charleston. After having failed in 1776, the British retreated to New York after receiving word of naval ships in the New York area. British would plan to return to the Charleston to take over. The British believed that there were many loyalists in the southern colonies in 1779, and after the loss at Saratoga the British focused on the southern colonies, strategizing to take over.

After being defeated at Saratoga the British sailed to the coast of Georgia, where they proceeded to take over Augusta, Georgia and take control over Georgia; this is after they forced a small group of the continental army into South Carolina. After gaining control of Georgia, General Sir Henry Clinton wanted to send his troops into South Carolina to take over Charleston. Clinton sent General Charles Cornwallis and 8,500 men to Charleston in February of 1780. The British will be digging trenches and setting up a classic European siege in the next three months. As the British dug their trenches both sides exchanged weaponry fire. Americans tried to disrupt the British attempting to dig their trenches, but the British prevailed. In early May of 1780 the British forces progressed within a few feet of Charleston. On May 9th many wooden houses in Charleston caught fire from British gunfire.

On May 12th 1780 General Cornwallis’s men attack Charleston. The Patriots did not have a chance therefore General Lincoln surrendered. The British took all supplies and ammunition. The British also freed the colonists if they agreed not to bear arms against the British Crown. Clinton realized he needed more men and sent for more. The Continental army, sent by General George Washington, went from Delaware to Maryland and then to Charleston under the lead of Major General Baron de Kalb. This group of men had only just made it to the boarder of South Carolina when General Lincoln surrendered. Sir General Clinton left for New York and left Sir General Cornwallis in Charge. General Lincoln’s men in South Carolina were only patriots and did not have a large effect on the British. Lincoln begged the South Carolina legislature for more recruits but rather than having 1,000 armed enslaved African Americans fighting, the South Carolina legislature conferenced with Clinton and allowed him and his troops to pass through south Carolina.

Map of Siege


The Revolution- The War Heads South

Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Historical Figure: Major General Benjamin Lincoln

Major General Benjamin Lincoln was the Continental commander in the siege of Charleston. At the time of the siege of Charleston Lincoln was 47 years old. Lincoln had joined the local militia when he was twenty-one. During his years in the militia he would receive ranks in this order: Colonel, Brigadier General, followed by Major General Commander of all Massachusetts troops. After the British evacuated Boston, Lincoln joined General George Washington at New York. Lincoln went south with General Washington and then was sent to the northern department to help fight against Major General John Burgoyne’s campaign. In September 1778, Lincoln was appointed Southern Department Commander. In October of 1779, Lincoln joined in on the attack on Savannah, Georgia and was forced to retreat to Charleston, South Carolina. At Charleston, Lincoln took charge of the military base. In March, the city of Charleston was surrounded by British troops from the northern colonies. About a month after the British had arrived and surrounded the city, they made their attack. Shortly after this attack began Lincoln was forced to surrender to the British on May 12th, 1780. This was one of the worst Continental losses of the war.Following the siege of Charleston, Lincoln begged the South Carolina legislature to arm enslaved African Americans to get rid of the surrounding British. But the Legislature conferenced with the British and would allow the British to pass through South Carolina. Following this defeat Lincoln wasdenied the honors of war and paroled, and in the court of inquiry no charges were ever brought against him. After being replaced, Lincoln returned to Washington’s army and played a major role in the Yorktown surrender. After the war, Lincoln stayed active in the public. He retired in 1809, and died on May 9th, 1810.
Benjamin Lincoln's Signature

Benjamin Lincoln's House

General Sir Henry Clinton

Historical Figure: General Sir Henry Clinton

General sir Henry Clinton was the British commander in the siege of Charleston. At the time of the attack on Charleston, Clinton was fifty years old. Clinton’s father was in politics and when his father was appointed governor in 1741, his family moved from Newfoundland to New York, where Clinton was educated in the colony and began his military career by joining the local militia in 1748. In 1751, Clinton traveled to England and entered the British Army. Clinton moved fast through the military ranks proving he was a skilled officer. Clinton was promoted to major general on May 25, 1772. Following three years of personal time, Clinton was sent south to oversee military opportunities in the Carolinas in the spring of 1775. Clinton met a fleet under Commodore Sir Peter Parker, and the two decided to attack Charleston, SC. Parker landed Clintons troops near Charleston where he hoped the soldiers fighting on foot would help in defeating the coastal defenses while parker would attack from sea. This plan was unable to be carried out because the men on foot encountered swamps and deep channels. In four years’ time Clinton would go on to other battles but would return to Charleston ready to win. In 1779 after returning to the south, Clinton’s men would succeed in taking over savannah Georgia. And in early 1780, after waiting for reinforcements Clinton was finally able to move against Charleston, South Carolina. With 8,700 men and fleet led by Vice Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, Clinton led an attack on Charleston on May 12, 1780. After proceeding with battles in the revolutionary war, Clinton was made the scapegoat for the British defeat in America. Clinton returned to England and wrote his memoirs in attempt to rebuild his reputation. In 1795 year he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar, but died on December 23, 1795, before taking over the post.

Clinton's Cost of Style
Clinton's Narrative, written after his war experiences

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