The American Revolution in South Carolina

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Major Events in SC

1756-1763                           Seven Year's War – Sometimes called the first world war because battles were fought on multiple continents, the conflict in the American colonies was known as the French & Indian War and sometimes simply the Cherokee Wars. The main conflicts in SC occurred in 1759-1761. | SC militia and provincial officers gained military experience that they would soon be using again.

November 1763                 Treaty of Augusta – John Stuart, British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, negotiated this treaty between governors from southern colonies and native people from the Cherokee, Creek, Catawba, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Nations. The treaty defined a southern boundary with the Cherokee and established a 225-square mile reservation for the Catawbas in present-day York County. This and subsequent treaties such as the Treaty of Hard Labor Creek failed to keep European settlers from encroaching on Indian lands.

1765                                    Stamp Act - Greatly in debt after the Seven Year’s War, the British Empire sought to raise revenue with the Stamp Act, which called for a tax on all paper documents, playing cards, etc. | SC Patriots forced British to remove stamps from Fort Johnson in Charleston harbor.

1767                                    Townsend Acts – After the Stamp Act was repealed, British government tried again to cover their cost of “protecting” the colonies with a series of duty fees. Under the mercantile system, colonies were “required” to buy goods only from the mother country.  Boycotting British goods became a symbol of defiance for the colonialist. Wearing “Made in the USA” cloth would later become a symbol of patriotism.

December 8, 1769             Wilkes Fund Controversy - An eleventh hour compromise passed SC Commons House to pay $1500 towards debts owed by British journalist and radical politician John Wilkes. This would become known as the Wilkes Fund Controversy and bring to the British government’s attention that the SC Commons House was issuing money from the SC Treasury and repaying it with the next year’s taxes to avoid having to get the British Governor’s approval.

March 5, 1770                    Boston Massacre, MA – Anti-British mob attacked a Custom House guard. The encounter quickly escalated into a riot with British soldiers killing five colonists including Crispus Attucks, who would become lauded as the first African American Patriot.

April 14, 1770                     British Government in SC Comes to a Halt - Britain’s Whitehall responded to the Wilkes Scandal with a “Special Instruction” forbidding the SC Treasury to issue any money without the governor’s signature. The House refused to comply. British Government in SC came to a halt.

December 3, 1773              Tea Act - A “Mass Meeting” in SC agreed to boycott the new Tea Act, which gave a monopoly on tea to the East India Company. This meeting would lay the groundwork for independent government in SC.

December 16, 1773            Boston Tea Party - This unique protest of the Tea Act, which saw thousands of pounds of tea dumped into the Boston Harbor, inspired similar events including in SC.

May-June, 1774                  Intolerable Acts – These punitive laws were passed against MA following the Boston Tea Party. Patriots called for “General Meetings” in all the colonies.     

July 6, 1774                        “General Meeting” in Charleston – This gathering selected five delegates to the First Continental Congress, and created the “Committee of 99”. This Committee became the de facto government in SC. The SC Commons House members supported these actions and appropriated funds for the congressional delegation.

April 19, 1775                     “Shots Heard Round the World” fired at Lexington and Concord, MA – Hundreds of British soldiers’ marched from Boston to nearby Concord to seize an arms cache. Paul Revere and others made their famous rides. Confrontation on the Lexington green was the beginning of the shooting war. The Colonial militia chased the British all the way back to Boston.

Aug.-Nov. 1775                  A “Civil War” Erupted Pitting Neighbor Against Neighbor - Armed Loyalists (Tory) bands assembled under Patrick & Richard Cunningham, Thomas Fletchall, Moses Kirkland, Thomas Brown.  Henry Drayton led a group also including Misters Tennent, Hart, Richardson, and Kershaw into the SC Backcountry to rally Patriots and mitigate tensions with Loyalists. However, The British and Loyalists attacks would later turn out to be the best recruiter for The Patriots.

Aug. 23, 1775                      Colonies in Open Rebellion - King George III rejected Continental Congress’ petition. He declared the Colonies in open Rebellion.

Nov. 19-21, 1775                First “Official” Blood in The South at Ninety-Six -  Whigs and Tories engage in a battle on the SC frontier at the Star Fort in Ninety-Six, SC. Patriot Colonel Richard Richardson raised over 4,000 militiamen to subdue Loyalists in what became known as the Snow Campaign.

March 26, 1776                  Adoption of 1st Constitution of South Carolina

June 28, 1776                     Battle of Fort Sullivan - British Major General Sir Henry Clinton & Commodore Sir Peter Parker attempted to capture Charleston (then the richest city in the US). | Patriots repelled the British at the Battle of Fort Sullivan (later renamed Fort Moultrie for the Patriot commander who led the defense). | SC’s state flag would later be adopted from Moultrie’s flag, which included a crescent. A palmetto tree would be added to the state flag to symbolize the British cannon balls being absorbed by the Palmetto logs used to construct Fort Sullivan.

July, 1776                            Native Americans on Both Sides - Fed by long held rivalries, SC’s Native Americans split their loyalties. The Cherokee once again sided with the British and Loyalists (Tory).  The Catawba sided with the Patriots (Partisans/Whigs). In response to Tory and Cherokee attacks in the Backcountry, Andrew Williamson led Partisan militia against the Cherokee, destroying most of their towns east of the mountains.

May 20, 1777                      Treaty of DeWitt's Corner - Overhill Cherokee sued for peace and were forced to sign over land east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

July 4, 1776                       Declaration of Independence

December 29, 1778           British capture Savannah, GA

1778                                    African Americans on Both Sides - The militia law was revised so that one-third of the militia could be slaves (only in support roles). Famously John Laurens advocated for Patriot service as a path to freedom for slaves, but this struck fear in many of the white South Carolinians as African Americans well outnumbered them particularly at the coast. Feeding on this fear, The British would offer freedom for military service and would use African Americans not only as engineers (labor constructing siege trenches, river pilots, etc.) but would later create the Carolina Corp of British Black Dragoons. (After the war, the Carolina Corp would serve in the Caribbean and inspire the West India Regiments of the British Army, which were not disbanded until the 20th century). On the Patriot side, there were black soldiers in Francis Marion’s partisan band and in militia units fighting in all the major battles in SC including King’s Mountain and Cowpens.

December 26, 1779           The Southern Campaigns Launched - Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Cornwallis sailed from New York with 8,000 men to launch The Southern Campaign, a British strategy to call upon Southern Loyalists to “quickly” gain control of the Southern colonies and restrict resources and support from reaching the North.

April 1 – May 12, 1780       Battle & Siege of Charleston - Under the direction of Sir Henry Clinton, the British trekked across swamp and crossed several rivers to quickly shut off the peninsula. After a brief siege, Charleston fell to British control.

1780-1781                            Partisan Leaders Use Guerilla Tactics, Bolster Patriot Spirits - Thomas Sumter (The “Gamecock”), Francis Marion (The “Swamp Fox”), Andrew Pickens (The “Wizard Owl”) and others rallied local militia for battles and skirmishes and used guerilla tactics to disrupt British supply lines and communication.

May 29, 1780                     Battle of the Waxhaws - After taking Charleston, the British now under the command of General Cornwallis quickly worked to establish a defensive line. They marched towards Camden and what were known as the Waxhaws (present day York, Lancaster). The Battle of the Waxhaws was a British victory, but the events of that match would become a battle cry for the Patriots. British Dragoon officer Banastre Tarleton had already garnered a reputation for not offering quarter during a bloody skirmish at Monck’s Corner. That reputation would be solidified by what would become known as Buford’s Massacre. A cry for “Buford’s Revenge” and give them “Tarleton’s Quarter” would haunt the British troops the rest of the war.

July 1780                            Battle of Huck’s Defeat - Scotch-Irish backcountry settlers helped turn the tide for the Patriots at Williamson’s Plantation.

August 15-16, 1780             Battle of Camden - Cornwallis and General Horatio Gates clashed north of Camden resulting in a crushing British victory. Gates fled with remaining Continentals to North Carolina where he awaited his replacement.

October 7, 1780                 Battle of King’s Mountain - Britain’s Major Patrick Ferguson and his Loyalist militia were ordered to sweep west by Cornwallis, resulting in a clash with SC militia and frontiersmen from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia known as the “Overmountain Men”. Symbolic of The Southern Campaign where militia were used on both sides, the only British national at the battle was Major Ferguson who would be killed in action. This major Partisan victory was a turning point in the war in the South. Forced to abandon his North Carolina campaign, Cornwallis returned to SC.

January 16, 1781                 The Battle of Cowpens - Understanding how to use militia to draw the British into the fray, Daniel Morgan led the Patriots to victory against the vilified but often victorious Tarleton, British regulars, and Tory militia. This British defeat has been cited as a major turning point in the war.

January to March 1781      Greene & Cornwallis Skirmished and Maneuvered - Greene steadily withdrew North. Going as far as to cross the Dan River at the North Carolina and Virginia border, Greene’s maneuvering wore down the British troops. Cornwallis even ordered the burning of his baggage and extra supplies in an attempt to catch Greene and corner him into a battle.

March 15, 1781                   Battle of Guilford Courthouse, NC - Patriots under Greene lost the battle, but Cornwallis & the British troops were decimated. They retreated to Wilmington, NC and Cornwallis set his eye on Virginia and one battle to win it all.

April 25, 1781                     Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill near Camden - Greene once again grasped victory from defeat. The British won the field but would soon evacuate Camden for Charleston.

May 22 – June 18, 1781      Battle of Ninety-Six - This would become the longest siege of the war. The British were able to lift the siege thanks to reinforcements from Charleston, but yet again retreated when they were not able to maintain their victory ground.

October 19, 1781                Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in Yorktown, VA - While Yorktown was the last major battle of the war, South Carolina faced fourteen additional months of bloody conflict before the British finally left.

December 14, 1782            British Evacuated Charleston - British loyalists including former slaves who had joined the British cause scrambled to evacuate, many first ending up in Nova Scotia.

September 3, 1783             Treaty of Paris is Signed - This treaty formally ended the American Revolutionary War as the British recognized the independence of the thirteen colonies. Many of the same points of contention would boil over again as the British and United States would battle again in the War of 1812.

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