The Battle of Sullivan’s Island occurred on June 28, 1776 in the Revolutionary War in which Patriot and British forces fought on Sullivan’s Island near Charleston, South Carolina. The island controlled the entrance to Charleston harbor and was strategically vital. British reconnaissance missions observed Patriots constructing a fort on the island. The Patriots won the battle.
Battle of Sullivan’s Island
- British leaders believed there was a very large number of Loyalists in the South, and they wanted to help them.
- They sent an expeditionary force to Cape Fear, NC which would be under the command of Gen. Henry Clinton. Clinton was told that when he and his force arrived, they would be greeted by a large Loyalist force.
- When no Loyalist force showed up (they had been defeated by Patriots on their way to Cape Fear), Clinton decided instead to attack Charleston, SC.
- Washington learned of Clinton’s intent and send General Charles Lee to Charleston to supervise construction of defenses.
- The British assault force had a total of 2900 soldiers and seamen.
- When the British arrived on June 4 (1776), there was a sturdy fort on Sullivan’s Island. (Fort Sullivan, later renamed Fort Moultrie). The fort guarded the narrow channel into Charleston Harbor. Many other forts were built as well.
- The British Navy attacked the fort, but its defenders, led by William Moultrie, held firm. (Fort was made of spongy palmetto wood)
- On June 7, the infantry, commanded by Lord Cornwallis, landed on what they thought was Sullivan’s Island, but it turned to be a different island (Long Island) that was separated from Sullivan’s by a deep channel. The infantry could not get to the fort due to stiff resistance by the Americans.
- On the 28th, the British fleet tried to slip by the fort, with heavy losses. Three ships ran aground on a shoal in the harbor entrance. Two of the ships were able to get away, but one was stuck, and the British had to burn it.
- After this, Clinton called off the attack, and the British force returned north.
- The Americans only suffered 10 dead and 22 wounded. Their victory provided a much-needed morale boost for the Patriots. It also increased support for independence among the people of South Carolina and insured that the South would be safe from British attack…for now, at least. Finally, it provided valuable military experience for Francis Marion and Thomas Sumter.
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