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confidence of the provincials in themselves, and CHAP. VI. attached to them the timid and the wavering, 1776. who form a large portion of every community.
General Clinton, who was to command in the south, had left Boston with a force too inconsiderable to attempt any thing until the arrival of the troops expected from Europe. After parting with governor Tryon in New York, he had proceeded to Virginia, where he passed a few days with lord Dunmore; but finding himself too weak to effect any thing in that province, he set out for North Carolina, and remained with governor Martin in cape Fear, until the arrival of sir Peter Parker.' .. That officer had sailed about the close of the last year from Portsmoạth, to take on board some regiments stationed in Ireland ; but had been detained so long, first by delays in that kingdom and afterwards by contrary winds, that . he did not arrive on the coast of North Carolina until the beginning of May. Fortunately for that province, the unsuccessful insurrection of M‘Donald had previously broken the strength and spirits of the loyalists, and deprived them of their most active chiefs; in consequence of which the operations which had been meditated against the provincials were for the present deferred. Clinton continued at cape Fear, probably undetermined respecting his future measures, until near the end of that month; when, hearing nothing certain from general
CHAP. VI. Howe, it was determined to make an attempt 1776. on Charleston, the capital of South Carolina.
A letter from the secretary of state to mr. Eden, the royal governor of Maryland, disclosing the designs of administration against the southern colonies, was fortunately intercepted in the Chesapeak, early in the month of April, and thus South Carolina became apprized of the danger which threatened its metropolis. Mr. Rutledge, a gentleman of vigour and
talents, who, on the dissolution of the regal May. government, had been chosen president of that
province, adopted the most energetic means for placing it in a posture of defence. In addition to a great number of slaves belonging to non-associators, who were impressed and brought in from the country for the purposes of labour, all ranks of citizens were employed on the works; and gentlemen of independent fortunes prided themselves on being among the first to use the hoe and the spade. The defence of Charleston was strengthened, and a new fort, afterwards called fort Moultrie, was constructed on Sullivan's island, an advantageous position, from whence ships of war approaching the town might be greatly annoyed, in which were mounted about thirty pieces of
heavy artillery.a June. In the beginning of June, the British fleet came
to anchor off the harbour of Charleston, and
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of South Caroliaa.
couriers were immediately dispatched, by pre- CHAP. VI. sident Rutledge, through the country, to order 1776. in all the militia of the colony for the defence Invasion of the capital. The streets were in different car places strongly barricaded, and the stores on the wharves, though of great value, were pulled down, and lines of defence continued along the water's edge.
The British admiral experienced some difficulty in crossing the bar; and although all their guns were taken out and the vessels lightened as much as possible, the two large ships touched the ground, and struck several times on the way. This object being at length accomplished, it was determined to commence their operations by silencing the fort on Sulli. June 10. van's island.
During the interval between passing the bar, and attacking this fort, the continental troops of Virginia and North Carolina, who had been ordered to the assistance of their sister colony, arrived in Charleston; and the American force collected at that point, amounted to between five and six thousand men, of whom two thousand five hundred were regulars. This army was commanded by general Lee, whose fortune it had been to meet general Clinton at New York, in Virginia, in North Carolina, and now at Charleston. Viewing the situation of
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CHAP. Vl. the post intrusted to his care with a military 1776. eye, Lee was disinclined to hazard his army
by engaging it deeply in the defence of either the fort or the town. The works on Sullivan's island though strong towards the water, were almost open in the rear, and consequently incapable of being defended against an attack by land, to which they were exposed from the troops on Long island, who might cross the creek between them; or from others who might be landed on Sullivan's island. They also admitted of being raked by the guns of any vessels which might gain their western flank. He apprehended too that the ships would pass the fort, and station themselves out of the reach of its guns, between Sullivan's island and Charleston; and that the land forces already on Long island, would cross over to the main land, and place the garrison in a situation of extreme hazard. The great solicitude, however, of the South Carolinians to maintain their capital, aided by the hope that a vigilant attention to the movements of the enemy would enable him to extricate his troops before they should be enclosed, at length prevailed; and he determined to attempt its defence.
Two regular regiments of South Carolina, commanded by colonels Gadsden and Moultrie, garrisoned fort Johnson, on the northern point of James' island, and fort Moultrie. About five hundred regulars, and three hundred mi
litia under colonel Thompson, assisted by an CHAP. VI. eighteen pounder, and a field piece, were sta- 1776. tioned in some works which had been thrown up on the northeastern extremity of Sullivan's island, for the purpose of opposing the passage of the British from Long island; and the remaining troops were arranged on Hadrell's point, and along the bay in front of the town. General Lee remained in person with the troops, encamped on the continent at Hadrell's point, in the rear, and to the north of Sullivan's island. A bridge of boats had been commenced in order to keep open the communication between fort Moultrie and the main land, but had not been completed. His position was chosen in such a manner as to enable him to observe and support the operations in every quarter, and particularly to watch and oppose any attempt of the enemy to pass from Long island to the continent, a movement which he seems to have dreaded more than any other.
Every preparation having at length been June 28. made, the feet consisting of the Bristol and Experiment, two fifty gun ships; the Active, Solebay, Acteon, and Syren, of twenty-eight guns each; the Sphynx of twenty guns, an armed ship of twenty-two guns, and the Thunder bomb-ketch, weighed anchor and sailed for the stations assigned them. The Thunder bomb covered by the armed ship took her station, and about half past ten, began the VOL. II.