The Siege of Charleston

June 28, 1776


In 1776, the British still did not understand how important it was for them to develop a strategy to defend the uprising in the Colonies. The British knew the Colonies had little time to organize their rebellion and there were still many loyalists who argued against rebellion. They did not give enough credit to the colonists' anger at being taxed without representation. They did not realize the determination of the Patriots to win their freedom from the oppressive taxation of King George III. The British only tried to stop the Patriots from getting out of hand.

In the summer of 1775 the British Army decided they needed to develop strength in the southern colonies in order to protect their interests in the New England colonies. They decided to take control of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. On June 28, 1776, Sir Henry Clinton sent British troops aboard the ship Thunder to attack the Continental Army at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island. Three other warships ran aground because Sir Clinton did not realize the shallowness of the waters in the channel.

They sent 100 British soldiers by small boat to the shore to siege Fort Moultrie. The Patriots were able to resist the attack and after thirteen hours of intense fighting, the British admitted defeat and the ships drifted out to sea. The British who were killed or wounded outnumbered the Patriot casualties five to one.

This was a terrible defeat to the British who thought their power was so strong. It wasn't until May 9, 1780, almost four years later, that the British were able to take control of Charleston by setting the town on fire and force the rebels to surrender.

An interesting story from this battle is about William Jasper, who was from Georgia and had been recruited by Francis Marion to join the Second South Carolina Regiment. Fort Moultrie's flag was blue with a white crescent and it flew through most of the battle letting nearby citizens know that the Patriots were still in control of the fort. When a shot took down the flag, William Jasper shouted to his commanding officer, "Colonel, don't let us fight without our flag?" When Colonel Moultrie replied, "How can you help it? The staff is gone," Jasper climbed over the wall to the fort and ran out in sight of the British to retrieve the flag. When he returned it safely to the fort, he pinned it to the wall as though it were hanging, and returned to fighting.

Jasper was offered a commission, but turned it down to be scout for the American forces. He made several trips into enemy lines and always returned with valuable information.

William Jasper died at Savannah, Georgia in 1779 while raising the colors of the Second South Carolina Regiment on the British lines. A statute in his memories stands in one of Savannah's squares. There are eight counties and seven cities and towns in our nation that are named after him. In Charleston, South Carolina, there is also a statute of him with his eyes staring at the harbor. It is inscribed with the words:

"We shall not fight without our flag."