Siege of Charleston



Battle Summary
Details Stats Colonists/Allies British/Allies
Name: Siege of Charleston Total Forces: 5466 13500
Date(s): 03/29/1780-05/12/1780 Killed: 92 76
Location: Charleston, South Carolina Wounded: 148 182
Duration (days): 45 Captured: 5266
Victory: British Total Ships:
Col./Ally Cmdr.: Benjamin Lincoln Ships Lost:
Brit./Ally Cmdr.: Henry Clinton Ships Captured:


The Battle of Charleston was one of the major battles which took place towards the end of the American Revolutionary War, after the British began to shift their strategic focus towards the American Southern Colonies. After about six weeks of siege, Continental Army Major General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered forces numbering about 5,000 to the British.


In late 1779, following strategic failures earlier in the war, the British were stymied by the waiting strategy adopted by General George Washington leading the Continental Army. Under political pressure to deliver victory, British leaders turned to launching their “southern strategy” for winning the war, that built on the idea that there was strong Loyalist sentiment supporting the southern colonies. Their opening move was the Capture of Savannah, Georgia in December 1778. After repulsing a siege and assault on Savannah by a combined Franco-American force in October 1779, the British planned an attack on Charleston, South Carolina which they intended to use as a base for further operations in the north.


The British government instructed Sir Henry Clinton to head a combined military and naval expedition southward. He evacuated Newport, Rhode Island, on October 25, 1779, and left New York City in command of Hessian General Wilhelm von Knyphausen. In December, he sailed with 8,500 troops to join Colonel Mark Prevost at Savannah. Charles Cornwallis accompanied him, and later Lord Rawdon joined him with an additional force, raising the size of the expedition to around 14,000 troops and 90 ships. Marching upon Charleston via James Island, Clinton cut off the city from relief, and began a siege on April 1. Skirmishes at Monck’s Corner and Lenud’s Ferry in April and early May scattered troops on the outskirts of the siege area. Benjamin Lincoln held a council of war, and was advised by de Laumoy to surrender given the inadequate fortifications. Clinton compelled Lincoln to surrender on May 12. The loss of the city and its 5,000 troops was a serious blow to the American cause. It was the largest surrender of an American armed force until the 1862 surrender of Union forces at Harper’s Ferry during the Antietam Campaign. The last remaining Continental Army troops were driven from South Carolina consequent to the May 29 Battle of Waxhaws. General Clinton returned to New York City in June, leaving Cornwallis in command with instructions to also reduce North Carolina.


In his book A history of the campaigns of 1780 and 1781, Banastre Tarleton reported a total of 5,283 captured, including three signers of the Declaration of Independence: Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton and Thomas Heyward, Jr.

An active and bitter partisan war began. The British advance was marked by more than the usual destruction of war; the Loyalists rose to arms; the Patriot population regrouped around some of its militia commanders to harass the British and their Loyalist allies. Little mercy was shown on either side, especially after Tarleton’s decimation of the Continentals at the Battle of Waxhaws and Light Horse Harry Lee’s decimation of the Loyalists at Haw River, which many saw as massacres.

Charleston remained under British control until they evacuated it in 1782 due to the imminent Treaty of Paris.

==Orders of battle==

British Forces:

* British Army
* 1st and 2d Battalions, Light Infantry, 800 men
* 1st and 2d Battalions, Grenadiers, 900
* 7th Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), 400
* 23d Regiment (Welsh Fusiliers), 400
* 33d Regiment, 450
* 42d Regiment (Royal Highlanders), 700
* 63d Regiment, 400
* 64th Regiment, 350
* British Legion, 200
* Queen’s Rangers, 200
* Guides and Pioneers, 150
* Fanning’s Corps, 100
* Hessians, 1800
* Linsing’s Regiment
* Lengerke’s Regiment
* Schuyler’s Regiment
* Huyn’s Regiment
* Graf’s Grenadiers
* Ferguson’s Corps, 300
* Jägers, 200
* British Artillery, 200
* 71st Regiment, 1st Battalion
* South Carolina Volunteers
* New York Hessians
* New York Volunteers

* Royal Navy
* Ships
* HMS Europe, 74 guns
* HMS Russell, 74
* HMS Robust, 74
* HMS Raisonnable, 64
* HMS Defiance, 64
* HMS Renown, 50
* HMS Adamant, 50
* HMS Rainbow, 44
* HMS Roebuck, 44
* HMS Romulus, 44
* HMS Assurance, 44
* HMS Charon, 44
* HMS Danae, 32
* HMS Blonde, 32
* HMS Pearl, 32
* HMS Richmond, 32
* HMS Thames, 32
* HMS Delaware, 32
* HMS Isis, 32
* HMS Raleigh, 32
* HMS Hussar, 28
* HMS Medea, 28
* HMS Pandora, 28
* HMS Guadeloupe, 28
* HMS Virginia, 28
* HMS Shark, 28
* HMS Camilla, 20
* HMS Fowey, 20

* Ships (continued)
* HMS Galatea, 20
* HMS Hind, 20
* HMS Hydra, 20
* HMS Hyaena, 20
* Sloops
* HMS Albany, 14
* HMS Bonetta, 14
* HMS Dispatch, 14
* HMS Delight, 14
* HMS Falcon, 18
* HMS Nautilus, 18
* HMS Raven, 14
* HMS Scorpion, 16
* HMS Otter, 14
* HMS Vulture, 14
* HMS Avenger, 14
* Armed Ships
* HMS Pacifique, 20
* HMS Ranger, 20
* HMS Valiant, 20
* Bomb-Ketch
* HMS Strombolo, 8
* Fire-Ship
* HMS Lucifer, 8
* Galley
* HM armed galley Viper, 4
* Hospital Ship
* HMS Jersey, 60

Colonial Forces:

Three current Army National Guard units (116th Inf, 263rd ADA and 131st MP Co are derived from American units that participated in the Siege of Charleston. There are only thirty Army National Guard and active Regular Army units with lineages that go back to the colonial era.

* Continental Army:
* Pulaski’s Legion {Consolidated with Armand’s Legion February 23, 1780}
* North Carolina Continental Artillery Company
* Georgia Line:
* 1st Georgia Regiment
* 2nd Georgia Regiment
* 3rd Georgia Regiment
* 4th Georgia Regiment
* Georgia Regiment of Horse Rangers
* North Carolina Line:
* Hillsborough District militia
* 1st North Carolina Regiment
* 2nd North Carolina Regiment
* 3rd North Carolina Regiment
* 4th North Carolina Regiment
* 5th North Carolina Regiment

* South Carolina Line:
* 1st South Carolina Regiment {had been merged with 5th South Carolina Regiment}
* 2nd South Carolina Regiment {had been merged with 6th South Carolina Regiment}
* 3rd South Carolina Regiment
* 4th South Carolina Regiment {Included 2 Artillery units as 2 companies}
* Virginia Line:
* 1st Virginia Regiment {detachment-had been merged with 9th Virginia Regiment}
* 2nd Virginia Regiment {detachment-had been merged with 6th Virginia Regiment}
* 3rd Virginia Regiment {had been merged with 5th Virginia Regiment}
* 4th Virginia Regiment {had been merged with 8th Virginia Regiment}
* 7th Virginia Regiment
* 10th Virginia Regiment
* 11th Virginia Regiment
* 12th Virginia Regiment
* 14th Virginia Regiment
* 15th Virginia Regiment

* French Army
* Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue