A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780

A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780

A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780

A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780

Synopsis

"In 1779, Sir Henry Clinton and more than eight thousand British troops left the waters of New York to try a new tack in the war against the American patriots - capturing the colonies' most important southern port. Clinton and his officers believed that the capture of Charleston, South Carolina, would change both the seat of the war and its character. The British were correct on both counts, but the effect of the charge was defeat. In this comprehensive study of the 1780 siege and surrender of Charleston, Carl P. Borick offers a full examination of the strategic and tactical elements of Clinton's operations." "Suggesting that scholars traditionality have underestimated its importance, Borick contends that the siege was one of the most wide-ranging, sophisticated, and critical campaigns of the war. While striking a devastating blow to American morale, it transformed the war in South Carolina from a conventional eighteenth-century conflict into a partisan war." "Drawing on letters, journals, and other records kept by American, British, and Hessian participants, Borick relies on an impressive array of primary and secondary sources relating to the siege. He includes contemporaneous and modern maps that depict the British approach to the city and the complicated military operations that led to the patriots' greatest defeat of the American Revolution." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

On the afternoon of 26 December 1779, from his post in the hills of eastern New Jersey, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne of the Continental line watched through his spyglass as an immense fleet of British ships cleared Sandy Hook and then disappeared below the horizon. Wayne counted 106 vessels in the fleet; it was one of the largest that the British had assembled in almost five years of war. Although he could only conjecture on the number of troops onboard, the transports of the fleet in actuality contained over seven thousand British and Hessian troops led by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton, the commander in chief of British armies in America. While Wayne could not determine the size of the land force, nor could he know for sure who commanded them, one thing was certain: this armada was not embarking on a raid or small-scale operation. Clearly something more ominous was in store for the Americans. New York, from where the British fleet sailed, and New Jersey, from where Anthony Wayne observed their departure, had been the primary seat of war for the previous three and a half years. But the ships disappearing into the Atlantic signaled a sea change in British strategy, one that would embroil them in an attempt to suppress the rebellion in the south and that would eventually lead them to Yorktown and the loss of America.

The destination of the British force was Charleston, South Carolina. British military and political leaders asserted that the capture of Charles Town (the city did not become Charleston until its incorporation in 1783) would not only strike a blow at the rebels by occupying the most important city and port in the southern colonies, but would also provide a springboard from which they could subjugate the entire south. Underlying the commitment to this new southern strategy was the notion that multitudes of loyalists in the southern colonies would throw off the yoke their rebellious and tyrannical neighbors had imposed upon them and rush to the assistance of their liberators. British commanders anticipated that swarms of able-bodied loyalists would help them secure and maintain the peace for the Crown.

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