The battle of Fort Moultrie
The twenty eighth of June, 1776.
The month of May robed the pomegranate and
the oleander in their gorgeous masses of flowers, and the peace of Charleston
was still undisturbed except by gathering rumors, that the English fleet and transports destined for its attack had arrived in Cape Fear River
Its citizens, taking courage from the efficiency and wisdom with which the independent government of the colony was administered, toiled continually in the trenches, and bands of negroes from the neighboring plantations were put upon the works.
The bloom of the magnolia was yellowing in the hot sky of early summer, when on the first day of June expresses from Christ Church parish brought news to the president, that a fleet of forty or fifty sail lay anchored about twenty miles to the north of Charleston
Prompt and fearless in action, Rutledge
ordered the alarm to be fired, and while the townsmen were.
looking out for horses, carriages, or boats to remove
their wives and children, he hastened down the mi-
litia from the country by expresses; and in company with Armstrong
visited all the fortifications.
Barricades were thrown up across the principal streets; defences were raised at the points most likely to be selected for landing; lead, gleaned from the weights of church windows and dwelling houses, was cast into musket balls; and a respectable force in men was concentred at the capital.
The invaders of South Carolina
, at a moment when instant action was essential to their success, were perplexed by uncertainty of counsel between Clinton
and Sir Peter Parker
, the respective commanders of the army and the naval force.
On the seventh, when Clinton
would have sent on shore a proclamation by a flag of truce, his boat was fired upon by an ignorant sentinel; but the next day Moultrie
cleared up the mistake through one of his officers, and received the proclamation in return.
In this the British
general declared the existence of ‘a most unprovoked and wicked rebellion within South Carolina
,’ the ‘succession of crimes of its inhabitants,’ the tyranny of its congress and committees, the error, thus far, incorrigible, of an ‘infatuated and misguided multitude,’ the duty of ‘proceeding forthwith against all bodies of men in arms, congresses, and committees, as open enemies of the state;’ but ‘from humanity’ he consented ‘to forewarn the deluded people,’ and to offer in his majesty's name ‘free pardon to such as should lay down their arms and submit to the laws.’
Having done this, he consulted Cornwallis on the best means of gaining possession of Sullivan's Island
; and both agreed that they could not more effectually cooperate
with the intended movement of the fleet, than
by landing on Long Island
, which was represented to communicate with Sullivan's Island
at low water by a ford, and with the main by a channel navigable for boats of draft.
had had four days time to sound the ford; but he took the story of its depth on trust.
On the morning of the ninth of June, Charles Lee
, attended by his aides-de-camp, and by Robert Howe
of North Carolina
, arrived at Haddrell's Point.
After examining its fortifications, he crossed over to Sullivan's Island
, where he found a good stock of powder; a fort of which the front and one side were finished; and twelve hundred men encamped in its rear in booths that were roofed with palmetto leaves.
Within the fort numerous mechanics and laborers were lifting and fitting heavy palmetto logs for its walls.
He had scarce glanced at the work, when he declared that ‘he did not like that post at all; it could not hold out half an hour, and there was no way to retreat;’ it was but a ‘slaughter pen,’ and the garrison would be sacrificed.
On his way up to Charleston
touched at James Island
, where Gadsden
had the command.
The battalions raised in South Carolina
were not as yet placed upon the continental establishment; and although congress bore the proportionate expense, the disposition of the force still remained under the exclusive direction of the president of the colony and its officers.
This circumstance became now of the greatest importance.
no command whatever had been conceded; but Lee
was the second officer in the American
army; his military fame was
at that time very great; he had power from the
general congress to order, and he had ordered battalions from North Carolina
; his presence was a constant pledge of the active sympathy of the continent; and on his arrival he was invested with the military command through an order from Rutledge
On that same day Clinton
began his disembarkation, landing four or five hundred men on Long Island
It was therefore evident that the first attack was to be made not on the city but its out-post; yet Lee
proposed to Rutledge
to withdraw from Sullivan's Island
and abandon it without a blow.
Had he acted in concert with the invaders, he could not have more completely promoted their design.
, interposing his authority, would not suffer it, and Lee
did not venture to proceed alone; yet on the tenth his very first order to Moultrie
, except one which was revoked as soon as issued, directed that officer to construct bridges for his retreat, and the order was repeated and enforced several times that day, and on almost every succeeding one.
's courage was of that placid kind that could not be made anxious or uneasy; he weighed carefully his danger and his resources; with quiet, imperturbable confidence, formed his plan for repelling the impending double attack of the enemy by sea and by land; and never so much as imagined that he could be driven from his post.
On the tenth, while the continental congress was finishing the debate on independence, the Bristol
, whose guns had been previously taken out, came over the bar, attended by thirty or forty vessels,
and anchored at about three miles from Fort Sulli-
van. In Charleston
, from which this movement was distinctly visible, all was action; on the wharfs, warehouses of great value were thrown down to give room for the fire of cannon and musketry from the lines along East Bay
; intrenchments surrounded the town; the barricades, raised in the principal streets, were continued to the water; and arrow-headed embankments were projected upon the landing places.
Negroes from the country took part in the labor; the hoe and the spade were in every citizen's hands, for all persons, without distinction, ‘labored with alacrity,’ some for the sake of example, some as the best way of being useful.
Neither the noonday sun, nor the rain, which in that clime drops from the clouds in gushes, interrupted their toil.
On the eleventh the two regiments from North Carolina
That same day Lee
, being told that a bridge of retreat from Sullivan's Island
to Haddrell's Point was impossible, and not being permitted by Rutledge
to direct the total evacuation of the island, ordered Moultrie
immediately to send four hundred of his men over to the continent; in his postscript he added: ‘Make up the detachment to five hundred.’
On the thirteenth he writes: ‘You will detach another hundred of men,’ to strengthen the corps on the other side of the creek.
But the spirit of South Carolina
had sympathy with Moultrie
, and mechanics and negro laborers were sent down to complete his fort; yet hard as they toiled, it was not nearly finished before the action.
On the twelfth the wind blew so violently that two ships which lay
outside of the bar, were obliged for safety to stand
out to sea, and this assisted to postpone the attack.
On the fifteenth, Lee
at Haddrell's Point; and the brave Pennsylvanian
, as the superior officer, ever manifested for Moultrie
a hearty friendship.
On that same day, Sir Peter Parker
gave to the captains of his squadron his arrangement for taking the batteries on Sullivan's Island
; and on the sixteenth he communicated it to Clinton
, who did not know what to do. The dilatory conduct of the British
betrayed hesitation and unharmonious councils; and the Carolinians made such use of the consequent delay, that by the seventeenth they were in an exceedingly good state of preparation at every outpost and also in town.
intended only to occupy and garrison Sullivan's Island
For that end, consulting with Cornwallis, he completed the landing of all his men on Long Island
, a naked sand, where nothing grew except a few bushes, that harbored myriads of musquitoes, and where the troops suffered intensely from the burning sun, the want of good water, and the bad quality and insufficient supply of provisions.
A trial of the ford was made; Clinton
himself waded in up to his neck; so did others of his officers, and on the day on which he succeeded in getting all his men on shore, he announced through Vaughan
to Sir Peter Parker
, that no ford was to be found; that there remained a depth of seven feet of water at low tide; and that therefore the troops could not take the share they expected in the intended attack.
His six full regiments, and companies enough from others to make up one more, a body of more than three thousand men, thoroughly provided with
arms, artillery, and ammunition, had left the trans-
ports for a naked sand-bank that was to them a prison.
Compelled to propose something, Clinton
fixed on the twenty third for the joint attack; but it was hindered on that day by an unfavorable wind.
In the following night, Muhlenberg
's regiment arrived.
On receiving Lee
's orders they had instantly set off from Virginia
and marched to Charleston
, without tents, continually exposed to the weather.
The companies were composed chiefly of Muhlenberg
's old German parishioners; and of all the Virginia
regiments, this was the most complete, the best armed, best clothed, and best equipped for immediate service.
were now very strong.
The confidence of Sir Peter Parker
in an easy victory was unshaken.
To make all sure, he exercised a body of marines and seamen in the art of entering forts through embrasures; intending first to silence Moultrie
's battery, then to land his practised detachment, and by their aid enter the fort.
His presumption was justified by the judgment of Lee
. That general, coming down to the island, took Moultrie
aside and said: ‘Do you think you can maintain this post?’
answered: ‘Yes, I think I can.’
had no faith in a spirited defence, fretted at Moultrie
's too easy disposition, and wished, up to the last moment, to remove him from the command.
On the twenty fifth the squadron was increased by the arrival of the ‘Experiment,’ a ship of sixty guns, which passed the bar on the twenty sixth.
Letters of encouragement came also from Tonyn
, then governor of East Florida
, who was impatient for an attack on Georgia
; he would have had a body of
Indians raised on the back of South Carolina
; and a
body of royalists to ‘terrify and distract, so that the assault at Charleston
would have struck an astonishing terror and affright.’
He reported South Carolina
to be in ‘a mutinous state that delighted him;’ ‘the men would certainly rise on their officers; the battery on Sullivan's Island
would not discharge two rounds.’
This opinion was spread through the fleet, and became the belief of every sailor on board.
With or without Clinton
's aid the commodore was persuaded that his well drilled seamen and marines could take and keep possession of the fort, till Clinton
should ‘send as many troops as he might think proper, who might enter the fort in the same way.’
One day Captain Lempriere
, the same who in the former year had, with daring enterprise, taken more than a hundred barrels of powder from a vessel at anchor off St. Augustine
, was walking with Moultrie
on the platform, and looking at the British shipsof-war, all of which had already come over the bar, addressed him: ‘Well, Colonel
, what do you think of it now?’
‘We shall beat them,’ said Moultrie
‘The men-of-war,’ rejoined the captain, ‘will knock your fort down in half an hour.’
‘Then,’ said Moultrie
, ‘we will lie behind the ruins and prevent their men from landing.’
On the morning of the twenty eighth a gentle
sea-breeze prognosticated the attack.
, from Charleston
, for the tenth or eleventh time, charged Moultrie
to finish the bridge for his retreat, promised him reinforcements, which were never sent, and still meditated removing him from his command; while Moultrie
, whose faculties, under the outward show
of imperturbable and even indolent calm, were strained
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 28.
to their utmost tension, rode to visit his advanced guard on the east.
Here the commander, William Thomson
, of Orangeburg
, of Irish descent, a native of Pennsylvania
, but from childhood a citizen of South Carolina
, a man of rare worth in private life, brave and intelligent as an officer, had, at the extreme point, posted fifty of the militia behind sand-hills and myrtle bushes.
A few hundred yards in the rear breastworks had been thrown up, which he guarded with three hundred riflemen of his own regiment from Orangeburg
and its neighborhood, with two hundred of Clark
's North Carolina regiment, two hundred more of the men of South Carolina
; and the raccoon company of riflemen.
On his left he was protected by a morass; on his right by one eighteen pounder and one brass six pounder, which overlooked the spot where Clinton
would wish to land.
Seeing the enemy's boats already in motion on the beach of Long Island
, and the men-of-war loosing their topsails, Moultrie
hurried back to his fort at full speed.
He ordered the long roll to beat, and officers and men to their posts.
His whole number, including himself and officers, was four hundred and thirty five; of whom twenty two were of the artillery, the rest of his own regiment; men who were bound to each other, to their officers, and to him, by personal affection and confidence.
Next to him in command was Isaac Motte
; his major was the fearless and faultless Francis Marion
The fort was a square, with a bastion at each angle; built of palmetto logs, dove-tailed and bolted together, and laid in parallel rows sixteen feet asunder, with
sand filled in between the rows.
On the eastern and
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 28.
northern sides the palmetto wall was only seven feet high, but it was surmounted by thick plank, so as to be tenable against a scaling party; a traverse of sand 28.
extended from east to west.
The southern and western curtains were finished with their platforms, on which cannon were mounted.
The standard which was advanced to the south-east bastion, displayed a flag of blue with a white crescent, on which was emblazoned liberty.
The whole number of cannon in the fort, the bastions, and the two cavaliers, was but thirty one, of which no more than twenty one could at the same time be brought into use; of ammunition there were but twenty eight rounds for twenty six cannon.
At Haddrell's Point across the bay Armstrong
had about fifteen hundred men. The first regular South Carolina regiment, under Christopher Gadsden, occupied Fort Johnson
, which stood on the most northerly part of James Island
, about three miles from Charleston
, and within point-blank shot of the channel.
was protected by more than two thousand men.
Half an hour after nine in the morning, the commodore gave signal to Clinton
that he should go on the attack.
An hour later the ships-of-war were under weigh.
, Cotesworth Pinckney
, and the rest at Fort Johnson
watched all their movements; in Charleston
the wharfs and water-side along the bay were crowded with troops under arms and lookers-on.
Their adversary must be foiled, or their city may perish; their houses be sacked and burned; and the savages on the frontier start from their lurking-places.
No grievous oppressions weighed down
the industry of South Carolina
; she came forth to the
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 28.
struggle from generous sympathy; and now the battie is to be fought for her chief city and the province.
The ‘Thunderbomb,’ covered by the ‘Friendship,’ began the action by throwing shells, which it continued, till more than sixty were discharged; of these some burst in the air; one lighted on the magazine without doing injury; the rest sunk in the mo rass, or were buried in the sand within the fort.
At about a quarter to eleven, the ‘Active,’ of twenty eight guns, disregarding four or five shots fired at her while under sail; the ‘Bristol
,’ with fifty guns, having on board Sir Peter Parker
and Lord William Campbell
, the governor; the ‘Experiment,’ also of fifty guns; and the ‘Solebay,’ of twenty eight, brought up within about three hundred and fifty yards of the fort, let go their anchors with springs upon their cables, and began a most furious cannonade.
Every sailor expected that two broadsides would end the strife; but the soft, fibrous, spongy wood of the palmetto withstood the rapid fire, and neither split, nor splintered, nor started; and the parapet was high enough to protect the men on the platforms.
When broadsides from three or four of the men-of-war struck the logs at the same instant, the shock gave the merlons a tremor, but the pile remained uninjured.
had but one-tenth as many guns as were brought to bear on him, and was moreover obliged to stint the use of powder.
His guns accordingly were fired very slowly, the officers taking aim, and waiting always for the smoke to clear away, that they might point with more precision.
‘Mind the commodore, mind the fifty-gun ships,’
were the words that passed along the platform from
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 28.
officers and men.
‘Shall I send for more powder?’
‘To be sure,’ said Motte
wrote to Lee
: ‘I believe we shall want more powder.
At the rate we go on, I think we shall; but you can see that.
Pray send us more, if you think proper.’
More vessels were seen coming up, and cannon were heard from the north-east.
had promised support; not knowing what else to do, he directed the batteries on Long Island
to open a cannonade; and several shells were thrown into Thomson
's intrenchments, doing no damage beyond wounding one soldier.
The firing was returned by Thomson
with his one eighteen pounder; but, from the distance, with little effect.
At twelve o'clock the light infantry, grenadiers, and the fifteenth regiment embarked in boats, while floating batteries and armed craft got under weigh to cover the landing; but the troops never so much as once attempted to land.
The detachment had hardly left Long Island
before it was ordered to disembark, for it was seen that ‘the landing was impracticable, and would have been the destruction of many brave men without the least probability of success.’
The American defences were so well constructed, the approach so difficult, Thomson
so vigilant, his men such skilful sharpshooters, that had the British
landed, they would have been cut to pieces.
‘It was impossible,’ says Clinton
, ‘to decide positively upon any plan;’ and he did nothing.
An attack on Haddrell's Point would have been
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 28.
still more desperate; though the commodore, at Clinton
's request, sent three frigates to cooperate with him in that design.
The people of Charleston
, as they looked from the battery with senses quickened by the nearness of danger, beheld the ‘Sphinx
,’the ‘Acteon,’ and the ‘Syren,’ each of twenty eight guns, sailing as if to get between Haddrell's Point and the fort, so as to enfilade the works, and when the rebels should be driven from them, to cut off their retreat.
It was a moment of danger, for the fort on that side was unfinished; but the pilots kept too far to the south, so that they run all the three upon a bank of sand, known as the Lower Middle Ground
Gladdened by seeing the frigates thus entangled, the beholders in the town were swayed alternately by fears and hopes; the armed inhabitants stood every one at his post, uncertain but that they might be called to immediate action, hardly daring to believe that Moultrie
's small and ill-furnished garrison could beat off the squadron, when behold!
his flag disappears from their eyes.
Fearing that his colors had been struck, they prepared to meet the invaders at the water's edge, trusting in Providence
and preferring death to slavery.
In the fort, William Jasper
, a sergeant, perceived that the flag had been cut down by a ball from the enemy, and had fallen over the ramparts.
,’ said he to Moultrie
, ‘don't let us fight without a flag.’
‘What can you do?’
; ‘the staff is broken off.’
‘Then,’ said Jasper
, ‘I'll fix it on a halberd, and place it on the merlon of the bastion next the enemy;’
and leaping through an embrasure, and braving the
Chap. LXVI.} 1776.
thickest fire from the ship, he took up the flag, returned with it safely and planted it, as he had promised, on the summit of the merlon.
The calm sea gleamed with light; the almost vertical sun of midsummer glared from a cloudless sky; and the intense heat was increased by the blaze from the cannon on the platform.
All of the garrison threw off their coats during the action, and some were nearly naked; Moultrie
and several of the officers smoked their pipes as they gave their orders.
The defence was conducted within sight of those whose watchfulness was to them the most animating: they knew that their movements were observed from the house tops of Charleston
; by the veteran Armstrong
, and the little army at Haddrell's Point; by Gadsden
at Fort Johnson
, who was almost near enough to take part in the engagement, and was chafing with discontent at not being himself in the centre of danger.
Exposed to an incessant cannonade, which seemed sufficient to daunt the bravest veterans, they stuck to their guns with the greatest constancy.
Hit by a ball which entered through an embrasure, Macdaniel cried out to his brother soldiers: ‘I am dying, but don't let the cause of liberty expire with me this day.’
removed the mangled corpse from the sight of his comrades, and cried aloud: ‘Let us revenge that brave man's death.’
The slow, intermitted fire which was skilfully directed against the commodore and the brave seamen on board the ‘Bristol
,’ shattered that ship, and carried wounds and death.
Never had a British squadron
‘experienced so rude an encounter.’
Chap. LXVI.} 1776.
tide nor the wind suffered them to retire.
Once the springs on the cables of the ‘Bristol
’ were swept away; as she swung round with her stern toward the fort, she drew upon herself the fire of all the guns that could be brought to bear upon her. The slaughter was dreadful; of all who in the beginning of the action were stationed on her quarter deck, not one escaped being killed or wounded.
At one moment, it is said, the commodore stood there alone, an example of unsurpassed intrepidity and firmness.
, his captain, having his fore-arm shattered by a chainshot, and also receiving a wound in his neck, was taken into the cockpit; but after submitting to amputation, he insisted on being carried on the quarterdeck once more, where he resumed the command and continued it, till he was shot through the body, when feeling dissolution near, he commended his family to the providence of God and the generosity of his country.
Meantime the eyes of the commodore and of all on board his fleet were ‘frequently, and impatiently,’ and vainly turned toward the army.
If the troops would but cooperate, he was sure of gaining the island; for at about one o'clock he believed that he had silenced the guns of the rebels, and that the fort was on the point of being evacuated.
‘If this were so,’ Clinton
afterward asked him, ‘why did you not take possession of the fort, with the seamen and marines whom you practised for the purpose?’
's rejoinder was, that he had no prospect of speedy support from Clinton
But the pause was owing to the scarcity of powder, of which the little that remained to Moultrie
was reserved for the musketry
as a defence against an expected attack from
Chap. LXVI.} 1776.
the land forces.
should have replenished his stock; but in the heat of the action Moultrie
received from him this letter: ‘If you should unfortunately expend your ammunition without beating off the enemy or driving them on ground, spike your guns and retreat.’
A little later, a better gift and a better message came from Rutledge
, now at Charleston
: ‘I send you five hundred pounds of powder.
You know our collection is not very great.
Honor and victory to you and our worthy countrymen with you. Do not make too free with your cannon.
Be cool and do mischief.’
These five hundred pounds of powder, with two hundred pounds from a schooner lying at the back of the fort, were all the supplies that Moultrie
At three in the afternoon, Lee
, on a report from his aide-de-camp Byrd
, sent Muhlenberg
's Virginia riflemen to reinforce Thomson
A little before five, Moultrie
was able to renew his fire.
At about five the marines in the ships' tops, seeing a lieutenant with eight or ten men remove the heavy barricade from the gateway to the fort, thought that Moultrie
and his party were about to retreat; but the gateway was unbarred to receive a visit from Lee
. The officers half naked, and begrimed with the hot day's work, respectfully laid down their pipes as he drew near.
The general himself pointed two or three guns, after which he said to Moultrie
, I see you are doing very well here, you have no occasion for me, I will go up to town again;’ and thus he left the fort.
When at a few minutes past seven the sun went down in a blaze of light, the battle was still raging,
though the British
showed signs of weariness.
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 28.
inhabitants of Charleston
, whom the evening sea breeze collected on the battery, could behold the flag of crescent liberty still proudly waving; and they continued gazing anxiously, till the short twilight was suddenly merged in the deep darkness of a southern night, when nothing was seen but continual flashes, followed by peals as it were of thunder coming out from a heavy cloud.
Many thousand shot were fired from the shipping, and hardly a hut or a tree on the island remained unhurt; but the works were very little damaged, and only one gun was silenced.
The firing from the fort continued slowly; and the few shot they were able to send, were heard to strike against the ships' timbers.
Just after nine o'clock, a great part of his ammunition being expended in a cannonade of about ten hours, his people fatigued, the ‘Bristol
’ and the ‘Experiment’ made nearly wrecks, the tide of ebb almost done, with no prospect of help from the army at the eastward, and no possibility of his being of any further service, Sir Peter Parker
resolved to withdraw.
At half-past 9 his ships slipped their cables, and dropped down with the tide to their previous moorings.
Of the four hundred and thirty-five Americans
in the fort, who took part in this action, all but eleven remained alive, and of these but twenty-six were wounded.
At so small a cost of life had Charleston
been defended and a province saved.
When, after a cannonade of about ten hours, the firing ceased, the inhabitants of Charleston
remained in suspense, till a boat from Moultrie
announced his victory.
At morning's dawn the ‘Acteon’ frigate
was seen, fast aground at about four hundred yards
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 28.
from the fort.
The ‘Syren’ had got off; and so too had the ‘Sphinx
,’ yet with the loss of her bowsprit.
Some shots were exchanged, but the company of the 28. ‘Acteon’ soon set fire to her and deserted her. Men from the fort boarded her while she was on fire, pointed and discharged two or three of her guns at the commodore, and loaded their three boats from her stores.
In one half of an hour after they abandoned her, she blew up, and to the eyes of the Carolinians, the pillar of smoke, as it rose over the vessel, took the form of the palmetto.
’ had forty men killed and seventy one wounded. Lord William Campbell
received a contusion in his left side, and, after suffering two years, died from its effects.
Sir Peter Parker
was slightly injured.
About seventy balls went through his ship; her mizzenmast was so much hurt that it fell early the next morning; the mainmast was cut away about fifteen feet below the hounds; and the broad pendant now streamed from a jury-mast, lower than the foremast.
She had suffered so much in hull, masts, and rigging, that but for the stillness of the sea she must have gone down.
On board the ‘Experiment,’ twenty three were killed and fifty six wounded; Scott
, her captain, lost his left arm, and was otherwise so severely wounded, that his life was long despaired of; the ship was much damaged, her mizzen gaff was shot away.
The whole loss of the. British fleet, in killed and wounded, was two hundred and five.
The royal governors of North Carolina
and of South Carolina
, as well as Clinton
and Cornwallis, and seven regiments, were witnesses of the defeat.
The commodore and the general long indulged in re-
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 28.
Nothing remained for the army but to quit the sands of Long Island
, yet three weeks more passed away before they embarked in transports for New York under the single ‘convoy of the’ Solebay ‘frigate; the rest of the fleet being under the necessity of remaining still longer to refit.’
The success of the Carolinians was due to the wisdom and adequateness of their preparations.
It saved not a post but a province.
It kept seven regiments away from New York for two months; it gave security to Georgia
, and three years peace to Carolina
; it dispelled throughout the South
the dread of British superiority; it drove the loyalists into shameful obscurity.
It was an announcement to the other colonies of the existence of South Carolina
as a selfdirecting republic; a message of brotherhood and union.
On the morning of the twenty ninth, Charleston
harbor was studded with sails, and alive with the voice of men, hastening to congratulate the victors.
They crowded round their deliverers with transports of gratitude; they gazed admiringly on the uninjured walls of the fortress, the ruinous marks of the enemy's shot on every tree and hut in its neighborhood; they enjoyed the sight of the wreck of the ‘Acteon,’ the discomfited men-of-war riding at anchor at two and a half miles' distance; they laughed at the commodore's broad pendant, scarcely visible on a jury maintopmast, while their own blue flag crowned the merlon.
Letters of congratulation came down from Rutledge
and from Gadsden
; and Lee
gave his witness,
that ‘no men ever did behave better, or ever
Chap. LXVI.} 1776. June 30.
could behave better.’
On the afternoon of the thirtieth Lee
reviewed the garrison, and renewed to them the praise that was their due. While they were thus drawn out, the women of Charleston
presented to the second regiment a pair of silken colors, one of blue, one of red, richly embroidered by their own hands; and Susanna Smith Elliott
, a scion of one of the oldest families of the colony, who, being left an orphan, had been bred up by Rebecca Brewton Motte
, stepped forth to the front of the intrepid band in matronal beauty, young and stately, light-haired, with eyes of mild expression, and a pleasant countenance; and as she put the flags into the hands of Moultrie
, she said in a low, sweet voice: ‘Your gallant behavior in defence of liberty and your country entitles you to the highest honors; accept these two standards as a reward justly due to your regiment; and I make not the least doubt, under heaven's protection, you will stand by them as long as they can wave in the air of Liberty.’
And the regiment plighting the word which they were to keep sacredly at the cost of many of their lives, answered: ‘The colors shall be honorably supported, and shall never be tarnished.’
On the fourth of July, Rutledge
came to visit the
There stood Moultrie
, there Motte
, there Marion
, there Peter Horry
, there William Jasper
, and all the survivors of the battle.
was happy in having insisted on holding possession of the fort; happy in the consciousness of his unwavering reliance on Moultrie
; happy in the glory that gathered
round the first days of the new-born commonwealth;
and when, in the name of South Carolina
, he returned thanks to the defenders, his burning words gushed forth with an eloquence that adequately expressed the impassioned gratitude of the people.
he offered a lieutenant's commission, which Jasper
modestly declined, accepting only a sword.
, by her president and the common voice, spontaneously decreed that the post on Sullivan's Island
should, for all future time, be known as Fort Moultrie
; her assembly crowned her victorious sons with applause.
The tidings leaped from colony to colony on their way to the North
, and the continental congress voted their thanks to Lee
, and the officers and men under their command.
But at the time of that vote, congress was no more the representative of dependent colonies; the victory at Fort Moultrie
was the bright morning star and harbinger of American Independence.