While delegates to the Second Continental Congress debated the matter of Independence in 1776, the British brought the war to Charleston, South Carolina. Defense of the city focused on Fort Sullivan, on Sullivan’s Island at the northern mouth of Charleston Harbor. Major General Henry Clinton, commanding an Army expedition against the Americans, was determined to exploit the fort’s vulnerabilities. He ultimately failed, but his effort, or lack thereof, prompted a British newspaper to craft a little ditty taunting the poor general.
On the morning of August 27, 1780 there was a knock on the door of the Charleston, South Carolina residence of Christopher Gadsden, lieutenant governor of South Carolina. He had stayed when the city capitulated to British forces in May. Gadsden had represented the civil government and handed the city over to the British commander, Sir Henry Clinton. He was released on parole.
Now, approximately three months later, Clinton was back in New York, and the new British commander Lord Charles Cornwallis had reneged on the parole agreement. Along with another 20 civil officers, Gadsden was led through the town to the docks to a waiting ship, set to sail for St. Augustine in British East Florida.
Upon arrival in the oldest city in European North America, Gadsden was given the opportunity by Governor Tonyn to avoid incarceration in Florida. This is when the 56-year old patriot probably uttered the phrase below.
“I gave my parole once, and it has been shamefully violated by the British Government: I shall not give another to people on whom no faith can be reposed.”
With that decision, Gadsden landed himself in Castillo de San Marcos the large coquina stone fortress that stood guard over St. Augustine. Not only was the South Carolinian kept in a cell, he was kept in solitary confinement for the next 42 weeks!
Upon his release in September 1781, Gadsden and the rest of the civil prisoners were sent by merchant vessel to Philadelphia. Gadsden wasted no time in hurrying southward to South Carolina and a return to the state House of Representatives. He served in various political roles, although he had to decline the governorship because of the affects of his imprisonment. He died in 1805. A grandson, James Gadsden would give his name to the Gadsden Purchase.
Today one can visit Castillo de San Marcos, a national park unit within the National Park Service. When touring the Castillo you can view the cell where Gadsden spent his solitary confinement and read the accompanying exhibits.
Press Release from our friends at American Battlefield Trustand their Liberty Trail Initiative
In 1757, during the French and Indian War, Lieutenant Emanuel Hess, a Swiss engineer serving in the British 60th Regiment of Foot, designed a series of fortifications to surround Charles Town, South Carolina. Central to this plan was Charles Town’s Horn Work, a large gate flanked by horn-shaped half-bastions covering three city blocks. Before this plan could be fully executed, the threat of a French attack on Charles Town was contained by British victories in Canada and funding for building the fortification system was withdrawn.
However, the Revolutionary War brought a new threat to Charles Town — this time from the British, and work to fortify the city was resumed by determined Patriots. The Horn Work, with its 30-foot-high walls constructed from an oyster-shell cement called tabby, became the centerpiece of the city’s defensive line and the headquarters for American commanding officers.
Beginning in late March 1780, the British laid siege to Charles Town and trapped the American forces in the city. On May 12, 1780, American Generals Benjamin Lincoln and William Moultrie — standing under the Horn Work’s arched gateway — surrendered to the British, in what was the largest American surrender of the war. The fight for American independence looked bleak on that day, but the resolve of the Patriots in the coming months would turn the tide toward victory.
In the years following the Revolutionary War, the tabby walls of the Horn Work were dismantled to make way for the growth of the city. Today, all that remains above ground of the once towering structure is a small remnant in Charleston’s Marion Square — a vibrant urban park located in the heart of downtown Charleston and named for Revolutionary War general and backcountry tactician, Francis Marion. Yet, just a foot under the surface of Marion Square, there is much more to discover about the Horn Work.
In February of this year, graduate students from the Clemson/College of Charleston Historic Preservation program, working on behalf of the American Battlefield Trust and South Carolina Battleground Trust’s Liberty Trail, commenced an archeological study to fully document the exact footprint of the Horn Work for the first time. This study was undertaken in partnership with many organizations, including the Charleston County Library, the Charleston Museum, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Washington Light Infantry and Sumter Guards.
More than 250 years after work began to build the Horn Work, these graduate students utilized modern technology, including ground penetrating radar, to ensure the protection of this important historic resource and enhance future endeavors to tell its story.
While no period drawings or plans of the Horn Work are known to have survived, the findings of this archeological study, together with historical research on comparable tabby fortifications built in the same area and time by the same engineer, have made it possible to create a rendering of the Horn Work for the first time. With this rendering complete, we are now able to explore a variety of opportunities to interpret the Horn Work in the very place it once stood.
Our goal is to create an outdoor exhibit in Marion Square utilizing an array of interpretive techniques, including physical signage, in-ground markers tracing the footprint of the Horn Work, and Augmented Reality — all designed to bring the Horn Work and the Siege of Charleston to life for visitors. Augmented Reality, in particular, presents a chance to use cutting-edge 21st Century technology to tell this 18th Century story.
Just as the Horn Work was the gateway into Charleston before and during the Revolutionary War, we now seek to create a gateway into the Liberty Trail through Marion Square, which will encourage visitation to battlefields throughout South Carolina and beyond.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Gabriel Neville.
Thirty years ago, Dutch Henderson was “stomping through the woods” near Lake Sinclair in central Georgia when he stumbled upon an old gravestone. Some might have thought it an odd spot for a grave, but Dutch knew the history of the area and it made sense. In fact, the setting told him the man six feet under had played an important role in American history.
The inscription on the marker read: “CORP. DRURY JACKSON, SLAUGHTER’S CO. 8 VA. REGT. REV. WAR.” Why was this headstone for a Revolutionary War soldier all alone in the woods near a lake? Time changes things. Neither the lake nor the woods were there when Drury Jackson died. Back then the grave was on cleared ground overlooking the Oconee River. Depressions in the soil still reveal to the trained eye that Drury was buried in proper cemetery. The river became a lake in 1953 when it was dammed up to create a 45,000-kilowatt hydroelectric generating station. When Dutch found the grave, the cemetery had been neglected and reclaimed by nature. Today it is in a copse of trees surrounded by vacation homes.
Dutch spends his free time studying local history and conducting archeology. He has made some important finds, including a string of frontier forts along what was once the “far” side of the Oconee. He’s pretty sure that Drury’s burial in that spot is an important clue to his life in the years following the Revolutionary War. From there, however, things get complicated.
A genealogy site sporting a photo of the headstone tells us that Drury Jackson was born in Brunswick County, Virginia on February 2, 1745, married Lucy Dozier and then Nancy Ann Kennedy, and died in Wilkes County, Georgia before 1794. This seems possible, but Wilkes County is about seventy miles northeast of the grave. Another source tells us that Drury Jackson was born in 1767 in Franklin County, Tennessee, married Lucy B. Myrick, and died in Baldwin County, Georgia in 1823. This seems more likely, since the grave is in Baldwin County.
So, which of the two men is the right Drury Jackson? The easy assumption is that the stone properly belongs to the one who died nearby. The grave marker itself is of no help. It provides neither the date of his birth nor the date of his death. Moreover, it is the kind of marker that was issued after 1873 by the federal government for the graves of veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American wars (and the unmarked graves of veterans of earlier wars). It is clear that the marker was placed there long after the man’s death by descendants or others in the community.
While Charleston, South Carolina, absolutely overflows with history dating all the way back to colonial times, I had the chance to explore a particularly historic churchyard recently. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church sits on the corner of Meeting Street and Broad Street, and tucked into its small graveyard are not one but two signers of the U.S. Constitution: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and John Rutledge.
We all have bucket list items that we want to check off in our lifetime. Some revolve around traveling, some may revolve around learning a new hobby or skill. We may have different categories of items. The last is true for me.
One of those categories was to see the first shots of the wars of the United States (okay and the French and Indian War, since that started the march toward independence, when looked at through the lens of history and distance). Continue reading “First Shots”→
In Charleston’s Marion Square, an odd chunk of limestone, sand, and oyster shells sits inside a wrought-iron fence just beyond the normal boundaries of the weekend market. While shoppers buy their weekly produce or shop for gifts, the food court along King Street tempts them with just about anything you can image. Someone usually plays live music on the park-side of the market—and there, nearby, sits the hunk of rock. Continue reading “Charleston’s Horn Work Offers Glimpse Into the Walled City’s Colonial Fortifications”→