Map of the Siege of Charlestown

June 1776

This original map shows the British attack on Charleston, South Carolina on June 28, 1776. The map shows the British fleet deployed in Charleston Harbour with ships heading toward Fort Moultrie on Sullivan Island. A Gun Boat is anchored in the Ashley River guarding the bridge of boats to the mainland. Also shown: the British Camp, the British Hospital and other units situated on the Charlestown Peninsula north of the city, and the three parallels of the siege.

This map measures approximately 8 1/4" by 12 1/4" and was published by R. Phillips, Bridge Street, Blackfriars, London, on Sept. 25, 1806.

Abstract — The Siege of Charlestown

Map of the failed British siege of Charlestown, South CarolinaClick map for larger view

The British ship Thunder opened the attack on Charleston with a barrage of ten-inch mortars at 11 a.m. on June 28, 1776. The shelling continued as eight British gun boats advanced toward the American forces at Fort Moultrie. Within the hour more than 100 enemy pieces converged on the Fort.

Despite the concentrated British forces, the rebels successfully resisted the attack. By 11 o'clock that night the British ships, battered and severely bruised during the day-long battle, admitted defeat and slipped their cables, drifting away with the tide.

British killed and wounded during the siege ran approximately 5 to 1 to the Americans.

What went wrong? A lucky break for the Americans helped turned the tide — three British warships ran onto a shoal known as the Middle ground, putting a near-insurmountable dent in the execution of their battle plan. Compounding the problem was the British army's failure to attack the undefended rear of Sullivan Island because of Sir Henry Clinton's misjudging of the depth of the channel between the islands.

More importantly, however, one must look to the British themselves. Their continual incapacity for developing an over-all strategy to put down the colonists' rebellion was much in evidence all during the years of the War. The lack of a unified strategy and the inability to enlist the necessary support led to failures in New England, then to the middle states of New York and Pennsylvania, and finally to the southern region.

In an attempt to bail themselves out of their previous defeats, the London high command during the summer of 1775 began developing plans for a military expedition into the south. Based strictly on the record, one might have safely concluded that the military operation at Charleston was foredoomed from the start.

In the end...the siege of Charleston proved to be a humiliating defeat for the British. The southern colonies would remain rebel territory for three years before the Redcoats could summon up enough strength to attack this stronghold again.