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South Carolina had a large share in winning American independence. Several decisive battles were fought on her soil. For the struggle she furnished far-sighted statesmen, brilliant leaders for the battlefield, and troops of patriotic, devoted men. Her daughters brought to the conflict immeasurable aid, comfort and influence. The men of South Carolina saved their own state and were able to give invaluable aid to their countrymen in other sections.

 

South Carolina had been settled by the Huguenots, English, Scotch-Irish, Welsh and Germans--people from the sturdiest and most progressive countries of the world. Their experiences in their new environment tended to make them independent and self-reliant. Their years of hardships and strifes only served to make them more vigorous. They increased rapidly in population and built up an active trade. South Carolina became one of the most prosperous of the colonies. The colonists of the lower country were people of learning and culture. The settlers of the middle and upper country were energetic, patriotic, and noble. There was no aristocracy. There were quite a number of able clergymen, skilled physicians, and well trained lawyers among the South Carolinians. They had wealth without luxury. They suffered no religious restraint. Every circumstance helped to develop them into a distinctive, independent people.

The injustice and selfishness of British authority at once aroused the anger of these spirited settlers. The Stamp Act met with general opposition. South Carolina at once protested against this unjust law and would not allow the stamps to be sold. After the repeal of the Stamp Act Great Britain made a second attempt to obtain money from the colonists by placing a tax upon glass, wine, oil, paper, painter's colors and tea. The vigorous objections of the colonists caused her to withdraw the tax from everything except tea. But the colonists were unwilling to accept anything but full justice from the hands of Great Britain.

The South Carolinians had many determined and active leaders in their opposition to British tyranny and in the avowal of their rights to govern themselves. Christopher Gadsen, William Henry Drayton, Arthur Middleton and David Ramsay impressed upon the people the necessity of fighting for their liberty and urged them to prepare for a war with England. Christopher Gadsen, Thomas Lynch, John Rutledge, Arthur Middleton and Edward Rutledge were chosen by the South Carolinians to represent them at the first continental congress at Philadelphia in 1774. These men had had a prominent part in that meeting. The broad-minded, far-sighted Christopher Gadsen was the first man to see that independence must eventually come. At this meeting he was the first to suggest absolute independence. William Henry Drayton concluded one of his speeches in South Carolina with this excellent advice: "Let us offer ourselves to be used as instruments of God in this work in order that South Carolina may become a great, a free, a pious and a happy people."

On March 26, 1776, the provincial congress adopted a new Constitution and South Carolina became a free and independent state. She was the first of the thirteen colonies to set up a government of her own. John Rutledge was made president and Henry vice-president.

The first battle of the Revolution was fought November 12, 1775, when two British war vessels made an unsuccessful attack on a South Carolina vessel. The British suffered their first complete defeat in America at Charles Town, June 28, 1776. Under Sir Peter Parker the enemy attacked Ft. Moultrie. Under the blue Carolina flag with its crescent and the word "Liberty," upon it, the patriots, with Col. Moultrie as leader, courageously resisted the attack. In this battle the immortal Jasper braved the enemy's fire in rescuing the fallen flag and replacing it upon the fort. The splendid victory at Ft. Moultrie gave more confidence to the colonists and inspired them with new zeal. The colonists under William Thompson defeated the British in a second attempt to take Charles Town in June, 1776.

For about two years following this battle the British army abandoned their attempt to conquer South Carolina. However, she was far from being peaceful during this period. Her settlers were not a homogeneous people. No bond of sympathy united them in fighting for a common cause. Bands of Tories had formed in the interior and were as difficult to overcome as the British themselves. Under Fletchall and Cunningham they committed many bloody outrages and did an incalculable amount of harm. They stirred up strife among the Indians and acquired their aid in fighting the patriots. Some of the severest struggles of the Revolution took place between the opposing factions in South Carolina. Andrew Williamson, James Williams and Andrew Pickens were active in defending the upland country against the Tories and Indians.

In April and May of 1780 the British under Gen. Clinton again attacked Charles Town. For three months four thousand ill-fed, ill-clad, and undisciplined patriots withstood the attacks of twelve thousand of the best of the British troops. Finally, the South Carolinians were forced to surrender. Fast following this defeat came pillage, devastations and repeated disasters. In the upper country the British under cruel Tarleton followed up their victories with bloody outrages. Clinton left Cornwallis in command of the British forces in the south. The cruelties of this officer greatly aroused the anger of the Carolinians. Sumter, Marion and Pickens suddenly appeared upon the scene of battle. They rallied the scattered forces and began their peculiar mode of warfare. By means of the ingenuity and indomitable courage of Sumter, the spirited "Game Cock," the enemy was harassed and numerous little victories were won from them. These successes were a great encouragement to the Carolinians. Sumter, aided by patriot bands under John Thomas, Thomas Brandon and Edward Hampton, succeeded in driving the British out of northern Carolina.

About this time, Gates and DeKalb were sent to the relief of the South. On account of the poor generalship of Gates the Americans were defeated at Camden, August 16, 1780, by the enemy under the command of Cornwallis. Francis Marion, the elusive "Swamp Fox," made repeated attacks upon the British forces and with the help of Sumter, Harden and McDonald, again gained control of the upper country. On October 7, 1780, Sumter's men led by Lacey, Williams, and Hill helped to win a battle from the enemy under Ferguson at Kings Mountain.

In January, 1781, Gen. Daniel Morgan of Virginia, aided by Andrew Pickens with his body of riflemen, won a complete victory over the British at Cowpens. Gen. Greene had brought some troops into South Carolina. The combined forces of Sumter, Pickens, Marion, Lee and Greene gradually drove the British into Charles Town. Charles Town was evacuated December 14, 1782.

South Carolina's activities were not confined to her own borders. On several occasions she had sent troops to Georgia to help defend this feeble colony. The South Carolinians had captured a supply of powder in the early part of the war and sent it north to Washington at the critical point where his supply had given out. It was a South Carolinian who had secured aid from France for the patriots. This was exceedingly important since the French army and fleet played an important part in the capture of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

In the great fight for independence South Carolina did her share of the fighting and more than this. Besides furnishing brilliant leaders and brave soldiers for the battlefield, she produced eloquent orators and wise statesmen to help manage the affairs of the colonists during this trying period. Among the foremost of her statesmen was Henry Laurens. In 1777 he succeeded John Hancock as president of the continental congress. He proved himself an efficient and wise officer. On his way to seek aid from the Dutch he was captured by the British and imprisoned in the Tower of London. At the close of the war he was exchanged for Cornwallis. He then went to Paris, where he was one of the commissioners who signed the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States.

John Laurens, a son of Henry Laurens, was also prominent in the management of the civil affairs of the colonists. It was he who secured aid from France. Never has anyone been sent from America to Europe on so important mission. By his tact and unusual abilities he succeeded in the task in which Franklin had failed.

Christopher Gadsen, Arthur Middleton, William Henry Drayton, and David Ramsey were the great orators of South Carolina during the Revolution period. At the beginning of the war they accomplished much by inspiring their fellow-countrymen with patriotism and courage.

John Rutledge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Pinckney  had much to do with managing the affairs of the province during the war. The distinguished generals, Sumter, Pickens, Marion and Hampton rendered valuable service as statesmen--services which are apt to be overlooked on account of these men being such efficient partisan officers. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence for South Carolina were Thomas Heyward, Thomas Lynch, Arthur Middleton and Edward Rutledge.

South Carolina's women were as loyal, devoted, and heroic as her men. They supplied the soldiers with many comforts by knitting and weaving garments for them. In some instances they took an active part in the struggle. Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Dillard made perilous rides to warn the patriots of impending attacks of the enemy. We will long remember the patriotic spirit and self-sacrifice exhibited by Mrs. Motte when she showed the Americans how to set fire to her own house in which the British were fortified. Mrs. Bratton nursed some wounded British soldiers who had threatened to kill her the day before. Our state has sufficient cause to be proud of her noble women of the Revolution.

The difficulties under which South Carolina labored throughout the long struggle only add to her glory and honor. Next to Georgia she was the feeblest of the colonies. At the beginning of the war she had only ten thousand available men. There were heavy drains upon her limited resources. Much of the ammunition used during the war was captured from the British. Reaping hooks and mowing scythes were used for weapons when the supply of guns was inadequate. Saws were taken from sawmills to be made into swords. Lead was removed from the housetops and churches to be run into bullets. The soldiers had not half enough tents, camp kettles, and canteens. Clothes, food and medicines were often lacking. Added to all this were the strifes created by the insurgent Royalists and Indians. When we view the remarkable successes of the South Carolinians in the light of all these conditions, we can but agree with the great historian Bancroft in his opinion that "the sons of South Carolina suffered more, dared more and achieved more than the men of any other state."