Fort Moultrie National Monument on Sullivans Island
The Battle of Fort Sullivan, also called the First Siege of Charleston, took place on June 28, 1776.
Colonel William Moultrie commanded South Carolina militia and colonial regiments on Sullivans Island while General Charles Lee, a Commander of the Southern forces of the Continental Army, was charged with the overall defense of Charleston. Tensions were high enough throughout the colonies in the week prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence that the British had dispatched Major General Henry Clinton to support the crown Loyalists in the South.
As the British Fleet arrived, Fort Sullivan consisted of a 10 foot high double wall of palmetto logs spaced 16 feet apart and filled with sand. Only the seaward facing portion was equipped with gun emplacements for the 31 assorted cannon. A wooden palisade erected to protect the powder magazine and was all that stood between the artillery and possible land assault from the rear flank.
The British first attempted an assault from Long Island (now Isle of Palms) with around 2,200 troops but were frustrated by the depth of the channel (now Breech Inlet) and 750 American militia entrenched on the opposite shore. Nine man-of-war ships with up to 50 guns a piece anchored broadside facing the fort, expecting to easily destroy the meager position.
The naval bombardment lasted from 9 am until 9 pm that night, with damage to ships and losses of troops to the British great enough to prevent a second day of siege. The shells from the attacking fleet sank into the fibrous logs and sand, not producing the deadly splintering that plagued sailors or troops defending wooden ships or forts. The British withdrew the fleet to New York and would not return until 1780.
Today, visitors to the Ft. Moultrie Visitors Center and Museum will find remnants of the fort’s involvement in coastal defense from the American Revolution through the end of World War 2. In continuous use by the army for 171 years, it has been well preserved and enhanced with additional large cannons and an underground command center.
The Museum and Visitors Center, at 1214 Middle Street, are open from 9 to 5 daily and make for a wonderful half to full day excursion. Please call or email me for more Things To Do In Charleston!