Revolution and a New Nation
- Grand Strand Weekend
- South Carolina for Kids
- South Carolina Bar-B-Que
- A Midlands Weekend
- Civil War Adventures
- South Carolina Waterways
- Three Days in Horse Country
- South Carolina for Seafoodies
- South Carolina Kitsch
- Gullah and African American History
- Upstate Weekend
- South Carolina’s Top Ten for Golfers
- South Carolina’s Offbeat Festivals
- Southern Comforts
- Lowcountry Romance
It’s a persistent but inaccurate myth that the affluent elite on the southeastern coast were reluctant to break ties with England. While the Lowcountry’s cultural and economic ties to England were certainly strong, the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts combined to turn public sentiment against the mother country there as elsewhere in the colonies. South Carolinian planters like Christopher Gadsden, Henry Laurens, John Rutledge, and Arthur Middleton were early leaders in the movement for independence.
At war’s outbreak, the British failed to take Charleston—fourth-largest city in the colonies—in June 1776. The episode gave South Carolina its “Palmetto State” moniker when redcoat cannonballs bounced off the palm tree–lined walls of Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. The British under General Sir Henry Clinton successfully took the city, however, in 1780, holding it until 1782.
Though the area’s two major cities were captured—Savannah fell to the British in 1778—the war raged on throughout the surrounding area. Indeed, throughout the Carolinas the fighting was as vicious as anything yet seen on the North American continent. With over 130 known military engagements occurring in South Carolina, that colony sacrificed more men during the war than any other—including Massachusetts itself.
The struggle became a guerrilla war of colonists vs. the British as well as a civil war between Patriots and Loyalists, or Tories. Committing what would today undoubtedly be called war crimes, the British routinely burned homes, churches, and fields, and killed recalcitrant civilians.
In response, Patriots of the Lowcountry bred a group of deadly guerrilla soldiers under legendary leaders such as Francis Marion, “the Swamp Fox,” and Thomas Sumter, “the Gamecock.” Using unorthodox tactics perfected in years of backcountry Indian fighting, the Patriots of the Carolinas attacked the British in daring hit-and-run raids staged from the swamps and marshes, from the hills and forests.
Though originally assumed by the British to be supportive of the Crown, Upstate Carolinians were swayed by the resurgence of violence from the Cherokees, newly allied with the British. The savagery of the repeated frontier massacres—some of which, it must be said, were encouraged by the British—hardened the Upcountry settlers against redcoat and Indian alike. Some of them, such as Andrew Jackson, would take their anti-Indian prejudice to extremes.
In all, the Scots-Irish of the Upstate would play a key role—some historians say the key role—in turning the tide of the American Revolution. South Carolina militiamen would defeat Loyalist forces in two pivotal battles of the war, at Cowpens and Kings Mountain. The unexpected show of patriotism from Upcountry settlers put a dagger in Lord Cornwallis’s ill-fated “Southern Strategy” and led inevitably to the British retreat through North Carolina to Yorktown, Virginia and ignominy.
In all, four South Carolinians signed the Declaration of Independence (Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge).
© Jim Morekis from Moon South Carolina, 4th Edition