In late December 1779, British Commander-in-Chief Sir Henry Clinton sailed with an expeditionary force out of New York. Clinton’s objective was Charles Town, South Carolina. The port city was one of the largest in North America, the gateway to the South and an important link in the Continental supply chain. Clinton had led an attempt to capture the city in 1776 which had been turned back by a stout American defense.
By the middle of February, Clinton had landed along the coast south of Charles Town. His army steadily moved from island to island as the British inched closer to the city. After assuming a position on the land side of Charles Town, Clinton initiated siege operations against the Continental army under Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. The British dug parallels and repulsed Lincoln’s sorties to interrupt their operations.
A little over a week later, British warships ran past Charles Town’s seaside defenses and penetrated the harbor. On April 14, a British force under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton cut off Lincoln’s communications at Moncks Corner. Tarleton struck again at Lenud’s Ferry in early May and effectively sealed off any escape by land. With Clinton’s lines getting ever closer, Lincoln decided to surrender. Charles Town fell to the British on May 12. It was the most devastating defeat of the war for the Americans. South Carolina lay open for the British.
Today, a small segment of the original hornwork that formed a portion of the city’s defenses remains in Marion Square in Downtown Charleston. Through The Liberty Trail, we plan to create a “Gateway Experience” in Marion Square that will both interpret this pivotal moment in the Revolutionary War and introduce The Liberty Trail to potential visitors with a combination of physical signage and digital resources.