Carolina Day

Today is Carolina Day.

A holiday most have never heard of. People tend to forget that the war of American Independence was fought in the South just as it was in the North. And so the battles in the South have been ignored.

The battles in Lexington and Concord are well known (and commemorated by the Boston Marathon), but who has heard of the battle of Sullivan’s Island?

I spent every summer of my youth on Sullivan’s Island, and the event was drilled into me.

In late May of 1776 the British decided to capture the city of Charleston (the largest port in the South, the fourth largest city in the colonies, and capital of the richest province). To this end they dispatched a fleet of 20 ships which was to land an army and take the city.

Sullivan’s Island is right outside Charleston harbor. There was a half-built fort on the island. This was all the protection the city had. The fort had only 26 guns, and enough ammunition for each gun to be fired 28 times. The fleet had ten times as many guns (262) and no dearth of powder. There were ~400 men in the fort and another 700 on the Island entrenched to prevent a force of 2900 British marines from landing.

Somehow the British did not understand the local tides. Three of their ships ran aground, and their battle plan (which depended on being able to sail behind the Island into shallow water) failed completely. Their attempt to land a ground force to take the fort from behind also failed, again due to lack of understanding of local currents. They suffered heavy casualties, and were forced to destroy one of their own ships before they withdrew.

Six days later the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Sadly, the 28th of June is no time to run a marathon in Charleston. I expect that is why this epic battle is practically unknown.


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