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November Tea Party Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' copy of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection - Debbie Curto, Christmas tea - Andrea Stephens, Golden Tea body wash Joy Ellis, lighthouse earrings -- Pegg's SIL from Lake Ann and Perrianne Askew, Pegg Thomas's Leather journal - Shelia Hall, and Writing Prompts book goes to - Connie Porter Saunders

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Sieges of Savannah and Charleston, or How the British Left the Colonies

The Siege of Charleston, 1780
In 1779, the British turned their attention from New England and the northeast colonies to what is now termed the Southern Campaign—and they started with Savannah, Georgia. Having taken that in December, they moved north to Charles Towne—Charleston of today—and laid siege to it for six weeks before that mighty port city buckled.

After the surrender at Yorktown, the British forces hunkered down in Charleston and Savannah, but made no further move to withdraw. As Patrick O’Kelley says, “Though the war was near the end, the fighting continued. Old scores needed to be settled, and this had to be done while there was still a war going on. The British in Savannah and Charlestown had to find food for the soldiers and for the refugees huddled near the walls of the cities. The Patriots knew that the sooner they could get the British to leave the two cities, the sooner the war would end, so they opposed any foraging parties coming out of the cities. This led to some intense fighting in the last days of the war.”

The siege of Charleston lasted from 1781 until December 1782. The retaking of Savannah had begun in January 1782 when Major General Anthony Wayne made a bold push against the British in Georgia. The British, thinking they were outnumbered (though they weren’t, by far), fell back to Savannah, and though Wayne did his best to play up the fears of the British, they held onto that city until July.

Last page of the Treaty of Paris, 1783
In the meantime, Greene had his own troubles with troops becoming mutinous in the face of nakedness and hunger. William Moultrie describes how every scrap of cloth was needed to hang about men’s waists, and this in an age where a man was considered “undressed” if he didn’t wear a waistcoat over shirt and breeches. Another officer asked if soldiers could be expected to do their duty, clothed in rags and fed on rice. Even partisan leader Francis Marion, the famed “Swamp Fox,” grew so weary of the constant fight that after one incident in September, he refused to put any more of his men’s lives on the line, so close to the expected departure of the enemy. In one case he and his men even stood guard on behalf of a British foraging party, presumably as much out of compassion as anything.

On July 11, the British officially evacuated from Savannah. Troops headed for Charleston and New York. Many loyalist refugees eventually went south to Florida. The British would drag their feet getting out of Charleston until December 14. British regulars and loyalists dispersed not only back to Britain, but to the Caribbean and Nova Scotia. (Many of Tarleton’s Green Dragoons were given holdings in Nova Scotia, but it was a rather austere location.)

Map of US and territories after the Treaty of Paris
The day after the British fleet sailed from Charleston, the Maryland Line of the Continentals decided their enlistment was over, but Greene told them firmly that the war was not yet finished. That would not happen until the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, but the fighting in the Carolinas had ended at last.

At least where the British were concerned. Tensions and conflict would continue with the native tribes for years to come. And having cut their losses in the American colonies, the British had already focused their meager energies elsewhere in the world. This marked the end, however, of the colonial era in United States history.

(My thanks as usual to O'Kelley for his excellent work, Nothing But Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas.)

6 comments:

  1. This is something I hadn't thought much about. And very interesting where the British felt safe to go after leaving Charleston and Savannah. Siege is a very efficient weapon of war.

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    1. It is, indeed! Glad you found it interesting. Sometimes I feel like there is just SO much to write about, I hardly know where to start!!

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  2. Thanks, Shannon, for explaining this part of the Revolutionary War as I'm not as familiar with the war in the southern colonies. Very informative!

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    1. I've found that a common thing, even among people very familiar with colonial history! It was my favorite part of living in Charleston--having all that RevWar history at my fingertips. Glad to be able to help illuminate it!

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  3. Shannon, thank you for this interesting report! I am currently reading The Swamp Fox by John Oller and this blog fits right in.
    Hugs,
    Elva Cobb Martin www.elvamartin.com
    VP ACFW-SC Chapter

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Elva, and good to hear from you!!

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