Sunday, May 26, 2019

Episode 098: Voting for Independence

Over the spring and early summer of 1776, momentum grew for Independence.  Britain and The American colonies had been at war for a year by then.  The colonies had done pretty well militarily.  colonists had inflicted serious British casualties during the raid on Concord and at Bunker Hill.  They had forced the regulars to evacuate Boston and were, for the moment pretty, much in control of the 13 colonies.  Sure, British took back most of Canada in May and June, but overall, the colonists were looking pretty good.

Many people credit Thomas Paine’s Common Sense for helping move the population in favor of independence.  Certainly, Paine and other pamphleteers had an influence.  When someone asked John Adams decades later who he thought was most instrumental in furthering the independence movement, he had an interesting answer: King George III. The King announced at the opening of Parliament in the fall of 1775 that there would be no compromise and that he supported the use of military force to compel obedience.  This, along with his rejection of the Olive Branch Petition made clear there would be no politically negotiated solution.  Either the British would win by force of arms and the colonists would end up like Ireland, forced to accept whatever London did to them, or the Colonists would win and be independent.  There was no longer a middle ground.  It was time to pick a side.  Most people picked independence.

John Adams (from Wikimedia)
Getting that through the Continental Congress, though, was going to be a fight.  Many delegates still wanted a negotiated solution, no matter how unlikely that looked.  Histories of the Continental Congress usually portray John Adams of Massachusetts as the leader of the independence movement.  Congressional debates were secret.  No one outside of Congress knew exactly what was happening.  Members were forbidden even to write letters to friends about what they were doing.  Of course, Congress published final declarations and orders, but the internal debates remained private.

So, looking back we may see John Adams as the central leader, because John Adams wrote much of the history about what happened.  Decades later, long after he was president, Adams wrote his autobiography and other documents and letters describing the debate.  I’m not saying he lied.  There were dozens of other delegates who generally corroborated his story.  But he did have every incentive to focus on, and perhaps exaggerate, his own role and probably did so.

John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, typically gets credited or blamed for leading the opposition to independence.  He clearly did oppose independence.  He was also one of the few delegates who never signed the Declaration.

But calling Adams the leader of the independence movement and Dickinson the leader of the opposition may be an oversimplification.  There were about fifty delegates present for most of the debates, and a great many of them fought hard for and against independence.  Most delegations were divided on the issue, with many opponents eventually agreeing to support independence despite their better judgement, only because they thought the colonies needed to appear united against Britain.

The May Resolution

At the beginning of the Second Continental Congress in 1775, almost everyone at least publicly opposed independence. The only people talking about it were loyalists who accused radical patriots of secretly plotting independence.  Even after Lexington, most people seemed to think Britain and the colonies could negotiate some settlement.  It was really only by late 1775 after London made clear it was going to fight, not talk, that independence began to gain real momentum.

Independence Hall (from Wikimedia)
Adams was an early advocate and a leader for the cause, but was circumspect about advocating for independence too early.  His big concern was dividing the colonies and leaving New England on its own to fight the war.  He wanted a consensus before moving to open debate.

In May 1776, Adams wrote a letter to James Warren, President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, assessing where each of the colonies stood.  He thought that New England, that is Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, would support independence.  The southern colonies, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia were also all likely supporters.  The middle colonies, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland were all still pretty resistant.

Even so, Adams decided it was time to test the waters.  The way they moved into the debate was pretty sneaky.  On May 10 Congress passed a resolution calling on the colonies that no longer had an effective government to create one for themselves that would protect the “happiness and safety” of the people.  That seemed pretty reasonable.  If a colony did not have a working government, it should create one that worked.  The resolution did not mandate anything.  Most colonies had already created their own provincial congresses to run things.  The resolution essentially said great job guys, keep doing what you are doing.  It passed unanimously and without much debate.

Then, a few days later, a committee made up of John Adams, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina and Richard Henry Lee of Virginia added a preamble to the resolution.  The preamble was longer than the resolution itself.  It attacked the King for waging war on the colonies and for hiring foreign mercenaries to destroy them.  The preamble aid it was absolutely “irreconcileable [sic] to reason and good Conscience,” for people to swear loyalty to a royal government in light of these horrific acts of war.  Therefore, the colonies needed to create new governments.

With that preamble, the resolution now sounded much more like a declaration of independence.  Congress would be supporting the colonies creating new governments because they could no longer live under the authority of a tyrannical king.  The notes we have only say that Congress agreed to the preamble, but don’t list any sort of vote.  We know that the debate was contentious and that many delegates objected to it.

The Independence Resolution

Over the next few weeks, this put front and center the debate over independence both in congress and in the various colonies.  On May 15, the same day the Continental Congress was voting on the preamble, the Virginia Convention in Williamsburg voted on a resolution proposed by Patrick Henry to send to congress.  The resolution read:
These United colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
On June 7, Richard Henry Lee introduced this resolution into Congress.  Delegates began formal debate on the issue the following week.  Not surprisingly, much of the opposition came from New York and Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston, James Wilson and John Dickinson all argued strenuously against its adoption.  Edward Rutledge of South Carolina also opposed it.

Assembly room where debate took place (from Wikimedia)
The main argument of the opponents was not the independence should never happen.  They were concerned that it would divide the colonies, and that division would make them look like idiots to foreign governments with whom they were trying to create treaties and military alliances.  Congress needed to be in a position where the colonies could actually operate as independent States before declaring themselves independent.

They should at least get formal directives from each colony before embarking on such a drastic declaration.  This was a really big step.  Shouldn’t we make sure the people are really on board with all this?  Others were concerned about foreign alliances.  Are we really sure countries like France and Spain would back us?  What if they decided simply to use this dispute to recapture some of their own lost colonies and perhaps take a little more from a divided Britain?

Congress agreed to put off further debate for a few weeks so that delegations could communicate with their home colonies and see if they could get approval to support independence.  In the meantime, just in case they got approval, Congress would appoint a committee to work on drafting a declaration.  They also created a committee to work on a plan for confederation and another committee to work on treaties with foreign countries.

New England Support

Some colonies were clearly ready for Independence, New England especially. Rhode Island had essentially declared its own independence on May 4 when its legislature passed resolutions terminating British authority over the colony.  The Connecticut Assembly voted on June 14 to instruct its delegates to support independence.  New Hampshire’s House of Representatives did the same on June 15.

It was Massachusetts of all places, that was most divided on independence in New England.  Of the five delegates, only two, John and Samuel Adams solidly backed Independence.  Two others, Robert Treat Paine and Thomas Cushing opposed it.  The fifth, John Hancock seemed to support it, but he was still fighting with the Adamses over other issues.  They were still upset because Hancock had not relinquished the presidency of Congress to Peyton Randolph of Virginia when he returned to Congress.  Hancock was still miffed at the Adamses for them backing Washington rather than him for command of the Continental Army.  In December 1775, Adams got the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to replace Cushing with Elbridge Gerry, who backed independence, thus making Hancock’s vote less important and avoiding a potentially embarrassing fight over whether the Massachusetts delegation would support independence.

Southern Support

In the south, Virginia, which had instructed its delegates to support it in May, was clearly on board.  North Carolina, home of the Mecklenburg Resolves and where patriots had already fought in open combat in the battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, had voted to support independence in April, even before Virginia.

South Carolina had created a new independent government in April, but still expressed hope for an accommodation with Great Britain.  It also faced a potential British invasion in June in what became the battle of Sullivan’s Island.  South Carolina had essentially punted and told its delegates to support whatever they thought was right.  A majority of the delegates supported independence, but the delegation’s leader, Edward Rutledge remained opposed.  Georgia, the smallest and probably most loyalist colony in the south also simply told their delegates to use their best judgment, but those delegates seemed to be on board with independence.

Middle Colonies

That left the middle colonies, where independence seemed to have its weakest support.  Delaware appeared to be most in favor of independence in this group.  Delaware’s status as its own colony was under question since they were still technically considered part of Pennsylvania.  Even so, the Delaware assembly refused to authorize independence.  It left instructions to its delegates vague, essentially letting the delegates decide for themselves.

Edward Rutledge
(from Wikimedia)
The Maryland delegation walked out of Congress on May 15 when Congress debated the controversial preamble that had smacked of supporting independence.  The Maryland Convention received Congress’ resolution.  It then unanimously voted not to create a new government and reaffirmed its loyalty to the King.  One June 21, the Provincial Convention in Maryland recalled its delegates to discuss the matter, but wanted an assurance that Congress would not vote on independence while they were away.  Since Congress planned to begin debate on July 1, this was a problem.

New Jersey was in a period of transition.  The colony had a strong loyalist population and could really go either way.  Royal Governor William Franklin attempted to call the Assembly into session in May 1776, even though he was under house arrest. The Provincial Congress finally reacted by replacing the royal government in June and supporting independence.  But this was a power play by the patriots.  It was not clear that the colony’s population would go along.

That leaves us with two of the largest and most important middle colonies, New York and Pennsylvania.  Even if the other eleven went along with independence, it’s hard to see how it would work without these two key colonies on board.

New York would prove to be the most intractable.  The New York Assembly remained in power until June 1776.  Unlike most other colonies, loyalists had also participated in the Provincial Congress as well.  This gave them more influence in selecting delegates to the Continental Congress who opposed independence, as well as keeping the Provincial Congress itself from going too far.  New York was also facing an imminent invasion.  A leader even open to the idea of independence might have second thoughts if he believed that the British army would reassert control over the colony a month later and begin looking for leading traitors to arrest and hang.

Conservatives in New York tried to slow the momentum toward independence.  After receiving word that the Continental Congress would debate the matter.  The Provincial Congress voted that it could not support independence until it took a vote of the people in its colony, and that it could not take a vote, because, well that British invasion that is about to happen.  So New York’s delegation would be stuck with instructions not to support independence, at least until New Yorkers could vote on the question.

Also, of course, Pennsylvania was still going through a radical change that spring and summer.  I discussed this in detail last week, so I won’t go through it again now.

Congress Debates Independence

On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress finally sat down to debate independence.  That morning, supporters of Independence got a boost when an express rider arrived from Annapolis to say the Maryland delegates could support independence.

The debate took place under a parliamentary procedure known as the committee of the whole.  Basically, the entire Congress sat in committee so that they could discuss things more informally than they would in a session of Congress.  As a result, Benjamin Harrison sat as the committee chair rather than Hancock as President of Congress.

John Dickinson
(from Wikimedia)
John Dickinson spoke for most of the day, arguing against independence.  He raised all the familiar arguments, that America needed to get European allies on board first, that Britain would unleash hell on the colonies by destroying trade, burning towns and stirring up Indians on the frontiers against the colonies.

Adams commented to another delegate that the whole debate was a waste of time, making the same arguments everyone had heard for the last six months.  After Dickinson finished speaking, no one else rose to speak.  Finally Adams stood and outlined the case for independence without having a planned speech in hand.  No one recorded what he said, but Adams later said they were the same arguments he had made twenty times before.  By some accounts, other delegates spoke as well, but again we have no record of the debates.

The debate went late that day, ending at around 7:00 PM.  At the end of the day, the delegates took an informal poll to see where everyone stood.  Nine States seemed ready to support independence.  New York still had instructions to vote no.  Pennsylvania and South Carolina both voted no.  Delaware had only two delegates present, one for and one opposed.  At that point, Congress decided to put off a formal vote until the next day.

Overnight, informal discussions tried to get the opponents on board.  Most of South Carolina’s delegation seemed to be in favor of independence, but had voted no out of respect for their delegation leader, Edward Rutledge.  The New York delegation actually supported Independence but had to remain loyal to their instructions not to vote yes, and abstained.

Pennsylvania, which had seven delegates, had voted 4-3 against Independence.  Benjamin Franklin, John Morton and James Wilson supported independence, even though Wilson had been a critic of the move for some time.  The other delegates, John Dickinson, Robert Morris, Thomas Willing, and Charles Humphreys voted against.  The Pennsylvania delegates knew though that the more radical Pennsylvania Provincial Congress supported independence and was getting ready to elect new delegates in about three weeks.

Delaware had a third delegate who would likely support independence.  Caesar Rodney was down in Dover at the time, putting down a potential loyalist uprising there.  He could possibly put Delaware in the yes column if he returned in time.

Voting for Independence

The next day, July 2, Congress finally held the vote.  The nine states expected to vote yes did so.  Apparently overnight, the pressure on the "no" voters seemed to have an impact.  Rutledge of South Carolina decided to let the delegation vote yes, mostly for the sake of unanimity.  He realized the colonies could not be divided on this issue if they expected to have any chance of winning the war.

Caesar Rodney
(from Wikimedia)
Overnight, Delaware delegate Caesar Rodney made a famous ride through a thunderstorm to reach Congress that morning.  His vote tipped the Delaware delegation in favor of independence.  Rodney’s ride is celebrated in the musical 1776.  If you grew up in Delaware, like I did, you learn all about Rodney’s famous ride.  The main square in Wilmington is named Rodney Square and has a statue of Rodney on his horse making his famous ride to Congress.

The Pennsylvania delegates also decided to make a change in favor of unanimity.  As much as the opponents thought it a mistake, they also agreed that unanimity was important, and that a "no" vote now would only delay things a few weeks until the Provincial Congress replaced them.  When Congress got ready to vote, Dickinson and Morris got up and walked out.  They did this deliberately, knowing it would allow the Pennsylvania delegation to vote 3-2 in favor of independence.  They did not want to change their personal votes, but again agreed that unanimity was most important.

In the end, only New York abstained, leaving twelve colonies for independence and none opposed.  New York, once it realized it remained the one holdout, finally voted to allow its delegates to vote yes on July 9th.  Congress got word the following week, making the vote unanimous.

For Adams this vote was the victory he had sought, not the wording of the Declaration itself.  The day following the vote, July 3, he wrote to his wife Abigail saying:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Next Week: We take a closer look at drafting the actual Declaration of Independence.

- - -

Next  Episode 99: Declaring Independence

Previous Episode 97: A Coup in Philadelphia

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Further Reading


Preamble to the resolution of independent governments (May 15, 1776):

Happy Independence Day: Which Day Is It?

The Declaration of Independence: A History:

The Pursuit of Happiness:

Rhode Island Independence:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Vol. 4, Jan. 1 - June 4, 1776, Gov’t Printing Office, 1904.

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Vol. 5, June 5 - Oct. 8, 1776, Gov’t Printing Office, 1904.

Dwight, Nathaniel The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Harper & brothers, 1840.

Force, Peter American Archives, Fifth Series, Vol 1, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Goodrich, Charles A. Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Mather, 1840.

Lossing, Benson J. Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence. The Declaration Historically Considered, Evans, Stoddart & Co. 1870.

Stillé, Charles The Life and Times of John Dickinson, 1732-1808,  Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1891.

Tyler, Moses, C. The Literary History of the American Revolution, 1763-1783, Vol. 2, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1897.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Beeman, Richard R. Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776, Basic Books, 2013.

De Bolla, Peter The Fourth of July: And the Founding of America, Harry N. Abrams, 2008.

Hogeland, William Declaration: The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became Independent, May 1-July 4, 1776 Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

McCullough, David John Adams, Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Ryerson, Richard Alan The Revolution Is Now Begun: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia, 1765-1776, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Episode 097: A Coup in Philadelphia

So far in my story, I have not given much focus to Philadelphia, beyond discussions of the Continental Congress itself.  The city plays a key role in the revolution, beyond simply hosting Congress. I touched on this a little when I talked about the adoption of various state constitutions, but it is such an important topic, that I thought it worth devoting an episode to how a political coup in Philadelphia turned Pennsylvania from a conservative colony that leaned Tory, into a radical patriot state that looked much more like New England, all in a matter of weeks.

Pennsylvania Politics

To understand this change, it is important to understand Pennsylvania politics of the time. Before and during the Revolution, Philadelphia was the largest city in British North America.  Pennsylvania, was one of the last colonies to be created in America, and the only one not touching the Atlantic Ocean.  It was mostly an inland wilderness.  Despite its late start and geographic limitations, it quickly became a major trading center with a large and growing population.

William Penn, of course, founded Pennsylvania when King Charles II gave him the land in settlement of a debt that he owed to Penn’s father, Admiral William Penn.  As an aside, Pennsylvania was named after the father, Admiral Penn, not his son, the founder.  The colony populated rapidly due to the availability of cheap land and Pena’s promise of religious freedom.  Penn advertised heavily in the German states, and got a large German speaking population to settle there. Penn was a Quaker and wanted to create a colony that would provide a haven for the Society of Friends.

William Penn
(from National Park Service)
By the 1760’s, Quakers had become a minority in the colony. The Quakers, however, dominated the colony’s politics, mostly because they never altered voting districts to account for changes in population.  The areas in and around Philadelphia held a disproportionate number of seats.  During the French and Indian War, many Quakers had left government, not wanting to participate in a war, which violated the pacifist tenants of their religion.

During this same period, a political split divided the colonial leadership. William Penn’s son Thomas Penn, had become proprietor after his father’s death in 1718.  Thomas never really got along with the Quaker leadership.  In 1751, Thomas moved back to England.  He converted to the Anglican Church a few years later.  In 1756, in an attempt to oust Quakers who still dominated the colony’s politics, Penn petitioned Parliament to require an oath of loyalty for members of all colonial assemblies  Since Quakers could not take oaths, they would not be able to serve.  Although this attempt failed, it widened a political schism between the Penn family and the Quaker leadership.

The Quakers, supported by others such as Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Galloway, started pushing for an end to rule by the Penn family and to get a royal charter.  This is what happened to the only other proprietary colony, North Carolina.  The King dissolved the charter and took direct control of the colony, appointing a royal governor.  Many leaders from underrepresented areas opposed this move and wanted to retain the proprietors. John Dickinson was a notable member of this faction.

That whole fight over the charter dominated politics in the late 1750’s and early 1760’s.  It was only when the hostility toward Parliament’s attempts to tax the colonies that the push for a royal colony faded and the issue of Parliamentary taxation took front seat.  Once it did, coalitions began to realign. Quaker leaders could not condone revolution against the King.  Others, in the “royal colony” coalition, jumped into the tax protest movement wholeheartedly.

Charles Thomson

One of those men was Charles Thomson. If you have heard of Thomson at all, it is probably as secretary of the Continental Congress.  Before he had that job, he was an active radical leader in Philadelphia politics.

Thomson is really an interesting character who largely gets overlooked.  It’s worth giving a little background on him.  Thomson was born in Ulster Ireland in 1729.  His mother died when he was around nine, his father took his six children to Pennsylvania to begin a new life.  His father, though, got sick and died during the voyage.  Charles and his siblings got distributed to various families, possibly as indentured servants.  Charles ran away after learning that he would be apprenticed as a blacksmith.  He wanted to get an education.

Charles Thomson (from Wikimedia)
With the assistance of his brother and others, he enrolled in a school at the New London Academy in Pennsylvania.  There, he received a classical education.  At age 21, with some assistance from Benjamin Franklin, Thomson began work as a tutor at the Philadelphia Academy in 1751.  He followed Franklin into the anti-proprietary political faction. During the French and Indian War, he served as secretary at the negotiations for the Treaty of Easton.  Afterwards, he wrote a book: An Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawenese Indians from the British Interest. Thomson strenuously opposed the Proprietor’s Indian policies.  They would only lead to future wars between colonists and native tribes.

Thomson really began to radicalize after passage of the Stamp Act in 1765.  He became a leading organizer of the Sons of Liberty in Philadelphia. In October, he was part of a committee that visited John Hughes to convince (some would use the word threaten) him to resign his appointment as stamp agent for Pennsylvania.

He was active on committees of correspondence, which helped get him known to patriot radicals across the continent.  During the tea crisis, he worked closely with Joseph Reed, and Thomas Mifflin to prevent any merchants in Philadelphia from receiving any tea from the East India company shipments.  Unlike Boston, the Philadelphia radicals were able to get the ships to turn around and sail back to London.  Philadelphia, therefore, avoided the wrath leveled at Boston for destroying tea.

Even so, Thomson continued as a radical leader in 1774, fighting against the coercive acts by helping to organize petitions and boycotts.  His radical leadership later caused John Adams to refer to Thomson as the "Samuel Adams of Philadelphia."  Thomson was also part of the conspiracy I discussed back in Episode 43 to get the conservatives in Pennsylvania to agree to host the First Continental Congress.

As a well respected patriot with good writing skills, but not enough stature to become a delegate, Thomson became the recording secretary for the First Continental Congress.  He would continue in that role with the Second Continental Congress and the Confederation Congress, all the way through 1789.

So in early 1776, Thomson, as secretary, had full knowledge of everything happening in Congress, but was also still a local radical leader in the city, with mobs of radical patriots available as needed.

The Assembly

In many colonies, royal governors had suspended colonial legislatures that had tried to engage in activities against crown policy.  This had led to patriots setting up shadow provincial legislatures in defiance of royal authority.  Pennsylvania never had that problem.  The proprietary governor John Penn did not prevent the assembly from meeting.  He kept a low profile and mostly allowed politics to follow its own course.

Street Protest (Benjamin Franklin Historical Society)
The Pennsylvania Assembly itself remained pretty conservative.  The Quaker leadership stressed as part of their religious foundation that they should not resist government policies or question the leadership in London.  At most, colonists should submit petitions requesting changes.  Trade embargoes and other efforts to force policy changes were simply unacceptable.  The notion of taking up arms against British soldiers was completely out of the question.

Over the early 1770’s though, Quakers found themselves in an increasingly untenable situation.  If they did not support trade embargoes and other patriot efforts to protect colonial rights, they were seen as traitors to the colony.  As a result, many Quakers simply withdrew from politics.  They did not run for reelection and did not speak out in newspapers or public meetings.  Other conservatives took their place. Some were former Quakers.  Others were Anglicans who were also traditionally loyal to the King and who were still willing to speak out.  Many replacements though were also willing to back the patriots.

The split between proprietary and royal factions in the colony faded away.  Men who were on opposite sides of that fight, found themselves working together.  For example, Joseph Galloway, who had favored a royal charter along with men like Benjamin Franklin and Charles Thomson, now found himself increasingly at odds with his former allies as he found himself more closely allied with the Tories.  John Dickinson, who had been a supporter of proprietary government and a political opponent of Franklin and Thomson, now found himself increasingly allied with his former opponents as they all embraced the patriot movement.

All legislators, of course, were elected politicians.  Those who wanted to continue in their seats had to reflect the will of the voters.  To push the assembly in the right direction, Philadelphia radicals formed local unelected groups to lobby the legislature for the changes.  Many radical elements lived outside Philadelphia, in the more rural areas to the north and west.  Within the city, one of the most radical groups was the city’s mechanics.  These were skilled artisans and workmen that made up much of the workforce.  They were already organized in trade groups.  Under the leadership of Charles Thomson, they spoke loudly in support of trade embargoes and enforcing them on the merchants.  The mechanics also used their political power to demand the creation of increasingly larger committees.  There was Committee of 19, then 43, then 66, then 100.  These committees sought to create a more reasonable political balance since the Assembly was still unfairly weighted in favor of conservative districts in and around Philadelphia.

The committees focused on enforcement of trade restrictions, using mob pressure to intimidate or punish those who refused to comply.  After Lexington and Concord, the committees began to form militia, known as Associators.  Unlike New England or the southern colonies, Pennsylvania had almost no militia tradition.  What little they had existed in local communities on the western frontier, where Indian attacks posed much more risk.  Even these militia did not normally receive much support from the Quaker government back east.

In April 1775, news of fighting in Massachusetts resulted in groups, most prominently the mechanics, demanding that the colony form militia units for the defense of their rights.  The Committee of 66 took an active role in organizing and training an active militia.  Within weeks, the patriots had 30 new militia companies.  The Committee requested that the Assembly, allocate £50,000 in new currency to fund the new army.

The Assembly had funded militia in the past.  In the 1750’s it had allocated funds for defense of western territories before and during the French and Indian War.  Using militia, however, in obvious defiance of royal authority, however, would be far more controversial.  Around this same time, the Assembly rejected the Governor’s proposal to accept Lord North’s compromise offer, something the Continental Congress had already rejected.  Even while it rejected diplomatic compromise, the Assembly was not quite ready to hand over £50,000 to an extra-legal committee that was forming its own army.  However, it did agree, to allocate £2000 for expenses already incurred and another £5000 for future costs. The Assembly did seem willing to accommodate at least some patriot demands.

Funding aside, there was some fighting between radicals and moderates in late 1775 over the militia.  Radicals viewed paying a small subsection of the colony to remain in ranks for an extended period of time as a “standing army” which was a sign of tyranny.  They argued that all able bodied men in the colony should be required to participate in the militia.  This, of course, was a real problem for Quakers and other pacifist groups with religious objections.  It was the subject of heated debates for many months.  The Assembly refused to act on radical demands.  The militia remained a body of paid volunteers.


But the debate of militia paled in comparison to the debate that began at the end of 1775.  As you may recall back in Episode 81, this was about the time Thomas Paine published Common Sense.  The debate over independence became the topic of discussion in Pennsylvania as it was in all other colonies. The issue of independence seemed to upset many Quakers even more than the idea of universal military service.

On January 20, 1776, the Society’s Elders issued a public declaration which said in part “the setting up and putting down kings and governments, is God’s peculiar prerogative; for causes best known to himself: And it is not our business to have any hand or contrivance therein: . . . but to pray for our king, and the safety of our nation, and good of all men: That we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty; under government which God is pleased to set over us.”

Pennsylvania State House (from Wikimedia)
There was no way to finesse or compromise on independence.  There was no way the Assembly would support it.  Independence horrified Quakers and other conservatives in the state.  It formed a split among the many solid patriots.  Leaders like John Dickinson and Robert Morris had been outspoken advocates of strictly enforced trade embargoes and creating militia.  But they balked at independence.  These were men who thrived under the colonial system. Many feared they could not defeat Britain militarily and would be hanged as traitors.  Even if Pennsylvania did win somehow independence, they had no idea how much chaos and disorder would arise from the lack of a central government to keep the crazies in line.

The hard core radicals, however, pushed even harder to get Pennsylvania to support independence.  The Patriot Committee of 100 still contained a mix of leaders across the political spectrum.  In February, patriots held elections for a new Committee of 100.  This Committee was made up of many more working class patriots who were much more enthusiastic about independence.  Many more moderate patriots like Morris and Dickinson got kicked off the Committee.

This new radical Committee of 100 began making more demands on the legislature for militia funds and support for independence.  The Assembly, however, would not roll over.  The Committee did get them to agree to some redistricting, giving some of the western and more radical districts more representation in the Assembly.  But it still was not enough to get majority support for independence in the Assembly.

The colony held Assembly elections in May to fill new seats.  Radicals seeking independence fought a bitter contest for more radical representatives, most of their candidates lost.  This was a combination of strong turnout by Quakers to oppose radical candidates, combined with the fact that many radicals had joined militia units to go help defend New York City.  There were no absentee ballots at this time.

Most historians seem to think that the population was pretty evenly split at this time.  Even though the elections favored the moderates, in the days following the elections, a couple of events turned momentum in favor of the radicals.  First, Pennsylvanians received word that King George had hired 20,000 mercenaries to crush the rebellion.  Use of foreign mercenaries greatly outraged colonists.  If the King would use outsiders, many colonists dropped reservations about declaring independence and bringing France in on their side.  Second, the British warship Roebuck and Liverpool sailed up the Delaware River and engaged in a firefight with colonial gunships.  Although it was turned away, it brought home the reality that war was coming to Pennsylvania.

Sensing momentum on their side and unable to get the Assembly to act, the radicals tried another tactic.  On May 20, a few days after the Continental Congress passed its resolution for the colonies to form new governments, 4000 radicals appeared in front of the State House, what we today call Independence Hall.  While the Continental Congress was meeting on the first floor, the Pennsylvania Assembly met on the second floor.

The radical mob, which listened to speeches by some radical delegates, including Thomas McKean wanted not only independence, but a new government for Pennsylvania.  They called for a constitutional convention to replace the Assembly.  The Committee of 100 then called for an election of delegates to a convention.  What legal basis did the committee have for this? Well none really.  They were simply counting on the people to support it and for the government to have no power to obstruct it.

Although momentum seemed to be in favor of the radicals, the leaders set up the convention to ensure the result.  First, they gave equal representation to each county.  This gave far more power to the less populated western counties where radical sentiment was far more popular.  Second, they required all delegates to forswear allegiance to the king and to support whatever government the people chose.  Third, opened up voting to any male over the age of 21 who had been assessed for taxes.  With no minimum property requirement, this increased the voter pool from 50% to 90% across the State.

The Assembly, seeing this attack on its power appointed a committee to evaluate whether they should change their instructions to the delegates on independence.  The head of the Committee was none other than John Dickinson, himself a delegate and one of the leading opponents of independence.  The new instructions were muddled, it did not require the delegates to oppose independence, but did not require them sot support it either.  Since a majority of the Pennsylvania delegation still opposed independence, it did not seem to change the outcome.  Clearly, though the actions of the patriots to create an extra-legal convention and force their issue, despite having lost the recent elections, made this change possible.

By July, the delegation was still four to three against independence. We will see how that plays out next week when I discuss the Continental Congress’ vote on independence.

- - -

Next  Episode 98: Voting for Independence

Previous Episode 96: The Battle for Sullivan's Island

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.
Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


Pennsylvania History:

Quakers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey:

Thayer, Theodore, The Quaker Party of Pennsylvania, 1755-1765:

Wendel, Thomas "The Keith-Lloyd Alliance: Factional and Coalition Politics in Colonial Pennsylvania" The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1967:

Charles Thomson:

Society of Friends Testimony on resistance to government:

Fea, John The Pennsylvania Constitution VIDEO, C-Span, 2017.

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Harley, Lewis R. The Life of Charles Thomson: Secretary of the Continental Congress and Translator of the Bible From the Greek, G.W. Jacobs & Co. 1900.

Sharpless, Isaac A History of Quaker Government in Pennsylvania, Vol 2, Leach (1900).

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Hogeland, William Declaration: The Nine Tumultuous Weeks When America Became Independent, May 1-July 4, 1776 Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Ryerson, Richard Alan The Revolution Is Now Begun: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia, 1765-1776, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.

Selsam, J. Paul The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776: A Study in Revolutionary Democracy, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1936.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Episode 096: The Battle of Sullivan’s Island

Way back in Episode 82 we left Gen. Henry Clinton off the coast of North Carolina, awaiting the arrival of an army of loyalists who never came, and a fleet carrying regulars from Britain who took forever to arrive.   In January 1776, Clinton had left British occupied Boston headed South.

Collecting an Army

He stopped first in New York.  In New York Harbor, Clinton conferred with several royal governors who had been ousted, but who were sure that if the army raised its standard, thousands of their loyalist subjects would flock to support the King.  This was also the visit that I mentioned back in Episode 83 when Lord Drummond attempted to get Clinton to meet with Peace Commissioners from the Continental Congress.  Clinton refused.

Sir Henry Clinton
(from Wikimedia)
This was also the same visit I mentioned in Episode 89 when Clinton simply told his old friend Charles Lee, now serving as a general with the enemy in the Continental Army, that he was planning to head down to the Carolinas and lead an attack there.  After that conversation, Lee got himself transferred to command a southern army to oppose Clinton.  So Clinton: no more revealing your plans to the enemy, ok?

After a lengthy stay, Clinton made his way down to Cape Fear in North Carolina, where he expected to find an army of loyalists from the Carolina backcountry.  London had promised to send several regiments of regulars led by Gen. Cornwallis, who would become Clinton’s second in command.

Com. Peter Parker

Carrying the regulars would be a naval fleet under the command of Commodore Peter Parker. This was long before Parker received a bite from a radioactive spider, so he had no special superpowers at this time, only decades of naval experience.  The 55 year old Commodore was son of Admiral Christopher Parker.  Peter joined the navy in 1735, at age 13 or 14.  He served under Admiral Vernon, along with George Washington’s older brother Lawrence, in the West Indies during the War of Jenkins’ Ear.  He saw considerable action in the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, before retiring from active service in 1763.

A decade later, when trouble in the colonies created a need to increase the active navy, officials encouraged Parker to rejoin active service, granting him a knighthood and promoting Sir Peter to the rank of Commodore.  Later Parker would become an admiral and would later serve as a patron to a young up and coming officer named Horatio Nelson.

Plan of Attack

But for now, Commodore Parker would share command with General Clinton.  Parker carried plans from Lord George Germain back in London.  The plan had been to have Clinton and Cornwallis meet at Cape Fear.  They would deploy their 2000 regulars and provide arms to the loyalists.  Once the regulars restored order in North Carolina, as well as Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, they would leave the Loyalists in charge, and meet up with Gen. Howe in New York.  I’m not sure when Germain wrote those orders, but he expected the whole mission to be wrapped up in time for Clinton, Cornwallis, and Parker to join General Howe some time that spring.  Given that Clinton did not even receive these orders until May, chances of having everything done before summer were nill.  But given that Howe was running behind schedule as well, Clinton did not think he needed to be in any special hurry to get back to New York.

Sir Peter Parker
(from Wikimedia)
Clinton had arrived in March.  By then, the rebels had already crushed the loyalists at Moore’s Creek Bridge, meaning there would be no loyalist army for Clinton to lead.  Clinton found himself sitting off the coast, with only a few companies of men that he brought with him. General Cornwallis finally arrived on May 3, but thanks to stormy weather, the fleet continued to arrive slowly over the next few weeks, some not arriving until June.

In the meantime, soldiers had to remain aboard ship.  They could not land anywhere without doing battle with the locals.  The British conducted a series of coastal raids, mostly to collect food and supplies.  But the men were getting sick with so much time aboard ship.  Some of them were beginning to die of scurvy because of the lack of fresh vegetables.

Without loyalists rallying to their standard, there was not much Clinton’s forces could do.  Even if they captured some town or territory, they knew they had to leave soon to assist Howe in New York.  Without loyal local forces to leave in charge, any victory would have been pointless.

While waiting for more ships to find their way to the rendezvous at Cape Fear, Clinton and Parker tried to find some place they could have a military success.  Parker indicated that London thought Charleston, South Carolina was particularly important.  Clinton also received a message from Howe, saying there was no hurry to return and also indicated the importance of securing Charleston.

Clinton deployed a ship to reconnoiter Charleston from the sea.  The officers reported back that the rebels were building a fort on Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.  At the time of the survey, the fort was still under construction and not ready for an attack.  Up until then, Clinton seemed in favor of establishing a secure outpost on the Virginia coast.  Parker though, persuaded him of the value of taking Sullivan’s Island.  Even if they did not have the resources to capture all of Charleston, taking the fort before it was finished would prevent the rebels from securing Charleston Harbor, and would provide the British with a launching point for a later attack against the city.

By the end of May, Clinton received updated orders from Lord Germain that if he was not going to engage in any military operations, he might as well head north and begin linking up with Howe.  Clinton did not want to give up his independent command without having accomplished anything.  He held a council of war to decide what action they might take.  The council approved the attack on Sullivan’s Island.  The fleet weighed anchor had headed south to Charleston.  By June 1, the first British ships anchored outside Charleston Harbor.

Charles Lee Moves South

While General Clinton and the British fleet slowly moved toward Charleston.  Continental General Charles Lee slowly made his way down to defend it.  After Lee informed Congress about General Clinton’s plans, Congress directed Lee to head a southern command to stop Clinton.  Lee spent some time in Philadelphia, then moved south, making waves wherever he went.  In Baltimore, he ordered the arrest of Royal Governor Robert Eden.  The Annapolis Committee of Safety challenged his authority to make such an arrest.  While they argued about it, Governor Eden jumped aboard a ship and sailed back to London.  Lee then set up headquarters in Williamsburg.  There, he commandeered a building at William and Mary College that had been set aside for a military hospital, setting off more local protests.  He also arrested and burned the homes of some Tory leaders.  He ordered the removal of other less influential Tories away from the coast.  The Provincial Congress eventually supported all these moves, but the imperious manner in which Lee acted, bothered many patriot leaders.

By late May, Lee left for Charleston after determining that Clinton would likely attack there soon.  Lee actually did not arrive until June 4, a few days after the British fleet appeared outside Charleston Harbor.  It still is not clear to me why the British just sat there and did not attack.  They were still awaiting the arrival of some ships, but still had plenty for the attack.  Instead, they did little before beginning the attack four weeks after arrival.  This only gave their men time to get hungrier and sicker while the patriots improved their defenses.

Preparing the Defense

Lee brought with him 1900 Continentals to supplement the local militia.  One of Lee’s first steps was to assert command over all militia and anything else he might need in defense of Charleston.

After observing and evaluating the defenses, Lee decided that they should abandon Sullivan’s Island.  The wooden walls would not stand long against artillery fire.  More importantly, the fort did not have a back wall yet.  If the navy sailed around the fort, they could wipe out the defenders, who would have nowhere to hide.  There was also no way to retreat from the island if the British overran it.

Sullivan's Island (from Wikimedia)
The defenders had a total of 31 cannon on Sullivan’s Island Another 15 patriot guns sat across the harbor at Fort Johnson.  Compare that to the roughly 270 guns among the 50 British ships that were prepared to attack.  Given the incomplete defenses, the smaller number of guns, and the lack of a line of retreat, it’s easy to understand why General Lee thought they should not try to hold Sullivan’s Island.

Lee would not get his way though.  President of South Carolina, John Rutledge, argued that he commanded the state militia.  South Carolina had created a new Constitution in March.  Before that, Rutledge had been a member of the Continental Congress.  He was not ready to turn over command of his militia to Lee and the Continental Army like colonials had done with the regulars in earlier wars.  Rutledge sent a note out to Fort Sullivan’s commander saying that General Lee thought they should abandon the island. The commander, however, should not do so without an order from Rutledge, and that he would rather cut off his right hand than issue such an order.

Lee attempted to build a pontoon bridge to the island, using barrels and wood planks.  This would at least provide a line of retreat if needed.  But when he tried to send 200 soldiers over the bridge, it broke apart.

Out on Sullivan’s Island, Col. William Moultrie commanded a group of over 400 militia.  They had 31 cannons and about 10,000 pounds of powder, a good amount for the patriots, but not really enough for a multi-day artillery battle.

On June 7, British General Clinton sent a messenger under a flag of truce to the patriot lines.  A militiaman fired on the messenger who returned without delivering the message.  The next day, patriot leaders had to send an apology to General Clinton for firing on a flag of truce and allowed him to send a messenger the following day.  Clinton’s message though, was a nonstarter.  It simply called on the rebels to lay down their arms and surrender.  That was not going to happen.

The Battle

That same day, June 8, General Clinton along with Cornwallis landed 2200 regulars on Long Island, just to the north of Sullivan’s Island.  The British plan was to ford the men across a shallow sand bar to Sullivan’s Island.  They would then march down to the south end of the Island and attack Fort Sullivan from behind.

Moultrie Flag at Fort Sullivan
(from British Battles)
When General Lee got word of this, he sent a note to Col. Moultrie to have him move two of his field cannons to the north end of the island.  They would use these to prevent any British landing.  It took two days for Moultrie to get the note, but he still had time to move the cannon into place before the slow moving British attempted any assault.  Lee also ordered Moultrie to continue building up the back wall of the fort to defend against an assault.  Moultrie never got around to that.  Lee himself was focused on the defense of the town of Charleston.  He feared Clinton could march his army from Long Island to make a direct land assault on Charleston, bypassing the island defenses entirely.  But the swampy land between Long Island and Charleston would have made any direct assault impossible.

More than a week passed before anything else happened.  Clinton planned to move slowly and deliberately, not relying at all on speed or surprise.  On June 17, Clinton made his first attempt to ford soldiers across to Sullivan’s Island.  He discovered, to his frustration that the sandbar at low tide was not 18 inches as expected, but more than 7 feet deep.  His army could not cross the ford to get to Sullivan’s Island.

By this time, the patriots had over 6500 soldiers.  Most of these remained with Lee at Charleston, his 1900 Continentals, as well as around 4000 South Carolina regulars and militia.  Then there were Moultrie’s 400 defenders on Sullivan’s island, and a few other crews on surrounding islands.   Lee remained primarily concerned about a direct assault on Charleston.  He did not realize the British only had the limited goal of seizing Sullivan’s Island.  Lee still considered the island indefensible.  Although the fort could have accommodated 1000 defenders, Lee would not send over any more troops.  He figured anyone there would simply be killed or taken prisoner, no need to add to those losses.

On the evening of June 27, Lee decided to relieve Colonel Moultrie of command and send over a Continental officer to take control of Fort Sullivan.  More than likely, once htat officer was in command, we would order a withdrawal from the island.  But before Lee could replace Moultrie, the British finally acted.

Battle of Fort Sullivan (from British Battles)
On the morning of June 28, the British Navy began its bombardment of Fort Sullivan.  Parker’s attack, however quickly ran into problems. First, Parker had two ships lobbing bombs and mortars into the center of Fort Sullivan from a distance.  Because he anchored the ships too far away, they had to use larger amounts of powder.  The loads were so large that they ended up destroying the deck of one of the ships, taking it out of commission.  Also, the explosives lobbed into the fort mostly sank into the soft sand before exploding, thus greatly reducing their destructive effect.

Next, Parker sent four of his largest ships, with a total of over 150 cannon, to level the fort walls.  Again, the British met with frustration,  The walls of green palmetto logs were soft wood, with about 16 feet of sand and mud in between the inner and outer walls.  British cannonballs simply pushed through the logs, which did not splinter, and sank into the sand, doing almost no damage.

During the naval attack, Clinton attempted to use boats to move his troops from Long Island to Sullivan’s Island.  However, the patriot defenders used their two cannon to fire on the landing craft. On the mainland, Continentals also used cannon to put the British landing craft in a deadly crossfire.  Since the British did not have enough boats to overwhelm the defenders, the attack broke and the regulars returned to Long Island.  After that one attempted assault, Clinton gave up on any attack by the army and sat out the rest of the battle.

British Navy firing on Fort Sullivan (from British Battles)
The defenders at Fort Sullivan returned fire against an overwhelming cannonade that lasted all day.  But they took surprisingly few casualties.  Moultrie’s biggest fear was running out of ammunition.  He had to slow down his return fire to conserve powder.

Around noon, Parker ordered three of his ships to pass around behind the fort so they could fire on defenders where the walls remained incomplete.  This too ended in frustration as the ships could not get over a sandbar.  Two of the ships retreated, but one of them, the Acteon got stuck there and had to be burned the following morning.  The patriots actually boarded the burning ship, fired some of its cannon at the enemy, removed some supplies, and abandoned it only minutes before the powder magazine exploded.  The Navy did not attempt again to get around behind the fort.  Instead, they continued to batter the front, which was proving useless.

In the afternoon, Lee rowed out to Sullivan’s Island to see how things were going.  I think he expected to see soldiers ready to flee the field.  Instead, he found dogged defenders not having much problem defending the fort.  After a fifteen minute inspection, he returned back to Charleston.

Fort Moultrie Flag (from Wikimedia)
During the battle, Moultrie flew a now famous blue flag with a white crescent moon and the word Liberty written on it.  At one point the British shot down the flag, but the defenders quickly raised it again.  Later this would become known as the Moultrie flag.

The firing continued until around 9:30 PM.  Later that evening, the British fleet pulled back to a safe distance.  The defenders of Fort Sullivan suffered only 12 dead and 25 wounded, despite the British expending over 34,000 pounds of powder.  Later, more than 7000 British cannonballs would be dug out of Sullivan’s Island.


The British had lost one ship entirely, the Acteon, and had many other damaged.  They suffered 63 dead and 157 wounded.  Parker himself received a minor knee injury.  Royal Governor William Campbell also received a leg wound.  Campbell had intended to sit his government on Sullivan’s Island and become a rallying point for Tories.  Instead, his wound would contribute to his death two years later.
William Moultrie
(from Wikimedia)

Clinton remained on Long Island for another week or two as he and Parker decided what to do next. Instead of renewing the fight, they packed up and sail for New York, where they would rejoin General Howe’s army.  Clinton especially would spend much of the next year trying to explain why the loss at Sullivan’s Island really wasn’t his fault and that he didn’t even want to attack there in the first place.

As the commander of Fort Sullivan, William Moultrie became an instant hero.  South Carolina renamed Fort Sullivan, Fort Moultrie in his honor.  He would receive a commission as a general in the Continental Army later that year.  Charles Lee, despite the fact that the patriots won only by continually defying his orders, also received credit for the victory.  This credit would only stoke his ego and contribute to his view that he should replace Washington as Commander of the Continental Army.

In fact, Lee was right about Fort Sullivan being indefensible.  The patriots won only because of three things that no one foresaw, the fort walls being virtually indestructible against cannon fire, the inability of Clinton to get his army from Long Island to Sullivan Island due to deep water, and the inability of Parker to get his ships behind the fort due to shallow water.  Had any one of these three things gone differently, the battle would have almost certainly been a British victory.  Of course, whether the British could have held the island as an outpost without committing way too many resources there is another question.

But we won’t have to answer that question because Sullivan’s Island became an unqualified patriot victory and an embarrassing British defeat.

- - -

Next  Episode 97: A Coup in Philadelphia

Previous Episode 95: Battle of Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers)

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account.
Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


Lord Cornwallis:

Sir Peter Parker

Stacy, Kim R. “The Land Battle for Sullivan's Island, Charles Town, South Carolina, June - July 1776.” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 92, no. 371, 2014, pp. 189–209.

Battle of Sullivan’s Island:

Battle of Sullivan’s Island:

Bragg, C.L. "Why the British Lost the Battle of Sullivan’s Island" Journal of the American Revolution, Sept. 2016:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Bearss, Edwin The Battle of Sullivan’s Island and the Capture of Fort Moultrie, National Park Service, 1968 (from

Carrington, Henry Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co. 1876.

Dallas, George A Biographical Memoir of the Late Sir Peter Parker, Longman Hurst, 1815 (Parker’s description of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island in Appendix I).

Drayton, John Memoirs of the American Revolution: From its Commencement to the Year 1776, inclusive, as relating to the state of South-Carolina, Vol 2, A.S. Miller, 1821.

Gibbes, Robert Documentary History of the American Revolution, consisting of letters and papers relating to the contest for liberty chiefly in South Carolina, Vol 2, 1764-1782, D. Appleton, 1855.

The Defense of Sullivan’s Island, 28 June 1776, excerpt from Gen. William Moultrie's Memoirs of the American Revolution, David Longworth, 1802.

Ross, Charles (ed) Correspondence of Charles, First Marquis Cornwallis, Vol 1, John Murray, 1859.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)

Bragg, C.L. Crescent Moon Over Carolina: William Moultrie and American Liberty, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2013 (book recommendation of the week).

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Lumpkin, Henry From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1981.

Mazzagetti, Dominick Charles Lee: Self Before Country, Rutgers Univ. Press, 2013.

Russell, David Lee The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies, McFarland Publishing, 2000.

Willis, Sam The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution, W.W. Norton & Co. 2016