the battle of charleston
the siege of 1780
In late 1779, following strategic failures earlier in the war, the British were stymied by the waiting strategy adopted by General George Washington leading the Continental Army. Under political pressure to deliver victory, British leaders turned to launching their "southern strategy" for winning the war, that built on the idea that there was strong Loyalist sentiment supporting the southern colonies. Their opening move was the Capture of Savannah, Georgia in December 1778. After repulsing a siege and assault on Savannah by a combined Franco-American force in October 1779, the British planned an attack on Charleston, South Carolina which they intended to use as a base for further operations in the north.
The British government instructed Sir Henry Clinton to head a combined military and naval expedition southward. He evacuated Newport, Rhode Island, on October 25, 1779, and left New York City in command of Hessian General Wilhelm von Knyphausen. In December, he sailed with 8,500 troops to join Colonel Mark Prevost at Savannah. Charles Cornwallis accompanied him, and later Lord Rawdon joined him with an additional force, raising the size of the expedition to around 14,000 troops and 90 ships
Marching upon Charleston via James Island, Clinton cut off the city from relief, and began a siege on April 1. Skirmishes at Monck's Corner and Lenud's Ferry in April and early May scattered troops on the outskirts of the siege area. Benjamin Lincoln held a council of war, and was advised by de Laumoy to surrender given the inadequate fortifications. Clinton compelled Lincoln to surrender on May 12. The loss of the city and its 5,000 troops was a serious blow to the American cause. It was the largest surrender of an American armed force until the 1862 surrender ofUnion forces at Harper's Ferry during the Antietam Campaign. The last remaining Continental Army troops were driven from South Carolina consequent to the May 29 Battle of Waxhaws. General Clinton returned to New York City in June, leaving Cornwallis in command with instructions to also reduce North Carolina.