Beaufort, South Carolina

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Beaufort, South Carolina

BEAUFORT, SOUTH CAROLINA. 3 February 1779. When Generals Augustine Prevost and Benjamin Lincoln faced each other across the Savannah River at Purysburg, the British commander took advantage of his naval supremacy to direct a turning movement against Beaufort, on Port Royal Island in South Carolina. It lay thirty miles to Lincoln's rear and sixty miles south of Charleston.

Lincoln ordered General William Moultrie to turn out the militia to oppose this threat, and when Major William Gardiner approached with two hundred British troops, Moultrie was waiting at Beaufort with three hundred Charleston militia, twenty Continentals, and three cannon. Moultrie moved his forces out from the town to attack the British, who retreated to the cover of trees. Moultrie ordered his own men into the cover of some other trees and the two sides fired on each other for a little over half an hour. Gardiner was handicapped by having his one cannon disabled early in the fight, but the rebels' ammunition ran out and Moultrie then ordered a withdrawal. When Moultrie realized that the British were also retreating, he ordered pursuit by his few mounted troops. The British escaped by boat to Savannah, and Moultrie moved south to join Lincoln.

American losses were eight killed and twenty-two wounded. British losses are unknown but assumed to have been heavy, given Gardiner's hasty retreat.

This little action discouraged the British from any further operations into South Carolina until the spring of 1779. Then, Prevost moved against Charleston on 11-12 May.

SEE ALSO Charleston Raid of Prevost; Southern Theater, Military Operations in.

                          revised by Michael Bellesiles

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Beaufort, South Carolina

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