Fort Granby, South Carolina

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Fort Granby, South Carolina

FORT GRANBY, SOUTH CAROLINA. 15 May 1781. This British post, on the southern bank of the Congaree River near modern Columbia, was held by 340 men under Maryland Loyalist Major Andrew Maxwell. The garrison included sixty German dragoons, the rest being Loyalists primarily of Maxwell's Prince of Wales Regiment. Although this was a strong post protected by abatis, earthworks, and palisades, Colonel Henry Lee knew Maxwell and thought him a coward more interested in plunder than in the military arts. Lee therefore planned a quick attack, leaving Fort Motte on 13 May and reaching the woods west of the fort the following night, where he emplaced a six-pound gun. When the fog cleared the next morning, Lee fired the cannon and his Legion infantry moved forward to deliver a musket fire on Maxwell's pickets. When summoned to surrender, Maxwell agreed to do so if he and his men could keep their plunder and if the garrison could withdraw to Charleston as prisoners of war until exchanged. Knowing that Colonel Francis Rawdon might arrive at any minute to save the fort, Lee agreed, with the condition that all horses fit for public service be surrendered. The Germans objected, and negotiations were suspended.

When Lee received word from Captain James Armstrong, who had been screening in the direction of Camden with a small cavalry force, that Rawdon was across the Santee at Nelson's Ferry and was approaching Fort Motte, Lee agreed to Maxwell's terms. The capitulation was signed before noon of the 15th, and Maxwell moved off with two wagons full of his personal plunder. Without the loss of a man—on either side—the rebels gained possession of an important post along with a considerable supply of ammunition, some salt and liquor, two cannon, and the garrison's weapons. Lee's good sense in handling this situation is expressed in Napoleon's Maxim 46: "The keys of a fortress are well worth the freedom of the garrison…."

SEE ALSO Southern Campaigns of Nathanael Greene.

                    revised by Michael Bellesiles