MOULTRIE, WILLIAM. (1730–1805). Continental general. South Carolina. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, on 23 November 1730, Moultrie was a member of the Commons House through most of the 1750s. Appointed captain in the militia on 16 September 1760, he took part in Lieutenant Colonel James Grant's expedition against the Cherokee in 1761. He remained active in the militia, rising to colonel in 1774, and served in the South Carolina Provincial Congresses of 1775–1776. On 17 June 1775 he became colonel of the Second South Carolina Regiment, leading a notorious raid in November against an encampment of escaped slaves on Sullivan's Island that resulted in the slaughter of fifty people. Against the Charleston expedition of Clinton in June 1776, he became a national hero in his defense of the palmetto and sand fort that was renamed in his honor. He was appointed a Continental brigadier general on 16 September 1777 but had no opportunity for significant field operations until after the British capture of Savannah on 29 December 1778. During Lincoln's operations in the southern theater, Moultrie was employed in a semi-independent role. He commanded the successful action at Beaufort, South Carolina, on 3 February 1779. When General Augustin Prevost pushed through his screening force and threatened Charleston on 11-12 May, Moultrie helped organize the defenses of the city. He was criticized for failing to act aggressively at Port Royal on 3 February 1779 and Stono Ferry on 20 June 1779, allowing the British to get away in each instance.
When Charleston fell to the British in May 1780, Moultrie became a prisoner of war, spending almost two years in the British prison at Haddrell's Point, South Carolina. He was freed as part of the exchange for General Burgoyne in February 1782, and on 15 October he became a Continental major general—the last officer appointed to that grade—but the fighting was over. In 1783 he sat in the South Carolina House of Representatives and the next year was lieutenant governor. He served two terms as governor (1785–1787 and 1792–1794). He was a federalist member of the state ratifying convention in 1788. He died at Northampton, South Carolina, on 27 September 1805.
revised by Michael Bellesiles