Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Battle of Stono Ferry, 20 June 1779

The Battle of Stono Ferry took place 20 June 1779 in South Carolina during the British retreat from an abortive raid on Charleston. Lieutenant Colonel John Maitland was in charge of the large rear guard left by British General Augustine Prevost upon his withdrawal to Savannah. A bridgehead was established on the north side of an area now known as New Cut Church Flats; this was meant to cover Stono Ferry. Three strong redoubts were built, circled by an abatis, and manned by Highlanders and Hessians. It was here that American Major General Benjamin Lincoln chose to lead his main attack. General William Moultrie led a smaller secondary effort to the east against a small group of British soldiers on Johns Island.

Lincoln deployed his troops after a night march of eight miles from the Ashley Ferry, located in the present village of Drayton Hall. Immediately upon their arrival at dawn, they began struggling through thick woods. The Americans advanced in two wings; General Jethro Sumner led his Carolina militia on the right, carrying two guns, while their right flank was covered by a company of light infantry, commanded by the Marquis de Malmady. Continental Army troops, under General Isaac Huger, made up the left wing; they carried four guns into battle. With Huger was a group of light infantry under John Henderson, and it was these troops who, shortly before sunrise, made first contact with the enemy.

The battle began well for the Patriots. They engaged the British positions with small arms and cannon fire for an hour, at which point they advanced to the abatis. Of the Highlanders, two companies resisted until only eleven men were left standing; a Hessian battalion finally broke. Here Maitland shifted his forces in an attempt to counter the larger threat posed by Huger's wing. The Hessians rallied and returned to the fight, and reserves were brought across the bridge. Lincoln chose this moment to order a withdrawal.

At 150 dead and a comparable number missing, Patriot losses had been heavy; among the dead was Andrew Jackson's brother Hugh, felled by heat and exhaustion. Also lost was Col. Thomas Neel. Most of the "missing" were deserters; the British claimed no prisoners from the battle. Huger was severely wounded. For their part, the British lost 150 officers and men, but only one was reported missing.

(Source: Wikipedia)