SC - 1779 Revolutionary War battle site found near Beaufort, secured for history
BEAUFORT — The first big battle of the Revolutionary War between Southern Patriots and British naval forces preserved Fort Sullivan thanks to the strategic use of palmetto tree trunks filled with sand that neutralized the king’s cannonballs.
The British had hoped to quell the Colonial uprising by seizing control of major coastal cities, but Col. William Moultrie’s successful command of his 400 fighters resulted in heavy damage to the warships at Charleston Harbor’s entrance, causing the fleet to retreat.
It would be nearly three years before the British tried again in the South. They were determined to take Charleston but by a less direct path.
That second attempt would succeed but not before an important land battle — the Battle of Beaufort at Port Royal Island — pitted British forces against their old nemesis, Col. Moultrie. This was the first serious land battle of the war in South Carolina and its first American victory.
Recent fieldwork led by Daniel Battle of the S.C. American Revolution Preservation Alliance has enabled the archaeologist to determine the exact site of the fight, prompting the S.C. Battleground Preservation Trust to secure a portion of the property for future historic interpretation and inclusion in its “Liberty Trail” project.
The old battlefield straddles S.C. Highway 21. The Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort occupies a big chunk of the historic site. The portion on the other side of the highway, which includes a shuttered pillow factory, now is protected by a conservation easement held by the Trust. Beaufort County, which helped purchase the land, controls the deed.
The Navy and the S.C. Conservation Bank, and a grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, provided additional funding for the project, the first to dig deep into the history of this fascinating 1779 confrontation.