Researching the American Revolution

Your source for information on the American War of Independence

1780 Siege of Charleston

Remains of the horn works which formed the Rebel lines protecting Charleston from British attacks


The 1780 British siege of Charlestown, South Carolina, was a pivotal battle of the American Revolutionary War. The siege lasted from March 29 to May 12, 1780, and resulted in the surrender of the city to the British.

The British forces, commanded by General Sir Henry Clinton, had sailed south from New York City and landed thirty miles south of Charlestown. After capturing James Island, the British then set their sights on Charlestown, which was a major American stronghold.

The American forces, led by General Benjamin Lincoln, were outnumbered and outgunned. They had hoped to hold out until reinforcements arrived, but the British siege was too effective. The British bombarded the city from land and sea, causing extensive damage to the fortifications and forcing the Americans to retreat to a smaller perimeter.

After several weeks of fighting, the British breached the American outer defenses and launched a final assault. General Lincoln surrendered his army on May 12, 1780, and Charlestown became a British stronghold for the remainder of the war.

The loss of Charlestown was a significant blow to the American cause, as it was one of their largest and most strategically important cities. The British victory gave them control of the southern ports and allowed them to launch further attacks on the American forces.

Primary Sources

Uhlendorf, Bernard A., ed. The Siege of Charleston with an Account of the Province of South Carolina: Diaries and Letters of Hessian Officers from the von Jungkenn Papers in the William L. Clements Library. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1938.

Secondary Sources

Borick, Carl P. A Gallant Defense: The Siege of Charleston, 1780, 2012.

Buchanan, John. The Road to Charleston: Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019.

Fraser, Walter J. Patriots, Pistols, and Petticoats: “Poor Sinful Charles Town” during the American Revolution. 2nd ed. Columbia, S.C: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

Where Militia Colonel Frances Marion jumped and broke his leg and, thus, avoided capture by the British at Charleston’s capitulation.
Maj. Gen. William Moultrie, Charleston’s defender in 1776 and 1780 and highest-ranking South Carolinian in the Continental Army.

Map of 1775 British Attack on Fort Sullivan in Charleston Harbor

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