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Lessons from the Siege of Charleston

August 19, 2021 0 Comments

Lessons from the Siege of Charleston

Even with the bleak stories we see all over the world, it’s easy to believe Americans will never live in a war-torn country. It all seems far removed from where we live today.

However, it is foolish to think it’s impossible. We don’t know what the future holds.

We can hope for the best, but with the wrong leader or the wrong enemy, we could find ourselves suddenly engulfed in a war zone.

According to Dictionary.com, a siege is “the act or process of surrounding and attacking a fortified place in such a way as to isolate it from help and supplies, for the purpose of lessening the resistance of the defenders and thereby making capture possible.”

Sieges have taken place throughout history.

For instance, the city of Charleston, South Carolina, has experienced not one, but two lengthy sieges on their city (one during the Revolutionary War and the other during the Civil War).

We may be quick to dismiss the possibility of living during a siege on our city, like those in Charleston, but it can happen. In the 1990s, the world watched the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted four long years. Just a few years ago, hundreds of thousands of people were trapped inside the eastern suburbs of Damascus under a government siege. More recently in the U.S, when rioters or protestors took over streets in Portland, Oregon, federal troops were sent in to prevent even more violence in the city.

George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We need to learn from the past to not repeat it. So, let’s take a look at the Siege of Charleston.

The Siege of Charleston during the Revolutionary War

According to Thought Co., “The defeat at Charleston was a disaster for American forces in the South and saw the elimination of the Continental Army in the region. In the fighting, [Benjamin] Lincoln lost 92 killed and 148 wounded, and 5,266 captured. The surrender at Charleston ranks as the US Army's third largest surrender behind the Fall of Bataan (1942) and Battle of Harpers Ferry (1862).”

In 1780, the British sailed from New York City to Savannah, Georgia, with the intention to march over land to Charleston, South Carolina.

“The British viewed Charleston as a gateway to the South,” says Dawn H. Davis, the public affairs officer of Fort Moultrie and a 30-year veteran of the National Park Service.

The King wanted to gain possession of Georgia and South Carolina.

By March 1780, the British troops had successfully entered Charleston. According to Battlefields, “By early April, the combined British forces had successfully trapped the Americans in the beleaguered city.”

They did so by blocking any means of escape in a three-part plan. Part One of the plan was to take control of Charleston Harbor. They accomplished this by April 8, 1780. Part Two brought the British even closer to Charleston. Part Three trapped them completely.

The National Park Service explains, “On April 14 a force under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton smashed the American cavalry under Brigadier General Isaac Huger at Moncks Corner, giving the British access to the area east of the Cooper River. Clinton sent Charles Lord Cornwallis and a detachment of troops over the Cooper to block American escape attempts. When the Americans evacuated Lempriere's Point (Hobcaw) and the Royal Navy captured Fort Moultrie, the British effectively enveloped Charleston. The completion of their third parallel allowed them to hammer the city from even closer distance.”

Soldiers were forced into prison ships, and many did not survive. In addition, the British troops managed to capture “over 300 cannons and about 6,000 muskets, along with vast stores of gunpowder.”

The British continued the siege of Charleston until only a few yards separated the armies. The American general Benjamin Lincoln refused unconditional surrender… until the British pounded American troops and used hot shots, which set buildings on fire. “Seeing no other option, Lincoln contacted Clinton on May 11 and marched out of the city to surrender the following day.”

The Siege of Charleston was a terrible loss for American forces and the people of Charleston, who either fled or suffered from hunger or illness.

When we consider this history, here’s what we can learn.

Don’t Deplete Resources

During the Siege of Charleston, the British cut off outside resources from every side. The citizens, therefore, had to survive on the resources they already had. However, food and ammunition quickly ran out.

This is a reminder of why it is important to always have a stock of long-term emergency food and weapons to protect yourself. We never know when things will go south, and the people of Charleston only had a matter of days before they were completely surrounded.

Protect against Illnesses

Another issue during the Siege of Charleston was the people becoming sick. Their usual water sources were unavailable, so many suffered from water-borne illnesses. With water filtration tools, you can avoid these types of illnesses during a national crisis or a disaster.

Another thing to consider is stocking up on medications and first aid supplies. Should you find your city under siege, you will not be able to get the medical help you need when you need it. Having antibiotics and first aid knowledge will be lifesavers.

Fortify, Fortify, Fortify

While the city of Charleston was defeated, there is one part of the story that stands out. In 1776, the British Commodore Sir Peter Parker tried to take over Charleston, assuming it would be an easy target with a fort made of sand and palmetto tree logs.

However, according to Smithsonian Magazine, “The fort, though, held strong, and Parker and his men were forced to retreat. While the British did successfully invade Charleston in 1780, Fort Moultrie itself continued to serve as a valuable defender of the coastline through World War II, and today.”

Unfortunately, it was the other areas of the city that were not strongly fortified that made it possible for the British to put the city under siege.

Learn from the past to prepare for the future, friends.

In liberty,

Elizabeth Anderson

Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply




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