The American Revolution in South Carolina

The Provincial & State Government in SC During the American Revolution

The process of launching a new and independent government in the Province of South Carolina formally began on July 6, 1774, while the Province was patiently waiting for its new Royal Governor - Lord William Campbell, who did not arrive until June 18, 1775. William Bull, Jr. had been acting on his behalf since 1773, when the previous Royal Governor - Lord Charles Grenville Montague was recalled in disgrace by the British government.

With all of the intolerable "Acts" of the 1760s and the Wilkes Fund Controversy of the early 1770s, the leading men within South Carolina had finally had enough. At a General Meeting in Charlestown on July 6, 1774 they elected five delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and they created the Committee of 99, which soon became the "de facto" government of South Carolina.

In November of 1774, the General Meeting called for the election of a Provincial Congress, which was to convene in Charlestown in January of 1775. Elections were held in each parish and throughout the backcountry on December 19, 1774 to choose delegates for the January congress.

The elected First Provincial Congress met on January 11, 1775 in Charlestown and immediately began organizing how it wanted to commence governing South Carolina. Those in attendance appointed local committees to enforce regulations and appointed an Executive Council of Safety seated in Charlestown to direct the work of the local committees. Those elected to the Council of Safety were:

Henry Laurens
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Rawlins Lowndes
Thomas Ferguson

Arthur Middleton
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Bee
John Huger
Miles Brewton

 James Parson
William Henry Drayton
Benjamin Elliott
William Williamson

The Council of Safety was vested with the entire command of the province's military, the power to contract debts, to stamp and issue money, to liquidate and pay all accounts, and to sign all commissions for the army. Henry Laurens was elected President of the Council of Safety, which was equivalent to the role of governor. Charles Pinckney was elected President of the First Session of the First Provincial Congress.

On January 17, 1775, the First Provincial Congress resolved "That it be recommended by this Congress, to all inhabitants of this colony, that they be diligently attentive in learning the use of arms; and that their officers be requested to train and exercise them at least once a fortnight."

By the end of February of 1775, every parish and district had assembled many companies and even regiments of militia, although the readiness of these units were in various states of usefulness.

On May 10, 1775, South Carolina's delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia met their counterparts from the other twelve colonies.

On June 1, 1775, the First Provincial Congress met, 172 out of 184 members were present. Henry Laurens was elected President of the Second Session of the First Provincial Congress. Five days later, two regiments of foot were resolved to be raised. Two days later, it was resolved to add a regiment of rangers (mounted riflemen). These three regiments of SC Provincial troops were later incorporated into the Continental Army in 1776.

On June 4, 1775, the First Provincial Congress adopted the American Bill of Rights and the Articles of Confederation. On that same date, the First Provincial Congress authorized the issue of £1,000,000 in paper currency for military defense of the Province, and appointed thirteen new members to the Council of Safety, with power to command all soldiers and to use all public money in the Province. No military person could now sit on the Council of Safety.

On June 18, 1775, the last Royal Governor - Lord William Campbell - arrived in Charlestown. He refused to recognize the Provincial government. He called for the Commons House of Assembly to convene on August 28th, but was immediately disgusted with the Patriots. In September, Governor Campbell dissolved the General Assembly and fled to a British warship in Charlestown harbor.

On June 18, 1775, the First Provincial Congress resolved "That the district between the Forks of Broad and Saludy rivers ought to be divided into two - That the division-line should be drawn from the mouth of Second-creek upon Broad-river to the head of it, and thence in a direct line to Millhous's mill, upon Saludy-river. That the lower district, in the Fork, be allowed three representatives at the time of election, to be chosen at the plantation of Adam Summer. And that the upper district be allowed seven representatives, to be chose at the time of election, at the plantation of James Ford, on Enoree. And that this regulation do take place at the next general election of members of a Provincial Congress."

On July 23, 1775, the Council of Safety resolved to send Chief Justice William Henry Drayton and the Rev. William Tennant to the Backcountry to pursuade those citizens to sign the "Continental Association." Many settlers in the fork between the Broad and Saluda rivers had earlier refused to sign it. Drayton and Tennant were escorted by Lt. Col. William Thomson, commander of the SC 3rd Regiment of Rangers. This trip lasted until October of 1775.

On August 7-8, 1775, elections were held all over South Carolina for delegates to the next Provincial Congress, which was to be held in Charlestown in December of 1775.

In November of 1775, after hearing rumors that Loyalist Col. Schofield was preparing to seize munitions, the Council of Safety ordered the establishment of a military depot at Dorchester.

On November 1, 1775, the Second Provincial Congress convened its first session - until November 29th. William Henry Drayton was elected President of the Second Provincial Congress.

On November 16, 1775, the Second Provincial Congress elected a new Council of Safety:

Charles Pinckney
Henry Laurens
Henry Middleton
Thomas Ferguson

Thomas Heyward, Jr.
William Henry Drayton
Rawlins Lowndes
Thomas Bee
Arthur Middleton

Benjamin Elliott
James Parsons
David Oliphant
Thomas Savage

On November 21, 1775, the Second Provincial Congress adopted a resolution "that all corps of Regulars take precedence of all corps of militia, and that the regiments of militia shall take precendence in the following manner - 1) Berkeley County; 2) Charles Town; 3) Granville County; 4) Colleton County; 5) Craven County - Lower Part; 6) Orangeburgh District; 7) Craven County - Upper Part; 8) Camden District; 9) Ninety-Six District - North of Fish Dam Ford and Between Enoree, Broad, and Saluda Rivers; 10) New Acquisition - South of Fish Dam Ford and between Broad and Saluda Rivers, North of Enoree and Between Broad and Saluda Rivers."

February 1, 1776, the Second Provincial Congress met for the second time. On February 9th of this session, it was resolved to formally divide "the fork between the Saluda and Broad rivers into three new districts and to allow each district four representatives in the Provincial Congress." The Lower District, aka Dutch Fork, extended up the Broad River to the mouth of the Tyger River and up to its ford. The Little River District extended up the Saluda River from Old Town to the Indian line. The Upper District, aka Spartan District, was bounded by the Tyger River and the Enoree River to the NC state line.

At this session, seven new members from the Ninety-Six District were admitted, as provided for earlier.

In February of 1776, the Second Provincial Congress authorized the formation of two new regiments of riflemen: SC 1st Regiment of Riflemen - Col. Isaac Huger; SC 2nd Regiment of Riflemen - Lt. Col. Thomas Sumter. These new regiments were soon renumbered as the SC 5th Regiment and SC 6th Regiment.

In March of 1776, South Carolina drafted its first Constitution, the second one in the colonies. At the same time, John Rutledge was elected as President of South Carolina, with Henry Laurens as Vice-President. The term "governor" was initially not used in the new state of South Carolina.

On March 23, 1776, the Second Provincial Congress resolved "that the fork between the Saluda and Broad rivers be divided into three regiments, according to the division of districts by resolve of the 9th February last, one regiment in each of the districts."

On this same date, the Second Provincial Congress adopted a resolution authorizing their delegates to the Continental Congress to join with others in every measure which "they shall judge necessary, for the defense, security, interest, or welfare of this colony in particular, and of America in general."

On March 26, 1776, the Second Provincial Congress convened in the morning, then re-assembled in the afternoon as the First General Assembly of the State of South Carolina, and at this session they approved the new State Constitution. South Carolina was now a State and its Provincial Troops were now officially State Troops. The following were the elected leaders of the first South Carolina government:

President - John Rutledge
Vice-President - Henry Laurens
Chief Justice - William Henry Drayton
Assistant Judges - Thomas Bee, John Matthews, Henry Pendleton
Attorney-General - Alexander Moultrie
Secretary - John Huger
Ordinary - William Burrows
Judge of the Admiralty - Hugh Rutledge
Register of Mesne Conveyances - George Sheed

Privy Council - James Parsons, William Henry Drayton, John Edwards, Charles Pinckney, Thomas Ferguson, Rawlins Lowndes

Legislative Council - Thomas Bee, Stephen Bull, Thomas Ferguson, LeRoy Hammond, Joseph Kershaw, Rawlins Lowndes, Henry Middleton, William Moultrie, David Oliphant, Charles Pinckney, George Gabriel Powell, Richard Richardson, Thomas Shubrick.

On March 30, 1776, the General Assembly appointed new Justices of the Peace for each district.

On June 18 and July 24, 1776, the Continental Congress passed resolutions which put six South Carolina State Regiments upon the Continental Establishment, bringing in the youngest officers of their respective ranks. It took the South Carolina legislature until September 20th to pass an Act acquiescing to the demands of the Continental Congress. William Moultrie later wrote that the Continental Establishment did not begin "paying" for these SC Continentals until April of 1778, meaning that the State of South Carolina paid for them for almost two years. Sorta understandable since South Carolina passed a law very early that these troops could not leave the state.

Prior to September of 1776, South Carolina only had three regiments of State Troops. Upon the passage of this new act responding to the Continental Congress, South Carolina had to create one new regiments of State Troops: SC 4th Regiment of Artillery; then renumberd the regiments of riflemen created in February as: SC 5th Regiment of Riflemen, and the SC 6th Regiment of Riflemen.

On August 2, 1776, Charlestown received news of the Declaration of Independence with much partying. The State then entered a two year period of calm that bordered on apathy. On August 5th, President John Rutledge made the formal announcement of Independence, which was followed by a procession and the city's troops paraded near the Liberty Tree.

What followed was a veritable lack of enthusiasm for the American Revolution within the State. In 1776, more than 2,000 South Carolinians had enlisted as Continentals or regulars, but by 1778 there were only a handful still in service. In order to fill its quota for the Continental Army, the South Carolina General Assembly decreed that "all idle, lewd, disorderly men," beggars, deserters, and night hunters attracting deer by fire would be sentenced to active duty. Volunteers would receive a bonus of one hundred acres in the lands ceded by the Cherokee. In 1779, with few volunteers signing up, the legislature added $500 cash to the land bonus. And in 1780, "An Act to Procure Recruits and Prevent Deserters" authorized a bonus of one slave for each year of service. It did not work.

The Second South Carolina General Assembly convened between November of 1776 and October of 1778 in two regular sessions plus four special sessions, but there are no extant records of most of their accomplishments.

In March of 1778, the South Carolina General Assembly passed the Act of Abjuration and Allegiance, requiring all residents of the State to renounce their support to the Crown and to pledge allegiance to South Carolina. When enforced several months later, it resulted in the refusal of many to take the oath. At the same time, the South Carolina Constitution was revised and again adopted by the General Assembly - with virtually no fanfare by the citizens. The most significant change in the new Constitution was the elimination of the Legislative Council, which was replaced by a full Senate, with a number of Senators authorized per district based on population. It was also this General Assembly that elected Rawlins Lowndes as the second Governor of South Carolina - the legislature and new Constitution replaced the term "President" with "Governor" in this session.

On March 28, 1778, the South Carolina General Assembly resolved that the South Carolina militia would be henceforth divided into three new "brigades" of troops: SC 1st Brigade of Militia - Brigadier General Stephen Bull; SC 2nd Brigade of Militia - Brigadier General Richard Richardson; and, SC 3rd Brigade of Militia - Brigadier General Andrew Williamson. Not long thereafter (date lost to history), they authorized the SC 4th Brigade of Militia under Brigadier General Alexander McIntosh.

On April 24, 1778, Brigadier General William Moultrie wrote that the number of Continental troops belonging to South Carolina amounted to about 1,500 men. The six regimental leaders were: SC 1st Regiment of Infantry - Col. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney; SC 2nd Regiment of Infantry - Col. Isaac Motte; SC 3rd Regiment of Rangers - Col. William Thomson; SC 4th Regiment of Artillery - Col. Owen Roberts; SC 5th Regiment of Riflemen - Col. Isaac Huger; SC 6th Regiment of Riflemen - Col. Thomas Sumter.

The Third South Carolina General Assembly convened in two sessions: first from August 31st to September 11th in 1779, and the second session from November 22nd to February 12, 1780.

In November of 1779, the Continental Congress called upon Governor John Rutledge to reduce the number of South Carolina regiments on the Continental establishment. "Congress have resolved that the regiments of this state should be incorporated and formed on the plan ordered by them for the Army of the United States."

On January 20, 1780, Governor John Rutledge and Major General Benjamin Lincoln announced their decision to reduce the State's forces to three regiments, with three Lieutenant Colonels to lead them: SC 1st Regiment - Lt. Col. William Scott; SC 2nd Regiment - Lt. Col. Francis Marion; SC 3rd Regiment - Lt. Col. William Henderson. Governor Rutledge and Major General Lincoln also selected majors - Major Isaac Haileston, Major Edmund Hyrne, and Major Thomas Pinckney. Governor Rutledge and Major General Lincoln instructed the new regiment commanders to appoint twenty-seven (27) captains based on seniority. However, other sources clearly indicate that Col. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney retained leadership for the SC 1st Regiment and Col. William Thomson retained leadership of the SC 3rd Regiment. Finally, the SC 4th Regiment (Artillery) remained with no changes. SC now had four (4) regiments of State Troops on the Continental Line, as of February 1, 1780.

There are no extant records from the South Carolina government between February 12, 1780 and 1783.

Two days prior to the surrender of Charlestown by Major General Benjamin Lincoln on May 12, 1780, Governor John Rutledge and three members of his Council slipped out of town and fled to North Carolina. They remained in North Carolina until April of 1781. Rutledge did go to Philadelphia part of this time.

After the surrender of Charlestown, all of South Carolina's forces were in total disarray, with most of the experienced fighting men captured and imprisoned by the British. Even some of the leaders in the backcountry marched into Charlestown to surrender, even though it was not required. Several key leaders were absent of the siege of Charlestown due to personal problems, and they had the sense not to surrender, so the state was not totally helpless, but very close to it.

Not only was the South Carolina military situation confused, the state's legislators were essentially no longer in business after the fall of Charlestown. Many had remained in the capital during the siege of Charlestown and barely escaped when the city capitulated, and they were barely able to continue any form of resistance from their remote locations. Many others were captured and sent to St. Augustine as prisoners of war. It was not until 1782 that another meeting of the legislature could be called, and it was January of 1783 before regular sessions could again be held.

During the reorganization of the state's troops that took abour six (6) months after the fall of Charlestown, the following is how the militia shook out: SC 1st Brigade of Militia - Brigadier General Thomas Sumter; and, SC 2nd Brigade of Militia - Brigadier General Francis Marion. Many regiments of militia chose to "go it alone" and did not align their units with either Sumter or Marion.

On October 6, 1780, while in Hillsborough, NC, Governor John Rutledge appointed Thomas Sumter as Brigadier General of Militia, and he began forming his brigade in the "New Acquisition" district (present-day York and part of Cherokee counties).

On December 30, 1780, Governor Rutledge wrote that he appointed Francis Marion as Brigadier General of Militia and placed over all of the militia regiments eastward of the Santee, Wateree, and Catawba rivers into his brigade. Marion received the news on New Year's Day of 1781.

After his noteworthy contributions at the Battle of Cowpens, Andrew Pickens was appointed as Brigadier General of Militia and placed over the militia regiments in the western section of the State. Since he had no units immediately, he followed Brigadier General Daniel Morgan and Major General Nathanael Greene in the famous "Race to the Dan" in January of 1781. He was then approached by local North Carolinians to take over leadership of the Salisbury District Brigade of Militia since Brigadier General (Pro Tempore) William Lee Davidson had been killed at the battle of Cowan's Ford on February 1, 1781. Pickens stuck around in North Carolina until early March, and left for home just before the battle of Guilford Court House (3/15/1781).

On September 10, 1781, Governor John Rutledge created a fourth new brigade of militia to cover the territory between Charlestown and Savannah, and he appointed John Barnwell of Beaufort as the new commander and Brigadier General. This appointment was not received too well by many Patriots who felt that this new brigade should have been given to Col. William Harden, who had been operating in the same area under Brigadier General Francis Marion's authority.

On January 8, 1782, with Charlestown still heavily occupied and defended by the British, the South Carolina government met at Jacksonborough under the protection of Major General Nathanael Greene's Continental Army, which was camped at Sander's Plantation near the town of Round O. The Fourth South Carolina General Assembly elected a new governor - John Mathews - and passed two acts identifying and punishing Loyalists.

On December 14, 1782, the last occupying British troops marched out of Charlestown onto waiting transport ships in the harbor, and the city was turned over to Major General Nathanael Greene. At 3:00 p.m., Major General Greene escorted Governor John Mathews and other officials into Charlestown, and the new state's government began the process of reinstituting its control of South Carolina.

Meanwhile, a general election was held on November 25-26, 1782 to elect new members to the Fifth South Carolina General Assembly. During the first session in January of 1783, the SC General Assembly elected Benjamin Guerard as the fourth unique governor for South Carolina.

At the end of the American Revolution, there were approximately 30,000 fewer slaves in South Carolina than in 1775, thanks to the British seizing them from the Patriots, and the state's economy was in shambles. In the Ninety-Six District, it is estimated that there were over 1,200 widows, mostly due to Patriot-Loyalist skirmishes in the backcountry during the war.

After the war, Henry Knox - Secretary of War under President George Washington - reported that South Carolina had furnished 35,507 enlistents in fifteen (15) regiments into the Continental service during the American Revolution. This Author does not agree with that number, however.

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