Today In Charleston June 28

1758-Marriage

Rebecca Brewton married Jacob Motte.

1769-American Revolution – Foundations.
William Henry Drayton

William Henry Drayton

An “Association” was published, pledging non-importation of any products of Great Britain, and denouncing anyone who did not sign within a month. Many of the aristocratic leaders were upset by the surge of the mechanics (merchants and tradesmen) in politics, usurped by men they considered their inferior. William Henry Drayton condescendingly wrote in the Gazette:

No man who could boast of having received a liberal education would consult on public affairs with men who never were in any way to study, or to advise upon any points, but rules how to cut up a beast in the market … cobble on old shoe … or to build a necessary house.

  Christopher Gadsden pointed out that Drayton was exempted from labor to make a living due to his “marriage to a rich heiress rather than from any merit of his own.” The rally cry of the “Association” became “Sign or die!”

1776-American Revolution

Rev. Robert Cooper, a Loyalist, prayed from St. Michael’s pulpit that “the King might be strengthened to defeat his enemies.”

1776-Battle of Ft. Sullivan

The first major naval battle of the Revolution took place in Charlestown.  At 10 a.m. eleven British warships under Sir Peter Parker attacked Ft. Moultrie.

British fleet in Charlestown

British fleet in Charlestown

Commander Col. William Moultrie termed the situation “one continual blaze and roar, with clouds of smoke curling over…for hours together.” Although greatly outnumbered, and with vastly inferior armaments, the South Carolina troops kept the British fleet from entering the harbor. At the same time the 400 men, managed to hold The Breach, thwarting the British efforts to cross and land troops on Sullivan’s Island.

 In the midst of the battle, a British projectile broke the fort’s flagstaff. Sgt. William Jasper “leapt over the ramparts” and,

Sgt. Jasper replacing the flag

Sgt. Jasper replacing the flag

shouted, “Don’t let us fight without a color!” In the words of Captain Horry:

Jasper deliberately walked the whole length of the fort, until he came to the colors on the extremity of the left, when he cut off the same from the mast, and called to me for a sponge staff, and with a thick cord tied on the colors and stuck the staff on the rampart in the sand. The sergeant fortunately received no hurt, though exposed for a considerable time, to the enemy’s fire.

As American shot bombarded into the British men-of-war, one round landed on the Bristol’s quarterdeck and rendered Sir Peter Parker’s “Britches…quite torn off, his backside laid bare, his thigh and knee wounded.” The Acteon was grounded and severely damaged.  By 9 p.m. Parker withdrew and the reports came in:

  • British: 78 dead, 152 wounded. Lord William Campbell was wounded during the battle and later died of his wounds.
  • American: 12 dead, 25 wounded.
Battle of Fort Moultrie

Battle of Fort Moultrie

1777

The Palmetto Society was organized to celebrate Palmetto Day, June 28, 1776.

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion

Denmark Vesey was found guilty and sentenced to hang on July 2. Lionel Kennedy read a prepared statement for the record:

The Court were not only satisfied with your guilt, but that you were the author, and original instigator of this diabolical plot. Your professed design was to trample on all laws, human and divine, to riot in blood, outrage, rapine and conflagration, and to introduce anarchy and confusion in their most horrid forms. Your life has become, therefore, a just and necessary sacrifice, at the shrine of indulgent Justice.

As Vesey stood listening to his sentence, a single tear “trickled down his cheek. He glared at his accusers and muttered, “The work of insurrection would go on.”

That night, Vesey was visited by Rev. Richard Furman who suggested they pray together so that Vesey could die repentant. Vesey refused, telling Rev. Furman that it “was a Glorious cause he was to die in … it is no use to say any thing more.”

1978
William Moultrie grave, Ft. Moultrie

William Moultrie grave, Ft. Moultrie

The remains of Gen. William Moultrie were re-interred on Sullivan’s Island near the water at the Ft. Moultrie Visitor Center.  Today, William Moultrie’s grave is marked by a flagpole and a tombstone enclosed by iron fencing. The grave is seen by thousands of people each year.

Today In Charleston History: June 15

1713-Births
Rebecca Brewton Motte

Rebecca Brewton Motte

Rebecca Brewton, daughter of Robert Brewton, was born at her father’s house, 21 Church Street. She married Jacob Motte and later lived in her brother’s house at 27 King Street and live there with the British occupying force in 1780. 

1786-Natural Disasters

Fire swept down Broad Street, destroying fourteen buildings, including the state house.

1818-Slavery. Religion. Denmark Vesey Rebellion

In direct defiance of the City Council, Rev. Richard Allen (of Philadelpha) conducted a Sunday service in a private home for a blacks-only congregation. The city guard once again disrupted the service. Allen and his Philadelphia delegation were arrested and sentenced to “one month’s imprisonment, or to give security and leave the state.”

Allen and his group returned to Philadelphia under the threat of his arrest, but black religious services continued to be conducted in private homes at night, often conducted by Denmark Vesey.  Gullah Jack, however, was angered by what he called “the desecration of sacred ground” (the disruption of religious services), and claimed he “wanted to begin” to organize against the whites. 

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion

Watching the increased militia activity on the streets, and hearing of the arrests, Denmark Vesey and Monday Gell destroyed all incriminating letters and documents they had in their possession. Gullah Jack buried a small cache of gunpowder and weapons on the Buckley farm in the Charleston Neck. All three men then went into hiding.

Thomas_Bennett_JrGov. Bennett signed a General Order calling out Col. Croft’s 16th Regiment, the Washington Light Infantry, the Republican Artillery and the Charleston Neck Rangers. Bennett also requested the assistance of the federal government. He wrote to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina native, about his “State of alarm and his inability to defend his city.” Bennett wrote that a show of federal force:

would tend not only to tranquilize the public mind, but produce the happiest effects upon that class of persons who have caused the present excitement.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston   

Gen. Foster notified General Henry Halleck, Army Chief of Staff, that:

The fire upon the city of Charleston had been somewhat increased, and had been continued night and day, at irregular intervals, the number of shots varying from 30 to 60 in ordinary firing.

Today In Charleston History: May 20

1758

Charles and Eliza Pinckney returned to Charlestown from London, with their ten-year old daughter Harriot. Their sons, Charles Cotesworth and Thomas, remained in England to attend school. Charles contracted malaria soon after their arrival.

1767   
Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens sent his schooner, Wambaw, loaded with provisions, to his Georgia plantation without clearing Charlestown customs. The Wambaw offloaded her cargo and took on 50,000 cypress shingles as ballast and sailed back to Charlestown. Customs Collector Moore refused to allow the ship legal clearance of the harbor and seized the vessel.

1780-British Occupation. 

Most of the American militia were given parole and allowed to return to their homes. Many of the important men, stripped of their property, had little recourse than to pledge loyalty to the Crown.

John Wells of the South Carolina and American General Gazette quickly swore allegiance to the King to save his property. He was allowed to resume publication in July.

Peter Timothy’s paper, the South Carolina Gazette, was seized by the British and given to the Tory Robert Wells.

miles brewton house

Miles Brewton House, 27 King Street

The Miles Brewton home at 27 King Street was made headquarters for Gen. Henry Clinton, and later Lt. Col. Nisbit Balfour, commandant of Charlestown, and Lord Rawdon, supreme commander of British troops in South Carolina.

Rebecca Brewton Motte, with a sick and invalid husband, refused to give up her brother’s home to the occupying force. Although she was at the mercy of her “guests”, she always “sat at the head of her table in the large drawing-room and commanded the respect, at least, of his lordship and followers.” The officers “showed her the greatest courtesy and referred to themselves as ‘her guests’.”

Rebecca’s main concern was the safety of her three daughters and the care of her husband. The Motte family was crowded into a small area of the house on the third floor while the British lived in comfort in the large rooms on the lower floors.

1835-Deaths

Capt. Joseph Vesey died at the age of eighty-eight. Vesey was a notorious figure in Charleston. His former slave, Denmark Vesey, had been executed in 1822 as the leader of a large slave insurrection. 

#Today In Charleston History: May 12

1780 – The Surrender of Charlestown.

At 2:00 pm Gen. Lincoln and Gen. Moultrie met the British commanders at the horn work and gate and surrendered the city of Charlestown. It was the British army’s greatest prize of the Revolutionary War, capturing the majority of the Southern Continental Army regulars. Sir Clinton wrote:

Whatever severe Justice might dictate, we resolved not to press to unconditional Submission a reduced army whom we hoped Clemency might yet reconcile to us.

He ordered all regular army and militia to “bring all their arms with them, guns, swords and pistols.”

Henry Laurens also complained about surrendering the troops, “Thousands of Muskets … useless in Charles Town which might have been shouldered in our defence.”

A marked man by the British, Gov. John Rutledge traveled to Philadelphia and spent the rest of the war living with other Southern refugees. He spent most of his time trying to secure help from Congress for South Carolina.

Casualties during the Charlestown siege were:

  • American: 150 dead; 138 wounded
  • British: 99 dead; 217 wounded.

British soldiers were given the power to arrest people on any pretext’ citizens could be jailed without a pre-trial hearing. They also cut down the Liberty Tree on Mazyck’s Pasture and burned the stump. Thus began a two-and-a-half year occupation.

1781-American Revolution. 

motte1Rebecca Brewton Motte’s plantation home on the Congaree River in St. Matthews Parish, was called Mt. Joseph. It had fallen in British hands, by British Lt. Donald McPherson with over 150 men who threw up earthworks and dug a deep ditch around the house. The British called it Fort Motte.

Rebecca Motte, whose Charleston home was also being occupied by occupying British officers, was distressed that both of her homes were now in British hands. The British ordered Motte to gather what belongings she wanted and move to her overseer’s house nearby – a rough structure, covered with weather-boards, and only partially finished.

Patriot leaders were determined to re-take Ft. Motte. Gen. Francis Marion thought that the best thing would to be set fire to the mansion house and burn the British out. When Rebecca was told of their plans she:

“immediately and cheerfully consented, assuring him that the loss of her property was nothing compared to the advancement of their cause.”

Imacon Color Scanner

Rebecca Motte directing Gen. Marion and Lt. Col. “Light Horse” Harry Lee to use the arrows to ignite her house.

To facilitate the effort she handed three special arrows to Lt. Col. “Light Horse” Harry Lee. The arrows had given to her by her deceased brother, Miles Brewton. These East Indian, chemically-tipped arrows, were supposed to be “ignited upon contact with any hard substance.” The arrows had been kept in the plantation house, but Rebecca had managed to take them with her as she evacuated to the cottage.

motte3

Ft. Motte as the combustible arrows ignite the house’s roof. In this painting Lt. Col. Lee consoles Mrs. Motte while Gen. Marion watches.

The combustible arrows were fired from a musket; two of them sputtered out, but the third hit its mark and set fire to the roof of the house. The British, sneaking out of the attic dormer windows in effort to the flames, were easy targets for the Patriot riflemen and were quickly driven back inside. Lt. McPherson ran up the white flag, fearing they would be blown up if the gunpowder stored in the house were set on fire. Together, British and American soldiers put out the flames, saving most of the house.

Rebecca then invited both the American and British officers to join her for dinner in the main house.

1828

The South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company (SCC&RR) was chartered, and the Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road became one its projects. Elias Horry was the president of the SCC&RR.

Today In Charleston History: January 10

1773
Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge returned to Charlestown on the ship Magna Carta, after completing his law studies in England. He was given a 640-acre plantation on St. Helena Island by his mother. He and his brother John, became Patriot leaders during the years of the Revolution. Edward was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1798 Rutledge was elected Governor of South Carolina – his last public office. His health declining, he was barely able to complete his term as Governor. 

1800

Edward Rutledge suffered a severe stroke and died a few days late at age 50. 

1803

The Charleston Courier began publication, the present day Post and Courier. It is the oldest daily newspaper in the South, and one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in the United States.

1815- Deaths

Rebecca Brewton Motte died on her plantation. 

Rebecca was the daughter of Robert Brewton, a wealthy resident of Charlestown. She married Jacob Motte in 1758, a plantation owner and involved in politics. Rebecca’s brother Miles Brewton, was one of the richest men in the South; he owned eight ships and was South Carolina’s largest slave dealer as well  owning several rice plantations including Mt. Joseph. He and his family were lost at sea on their way to Philadelphia.

Rebecca Brewton Motte

Rebecca Brewton Motte

Upon his death, Rebecca and her family moved into her brother’s lavish mansion on King Street. In 1780, Charlestown surrendered to the British forces and her home was used as quarters for Gen. Clinton and his staff.  Her husband, Jacob, lay ill on the second floor and the Mottes were crowded into a small area, while the British lived in comfort in the large rooms. Rebecca divided her time between the invaders, her invalid husband and her three young daughters, who were not allowed out of their rooms while the British were in the house. 

In the fall of 1780  Rebecca left Charlestown and moved to Mount Joseph Plantation on the Congaree River with her three daughters and niece-in-law Mrs. John Brewton, However, the British forces, led by Lt. Donald McPherson, seized the plantation mansion and made it it a military post. They threw up earthworks and dug a deep ditch around the house, and called it Fort Motte.

Once again, the Motte family was crowded into a few rooms in their own home while British officers occupied the remainder. Lt. McPherson finally moved the family to the overseer’s house on the property – a rough structure, covered with weather-boards, and only partially finished.

When General Nathanael Greene returned to South Carolina with his Continental Army, he reinforced General Francis Marion’s brigade with Lt. Col. Henry Light Horse Harry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) and his Legion. The task of this combined force was to capture and destroy the line of British forts that protected communications and supplies between their Charlestown headquarters and the interior of South Carolina, one of which was Fort Motte.

Fearing that British reinforcements were on the way, Marion and Lee decided to attack at once, deciding to set fire to the mansion house and burn the British out. When they informed Rebecca of their plan to burn the house she responded, “Do not hesitate a moment, I will give you something to facilitate the destruction.” She handed General Lee a quiver of arrows from the East Indies which, so she had been told, would set fire to any wood.

The combustible arrows were fired from a musket; two of them sputtered out, but the third one hit its mark and set fire to the roof of the house. The British, coming out of the attic dormer windows to put out the flames, were easy targets for the riflemen and six-pound cannon. They were quickly driven back inside, and the British captain ran up the white flag, fearing they would be blown up if the gunpowder stored in the house were set on fire. Together, British and American soldiers put out the flames.

Mrs. Motte directing Generals Marion and Lee to Burn Her Mansion to Dislodge the British. By John Blake White.

Mrs. Motte directing Generals Marion and Lee to Burn Her Mansion to Dislodge the British. By John Blake White.