When a Patriot defeat seemed almost certain during the Siege of Fort Watson in April 1781, Major Hezekiah Maham came up with an idea that forced a British surrender. Maham’s Tower, as it came to be called, was so effective against the enemy garrison, that it was later used during the sieges of Augusta and Ninety Six.
Born in South Carolina in 1739, Maham was not an inventor or military strategist, but he was a good soldier. He started out as a planter before the war, served in the Second Provincial Congress as war broke out, and became head of a volunteer militia company in 1776. In 1779, Maham was a major with a regiment of light dragoons. After the fall of Charleston in May 1780, he joined Francis Marion’s band of partisans. He was commanding a cavalry legion under Marion when the Patriots attacked Fort Watson, a British stronghold built on a Santee Indian mound and strategically located on the Santee River. Unable to effectively attack the fort, which was on high ground, Maham worked under cover to construct an innovative log tower, which rose 30 to 40 feet and allowed Patriot sharpshooters to fire down on the defenders trapped inside. The device was not a new concept in siege warfare, but Maham’s application of it at a critical moment was ingenious.
In June 1781, Maham was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He led an assault at Quinby Bridge and a raid on the hospital at Fort Fair Lawn, before falling ill and leaving the service. He retired to his plantation and died there in 1789.