The British Burn Their Supply Depot to Prevent Capture by the Patriots and Escape to Charleston
Just two miles beyond Moncks Corner, look for the historic ruins of Biggin Church. Damaged by fire several times since its founding in 1711, the building was rebuilt in 1761 and again in 1781. Only two walls remain, but you can still appreciate the elaborate brickwork and stroll through the surrounding cemetery. During the British occupation of Charleston in 1781, these tranquil grounds were part of a British outpost, established as a supply depot to furnish ammunition and provisions to patrolling British troops, with the tents of hundreds of men forming a city around the sacred sanctuary. There were 600 British Regulars and 150 mounted South Carolina Loyalist soldiers stationed here under the command of Colonel John Coates.
Biggin Church was part of an important military base for the British Army because it was strategically located at the intersection of roads that led southeast to the Cooper River and Charleston. In the summer of 1781, Patriot Brigadier General Thomas Sumter sent his cavalry units to patrol British supply routes between the Lowcountry and Charleston. He assigned Lieutenant Colonel Hezekiah Maham to destroy nearby Wadboo Bridge, which would obstruct the British supply line from Charleston and hinder Coates’s movement. Colonel Peter Horry’s Light Dragoons would reinforce Maham.
On the afternoon of July 16, the British camp received word that Horry’s men were at Wadboo Bridge. The South Carolina Loyalists were dispatched there to attack him, while the 19th Regiment followed on foot. Horry’s men were caught by surprise but quickly rallied and counterattacked. However, the 19th Regiment’s howitzers drove Horry back to Sumter’s main body while Coates condensed his men in and around Biggin Church. Sumter expected Coates to come out and meet him on the battlefield, but he was deceived. As the unsuspecting Patriot commander lined up his troops and waited, Coates stealthily placed his goods and ammunition inside the large church nave and torched them to prevent their capture by the Patriots. As the church burned, the British rode away toward Charleston, abandoning the outpost for good. The Patriots were closer to their goal of pushing the enemy from the backcountry altogether.
July 16, 1781