In a Timely Attack, British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton Seals Off an Escape Route for Patriots Under Siege in Charleston
During the Siege of Charleston in the spring of 1780, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his British Legion conducted a surprise attack on Brigadier General Isaac Huger’s Patriot troops at this spot. Tarleton had been ordered into the winding and swampy South Carolina countryside to cut off possible escape and communication routes for the Patriots trapped within the city. Moncks Corner, at the upper reaches of the Cooper River, was in a critical position between the coast and the backcountry, and it became a target of Tarleton’s expedition.
Huger’s militia and dragoons occupied the crossroads at Moncks Corner. Northeast of the little village was Biggin’s Bridge, which crossed the Biggin Creek swamp, close to where you see the Tailrace Canal today. Huger, tasked with keeping communications open along the Cooper River, held this strategic location and nearby Biggin Bridge with approximately 500 cavalry and militia. Tipped off about Huger’s position, Tarleton sped to Moncks Corner, meeting up with Loyalist reinforcements along the way.
In the early hours of April 14, 1780, Tarleton caught Huger and his troops completely off guard while they were eating breakfast. With swamps on either side of the causeway, the brazen British officer and his force of about 1,400 men charged Huger’s militia on Biggin Bridge head on and continued into the Patriot camp. Huger and his forces fled into the dense swamps, some eluding capture while others were taken prisoner. Afterward, the British rounded up the Patriots’ supplies, loading wagons with arms and gunpowder and seizing their valuable abandoned horses. Tarleton’s reputation for conducting swift and bold attacks and showing no mercy started here at Moncks Corner, and his capture of this outpost sealed off a vital Patriot network on the west branch of the Cooper River.
April 14, 1780
Friends Joseph "Raleigh" West and Charles Lane discuss their work as conservationists, their journey to the field, the topographical and social factors that shaped the Revolutionary War, and what this history means for us in the present moment.