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The command of the Military Department in this State devolving upon me, I feel it my duty to lay before your Excellency, and by your means before the Honorable Council and Assembly, my sentiments respecting the situation of this country, and the measures which appear to me necessary to place it in a proper state of defence. I am happy to find that the works at Fort Moultrie, and those requisite for establishing, in case of accident, a secure retreat to the garrison, are progressing so rapidly. When the fort is finished, I have no doubt of its being able to repel any attack made upon it in front; but, without a considerable number of works to secure it from being assailed in reverse, it would not, in my opinion, be long maintained against any formidable attempt in that quarter. The methods best calculated to preserve it, would be to erect proper works on the point of Sullivan's Island, next to Long Island, where it is probable the enemy would attempt to land; and by a chain of redoubts, or other works, from thence to the fort, be prepared to dispute the ground with them, inch by inch, should they effect a landing. I at present imagine it may be necessary to throw up some defence where Colonel Moultrie kept his quarter guard; but the transient view I had of the island leaves me unprepared to speak with precision, either as to the number or form of the works, or the particular spots on which they ought to be erected. It is sufficient, however, that a variety of them are wanted, that a great many hands are requisite to carry thorn on ; the number need not be ascertained, as the more there are employed the sooner we shall finish, and that the necessity for erecting such works is absolute and immediate. The post at Haddrel's ought directly to be put in a much more respectable state than it is in at present ; that station would be important even if it had no connection with Sullivan s. How much more so must it appear when we con sider that, should the enemy possess it, our soldiers on Sullivan's could neither retreat or be supported; indeed, circumstances that make it important multiply upon me as I write. I shall, however, suppress the expression of them, as I presume the consideration I have mentioned is alone sufficient to induce the attention of your Legislature.
The walls of Fort Johnston require to be well cased with palmetto logs, without which, I conceive a smart cannonade would so shock the foundation, that it would not support the superstructure. But, was there no danger of this, it ought not to remain as it is, as the fragments of brick, which would be shattered off by the shot, would inevitably destroy a great number of our men, and this both policy and humanity call upon us to prevent. I confess myself not pleased with the construction of the lower battery, and, if we have time after we get over those matters more immediately wanted, I should wish for an alteration.
I come next to an object very near my heart. I mean the preservation of this capital. The spirited conduct of its inhabitants, in opposition to the encroachments of tyranny, even at a time when their property was likely to fall a sacrifice to their laudable zeal, demonstrates that they nobly prefer public good to private considerations, however interesting, and gives them a just claim to assistance from their neighbors, though the common cause was not concerned in their safety. But, sir, when we contemplate the situation of this town, fixed at the confluence of several rivers, which open a passage into the very bosom of your country, commanding almost your whole inland navigation; and, if possessed by the enemy, all your exterior , with houses sufficient to barrack comfortably a great body of troops, and an harbor extensive enough to admit almost any number of ships, surrounded almost by water, which the enemy would command, and approachable only by a narrow neck of land, which they would fortify it would be, perhaps, the most secure and noble place of arms for them imagin able, from which they could, with the same body of troops, execute the purposes of despotism on three different States, and the possession give their arms an eclat, the influence of which might be dreadfully diffusive. It would bring upon our backs every tribe of Indians, and call to their banners a host of domestic insurgents. All these circumstances must make it a capital object to them, and combine to prove, that the loss of this town may be reckoned among the deepest wounds the cause of freedom could receive in this department. Public good, therefore, and private interest, unite to induce us immediately to put it into a proper state of defence. To hesitate one moment might possibly be to lose the opportunity which Providence has lent us; and all idea of expense, however great, should be lost in the importance of the object. One step towards obtaining this desirable end, would be to prevent, if possible, the approach of ships to the town; and this, I conceive, may probably be effected, by throwing obstructions across the channel opposite to Fort Moultrie, at those places which would expose them most to the fire of the fort. I am made happy at being informed this work is begun, and trust such hands are employed as will execute it properly. I must, however, take the liberty to say, that when I consider the amazing impetus with which ships, under full sail, come in contact with any body that obstructs their motion, that I doubt whether any single work can be made sabstantial enough to be effectual. The method I should recommend would be to have one work within another the second so near the first, that it should take up the vessel, if she surmounted the first difficulty, before she had time to regain her way.
The next thing, sir, is to put the town in such a state of defence that the enemy, in case they get up with their ships, may meet with the most obstinate opposition. It gives me concern to think, that it is far from being in this state at present. Several of the batteries having capital errors, require to be pulled down and re-built; and it \vill, I am persuaded, be found necessary to erect others at different places. The extempore works thrown up about the town are by no means to be de pended upon; they were executed in a hurry, and under the expectation of an immediate attack. They ought to be altered in many places, and at all to be made more effectual. As the interest of the inhabitants, and good of the common cause, will, I doubt not, dispose the people of this country to defend their capital to the last extremity; and, as the working of a number of traverses across the streets are not only necessary to the obstinate defence of it, but will prevent the great execution which might otherwise happen from an enfilade, the materials for building these works should directly be provided. They would at present, perhaps, incommode the passage of the inhabitants, so need not be immediately erected; but the necessary apparatus should be de posited at convenient places, to be ready occasionally. I have much to regret the exceeding weak state of the back part of your town. Assail able at many places, at none prepared to repel an attack, it requires our immediate attention. Nor am I less anxious about the Neck ; that leads out of town. The officer we may have to deal with this winter is an officer of enterprise and resources, with judgment to discern, and a disposition to take all advantages he can not but observe, should the Neck remain as it is. How easy it would be for an inferior army to shut in a superior; and it admits not of a doubt but he will, if he can, avail himself of it. To prevent this, many works are requisite, and the sooner they are undertaken the better.
I shall now, sir, proceed to some circumstances of defence of a more general tendency. Among these, the building of some row-gallies appear to me as very consequential. I think it far from being improbable, that they may be so constructed as to be formidable to men-of-war in their progress over the bar; and, if it is certain they must be so, should the ships ever get up and lay before the town, they will prevent all tenders, or other small armed vessels, from marauding those inhabitants who live upon the river make it difficult, if not impossible, for the enemy to transport their troops by water into the country a circumstance essentially important to the very being of this State. They will convey your troops to Georgia with safety and expedition, should that State require your aid, and facilitate the arrival of theirs, should your exigencies make it necessary; in short, the advantages of them are so manifold, that I earnestly hope they may claim your attention.
As this State, and some neighboring ones are, unhappily, unequal in themselves to any formidable invasion, they must depend entirely upon that assistance they can mutually yield to each other. Every thing, therefore, which can retard the march of troops should be removed, and every measure fallen upon, which can contribute to bring them up with the utmost expedition. If North Carolina and Georgia would join your State in establishing magazines of provisions at proper places between your countries, it would certainly prevent a great delay; but this, I am afraid, will be a work of time.
I beg leave, sir, to urge the absolute necessity of keeping a great number of waggons always in the public service. Experience has taught me how difficult it is to procure them when suddenly wanted; and the time is probably at hand when the least delay may be attended with very fatal consequences.
The great delay I have met with in marching men at the ferries of every State, and at none more particularly than in this, induces me to wish that in future they may be better provided with boats. Few, if any of them, have more than one flat, and that generally not a good one, so that it will take a whole day to get over a battalion and its bag gage. I leave you, sir, to judge what may be the event of this, when the fate of a country may depend upon a single hour.
The roads at all times an object of public notice become of peculiar importance at this crisis, as upon the goodness of them an expeditious march in a great measure depends.
I would urge as a circumstance exceedingly necessary, the collecting and keeping for public use, a great number of canoes, and other rowing boats; as in a country so cut to pieces with water courses, and penetrable at such a variety of places, it is very uncertain where you may have occasion to convey your troops, or from whence to bring them. A provision of this kind, therefore, seems to be an act of necessity. Certain I am, that in the late military operations of this country, the want of them was severely felt by the General, and the service greatly injured by it.
The short time I have been in this country renders it impossible for me to be so well acquainted with the geography of it as I wish, or as I hope soon to be. I, therefore, cannot undertake to point out every place where it may be necessary to erect works, or take other methods to prevent, or render difficult, the enemies access. I am happy, how ever, in the consideration that you, sir, and many members of your Legislature, from your perfect knowledge of this country, are adequate to this, and in the firm persuation that it will properly be attended to.
The building of barracks at those places where, in case of invasion, we should be obliged to station troops, particularly at Haddrell s, is a matter that ought, by no means, to be neglected. The inconveniences which the soldiers suffered for want of them, and the ill effect it had upon their health, even in the summer season, makes it evident that they cannot endure a winter campaign without them.
I am loth to mention a provision which I am fearful it will be difficult to make; I mean of clothes and blankets for the men. But I should be wanting in attention to them not to express a wish that every method may be fallen upon to procure them.
I know not whether the islands along your sea-board have any live stock upon them; but, if they have, and are suffered to remain there, I cannot but consider them as the absolute property of the enemy. I, therefore, think it my duty, in the most earnest manner to urge, that they be immediately removed ; indeed, I think the proprietors of these islands ought not to be suffered to occupy them at all at present, that the enemy may have no temptation to make or receive benefit, by making a lodgment on them.
There are other matters which strike me as necessary to the defence of this country, and from further observation many may occur to me; but, as I presume Government, in the recess of Assembly, will be furnished with powers to provide for contingencies, I ha^e no occasion to trouble you with them now. I enter into the next object of my consideration with exceeding diffidence and anxiety, lest I should be thought to have exceeded the bounds of propriety, by touching upon it at all. If, sir, unfortunately for me that should be the case, will your Legislature do me the justice to impute it to the zeal I lave for the service of this State, and kindly admit the cause to excuse the effect ? The number of regular troops allotted to this country is lot enough for its defence, though all the battalions were full. This, si-, militates strongly in favor of a well-regulated militia, and I am happy to hear it is the subject of your present deliberation; but, as a military system, exclusive of militia, has been established in Virginia, which experience has shown to be a very good one, I presume just to hint it o you. I mean the establishment of minute battalions. In order to do this, their State was divided into districts, and each district furnished A battalion of minute men. Persons of the greatest consequence an<| influence were appointed as officers, who enlisted the men from the body of the militia. These men, beside attending a number of private musters, were at stated periods obliged to embody in battalion fora specified number of days, and go through all the discipline and maneuvers of a camp. During this time they were paid and provisioned by tie public, and were at all times liable to be called into service. I had the honor to command a great number of them the last winter, and it is but justice to them to say, that they deserved to be ranked among the best of our troops. The men of these battalions being enlisted upon the express condition of turning out occasionally, are always in expectation of, and will be always prepared for it. They are, generally, better armed, and will probably be better disciplined, than militia; and may either make it unnecessary to call out the latter at all, or make a stand against the enemy while they are collecting. But whether such establishment may suit the policy of this country, the wisdom of your Legislature will determine.
Permit me, sir, again, in the most earnest manner, to urge the absolute necessity of immediately taking measures to place us in the best state of defence possible. Our private interest, and our fidelity to the common cause, exact it of us. To lose the opportunity we now have, is to neglect the first, and betray the latter. Happy should I have been, had not the necessity of service deprived you of the Commander-in-chief of the Southern department at this critical juncture, from whose indefatigable attention to his duty, and from whose spirit and abilities in the execution of it, you could not but have derived every possible benefit.
I, sir, have nothing to offer you but an assurance of the most unwearied attention to the duties of my station the utmost exertion of such abilities as I have; and that I shall, by my most strenuous efforts, in the servi<e of your country, demonstrate the zeal and attachment I feel for the glorious cause of freedom, to which I have devoted myself.
I have tie honor to be, with the greatest respect, sir,
YOUR Excellency's most obdt. and very humble servant,
- Documentary History of the American Revolution Consisting of Letters and Papers Relating to the Contest for Liberty, Chiefly in South Carolina, from Originals in the Possession of the Editor, and Other Sources, 1776