The Siege of Charles Town is set in 1780, and represents a section of the actual 42 day siege. It is a two-day event from February 17-18th that features an encampment, battles, military drills, colonial goods sold by artisans and craftsmen, and historic interpretation opportunities for spectators and participants. This was one of the most important battles of the American Revolution, and is crucial to the Southern Campaign. The Siege of Charles Town is hosted at Legare Farms, twenty minutes from historic Charleston, and makes a great, family-friendly addition for any historic sightseeing in the lowcountry! Reenactors will also have an opportunity to see the city and it’s many museums. (For camping and other information regarding reenacting, please see our reenactor page.)
Siege of Charles Town is at Mullet Hall Equestrian Center on beautiful John’s Island. We are located at:
- 2662 Mullet Hall Rd., John’s Island, SC 29455
Tickets and Pricing
- General Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for children under 12 (Children under 5 are free)
- Military, Teachers, and Senior: $3 per adult
Admission is good for the whole weekend, and allows access to all battles, as well as sutlery, camp viewing, military drills, and other demonstrations and events. Viewing is open to the public at 9 AM-5PM on Saturday and Sunday.
History Behind the Siege of Charles Towne
In 1799, Continental and French forces failed to assault and retake the city of Savannah, leaving the British with a powerful foothold in the South. The British held Savannah since 1778, and as the war progressed, many felt as if the Northern Campaign had slowed to a stalemate. So the British redirected their efforts to the South, where lucrative plantation agriculture and strong loyalist sentiment in Western settlements made the Southern states an appealing target. Sir Henry Clinton, backed by an army of over 12,000 men, decided to use the British stronghold in Savannah to launch an attack on nearby Charles Town, and placed the city under assault for 42 days.
During that time, the city was subject to a barrage of artillery, such that men would comment that they had seen nothing comparable until the Battle of New Orleans 32 years later. An artillery shell nearly detonated the powder magazine on Cumberland street when a mortar hit a mere 100 yards off, forcing Continental forces to hastily relocate their stores. During that time, 6,500 men, the majority of the Continental army in the South, led by their commander Benjamin Lincoln, were trapped on the peninsula and tried desperately to defend the siege line. However, they were outnumbered, they had no hope of reinforcements, and they were running out of supplies. On May 12th, 1780, Benjamin Lincoln surrendered to the British and over 5,000 American forces were captured, making the defeat at Charles Town the worst defeat of American forces on our own soil in military history.
Many felt that the defeat at Charles Town spelled the end of the war in the South. Some believed that it was impossible to wrest control of the Southern states from the British. Humiliating defeats in battles like Camden, led by Continental General Horatio Gates, further solidified that belief and made the Continental cause seem hopeless in early 1780. However, guerrilla fighters like the “Swamp Fox” Francis Marion and Thomas “Gamecock” Sumter continued to harass the British during the Southern Campaign. In January of 1781, the Battle of Cowpens would turn the tide of the war in the South, and the surrender at Yorktown would occur later that same year. Despite the surrender at Yorktown occurring in 1781, British forces would not evacuate the city of Charles Town until 1782.
In 1783, the Treaty of Paris would be signed, formally ending the war. Charles Town would be fully incorporated, and the city would become known as Charleston.