A419 - A sketch of the operations before Charlestown, South Carolina
This beautiful plan was produced by J.F.W. Des Barres in 1780 for inclusion in the Atlantic Neptune folio. It depicts, in beautiful detail, the British and American positions leading up to the British capture of Charlestown under Sir Henry Clinton, Commander in Chief of the British Forces during the Revolutionary War.
- 17th June 1780
- J.F.W. Des Barres
- h45.5" x w33"
In this 'sketch' of the operations before the siege of Charlestown, J.F.W. Des Barres depicts military dispositions and fortifications and he pays a great deal of attention to the street lay-out and wharfs of the city. He also includes detail of land holdings, fields, forests, roads and individual buildings.
The overall effect, partly thanks to the use of soft brown and green colors, is extremely attractive, almost belying the story of war it tells.
It is drawn with all of Des Barres's typical attention to detail and style. Des Barres drew the sketch, derived from the battle plans of Sir Henry Clinton, on 17 June 1780, not long after the publication in London of Clinton's dispatch regarding the action. The survey work of Charles Blaskowitz (see Heritage Charts A422) and George Sproule  may also have been at the route of Des Barres' 'Sketch'.
It depicts the positions of King's army encampments and approaches to the city as well as the King's ships, under the command of Vice Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, and the troop positions, fortifications and ships of the Americans under Lieutenant General Benjamin Lincoln.
It is worth noting that amongst the ships listed under the American forces is the Ranger, once in the command of the legendary American Captain John Paul Jones (see Heritage Charts A110 and A116v). The Ranger was captured when the city fell on the 11th May 1780 and was taken into the British Navy and re-commissioned under the name Halifax. On the British side, the Robuck, under the command of Captain Andrew Snape Hammond is also present (see Heritage Charts A302 and A305).
Sir Henry Clinton's 'Southern Strategy' sought to control the Southern States of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia by isolating them from the more northerly regions of New England and New York: The strategy assumed that, by controlling the important ports of Charlestown (see also Heritage Charts A303), Savannah (Heritage Charts A301 and A304), Port Royal (Heritage Charts A301, A304 and A306), St Augustin (Heritage Charts A414) and others, the Colonial army would be starved of funds and supplies coming-in from overseas.
These southern states were also rich in tobacco, spices, rice and in slaves, a large number of whom the British hoped to induce into the British Army in return for their freedom. Underpinning the British strategy was the assumption that the large base of Loyalist supporters from around these southern states would rally to the King if they were given some military support.
Savannah in Georgia had been successfully taken in December 1778. Charlestown was to be the center of operations for the execution of the Southern Strategy.
Clinton had previously attacked Fort Sullivan in Charlestown on June 28, 1776 but the attack had failed (see Heritage Charts A418). When he returned in late March 1780 with 14,000 soldiers and a significant fleet, a long and bloody siege ensued.
By the 12th May the Americans were trapped and General Lincoln was forced to surrender his entire force of nearly 5,400 men. The Siege of Charlestown was the single greatest defeat suffered by the Americans throughout the War of Independence.
 Charles Town(e) or Charlestown was (re)named after King Charles II of England in 1670, and the city finally adopted its present name, Charleston, in 1783 after the War of Independence had ended.
 Sproule, George. "A sketch of the environs of Charlestown in South Carolina." Map. London: s.n., . Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:q524mv135 (accessed January 24, 2023).
- A sketch of the operations before Charlestown, South Carolina