A417 - Port Royal in South Carolina
This beautifully engraved chart of the large, deep-water sound and waterways of Port Royal was completed as part of a larger survey of the coastlines of the important southern states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and East Florida. It was produced by J.F.W. Des Barres for inclusion in the Atlantic Neptune folio.
- 10th August 1777
- J.F.W. Des Barres
- h34" x w25"
The edition presented here is taken from a 'pull' (print) made by the British Admiralty in 1947 from J.F.W. Des Barres' original copper plates, before the plates were presented to the US government. The result of the pull was that we are presented with an authentic view of what the charts of the Atlantic Neptune would have looked like when they were originally made.
Typically, Des Barres does not spare detail or style in the production of the chart. This pristine copy of the chart does not have the same degree of heavy hachuring and shading to indicate the relief of the land as do other later states of the chart, but the soundings and sailing lines are plentiful and detailed for a good reason.
The British, even in 1777, were anticipating naval involvement in the region as part of what would turn out to be their 'Southern Strategy' officially implemented by the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces, Sir Henry Clinton in 1778. It is important to note that the chart shows no settlement in 1777 of the town of Port Royal on Port Royal Island, as it now exists.
Where the large sound and waterways were seen by the original settlers of the region as advantageous, later inhabitants saw them more as obstacles which left them isolated and open to political and military isolation. Colonial development at Port Royal was a surprising failure.
Following the British success at Savannah in December 1778 the war in the south had taken the course of a series of probing attacks by the British and the region of Port Royal saw its fair share of action as a result: On the 16th December 1778 the American sloop Sally, commanded by Capt. Benjamin Stone, intercepted a large British transport ship at the mouth of the Port Royal Harbor. On moving in-close to investigate, the Sally was strafed by the British ship's hidden crew who emerged at the last moment and opened fire on the her with muskets. The Sally was forced to withdraw with six fatalities and twelve more wounded.
South of the major settlement of Beaufort on Port Royal Island, Des Barres marks, but does not name, a fort. This is Fort Lyttelton, which had in 1764 replaced the dilapidated Fort Frederick. Fort Lyttelton was intended as a defence against naval attack but was, before the start of the War of Independence, manned only with a skeleton garrison. It was used primarily as a store for some of the 16,000 pounds of gunpowder, small arms, and seven hundredweight of leaden bullets intended for the Indian trade, and for British troops and loyalists in Georgia and eastern Florida. The munitions were captured by the Americans off the Georgia coast on the 8th July 1775.
After the British had taken Savannah in 1778 the fort was threatened by the British 44 gun ship, HMS Vigilant, on the way to Beaufort to deploy 200 troops. On sight of the Vigilant the American garrison at the fort spiked their own guns, blew-up the fort and, all except about 20 men, ran away. The ensuing battle of Port Royal Island on 3rd February 1779 proved to be an unusual skirmish whereby 200 British Regulars, under the command of Major Gardiner attempted to seize Beaufort and Port Royal Island.
General William Moultrie of the Colonial Army along with 300 Militia, was sent to stop the British advance. The battle was the reverse of most Revolutionary War engagements whereby the Americans were in the open and the British entrenched amid the trees and undergrowth. Moultrie and his militia repulsed their attack in less than an hour with both sides thinking the other had the upper-hand.
The British re-embarked their ships and sailed back to Savannah having suffered heavy losses. The battle, though little more than a skirmish, gave flagging Patriot morale a needed boost and it discouraged the British from taking any further action into South Carolina for 3 months.
- Port Royal in South Carolina