Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An American City Under Siege

An American City Under Siege
The British bombarded Charleston in 1780; Northerners did the same in August 1863.  The latter fired "Greek fire" into Charleston with the intention of making the city a raging inferno, and churches like St. Michael's and St. Philip's were used as convenient targets for Northern gunners who fired indiscriminately into the city. A local newspaper reported that a "shell passed through a bed containing three children and exploded in the next floor," and that "no one was injured is regarded as miraculous." In both sieges, the enemy in Charleston were Americans seeking political independence.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
An American City Under Siege:
"At 10 o'clock in the morning of [April 13, 1780] our batteries began to play violently and seriously on the city, and this fire was answered just as violently by the enemy. It lasted without interruption until; eight o'clock in the evening. Also, firebombs were shot into the city today, because of which the city, and, indeed, the house of the governor and of the commanding officer were set on fire as soon as these bombs began to be used.  The Hessian artillery fired the fire-bombs. The enemy works suffered great damage today, and several of their cannons were dismounted. 
On the 14th the cannon fire was moderate on both sides. At noon we received news that the Cathcart Legion and Ferguson's Corps had attacked a corps of rebels thirty miles from here between the Cooper and Ashley rivers and captured a hundred prisoners, including three officers, and almost as many horses. A reinforcement arrived from New York. This consisted of the regiment von Ditworth, the 42nd Scots Regiment, the Queen's Rangers, Lord Rawdon's Corps, and Colonel Brown's Corps.
The besieged in Charleston were now cut off from land on all sides [and] we became absolute masters of the river. On the [May] 7th our siege was continued….Our jaegers caused great damage to the enemy in the city….a battery did great and constant damage to the houses in the city….The fire from this battery distinguished itself through the repeated pauses of all other batteries, and it was not seldom that these Jacktars gave a full broadside."
(The 1780 Siege of Charleston as Experienced by a Hessian Officer, Part Two, George Fenwick Jones, South Carolina Historical Magazine, Volume 88, Number 2, April 1987, pp. 65-67)