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A Gallant Defense
The Siege of Charleston, 1780

Carl P. Borick

A detailed account of the tactics, strategy, and grassroots galvanization in a pivotal Revolutionary War campaign

In 1779, Sir Henry Clinton and more than eight thousand British troops left the waters of New York to try a new tack in the war against the American patriots—capturing the colonies' most important southern port. Clinton and his officers believed that the capture of Charleston, South Carolina, would change both the seat of the war and its character. The British were correct on both counts, but the effect of the charge was defeat. In this comprehensive study of the 1780 siege and surrender of Charleston, Carl P. Borick offers a full examination of the strategic and tactical elements of Clinton's operations.

Suggesting that scholars traditionally have underestimated its importance, Borick contends that the siege was one of the most wide-ranging, sophisticated, and critical campaigns of the war. While striking a devastating blow to American morale, it transformed the war in South Carolina from a conventional eighteenth-century conflict into a partisan war.

Borick examines the reasons for the shift in British strategy, the efforts of their army and navy to seize Charleston, and the difficulties the patriots faced as they defended the city. He analyzes the actions and decisions of key figures in the campaign including Benjamin Lincoln, William Moultrie, Sir Henry Clinton, Lord Charles Cornwallis, and Banastre Tarleton. Borick also delves into the effect of the campaign on South Carolina civilians. He suggests that while British leaders had expected to find multitudes of loyalist sympathizers in the south, the conduct of British soldiers and sailors there actually served to arouse more antipathy than allegiance.

Drawing on letters, journals, and other records kept by American, British, and Hessian participants, Borick relies on an impressive array of primary and secondary sources relating to the siege. He includes contemporaneous and modern maps that depict the British approach to the city and the complicated military operations that led to the patriots' greatest defeat of the American Revolution.

Carl P. Borick is the assistant director of the Charleston Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. A certified public accountant, Borick received a master's degree in history from the University of Alabama. He has served as a volunteer history interpreter for the National Park Service and lectures extensively on the American Revolution. Borick is the curator of an exhibition titled "Redcoats, Hessians, and Tories: The British Siege and Occupation of Charleston, 1780–1782" that opened at the Charleston Museum in the summer of 2003. Borick lives in Charleston.

"A welcome addition to the history of South Carolina and of the American Revolution."—Journal of Military History

"This is traditional military history at its best … Borick has provided the first really thorough account of a critical campaign in the southern war."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"A concise, well-written narrative of the military operations around Charleston. The casual reader of the American Revolution or of South Carolina history will find it a delightful study. The military historian will welcome the appearance of a dedicated account of the siege …"—North Carolina Historical Review

"Borick tells a fascinating story well and adds lots of revealing detail."—The State (Columbia)

"An authoritative account of the siege of Charleston."—Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Analysis of key figures, the campaign's effect on civilians, military strategy, and much, much more fill the pages of this erudite and painstakingly detailed account. A significant and invaluable contribution to American Revolutionary War Studies, A Gallant Defense is highly recommended reading for both academia and the non-specialist general reader."—Wisconsin Bookwatch (Midwest Book Review)

"Alternating between the British and American sides within a strict chronology, the narrative traverses long days in which the mightiest events find men building breastworks and digging trenches. Yet the reader discerns clear prose, research and interpretations that are solid, a few myths are dispelled, and details of technology, battle plans nand maneuvers are found in no other single place."—Charleston Post & Courier

"A handsome volume that is both well researched and accessible to a general readership …An insightful fusion of military, political and social history."—Charleston Mercury

"Borick's work is a most useful addition to the historiography of the Revolutionary War's southern campaigning. It was long overdue."—Journal of Southern History



book jacket for A Gallant Defense


6 x 9
352 pages
17 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-487-9
cloth, $29.95t
2003 Runner-up for the
Thomas Fleming Award

2004 George C. Rogers Award from the South Carolina Historical Society


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