The Battle of Stono Ferry

June 20, 1779 near present day Rantowles, South Carolina

Battle Summary

The Battle of Stono Ferry was fought near Charleston, South Carolina. The rear guard from a British expedition retreating from an aborted attempt to take Charleston held off an assault by poorly trained militia forces under Major General Benjamin Lincoln.

Facts about the Battle of Stono Ferry

  • Armies - American Forces was commanded by Gen. Benjamin Lincoln and consisted of about 1,200 Militia. British Forces was commanded by Lt. Col. John Maitland and consisted of about 900 Soldiers.
  • Casualties - American casualties were estimated to be 146 killed/wounded and 150 missing. British casualties were estimated to be 26 killed, 163 wounded, and 1 missing.
  • Outcome - The result of the battle was a British victory. The battle was part of the Southern Theater 1775-82.


The Battle of Stono Ferry was a poorly planned and badly conducted military operation. It took place during the British retreat from an abortive raid on Charleston.

After the American defeat at the Battle of Briar Creek, Lincoln again assembled a force to force the British out of Augusta. The British marched from Savannah towards Charleston, only to find the town defended by Brigadier General William Moultie. Moultrie. He heard of the British advance and hastily threw defensive works between the Ashley and Cooper rivers above the city.

On May 12, upon learning of the defenses, Brigadier General Augustine Prevost withdrew the British forces. They withdrew to James Island and then to Stono Ferry, which was south of Charleston.

Battle Begins

Colonel John Maitland was in charge of the large rear guard left by Prevost upon his withdrawal to Savannah. A bridgehead was established on the north side of an area now known as New Cut Church Flats; this was meant to cover Stono Ferry. Three strong redoubts were built, circled by an abatis and manned by Highlanders and Hessians. It was here that Lincoln chose to lead his main attack. Moultrie led a smaller secondary effort to the east against a small group of British soldiers on Johns Island.

Lincoln deployed his troops after a night march of eight miles from the Ashley Ferry, located in the present village of Drayton Hall. Immediately upon their arrival at dawn, they began struggling through thick woods. The Americans advanced in two wings; Gen. Jethro Sumner led his Carolina militia on the right, carrying two guns, while their right flank was covered by a company of light infantry, commanded by the Marquis de Malmady.

Continental Army troops, under Brigadier General Isaac Huger, made up the left wing; they carried four guns into battle. With Huger was a group of light infantry under John Henderson, and it was these troops who, shortly before sunrise, made first contact with the enemy. The rear guard consisted of 900 British, Hessians and Tories. Moultrie attacked mainly with militia who were no match for the defenders.

In spite of this victory, Prevost withdrew his troops and abandoned South Carolina.


Maitland had decided almost a week prior to the battle to withdraw from the site, but his movement was delayed by a lack of water transportation.

On June 23, he finally began moving towards Beaufort, although with little prompting from Lincoln's attack.

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