The Battle of Monck's Corner
April 14, 1780 in Berkeley County, South Carolina
The Battle of Monck's Corner was also Known as Battle of Biggin Bridge or Biggin Church. It was fought outside the city of Charleston, South Carolina, which was under siege by British forces under the command of General Henry Clinton. The Loyalist British Legion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, surprised an American force stationed at Monck's Corner, and drove them away.
The action cut off an avenue of escape for Major General Benjamin Lincoln's besieged army. Aside from the British Legion, and the 33rd Foot and 64th Foot led by Lieutenant Colonel James Webster, the force included Loyalists, the American Volunteers, led by Major Patrick Ferguson.
Facts about the Battle of Monck's Corner
- Armies - American Forces was commanded by Brig. Gen. Isaac Huger and consisted of about 500 Soldiers. British Forces was commanded by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton and consisted of about 650 Soldiers.
- Casualties - American casualties were estimated to be 20 killed/wounded and 67 captured. British casualties were estimated to be 3 wounded.
- Outcome - The result of the battle was a British victory. The battle was part of the Southern Theater 1775-82.
In March, Tarleton and Ferguson, with their cavalry, joined Clinton and the main British force in its thirty-mile approach to Charles Town.
By April 2, the third British attempt to capture Charleston was officially underway. To guard the upper reaches of the Cooper River, on April 12, Southern Department Commandant Lincoln sent Brigadier General Isaac Huger and all of the Patriot cavalry to guard Biggin Bridge, near Monck’s Corner, South Carolina. This detachment consisted of the 1st and 3rd Continental Dragoons, the remains of Pulaski’s Legion cavalry (decimated in their attack on the Spring Hill Redoubt at the Siege of Savannah in October 1779), Colonel Daniel Horry’s South Carolina Dragoons, and North Carolina militia.
On April 12, Clinton ordered Tarleton into the South Carolina countryside to defend his rear and cut Charles Town off from its lines of communication, reinforcement, counterattack and supply with the North and South Carolina backcountry. The Continentals had successfully reinforced Charleston on April 8, and Colonel Abraham Buford was approaching with more Continental reinforcements from Virginia.
Tarleton’s first objective was to take possession of Monck's Corner and the nearby bridge over Biggin Creek, where Gen. Huger was stationed. Ferguson and his Loyalist provincial troops, the American Volunteers, supported Tarleton and his British Legion.
On April 13, they were joined by Lieutenant Colonel James Webster and the 33rd and 64th Regiments of infantry. The plan was for Tarleton and Ferguson to proceed ahead quickly and silently to Monck's Corner and take Huger by surprise at night. Along the way, they captured a messenger who was carrying a letter from Huger to Lincoln in Charleston, which told Tarleton how the Patriot troops were deployed.
On April 13, from 10:00 PM, a swift silent march was undertaken along the road to Monck's Corner by Tarleton and his men. They encountered no American scouts or patrols. When they reached Monck's Corner, they caught the Americans completely by surprise. Not only had there been no patrols, but Gen. Huger had placed his cavalry in front of his infantry.
Tarleton, typical of his tactics, led a cavalry charge directly into the Americans; swamps on either side of the causeway leading to the bridgehead precluded a flank attack. The British easily dispersed the militia defending Biggin Bridge.
Most of the Americans were able to escape, including Huger and Lieutenant Colonel William Washington; however, Tarleton was able to capture wagons of supplies and a great many excellent cavalry horses of great value to the British as they had lost most of their horses on the voyage to the south.
Tarleton's reputation for swift surprise attacks started with this first major victory of his in the South. Following the battle, some of Tarleton's Legion dragoons committed some brutalities as documented by Charles Stedman, including the killing of the Pulaski Horse commander Vernier after he had asked for quarter, and "attempts to ravish several ladies" at the Colleton plantation.
Ferguson was offended by these acts, and Webster had the perpetrators sent back to the British camp outside Charleston, where they were supposedly "tried and whipped."
Some of the scattered remnants of Huger's force made their way north and east. They eventually regrouped under Colonel Anthony Walton White, but were again scattered by Tarleton at Lenud's Ferry on May 6.
The American defeat at Monck's Corner left Lincoln without any lines of communication from Charleston to the interior of South Carolina or with allies by sea. The defeat only hastened the surrender of Charleston.