American Revolution in South Carolina

South Caroliniana Library

This digital collection brings together material from numerous South Caroliniana Library collections to document the experiences of South Carolinians during the American Revolutionary War—both within and outside of the state. Materials contained in the collection include the personal papers of soldiers, statesmen, merchants, planters, and diplomats, and prints, paintings and other artwork drawn from the extensive visual image archive of the South Caroliniana Library.

South Carolina and its citizens played a crucial role in determining the course of the American Revolution—taking a leading role in events ranging from controversies late in the Colonial Period through the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that brought the conflict to an official close.

In March 1776, over three months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, South Carolina became the second colony to draft a state constitution and elected a president as chief executive. In June 1776 one of the defining battles of the early war took place on the South Carolina coast when revolutionary forces under the command of William Moultrie (1730–1805) defeated a combined British naval and amphibious assault at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. After renewed assaults, Charleston fell to British forces in 1780 and provided a base of operations to launch a “Southern Strategy” to bring southern states back into the empire after a series of stalemates in the north. This British strategy was foiled by sustained guerrilla campaigns led by partisans in the South Carolina Backcountry including Thomas Sumter (1734–1832) and Francis Marion (1732–1795). The personal papers of Moultrie, Sumter, and Marion held by the South Caroliniana Library are all part of this digital collection.

South Carolina was represented politically on the national and international level by men like Henry Laurens (1724–1792). A native of Charleston and a merchant, planter, and slave trader, Laurens was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies when independence from Britain was declared. After becoming the President of the Provincial Congress and Council of Safety in 1775, he was the de facto chief executive of South Carolina before the adoption of the state constitution of 1776. He was then appointed Vice President of South Carolina, a post he held until being elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1777. He would represent South Carolina in that body until October 1779, and as the body’s president from November 1777 to December 1778. He was appointed as a diplomat to Holland in October 1779 but was captured by a British warship on the Atlantic Ocean in September 1780 and imprisoned in the Tower of London from October 1780 to December 1781. After his release he was made a member of the commission (along with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay) to negotiate a final peace with Britain to end the war. Though many of Laurens’s papers were published in the sixteen-volume Papers of Henry Laurens, this collection contains all his personal, political, and business papers held by the South Caroliniana Library–including as of yet unpublished material.

This collection is not comprehensive, and materials will continue to be added. Digitization of these papers and images was made possible through support provided by the Samuel Freeman Charitable Foundation.

Related Collections

Broadsides from the Colonia Era to the Present at the South Caroliniana Library

Oliver Hart Papers

Paul Cross Papers

William Ancrum Letter Book and Account Book

William Tennent III Journal and Album


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