Notes and Photos – Terrain, Distance, Oyster Banks

Notes and Photos - Terrain, Distance, Oyster Banks

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2 Responses to Notes and Photos – Terrain, Distance, Oyster Banks

  1. David E. Huff says:

    It seems to me that your information as to the width of Breech Inlet being a mile wide is way off the mark. I refer you to the map done a year after the battle by Henry Mouzon Jr. and the 1858 Charleston Harbor map by the Coastal Survey under the direction of Charles O. Boutelle and todays charts. They all show the location and width to be almost the same. The British map on the other hand is of really bad quality. If the British fleet were a mile away from Thomsons lines, could their cannon fire have reached that far? I’d really like to hear a defence of the mile wide argument. David E. Huff R.L.S. Retired Isle of Palms (love history).

    • dougmac1776 says:

      Thanks for commenting, David; I appreciate your interest. There is clear evidence that the inlet was more than a mile wide during the Revolution, but that important point has been missed by many historians over the years. Without checking period maps, they have assumed that Breach Inlet was the same then and now. This has caused them to misinterpret or dismiss first person accounts of the action. Some have made the mistake of printing misleading modern maps in books about the battle. One author who printed a 1770s map in his book went so far as to state that the British mapmaker exaggerated the width of the inlet to help justify the British failure to cross during the attack … despite multiple maps from different sources showing a similar width. Since you live in the local area, you can ride by 120 Charleston Blvd on IOP and read the historical marker about Lord Cornwallis’s headquarters … near a spot which actually was in the middle of Breach Inlet in 1776.

      To see the best information I’ve found, please check the detailed maps in the Research Aids section of this website and read the fourth item in the Points to Ponder section. If you’re interested in period accounts, check the Timeline in the Research Aids section. By comparing a sequence of maps published from the 1770s through the 1858 map you mention, we see that the inlet shrank as sand accumulated and Long Island grew toward Sullivan’s Island during the early years of the 19th century. By 1858, the width of Breach Inlet was substantially the same as today.

      The Mouzon map is an exception, a large-scale map that shows both Carolinas and therefore contains little detail about the islands or Breach Inlet. I don’t recall other maps of the era depicting Breach Inlet less than a mile wide, while several show the high ground of Long and Sullivan’s Island to be about a mile and a half apart. The most useful maps of the era clearly delineate the high ground, marsh, creeks, sandbars, and beaches. These maps show that Long Island was beyond the effective range of British cannons, which is why the British fired mortars, howitzers and cannons from Green (now Little Goat) Island and the oyster bank (now Clubhouse Point), which were within range of the Americans on Sullivan’s Island.

      Please give me a call at 843-860-9173 or email dougmac@mindpsring.com if you’re not convinced after checking these sources. I love finding any evidence that sheds new light on the history.

      Doug MacIntyre

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