(February 3, 1779). The Battle of Port Royal Island was part of a larger campaign designed by the British to cover their operations against Augusta, Georgia. On February 2, 1779, while British units were marching on Augusta from Savannah, an amphibious expedition consisting of 150 light infantrymen on four transports, the twenty-four-gun ship Vigilant, and the smaller warship Germaine left Tybee Island, Georgia, for Port Royal. The approach of the British warships forced the patriots to destroy Fort Lyttleton at Beaufort. But instead of occupying Beaufort, the British continued into the Broad River and destroyed the homes of Stephen Bull and Thomas Heyward, Sr.
The next day, February 3, the British continued up the Broad River and landed the light infantrymen under Major William Gardner on Port Royal Island. The soldiers marched to Port Royal Ferry but found it well protected. While returning to their transports, the British discovered a force of four hundred militiamen and some Continental artillerymen under Generals Stephen Bull and William Moultrie drawn up across the road on a rise known as Grey’s Hill. Though outnumbered, the British attacked. In a sharp fight lasting forty-five minutes, the Americans suffered about thirty casualties, while the British lost about seventy-five men. At the end of the battle both sides withdrew. The British remained in the area and gathered up slaves and were joined by Loyalists before returning to Savannah. Though the campaign was inconclusive, it did demonstrate the ability of the British to use their command of the waterways to strike at both military and civilian targets and to strengthen the resolve of South Carolina Loyalists.
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Ripley, Warren. Battleground: South Carolina in the Revolution. Charleston, S.C.: Post-Courier, 1983.
Rowland, Lawrence S., Alexander Moore, and George C. Rogers. The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina. Vol. 1, 1514–1861. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.
Ward, Christopher. The War of the Revolution. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1952.