Retracing Our Family Legacy

15th Virginia Regiment


  • Authorized 16 September 1776 in the Continental Army as the 15th Virginia Regiment.
  • Assigned 27 December 1776 to the Main Army.
  • Organized 12 February 1777 to consist of 9 companies from Chesterfield, Brunswick, Southampton, King William, Mansemond, Princess Anne, Isle of Wight, Surry, Sussex, Westmoreland, Northumberland, and Richmond Counties and the Borough of Norfolk.
  • Assigned 11 May 1777 to the 3d Virginia Brigade, an element of the Main Army.
  • Reorganized 1 November 1777 to consist of 8 companies.
  • Relieved 22 July 1778 from the 3d Brigade and assigned to the 2d Brigade, an element of the Main Army.
  • Reorganized and redesignated 12 May 1779 as the 11th Virginia Regiment, to consist of 9 companies
  • Relieved 4 December 1779 from the 2d Virginia Brigade and assigned to the Southern Department.
  • Captured 12 May 1780 by the British Army at Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Disbanded 1 January 1781



The Main Army

Established: June 15, 1775
Abolished: End of war.

Dates Served
George Washington:June 15, 1775 - December 23, 1783


The Southern Department
  • Established: March 1, 1776
    • Originally comprised of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
    • Later in the war, Maryland and Delaware were transferred to the department.
  • Abolished: End of war
Dates Served
Charles Lee:March 1, 1776 - September 9, 1776
Robert Howe:September 9, 1776 - September 25, 1778
Benjamin Lincoln:September 25, 1778 - June 13, 1780
Horatio Gates:June 13, 1780 - October 17, 1780
Nathanael Greene:October 17, 1780 - end of war

See letter from Commander Benjamin Lincoln at bottom of this page.


The Siege of Charleston
29th March to 12th May, 1780 in Charleston, South Carolina

Americans Commanded by Gen. Benjamin Lincoln

British Commanded by Gen. Henry Clinton

Conclusion: British Victory

In December 1779, General Clinton sailed himself sailed south bound for Charleston from New York City. The British fleet included ninety troopships and fourteen warships with more than 8,500 soldiers and 5,000 sailors. Because they had been delayed several months in leaving, the fleet now sailed through stormy seas. The first storm hit on December 27 and lasted three days. On January 1, 1780 another storm hit and lasted six days. This pattern continued and the fleet was separated.

After having been separated by constant storms about two-thirds of the British fleet had regrouped. However, they found themselves off the coast of Florida and had to sail back north. They went as far as Georgia where a diversionary infantry force was put ashore on February 4, 1780. The cavalry commanded by Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton and including Major Patrick Ferguson also went ashore to find new mounts. During the voyage the horses had to be put overboard, because of serious injuries like broken legs.

General Clinton then continued sailing north with the main body of his force. Back in 1776, Clinton had deferred to Admiral Sir Peter Parker whose choice of approach directly into Charleston Harbor had been a disaster. Clinton had learned his lesson from that defeat and chose to land his forces thirty miles south of Charleston and approach overland. While the army marched overland, the ships would sail up the rivers delivering provisions as necessary. The first men were put ashore on February 11, 1780

On February 4, 1780, a diversionary infantry force was put ashore in Georgia. The cavalry commanded by Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton and including Major Patrick Ferguson also went ashore to find new mounts. During the voyage the horses had to be put overboard, because of serious injuries like broken legs. Lt. General Henry Clinton had chosen to land his forces thirty miles south of Charleston and approach overland.

The first men, English and Hessian Grenadiers and the 33rd Regiment of Foot, were put ashore on February 11, 1780, on the southern tip of John's Island. On February 14, these men set out in search of Stono Ferry, which was the crossing point to James Island. Later that day, they found the river, but the other bank with fortified and manned by militia. The British retreated without taking fire from the Americans. The next day they discovered that the Americans had deserted their position overnight.

On February 24th, fortifications were completed at Stono Ferry and the British crossed over to James Island the next day. There was a Continental presence on the island. French Chevalier Pierre-François Vernier commanded the cavalry, while Francis Marion commanded the American infantry. They had been observing the British movements for several days. On February 26th, they attacked a returning British scavenging patrol as it passed down a narrow way. The German Jägers came to their rescue and drove Vernier off.

In spite of the Continental presence and continued skirmishing with Chevalier Vernier and his cavarly, the British gained control of James Island by March 1st. After a month on March 10, 1780, General Clinton's second-in-command Lt. General Charles Cornwallis finally led the main force onto the mainland at Wappoo Cut. On March 11th, naval ships finally came up the Stono River and delivered much needed supplies.

From March 11 until the 21th the British fortified their position which was located where the Wappoo Creek flowed into the Ashley River. They mounted artillery to shell American ships and keep the Ashley River secure. They then moved upstream and north, away from Charleston, slowly securing the plantations along the way while the Americans shadowed them from across the river.
Under the cover of fog on March 29th, the British crossed the Ashley River upstream from the heavily fortified Ashley Ferry and established themselves on Charleston Neck. When the Americans learned that the British were on the Neck, they abandoned their breastworks at Ashley Ferry. By April 1st, the British had moved down into position to begin their siege works.

While the British slowly closed in, naval maneuvering in Charleston Harbor for the Americans was a disaster. In December 1779, four frigates had arrived under the command of Commodore Abraham Whipple and were joined by four ships from South Carolina and two French ships. There were 260 guns afloat and forty guns at Fort Moultrie. However, even before the British arrived, Whipple informed Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln that the flotilla could not defend the entrance to Charleston Harbor. General Lincoln questioned Commodore Whipple's conclusion, but Whipple was backed up by a naval board. Whipple chose to first withdraw to the mouth of the Cooper River. Meanwhile the British began their approach on March 20th. When Whipple saw the size of the British attack fleet, he scuttled the ships at the entrance of the river

On April 2nd, siege works were begun about 800 yards from the American fortifications. During the first few days of the siege, the British operations were under heavy artillery fire. On April 4th, they built redoubts near the Ashley and Cooper Rivers to protect their flanks. On April 6th, a warship was hauled overland from the Ashley River to the Cooper River to harass crossings by the besieged to the mainland. On April 8th, the British fleet moved into the Harbor under fire only from Fort Moultrie.

On April 12th, Lt. General Henry Clinton ordered Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton and Major Patrick Ferguson to capture Monck's Corner, which was a crossroads just south of Biggins Bridge near the Santee River. General Isaac Huger was stationed there 500 men under orders from General Lincoln to hold the crossroads so that communications with Charleston would remain open. On the evening of April 13, 1780, Lt. Colonel Tarleton gave orders for a silent march. Later that night, they intercepted a messenger with a letter from Huger to Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln and thus learned how the rebels were deployed. At three o'clock in the morning on the 14th, the British reached the American post, catching them completely by surprise and quickly routing them. Following the skirmish, the British fanned out across the countryside and effectively cut off Charleston from outside support.

South Carolina Governor John Rutledge left Charleston on April 13th. On the 21th a parlay was made between Lincoln and Clinton, with Lincoln offering to surrender with honor. That is, with colors flying and marching out fully armed, but Clinton was sure of his position and quickly refused the terms. A heavy artillery exchange followed. On April 23rd, Lt. General Charles Cornwallis crossed the Cooper River and assumed command of the British forces blocking escape by land. Finally on April 24th, the Americans ventured out to harass the siege works. The lone American casualty was Tom Moultrie, brother of Brig. General William Moultrie. On April 29th, the British advanced on the left end of the canal that fronted the city's fortifications with the purpose of destorying the dam and draining the canal


The Americans knew the importance of that canal to the city's defenses and responded with steady and fierce artillery and small arms fire. By the following night, the British had succeeded in draining some water. By May 4th, several casualties had been sustained and the fire had been so heavy that work was often suspended. On the 5th, the Americans made a countermove from their side, but by the 6th, almost all of the water had drained out of the heavily damaged dam and plans for an assault began.

On that same day, May 6th, Fort Moultrie surrendered. On May 8th, General Clinton called for unconditional surrender from General Lincoln, but Lincoln again tried to negotiate for honors of war. On May 11th, the British fired red-hot shot that burned several homes before Lincoln finally called for parlay and to negotiate terms for surrender. The final terms dictated that the entire Continental force captured were prisoners of war. On May 12th, the actual surrender took place with General Lincoln leading a ragged bunch of soldiers out of the city.

The senior officers including Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln eventually were exchanged for British officers in American hands. For all others in the Continental army, a long stay on prison boats in Charleston Harbor was the result, where sickness and disease would ravage them. The defeat left no Continental Army in the South and the country wide open for British taking. Even before Lincoln surrendered, the Continental Congress had already appointed Maj. General Horatio Gates to replace him.

The British quickly established outposts in a semicircle from Georgetown to Augusta, Georgia, with positions at Camden, Ninety-Six, Cheraw, Rocky Mount and Hanging Rock in between. Parole was offered to back country rebels and many accepted, including Andrew Pickens. Soon after securing Charleston, Lt. General Henry Clinton gave command of the Southern Theatre to Lt. General Charles Cornwallis and on June 5th, he sailed north back to New York.

General Clinton's one order to General Cornwallis before he left, was to maintain possession of Charleston above all else. Cornwallis was not to move into North Carolina if it jeopordized this holding. Clinton also had ordered that all militia and civilians be released from their parole. But in addition, they must take an oath to the Crown and be at ready to serve when called upon by His Majesty's government. This addition angered many of the locals and led to many deserting or ignoring the order and terms of their parole.



Northern New Jersey

Northern New Jersey

  • Time Period: 20 November 1776 - 26 June 1777
  • Area: Staten Island and Northern New Jersey
  • Explanation: Engagements from capture of Fort Lee to British withdrawal to start the invasion of Pennsylvania


Defense of Philadelphia

  • Time Period: 25 August - 19 December 1777
  • Area: Eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware
  • Explanation: Engagements from British landing at Head of Elk to Washington's encampment at Valley Forge

The campaign to seize Philadelphia, the second mayor phase of British strategy in 1777, began in late July. Some 15,000 troops under Howe's command sailed from New York on 23 July and landed at Head of Elk (now Elkton), Maryland, a month later (25 August). Washington, with about 11,000 men, took up a defensive position blocking the way to Philadelphia at Chad's Ford on the eastern side of Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania. Howe attacked on 11 September, sending Cornwallis across the creek in a wide-sweeping flanking movement around the American right, while his Hessian troops demonstrated opposite Chad's Ford. Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene's troops staved off Cornwallis' threatened envelopment of Washington's whole force, and the Americans fell back to Chester in a hard-pressed but orderly retreat. Patriot losses in this engagement totaled about 1,000 killed, wounded, and prisoners. British casualties were less than 600.

After their victory at Brandywine the British forces under Howe maneuvered in the vicinity of Philadelphia for two weeks, virtually annihilating a rear guard force under Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne at Paoli on 21 September 1777, before moving unopposed into the city on 26 September. Howe established his main encampment in nearby Germantown, stationing some 9,000 men there. Washington promptly attempted a coordinated attack against this garrison on the night of 3 - 4 October. Columns were to move into Germantown from four different directions and begin the assault at dawn Two of the columns, both made up of militia, never appeared to take part in the attack, but in the early phases of the fighting the columns under Greene and Divan achieved considerable success. However, a dense early morning fog which resulted in some American troops firing on each other while it permitted the better disciplined British to re-form for a counterattack and a shortage of, ammunition contributed to the still not fully explained retreat of the Americans, beginning about 0900. Howe pursued the Colonials a few miles as they fell back in disorder, but he did not exploit his victory. American losses were 673 killed and wounded and about 400 taken prisoner. British losses were approximately 533 killed and wounded.


Philadelphia - Monmouth

  • Time Period: 20 December 1777 - 10 July 1778
  • Area: Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey
  • Explanation: Operations relating to the British occupation of Philadelphia and withdrawal to Sandy Hook

After conclusion of the Franco-American Alliance (6 February 1778) British forces in America had to give consideration to the new threat created by the powerful French fleet. General Clinton, who relieved Howe as British commander in America on 8 May 1778, decided to shift the main body of his troops from Philadelphia to a point nearer the coast where it would be easier to maintain close communications with the British Fleet. Consequently, he ordered evacuation of the 10,000-man garrison in Philadelphia on 18 June. As these troops set out through New Jersey toward New York, Washington broke camp at his winter headquarters in Valley Forge, and began pursuit of Clinton with an army of about 13,500 men. Advance elements under Mad. Gen. Charles Lee launched the initial attack on the British column as it marched out of Monmouth Courthouse (now Freehold), N. J., on 28 June, an extremely hot day. For reasons not entirely clear Lee did not follow up early advantages gained, and when British reinforcements arrived on the scene he ordered a retreat. This encouraged Clinton to attack with his main force. Washington relieved Lee and assumed personal direction of the battle, which continued until dark without either side retiring from the field. But, during the night, the British slipped away to Sandy Book, N. J., from where their fleet took them to New York City. The British reported losses of 65 killed, 155 wounded, and 64 missing; the Americans listed 69 killed, 161 wounded, and 130 missing. General Lee was subsequently court-martialed and suspended from service for disobedience and misbehavior. Washington's army moved northward, crossed the Hudson, and occupied positions at White Plains, N. Y.


Charleston 1780

  • Time Period: 10 February - 29 May 1780
  • Area: South Carolina
  • Explanation: Siege of Charleston and related occupation of South Carolina through the battle of Waxhaws

DATE 5-16-2004


Letter From Commander Benjamin Lincoln

See Chart at Top of Page
The Southern Department