The Battle of Monck’s Corner — Tarleton Arrives in the South

April 14, 1780

The Battle of Monck’s Corner took place on April 14, 1780. British forces routed Americans stationed at Monck’s Corner, which led to the surrender of Charleston a month later. The battle was the first victory in the South for British officer Banastre Tarleton.

Banastrae Tarleton, Portrait, Reynolds

Banastre Tarleton. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Battle of Monck’s Corner Summary

The Battle of Monck’s Corner — also known as the Battle of Biggin Bridge — was fought by the United States of America and Great Britain on April 14, 1780, in present-day Berkeley County, South Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War. While the Siege of Charleston was taking place, American forces under the command of General Isaac Huger were posted at Monck’s Corner, 30 miles north of Charleston. The position was vital to American communication and supply lines, and, if necessary, General Benjamin Lincoln’s escape route from Charleston. General Henry Clinton sent Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and a contingent of troops to engage Huger. Tarleton and his men attacked the Americans before dawn on April 14 and quickly routed them in a brutal fashion. It was Tarleton’s first victory in the South and helped earn him a reputation for having no mercy for the enemy. Further, the loss of Monck’s Corner contributed to Lincoln’s surrender of Charleston and more than 5,000 American troops less than a month later.

Monck’s Corner Battle Facts

  • Also Known As: The Battle of Monck’s Corner is also known as the Battle of Biggin Bridge.
  • Date Started: The Battle of Monck’s Corner started on April 14, 1780.
  • Date Ended: It ended on April 14, 1780.
  • Location: The battle was fought at Monck’s Corner, South Carolina.
  • Theater: The battle took place in the Southern Theater of the American Revolutionary War.
  • Campaign: The Battle of Monck’s Corner was part of the British Southern Campaign of the American Revolutionary War.
  • Who Won: Great Britain won the Battle of Monck’s Corner.
General Isaac Huger, Illustration
Isaac Huger. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

What Happened at the Battle of Monck’s Corner?

In February 1780, British forces led by General Henry Clinton landed at Edisto Inlet, South Carolina, and marched north to capture Charleston. Although the city was garrisoned by American forces under the command of General Benjamin Lincoln, it was vulnerable to a siege by land forces and a naval blockade from the sea. 

American Forces at Monck’s Corner

Monck’s Corner is about 30 miles north of Charleston, near the headwaters of the Cooper River, which flows south and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. At the time, the Biggin Bridge spanned the river and served as the main escape route for American forces in the event they needed to evacuate Charleston.

In order to protect the bridge, Lincoln stationed General Isaac Huger and about 500 men there. Huger’s forces included:

  • Cavalry under the command of Peter Horry, Theodorick Bland, and Stephen Moylan
  • Dragoons under the command of Casimir Pulaski and George Baylor
  • Infantry under the command of William Washington

The Siege of Charleston Begins

The Siege of Charleston started on May 19 and British forces slowly moved in toward the city. On April 11, Clinton received intelligence that supplies were headed to Charleston and would pass through Monck’s Corner. 

Clinton Sends Tarleton to Attack Monck’s Corner

Clinton understood the importance of the outpost to Lincoln’s communication line, supply line, and escape route. In an effort to cut Lincoln off from the North, he decided to send Lieutenant Colonel Banastre to engage Huger and take Monck’s Corner.

Tarleton left for Monck’s Corner on April 12. With him were:

  • His own dragoons, the British Legion, an elite group of Loyalist infantry and dragoons
  • Major Patrick Ferguson and his mounted riflemen.
  • Lieutenant James Webster had two infantry regiments — the 33rd and 64th Regiments of Foot.

During the march to Monck’s Corner, the British captured an American who was carrying a message from Huger to Lincoln. The message included details of how Huger’s men were organized at Monck’s Corner.

When he read the message, Tarleton realized Huger had made critical mistakes in his defense of Monck’s Corner. 

  1. He was not sending patrols out to scout for the enemy, so he would not know Tarleton was moving toward him.
  2. He had the cavalry defend the bridge instead of the infantry. The cavalry would have to leave the bridge unguarded in order to engage his cavalry and dragoons.

Tarleton was well ahead of Webster’s infantry forces. Instead of waiting for them to catch up, he took action and moved against the American camp right away, so Huger would not have time to correct his mistakes.

Tarleton Attacks Huger

It was around 3:00 in the morning of April 14 when the British rode hard into the American camp with their swords drawn, slashing and cutting at the Americans. The attack caught Huger and his men by surprise and they stumbled out of their beds. 

The Americans were quickly overwhelmed and fled, including Huger and Washington. Some of the Americans tried to make a stand at Biggin Bridge, but Ferguson and his men pushed through and forced them to retreat.

The Outcome of the Monck’s Corner Battle

Within an hour, Tarleton had gained control of Monck’s Corner and Biggin Bridge. Webster finally arrived on April 15, further strengthening the British position, and completely severing Lincoln’s route to the North. Tarleton also captured the supplies that were headed to Charleston.

The loss of Monck’s Corner was a devastating blow to Lincoln and his defense of Savannah. Within a month, he was forced to surrender the city and more than 3,300 American troops to the British.

Significance of the Battle of Monck’s Corner

The Battle of Monck’s Corner is important to United States history because the outcome contributed to the surrender of Charleston in May 1780. The battle also boosted the reputation of Banastre Tarleton as a ruthless commander. A reputation that was enhanced further a month later at the Battle of Waxhaws on May 29, 1780.

General Benjamin Lincoln, Illustration
Benjamin Lincoln. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

What Led to the Battle of Monck’s Corner?

On October 9, 1779, the British repulsed an attack by French and American forces during the Siege of Savannah. Within a few days, the Siege ended and General Benjamin Lincoln marched back to Charleston, South Carolina.

When news of the victory reached General Henry Clinton in New York, he made plans to send an army and warships to lay siege to Charleston. He believed if he could take Charleston, he could reclaim South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and bring an end to the war.

Clinton organized his forces and then chose Hessian General Wilhelm von Knyphausen to command troops in New York. He sailed for Charleston on December 26, 1779, with General Charles Cornwallis as his second-in-command and Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot commanding the fleet. 

Siege of Charleston

Clinton had more than 8,500 troops, along with 14 warships that were crewed by 5,000 sailors. Most of the men were transported in 90 smaller ships. The armada was delayed by stormy weather off the coast of North Carolina but arrived near Tybee Island and the mouth of the Savannah River around January 27.

After repairing the ships, Clinton sailed for Charleston on February 10 and entered North Edisto Inlet on February 11. Later that day, he started landing troops on present-day Seabrook Island. From there, Clinton’s army moved northeast, across Johns Island, across the Stono River, to James Island.

By March 3, the army was on the mainland and it took until the end of the month for it to march to Charleston Neck. On May 29, Clinton’s army arrived at Charleston, and the Siege of Charleston started.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title The Battle of Monck’s Corner — Tarleton Arrives in the South
  • Date April 14, 1780
  • Author
  • Keywords Battle of Monck’s Corner, Siege of Charleston, Henry Clinton, Benjamin Lincoln, Isaac Huger, Banastre Tarleton, Battle of Monck’s Corner APUSH
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 28, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 26, 2024