William Moultrie

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William Moultrie
William Moultrie portrait.jpg
Portrait of William Moultrie by Charles Willson Peale, 1782
35th Governor of South Carolina
In office
February 11, 1785 – February 20, 1787
LieutenantCharles Drayton
Preceded byBenjamin Guerard
Succeeded byThomas Pinckney
In office
December 5, 1792 – December 17, 1794
LieutenantJames Ladson
Preceded byCharles Pinckney
Succeeded byArnoldus Vanderhorst
10th Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
In office
February 16, 1784 – February 11, 1785
GovernorBenjamin Guerard
Preceded byRichard Beresford
Succeeded byCharles Drayton
Personal details
Born(1730-11-23)November 23, 1730
Charlestown, Province of South Carolina, British America
DiedSeptember 27, 1805(1805-09-27) (aged 74)
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain
 United States of America
Branch/service South Carolina militia
Continental Army
Years of service1761
1775 – 1783
RankMajor General
Unit2nd South Carolina Regiment
Battles/warsAnglo-Cherokee War
American Revolutionary War
*Battle of Sullivan's Island
*Battle of Beaufort
*Siege of Savannah
*Siege of Charleston

William Moultrie (/ˈmltr/; November 23, 1730 – September 27, 1805) was a South Carolina planter and politician who became a general in the American Revolutionary War. As colonel leading a state militia, in 1776 he prevented the British from taking Charleston, and Fort Moultrie was named in his honor.

After independence, Moultrie advanced as a politician; he was elected by the legislature twice within a decade as Governor of South Carolina (1785–87, 1792–94), serving two terms. (The state constitution kept power in the hands of the legislature and prohibited governors from serving two terms in succession.)


The William Moultrie Monument stands in White Point Garden in Charleston, South Carolina.

Moultrie was born in Charlestown in the Province of South Carolina. His parents were the Scottish physician Dr. John Moultrie and Lucretia Cooper, and he was educated as a planter.

Moultrie fought in the Anglo-Cherokee War (1761). Before the advent of the American Revolution, he was elected to the colonial assembly representing St. Helena Parish.[1]

In 1775, Moultrie was commissioned as colonel of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment in the state militia. In December of that year, he led a raid on an encampment of runaway slaves on Sullivan's Island, killing 50 and capturing the rest. The island had served as the main landing point for African slaves imported to Charleston; an estimated 40% of the total estimated 400,000 Africans brought to the United States as slaves were landed here.[citation needed]

In 1776, Moultrie's defense of a small fort on Sullivan's Island (later named Fort Moultrie in his honor) prevented Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Peter Parker from taking Charleston. The Continental Congress passed a resolution thanking Moultrie. He was promoted to brigadier general and his regiment was taken into the Continental Army.

Moultrie's skill failed to prevent the fall of Savannah, Georgia to the British in 1778. They occupied the city for the remainder of the war. He was captured in 1780. Thousands of slaves in the South escaped to join British lines in this city and elsewhere, as the Crown had promised them freedom if they left rebels. When the British evacuated from Charleston, they also took many freedmen, resettling them in their colonies in the Caribbean and Nova Scotia, where they were known as Black Loyalists.

Moultrie was exchanged for British prisoners. In the last year of the war, he was promoted to major general in 1782, the last man appointed by Congress to that rank.

After the war he was elected by the new state legislature as 35th Governor of South Carolina (1785–87). The state constitution prohibited men from serving two successive terms as governor, an effort to keep power in the hands of the legislature. Moultrie was re-elected by the legislature in 1792, serving into 1794.

In his later years, he returned to manage his plantation. He wrote Memoirs of the Revolution as far as it Related to the States of North and South Carolina (1802).

The Moultrie Flag
Fort Moultrie, in 2006


After the war, the fort he had defended was renamed Fort Moultrie in his honor. It operated as a pivotal defense point until supplanted by Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie was used as an active post of the United States Army from 1798 until the end of World War Two.

Moultrie County, Illinois is also named in his honor. Ochlockoney, Georgia was renamed in 1859 as Moultrie when it was incorporated by the Georgia General Assembly.[2]

Moultrie Flag[edit]

During his notable defense of the fort in 1776, a flag of Moultrie's own design was flown: a field of blue bearing a white crescent with the word LIBERTY on it. The flag was shot down during the fight. Sergeant William Jasper held it up to rally the troops, and the story became widely known. The flag became an icon of the Revolution in the South. It was called the Moultrie, or the Liberty Flag. The new state of South Carolina incorporated its design into its state flag.

Grave of William Moultrie.


  1. ^ Fort Moultrie Centennial, Part I. Charleston, SC: Walker, Evans & Cogswell. 1876. p. 8. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  2. ^ Hellmann, Paul T. (February 14, 2006). Historical Gazetteer of the United States. Routledge. ISBN 1135948593.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bragg, C.L. Crescent Moon Over Carolina: William Moultrie and American Liberty (University of South Carolina Press; 2013) 336 pages

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Beresford
Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Charles Drayton
Preceded by
Benjamin Guerard
Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Thomas Pinckney
Preceded by
Charles Pinckney
Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Arnoldus Vanderhorst