William Moultrie

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William Moultrie
Portrait of William Moultrie by Charles Willson Peale, 1782
35th Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 5, 1792 – December 17, 1794
LieutenantJames Ladson
Preceded byCharles Pinckney
Succeeded byArnoldus Vanderhorst
In office
February 11, 1785 – February 20, 1787
LieutenantCharles Drayton
Preceded byBenjamin Guerard
Succeeded byThomas Pinckney
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
RankMajor General
Unit2nd South Carolina Regiment

William Moultrie (/ˈmltr/; November 23, 1730 – September 27, 1805) was an American 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 (1785–1787, 1792–1794), serving two terms. (The state constitution kept power in the hands of the legislature and prohibited governors from serving two terms in succession.)


A statue of William Moultrie stands in White Point Garden in Charleston, South Carolina.

William Moultrie was born in Charles Town in the Province of South Carolina. His parents were the Scottish physician Dr. John Moultrie and Lucretia Cooper, and he acquired a slave plantation, enslaving over 200 African Americans.[1]

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.[2]

In 1775, Moultrie was commissioned as colonel of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment of provincial troops. 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 successfully led a repulse of the British at Port Royal in February 1779. That spring when Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln took the bulk of the American force towards Augusta, Georgia, Moultrie was stationed at Black Swamp with a small contingent to watch the British on the other side of the Savannah River. When the British suddenly crossed the Savannah en masse and tried to move on Charleston, Moultrie managed a skillful tactical retreat across the Coosawhatchie and the Tullifiny Rivers and all the way back to Charleston where he held off a short siege. He refused to surrender at a time when the civilian authorities in Charleston felt somewhat abandoned by the Continental Congress and were almost ready to give up.[citation needed]

Moultrie was captured when Charleston surrendered to the British in 1780. He was left in command of the American POWs which required all of the patience and skill of a diplomat when advocating for his men against the harsh British commandant, Lt. Col. Nisbet Balfour. The British also attempted to lure him to their side, and he was absolutely indignant when he was approached by Charles Greville Montague. Moultrie was exchanged for British prisoners in 1782. The same year, he was promoted to major general, 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 (1785–1787). 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.

William Moultrie was the first president of the Society of the Cincinnati of the State of South Carolina and served in that capacity until his death.[3]

In 1802 he published his Memoirs of the Revolution as far as it Related to the States of North and South Carolina.

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.[4]

In 2018, notable South Carolinian and future Secretary of State Walter S. Moore named his pitbull after Moultrie.

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. ^ "Slavery through the Eyes of Revolutionary Generals". November 7, 2017.
  2. ^ Fort Moultrie Centennial, Part I. Charleston, SC: Walker, Evans & Cogswell. 1876. p. 8. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  3. ^ C. L. Bragg, Crescent Moon Over Carolina: William Moultrie and American Liberty (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2013, 219–25.
  4. ^ 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. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2013 (336 pages).

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Charles Drayton
Preceded by Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by