Fort Motte (1780-1781) - A British fortification established in 1780 during the Revolutionary War at an expropriated Patriot plantation in present day Calhoun County, South Carolina. Destroyed by the Patriots and abandoned by the British in 1781 after a siege by Patriot forces under General Francis Marion (the "Swamp Fox"). Also known as Fort Motte Station.
History of Fort Motte
Established by British Forces in January 1781 during the Revolutionary War on the expropriated plantation of the patriot widow Rebecca Motte. The widow was forced to leave her home and the British converted her three-story home and surrounding plantation into a fortification. The fort was used to transship supplies that came from Charleston to troops in the field as one of a string of forts along the Santee-Congaree River roads.
The post came to be fortified with surrounding earthworks, a palisade, and a deep surrounding ditch. The three-story house overlooked the palisade and earthworks and two blockhouses on opposite corners provided additional firing positions. The fort was only 120-foot square and without an internal well. It was garrisoned by 184 British regulars, Hessians and provincial troops in close quarters.
A Patriot siege of the fort began on 6 May 1781 under the command of General Francis Marion (the "Swamp Fox") and Lt. Colonel Henry Lee ("Light Horse Harry"). General Marion's troops dug a zig-zag trench toward the fort and built a raised platform for the single 6-pounder cannon with the intent of charging the fort under cover of the cannon.
By 12 May 1781, General Marion determined that setting fire to the three-story house would force the British to surrender the crowded fort with little loss to the Patriots. Lt. Colonel Lee so informed the Widow Motte who agreed and presented him with a bow and fire arrows from India suitable for setting fire to her house.
The arrows were used against the fort the next morning and when the fire began, the cannon was employed to keep the British from putting it out. The British surrendered and lost no troops during the siege. The fire was reportedly put out but is unclear how much of the house remained.
Granite 1909 DAR marker on private property in Calhoun County, South Carolina. The marker is placed almost precisely in the middle of the fort. South Carolina archeological site ID 38CL1 - Fort Motte battlefield.