FADEN, William (1750-1836)
A Plan of the Attack of Fort Sulivan, near Charles Town in South Carolina. by a Squadron of His Majesty's Ships, on the 28th June 1776. with the Disposition of the King's Land Forces, and the Encampments and Entrenchments of the Rebels from the Drawings made on the Spot
London: "Printed and sold by William Faden, Successor to the late Mr. Thomas Jefferies, Geographer to the King..." 10th August 1776. Copper-engraved map, engraved one-line dedication to Sir Peter Parker and letterpress text in two columns beneath the map. Inset plan of the fort. Sheet size: 20 7/8 x 16 1/2 inches.
Extremely rare first issue of a separately-published Revolutionary War broadside battle plan depicting a critical altercation near Charleston, South Carolina.
This highly important and finely engraved and letterpress broadside map captures the dramatic action surrounding the British naval assault on Fort Sullivan (called here "Sulivan"), the strategic key to Charleston. In the Spring of 1776, South Carolina had fallen into the firm possession of the Americans, a reality the British were determined to challenge. They dispatched a fleet of twenty ships (although only nine were armed) under Commodore Peter Parker, manned by marines, with the mission under the overall command of Maj. General Sir Henry Clinton. The ships moored in Five Fathom Hole, and landed on Long Island, which lay to the north of Sullivan's Island.
Meanwhile, practical considerations indicated that the Patriot defenders were in considerable trouble. Led by Col. William Moultrie, the Americans were short of experienced troops and ammunition. Fort Sullivan, located on the southern tip of the island of the same name had to be held, otherwise Charleston would surely fall. While the elegant plan of the fort, located in the inset at the upper left of the map, makes it appear to be a well designed bastion, it was in reality cobbled together with palmetto logs. Moultrie had a total of 1,125 men against the 2,900 British marines. More worryingly, the fort had only 26 guns, with only 28 rounds of ammunition per gun against the British fleet's 270 well-stocked cannon.
Fortunately for the Americans, the British proceeded to make a series of strategic errors. Clinton, who relied on information given by harbour pilots who were press-ganged into service, spent days looking for a non-existent ford between Long and Sullivan's Island, which in reality was prevented by the presence of a seven foot deep channel. This bought the Americans time, which allowed American Col. William Thomson to fortify the northern tip of the island, as indicated on the map.
On June 28th, the British mounted their full on naval assault of the fort, as indicated on the map by the ships shown grouped together just off of the fort, with each ship being named and detailed with its number of guns. Moultrie wisely rationed and synchronized the use of his limited firepower, such that the British met heavier than expected resistance. Unfamiliar with the tidal shoals that lay near the fort, the British ships were unable to sail in close enough to the fort to deliver lethal blows, while remaining in range of the American guns. Amazingly, many of the British rounds which did strike the fort were harmlessly absorbed into the structure's spongy palmetto logs. The British flagship HMS Bristol took heavy losses, and another ship ran aground and had to be abandoned. Another British attempt to storm Thomson's northern positions with a raid by long boats was easily repelled. The British were forced to completely withdraw, and promptly set sail for New York.
This copy is the very rare first state (of four known issues) of the map, which was the first Revolutionary battle plan to be drafted by William Faden. The text in two columns found on this issue gives an account of the action taken from a letter by Parker to Lieutenant General Clinton. This issue was separately published as a broadside giving news of the battle to a British audience eager for information about the war; later issues, without text, appeared in Faden's North American Atlas .
Nebenzahl, Atlas of the American Revolution , map 8; Nebenzahl, A Bibliography of Printed Battle Plans of the American Revolution 1775-1795 , 64; Stevens & Tree, "Comparative Cartography," 14(a), in Tooley, The Mapping of America.