Siege Of Fort Watson

The Siege of Fort Watson was an American Revolutionary War confrontation in South Carolina that began on April 15, 1781 and lasted until April 23, 1781.

Continental Army forces under Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee and South Carolina militia under Francis Marion besieged Fort Watson, a fortified British outpost that formed part of the communication and supply chain between Charleston and other British outposts further inland.

The attackers, lacking artillery, were unable to make a dent in the fortified works, and failed in attempts to deny the garrison of a water supply. They then devised a plan to build a tower from which sharpshooters could fire into the fort's walls. Fort Watson was once again attacked by the Americans on April 23, with the British forces unable to control the walls due to musket fire from the tower. They surrendered shortly afterwards.

When Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene turned from his pursuit of Gen. Charles Cornwallis to march toward Camden, he detached Lt. Col. Henry Lee to screen against a possible movement of Cornwallis in that direction from Wilmington. If this threat did not materialize, Lee was to join Brig. Gen. Francis Marion's force and capture the British garrison at Fort Watson. The fort was named after the Tory leader Col. John Watson.

Fort Watson was a part of the British line of communications from Charleston, located 60 miles to the southeast. It was located on an Indian mound on the edge of Scott's Lake. The fort was a small but strong stockade that was surrounded by 3 rings of abatis, and sat atop an Indian mound. This tumulus was on the edge of the Santee River, and provided a piece of commanding terrain in the bare, level plain. It was between 30-50 feet high. Ft. Watson itself was defended by Lieut. James McKay, of the King’s American Regt., with 5 officers, 73 Provincials and 36 loyalists, with one cannon. One source speaks of some of the South Carolina Rangers and some of Lieut. Col. Watson’s Provincial Light infantry as being present.