Siege Of Fort Motte

The Siege of Fort Motte was a military operation during the American Revolutionary War.

A force of Patriots led by General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion and Lt. Colonel "Light Horse" Harry Lee set out to capture the British post at Fort Motte, strategically located at the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. The fort was not much more than a mansion owned by the Motte family, but was garrisoned by roughly 175 British soldiers under Lt. Daniel McPherson.

Marion and Lee learned that Lord Rawdon was retreating towards Fort Motte in the aftermath of the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill. The Americans forces invested the place on May 8 and wished to capture the fort before Rawdon arrived. Two days later, Marion called for the British to surrender and McPherson refused. The next day, Colonel Lee informed Mrs. Motte that he intended to burn the mansion down to force the British out. On May 12,1781, the American forces had entrenched themselves close enough to the mansion they were able to hit the roof with flaming arrows. Mrs Motte, a Patriot, not only accepted Lee's plan, but offered up her own set of bow and arrows. Marion's artillery fire added to the desperation of the British and, by one o'clock that afternoon, Lt. McPherson surrendered the garrison to the Patriots.

Arriving May 8, Lee and Marion immediately surrounded the fort, which was dominated by the two-story Motte residence and garrisoned by about 140 British and Hessian regulars under Lieutenant Daniel McPherson. On the approach of the Americans they had evicted the widowed Rebecca Motte from her home, and she had taken up residence outside the fort.

As the forces of Watson and Rawdon were still active and might come to relieve the siege, Marion and Lee needed a method to rapidly bring the siege to a conclusion. At Fort Watson they had constructed a tower from which the attackers could fire into the fort, but this idea was not workable under the conditions at Fort Motte. The idea was then put forward to set fire to the buildings within the defenses. Mrs. Motte, apparently sympathetic to the Patriot cause, provided the arrows that were used to ignite the roof of the house on May 12. When the defenders tried to go onto the roof to extinguish the flames, the attackers fired on them with their six-pound gun, driving them off. The garrison surrendered shortly after, and the Americans moved quickly to put out the fires before the whole house was engulfed.