1706 – Franco-Spanish expedition against Charles Town

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1706 – Franco-Spanish expedition against Charles Town

The campaign took place in August and September 1706

Introduction

Since 1704, the French and Spaniards were considering an expedition against Charles Town (present-day Charleston/SC), the capital of the British Province of Carolina.

Late in 1705, the French privateer Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville was authorised by King Louis XIV for an expedition against Charles Town. Ships of the Marine Royale would take part in the enterprise but the cost of the expedition would be assumed by Iberville.

Description

In January 1706, d'Iberville's forces (12 vessels, 600 soldiers) sailed from France in two distinct groups to the West Indies.

Upon his arrival at the Martinique Island, d'Iberville recruited additional troops.

D'Iberville's expeditionary force then sailed towards Nevis Island and plundered it.

At this point, d'Iberville sent part of his forces back and then sailed for Havana.

The expeditionary force reached Havana at the moment when an epidemic of yellow fever raged. Several men of this force died of the disease.

On 6 July, the Spanish Governor of Havana, Pedro Álvarez de Villarín, died of the disease.

On 8 July, d'Iberville also died of the disease, after confiding the expedition to Captain Jacques Lefebvre.

Lefebvre's force (5 ships, 300 French soldiers under General Arbousset, and 200 Spanish volunteers under General Esteban de Berroa) sailed from Havana for St. Augustine, where it was reinforced by 1 ship, 50 Spanish foot and 50 Apalachee warriors.

On 31 August, the expeditionary force sailed from St. Augustine. On the way to Charles Town, the Brillant (64), who transported much of the French force, including artillery and siege equipment) gave chase to a British sloop and became separated form the rest of the squadron.

The sloop hurriedly returned to Charles Town to announce that she had spotted an enemy squadron. Governor Nathaniel Johnson immediately called out the militia of Carolina which had also been decimated by the epidemic of yellow fever. Johnson placed the militia under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Rhett and posted it on James Island, which guarded the southern approach to Charles Town harbour.

The small Fort Johnson was erected on the northern point of James Island. However, its artillery was not powerful enough to interdict the harbour. A small flotilla was also hurriedly assembled, it even included a fire-ship.

On 4 September, Lefebvre's squadron, with the exception of the Brillant, appeared in front of the harbour bar of Charles Town.

On 7 September, Lefebvre's squadron crossed the harbour bar.

On 8 September, Lefebvre summoned Charles Town to surrender, asking for a contribution of 50,000 Spanish pesos and threatening to destroy the place if this contribution was not paid. Governor Johnson rejected this ultimatum.

On September 9, Lefebvre landed troops at two different locations. The largest detachment (approx. 160 men) plundered some plantations near the Charleston neck, but retired when Johnson sent militia out in boats to oppose them. The other detachment was landed on James Island, but soon retired when it met resistance.

In the night of 9 to 10 September, Johnson was informed that the detachment sent against the neck was still active and he sent Lieutenant-Colonel Rhett with 100 men to reconnoitre the area.

On 10 September at daybreak, Rhett surprised the enemy detachment, which routed after a brief skirmish. In this affair Lefebvre lost 12 men killed and 60 taken prisoners.

On 11 September, the British flotilla sailed out of Charles Town under Lieutenant-Colonel Rhett, who soon realised that Lefebvre's squadron had sailed away.

On 12 September, the Brillant (64) finally reached Charles Town, unaware of the recent events. General Arbousset landed his troops east of Charles Town, but the Brillant was captured by the British flotilla. A brief combat against the Carolina Militia ensued where Arbousset lost between 14 and 30 men. He soon surrendered. The prisoners included 90 to 100 Native American warriors, who were sold as slaves.

References

Wikipedia – Lefebvre's Charles Town expedition