Lempriere’s Point was located on the northwest shore of Mount Pleasant at the mouth of the Wando River. The property was part of a plantation owned by Captain Clement Lempriere and the location of Lempriere’s Ferry that offered daily runs to and from Charles Town.
In April 1780 as he faced the British laying siege on Charles Town, American General Benjamin Lincoln needed the Wando and Cooper Rivers open so reinforcements and supplies could reach Charles Town via the Santee and Wando Rivers. Lincoln sent Colonel Francois Lellorquis, Marquis de Malmedy and 200 North Carolina militia to “secure the seaward passes on the Cooper River.” They established a defensive work at Cainhoy, nine miles from Charles Town. They also fortified Lempriere’s Point with the assistance of Colonel Louis Antoine Jean Baptiste, Chevalier de Cambray-Digny, one of Lincoln’s engineers.
The strong fortification was built in two parts. An extensive battery was built along the shoreline overlooking the mouths of the Wando and Cooper Rivers. Earthworks were also constructed facing inland. The terrain at Lempriere’s Point afforded natural protection from an infantry attack landside given an extensive marsh area on the southern flank.
On April 11, four 18-pound guns were transferred from Fort Moultrie to Lempriere’s Point. They were placed on the harbor wall to sink any British ships that might run for the Cooper and Wando Rivers. Two 4-pounders and five swivel guns were also sent to the new fortification. These guns were placed along the east wall as anti-infantry weapons.
Lincoln, in writing to Malmedy, expressed, “I need not remind you that your post is critical and that the greatest precaution is necessary.” Colonel Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was sent from Fort Moultrie to Lempriere’s Point to help oversee the final construction. Additionally, Lt. Colonel John Laurens with 100 light infantry was sent to join the 200 troops already at Lempriere’s Point.
The Lempriere’s Point Battery was the last open communication between Charles Town and the South Carolina backcountry. It was also the only reliable escape route for the American army if Lincoln chose to leave the city to avoid capture.
On April 19, Cornwallis sent troops from the American volunteers, North Carolina Loyalist militia, 33rd Regiment of Foot, and the 64th Regiment of Foot commanded by Colonel Patrick Ferguson to attack the Lempriere’s Point Battery. After a brief exchange of fire, Ferguson promptly determined that the battery was too strong given the number of men in his command. The British begged a quick retreat. Lord Cornwallis reported to General Clinton that he determined he could not attack the fort in the day because of support from American ships in the Cooper River and could not attack at night because of the intricate design of the earthworks. He asserted that “the works as they appeared to me … would subject an attempt to storm them to considerable loss.”
Lincoln decided to return Laurens and his light infantry to Charles Town and sent Malmedy 75 additional North Carolina militiamen instead.
Early on April 26, Cornwallis, commanding troops from the American Volunteers, the 23rd Regiment of Foot, and the Volunteers of Ireland, marched seventeen miles from Wappetaw Bridge to Haddrell’s Point. After meeting no resistance, Cornwallis returned to Wappetaw.
Malmedy assumed that Cornwallis would next set his sights on Lempriere’s Point. On April 27, American scouts encountered a patrol of British dragoons in Christ Church Parish. When they reported back at Lempriere’s Point, Malmedy incorrectly assumed that Cornwallis was marching in strength to attack his position. Without waiting to see the arrival of the British, Malmedy spiked his guns and ordered a hasty retreat by boat to Charles Town. General Lachlan McIntosh in Charles Town noted that Malmedy “retreated in great confusion across the River.” In fact, one boat transporting three officers and eighty men mistakenly sailed into the Hog Island Channel and was captured by the British. The British quickly occupied Lempriere’s Point.
Lincoln was shocked to see Malmedy in Charles Town. With Lempriere’s Point now in the hands of the British, the Americans lost the last route for supplies, reinforcements, or escape.
The Lempriere’s Point Battery was located at just south of Molasses Creek and Hobcaw Point in the footprint of modern-day streets On the Harbor Drive, 5th Avenue, and 2nd Street at Remley Point. During the Civil War, the Hobcaw Point Battery was located north of Lempriere’s Point and Molasses Creek.