24JAN1781: “Lighthorse” Harry Lee and Marion’s Amphibious Assault on British at Georgetown, SC

22JAN1781 finds Lt. Col. “Lighthorse” Henry Lee arriving in Marion’s camp on Snows Island giving the militia a boost in spirits. The very next day, Lee has tow companies of his men depart down the Pee Dee River in flatboats guided by some of Marion’s men. Destination is Georgetown, a primary source of salt, rice and if lucky, some guns, horses and ammunition as well. These two leaders were about to bring their forces to bear on Georgetown in a coordinated amphibious assault (by land and sea).

By dawn on 24JAN1781 these flatboats reach the mouth of the Pee Dee River and Lee’s men hide on a small island in Winyah Bay (that leads to the Atlantic Ocean) to await the arrival of their companions coming via land. Brig. Gen. Francis Marion gathers his Militia at Kingstree on 24JAN1781,
then he and Lt. Col. Henry Lee ride hard, arriving near Georgetown at dark.

Delays in the land portion led to a premature attack from the sea the morning of the 25th. During the early morning hours, Lt. Col. Lee’s men in the flatboats slip undetected from their hiding place in Winyah Bay and
land on Georgetown’s undefended waterfront at Mitchell’s Landing. Continental office Capt. Carnes leads one party to seize Lt. Col. George Campbell in his headquarters near the parade ground.

With the Georgetown British garrison’s commander and four others  captured, and eventually paroled, the element of surprise was gone and the taking of Georgetown would not be that day. Had the Patriots really assaulted the redoubt, Lt. Col. Lee and Brig. Gen. Marion might then have taken the cannons there and used them on the houses. However, they do not want to risk unnecessary losses, and they quickly depart the small town. Both commanders erred appropriately toward preserving their men’s live than achieving a bloody victory.

The psychological impact was there as the British held back resources to protect Georgetown which as a supplier of salt in the region as well as a transportation crossroads.