Congress thanks General Charles Lee for one of the signal American victories of 1776, the Battle of Sullivan's Island.
In their effort to crush the nascent American Revolution, the British sent General Sir Henry Clinton and Commodore Sir Peter Parker in June 1776 to take Charleston, the most important American commercial center of the South. Charles Lee, a former British officer resident in Virginia and sympathetic to the American cause, was dispatched by George Washington to oversee the defense of the city. Although Lee did not get on well with the commander of the South Carolina militia, Colonel William Moultrie, the two worked together to fortify Sullivan's Island, which stood at the entrance to Charleston Harbor.
Assisted by the unfamiliarity of the British with the harbor, on 28 June the Continentals and South Carolina militia were able to repulse Clinton and Parker. Immediately on receipt of Lee's account of the battle—by which time Independence had been declared—Congress resolved to send him their official thanks, which Hancock here conveys:
"Your favr. of the 2d Inst. containing the very agreeable Intelligence of the Success of the American Army under your Command, I had the Honour of receiving, and immediately laid the same before Congress.
"It affords me the greatest Pleasure to convey to you, by their Order, the most valuable Tribute, which a free People can ever bestow, or a generous Mind wish to receive, the just Tribute of Gratitude for rendering important Services to an oppressed Country.
"The same enlarged Mind, and distinguished Ardor in the Cause of Freedom, that taught you to despise the Prejudices which have enslaved the Bulk of Mankind, when you nobly undertook the Defence of American Liberty, will entitle you to receive from Posterity the Fame due to such exalted & disinterested Conduct.
"That a Handful of Men, without the ye. Advantage of military Experience, animated only with the sacred Love of Liberty, should repulse a powerful Fleet & Army, are Circumstances that must excite Gratitude & Wonder in the Friends of America, & prove a Source of the most mortifying Disappointment to our Enemies.
"Accept therefore, Sir, the Thanks of the independent States of America, unanimously declared by their Delegates to be due to you, and the [bra]ve Officers & Troops under your Command, who repulsed with so much Valour the Attack that was made on the State of South Carolina on ye. 28th of June by the Fleet, & Army of his Britannic Majesty; and be pleased to communicate to them this distinguished Mark of the Approbation of their Country." In an autograph postscript, Hancock assures Lee that "The Subject matter of your Letter is now under the Consideration of a Committee, when they Report, the results of Congress shall be immediately Communicated to you."
That same day, Hancock also sent official letters of acknowledgement and gratitude to Colonel Moultrie and to South Carolina Colonel William Thompson. Their efforts, together with Lee's, kept Charleston free of British occupation for more than three years.
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