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Today In Charleston History: January 10

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge returned to Charlestown on the ship Magna Carta, after completing his law studies in England. He was given a 640-acre plantation on St. Helena Island by his mother. He and his brother John, became Patriot leaders during the years of the Revolution. Edward was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1798 Rutledge was elected Governor of South Carolina – his last public office. His health declining, he was barely able to complete his term as Governor. 


Edward Rutledge suffered a severe stroke and died a few days late at age 50. 


The Charleston Courier began publication, the present day Post and Courier. It is the oldest daily newspaper in the South, and one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in the United States.

1815- Deaths

Rebecca Brewton Motte died on her plantation. 

Rebecca was the daughter of Robert Brewton, a wealthy resident of Charlestown. She married Jacob Motte in 1758, a plantation owner and involved in politics. Rebecca’s brother Miles Brewton, was one of the richest men in the South; he owned eight ships and was South Carolina’s largest slave dealer as well  owning several rice plantations including Mt. Joseph. He and his family were lost at sea on their way to Philadelphia.

Rebecca Brewton Motte

Rebecca Brewton Motte

Upon his death, Rebecca and her family moved into her brother’s lavish mansion on King Street. In 1780, Charlestown surrendered to the British forces and her home was used as quarters for Gen. Clinton and his staff.  Her husband, Jacob, lay ill on the second floor and the Mottes were crowded into a small area, while the British lived in comfort in the large rooms. Rebecca divided her time between the invaders, her invalid husband and her three young daughters, who were not allowed out of their rooms while the British were in the house. 

In the fall of 1780  Rebecca left Charlestown and moved to Mount Joseph Plantation on the Congaree River with her three daughters and niece-in-law Mrs. John Brewton, However, the British forces, led by Lt. Donald McPherson, seized the plantation mansion and made it it a military post. They threw up earthworks and dug a deep ditch around the house, and called it Fort Motte.

Once again, the Motte family was crowded into a few rooms in their own home while British officers occupied the remainder. Lt. McPherson finally moved the family to the overseer’s house on the property – a rough structure, covered with weather-boards, and only partially finished.

When General Nathanael Greene returned to South Carolina with his Continental Army, he reinforced General Francis Marion’s brigade with Lt. Col. Henry Light Horse Harry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) and his Legion. The task of this combined force was to capture and destroy the line of British forts that protected communications and supplies between their Charlestown headquarters and the interior of South Carolina, one of which was Fort Motte.

Fearing that British reinforcements were on the way, Marion and Lee decided to attack at once, deciding to set fire to the mansion house and burn the British out. When they informed Rebecca of their plan to burn the house she responded, “Do not hesitate a moment, I will give you something to facilitate the destruction.” She handed General Lee a quiver of arrows from the East Indies which, so she had been told, would set fire to any wood.

The combustible arrows were fired from a musket; two of them sputtered out, but the third one hit its mark and set fire to the roof of the house. The British, coming out of the attic dormer windows to put out the flames, were easy targets for the riflemen and six-pound cannon. They were quickly driven back inside, and the British captain ran up the white flag, fearing they would be blown up if the gunpowder stored in the house were set on fire. Together, British and American soldiers put out the flames.

Mrs. Motte directing Generals Marion and Lee to Burn Her Mansion to Dislodge the British. By John Blake White.

Mrs. Motte directing Generals Marion and Lee to Burn Her Mansion to Dislodge the British. By John Blake White.

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