British troops commanded by Major James Henry Craig are posted at John’s Island, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, on this day in 1781. Craig had evacuated his troops from Wilmington, North Carolina, a little over a month earlier on November 14. The Patriots planned to remove Craig and his men from the island with troops led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Light Horse Harry Lee and his famed cavalry from Fort Ninety-Six in the South Carolina backcountry. Lee aborted the attack when a column led by Major James Hamilton arrived too late and was unable to cross the Wapoo River, which was only fordable once or twice a month.
The same logistical difficulties that kept American forces from reaching the island helped to keep its African population among the purest bearers of Gullah culture and language in North America. The islands of the South Carolina coast could only be reached by water until the 1950s. Thus Gullah, a Creole of Elizabethan English and languages of the African slave coast, survived there comparatively undisturbed.
On the same day that nature defied the military science of the age, General George Washington wrote the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, reiterating his feelings of undeserving honor at having been made a member of Dr. Benjamin Franklin’s esteemed intellectual society, and thanking the society for commending him on the Continental Army’s and Navy’s recent contributions to the advancement of science. Washington was careful to also note the contributions of the Patriots’ allies to their efforts.