This day in history, May 12, 1780, the Americans suffered the worst defeat of the American Revolution when Continental Army Major General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered forces numbering about 5,000 to the British at Charleston, South Carolina.
As a result of the unconditional surrender to British Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton, more than 3,000 Patriots and a large quantity of munitions and equipment. Only 250 people were killed or wounded in the fight.
Three Continental Navy frigates (Boston, Providence, and Ranger) were captured; and one American frigate (Queen of France) was sunk to prevent capture.
The loss of the city and its 5,000 troops was a serious blow to the American cause. It was the largest surrender of an American armed force until the 1862 surrender of Union forces at Harper’s Ferry during the Antietam Campaign.
On June 5, Clinton sailed back to New York City, believing his presence was necessary to defend against a potential Franco-American attack. He left General Charles Cornwallis in command of 8,300 British forces in the South.