“Sir Peter Parker”


"Sir Peter Parker" relates how he attacked Sullivan's Isle outside Charleston. He receives no support from his superior, Clinton, so the rebels are able to beat off his ship Bristol. Parker decides it's time to return to base


The setting is, of course, the American revolution. Having been completely blocked by the colonials in 1775, the British decided on a two-part strategy in 1776. Most of the troops in Boston were shifted to New York (via Halifax), while a second force was sent to attack Charleston, South Carolina. It was to be a fiasco.

To be fair, the whole thing had been directed from London, and handled at too great a distance. According to Don Cook, _The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies 1760-1785_, p. 245, "orders were issued in December... to embark the Irish regiments at Cork and head across the Atlantic to rendezvous with a fleet in the American waters off Cape Fear, North Carolina. General Clinton would meet them at the end of February with additional reinforcements from Boston, and the combined armies would head for Charleston." Sir Henry Clinton was to the army in the Charleston assault, while Sir Peter Parker was in charge of the naval forces. Since Clinton was already in America, and Parker was coming from England, the two did not cooperate well.

The first problem was the timing. Atlantic weather saw to it that Parker's fleet, somewhat depleted, arrived in April, not February. This had the unfortunate effect of seriously weakening the troops, who had been at sea for eighty days (see Stanley Weintraub, _Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775-1783_, Free Press, 2005, pp. 61-62).

Clinton, who had been on the scene, learned that no one even had an accurate map to use when planning the landing. So bad was the British information that, when they tried to bombard Charleston, most of the mortar shells landed in unfortified bogs (Weintraub, p. 62).

Clinton got his troops ashore, but did not attack the crucial colonial position in Fort Moultrie. Clinton opposed the final plan, but Parker was in charge and ordered the assault to go ahead. To get into the harbor, Parker had to try to batter the fort into submission. He failed, and in the process a colonial shot blew off his breeches (producing the reference to "the wind in my tail," and a sour joke beginning "If honour in the breech is lodged"; Weintraub, p. 62). Other losses were more significant than Parker's pants: Three frigates aground, three ships damaged, one destroyed; the captain of the _Bristol_ lost his right arm.

Clinton and Parker returned to New York. It is likely that both should bear responsibility for the failure, but Parker seems to have borne the brunt of it; when Howe was recalled from his post as commander of British forces in America, Clinton was chosen to succeed him. - RBW

Historical references

  • June 28, 1776 - Clinton and Parker's failed assault on Charleston

Cross references


  1. Scott-BoA, pp. 64-66, "Sir Peter Parker" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. DT, NEWWAR*
  3. BI, SBoa064


Alternate titles: “A New War Song by Sir Peter Parker”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1966
Found in: US