Charleston Diary of Captain Johann Hinrichs
Diary of Captain Johann Hinrichs.
[April 24, 1780]. I was ordered by Major General Leslie at three oclock this morning to take thirty men and occupy the left of the advanced work, while Lieutenant von Winzingeroda with thirty jagers was to proceed to the right. When I arrived at the part thrown up last night, I had my jagers halt, while I myself and two men inspected the work, for I was aware of our light way of building and knew that we were right under the enemy's outer works. There was not a single traverse in a trench four hundred paces long. I went as far as the enemy's gatework. But as day was breaking, the enemy sent two enfilading shots from their left front redoubt into our trench, one of them enfilading en flame down the entire trench as far as the sap, while the other, en revers, struck the back of the parapet a hundred paces this side of the gatework.
I had my two jagers halt at the end of the trench to watch the gatework while I ran back to the British grenadiers in the second parallel. I brought one noncommissioned officer and twelve men (of the grenadier company of the 4:nd Regiment) and had a traverse made approximately in the center of the trench. General Leslie came and was surprised that no infantry was here yet. He thanked me for my labors. In the meantime I had my jagers fetch sandbags
I and lay them on the parapet. While in the trench, which was barely six feet deep where I stood, I heard a loud yelling in the center, i.e. in the space that was still between the right and the left section of the third parallel. At the same moment the double post I had left standing above fired, and the workmen on the other side of the traverse came running over crying, ``D—me, the rebels are there!"
I jumped on the parapet and when I saw the enemy, who were already pressing upon our right wing from a barrier situated at their left-wing front redoubt and were also rushing out of the gatework, I had my workmen seize their muskets, withdrew the two jagers this side of the traverse, and opened a continuous fire along the unoccupied part of the parallel as far as the gatework. The enemy, having penetrated our right wing, were already more than fifty paces behind us, partly between the third and second parallels. I ordered some jagers and Corporal Rubenkonig behind the traverse and had . them fire behind the trench across the plain. Now our second parallel began I to fire. This made many bullets fall in our rear. But when the second parallel pressed forward on our right wing, the enemy withdrew, leaving twenty muskets behind. But they covered their retreat with so excessive a shower of cannisters which were loaded with old burst shells, broken shovels, pickaxes, hatches, flat-irons, pistol barrels, broken locks, etc., etc. (these pieces we found in our trench), and so enfiladed us at the same time from the front redoubt of their left wing (fifteen balls were embedded in the traverse I had thrown op) that one could hardly hear another close beside him.
It was still dark, and the smoke of the powder was so thick that one could ut tell friend from enemy. Since I could not know that the enemy had withdrawn, I jumped on the parapet and had my jagers and grenadiers keep up such a hot fire along the trench and upon their embrasures that after half an hour's cannonade the enemy's batteries were silent. A deserter told us in the evening that Colonel Parker and several artillerymen were killed in an embrasure. I suffered no loss except one Englishman slightly wounded with a bayonet. The entire parapet where I stood with my men was razed more than one foot by the enemy's battery. What luck!
Our right wing, where Lieutenant von Winzingeroda was stationed with thirty jagers and twenty-five light infantry, did not get off so well. One lightinfantryman was killed, five wounded; two jagers had bayonet wounds and three, one of whom had a bullet wound in the abdomen, were taken prisoners. They were compelled to repair to the second parallel because through the negligence of the English the enemy was upon them too quickly, and without support they could not make a stand with discharged rifles against bayonets.
From Captain Lawson of the artillery I had borrowed two pieces resembling cohorns, taken on the Delaware frigate, which he had changed into I swivels. They were made of brass and had a chamber. They served me splendidly today, for my jagers had no more careridges. (Ae ten o~clock Eighteen fresh men and two companies of light infantry came to support me.) These Lawsons, as I shall call them, threw a hand grenade 1,800 feet. I also fired loo bullet canisters, 3-pound case shot, and one-half-pound bogy shot, firing in the course of the day 130 shots. The enemy tried to silence me with cannon, a sign that our fire was effective. However, I moved from one place to another with my pieces and sometimes fired three to four loo-bullet canisters into the enemy's embrasures. During the night this part of the parallel, which was pretty well shot to pieces, was repaired again and provided with several traverses. Likewise, a new sap was begun on the left wing of the left section of the third parallel.
The signal that the enemy was making a sortie along the whole line was a threefold "Hlltrey!" on our side—a fatal signal, indeed! About twenty to thirty of the enemy were seen at the gatework. Our nearest infantry post on guard gave the signal and fired. Everyone repeated the signal; the work-' men ran back; the second parallel saw them coming, heard the "Hurray!" believed they were enemies, and fired. Within a short time there was a tremendous fire of musketry, cannon and shell on both sides. It was two o'clock in the morning before everyone realized that it was a mistake. We had an officer killed (71st) and more than fifty [men] killed and wounded. Besides, our working parties could accomplish little or nothing during the night.