Moses Kirkland and the Southern Strategy

Wayne Lynch

During the Revolutionary War, the British developed what came to be known as the Southern Strategy.   The idea was for British regiments to invade Georgia and South Carolina with a plan to defeat the Continental Army.  Once those states were free of opposition, the colonists who remained loyal to the Crown could rise up and regain control over the southern colonies.  At the heart of this plan lay an assumption that a majority of the residents would prefer British rule to independence.  Various politicians (especially the deposed Royal Governors of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia) and other interested individuals wrote letters and argued in favor of the strategy but no provincial was more active or energetic toward the development and execution of a Southern Strategy than Moses Kirkland.

Raised in South Carolina, Moses Kirkland was already a mature adult over the age of 45 when the war broke out.  He had traded with Indians, invested in saw mills and engaged in a number of land deals (some of which may have been fraudulent) along the way and became a man of “considerable fortune and held in high esteem.”[1]  Elected to represent the Ninety Six District in the Provincial Congress of South Carolina of January 1775, Kirkland spoke “warmly against” nonimportation and withdrew from the proceedings in protest when the vote went against him.[2]  Even with his opposition to the nonimportation association, Kirkland was not yet considered disloyal to the state and accepted a commission as Captain of Rangers in the 2d Regiment of South Carolina’s state troops authorized by the Assembly in June 1775.[3]


[1] Moses Kirkland was a planter on Turkey Creek in the Ninety Six District of South Carolina.  His claim for losses from the American Revolutionary War is found in British Georgia Loyalist Claims, Mary Bondurant Warren (Athens, Ga: Heritage Papers, 2014) 844-863.  This article is largely an analysis of the claim Kirkland filed with the British Government for compensation of his losses in North America in 1783.  Kirkland’s wealth may be gauged from the extent of his award of £4,000 from his claim of £12,160 for the loss of his property in South Carolina (Audit Office 12/109).  This property was seized and sold by the State of South Carolina and realized £1,972.  (Audit Office 13/36; Audit Office 12/92, South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, Jan. 1917, p. 69-71.) His original claims and supporting statements are filed in the British Public Records Office in Kew, Surrey, UK, and microfilm copies are in the David Library of the American Revolution, the Southern Revolutionary War Institute and other repositories. Kirkland was a partner in Cannon’s (later Ferguson’s) Saw and Grist Mills on the Edisto River. Ron McCall.  See also Ian Saberton, The Cornwallis Papers, (Naval & Military Press, East Sussex, 2010), 1:236 n3.

[2] Warren, Kirkland claim, 844.

[3] In his own account, Kirkland claimed to have refused the commission but this would seem to conflict with his participation in the events related to Fort Charlotte. Warren, Kirkland claim, 844.  William Moultrie, Memories of the American Revolution, (NY: David Longworth, 1802) 1:72 n reports that Kirkland accepted the commission but resigned it over those appointed over him.

For the rest of the story click here: Lynch-Moses Kirkland – SCAR10.2.3

June 14, 2015