War Comes To Drayton Hall
All of John Drayton’s sons would support the American cause in the Revolution against Britain, but none contributed as much as William Henry, John’s oldest son by his second wife Charlotta Bull.
At Drayton Hall, the ebb and flow of war meant changes to the plantation system. Crops that had been supported by England or sold to England were either sold elsewhere or given up for staple crops like wheat and corn. Horses became scarce and many enslaved people found themselves conscripted to work for the armies or took advantage of the chaos to liberate themselves.
In 1779 the British army arrived at Drayton Hall. In anticipation of their arrival, and the destruction they wrought, John and his family packed what they could and left. While crossing the west branch of the Cooper River at Strawberry Ferry, John suffered a seizure, died, and was buried in an unmarked grave. He left behind four grown sons from his marriages to Charlotta Bull and Margaret Glen, along with his wife, Rebecca, and their three young children.
On March 23, 1780, the British army returned, this time to stay. Drayton Hall became a field headquarters for Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander, and several thousand troops encamped on the grounds. Six days later on March 29, approximately 8,000 British troops crossed the Ashley River at Drayton Hall to lay siege to Charleston. That summer, the house became the headquarters of another British general, Charles Cornwallis.
In 1782, the British gave way to the Americans. General “Mad” Anthony Wayne set up his headquarters at Drayton Hall until the British finally evacuated Charleston just before Christmas. Peace had returned. The house had survived, but its fields, ornamental gardens, and many of its buildings would have to be rebuilt.