William Thomson was raised a Carolinian, so when the choice came to bend his knee to a distant King or to determine his own destiny, the choice was obvious. He resigned his commission as a Colonel in the Royal Militia and cast his fate to the winds of freedom.
Thomson was immediately appointed Commandant of the Third Regiment of the Revolutionary Army and set about recruiting the best backcountry marksmen. His soldiers soon distinguished themselves by seizing Fort Charlotte and then routing Loyalist in the Great Cane Brake battle. His ferocity in battle earned Thomson the admiration of his men and the nickname “Danger” for his fearlessness.
The British government, angered that a fort named for the King’s wife had been taken, decided it was time to suppress the upstarts and dispatched an armada to quell the rebellion once and for all. Word of their impending arrival spread like wildfire and preparations began immediately to defend Charles Town. Work began at once on a rudimentary fort on Sullivan’s Island that was designed to protect the narrow channel into the port.
Despite the Patriot’s best efforts under General Moultrie, only three sides of the palmetto and sand structure were complete when the Union Jacks appeared off shore, leaving the rear of the structure vulnerable. The enemy was fully aware of the weakness, dispatching English boats around June 3 to take the sounds on the north end of the island at Breech Inlet. In 1776 the inlet looked drastically different than it does today. The two islands were almost a mile apart
The very next week, red coats began landing a force that would grow to 3,000 men on Long Island (now Isle of Palms). Col. Thomson was ordered to Sullivan’s north end and began to erect breastworks, additional field pieces were added and a “considerable reinforcement of riflemen” were put in place. Still, “Danger” had only 780 militia men to hold his position against a professional army that outnumbered him more than three to one.
On June 28th, when the British fleet finally arrived and began their assault on Fort Sullivan, the Battle of Breach Inlet commenced as well. Royal ships appeared in the waters behind the island and shelled the defenders only to be raked by witheringly accurate cannon fire.
Three times the British attempted to cross the turbulent inlet in flatboats and were driven back. One British soldier wrote his brother that “They would have killed half of us before we could make our landing good.” By days end, Thomson and Moultrie (who had fought together at Cane Brake), prevailed and Charles Town would remain free until 1780.
For his role in the defense of his home, the Continental Congress awarded “Danger” Thomson a medal and commendation. In his letter of thanks to John Hancock, Col. Thomson declared, “My life and fortune are devoted to the Cause of the thirteen United States of America and the general propagation of Liberty.”