Robert Gibbes Plantation

Other names:
Gibbes Tract, Peaceful Retreat, Gibbesís Farm, The Muck,

Skirmish, unknown American cdr vs. unknown British cdr, at or near the time of Mathews Plantation, 20 May 1779, between 18 May 1779 to 26 June 1779

Where: 32.76976, -80.04315 Robert Gibbes Plantation

Maps: [map notes]


  • Skelly, Francis, "Journal of Brigade Major F[rancis] Skelley", Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution, Vol.3 No.12, C.B. Baxley, ed., December 2006, annotated by John Robertson.
    May [1779]
    17th. Coln Prevostís Detachment took post at Rantolís Bridge.
    18th. A detachment of Lt Infantry crossíd to Johnís Island surprised a party of about sixty Rebels, killed, wounded, and took most of them.
    [Mathews Plantation]
    19th, 20th, 21st } Nearly the same position as the 18th. Constructed and occupied
    22nd, and 23rd } three Redoubts on the Main near Wapoo Cut.
    24th. Coln Prevostís Detachment took post at Rantolís Bridge.
    25th. Same position as yesterday. Intelligence brought that Lincoln and Moultire (Rebel Generals) had joined their armies, and taken post in force six miles from our Redoubts.
    26th. Most of the Army moved and took a position on the Main to defend the Redoubts, an attack being hourly expected. Some skirmishing with advanced parties. A man or two killed on both sides.
    27th. Grenadiers and Carolinians crossed to Johnís Island ó from thence to the main by Stono ferry ó took post there ó three Redoubts constructed.
    28th. Most of the Army crossed to Johnís Island.
    29th. Last division and rear Guard under Coln Maitland crossed to Johnís Island. Post at Stono reinforced. Coln Prevost took command there. The Army remained nearly in this position till the 16th June

    16th. Coln Prevost with the Grenadiers set out by the Islands for Savannah.
    23rd. Quitted Stono. The whole Army on Johnís Island. 24th. Army on Johnís Island.
    26th. Army crossed to Simondís Island. First division crossed to Edisto Island.
    27th. Last division under Coln Maitland crossed to Edisto. Whole Army on that Island.

  • Elizabeth Fries Ellett, The Women of the American Revolution, 1848-50, New York, Baker and Scribner. 3 volumes, Vol.1, p.208, "Sarah Reeve Gibbes"
    At the period of the Revolution this mansion was well known throughout the country as a seat of hospitality and elegant taste. Its owner, Robert Gibbes, was a man of cultivated mind and refined manners - one of those gentlemen of the old school of whom South Carolina has justly made her boast. Early in life he became a martyr to the gout, by which painful disease his hands and feet were so contracted and crippled that he was deprived of their use. The only exercise he was able to take was in a chair on wheels, in which he was placed every day, and by the assistance of a servant, moved about the house, and through the garden. The circuit through these walks and along the river formed his favorite amusement.
    It was doubtless the fame of the luxurious living at this delightful country seat which attracted the attention of the British during the invasion of Prevost, while the royal army kept possession of the seaboard. A battalion of British and Hessians, determined to quarter themselves in so desirable a spot, arrived at the landing at the dead of night, and marching up in silence, surrounded the house.
    Mr. Gibbes addressed them - yielding, of course, to the necessity that could not be resisted. The officers took immediate possession of the house, leaving the premises to their men, and extending no protection against pillage. The soldiers roved at their pleasure about the plantation, helping themselves to whatever they chose; breaking into the wine room, drinking to intoxication, and seizing upon and carrying off the negroes. A large portion of the plate was saved by the provident care of a faithful servant, who secretly buried it.
    When the news reached Charleston that the British had encamped on Mr. Gibbes' plantation, the authorities in the city despatched two galleys to dislodge them. These vessels ascended the river in the night, and arriving opposite, opened a heavy fire upon the invaders' encampment. The men had received strict injunctions not to fire upon the house, for fear of injury to any of the family. It could not, however, be known to Mr. Gibbes that such a caution had been given; and as soon as the Americans began their fire, dreading some accident, he proposed to his wife that they should take the children and seek a place of greater safety. Their horses being in the enemy's hands, they had no means of conveyance; but Mrs. Gibbes, with energies roused to exertion by the danger, and anxious only to secure shelter for her helpless charge, set off to walk with the children to an adjoining plantation situated in the interior. A drizzling rain was falling, and the weather was extremely chilly; the fire was incessant from the American guns, and sent (in order to avoid the house) in a direction which was in a range with the course of the fugitives. The shot, failing around them, cut the bushes, and struck the trees on every side. Exposed each moment to this imminent danger, they continued their flight with as much haste as possible, for about a mile, till beyond the reach of the shot.
    Some time after these Occurrences
    [This timing is questionable, since Mathews Plantation (18 or 20 May 1779) occurred before the British moved onto John's Island (28 May 1779, see Skelly, above], when the family were again inmates of their own home, a battle was fought in a neighboring field. When the conflict was over, Mrs. Gibbes sent her servants to search among the slain left upon the battleground, for Robert Barnwell, her nephew, who had not returned. They discovered him by part of his dress, which one of the blacks remembered having seen his mother making. His face was so covered with wounds, dust and blood, that he could not be recognized. Yet life was not extinct; and under the unremitting care of his aunt and her young daughter, he recovered. His son, Robert W. Barnwell, was for some years president of the South Carolina College. [JCP: This could have been the Battle at William Gibbes Plantation or John Raven Mathews Plantation]
    "Fenwick Place," still called "Headquarters," was three miles from "Peaceful Retreat."
    ... it was found that a little boy, John Fenwick, was missing. In the hurry and terror of their flight the child had been forgotten and left behind! What was now to be done ? The servants refused to risk their lives by returning for him; and in common humanity, Mr. Gibbes could not insist that any one should undertake the desperate adventure. The roar of the distant guns was still heard, breaking at short intervals the deep silence of the night. The chilly rain was failing, and the darkness was profound. Yet the thought of abandoning the helpless boy to destruction, was agony to the hearts of his relatives. In this extremity the self-devotion of a young girl interposed to save him. Mary Anna, the eldest daughter of Mrs. Gibbes, then only thirteen years of age, determined to venture back in spite of the fearful peril -alone. The mother dared not oppose her noble resolution, which seemed indeed an inspiration of heaven; and she was permitted to go. Hastening along the path with all the speed of which she was capable, she reached the house, still in the undisturbed possession of the enemy; and entreated permission from the sentinel to enter; persisting, in spite of refusal, till by earnest importunity of supplication, she gained her object. Searching anxiously through the house, she found the child in a room in a third story, and lifting him joyfully in her arms, carried him down, and fled with him to the spot where her anxious parents were awaiting her return.

  • Edward McCrady, The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1775-1780, 1901, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., p.396-397
    During PreVost's invasion an incident occurred which nearly cost the State the life of a citizen who afterwards rose to great distinction in her service. Two companies, one commanded by Captain John Raven Mathews, and the other by Captain John Barnwell, were stationed at the plantation of Mathews on the John's Island's side of the Stono. Captain Mathews, by seniority, commanded Captain Barnwell's Beaufort company as well as his own, and unfortunately by drilling in sight of the British post allowed the British to ascertain the strength of his command; nor was he sufficiently careful in posting his guards and in permitting visitors to his camp. Thomas Fenwick, who was after this a well-known Royalist, coming in, supped with his officers, and thus obtained full information in regard to the post. At midnight a body of British troops crossed to John's Island in two parties, one of which went directly to Fenwick's house, about three miles above, and the other to Mathews's landing. Upon a signal from Fenwick himself both parties proceeded simultaneously to the attack, Fenwick himself conducting his party against his friends and neighbors, of whose hospitality he had just partaken. The first sentinel approached, whether from fright or treachery, ran off without firing; the second, James Black, a ship carpenter of Beaufort, fired upon the advancing enemy and was immediately bayoneted, and died of his wounds. Captain Mathews's quarters were surrounded, and every man of his company made prisoners. Captain Barn well, when also called upon to surrender, inquired what quarter they should have. "No quarter to rebels," was the reply. Then said Captain Barnwell, " Defend yourselves." Then a British sergeant called out, "Surrender, and you shall have'honorable quarter." Barnwell demanded by what authority he offered quarter. "I am but a sergeant in command," was the answer, "but my word is as good as any officer's in his Majesty's service." On this Captain Barnwell and his men surrendered their arms, whereupon they were immediately set upon and bayoneted, most of the company falling killed or wounded. Robert Burn- well and a Mr. Barnes each received seventeen bayonet wounds. Mr. Barnwell was left apparently dead, but by the unremitting kindness and attentions of Mrs. Robert Gibbes, who lived on the adjoining plantation, he finally recovered, and lived to occupy distinguished positions in the State for which at this time he came so near losing his life. With his two elder brothers, John and Edward, after the fall of Charlestown, he was confined in a British prison ship.1

    1 Johnson's Traditions, 182, 185.

  • "Peaceful Retreat":
    The British occupied the plantation [Peaceful Retreat - John Gibbes owner] during the Revolution and did considerable damage but they did not burn the house, although the old house was later burned and vandals damaged the tombstones. The tombstones that could be salvaged were moved to St. John's churchyard about 1955 by Bishop Albert Thomas.

    Some of the Gibbes family were buried on the plantation as late as 1859.

    Location Ė Stono River, Johns Island, Charleston County Alphabetical list of OwnersĖ Colonel John Gibbs, Robert Gibbs (wives Mary Woodward, Sarah Reeve), Thomas Roper

  • NBBAS:One p.285:
    Mathews' Plantation, South Carolina, Skirmish
    20 May 1779
    On May 20th British troops surprised two companies of South Carolina militia, garrisoning the Stono River plantation of Captain Mathews. The British also raided other nearby residences on John's Island, directly opposite James Island. A Loyalist, Thomas Fenwick, guided the British there. No quarter was given and the two American companies were cut to pieces. Colonel Robert Barnwell of the St. Helena Volunteer Militia Company was left for dead, with seventeen bayonet wounds, but survived to command his unit at the siege of Charlestown.385

    385Ripley, Battleground, p.234; Lipscomb, "Battles:Part II", p.25; Peckham, Toll, p.60.

  • Terry Lipscomb, Names in South Carolina, Archive "South Carolina Revolutionary Battles: Part II". pp.XXI:, English Dept., Univ. of South Carolina, Winter 1974, XXI, p.23,25
    There were a number of minor battles during the operations near Charleston. On May 20, while the British were encamped on James Island, they attacked an American militia unit posted across the Stono at Mathew's Plantation. The Patriots were surprised through the treachery of a local Loyalist, Thomas Fenwick, and were given no quarter, although they offered no strong resistance. Robert Barnwell was left for dead with seventeen bayonet wounds, but fortunately survived. The British then burned the Mathews house, ruins of which were still visible in the early Nineteenth Century. This was the plantation of John Raven Mathews, located on Johns Island directly opposite James Island.4

    4 Ramsay, Vol. 2, pp. 28-29; Joseph Johnson, Traditions and Reminiscences of the American Revolution in the South, pp. 182- 185; David Duncan Wallace, History of South Carolina, Vol. 2, p. 192.

  • RevWar75 RevWar75  
  • Jun 1776 listing. 6/16/1776 Stono Creek, Charlestown Bar. Draw.
  • Jun 1777 listing. 6/14/1777 Stono Inlet. Draw.
  • May 1779 listing.
    5/20/1779 Mathew's Plantation. British victory.
    5/23/1779 Stono River. Draw.
  • Jun 1779 listing.
    6/1/1779 13 Mile-House, Stono Ferry. Insufficient data.
    6/20/1779 Stono Ferry. Draw.
    6/1779 Mouth of the Stono River. Naval action. Draw
    6/22 - 23/1779 Stanyarne's and Eveleigh's Plantation. American victory.
  • Feb 1780 listing. 2/22/1780 Stono. American victory.
  • Mar 1780 listing. 3/5/1780 Stono River. Draw.
  • Mar 1780 listing   3/30/1780 Gibbe's Plantation (Peaceful Retreat Plantation, Gibbes' Farm). Draw. Per O'Kelley.
    Note: The name "Peaceful Retreat" applies to this Robert Gibbes Plantation on John's Island. The action date, 30 Mar 1780, applies to the John Gibbes Plantation on the Charleston peninsular.

Related locations:
William Gibbes Plantation,   John Raven Mathews Plantation,   John Gibbes Plantation,  

Confidence level:: See above.