As the Revolutionary War approached, communities all across the thirteen colonies began to prepare for the impending military confrontation with Great Britain. They organized militia groups and began to train them. They set up committees of correspondence to keep each other abreast of developments within their own communities. Individual townships and communities began to stockpile weapons, foodstuffs, ammunition, and other materials of war.
In Charleston, SC, the following resolution had been passed and published on January 17, 1775 by "... the Provincial Congress, in session in Charleston" (Reocities, com., entry for "Revolutionary War - The German Fusiliers", contributed to the site on 08/10/1999 by Rachel Romen, p. 2). "Resolved, that it be recommended by this Congress to all the inhabitants of this colony that they be diligently attentive in learning the use of arms, and that their officers be requested to train and exercise them at least once a fortnight" (Reocities.com.,p. 2). When news of the fighting that took place at Lexington and Concord, MA reached Charleston, SC in May 1775, the citizens of the city took action to support the Congressional Cause. This news led directly to the founding of the militia unit known ever after as "The German Fusiliers".
"The German Fusiliers" was organized in Charleston, SC on "...the first Monday of May 1775" (Walter Chandler, William Wallace Lewis, and Arthur Lloyd Fletcher. History of the 55th Field Artillery Brigade...1917, 1918, 1919, page 91.) This same source states that "...Alexander Gillon was their first Captain, and Michael Kalteissen was their First Lieutenant" (Chandler, Lewis, Fletcher, p. 91). Another source states "that same evening at Kalteissen's home the German Fusilier Company of Charleston was formed with Alexander Gillon elected captain, Peter Boquet as first lieutenant, Michael Kalteissen as second lieutenant, and John Burkmeyer as ensign" (Neal, Clifford. Early 19th Century German Settlers in Ohio (Mainly Cincinnati and Environs), Kentucky, and Other States: Part 1, p. 52). Thus, there is some discrepancy as to whether or not Michael Kalteissen was the first or second lieutenant but, he was certainly one of the founding officers of "The German Fusiliers".
(Note: There is likewise some disagreement as to the original number of men on the rosters of "The German Fusiliers". One source states they were "...organized in Charleston, and composed of 100 Germans" (United States Congressional Serial Set, United States Government Printing Office, 1817, p. 115). Another source states the militia company "..collected together one hundred and thirty-seven Germans..." (Reocities.com., pp. 2-3, notation at the end of the article being "copied from the Charleston Year Book, 1885"). This source then proceeds to list, by first and last names, all of the members of this Charleston militia company.)
Through out the remainder of 1775, 1776 and well into 1777, "The German Fusiliers" "...were constantly in active service in and around Charleston" (Reocities.com., p. 3). Afterwards, "... in 1779, with 100 men strong, they took part in the siege of Savannah, lost their captain, Sheppard, and one of their Lieutenants, Kimmel, and were brought back home under the command of Lieutenants Strobel and Sass" (Chandler, Lewis, and Fletcher, p. 91). Their moment of glory seems to have been before the Crown works at Savannah, GA on October 9, 1779 when "...a general advance was ordered, and the allied forces marched to the assault, under a heavy fire. It was a disastrous attack, and although the troops fought gallantly, the commander found it necessary to order a retreat. Before this, however, the South Carolina troops had carried the enemy's ramparts. Among them were the Fusiliers, whose Captain Sheppard, refused to obey the order to retreat. At his command the Fusiliers continued to advance, marking each step of their way with blood, until their brave leader was shot down, when a retreat took place. In this campaign, Lieutenant Joseph Kimmel was killed, and a number of the members of the comapny were killed or severely wounded. The Corps ultimately reached home under the command of Lieutenants Strobel and Sass" (Reocities.com., p. 5). The assault of the Franco-American forces on the Spring Hill Redoubt on October 9, 1779, was the culminating attack on the British positions at Savannah and resulted in the second bloodiest day of the entire American Revolution. It would seem though that even in the face of a hopeless attack, "The German Fusiliers" performed with gallantry and steadfastness.
Towards the end of 1777, two men who were both founding officers of "The German Fusiliers" resigned from their commanding posts within the unit in order to better serve the state of South Carolina in other military capacities. The first captain of the Fusiliers, Alexander Gillon, resigned in order "...to take charge, as the commander of the vessels of war in the State" (Reocities.com., page 3). Also, Michael Kalteissen resigned "...having been appointed Wagon-master-General of the Provincial Army in the State" (Reocities.com., page 3). So, both men had moved closer to their mutual destination with the frigate South Carolina.
As Commodore of the Navy of South Carolina, Alexander Gillon was involved in at least one other naval action before being dispatched to Europe to begin the search for ships that would ultimately lead to the frigate L'Indien and her renaming as the South Carolina. This action took place just off the coast of South Carolina and slightly northeast of the city/harbor of Charleston, SC. According to Parker's Guide to the Revolution - Atlantic Ocean Actions, on June 19, 1778, Commodore Gillon took command of two patriot vessels of war, "...the Connecticut State brig Defence, commanded by Capt. Samuel Smedley, and the South Carolina sloop Volant, commanded by Capt. Oliver Daniel" (Parker's Guide, page 97). Gillon sailed these two ships-of-war out of Charleston, SC harbor and cruised northeastward along the coast of South Carolina. Towards nightfall on June 19, they fell in with three British privateers directly east of Bull's Bay. "Of these, two privateers from St. Augustine, Florida, were captured. They were the Governor Tonyn's Revenge, with twelve guns and seventy-two men, and the Ranger, with eight guns and thirty-five men. The third British privateer managed to escape" (Parker's Guide, page 97).
(Note: The RootsWeb.Ancestry.com article deals even more briefly with this action and identifies the Connecticut State brig, Defence as a "Connecticut privateer". Gillon is cited as a "volunteer officer" with this ship rather than as the commander of the expedition. This ship was accompanied by the Volant, which is only identified as a "sloop" rather than as a South Carolina sloop.)
Another source gives basically the same account but, in greater detail. It states that while Commodore Gillon was delayed on business in Charleston, SC, (which will be discussed later, possibly in another post) he was under orders from President Rawlin Lowndes to project and execute an "...attack upon sundry British vessels blocking the harbor of Charles Town" (Smith, D.E. Huger. "Commodore Alexander Gillon and the Frigate South Carolina", South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Oct., 1908), p. 193). In accordance with his orders, "President Lowndes engaged the services of the Connecticut State ship Defence, Capt. Samuel Smedley, and the sloop Volant, Capt. Oliver Daniel, both lying in the harbor. The latter was manned by volunteers, and on the ship went Commodore Gillon and Captains Robertson and McQueen. Crossing the bar, they captured before night the Governor Tonyn's Revenge of twelve guns and seventy-two men, and the Ranger of eight guns and thirty-five men, both privateers of St. Augustine. The Active of twelve guns and fifty-seven men escaped in the darkness" (Smith, page 193).
(Note: The above information in the article is followed an account of the naval action taken verbatim from the issue of The Gazette of the State of South Carolina dated June 24, 1778 that adds the following information to that which has already been cited. The commanding officer on board the Governor Tonyn's Revenge was Capt. Peter Bachop and the commanding officer on board the Ranger was Capt. -------- Osborn. Both of these privateers were out of St. Augustine, FL and were brought into Charleston, SC harbor the next day after the action in which they were captured - June 20, 1778. The third British privateer, the Active, was out of Liverpool, England, escaped due to "...the near approach of night and thick weather, and made off, while the prisoners on board Bachop were securing, and Osborn was coming up" (Smith, page 193). The account closes with the statement that "...the service was greatly forwarded by the animated exertions of Commodore Gillon, who, with Capt. Robinson, and Capt. McQueen afterwards went volunteers in the ship" (Smith, page 193).
(Note: The two captains mentioned in the account above, "...Captains Robertson and McQueen..." are none other than Captain William Robertson and Captain John McQueen, both of South Carolina. These two men, along with Captain John Joyner, were the three men who accompanied Commodore Gillon to France in anticipation of each of them taking command of a French-built frigate in the name of the State of South Carolina. "All of the above gentlemen had already shown their mettle at sea by clearing Charleston of marauding privateers during the summer of 1778 or by other deeds" (Lewis, Neptune's Militia, page 15. William Robertson and John McQueen both returned home before the frigate South Carolina left the Texel on August 4, 1781. Thus, they do not appear in the extensive list contained in the section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina". But, John Joyner did sail with Alexander Gillon on board the frigate when it left Holland bound for the Americas in August 1781.)
Alexander Gillon fulfilled the colony's expectations of his ability to take military command of ships and to protect their coastline. He had so far met only with success and his star had risen with the political authorities within the state. Thus, it was only logical that he would be charged with an even greater task by his adopted state - to secure and pilot home to South Carolina the new state navy. He, too, succeeded in this task.