Isaac Hayne was a planter and patriot from Jacksonborough, South Carolina. Hayne was born in 1745 and died on August 4, 1781 when he was executed by the British in Charleston. He owned plantations in Beaufort and Colleton Counties. Hayne Hall, a rice plantation and his main residence, was located in Jacksonborough. Hayne’s importance to South Carolina history is not just in the fact that he was an important Lowcountry planter nor that he was even a patriot and an officer during the Revolutionary War. A lot of the notability and what makes Hayne a historical figure that cannot ever be forgotten is that he died a proclaimed martyr for liberty1 and provided a turning point on which popular opinion about the Revolution began to change in South Carolina.
In 1780 the British captured Charleston. Among the patriot forces at that time was Isaac Hayne, a captain of the artillery and a state senator. The British offered parole to the patriot soldiers on the condition that they swear allegiance to the British Crown and that they not bear arms against the British. “Brigadier General James Patterson, the first commandant of Charlestown, demanded that Hayne remain in Charlestown or sign an oath of allegiance, Hayne chose the latter.”2 However, Hayne said later that he was specific about only being obligated as long as the British held the area or as long as it was beneficial to him.3
In fact, there would come a time when Hayne would again be faced with a difficult decision. Unfortunately as the British began to lose their foothold in Charleston they called on Hayne to join with the British forces. Hayne considered this to be a breach of the terms that he had agreed to in order to gain parole and did not take up arms against the Americans. In fact he rejoined the Americans and was commissioned as a Colonel.4
In July of 1781 Haynes was captured by the British again and British Commander Francis Rawdon hastily set about finding Hayne guilty of treason in quick hearing in which no testimony by witnesses was allowed. Hayne was sentenced to execution but he protested the hearing as illegal. The Charleston citizens began petitioning for his pardon from execution and were zealous in their attempts to keep him from being executed but it was to no avail.5
During Hayne’s capture and hearing Hayne’s wife passed away. Hayne was allowed a brief respite to say goodbye to his children and set his family affairs in order before he was executed by hanging on August 4, 1781.6 This action along with several other brutal and dishonorable actions of the British army in South Carolina around the same time helped cement the patriotic sentiment of the colony. South Carolina was divided in its allegiance and the Backcountry and the Lowcountry were at odds about fighting for independence from Britain. However, the execution of Isaac Hayne and other events brought them closer to uniting against the British.
Hayne was returned to Jacksonboro and his plantation Hayne Hall for burial. There his grave along with the graves of eleven of his family members still remain along with a memorial.7 When the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society wanted to create the Old Jacksonborough Historic District they cited Hayne’s importance to South Carolina and Colleton County’s history and his burial site as one of the reasons that Old Jacksonborough should become a protected area.8
Written by: A. Karel Horn
November 18, 2014
1Walter Edgar, The South Carolina Encyclopedia, (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006).
2David K. Bowden, The Execution of Isaac Hayne, (Lexington: The Sandlapper Store, Inc., 1977).
4Walter Edgar, The South Carolina Encyclopedia, (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006).
5“Isaac Hayne (1745 – 1781) – Find A Grave Memorial,” http://www.findagrave.com, September 1, 2014. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11769
6“Isaac Hayne,” http://www.famousamericans.net, September 30, 2014. http://famousamericans.net/isaachayne/
7“Isaac Hayne (1745 – 1781) – Find A Grave Memorial,” http://www.findagrave.com, September 1, 2014. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11769
8Laura Lynn Hughes, “The Papers of Laura Lynn Hughes,” Collection of Papers and Documents Pertaining to Colleton County Historical Preservation, Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society, n.d.