Date of last edit:  November 27, 2001


The following timeline is a compilation of material from a variety of sources, the majority found on the Internet.  The accuracy of the information is generally acceptable, but I’m sure there are some odd bits that are wrong.  Please recognize that the majority of work published on the Internet is pretty far removed from primary source material, just like this document.  The use of divergent sources also means that some of the information reads with different grammar from spot to spot in this document.  I have not tried to edit these entries to one common style.  The intent of this is simply to create a framework of information regarding the service of various Georgia Continental Line and militia units during the course of the Revolution, to record sundry contemporary information which would effect Georgia units, and to place people and events accurately in time.  


This should be especially useful in determining the uniforms and equipment necessary to create a plausible impression of a particular person or unit.  There being little concrete information regarding the equipping of the Georgia Continental units, the best we have right now is the knowledge that at least one company in the 4th Georgia Regiment did have white trimmed blue regimental coats with French-style pewter numerical buttons in April of 1779.  The use of the Washington’s “General Order uniform” of blue with blue facings by any Georgia unit before the fall of Charleston is highly unlikely (except as a coincidence), since this order was promulgated on 2 October, 1779 and Charleston fell only a few months later.  Afterwards, the Georgia regiments were consolidated and it is possible they were issued new uniforms, but this has not been found out yet.  Likewise, the drill of von Steuben came only a few months prior to the fall of Savannah and Charlestown, and it would be unlikely that all of the Georgia units would have been familiar with it.   One thing that should be noted is that the vast majority of the military actions in Georgia were conducted by militia, not Continental Line units, so the emphasis placed on Continental units is a bit out of character with their overall contribution to the progress of the war.


The sources mentioned often call the same military action or incident by several different titles, such as “Battle of...” or “Engagement at..” “Siege...” etc.  Often the term “battle” was applied to anything from the ambush of a militia scout party by a cow to full-scale combat by thousands of troops.  Generally,  I have adopted “engagement” for any action that looks to have been minor, and I base my definition of minor on how much information can be found out about it.  Little information= “Engagement;” Lots of information= “Battle.”  


As more information is gathered, the timeline will be updated.  Also note, the individual entries are not footnoted in the proper academic style.  If we have posted anything for which the copyright holders would prefer a more detailed citation, we will be happy to correct the entry.  Although I have edited all these items together into one list, THE GEORGIA REFUGEES do not claim authorship for the individual items in the list.  If you do choose to copy or refer to the timeline in another document, please do so by continuing to give credit to the individual copyright holders.  When you find errors, please let me know so I can fix our copy.


Thanks to all for your insight and assistance in this effort.



Terry Oglesby 




The Augusta Chronicle Website


The Continental Army, by Robert K. Wright Jr. published by The Center of Military History U.S. Army, Washington DC 1989


First New Hampshire Regiment Website


French Volunteers in the American Revolution Website


Georgia’s Roster of the Revolution, by L.L. Knight, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore 1967


Glynn County, Georgia, History Website Short History


North Georgia History Website


O’Kelley, Patrick J.,  2nd Regiment of the North Carolina Line , entries for 1 March, 1776 and 12-13 May, 1776—Engagements at Cockspur Island and 25 March, 1776— Engagement at Tybee Island copied with permission from Revlist postings titled “225 Years Ago in Georgia.”  Also provided a portion of the April 1781 Engagement at Wiggan’s (Wiggin’s) Hill, along with Kim Stacy.  Patrick will be releasing a book in the Summer of 2001 tentatively titled “Nothing but Blood and Slaughter”  Military Operations and Order of Battle of the Revolutionary War in the Carolinas  1775-1782 containing these and other dated entries about the multitude of battle fought in the Carolinas and Georgia.


Post, Todd, , 2d Virginia Regiment , entry for 21-23 May, 1782—Engagement at Ogeechee Ferry and Ogeechee Road (Browne’s Defeat, Harris’s Bridge)


Revolutionary memoirs and muster rolls / transcribed and edited by Mary Bondurant Warren. Heritage Papers, Athens, GA., 1994.


Revolutionary records of the State of Georgia, The, compiled and published under authority of the Legislature by Allen D. Chandler, The Franklin-Turner Company, 1908


Revolutionary War Website of Contents


Stacy, Kim, 84th Regiment of Foot, Commanding , entry for April 1781—Engagement at Wiggan’s (Wiggin’s) Hill.


“The Use of Regimental Type Buttons in the Continental Army (1775-1783)” E.B. Bower





Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia began 1775 without significant British garrisons. They were under British governors, however, and regular troops were nearby in Florida. Like their northern neighbors, the southern colonies soon replaced their Royal governments with new political bodies. The new governments raised troops as soon as the deposed governors posed a military or naval threat. Because these early colonial efforts were undertaken with minimal supervision by the Continental Congress, a diversity of regimental organizations emerged. That diversity was wider in the south than it had been in New England and New York because the southern colonies were less homogeneous and had accumulated more varied experiences in the colonial wars.


9 July—Engagement at Cockspur Island


10 July—Habersham and Bowen capture armed British schooner for Georgia


4  November—GEORGIA REGIMENT (GA RGT) authorized in the Continental Army and assigned to the Southern Department.  The regiment was to consist of a total strength of 728 men in 8 companies, with each company having one captain, two lieutenants, one ensign, four serjeants, 4 corporals, two drummers or fifers, and 76 privates.


In a letter dated 10 May, 1790, Henry Knox reports to Congress a complete accounting of the amount of Continental Line troops serving in Georgia, along with an estimate of the number of state and militia forces.  For the year 1775, no Continental troops served in Georgia units, and there were estimated to be 1000 militia members, who had signed for 9 months of service. These figures from Knox’s letter will be shown at the end of each year in the following timeline.




January—1st and 2d TROOPS OF GEORGIA HORSE (GA Horse) authorized  in the Georgia State Troops


2 January—Georgia Provincial Congress Council of Safety authorizes order for 400 stand of arms with bayonets, 20,000 pounds of gunpowder, 60,000 pounds of ball, bullets, bar lead, grape, swan and goose shot.   It is not noted if this materiel is intended for militia, state, or Continental use.


8 January—Council of Safety orders the confiscation of firearms and powder from all overseers and negroes in the Province (the exception being overseers, who were allowed to retain one gun and 13 cartridges).


20 January-28 April—GA RGT organized at Savannah to consist of eight companies


Georgia, like North Carolina, waited for congressional support before risking military action. It had only 3,000 males of military age and was the most exposed colony. When Congress authorized South Carolina’s three regiments on 4 November 1775, it also directed Georgia to raise a standard infantry regiment. Because communications with the colony took so long, its Provincial Congress was allowed to appoint all officers, not just those of company-grade. After factions within the Provincial Congress fought for control of the regiment, a compromise gave command to Lachlan McIntosh, the leader of the Scottish element in the colony. Two representatives of the Savannah mercantile interests were named as the other field officers. Most of the company positions went to sons of the planters who constituted the “Country Party.” The Provincial Congress and the state government that succeeded it caused continual troubles for senior Continental officers by asserting a right to retain an interest in the regiment’s affairs.


16 February—Georgia Provincial Congress elects officers for GA RGT: 


Lachlan McIntosh, Colonel; Samuel Elbert, Lt. Col.; Joseph Habersham, Major; 1st Company:  Francis Henry Harris, Capt.; John Habersham,1st Lt.; John Jenkins, 2nd Lt.; John Rice, Ens.; 2nd Company:  Oliver Bowen, Capt.; George Henley, 1st Lt.; John Berrier, 2nd Lt.;Ensign not named; 3rd Company: John McIntosh, Capt.; Lachlan McIntosh, 1st Lt.; Francis Arthur, 2nd Lt.; John Morrison, Ens.; 4th Company: Arthur Curney, Capt.; Benjamin Odinsell, 1st Lt.; John Emon, 2nd Lt.; Delaplaine John Nilton, Ens.; 5th Company: Thomas Chisolm, Capt.; Caleb Howell, 1st Lt.; Daniel Cuthbert, 2nd Lt.; William McIntosh, Ens.; 6th Company: John Green, Capt.; Ignatius Few, 1st Lt.; 2nd Lt. and Ensign not named; 7th Company: Chesley Bostick, Capt.; John Martin, 1st Lt.; 2nd Lt. and Ensign not named; 8th Company (Rifle): Jacob Colson, Capt.; Shadrach Wright, 1st Lt.; George Walton, 2nd Lt.; Ensign not named.


McIntosh began raising the regiment in February 1776, arming one of the companies with rifles. He correctly anticipated that limited resources would hamper his efforts: two months later the regiment had reached only half strength. Maj. Gen. Charles Lee supported the colony’s efforts to have Congress raise six additional regiments elsewhere and to station them in Georgia. Before this recommendation arrived, Congress voted to have Georgia raise two additional regiments (one of which was to be composed of riflemen) and two artillery companies to garrison Savannah and Sunbury.


February—Engagement at Fort Dartmouth


27 February—GA RGT assigned to the Southern Department


Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia became the Southern Department. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland joined New York as Schuyler’s Middle Department. Three days later Congress placed Charles Lee in command of the former and elected six new brigadier generals as subordinate commanders for the new departments.  John Armstrong of Pennsylvania, Andrew Lewis of Virginia, and North Carolina’s James Moore and Robert Howe went to the Southern Department, while William Thompson of Pennsylvania and Lord Stirling of New Jersey became Schuyler’s subordinates.


1 March—Engagement at Cockspur Island


In the early part of 1776 the Georgia Patriots occupied Savannah and erected two 18-pounders on a bluff that was 40 feet high. Any ship coming near them would be raked with artillery fire. They also sunk a vessel in the narrow part of the channel leading to Savannah, which prevented any large force from going to the town.  When the Georgia Council of Safety had placed him under house arrest the Georgia Royal Governor escaped and took refuge aboard the British man of war Scarborough. At Savannah were twenty British merchant ships full of rice that had been captured by the Patriots. If these ships could be recaptured they would be able to supply the British army in Boston. On March 1st, British marines landed on Cockspur Island in their first step to capturing the rice ships. The Marines skirmished with American militia there. The Americans had one wounded and the Marines had four wounded.


2-4 March—Battle of the Rice Boats (Battle of Yamacraw Bluffs) (Militia action)


Towards the end of 1775, James Wright was powerless to stop the rebellious faction in the Georgia House.  In early 1776 a portion of the British fleet arrived at Cockspur Island to buy provisions. Urging the radical Council of Safety to permit the fleet to purchase the provisions, Royal Governor Wright and others were detained, effectively ending royal rule in the state.


Soon, additional vessels and troops arrived off the Port of Savannah.  Wright boarded a ship, along with almost all his Loyalist advisors.  Further north a group of boats containing rice were the target of a British attack on March 2, 1776.  The Council of Safety reacted quickly, ordering the local militia to set boats on fire and drive the British away.  The Inverness, loaded with rice and deerskins, was fired and cut loose, drifting into the brig Nelly.  As some 500 Whigs from South Carolina joined the 600 Georgia rebels, the two ships drifted downstream, setting three more ships on fire. Governor Wright barely escaped. (Wright’s description of the action was significantly different.)


7 March—Engagement at Hutchinson’s Island


25 March—Engagement at Tybee Island


A raiding party of Georgia militia and Creek Indians under the command of Archibald Bullock attacked twelve British Marines on Tybee Island.  The Marines had been sent to the island, with twelve slaves, to cut wood and get water.  The Americans struck quickly killing one, wounding two and capturing one of the Marines and the 12 slaves.  The Creek Indians with the Georgia militia scalped three of the Marines.   The Royal Navy ships near the island fired three broadsides at the Americans while they sent a landing party on shore.  The Americans kept up constant rifle fire forcing the British to move out of range.  The Georgians also burned two houses on the island.  Shortly after this, all but two of the British vessels left the Savannah River.


28 April—McIntosh writes Washington and informs him that the enlistment bounty has been raised to $8 from $6, but that the regiment is still not at full strength.  McIntosh also reports that the troops have still not been issued arms or uniforms.  Strength return lists 8 captains, 15 lieutenants, 4 ensigns, 24 serjeants, 17 corporals, 5 drummers, 2 fifers, and 236 privates.


Spring—GA Horse organized at Savannah


12-13 May—Engagement at Cockspur Island


At 11 o’clock on May 12 a raiding party of Georgians attacked the British post on Cockspur Island.  They attempted to capture “a White Man a Pilot & some Negroes.”   They were discovered approaching the post and one of the raiders was killed.  The Americans withdrew to their boat.  The Royal Sloops of War Raven and the Cherokee sent sailors in three boats to the west end of the island to cut off any escape.  The British sailors captured a boat and three of the raiders.  The prisoners told the British of an armed schooner that was waiting for them up the Savannah River at 4 Mile Point. 


At one in the morning on May 13 the sailors from the Raven and Cherokee sailed up the Savannah River in a pinnace and two boats.  Two other boats were assigned to guard Cockspur Island while they were conducting their attack.  The British sailor easily captured the armed schooner.  Captain John Brown had commanded the American schooner and had 8 men on board.  In addition to the 8 man crew there was the 1 man killed from the raid and 3 others wounded.  On board the schooner were 6 swivel guns and 6 organs.  An organ was described in the 1769 Falconer Marine Dictionary as “sometimes used in a sea-fight by privateers: it contains several barrels of small arms, fixed upon one stock, so as to be all fired together.”  (This may had been an early version of the Nock Volley gun issued to the British in 1780.)  The schooner was sailed back to Cockspur Island.  At 11 o’clock the British captured three other men from the raid on the island the day before.


15 May—GEORGIA PROVINCIAL ARTILLERY COMPANY (GA PROV ARTY) organized in the Georgia State Troops


June—GA Horse expanded in to consist of the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th TROOPS OF GEORGIA HORSE


4 July—Declaration of Independence


5 July—GA RGT redesignated as the 1st GEORGIA REGIMENT (1st GA)


5 July—2d GEORGIA REGIMENT(2d GA), 3d GEORGIA REGIMENT (3d GA),1st GEORGIA CONTINENTAL ARTILLERY (1st GA ARTY), and 2d GEORGIA CONTINENTAL ARTILLERY (2d GA ARTY) authorized in the Continental Army and assigned to the Southern Department


24 July—GA Horse adopted into the Continental Army; concurrently redesignated as the GEORGIA REGIMENT OF HORSE RANGERS (GA RGR), assigned to the Southern Department, and expanded to consist of ten troops


10 August—Declaration of Independence publicly read in Savannah by Archibald Bulloch


August- May 1777—First Florida Expedition; Georgia south of Ossawba Sound; East Florida.


The First Florida Expedition departed  in August, 1776, shortly after word of the Declaration reached the state of Georgia.  The expeditionary forces built a line of forts between Georgia and Florida, including Forts Howe and McIntosh, and additional forts at Darien and Beard’s Bluff.   Indians attacked a detachment of men while on the way to Beard’s Bluff.  Commander John Baker later is betrayed by two guards who steal the expedition’s horses and leave the Americans unprotected in the swamps of south Georgia. One of these guards, Daniel McGirth, will become “noted” for a career of rape and murder.


16 September—Continental Congress issues “88 Battalion Resolve” setting regimental quotas for states


The states of the lower south had the easiest time adjusting to the new quotas because their regiments remained in their home states as the Southern Department’s primary combat forces. Georgia did not reduce its force to the single regiment of the 16 September quota but retained the four infantry and one ranger units authorized during July 1776. The Rangers and the 1st Georgia Regiment lost strength during the spring as original enlistments expired, but the 2d and 3d reached operational strength through extensive recruiting in North Carolina and Virginia. The 4th Georgia Regiment kept enlisting men from as far away as Pennsylvania into October 1777.


October—Return of First Florida Expedition


Fall/Winter—2d GA organized at Williamsburg, Virginia, to consist of eight companies, recruited primarily in Virginia; 3d GA organized at Savannah to consist of eight companies, recruited primarily in North Carolina; 1st GA ARTY organized at Savannah; 2d GA ARTY organized at Sunbury.


Per Knox’s letter of 1790 (hereafter “Knox”), 351 troops of Continentals, 750 militia members, and 1,200 state troops served in the year 1776.




1 January—GA RGR reorganized to consist of twelve troops


2 January—Engagement at Sapello Inlet


29 January—Engagement at Augusta


1 February—4th GEORGIA REGIMENT (4th GA) authorized  in the Continental Army and assigned to the Southern Department


2-4 February—Engagement at Fort McIntosh


6 February—GA PROV ARTY adopted into the Continental Army and redesignated as the 3d GEORGIA CONTINENTAL ARTILLERY COMPANY (3d GA ARTY) and assigned to the Southern Department.


17 February—Continental Congress begins ordering ready made uniforms from France, through the Secret Committee. A contract dated Aug 6, 1777 is issued for 5,000 uniform coats in blue or brown, both faced with red and lined in white.


23 February-15 March—Engagements at Fort McIntosh on the Sautilla


March—The brig Mercury arrives at Portsmouth, New Hampshire with 364 cases of arms, 11,000 gun flints, and 1,000 barrels of Levoisier powder.  This wealth of materiel had been exported from France by the shadow company Roderigue Hortalez et Cie.  The fictitious trading company was operated by Caron de Beaumarchais, and through it France, and to a lesser extent, Spain secretly sent arms and materiel to the American insurgents.  Based in Paris, but operated out of St. Eustatia in the Dutch Antilles, the Bourbon Kings of Spain and France each provided one million livres to start the company in May of 1776, six weeks before the Declaration of Independence. The ships from St. Eustatia debarked to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charleston, South Carolina, and New Orleans in the Spanish Province of Louisiana.  From New Orleans, supplies were sailed up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.


April—200 artillery pieces and 100,000 1763 French Charleville muskets arrive in Portsmouth, New Hampshire


April—Second Florida Expedition departs


By 1777, the Whig government in Georgia began to factionalize.  The conservatives, known as “town Whigs,” are led by Lachlan McIntosh and his brother George.  The radicals, known as “country Whigs,” are led by Button Gwinnett.    In this climate of acrimony, a Second Florida Expedition is authorized to leave for Florida in mid-April, 1777.  When the expedition elected McIntosh to be its leader, a series of events was set in motion that eventually lead to the death of Gwinnett.  Colonel Samuel Ebert is placed in command of the force after the Gwinnett and McIntosh return to Savannah to settle their bitter dispute.  The expedition returned in late May, finding Gwinnett had died from gangrene, the result of bullet wound in his leg suffered during a duel with McIntosh.


4 May—Engagement at Altamaha River


26 May—Second Florida Expedition returns


July—Engagement at Wilkes County


22 July—Engagement at Oconee River


Following is a deposition given against John Cunningham by Isham Ward regarding the action at the Oconee River.  The person receiving the deposition is not named.  Source: Revolutionary Memoirs and Muster Rolls, Mary Bondurant Warren, ed. 1994, Heritage Papers, Athens, Georgia



Wilkes County


Personally appeared before me Isham Ward, & being of full age was Duly sworn and Declareth that on Tuesday the 22 of July last About seven o’clock in the morning Capt. Thomas Dooley [sic, Dooly] of the 3rd Battalion of foot for the state with three men and Lieut. John Cunningham of the 2nd Battalion of foot with Seventeen Men where attacked and fired on by a party of Indians a few miles off the Oconey [sic] River.


That Capt. Dooley and his Men were in the front when the Attack began Lieut. Cunningham and his men in the rear. That after about two shots being Exchanged from the Whites he the Deponent saw Lieut. Cunningham at the head of about 4 Men running off and at the same time he the Deponent Saw some person who he Expected was an Officer Say Boys make Your Escape upon which Capt Dooley Discovering to the men in Loud words by no Means not to Leave him.


This Deponent further Saith that he thinks on the first fire Capt. Dooley Received a wound which he thinks Disabled him so much as not to Stand as he the  Deponent saw Capt. Dooley twice fire in a Sitting posture on the Ground.


This Deponent further Saith that Capt. Dooley Calling to Lieut. Cunningham & the first party that  was Running Availed Nothing, but that they still continued Running upon which the Whites Continued to retreat until this Deponent saith he thinks there was not more than seven or Eight White men Left on the Ground upon which the Deponent made his Escape and further Saith not—

Isham Ward


Sworn to before me this 11th August (1777)




The following letters are from the Order Book of Colonel Samuel Elbert, commander of the 2d Regiment:


(To General McIntosh)


Augusta, 9th September, 1777.


Dear Sir:  I wrote you pr return Sikes & a few lines by Lieut. Bilbo since which I have not heard from you.  I am just returned from visiting the Forts on the western Frontiers but could find no signs of any Indians near them; they are crowded with the inhabitants who have not yet returned to their habitations which they quit at the late alarm when Capt. Dooly and others were killed.  Inclosed [sic] are some papers respecting Lieut. Cunningham, who I begin to think behaved better in the action than was at first represented; he remains under arrest at Wrightsborough.  Captain Dooley [sic] & Pannell with Lieut. Booker are now prisoners with me on their parole; you will please pr. return of the bearer, give me positive order what to do with them.  I am in hopes the matter may be overlooked as the Indians are by this safe in their own Nation & the gentlemen very sensible of their error in what has been done.  Poor Dooley had lost a brother; Pannell went as a piece [sic] maker to prevent mischief.  Booker & Bilbo, two giddy young men—in fact I think the end answered in putting them under arrest, as it please. 


About half of my regiment are now sick in Wrightsborough, the most of them on the recovery, those fit for duty are disposed of as under.  Mrs. Elbert being in a situation which requires her being in Savannah the latter end of this month, I hope you will find it convenient to let me return there shortly.  I suppose Colo. Stirk waits your orders; I will be obliged to you to let him have them.  I wish you happy, & am, dr. General.


Your most obedt. servt.






After Orders.


Headquarters, 13th Oct., 1777.


The general court-martial of which Colo. Habersham was president is approved & dissolved; the court having made the most strict inquiry into the conduct of Lieut. Cunningham of the 2d Battalion respecting the charge brought against him of cowardice in a late skirmish with the enemy, and after examining several witnesses on the occasion, report as their opinion “that Lieut. Cunningham acquitted himself in the said engagement with the honor & valor becoming an officer.”  The commanding officer is happy in agreeing with the above report & orders that Lieut. Cunningham immediately joins his regiment.  Andrew Hays, William Asbey and John Asbey of the Light Horse, John Wright of the Artillery, & Thomas Hodge of the 2d Battalion are ordered to receive the punishment to which they were severally sentenced by the court, this afternoon on the parade, in the presence of all the Continental Troops in town to be drawn out on the occasion; those who belong to the corps having no person present are to be kept in confinement till they can be delivered to the care of their proper officers.  Thomas Dunivant, Michael Hugen & Sergt. Gore to be severely reprimanded and discharged.


Summer/Fall—4th GA organized  at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to consist of eight companies, recruited primarily in Pennsylvania


23 December—1st GA, 2d GA, 3d GA, 4th GA assigned to the Georgia Brigade, an element of the Southern Department


Per Knox, 1,423 Continentals and 750 militia in service for year 1777.




6 January—France allies with the United States


19 February—1st GA ARTY and 3d GA ARTY consolidated and redesignated as 1st GA ARTY.


6 April—Third Florida Expedition departs


In April 1778, a group of 500 Tories moved through South Carolina and Georgia, destroying property and killing Loyalists. A Third Florida Expedition is planned when word of a definite invasion from the Florida stronghold reaches Georgia.  Colonel Elbert moved out on April 6, 1778, shortly capturing the British vessels Hinchinbrooke and Rebecca, which may have been supporting the Loyalist movement.


This expedition has no lack of leaders, among them Robert Howe, Governor John Houstoun, Colonel Andrew Williamson and Commodore Oliver Bowen, each of whom, essentially, refused to take orders from the others. When the Florida Rangers retreated as the expedition approached, Howe and Bowen turned back, and Houstoun and Williamson were forced to follow because they did not feel they could take on the Rangers by themselves.


23 April—From the South Carolina and American General Gazette

C H A R L E S T O W N,  April 23, 1778

This afternoon an express arrived here from Savannah, by the whom the following advices were received.

Copy of a Letter from Col. Elbert to Major General Howe, at Savannah.

Dear General, Frederica, April 19, 1778

I have the happiness to inform you that about 10 o’clock this afternoon, the Brigantine Hinchinbrooke, the Sloop Rebecca, and a prize brig, all struck the British Tyrant’s colors and surrendered to the American arms. Having received intelligence that the above vessels were at this place, I put about three hundred men, by detachment from the troops under my command at Fort Howe, on board the three gallies——the Washington, Capt. Hardy; the Lee, Capt Braddock; and the Bulloch, Capt. Hatcher; and a detachment of artillery with a field piece, under Capt. Young, I put on board a boat. With this little army, we embarked at Darien, and last evening effected a landing at a bluff about a mile below the town; leaving Col. White on board the Lee, Capt. Melvin on board the Washington, and Lieut. Petty on board the Bulloch, each with a sufficient party of troops.

Immediately on Landing, I dispatched Lieut. Col. Ray and Major Roberts, with about 100 men, who marched directly up to the town, and made prisoners three marines and two sailors belonging to the Hinchinbrooke. It being late, the gallies did not engage until this morning.

You must imagine what my feelings were, to see our three little men of war going to the attack of these three vessels, who have spread terror on our coast, and who were drawn up in order of battle; but the weight of our metal soon damped the courage of these heroes, who soon took to their boats; and, as many as could, abandoned the vessels with everything on board, of which we immediately took possession.

What is extraordinary, we have not one man hurt. Capt. Ellis [of the Hinchinbrooke] is drowned, and Capt. Mowbry [of the Rebecca] made his escape. As soon as I see Col. White, who has not yet come to us with his prizes, I shall consult with him, the other three officers, and the commanding officers of the galleys, on the expediency of attacking the Galatea now lying off Jekyll. I send you this by Brigade Major Habersham, who will inform you of the other particulars. I am. &c. SAMUEL ELBERT, Col. Commandant


22 June—Engagement at Ogeechee River


July—Third Florida Expedition returns


August—Engagement at Nail’s Fort, Wilkes County


November—Engagement at Nail’s Fort, Wilkes County


19 November—Engagement at Bulltown Swamp, Spencer’s Hill  (outside Savannah)


24 November—Engagement at Medway Church


When in autumn two expeditions of regulars and vindictive refugees were sent by the British Brigadier- General Augustine Prevost from east Florida into Georgia, one Army was stopped at Sunbury, the other at the Ogeechee. The latter on its return burned the church, almost every dwelling-house in Medway, and all rice and other cereals within their reach; and they brought off negroes, horses, cattle, and plate. Screven, an American officer, beloved for his virtues, was killed after he became a prisoner.


25 November—Engagement at Spencer’s Hill


28 November-15 October, 1779, Georgia and South Carolina. Operations relating to the British capture and defense of Savannah and coastal South Carolina.


1 December—Engagement at Fort Morris


23 December—British force lands on Tybee Island


Henry Clinton, in charge of British troop in America, is ordered to move to the South. Intelligence reports in Britain indicated that both Georgia and South Carolina have a large Loyalist population who will side with the British. However, to move meant Clinton would have to reduce his manpower in the North, leaving his troops in the northern theater vulnerable to attack by George Washington.


Clinton and his advisors come up with a plan, and sent troops to Savannah. The troops from New York, under the command of Lt. Colonel Archibald Campbell, arrived at Tybee Island on December 23, 1778, a month later than scheduled.  Forces from St. Augustine under the command of Augustine Prevost joined them and together they marched on Savannah.


28 December—Engagement at Salter’s Island, Four Mile Point


29 December—British capture Savannah


Relying on the difficulties of the ground, American General Robert Howe of North Carolina, with only 700 Continental Line and local militiamen, made a feeble attempt to defend the city.  The troops offered resistance to a disciplined British corps, ably commanded, and more than three times as numerous as his own; but, on the 29th December, a British party, guided by a Negro (Quamino Dolly) through a swamp, made a simultaneous attack on the Americans in front and rear, and drove them into a precipitate retreat. As the British forces attacked, the local militias fled leaving the Continentals with little alternative but retreat.  With troops in their rear, the American defense was broken.  With the loss of well over 550 men (100 killed, 450 captured), and all the artillery, Howe was forced to retire into South Carolina.  With a loss of but nine killed and 17 wounded, the British gained the capital of Georgia.  British Lt.-Col. Archibald Campbell promised protection to the inhabitants, but only on condition that “they would support the royal government with their arms.” The captive soldiers, refusing to enlist in the British service, were crowded on board prison-ships, to be swept away by infection. Many civilians submitted; determined republicans found an asylum in the western parts of the state. 


29 December—Engagement at Brewton Hill (Girardeau’s Plantation)


29 December1st GA ARTY captured by British forces at Savannah


Per Knox, 673 Continentals, 1,200 state troops, and 2,000 militia enlisted for 6 months in service for the year 1778.




1 January—Engagement at Zubly’s Ferry


6-10 January—British capture Sunbury


Before the American Revolution, the thriving seaport of Sunbury, Georgia, rivaled nearby Savannah as Georgia’s cultural and economic center. Historians record that per square foot, more famous Georgians came from Sunbury than any other place in the American southeast. Yet today, not a single original building of the old town remains.


9 January—Engagement at Fort Morris


10 January—2d GA ARTY captured by British forces at Sunbury


26 January—Engagement at Burke County Jail


26 January—Engagement at Savannah River


30 January—Engagement at Fort Henderson (Spirit Creek)


31 January—Engagement at The Cupboard Swamp


31 January—British capture Augusta


Early in January 1779, British Brig.-Gen. Augustine Prevost (British Commander in Florida) marched north on the “Old Post Road” from Savannah, reducing Sunbury on the way to support British Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell, who subsequently took possession of Augusta on 29 January.  Augusta was a strategically important town situated on the Savannah River. The province of Georgia appearing to be restored to the crown.


3 February—Engagement at Augusta


February—Engagement at Kiokee Creek


9 February—Engagement at Middleton’s Ferry


9 February—Engagement at Brownsborough


10 February—Engagement at Van[n]’s Creek (Cherokee Ford)


8-10 February—Engagement at Carr’s Fort


14 February—British withdraw from Augusta


14 February—Battle of Kettle Creek (Militia action)


The backwoods of Georgia held challenges for the British Army in Georgia.  Many people in Georgia were strongly anti-British, so when Colonel Boyd and 700 Loyalists set up camp along Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779, they know to be prepared for an attack. Only a couple of days before, on February 11, 100 Patriots attacked them while crossing Van(n)’s Creek, in spite of being outnumbered.


Things were not going well for these Loyalists.  Boyd expected additional men to assist in a strike against the Patriots. His men were not regulars and dissension filled the ranks. Also, the skirmish at Vann’s Creek alerted Colonels John Dooly and Andrew Pickens to the Loyalist’s presence in Wilkes County.  As was the custom, the Loyalist sent scavengers out to find food.  On the morning of the battle, about 150 men are out searching for food when Pickens attacks.


With a combined total of 340 men, the Patriots attacked in three columns, with Col. Dooly on the right, Pickens in the middle and Elijah Clarke, Dooly’s second in command on the left. A small advance guard was sent in front of the columns to scout the enemy.  Col. Pickens scouts surprised Boyd’s Loyalist sentries and opened fire.


Alerted to the attack by the sound of gunfire, Boyd rallied his men and advanced with a small group to the top of a nearby hill, where they waited behind rocks and fallen trees for the Patriots. To the left and right, the men under command of Dooly and Clarke had problems crossing the high water of the creek and nearby swamps.


Pickens continued his advance to the fence on top of the hill, where Boyd’s men awaited the advancing Americans. On the approach of Pickens, the Loyalists opened fire. Clarke and Dooly, unable to advance quickly through the cane, were helpless.  By all accounts, outnumbered and caught by surprise, the Patriots appeared to be losing the battle.


After the successful ambush, Boyd ordered his men to retreat to the camp by Kettle Creek then fell to the ground, having been mortally wounded by a musket ball.  Seeing this, his troops panicked and an orderly withdrawal turned into a nightmare for the 600 men under his command.


Pickens rallied and advanced his men toward the Loyalist camp.  At the same time, Dooly’s men emerged from the swamp.  Surrounded on three fronts, with the creek to their back, about 450 Tories followed Boyd’s second in command, Major Spurgen, across Kettle Creek.


While the Loyalists crossed the creek, Lt. Col Elijah Clarke emerged on the other side and charged with 50 men. The Loyalists fled, soundly defeated.


Total losses in the battle: Loyalist— 40-70 dead, 70 captured; Patriots— 9 dead, 23 wounded.  The men who fled the battlefield eventually made their way back to Wrightsville, although some were captured and hanged later that year. Pickens, who became famous for his many battles in the Revolution would later write that Kettle Creek was the “severest chastisement” for the Loyalists in South Carolina and Georgia. Dooly was later brutally murdered by British army troops.


18 February—Engagement at Herbert’s Store


22 February—Engagement at Thomas’s Plantation


3 March—Battle of Brier (Briar) Creek (Militia action)


On the same day that Colonel Boyd was defeated at Kettle Creek, and Colonel Archibald Campbell withdrew from Augusta, a large force of North Carolina troops appeared across the river from the Augusta outpost on the Georgia frontier.  A planned rendezvous with Campbell at Wrightsville by Boyd’s Loyalists led to the capture of some of Boyd’s men when Colonel Campbell unexpectedly failed to show up. 


The North Carolina patriots, under the command of General John Ashe, smelled blood. With the victory at Kettle Creek, Ashe’s men were are hot on the trail of Campbell’s loyalists.  Unknown to Ashe, however, was that Campbell had received reinforcements from Savannah under the command of General Augustine Prevost.  Together the British forces totaled 2,300 men, although less than a thousand participated in the battle.


Camping at the confluence of Brier Creek and the Savannah River, Ashe’s men were caught unaware by hundreds of handpicked soldiers and loyalist militia on March 3, 1779.  The Tories from North Carolina, along with their commander, Ashe, fled.  Only Colonel Samuel Elbert and his Georgia militia remained.  Outnumbered and overpowered, the men defended the camp until almost all were dead.  The late afternoon action ended at sunset, with the rebellion forces suffering a humiliating defeat. Almost 400 Americans were killed or captured, while the British only lost 5 men.


Elbert, who would eventually be elected governor of Georgia, was captured and served time in a British prison until his release in 1781.


March—Engagement at Fort Morgan


March—Engagement at Newsome’s Fort


20 March—Engagement at Abercorn Creek


21 March—Engagement at The Crossroads (Beech Island)


22 March—Engagement at Rocky Comfort Creek


29 March—Continental Congress adopts “Regulations For The Order And Discipline of The Troops of The United States” (von Steuben’s Drill Manual)


23 April—South Carolina and American General Gazette  Deserter reported from the 4th GA wearing “....a blue coat, edged with white and pewter buttons with No. 4 on them...”


26 June—Engagement at Ogeechee Ferry


27 June—Engagement at Midway Meeting House


28 June—Engagement at Hickory Hill (Butler’s Plantation, Ogeechee Ferry)


July—Engagement at Wilkes County


21 July—Engagement at Savannah


2 August—Muster rolls for 1st GA, 3d GA, 4th GA indicate combined strength of 73 privates, 41 non-commissioned officers, drummers and fifers, and 44 commissioned officers, inclusive of deserters, sick, and captured—the actual effective strength was 9 officers, 11 non-commissioned officers, 2 drummers, 1 fifer, and 18 privates:


A Muster Roll of the 1st Georgia Battallion of Continental Troops Commanded by Col. Robert Rae.  August, August the 2nd 1779


Robert Rae, Col. 1st April 1778, sick

Francis H. Harris, Lt. Col., Absent with leave

John Habersham, Major, Prisoner of War with the enemy

George Handly, Capt., 30 October 1776, present

Lachlan McIntosh, Capt., 30 October 1776, present

Shadrick[Shadrach] Wright, Capt., Prisoner of War on parole [not listed in Compiled Service Records]

Alexander D. Cuthbert, Capt., Prisoner of War with the enemy

John Wilten, Capt., Prisoner of War with the enemy [not listed in CSR]

William McIntosh, Capt., Prisoner of War with the enemy

Thomas Glascock, Lt., 1 July 1777, present

Jesse Walton, Lt., present

William Low, Lt., Prisoner of War with the enemy

James Houston, Surgeon, present


(Five Officers effective)


John Leduck, Quartermaster Sergt., During the War Comm’d

John Twedle, Sergt. Maj., present

Charles Fields [?] Sergt., present

John Evens, Sergt., present

John Knight, Sergt., deserted

Thomas Jeffryes, Corp., press’t

Ethral Fatrul, Corp., press’t [not listed in CSR]

Thomas Hart, Corp., during War [not listed in CSR]

Daniel Mathews, Corp., deserted

William Lowe, drum major, press’d


(3 Non-commissioned Officers effective)


Privates [all enlisted for the war]


Thomas Wilson, Genl. Hosp. August[a]

John Priar, present

Samuel Ware, furlough

John King, Commanded up river

John Linn, Genl. Hosp. Augusta [not listed in CSR]

John Rain, on furlough

William Austin, present

Hugh Bell, Genl. Hospital Ch. Town

James Burns, present

David Fellers, absent wounded [not listed in CSR]

Rubin Wandrum [sic], present

George Jones, present

William Coucksie [sic], deserted

Andrew Foster, deserted

William Gibbs, furlough

Searcey Askew, Prisoner of war, paroled

Conrod Frigonier [sic], Prisoner of war, paroled

Josiah Bird, Prisoner of war on parole

John Futrel, Prisoner of war on parole [not listed in CSR]

Jordan Jackson, Prisoner of war on parole

James Parks, Prisoner of war on parole

Andrew Shields, Waggoner at Shelson [not listed in CSR]


(5 Privates effective)


A Muster Roll of the third Continental Georgia Battalion Commanded by Lieutenant Colo. John McIntosh, Augusta August 2d 1779


John McIntosh, Lt. Col., Prisoner of War with the enemy

Joseph Lane, Major, Prisoner of War with the enemy

Isaac Hicks, Capt., Prisoner of War with the enemy

Clement Nash, Capt., Prisoner on parole

William Scott, Capt., Prisoner with the enemy [not listed in CSR]

Gideon Booker, Capt., Prisoner with the enemy

Rains Cook, Capt., Prisoner with the enemy

John Manley, Lt., Prisoner with the enemy

John Frazer, Lt., Prisoner with the enemy

John Mitchel, Lt., Prisoner on parole

Nathan Pearre, Lt., and Adjutant, present

Josiah Maxwell, Lt., Prisoner with the enemy

John Wagnon, Lt., Prisoner with the enemy

Thomas Devenport, Surgeon, Prisoner with the enemy [not listed in CSR]


(1 Officer effective)


John Hoggett, Sergt., discharged

Jesse Browder, Sergt., sick in hospital

Paskeel Tucker, Sergt., present

John Boyd, Sergt., Jan. 7, ‘77, present

Samuel Barnet, Sergt., Left sick at Genl. Hospital Stono.

Basill Hatton, Sergt., Feb. 20, 1777, present

John Connoley, Sergt., left sick on road

William Riley, Sergt., absent

William Corbin, Corpl., Waggoner, present

Griffith Dickenson, Corpl., present

George Turner, Corpl., discharged

Henry Deshazer, Corpl., Feby. 26, 1777 present

William Thompson, Corpl., absent

Mansfield Jones, Drum., present

Joshua Northington, Drum., discharged

Obed Hendricks, Drum., on furlow


(6 Non-commissioned officers and 1 drummer effective)




Joshua Cissle, present

Jesse Peters, present

James Bryan, discharged

James Lane, Stono left at Genl. Hospital

John House, present

Curtis Linn, absent with leave

Parish Lankford, Deserted

Terry McHaney, absent C’l White

William Hicks, present [not listed in CSR]

John Tombolin, deserted absent

William King, deserted

John Johnston, Augusta, sick at Hosp.

John Abbot, deserted absent without leave [not listed in CSR]

William Clabruck, waggoner, present

Moses Reaves, absent town

John Davy, Augusta, sick at Hospital

Frederick Thompson, deserted, absent

William Coleman, present

Nathaniel Eves, present

James O’Brien, Augusta at Hospital

Thomas McClain, discharged

Soloman Draper, discharged

Alexander Roberson, absent Town

Pat Cockron, In Staff, absent present [sic]

Pat Slacks, waggoner present

George Thomas, waggoner present

Will Osband [sic], deserted , absent without leave

John Wedgwood, waggoner present


(10 Privates effective)


A Muster Roll of the 4th Continental Georgia Batalion Commanded by Col. John White, Augusta, August 2nd 1779.


John White, Col., Absent, Camden

Joseph Pannel, Lt. Col., Absent, Camden

Philip Lowe, Major, Prisoner on parole

George Melvin, Capt., In Quarter Master Department

John Lucas, Capt., Prisoner with the enemy

William Hornby, Capt., Prisoner with the enemy [not listed in CSR]

Joseph Day, Capt., Prisoner with the enemy

Andrew Templeton, Capt., Prisoner on parole [not listed in CSR]

James Stedman, Lt., Present fit for duty

Patrick FitsPatrick, Lt., Present fit for duty

Edward Cowen, Lt., Prisoner with the enemy

William Jordan, Lt., Present

Walter Dixon, Lt., Prisoner with the enemy [not listed in CSR]

John Carswell, Lt., on parole

Arthur Hays, Lt., on parole

Christopher Hebery, Lt., Prisoner with the enemy

Robert Simpson, Lt., Absent with leave [not listed in CSR]


(3 Officers effective)


James Lett, Sgt., sick about Beach Island

Daniel Dampier, Sgt., present

George St. George, Sgt., on the Commissary’s Department

John Anderson, Sgt., Col. White, Camden

Henry Ellis, Sgt., Col. White, Camden

John Willard, Sgt., Col. White, Camden [not listed in CSR]

George Kane, Sgt., Col. White, Camden {not listed in CSR]

Thomas Johnston, Corp., present

John Hendrin, Drummer, present

Charles Grand, Drummer, present

Samuel Rumerfield, Drummer, Charlestown with Col. Nielom [?]

David Rowark, Fifer, with Lt. Carswell, Georgetown

John Smith, Fifer, present

Jeremiah Levering, Fifer, Camden Col. White


(2 Non-commissioned Officers, 3 Musicians effective)




William Bishop, present

George Townsend, present

William Haven, Chas. Town sick in General Hosp.

Joseph Boys, discharged by Maj. Moore and enlisted during the war

John Privite, Absent without leave

Christopher Fryther, Absent without leave

Charles Clarke, Chas. Town at the Gen Hosp.

Patrick Conden, Chas. Town at Head Quarters without

Thomas Nichols, taken by the enemy [not listed in CSR]

William McCormack, in Charles Town [not listed in CSR]

John Farrel, in Hosp. at Augusta

John Harris, with Col. White, Camden [not listed in CSR]

Smith Carpenter, with Col. White, Camden

Adam Grub, with Col. White, Camden

Joseph Sissco [sic], with Col. White, Camden

William Ball, deserted [not listed in CSR]

George Hamelton, deserted [not listed in CSR]

Stephen Kindal [sic], deserted [not listed in CSR]

Thomas Brown, deserted

Isham Cogan, deserted

Edward McGinnis, deserted

Samuel Wood, In George Town, Prisoner of war

William Mitchell, butcher


(3 Privates effective)


14 August—Engagement at Lockhart’s Plantation (Big Buckhead Creek)


19 September—Engagement at Ogeechee Ferry


23 September—Allied forces invest siege of Savannah


The British easily captured the city from the rebels in 1778, following a slave through the marsh to bypass the defenses. This set the stage for the second bloodiest battle of the Revolution. September 8, 1778 a French fleet of 42 ships with 4,000 soldiers, commanded by a cautious Count Charles-Henri d’Estaing, arrived off Tybee Island.  American forces from Charleston under General Benjamin Lincoln approached Savannah from the north.  The British, believing the French fleet to be occupied in the Caribbean, were taken by surprise. With a garrison of about 700, Savannah was ripe for the taking.  d’Estaing’s and Lincoln’s troops probably could have walked into the city unopposed.  Instead, d’Estaing sent a demand for surrender to the British General Prevost.  Prevost responded by quickening the pace at which he was strengthening the fortifications around the city.  The delay allowed the British garrison to be reinforced by Col. John Maitland and the Seventy First Highlanders who had been at Beaufort, South Carolina when the French arrived.  The French shelled the city with little real effect. During the three-week bombardment a great deal of property was damaged but only one British soldier was killed.  During one night of the bombardment the French gunners were drunk and fired on their own men.


1 October—Engagement at Savage Point


2 October—Washington’s general order issued regarding uniform colors and facings


9 October—Savannah attacked by Allied forces and repulsed by British


At dawn, October 9, 1779 thousands of French and Americans attacked the British positions and were slaughtered.  It was the bloodiest hour in the Revolution. American hero, Sergeant Jasper, was killed on the ramparts trying to save his unit’s battle flag.  During the attack both d’Estaing and Polish patriot Casimir Pulaski, fighting for the American cause, were shot.  While the admiral’s wound was less serious, Pulaski’s proved to be fatal.  He was moved to the American ship Wasp, where he died.  Black troops from Haiti in the French reserve came forward to cover the retreat of the shattered attackers. In an hour a thousand casualties resulted.  During a four hour truce, hundreds of French and American soldiers were buried in a mass grave in the vicinity of what is now a visitor’s center.  From an initial force of 5000 men, by the end of the day over 800 French and American soldiers lay dead.  The city was held by the British until 1782.


Admiral d’Estaing returned to sea, and Lincoln began a march to Charleston, South Carolina, realizing the British would likely attack there next.


4 November—Engagement at Tybee River


29 November1st GA ARTY and 2d GA ARTY disbanded.


Per Knox, 87 Continental troops and 750 militia in service in 1779.




20 January—Reorganization of Georgia state line troops and consolidation with Continental line troops.


Georgia’s troops suffered virtual annihilation during the winter of 1778-79 when the British overran that state in a new offensive. Congress finally empowered Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who had assumed command of the Southern Department on 4 December 1778, to consolidate the two state lines and to organize them under the new regimental structure. Local political jealousies blocked action until 20 January 1780.  Lincoln reorganized the Georgia units, now existing only on paper, as one infantry regiment and one regiment of mounted rangers.


10 February-29 May, 1780, South Carolina, Siege of Charleston and related occupation of South Carolina through the Battle of the Waxhaws.


25 March—Engagement at Savannah


28 March—Engagement at Sunbury


28 March—Engagement at Ogeechee River


1 April—British invest siege of Charleston, South Carolina


5 April—Engagement at Ogeechee River Ferry (Wright’s Plantation)


12 May—American army surrenders at Charleston.


A perception continued among the British that the South was full of Loyalists just awaiting the call from the British.  At the end of December 1779 General Clinton, who also subscribed to this view, headed south with a small army with the objective of capturing Charleston, South Carolina.  Clinton approached steadily, arriving opposite Charleston on April 1, 1780.  He then began a classic European siege.  The British dug siege trenches ever closer to the wall of the city.  Day by day, week by week, the British got ever closer to the wall of the city.  In the meantime both sides exchanged artillery fire, the Americans trying to make the British task as difficult as possible, while the British hoped to terrify the Americans into submission.  By the beginning of May, the British had advanced within a few feet of the American lines.  Their artillery fire was soon becoming deadly and on May 9 many of the wooden houses in Charleston were set on fire by the artillery fire.  The city elders had enough and requested that the American commander Lincoln surrender, which he did.  The British victory in Charleston was Pyrrhic, however.  There was no popular Loyalist uprising and instead South Carolina degenerated into a period of chaos.


May—British recapture Augusta


June—Engagement at Dooly’s Fort


30 June—Engagement at Fort Anderson


23 July—Second Engagement at Fort Anderson


August—Engagement at Dooly’s Fort


16 August—Battle of Camden (SC)


September-October—Engagements in Wilkes County


14 September—Engagement at Fort Cornwallis, Fort Grierson


14-18 September—Battle at McKay’s Trading Post (White House), Augusta


Elijah Clarke and his force of American regulars attacked Loyalist forces under the command of Colonel Thomas Browne. The siege was broken when a relief column from the British Garrison at Ninety-Six arrived. Browne was wounded in the battle and was so enraged that he hanged the American prisoners or turned them over to the Indians to be tortured.


14 October—Nathanael Greene promoted to Southern Department commander


Per Knox, no Continental troops and 750 militia in service in 1780.




1 January—1st GA redesignated as the GEORGIA REGIMENT (GA RGT [redesignated])


1 January—2d GA, 3d GA, 4th GA, GA RGR disbanded


17 January—Battle of Cowpens (SC)


22 January—Engagement at  Mathews’ Bluff


23-24 January—Engagement at Wiggan’s (Wiggin’s) Plantation


April—Engagement at Wiggan’s (Wiggin’s) Hill


In April, 1781, the Light Company (2/84) under the command of Captain Ronald McKinnon, participated in a skirmish at Wiggan’s Hill, south of Augusta, above the Savannah River.  This fight would have been lost to history except for the cruelty delivered unto the rebel prisoners taken there. The only reason the incident was recorded in rebel documents was because of the humanity Captain McKinnon displayed in trying to stop an act of barbarity.


The fortified town of Augusta received most of its supplies from traffic on the Savannah River. A rebel party of South Carolina militia under the command of a Captain Johnson and Georgia militia under Captain James McKay had taken up positions in the swamps of the river and intercepted unescorted boats, which they pillaged and  sank.  The British forces under the command of Colonel of Militia Browne could not tolerate such interference and sent a small party of 10 to 25 King’s Rangers and 20 militia, under the command of Lieutenant Kemp, to kill the rebel pirates hiding in the swamp.   They were the  vanguard of an expedition led by Captain Alexander Wylly.  Lieutenant Kemp hired a guide named Willie to take him to McKay’s camp on Matthew’s Bluff.  Willie had alerted McKay and Kemp’s troopers rode into an ambush.  The British militia all fled without firing a shot, and the Rangers surrendered.  McKay asked Kemp to join him, Kemp refused, and he was shot.  The same fate happened to each of the other Rangers, except one, who pretended to join McKay, then escaped at the first chance and told Browne what had happened.


Browne ordered his Loyalist militia to Augusta to defend it against a possible attack from a large party of Marion’s Partisans under Lieutenant Colonel William Harden, who was operating in the general area. Many men of the Loyalist militia deserted in preference to being besieged and possibly captured and executed.  The only reliable troops present to defend the town were his own provincials and the 84th Light Infantry Company. 


As soon as Captain Wylly knew where the raiders were he informed Browne who marched sixty miles from Augusta, in two days.  On the way one hundred Loyalist militia joined him.  Browne had knowledge as to the general location of Harden and his rebels.  Browne sent Indian scouts to pinpoint Harden’s camp and then planned to attack and destroy Harden, once and for all.  The first night out, Browne camped in a field at Wiggan’s Hill, about 30 miles from Black Swamp.  Unbeknownst to both sides, they were encamped within one mile of each other.  Harden had been joined by Captains Johnson and McKay with their small forces. Harden’s scouts located the Loyalist camp first.  Harden promptly moved to attack the Crown camp shortly after midnight, terrifying the militia of the camp.  During the battle, many of the Loyalist militia deserted over to Harden, who attacked again the next day with his “new” reinforcements.


The next morning at eight o’clock Colonel Harden struck again.  His men dismounted then engaged the British with rifle fire.  The British pickets detected the attack and beat the troops to arms. When the rebels attacked in disorder, they found the King’s men formed and waiting for them.  Browne ordered his Rangers and Indians to charge, scattering Harden’s men.  In the half hour that followed, Harden’s men were decimated by superior firepower and discipline (the rebels claimed superior numbers, but this is unlikely).  Harden retreated, carrying off his wounded and sought refuge in the swamp.  The Americans claimed both sides lost seven killed and eleven wounded.


Many rebel prisoners were taken during the two days of battle. One rebel, Leonard Tanner, was murdered by the Tories because he would not reveal where the rebel camp was in the swamp.  Willie, the scout who led Lieutentant Kemp to Matthew’s Bluff, was accused of treachery by the Tories and alleged by the rebels to have been turned over to the Indians who “ripped him open with their knives in Browne’s presence and tortured him to death.” Browne claimed that Willie was killed instantly with a tomahawk by the Indian chief because of his betrayal. The latter is more likely true.


The other prisoners taken were Rannal McKay (son of the rebel captain), Britton Williams, George Smith, George Reed, a Frenchman whose name was not known and seven others whose names were not recorded. These twelve rebels Browne ordered to be hanged the following day in retaliation for the murder of Kemp and his party a few days earlier.  That night, McKay’s mother came to camp to plead for her son’s life. Browne received her, but refused her plea. Things became uncivil, and Mrs. McKay was escorted out of camp.  McKinnon, according to Mrs. McKay, gave her his assurance that he would intervene and that her son would be safe.  Captain McKinnon pleaded for Browne to spare the youth, who was only 13 years old.  Browne told McKinnon that the hanging was a matter that did not concern him.  Mrs. McKay later returned to camp, but this time was not permitted entry.  When time came for the sentence to be carried out, McKinnon, who had greatly opposed the pending execution, was ordered by Browne, his commanding officer, to stand aside.  Then, according to rebel reports, the prisoners were hung until nearly dead, cut down, and delivered to the Indians, “who scalped them and otherwise abused their bodies in their accustomed savage manner.”


To complete his revenge, Browne ordered the houses of the dead rebels to be burned.  Browne then ordered that all of the local inhabitants be turned out of their homes for supporting the rebels.  Their houses were then looted by the Tories and all of the buildings torched.  McKinnon, a professional soldier of long service, had little stomach for partisan warfare and the barbarities that the civilian combatants waged upon each other.


After the threat to Augusta passed, the Light Company marched to join Rawdon, who was engaged at Hobkirks’ Hill, but did not arrive in time. The withdrawal of the Light Company from Augusta weakened the defenses and, thus, made it a tempting target. The Americans besieged Augusta and the fort surrendered with terms in June.


14 April—Engagement at Great Ogeechee River


16 April—Americans invest siege of Augusta


24 April—Engagement at Blackbeard’s Island


1 May—Engagement at New Bridge (Walker’s Bridge)


1 May—Engagement at Beech Island, Savannah River


2 May—Engagement at New Savannah (Bugg’s Plantation)


23-24 May—Second Engagement at Fort Grierson


23 May-5 June—Second Engagement at Fort Cornwallis


4 June—Engagement at Fort George


5 June—Americans recapture Augusta


In late May 1781, British forces under Lt. Col. Thomas Brown held Fort Cornwallis, about where St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Augusta now stands.


At this stage of the war, the British strategy was to dominate the region’s countryside by placing troops in various forts. Such strongholds not only provided a base from which Redcoats could strike, but also a rallying spot for area Loyalists.


Colonial troops led by Gen. Andrew Pickens and Lt. Col. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee (the father of Robert E. Lee) pinned down the British force in the fort next to the Savannah River, but it was too strong to overtake. The Americans wanted to bombard the British stronghold with their 6-pounder cannons, but the flat, swampy land along the Savannah did not have a hill high enough to loft cannonballs into the garrison.


Lee then suggested a strategy used a month before at Fort Watson in South Carolina. There, a Maj. Hezekiah Mayham (also spelled “Maham”) conceived of building a two-story tower, hoisting a cannon to its top and firing over the walls into a nearby British fort. In his memoirs, Lee described the tower as a “large, strong oblong pen, to be covered on the top with a floor of logs, and protected on the side opposite to the fort with a breastwork of light timbers.”


The Americans decided to try it again. They began building the tower on the evening of May 30, protected from British sight by an old wooden house. The tower was completed June 1, high enough to overlook the wall of Fort Cornwallis.


Brown perceived the danger of the American project. Knowing the tower would be used to bombard his fort, he ordered a night attack to destroy it, but Americans repelled the sortie with bayonets.  Brown then mounted two cannons inside Fort Cornwallis to fire upon the tower, but they were never able to disable the tower’s 6-pounder. The two cannons were quickly disabled by the tower’s gun. It is said one of the British cannons is located near the Celtic Cross marker at St. Paul’s.


The American 6-pounder continued to fire into the fort, forcing soldiers to dig holes for protection. After a few days it became too much. On June 5, the British garrison of 300 surrendered.


After the war, Lee wrote in his memoirs that the tower was the key to overtaking the British in Augusta. Mr. Sutherland writes: “The use of the tower to attack a fortified position is an old practice known to the Romans. But to Hezekiah Maham must go the credit for re-inventing its use in the New World.” It provided the margin of victory, he wrote, in two battles that eventually helped force the British to Yorktown and defeat.


12 July—Engagement at Ogeechee River


8 September—Engagement at Eutaw Springs


18 September—Engagement at Sunbury


17 October—Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown


November—Engagement at Savannah


2 November—Engagement at Ogeechee River Ferry (Indian Old Fields)


6 November—Engagement at Wilkes County


3 December—Engagement at the Fork of the Hooper


Per Knox, no Continental troops and 750 militia in service in 1781.




January 1782—American Gen. Wayne’s offensive in Southern theater


25 February—Engagement at Augusta


12 April—Engagement at Altamaha River


20-23 May—Engagement at Ogeechee Ferry and Ogeechee Road (Browne’s Defeat, Harris’s Bridge)


In the spring of 1782, Captain Parker’s Light Infantry Company was involved in skirmishes with Loyalists and Indians. The following are accounts of a skirmish that took place on the Ogeechee Road near Savannah, Georgia. These accounts were from General Anthony Wayne, and Captain Alexander Parker.


General Anthony Wayne: “On the 21st instant I received intelligence of the enemy being out in force from Savannah, in consequence of which White’s dragoons and Posey’s infantry were put in motion, and at 5 o’clock in the evening arrived at Mrs. William Gibbon’s, six miles northwest of Savannah. At six, an express from Lt. Col. Jackson announced the enemy in force of Harris’s bridge on the great Ogechee [Ogeechee] road seven miles from town, and that a small party were at Ogechee Jersy which he intended to attach as his Corps. Upon inquiry I found that the only route to the enemy’s position was through a thick swamp of near four miles extent, with enemy deep and dangerous morasses to pass, and to intercede the Ogechee [Ogeechee] was of an intermediate distance from Savannah and the bridge. I was properly informed that with the difficulty attending a night march over such ground, as well as the delicacy of a maneuver that placed me between the whole of the enemy’s force in Georgia.”  The enemy force consisted of British Cavalry and a large body of infantry picked from the Seventh Regiment, the Hessians, Tanning’s and Browne’s regulars, with the Choctaw Indian, the whole commanded by Colonel Browne.


Captain Alexander Parker: The [our] van consisted of one company of light infantry and a section of dragoons, under the orders of Captain Alexander Parker. This officer was directed to hasten his march through woods and swamps, and to seize a causeway on which Browne must necessarily pass. Parker was ordered, whenever he met the enemy, to reserve his fire, and to fall back upon him with sword and bayonet.  Wayne followed with the main body, to

support his van. About ten in the forenoon Captain Parker reached the causeway, when he discovered a small patrol of cavalry in his front. Each advancing, the two parties soon met, when Captain Parker accosted the leading file, and demanded the countersign. Confounded or deceived, the British officer, instead of falling back upon Browne, approached Parker in the attitude of friendship. He now discovered his mistake, but too late to extricate himself, and was with his patrol taken, except one dragoon, who got back to Colonel Browne, moving in column to sustain his van, with cavalry in front. Lieutenant Bowyer, who commanded our horse, was ordered to charge, which was executed with decision. Bowyer was supported by Parker with his infantry. The British cavalry were thrown into confusion; and as Browne’s whole force was in column on the causeway, from whence there was no moving, to the right or left, the substitution of his infantry for his cavalry became impracticable, and the British colonel was obliged to fall back.


General Anthony Wayne: The precipitate flight of the enemy prevented any part of the troops from coming into contact with them, except Lt. Colonel Posey’s light company under Captain Parker and a few dragoons under Captain Hughes and Lt. Boyer, conducted by Col. White. This small vanguard put to route the whole of the enemy’s force without the use of powder. The almost impenetrable thick woods, deep swamps and morasses into which they plunged in a dispersed state and under cover of the night screened them from total ruin at the expense of a giant fragmentation of their arms and horses which they abandoned to secure personal safety. The few of our troops that had an opportunity to engage introduced the American sword and bayonet with such effect as to kill many and wound some; a number of prisoners also fell into our hands, among which is Lt. Col. Douglas dangerously wounded.


Captain Alexander Parker: This was accomplished without loss, as General Wayne did not get up in time to improve the advantage gained by Parker. Two of our van were killed and three were wounded. We took Major Alexander, second in command, and eighteen dragoons, with their horses and furniture. Wayne had been delayed by the swamps, which in the South invariably presented stubborn difficulties to the march of troops. As soon as he reached Parker he pursued the enemy; but all his endeavors to renew the action proved abortive, and Browne made good his retreat to Savannah.


General Anthony Wayne: Even Col. Browne and Lt. Col. Ingram did not find the way to town ‘til the second night after the action, and then unattended. After refreshing the troops at Mrs. Gibbon’s, we advanced within view of their lines, yesterday [May 23rd] morning detaching a few infantry and dragoons to draw the enemy out, but they declined the invitation, contenting themselves with advancing a few Indians and regulars to the skirt of a swamp, from whence they commenced a scattering and ineffectual fire. Finding that General Clarke was not to be enticed from his Redoubts, I returned with the troops to this place, where the last arrived this morning with the news of only five privates killed and two wounded. We had also two dragoon horses killed and three hurt, but these we shall replace with part of the cavalry taken from the enemy. I feel myself under the highest obligation to every officer and soldier for their good conduct, zeal, and perseverance during a very fatiguing march of near forty miles performed in a few hours to effect this enterprise.


Captain Alexander Parker:  The Indians, whom Lieutenant-Colonel Browne expected to meet, would have rendered his corps superior to that under Wayne, when the encounter might have terminated differently. General Wayne seems either to have unapprised of this intended junction, or to have disregarded it; for he pressed forward to strike his foe, regardless of ground or number.  The fortuitous success of such conduct, encourages the ardent soldier to put himself upon his fortune and his courage – overlooking those numerous, sure, and effectual aids to be drawn from accurate intelligence and due circumspection. Fortune at length forsakes him, no prop remains to support him but his courage, and he falls a victim of his own presumption; honored for his bravery, but condemned for his temerity.


Some weeks before General Clarke made this attempt to secure the safe entry of his Indian friends into Savannah, Wayne had intercepted a trading party of the Creeks on their way to the British garrison. Of these, the American general detained a few as hostages, and permitted the rest to return to their own country. This generous treatment seems to have inspired apprehensions in Savannah, that its effect would diminish the British influence among the Creeks; an event deprecated by the enemy in case of continuance of the war, which, though improbable, might nevertheless happen. Therefore it was thought proper to prevent, by suitable succor, the interruption of this second visit.  To that end Browne had been detached. Not only, as has been seen, did the effort fail, but it was followed by a disaster very unpleasant to the enemy, and in its conclusion pregnant with cause of regret to ourselves.


Guristersigo, a principal warrior among the Creeks, conducted the party of Indians lately expected by Clarke. Although he did not arrive at the appointed rendezvous so as to meet Browne, he reached in the latter part of the succeeding month. This warrior, accompanied by his white guides, passed through the whole State of Georgia unperceived, except by two boys, who were taken and killed; and having reached the neighborhood of Wayne on the 23rd of June, he determined to strike at a picket of the requisite intelligence, with Negroes for the execution of his purpose.  Wayne, in pursuance of a system adopted to avoid surprise (of which the Indian chief was uninformed), moved every night; and consequently the calculation that he would be on the 23rd where he had been on the 22nd, was unfounded. The reverse was the fact, which would undoubtedly have been perceived by Guristersigo had he been acquainted with the custom of the American general, and his plan of attack would have been modified accordingly.  Decamping from Gibbons’s late in the evening of the 22nd, Wayne exchanged positions with his picket, and thus fortunately held the very post against which the Indian warrior had pointed his attack.


Here the light infantry under Parker (who had been for several days close to Savannah) joined, and being much harassed by the late tour of duty, was ordered by the brigadier to take post near his artillery, in the rear. Knowing but one enemy, the garrison of Savannah, Wayne gave his entire attention to that quarter; and conscious, from his precautions, that no

movement could be made by the enemy in Savannah without due notice, he forbore to burden his troops with the protection of his rear, because in his opinion unnecessary. A single sentinel only from the quarter-guard was posted in the rear, on the main road leading through the camp to Savannah, and the very road, which Guristersigo meant to take.


Soon after nightfall the Indian chief at the head of his warriors emerged from the deep swamps, in which he had lain concealed, and gained the road. He moved in profound silence, and about three in the morning reached the vicinity of our camp.; here he halted, and made his disposition for battle. Believing that he had to deal with a small detachment only, his plan of attack was simple and efficient. Preceded by a few of the most subtle and daring of his comrades, directed to surprise and kill the sentinel, he held himself ready to press forward with the main body upon the signal to advance.  This was not long delayed. His wily precursors having encompassed our sentinel, killed him, when Guristersigo, bounding from his stand, fell with his whole force upon our rear. Aroused from sleep, the light infantry stood to their arms, and the matrosses closed with their guns. But the enemy was amongst them; which being perceived by Parker, he judiciously drew off in silence and joined the quarter-guard behind Gibbons’s house at headquarters.


The general had about this time mounted, and, concluding that the garrison of Savannah was upon him, he resorted to the bayonet, determined to die sword in hand. Orders to this effect were given to Parker and dispatched to Lieutenant-Colonel Posey, commanding in camp, distant a few hundred yards. Captain Parker, seconded by the quarter-guard, advanced upon the foe; and Posey moved with all possible celerity to support the light troops, but did not arrive in time to share in the action. Wayne, participating with his light corps in the surrounding dangers, was now dismounted, his horse being killed; the light troops, nevertheless, continued to press forward, and Parker drove all in his way back to our cannon, where the Indian chief with a part of his warriors was attempting to turn our guns to his aid. Here Guristersigo renewed the conflict, and fought gallantly; but the rifle and tomahawk are unavailing when confronted by the bayonet in close quarters. We soon recovered our artillery, and Guristersigo, fighting bravely, was killed. Seventeen of the warriors and his white guides fell by his side, and the rest fled.


The Battle account though Lieutenant Colonel  Thomas Posey:  “The whole of the troops had for several weeks been doing hard duty, every night lying down in their rank with clothes and accoutrements on, and their arms by their sides, and almost worn out with fatigue in watching and loss of rest, in constant expectation that the British would either come out of Savannah in force for action, or that we might have an opportunity of falling in with foraging parties. When the attack was made, it was with such fury and violence, at a dead time of the night when the men were in profound sleep (except the guards), with yelling and the use of their tomahawks, spears, scalping-knives, and guns, that our men were thrown into disorder. Wayne and Posey had thrown their cloaks about them and lay close to each other. The alarm soon roused them, and they had proceeded but a few steps hen Capt. Parker met Col. Posey, and informing him that the suddenness of the attack had confused his men, wished to know if the colonel had any particular orders. Posey immediately ordered that the Light Infantry should be rallied behind the nearby house, and his exertions, united with Parker’s, in a short space of time collected the men. Posey then placed himself with Parker at their head, and ordered a charge through the enemy to the regiment; the charge was made with celerity and firmness; though the conflict was severe, many of the Indians falling by the force of the bayonet.


One or more of the enemy fell by Posey’s own arm, and unfortunately for Sgt. Thompson of Parker’s Light Infantry (who, contrary to orders had taken off his coat and tied up his head with a handkerchief who manfully engaged and had immediately next to Posey fired at an Indian), Posey took him, from his appearance with his coat off and his head tied up, for an Indian and thrust his sword through his body and laid him at his feet. But he greatly lamented the circumstance when he visited the hospital the next morning, and learned from the brave but incautious sergeant the particulars of his wounds. General Wayne with the cavalry followed by Posey, who had filed off to the right to gain his regiment, which he had met on its march to the scene of action, and placing himself at the head, charged immediately upon the rear of the enemy and put them to flight. General Wayne filed off to the left, where he fell in with a considerable body of Indians, and compelled them to retreat after a severe conflict. Thus, with the untied force and much bravery of both officers and soldiers, the whole of the Indians were defeated and routed.” Chief Guristersigo was killed by bayonet. Corporal William Rhodes was once again a casualty of war and was one of Parker’s Light Infantry men wounded that night. In October of 1782 Posey’s regiment marched home to Virginia in. On about July 3rd 1783, William was discharged at Richmond, Virginia after serving for nearly eight years. His tour of duty had taken him north to New York and as far south as Georgia.  (Thanks to Todd Post of the 2d Virginia Regiment


21 May—Engagement at Fort Galphin (Fort Dreadnaught)


24 May—Engagement at Sharon


23 June—Engagement at Ebenezer (Three Sisters)


10-11 July—Americans recapture Savannah after British evacuation


Greene faced greater problems than Washington during 1782, although the British evacuated Savannah on 11 July and Charleston on 14 December. The Southern Army only engaged in skirmishes, but the provisional regiments, less stable than Washington’s units, deteriorated. Washington directed Greene to rebuild the lines allotted to the Carolinas and Georgia, but he stopped the movement of replacements from Pennsylvania and Maryland. 


Georgia planned to form a single regiment in 1782, and on 29 July it decided to mount two of the companies. Maj. John Habersham recruited some pardoned Loyalists, but Congress took no formal action in regard to the regiment since the regiment never reached operational strength.


September 16 - October 17—Campaign against the Cherokees


A force of 414 men led by Brigadier General Andrew Pickens, and Colonel Elijah Clarke marched against the Cherokees who were under the command of a Loyalist Colonel named Thomas Waters that had aroused the Indians to attack settlements. Waters was defeated, but many Indian towns were burned. Chiefs of the different Nations negotiated a treaty that was ratified by the Governor of Georgia.


Per Knox, no Continental troops and 750 militia in service in 1782.




1 January—GA RGT [redesignated] reorganized and redesignated as the GEORGIA BATTALION (GA BN), to consist of three companies


Summer—GA BN furloughed at Charleston, South Carolina


3 September—Treaty of Paris ending hostilities between England and the United States


15 November—GA BN discharged


Per Knox, 145 Continental troops and no militia in service in 1783.




1st GA, 2d GA, 3d GA, GA Horse—Florida


1st GA, 2d GA, 3d GA, 4th GA, GA RGR, 1st GA ARTY—Florida 1778


GA RGR—Georgia 1778


1st GA, 2d GA, 3d GA, 4th GA, GA RGR, 1st GA ARTY, 2d GA ARTY—Savannah


1st GA, 2d GA, 3d GA, 4th GA, GA RGR—Charleston 1780









The alliance between France and the United States increased the probability of the final independence of the latter. It therefore became important to diminish the amount of territory held by the Americans, even if their main army could not be destroyed. Lord George Germaine hoped that the thinly inhabited southern provinces might speedily be reduced to obedience, and the royal authority established from the Gulf of Mexico to the Susquehanna River (Bancroft, vol. x. p. 284.)


There was a further advantage to be gained by occupying at once the Northern and the Southern States. The summer and autumn were the season of activity in the former, the winter and spring in the latter. The British general, who could move his troops by sea, might thus leave each department with only soldiers enough to act on the defensive when the weather limited the operations that could be conducted, and maintain a superiority in each, when such a superiority was most important.


On the 6th of November, 1778, about thirty-five hundred men, under Lieutenant-colonel Campbell, were embarked at New York. Two Hessian regiments were in the expedition. The transports, delayed by bad weather, did not clear Sandy Hook until the 27th, and arrived in the Savannah River on the 24th of December, after a stormy passage. The party landed on the 29th, and put to flight some eight hundred Americans who attempted to oppose them, killing and wounding about eighty, and taking four hundred prisoners. Nearly fifty cannon, a considerable quantity of stores, and several ships fell into the hands of the British, whose loss, including Hessians and Tories, was twenty men killed and wounded.


The town of Savannah was composed of about six hundred lightly built houses. Most of the inhabitants had run away with the rebels, taking with them such valuables as they could carry. Mahogany furniture was lying about broken in the streets - a sad sight to see. The Hessians are said not to have plundered, like the other invading troops. They were quartered in the fine barracks of the town (Schlozer’s “Briefwechsel,” vol. v. p. i et seq.; MS journal of Regiment von Wissenbach. See, also, a description of the State of Georgia in 1776, Sparks’s “Correspondence,” vol. i. pp. 148-151. Many of the troops with the expedition were Tories, the least disciplined soldiers in the British army.)


In January General Prevost arrived from St. Augustine to take command of the army. Then began the interminable series of marches that distinguished these southern campaigns. Augusta was occupied, then abandoned. General Lincoln, with an American army, marched towards Augusta, and General Prevost gave him the slip and threatened Charleston. Lincoln returned from Georgia, and Prevost withdrew to John’s Island, on the coast of South Carolina. At last Beaufort was occupied and John’s Island abandoned by the British, and their main army returned to Savannah.


One or two incidents occurred during this campaign which especially concerned the Hessians. At a place called Stono Ferry a small fortification had been erected, originally as a tete de pont. It was separated by an inlet from John’s Island, and the bridge which it once protected had been removed. The fortification was occupied by the Hessian Regiment von Trumbach and by one battalion of Highlanders, in all about five hundred men. This post was attacked on the 19th of June, 1779, by Lincoln’s army. The Hessians at first gave way, but were supported by the Highlanders. They then rallied and renewed the battle. The Americans retreated before the arrival of German and Scotch reinforcements (Stedman, vol. ii. pp. 115-119; Lee’s “Memoirs,” pp. 130,131; Eelking’s “Hulfstruppen,’’ vol. i. pp. 26-28; MS journal of the Regiment von Wissenbach.)


It was about this time that two different engagements occurred in the inlets about John’s Island between Hessians, using their field-pieces, and small vessels or galleys of the enemy. On each occasion the Hessians were successful, and caused the retreat or destruction of the vessels engaged. It is said that on one of these, named the Rattlesnake, were retaken sundry cannon and flags which had been captured at Trenton with Rall’s brigade. How these trophies came to be in South Carolina is not mentioned (Eelking’s “Hulfstruppen’’ vol. ii. p. 28, where the diary of the noncommissioned officer Reuber is given as authority. The story told by Eelking does not agree as to dates, etc., with the journal of the Regiment von Wissenbach. The Regiment von Trumbach, which fought at Stono Ferry, was Rall’s old regiment.)


On the 4th of September, 1779, the French fleet, under Count d’Estaing, appeared suddenly off the mouth of the Savannah River. Immediately all the outlying detachments of the British army were called into Savannah. On the 23d Lincoln and his men joined the French from Charleston, and volunteers from South Carolina flocked into their camp. But while d’Estaing was opening regular approaches, the soldiers of the garrison and the negroes of the town were busily strengthening the fortifications. It was too late in the season for the French fleet to remain with safety on the coast. D’Estaing determined to try an assault. This should have been done earlier, before reinforcements had been received by the British from Beaufort, and before their works had been strengthened, or it should have been postponed until those works had been crippled. The assault was undertaken on the 9th of October. Both Frenchmen and Americans behaved with spirit, and planted their banners on the parapets of Savannah, but both were repulsed with great slaughter. Colonel von Porbeck, of the Regiment von Wissenbach, was complimented in Prevost’s report. A week later the French sailed away, while some of the Americans returned with Lincoln to Charleston, and others dispersed to their homes (According to the “Histoire de la Derniere Guerre,” 101 n., the French and American army numbered five thousand five hundred and twenty-four. The British had white men, three thousand and eighty-five; Indians, eighty; negroes, four thousand. Stedman (vol. ii. p. 127) gives the number of the garrison at less than twenty-five hundred white men. The French loss was about seven hundred; the American loss not far from two hundred and fifty. The journal of the Regiment von Wissenbach gives the British loss, killed and wounded, at fifty-six; about one half of the number usually given.)


In the summer of 1779, Sir Henry Clinton planned an expedition against Charleston. The execution of the design was postponed on account of the neighborhood of the French fleet, but when this had sailed for Europe a corps of about eighty-five hundred men was prepared in New York. This corps was made up of Englishmen, Tories, and Hessians. The Hessians chosen were the four battalions of grenadiers, a regiment of infantry, and about two hundred and fifty chasseurs. With the last-mentioned were Captain Ewald and Lieutenant Hinrichs. Lieutenant-general von Knyphausen was left in command at New York. Sir Henry Clinton commanded the expedition in person. The soldiers were embarked about the 19th of December, but on account of the weather they did not put to sea until the 29th. The voyage was a very stormy one, and when, in the first days of February, 1780, the main body of the fleet arrived in the mouth of the Savannah River, many transport ships were missing. A bark, the Anna, containing thirty Hessian and Anspach chasseurs, and other soldiers, had been dismasted early in January and taken in tow by a man-of-war. In a subsequent storm the tow-line snapped, and the Anna, a sheer hulk, was left to the fury of the waves. For eight weeks this bark, with two hundred and fifty souls on board, was driven before the westerly gales. She was provisioned only for a month and for a hundred men, and famine presently set in. The dogs were eaten; bones were ground up and boiled with shavings from salt-beef barrels.


The master proposed that the crew and passengers should feed on each other, beginning with the women. This inhuman proposal was rejected with disgust. At last the Irish coast came in sight. The vessel grazed on a rock and sprang a leak. It was noticed that the master was putting out to sea, and, on inquiry, it was discovered that he was afraid of having to pay thirty guineas for a pilot. The master was thereupon sent below and the boatswain took command of the bark. He brought her to St. Ives in Cornwall, where, in answer to her signals of distress, two boats with a pilot and a carpenter put out to her assistance. The carpenter was so frightened at the sight of the famished Hessians that he started off again for the shore as fast as his oars would take him. The pilot succeeded in beaching the bark just as she was about to sink, and the crew and passengers were saved at last (The above particulars are taken from Eelking’s “Hulfstruppen,’’ vol. ii. pp. 63, 64. As usual, Eelking gives no reference. Bancroft, however, gives the outlines of the story, and there are various contemporary authorities for the fact that the ship was separated from the fleet and driven to England.)


The English fleet waited at Tybee Island until the 9th of February, 1780, for the scattered transports to reassemble. It then put out to sea again, and on the 11th all but the heavy men-of-war entered the mouth of the North Edisto River, and the troops were disembarked on Simon’s Island. For a month the soldiers were busily landing stores and artillery, making good their footing, and advancing over the sandy islands southwest of Charleston Harbor. It was not until the 12th of March that fire was opened on the town from Wappoo Neck, and only on the 29th did the British army cross the Ashley River. Meanwhile fortifications had been springing up like mushrooms in the Charleston sand.


No serious opposition was offered to the landing, nor to the advance of the army. Yet the opportunities for resisting or, at least, for annoying the British, must have been such as to have tempted a more able and energetic commander than Lincoln. The invaders were landing from a long and exhausting voyage, and were without horses to drag their cannon and stores. Lincoln’s true course would probably have been to imitate Washington in the campaign before Philadelphia. He might have risked a battle, and, if defeated, have abandoned Charleston and preserved his army for the protection of the Southern States. Those states were now to be given up to plunder and blood. The war in the Carolinas and Virginia was marked by a degree of barbarity which had no parallel in the Eastern and Middle States, except in the small plundering expeditions in the neighborhood of New York. Already in the preceding year Prevost’s soldiers had begun this barbarous style of warfare. The marks of their plundering were visible in every house on the islands they had occupied near Charleston.


While Lincoln was throwing up his sand-works in the town, the English were receiving reinforcements from Savannah. The men-of-war, all but the heaviest, were lightened, brought over the bar and refitted. Fort Moultrie, however, still defended the town, and the American and French ships in the harbor, and between it and Charleston the besieged had sunk vessels to impede further navigation. Small parties of Americans watched the movements of the British. On the 26th of March Sir Henry Clinton and several of the generals rode out to meet Colonel Patterson, who was bringing reinforcements from Savannah. They returned safe, though without an escort; but a Tory colonel and a hospital inspector, who rode a short way behind them, were taken prisoners (Eelking’s “Hulfstruppen,” vol. ii. pp. 67,68; Lee’s “Memoirs,” p. 146.)


Ewald tells with glee how, at John’s Island, in South Carolina, in the spring of 1780, he reconnoitred a position by calmly lounging up to an outpost of the enemy, taking off his hat, and falling into conversation with the officer in command. The outpost was made up from Pulaski’s Legion, which was officered by Poles and Frenchmen, in whose gallantry the German captain confided - a kind of gallantry which the native Americans either could not or would not understand (Pulaski himself had been killed at the siege of Savannah.)


On the 30th of March, 1780, the English army was encamped some three thousand yards from the lines of Charleston. Towards evening the Hessian chasseurs on the picket line stood about a mile from the city. Before them lay a flat, sandy plain, unbroken by a house, tree, or bush. The only possible shelter consisted in a few ditches. On the night of the 31st of March the first parallel was opened. The next morning the inhabitants began to move off their families and their valuables, going in boats up the Cooper River, the only way left open. Down this river, on the 7th of April, came seven hundred Virginian Continentals to reinforce the garrison. They were received with ringing of bells and with salvoes of artillery. Night by night the work on the trenches continued. The artillery of the city tried in vain to stop it.


The afternoon of the 8th of April was cloudy, the tide was on the flood, and a strong breeze was blowing from the south. Nine men-of-war and a transport ship approached Fort Moultrie, sailing in line, one behind the other. Before them all came Admiral Arbuthnot, in a jolly-boat, with the lead in his hand, piloting the fleet. The fire from the fort was terrific. The Roebuck, leading the line, sailed close to the works, gave a broadside, and passed on into the harbor, uninjured. The second ship lost apiece of her foremast. Another luffed before the fort and kept up a continuous fire, so that the whole ship seemed like a long flash of lightning. The whole squadron entered the harbor except the transport ship, which ran aground and was set on fire. The beautiful sight was watched by thousands of deeply interested spectators. The Americans covered the ramparts of the town. The Englishmen and Germans leaped on their siege-works. So absorbing was the interest of the operations in the bay, that fighting on land ceased for the time. As soon as the second ship had passed the fort, the Americans disappeared from the walls of Charleston, and presently a crowd of small boats was seen on the Cooper River, carrying off the more timid,of the inhabitants (See the MS journals of the Jager Corps (this part by Lieutenant Heinrichs) and of the Grenadier Battalions von Minnigerode and von Platte. A singular discrepancy exists in the original accounts as to the day on which the British fleet passed Fort Moultrie. For the 8th of April we have Clinton’s official report, Lincoln to Washington, Laurens to Washington, and the MS journals above quoted. For the 9th of April we have Admiral Arbuthnot’s official report, Tarleton, Ewald, and Stedman. See Tarleton, pp. 11, 39, 49; Sparks’s “ Correspondence,” vol. ii. pp. 434, 436; Ewald’s “Belehrungen,” vol. iii. P. 252; Stedman, vol. ii. p. 180.)


Communication between Fort Moultrie and Charleston was now cut off.  The British fleet, however, found its progress further barred by a line of sunken hulks, and could not sail up the Cooper River and take the American works in their rear. As some of the ships in that river interfered with the operations of the besiegers, several large row-boats were hauled overland to operate on it, the vehicle used for this purpose being dragged by one hundred and thirty-four negroes. Work on the approaches went on unceasingly, but the siege was somewhat delayed by the fact that some of the heavy artillery and most of the horses had been lost at sea. The place of the siege-train was supplied by cannon from the ships, brought with great labor overland from James Island. On the 13th of April hot shot were fired by the Hessian artillery, and several houses caught fire. Sir Henry Clinton ordered his batteries to slacken their fire, that the flames might be extinguished. On the following night the second parallel was opened, and soon after this counter-approaches were begun by the Americans, so that not only artillery, but musket-balls, could be brought to bear. On the 20th, however, the siege-works had so far advanced that the chasseurs were able to pick men off in the embrasures of the fortifications, and render the service of the guns very dangerous. The third parallel was opened in the following night, and on the 21st, Lincoln, who had refused to surrender on the day after Fort Moultrie had been passed by the fleet, offered to capitulate. Hostilities were suspended for six hours, but at the end of that time they were renewed, as the generals had not agreed on terms. On the 24th the Americans made a sortie, and penetrated in some places as far as the second parallel, but were presently driven back into the town. On the 26th the British took possession of a fort commanding the Cooper River, and the besieged were completely shut up in Charleston.


On the night of the 3d of May, a party of men from the besieging camp rowed silently up to a three-masted vessel lying close to the town. They climbed on to the deck, which they found undefended, cast off the moorings, and took back the ship within the British lines. Next morning they examined their prize, and on going below found her to be a hospital-ship, full of small-pox patients (Journal of the Grenadier Battalion von Platte.)


The end of the siege was approaching. On the night of the 7th of May, 1780, Fort Moultrie was taken by sailors from the fleet. On the 8th, negotiations for a surrender of the town were renewed and again broken off; but on the 11th, Clinton’s terms were agreed to. These were that the garrison should march out with colors cased and bands playing, but not an English or Hessian tune, and lay down their arms outside the town. The Continentals were to be prisoners of war, the militia were to return to their homes on parole. In consequence of this capitulation the Continentals marched out on the 12th, the bands playing a Turkish march. The officers were allowed to retain their swords, but were deprived of them a few days later, on the pretext that they were making “disorders “ in the town. The garrison had been reduced to a very ragged and pitiable condition. They were not much more than half as numerous as the besiegers, even counting the American militia. Of the Continentals there were about twenty-five hundred, and the English army can hardly have numbered less than twelve thousand men. The town was defended only by earthworks, and was a fortified camp rather than a fortress. The loss of the besiegers, in killed and wounded, is set down in a Hessian journal at two hundred and sixty-five men.


The town of Charleston contained about fifteen thousand inhabitants, and had been one of the richest and gayest towns in North America. The large and handsome houses were not set close together as in other towns, but much free space was left for the circulation of air. They were well furnished with mahogany and silver-ware, and great attention was bestowed on keeping them clean. The streets were unpaved and sandy, but had a narrow foot-path at the sides. Even in May, the dust was intolerable. Most of the rich families had fled at the approach of the British. There were many Germans and German Jews in the town, and many doctors, on account of the unhealthy climate. The women, at least most of those that remained, were sallow and ugly. The place, of course, was full of negroes, who formed quite half of its population.


The negroes had been accumulating in the British camp. Two companies of them had been brought from Savannah at the end of February. The slaves of rebels had been confiscated. These slaves, in South Carolina, were the most degraded on the continent, and had been the worst treated by their former masters. The field hands among them, according to a Hessian journal, usually received a quart of rice or Indian corn a day. This they ate half-cooked, finding it more nourishing in that condition than if fully boiled. Many of them had hardly a rag to cover their nakedness. Few could understand English (MS journal of the Grenadier Battalion von Platte.) On the 31st of May ten slaves were given to each regiment starting for New York. The negroes formed a part of the booty of the campaign, and thousands of them were shipped to the West Indies to be sold.


Early in June, Sir Henry Clinton sailed for New York. With him went the Hessian grenadiers and chasseurs, but some of the Hessian regiments remained behind.


The expeditions to Savannah and Charleston were not the most distant in which the German auxiliaries were engaged. In the autumn of 1778 about twelve hundred men, Waldeckers and Provincials, under Major-general John Campbell, were sent to reinforce the garrisons of West Florida. Sailing early in November and touching at Jamaica, these troops were landed at Pensacola at the end of January, 1779. Pensacola was then a town of about two hundred wooden houses, defended by forts built of logs and sand. It stood in a sandy desert, surrounded by thick and interminable forests. It was a four weeks’ journey overland to Georgia by the old trading path. The woods were infested by Indians, who received three pounds sterling from the British for every hostile scalp. Among the Indians the Waldeckers found a countryman of their own, one Brandenstein, who had deserted in his youth from the Waldeck service, and after many adventures had assumed the manners and the costume of an Indian warrior.


The garrison of Pensacola was at first occupied in fortifying the town. Lieutenant-colonel Dickson, an English officer, held Baton Rouge. In the course of the summer of 1779 three companies of Waldeckers were sent to reinforce him. Meanwhile war had broken out between England and Spain. Don Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish governor at New Orleans, was young and energetic. He seized several small vessels in the Mississippi and the waters near its mouth. In September fifty-three Waldeckers were taken prisoners on Lake Pontchartrain. The Spaniards advanced against Baton Rouge, and after two attempts to carry the works by assault began a regular siege. Dickson capitulated, and the garrison marched out of the fort with all the honors of war. They numbered over four hundred, and the besiegers under Galvez between fourteen hundred and two thousand men. Nearly one half of the capitulating garrison were Waldeckers, and more than thirty of the regiment had been killed or wounded.


The news of Dickson’s surrender reached Pensacola on the 20th of October, but was at first received with incredulity. “Is not this a cursed country to make war in?” writes the Waldeck chaplain, “where the greater part of a corps may be prisoners for five weeks, and twelve hundred miles of country taken by the enemy, and the commanding-general not know it with certainty.”


In March, 1780, a part of the garrison of Pensacola marched to the relief of Mobile, but arrived too late to save the latter place. Soon after the return of the troops to Pensacola, a Spanish fleet of twenty-one sail was seen off the harbor, but three days afterwards it disappeared again. The Spaniards held the country as far as the Pertido River, and once crossed it in April, but were driven back by the Indians. The latter, however, were but unruly auxiliaries. The remainder of the year 1780 passed without any important occurrence in Florida.


Early in January, 1781, Colonel von Hanxleden, with one hundred and fifteen white men and three hundred Choctaws, made an expedition against French Village. They met with a determined resistance, and were repulsed. The number of killed and wounded on the English side was considerable, and among the killed was Colonel von Hanxleden.


On the 9th of March a Spanish fleet of thirty-eight sail appeared before Pensacola, and during the night following that day a body of troops was landed on the island of Santa Rosa, which lies at the mouth of the harbor. From this time the siege of the place went on steadily. On the 19th the fleet, profiting by a favorable wind, ran past the fortifications into the bay. Reinforcements were received by the Spaniards from time to time. On the 25th of April a deserter reported that Galvez had ten thousand men with him. The writer of the Waldeck journal speaks of this force as being fifteen times superior to that in Pensacola, whence we may infer that General Campbell commanded between six and seven hundred white men. The Indians, though drunken, barbarous, and undisciplined, were useful to the British. At last, on the morning of the 8th of May, a shell exploded in the powder-magazine of one of the redoubts, killing many of the Pennsylvania Tories who occupied the work, and causing great confusion. The Spaniards thereupon increased the fury of their fire, and in the afternoon of the same day General Campbell hung out the white flag, and surrendered on terms in accordance with which the garrison were all shipped to New York on condition of not serving against Spain, or her allies, until exchanged. As the United States were not at the time allied with Spain, the Waldeckers could be immediately employed against the Americans (For the Waldeckers in Florida, see Eelking’s “Hulfstruppen,’’ vol. ii. pp. 135-153. Eelking had access to two MSS The MS now in the library of the Prince of Waldeck at Arolsen is a fragment beginning April 11th, 1780. See, also, Schlozer’s “Briefwechsel,” vol. v. p. 112, and an article by George W. Cable in the Century Magazine for February, 1883.)



In some of the bloodiest fighting of the Revolutionary War,

American and French troops failed to take Savannah.


Thomas G. Rodgers


Military History, March 1997


As the fifth year of the American Revolution opened, hopes for colonial independence were growing dim. By 1779 British forces still occupied major American cities. Divisions plagued the Continental Congress and the rebel army. In the South, bitter civil war raged between Patriot and Loyalist Americans.


Georgia, the only American colony to be reconquered by the British, was just 42 years old when the war started. Georgia’s population was small, with barely 3,000 men of military age. On December 29, 1778, the colonial capital fell to British troops. The rebel defenders were routed, losing 550 captured or killed. Patriot forces were swept from the state.


Britain’s occupation of Savannah was only the first stroke in a strategy geared to bring Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia back under royal control. It was felt that the large numbers of Loyalists in the South would flock to the king’s cause. With the South secured, the stubborn Continentals in the North could be more easily tamed.


In January 1779, British Colonel Archibald Campbell moved up the Savannah River with 1,044 men and occupied Augusta. There, he invited residents of the surrounding countryside to come in and take an oath of loyalty to the king and receive pardons. About 1,400 men complied. Georgia seemed securely under royal control.


Campbell awaited the arrival of Colonel James Boyd, a Tory agent recently sent into South Carolina to recruit 6,000 Loyalist volunteers. Only 600 men were actually raised. Boyd’s failure to enlist anywhere near the expected numbers of Loyalists revealed the major flaw in Britain’s southern strategy, that of overestimating American enthusiasm for the royal cause. Many Tory recruits joined only out of fear or intimidation.


As Boyd’s Tories made their way toward Augusta, 200 South Carolina militia under Colonel Andrew Pickens and 140 Georgia militia under Colonel John Dooley pursued them. Though badly outnumbered, the little Patriot force hoped to overtake Boyd’s 600 Tories. They counted on pluck and surprise to give them a victory and prevent Boyd from joining Campbell’s British garrison at Augusta.


The rebels attacked Boyd’s command as it was encamped at Kettle Creek, near present-day Washington, Ga., on February 14, 1779. They caught the Tories by surprise as they were killing cattle and grazing their horses. The battle took only an hour; and the Tory camp was overrun. The Loyalists fled in panic, leaving 20 dead, including Boyd himself, and 22 were captured. The rebels lost seven killed and 15 wounded. Campbell, concerned about a possible rebel attack on Augusta, withdrew his troops that same day and moved south toward Savannah.


Encouraged by their badly needed victory at Kettle Creek, the rebels now planned a counteroffensive in Georgia. Patriot General John Ashe, with 2,300 troops, followed Campbell’s retreating army and reached Briar Creek, 60 miles south of Augusta. The rebels hoped to reinforce Ashe there and enlarge their army to 8,000 men. Such a force could then drive the British back to Savannah and possibly retake the city. The war could be reversed and Georgia liberated.


But Campbell, a wary and aggressive commander, anticipated the rebel plan and launched a bold counterattack of his own. From his base at Hudson’s Ferry, 15 miles south of Ashe, he sent a picked force of 900 men up the southern bank of Briar Creek. The redcoats crossed upstream and hit Ashe’s camp from the rear, trapping the rebel army in the angle of Briar Creek and the Savannah River.


Ashe’s army was completely surprised. With mounted patrols out and other units on detached duty, he had only 800 men to meet the approaching British onslaught. Most of his troops were untrained, inexperienced militia, poorly armed and equipped. When the British attacked at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon on March 3, 1779, the rebel battle line was just being formed.


Despite a heroic resistance by Colonel Samuel Elbert’s 200 Georgia Continentals and militia (who stood their ground until nearly all were killed, wounded or captured) Ashe’s North Carolina militia broke and ran almost immediately, fleeing in confusion into the Savannah swamp. A few swam the river and escaped. Others drowned, or were captured or killed by the pursuing redcoats. Abandoning his troops, Ashe fled across the river. He would later face charges of incompetency and neglect.


Briar Creek was the worst rebel disaster of the war in the South so far. One hundred and fifty rebel soldiers died. Twenty-eight rebel officers and 200 enlisted men were captured. Ashe lost seven field pieces, 1,000 small arms, ammunition, equipment, supplies and baggage. British losses were five killed and 11 wounded.


In Savannah, royal governor Sir James Wright formally reestablished British control in July, while a fledgling Patriot government in exile tried to carry on in Augusta. With the exception of the back country, where skirmishes between Patriots and Tories continued, Georgia was firmly in British hands.


Now, Patriot hopes had to look to another source: the rebel alliance with France, signed in February 1778.

In the summer of 1779, French Admiral Count Charles-Hector Theodat d’Estaing captured St. Vincent and Grenada in the British West Indies, tipping the balance there in favor of French naval superiority. D’Estaing’s powerful fleet was available for a joint operation with the Americans. The count soon received a flurry of letters from French diplomats and Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, Continental commander in the South, urging him to bring his fleet northward for a campaign against Savannah.


D’Estaing was enthusiastic about the proposal. The 50-year-old aristocrat was eager to make up for a failed allied operation against Newport, R.I., that had to be aborted the previous year because of poor cooperation and poor weather.


The count arrived off the Georgia coast on September 1 with 37 ships, including 22 ships of the line, and 4,000 troops detached from duty in the West Indies. The formidable French fleet surprised and captured several British vessels near the mouth of the Savannah River.


The fleet anchored off Savannah Bar as the British ships withdrew upriver. The small garrison at Fort Tybee, on Great Tybee Island, guarding the entrance to the river, fired on the French ships with their two guns without effect. That night a French detachment occupied the fort, which they found abandoned.


On September 12, a vanguard of 1,200 French troops landed unopposed at Beaulieu beach on Ossabaw Sound, a few miles south of Savannah. The bulk of the French army disembarked, and a camp was established three miles from the city.


On September 16, d’Estaing arrogantly sent a formal demand to the British General Augustine Prevost that he surrender Savannah “to the arms of his Majesty the King of France.” He reminded Prevost that he had captured Grenada with a far smaller force, and he held Prevost “personally answerable” for what might happen should siege operations drag on.


To the Americans’ chagrin, d’Estaing added, “I have not been able to refuse the Army of the United States uniting itself with that of the King. The junction will probably be effected this day. If I have not an answer therefore immediately, you must confer in future with General Lincoln and me.”


Prevost asked for a 24-hour truce to allow him to confer with civil authorities in Savannah; and d’Estaing foolishly agreed to his request. He could have captured Savannah by direct assault, since the British garrison was unprepared for an attack. Instead, he allowed Prevost to stall for time and strengthen the town’s defenses. The allies would regret losing their best opportunity to take Savannah.


Prevost was a veteran of many years’ service in the British army. The Swiss-born officer had been wounded at Fontenoy in 1745. At the capture of Quebec from the French in 1759, he received a wound which had left a circular scar on his temple and led to his being nicknamed “Old Bullet Head.” He complained of poor health and was not regarded as an aggressive commander. Colonel Campbell wrote that “Prevost seems a worthy man, but too old and inactive for this service.”


Old Bullet Head used the delay wrested from d’Estaing to put soldiers, townspeople and several hundred black slaves to work around the clock to finish the city’s fortifications. He also sent an urgent message to Lt. Col. John Maitland to bring his 800 troops down from Beaufort, S.C., to reinforce the Savannah garrison.


Maitland, commander of the Highland 71st Regiment, was from a distinguished Scottish family. The resourceful 47-year-old veteran, who had lost his right hand in combat at Lagos Bay in 1759, was respected both by his own men and by the Americans.


Maitland had contracted a fever (in fact, he had just a little over a month to live); yet he force-marched his men to the Savannah River. With the help of black fishermen as guides, he crossed upriver from Savannah, and he and his reinforcements arrived in the besieged town on September 17. With Maitland’s troops in place and his defenses strengthened, Prevost finally sent his reply to d’Estaing: No surrender!


Benjamin Lincoln and his Continental officers were upset that the count had moved on Savannah without them, as if the operation were purely a French exercise. They feared d’Estaing might take the town and hold it for the French king—fear that did not bode well for cooperation between the allied armies.


Lincoln joined d’Estaing on September 23. His 3,000 troops included Georgia and South Carolina Continentals and militia. With d’Estaing’s 4,000 French regulars, the allies now had 7,000 men with which to take Savannah. Opposing them in the town were 2,500 British and Loyalist troops under Prevost.


General Benjamin Lincoln—a New Englander who neither drank nor cursed—was a patient and cautious commander. D’Estaing seemed unimpressed by him, describing him as a brave man but “extremely indifferent” with “no opinion of his own.” The count was astounded at the phlegmatic Lincoln’s habit of falling asleep in his chair, even when dictating correspondence.


The French had a low opinion of the Americans. Baron Curt von Stedingk, a Swedish officer in the French army, wrote that the rebels were “so badly armed, so badly clothed, and I must say so badly commanded, that we could never turn them to much account.” The American militia, d’Estaing wrote, would run or take cover “just because some cannon balls came close.” A grenadier captain wrote that the militia “are supposedly quite good, at least they say they are.” Higher marks were given to the Continental regulars, who, according to another officer, “conducted themselves in a superior manner at all times.”


Rebel cuisine also failed to impress the count. D’Estaing complained of the meager fare at Lincoln’s table, “a massive cake of rice and corn cooked under the ashes of an iron platter” and “a mixture of sugar, water, and fermented molasses which makes up the Nectar the Americans call grog.”


Delays plagued the allies. Lack of horses and artillery carriages prevented them from landing heavy artillery, which was not in place until October 4. Siege entrenchments were begun on September 24, but progress was slow, and the British exploited every opportunity to disrupt the work. British sorties against the siege lines on September 24 and September 27 confounded the allies. The second sortie provoked an accidental exchange of fire in the darkness between French and American troops; and several soldiers were killed.


On the night of October 1, the rebels prevented a detachment of 111 British troops from reaching Savannah. The British, under Captain French, had camped on the Ogeechee River. Colonel John White, a Georgia Continental, with only two officers, a sergeant and three privates, tricked French into thinking that the camp was surrounded by a larger force by lighting fires in the woods around the camp, as if a whole army was bivouacked there; White demanded the detachment surrender, and the whole British command was taken prisoner.


At midnight on October 3, French artillery opened fire on Savannah. But according to one officer, “The cannoneers being still under the influence of rum, their excitement did not allow them to direct their pieces with proper care.” On October 4, 53 heavy cannon and 14 mortars began a five-day bombardment of the town.


The bombardment failed to crack the defenses but caused considerable damage inside the town. An American officer wrote, “The poor women and children have suffered beyond description. A number of them in Savannah have already been put to death by our bombs and cannon.” One of Prevost’s aides commented, “Many poor creatures were killed trying to get to their cellars, or hide themselves under the bluff of the Savannah River.”


Loyalist Chief Justice Anthony Stokes described one night of the shelling and its effects: “At five I was awakened with a very heavy cannonade from a French frigate to the north of the town, and with a bombardment which soon hurried me out of bed; and before I could get my clothes on, an eighteen-pounder entered the house, stuck in the middle partition, and drove the plastering all about....Whilst we were in the cellar, two shells burst not far from the door, and many others fell in the neighborhood all around us. In this situation a number of us continued in a damp cellar, until the cannonade and bombardment almost ceased, for the French to cool their artillery; and then we ascended to breakfast.”


On October 6, Prevost asked that the women and children be allowed to leave Savannah and take refuge in the ships anchored in the river. D’Estaing and Lincoln refused, fearing another delaying tactic.


Time was running out for d’Estaing. A month had been spent in front of Savannah, and the British position seemed no weaker than when operations had begun. The admiral had other worries as well. Hurricanes were a serious concern. And, if a British naval force should suddenly appear, d’Estaing might be cut off from his supply base in the West Indies.


Conditions on board the ships anchored off the coast were described by a French naval officer, who wrote: “The navy is suffering everything, anchored on an open coast and liable to be driven ashore by the southeast winds. Seven of our ships have been injured in their rudders, several have lost their anchors, and most of them have been greatly endamaged in their rigging. The scurvy rages with such severity that we throw daily into the sea about thirty-five men....The bread which we possessed, having been two years in store, was so much decayed and worm-eaten, and was so disagreeable to the taste, that even the domestic animals on board would not eat it.”


On the morning of October 8, Major Pierce Charles L’Enfant, future architect of Washington, D.C., with a handful of troops, tried to set fire to the abatis of felled trees in front of the British lines; but the wood was too damp and did not catch fire. D’Estaing’s engineers told him they would need at least 10 more days before they could penetrate the British works.


The count decided that the only option left was a direct assault on the town. Otherwise, the siege must be lifted. He proposed a predawn assault on October 9. Lincoln agreed; and the allies prepared for one of the bloodiest attacks in the war.


D’Estaing hoped to exploit a weak point in Savannah’s defenses. Although the town was protected on the north by the Savannah River and shielded on the west by a wooded swamp, a narrow depression along the edge of the swamp afforded a way for the allies to move their troops near the British defenses under cover of night before launching the attack. The allies decided to use this approach route to strike the enemy’s right flank.


Prevost knew of the terrain west of town, however, and anticipated an attack there. A rebel deserter warned him of the allied plans, so “Old Bullet Head” strengthened his defenses on his right flank and put the skillful Maitland in command there.


Three forts or redoubts protected the British right flank. The most exposed one, Spring Hill Redoubt, was defended by South Carolina Loyalist troops led by Captain Thomas Tawse and the vengeful Lt. Col. Thomas Brown, who once had been tarred and feathered by Georgia rebels. The other redoubts on the right also were held by Loyalist troops. Thus, the bloodiest part of the battle would pit Americans against Americans.


Farther on the British right, Prevost had placed a naval battery of 9-pounders near the river. Another naval battery lay to the east of the Spring Hill Redoubt, supported by British marines and grenadiers of the 16th Foot, to be used to reinforce the redoubt if the allies attacked there.


The allied plan called for a vanguard of 250 French grenadiers to rush the Spring Hill Redoubt, while two strong French assault columns, led by d’Estaing himself and by Colonel Stedingk, attacked the other two forts on the British right. Two American assault columns, under Colonel John Laurens and Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh, would support the French.


The French planned diversionary attacks west of the town near the river and from their trenches near the British center. Brigadier General Isaac Huger, with 500 South Carolina and Georgia militia, would conduct a feint east of the town.


D’Estaing’s 3,500 assault troops were drafted for temporary duty from regiments garrisoning the island colonies in the West Indies: Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Dominique. They included several hundred free black troops, among them young Henri Christophe, future dictator of Haiti. Formed into provisional units at Savannah, the troops and their officers had never served together before in combat. Now they were to carry out a difficult assault against a forewarned enemy. So far, nearly everything else had gone wrong.


Delays doomed the allied plan. Volunteers who were to guide the troops through the treacherous swamp in the darkness proved unreliable. A French officer wrote that his guide “did not know the road and at the first musket shot disappeared.” Assault forces were not in position until after daybreak and lost the advantage of the pre-dawn surprise attack.  D’Estaing confessed to having a “very poor opinion of this attack.”


Anxious to begin the attack, French assault troops waited at the edge of the swamp. From the direction of the Spring Hill Redoubt 500 yards away the eerie wail of Scottish bagpipes drifted toward them through the heavy pre-dawn fog. This “most sad and most remarkable” music, d’Estaing wrote, made “a very great impression” on the French soldiers; it was as if the enemy “wanted us to know their best troops were waiting for us.”


At about 5:30, d’Estaing’s troops heard firing from the British lines and realized the diversionary attack by their troops in front of the enemy center had finally begun. A few minutes later, British sentries spotted the assault troops and fired several rounds. Not all the allied troops were in place yet.


The allied diversionary attacks failed. D’Estaing and Lincoln would have to carry the Spring Hill Redoubt with no support. D’Estaing considered canceling the attack, but his pride prevented him from showing hesitation in front of the Americans. “My indecision,” he said, “would have made me a laughingstock.” He ordered the attack to commence.


Surging forward with a cry of “Vive le Roi!” the French vanguard advanced on Spring Hill Redoubt at the double quick. The British and Loyalist troops in the fort opened up on them with a vicious cross-fire of muskets and cannons. The white-coated grenadiers cleared the abatis in front of the fort; then in the smoke and fog and under heavy fire, they thrust their way up the parapet. But the supporting French column was slow in following them. By the time they arrived to reinforce the vanguard, enemy fire had driven the grenadiers back.


Leading his troops forward, d’Estaing was wounded in the arm just before he reached the redoubt. The fighting became intense. The attackers were sprayed with musket fire and grapeshot—pieces of scrap iron, nails, bolts, steel blades, and chain. Fire also came from a British galley in the river. A British soldier at one of the guns said, “Believe me, I never was happier in my Life than upon this Occasion.”


D’Estaing’s troops were thrown back on the second French assault column led by Stedingk. The columns became entangled, lost formation, and were cast into “utter confusion,” as one French officer wrote. Stedingk’s column was shoved back into the swampy ground on the French left, where more than half were killed or left “stuck fast in the mud.” “Those who lost only their shoes,” another officer said, “were the most fortunate.”


D’Estaing urged his troops forward, crying, “Advance, my brave grenadiers, kill the wretches” while British and Loyalist troops from the redoubt bellowed, “Kill the rascal French dogs,” and “God save the King!”


For a moment the sheer fury and determination of the French attack nearly overwhelmed the defenders, and the French managed to raise their flag over the parapet. Stedingk later wrote: “My doubts were all gone. I believed the day was our own.”


But the defenders were determined, too. Despite three brave assaults on the fort, the French could not stand up to their firepower, and d’Estaing reluctantly ordered a retreat. As the French fell back, British troops rose up from the parapet and delivered a point-blank volley. D’Estaing was wounded for a second time, in the thigh, and was nearly left for dead.


Continental light infantry under John Laurens, former aide to General George Washington, now arrived, and then the second column under Lachlan McIntosh, whose wife and children were in Savannah. McIntosh already had weathered a political storm after killing his rival, Button Gwinnett, in a duel.


The Patriots arrived near the Spring Hill Redoubt at the height of the battle’s confusion, as the wounded d’Estaing tried to re-form his troops. McIntosh’s troops, thrust far to the left in the swamp, were exposed to British naval fire from the river, as well as heavy grapeshot from the fort. Major John Jones, the General’s aide, was within paces of an enemy cannon embrasure when he was cut in two by a cannon shot. McIntosh was driven back under heavy enemy fire in the allied retreat.


Continentals of the 2nd South Carolina, led by the future partisan hero Francis Marion, succeeded in reaching the redoubt; in brutal hand-to-hand combat on the parapet Captain Tawse, the Loyalist commander, died after striking down three of the attackers with his sword.


Sergeant William Jasper placed the 2nd South Carolina’s colors on the ramparts but was shot down. Jasper already was a hero because of his actions in 1776 at Fort Sullivan near Charleston, where he raised his regiment’s flag in defiance of the British naval assault. Now, as he lay dying, he passed the colors to Lieutenant John Bush, who also fell.


As fighting raged for control of the parapet, Maitland committed his reserves. British marines and grenadiers launched a devastating bayonet charge that drove the attackers back from the ramparts and into the ditch below. Allied assault troops, helpless and exposed to deadly musket and artillery cross-fire, were butchered in the ditch. “The moment of retreat,” Stedingk wrote, “with the cries of our dying comrades piercing my heart was the bitterest of my life.” A British officer described the scene: “Their assault was a furious as ever I saw; The Ditch was choke full of their Dead.”


Full daylight now revealed dead and dying French and American soldiers, many of them impaled on the abatis, for 50 yards in front of the ditch. Mangled grapeshot victims littered the field for 100 yards beyond. At the sight of them, John Laurens threw down his sword in disgust.


While the desperate allied gamble played itself out in the bloody ditch in front of Spring Hill, Brig. Gen. Kazimierz Pulaski, with the rebel cavalry, led a bold but reckless attempt to breach the British lines between the redoubts. Riding at the head of his 200 horsemen, Pulaski reached the abatis but was struck down by enemy canister fire. Exposed to deadly fire and demoralized by the loss of Pulaski, the allied cavalry withdrew in confusion. The attempt to capture Savannah was over.


The contest lasted less than an hour. When it was apparent even to d’Estaing and Lincoln that it was useless to continue, they withdrew their devastated troops and counted losses.


The two sides observed a four-hour truce to collect and bury the dead and to retrieve the wounded. The French listed 151 killed and 370 wounded, while the Patriots lost 231 killed and wounded, nearly all Continentals. British losses were only 18 killed and 39 wounded. For the allies, Savannah was the bloodiest battle of the war, a Bunker Hill in reverse.


Once more, d’Estaing fell back on siege operations. But his officers warned him that further delay in the face of possible hurricanes off the Georgia coast might jeopardize the fleet.


Squabbling between the allies soon set in. A French naval lieutenant described the Savannah operation as an “ill-conceived enterprise without anything in it for France,” while a young French artillery officer blamed the Patriots for the defeat at Spring Hill Redoubt. The “rout began with the rebels,” he wrote, “they took flight a crowd leaving church.” D’Estaing blamed Lincoln, saying the rebels “promised much and delivered little.” Lincoln criticized the count for not taking Savannah when he first had the chance.


Over Lincoln’s objections, d’Estaing reluctantly prepared to pull out. He marched his troops back to the French ships, loaded his guns and equipment aboard, and set sail for France, dispatching some of the ships to the West Indies.


One of his officers described d’Estaing as “A true grenadier in this affair but a poor general....It is not the fault of the troops that Savannah was not taken, but rather of those who commanded us.” The count, who wrote both prose and poetry, was intelligent, courageous and bold. He also was arrogant, ambitious and, in the words of another officer, “covetous of glory.” Before being executed in 1794 during the French Revolution, he said, “When you cut off my head, send it to the English, they will pay you well for it!”


The siege was over. On October 19, the last of Lincoln’s weary and disillusioned rebel troops withdrew to Charleston.


Maitland, the old Scottish warrior who worked so hard to defend Savannah, died on October 26. Three days later, Governor Wright proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for the British victory.


A golden opportunity to retake Savannah and alter the course of the war had been lost. Two more devastating defeats for the Patriots lay ahead. On May 12, 1780, British forces captured Lincoln’s entire army of 5,400 at Charleston; and on August 16, 1780, General Horatio Gates’ entire American army of 3,000 was destroyed at Camden, S.C. Georgia remained in British hands until the end of the war; and Savannah was not reoccupied by the Patriots until the British withdrew in 1782.


Two years after the Allied debacle at Savannah, a fresh opportunity for a Franco-American operation presented itself. General George Washington’s Continentals, in cooperation with French regulars under Count Rochambeau and the French fleet under Admiral DeGrasse, besieged General Charles Cornwallis’ British army at Yorktown, Va. This time there were more favorable battle conditions, better coordination, and wiser command decisions. On October 19, 1781, exactly two years after the rebel withdrawal from Savannah, Yorktown’s 8,000-man British garrison surrendered. Benjamin Lincoln was given the honor of accepting the defeated British general’s sword.


The defeat at Yorktown prompted Britain to open peace talks with the American rebels, and in early 1783 the Treaty of Paris recognized the United States as an independent nation.


Thomas G. Rodgers teaches history at Gilmer High School in Ellijay, Ga., at Reinhart College in Waleska, Ga., and at Truett-McConnell College, Epworth, Ga. He is the author of a number of articles on American military history. For further reading: Alexander A. Lawrence’s Storm Over Savannah; or Henry Lumpkin’s Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South.