On this 4th of July, we all celebrate the bold and courageous step our founders made in declaring independence from Britain. Liberty was at stake, but after the start of the Revolutionary War so were property, lives, and even states. Have you ever thought how just one battle or turn of events could have changed the course of history and even the physical shape of our country? You may not be aware of the battles for Georgia and even Florida during the Revolution. Below is a brief history.
In the early days of the war, Savannah and Augusta were easy targets for the Loyalists to hold for the British and defend. But Elijah Clarke reformed his brigade in the Spring of 1781 and joined with a group of South Carolina militia under the command of Micajah Williamson as he was obsessed with the idea of freeing Augusta. Augusta was an outpost connected to Savannah by the 80 mile River Road. On May 20, 1781, Clarke and Williamson got welcome support from General Andrew Pickens, in command of a group of South Carolina militia and Lieutenant Colonel Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, who had learned tactical cavalry support under Casimir Pulaski. A second group of Continentals, under the new Commander of the Southern Department Nathanael Greene was laying siege to Ninety Six not far from Augusta. Clarke and the other Georgia commanders were greatly relieved at Lee’s arrival. On May 21, Lee and Pickens raid Fort Galphinton on Silver Bluff, securing a significant amount of British stores including munitions.On May 25 they took Fort Grierson, and on June 5 the patriots secured Augusta. Grierson, who had been so abusive to the upcountry Whigs, was killed after the surrender of the city.
By July 3rd, 1781 (notice the date) almost every outpost along the Savannah River had been abandoned by the British allowing Georgia colonialists to regain most of their lost territory. Enter General Anthony Wayne, widely regarded as one of the best American generals during the Revolution, who after a supporting role in Cornwalis’ surrender at Yorktown Wayne headed south to assist the patriots of Georgia. Although outnumbered two to one, Wayne soundly defeated his British opponents in Georgia, culminating what was one of the most brilliant campaigns of the Revolution.
In September of 1779 the Spanish, who had joined the war on the American side, retook British West Florida. There were three engagements though between Americans and the British and Tories near today’s Jacksonville. The Battle of Thomas Creek, the Skirmish of Alligator Creek, and the Tories of Cow Ford.
In Cow Ford, my apparently 4th great grand uncle Captain William Cone, of the Richmond County Militia of Georgia, gathered a party of men in 1781 and drove the Tories back into Florida after they advanced into Georgia. But then Captain Cone, William Williams, and two of his men were captured by the British and imprisoned in the fort Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. In 1783, Captain Cone and his men managed to escape. For his work in driving the Tories back into Florida, Captain Cone and his men were granted 200 acres of confiscated land on the south side of the Great Ogeechee River in northeastern Georgia.
After the loss of Savannah the Spanish walked into St. Augustine and claimed the city with little resistance from the British. February, 1783, marked the official cession of hostilities and on September 3, 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Revolution. The 13 colonies had defeated the most powerful nation in the world.
If you are interested in learning more about battles in Georgia and skirmishes in Florida here is where I found the information excerpted above. Thanks to Randy Golden and the Florida Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.