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British Abandon Georgia

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

November 27.—The British have as suddenly abandoned the State of Georgia as they invaded it, and retired into East Florida. Their hasty retreat was occasioned by an express sent to Colonel Prevost, advising him of a naval and land force coming against him from South Carolina, who might cut off his retreat, and by the sudden appearance of some vessels at the same time off Sunbury, which they apprehended to be the American fleet. Previous to their going off, they sent away near one thousand head of cattle, some sheep, about three hundred horses, two hundred negroes, and other plunder. Although the enemy have destroyed almost every thing in their way, within a mile of each side of the road south of Ogeechie, yet many buildings and other property, supposed to have been burnt and destroyed, are, since their departure, found untouched. Colonel Prevost, in many instances, has shown that humanity and generosity for which British officers were formerly distinguished. The land force which came against Georgia consisted of eighty-six regulars, and about five hundred Scofelites and rangers in one body, who entered the country at Fort Howe, and marched on by land under Colonel Prevost; while between four and five hundred regulars, in another body, commanded by Colonel Fuser, landed upon Colonel’s Island near Sunbury, (fordable at low water,) and marched into that town. Their naval force consisted of no more than the ship Lord Germaine, of twenty guns, (two and three-pounders,) the brig Spitfire of sixteen, the sloop Musquito of ten, the sloop Tonyn’s Revenge of eight, a large galley with two twelve or eighteen-pounders in her bow, a large flat, and a number of boats, &c., most of them mounting one or two swivels, and generally lay at St. Simon’s inlet. After Colonel Fuser withdrew from Sunbury, the two bodies joined at Newport ferry, where they intrenched, to cover and give time to their hunters to get off with the cattle, and when that was accomplished they followed.

A great variety of conjectures having been formed concerning this expedition. One is, that they came only to forage. Another, that it was undertaken merely to pacify the clamors of the discontented Scofelites, by giving them an opportunity to plunder, till the grand scheme in which it was intended to employ them should be ripe. Another, that they had some more extensive object in view, and a part of their plan had failed them; perhaps their scalping brethren and the numerous bands of Tories they expected to co-operate with them, did not appear at the time appointed. Another, that it was a project to stop the sale of estates of attainted persons, and endeavor to get off their slaves. Another, that the enemy were impelled by the want of a sufficient supply of provisions, and the consequent dread of a famine, to risk their whole strength to procure cattle. But the opinion that seems to be most probable is, that the late expedition is only part of one, long since projected by that restless, artful, specious and aspiring deserter and betrayer of his country, the well-known Moses Kirkland, improved by Governor Tonyn, the Indian agent, and General Grant, for the conquest of the Southern States, with a view to share the spoil among them, and with the Loyal Refugees, as they style themselves, who have basely deserted their country, and put themselves under the protection of the British generals at New York. That General Sir Henry Clinton, when convinced by experience that it would not be possible for all the force of Britain to subjugate America, finding these people both troublesome and expensive, willing to get rid of them as decently as possible, and desirous at the same time to prevent an increase of pensions on the British government, at last so far adopted Mr. Kirkland’s plan, as to form them into regiments, furnish them with arms, and the means for an embarkation and invasion of these States, with full liberty to spread devastation and ruin to the extent of their inclination and ability, and a promise, if they can conquer, of the best plantations and most valuable gangs of slaves, in proportion as they shall distinguish themselves, together with a government on the British establishment, and such officers (from among themselves) as the King shall be pleased to approve of. That to forward these purposes, orders have been sent to the troops and banditti in East Florida, to make a rapid incursion into Georgia at a fixed period, for securing the most advantageous posts to favor future operations; and to the Indian superintendent, at the same time, to pour the savage allies of Britain, with all the horrors of their warfare, into the heart of the settlements, under the guidance of Richard Pearis, &c., while the emissaries of Britain, dispersed through these States under a variety of disguises, from the eastern shore of Maryland quite to Florida, should prepare the ignorant, and the wicked outcasts of each, to repair to their standard. But, that the East Floridans, too eager to carry their part of the plan into execution, had penetrated into the country rather precipitately; being, perhaps, deceived by their reliance on the Indians, and the Tory embarkation providentally delayed, dispersed by a storm, or prevented by the unexpected news of the Marquis de Bouille’s operations in the West Indies. Be these conjectures well founded or not, it certainly behooves us to be spiritedly active, and thoroughly guarded, against every possible evil that may be brought upon us, by our declared, or infinitely more dangerous, concealed enemies.1


1 Pennsylvania Packet, January 30, 1779.