By Charles C. Jones
Volume II - Revolutionary Epoch, 1888
Submitted by: Dena Whitesell
East Florida, with its king's forces, Scovilites, outlaws, and subsidized Indians, was a thorn in the side of Georgia.
St. Augustine, as the military hive whence these predatory bands swarmed to the annoyance of the dwellers between
the Alatamaha and the St. Mary rivers, was an object of constant disquietude and hatred. Its destruction was a
favorite scheme with the Georgia authorities. What General Lee and Governor Gwin-nett had failed to accomplish
Governor Houston was ambitious to achieve. Invested by the executive council with powers little less than dictatorial,
he desired to inaugurate and conduct an expedition which would render his administration famous, and minister to
the security of the State over which he presided. Since their repulse before the walls of Fort Moultrie the British
forces, save in a desultory manner, and then only along the southern frontier, had not been directed against either
Georgia or Carolina. Strengthened by a recent accession of Tories from the heart of South Carolina, the Floridians
were preparing for another and a formidable incursion into Georgia. Of this fact Governor Houstoun was informed,
and his desire was not only to push back this hostile column, but to follow up his advantage even to the investment
and occupation of St. Augustine.
Advices of the hostile intentions of the enemy were confirmed by James Mercer, who, sailing from St. Augustine
on the 17th of April, reached Savannah four days afterwards. He deposed before Attorney-General William Stephens
that General Prevost had set out with a detachment for the Alatamaha; that a body of Indians from the Creek nation
was on the march to join him there ; that three hundred loyalists had arrived at St. Mary's, under the command
of Colonel Brown, who expected to be reinforced by seven hundred more; and that the object of these combined forces
was the conquest of Georgia.
Upon a conference with General Robert Howe, who was then in command of the Southern Department with his headquarters
at Savannah, it was resolved to concentrate the military strength of Georgia for repelling the threatened attack
and for the subsequent invasion of Florida. Of the militia of the State Governor Houstoun proposed to take and
retain personal command. When summoned to the field they did not aggregate more than three hundred and fifty men,
many of whom were poorly armed and badly disciplined. The continental forces within the limits of the State numbered
only about five hundred and fifty. These were supplemented by two hundred and fifty continental infantry and thirty
artillerists, with two field-pieces, drawn from South Carolina and commanded by Colonfel Charles Cotesworth Pinck-ney.
The Carolina militia, under Colonels Bull and Williamson, were ordered to rendezvous at Purrysburg, on the Savannah
River. Fort Howe, on the Alatamaha, was designated as the point of concentration.
On the 6th of April Colonel Samuel Elbert, with all the men of the third and fourth battalions of continental infantry
fit for duty, took up the line of march from Savannah for Fort Howe. Thirty-six rounds of ammunition, three spare
flints, and two days' rations of cooked provisions were carried by each soldier. A reserve of uone hundred rounds
of powder and ball to the man9' accompanied the command.
At Midway Meeting-House, on the 9th, Captain Melvin was detached with twenty-four men to proceed to Sunbury. There
he was to embark on board the galleys and advance to the Alatamaha River where he was ordered to take charge of
a large fiat and boat, filled with army stores, and conduct them to Fort Howe. On the 14th, Colonel Elbert reached
that post with his command.
The next day, learning that the enemy's vessels were lying at Frederica, he detailed three hundred men of his command
with fifty rounds of ammunition, six days' provisions, and no baggage except blankets, to proceed to Darien and
there, going on board the galleys, to attempt their capture. The destination 1 Sec McCall's Hittory of the expedition,
led by the colonel in person, was Pike's Bluff, about a mile and a half distant from Frederica.1 What subsequently
transpired in connection with this affair had best be told in the language of Colonel Elbert, who, in a letter
to General Howe, acquaints us with the following interesting details:—
"Frederica, April 19, 1778.
"Dear General, — I have the happiness to inform you that about 10 o'clock this forenoon, 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 galleys, the Washington, Captain Hardy,
the Lee, Captain Brad-dock, and the Bulloch, Captain Hutcher; and a detachment of artillery with two field pieces,
under Captain 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 Colonel White on board the Lee, Captain Mel-vin on board
the Washington, and Lieutenant Petty on board the Bulloch, each with a sufficient party of troops. Immediately
on landing I dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Ray and Major Roberts, with about one hundred men, who marched directly
up to the town and made prisoners three marines and two sailors belonging to the Hinchinbrooke.
"It being late, the galleys did not engage until this morning. You must imagine what my feelings were to see
our three little men-of-war going on to the attack of these three vessels, who have spread terror on our coast,
and who were drawn up in order df 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 vessel with everything on board, of which we
immediately took possession. What is extraordinary, we have not one man hurt. Captain Ellis, of the Hinchinbrooke,
is drowned, and Captain Mowbray, of the Rebecca, made his escape. As soon as I see Colonel White, who has not yet
come to us with his prizes, I shall consult with him, the three other officers, and the commanding officers of
the galleys, on the expediency of attacking the Galatea now lying at Jekyll."
The success attending this adventure emboldened Colonel Elbert to attempt the capture of the Galatea, anchored
at the north end of Jekyll Island. For this purpose he manned the Hinchinbrooke and the sloop. Pending his preparations,
the Galatea took counsel of her fears and departed. This gallant exploit inspired the troops and was hailed by
General Howe as a good omen of the success which would crown his demonstration against Florida.
On board the Hinchinbrooke were found three hundred suits of uniform clothing intended for the men of Colonel Pinckney's
command. The Hatter, freighted with clothing for the continental troops in the Southern Department, had been captured
off Charlestown harbor by a British privateer, and these suits formed a portion of her cargo. From the prisoners
taken Colonel Elbert learned that General Prevost's objective point was Sunbury, which he confidently expected
to capture, and that the military suits on board the Hinchinbrooke were intended for Brown's regiment of rangers.
While the detachments were rendezvousing at Fort Howe Colonel McGirth, with a party of loyalists, penetrated as
far as the Midway settlement. Being there opposed and learning of the concentration of the continental troops on
the Alatamaha, he rapidly retreated to the St. Mary River.
Informed of the movements of the Americans, General Prevost paused in his advance and busied himself with repairing
certain defenses on the rivers St. Mary and St. John, with mounting cannon at Fort Tonyn, and in maturing plans
for the protection of the province of East Florida.
On the 10th of May the first, third, and sixth continental battalions from South Carolina, on duty at Fort Howe,
were formed into a brigade and placed under the command of Colonel C. C. Pinckney. The artillery from Carolina
and Georgia were associated under Major Roman. Colonel Elbert acted as brigadier-general and announced John Jones,
Esqr., as his aid-decamp with the rank of major. John Hamilton, Esqr., was appointed brigade major to Colonel Pinckney.
General Howe did not reach Fort Howe until the 20th of May.
The following letter from Colonel Pinckney to General Moul-trie familiarizes us with the situation of affairs as
then understood : —
"Camp at Fort Howe on Alatamaha, May 24th, 1778
"Dear General, — Here we are, still detained by the confounded delay of the South Carolina galley and provision
schooner who are not yet come round to this river, and the reasonable and candid gentry of this State are throwing
a thousand reflections on the General and the army for not marching to attack the enemy and storm lines without
provisions and without ammunition. The whole army, except a very small garrison to take care of our sick and secure
our retreat, will however march from hence to Reid's Bluff, three miles lower down and on the other side of the
river, to-morrow afternoon, or next day at farthest; and as by that time our ammunition and provision will have
come round to this river, we shall proceed with all possible expedition for St. Mary's where we shall have some
amusement by the attack of Fort Tonyn. Notwithstanding any reflections which may be cast on the propriety of the
present expedition at this season, it is now incontrovertible that the movements in Carolina, the capture of the
Hinchinbrook and the other vessels, and the proposed expedition have proved the salvation of the State of Georgia.
However, I cannot help lamenting to you (and I owe it to candor and our friendship) that you have been much too
parsimonious in your fitting us out for this expedition. What can be more cruel than crowding eight, ten, and twelve
men into one tent, or oblige those who cannot get in to sleep in the heavy dews? What is more inconvenient than
to have only one camp kettle to ten, twelve, or fifteen men and in this hot climate to have one small canteen to
six or eight men? We think no expence too great to procure men, but we do not think, after we have got them, that
we ought to go to the expence of preserving their health.
" Having thus freely given you my sentiments concerning the articles we are in want of, J own I could wish,
and the General requested me to desire you to send round in a boat, or small schooner, 500 canteens, 100 camp kettles,
and 85 or 40 tents. I am sure they cannot be better employed, even if the State should lose them all. But I apprehend
that cannot be the case, as they ought to be a Continental charge.
"There has been a number of desertions from White's battalion of British deserters. I enclose you a plan of
this curious fort and encampment. It is badly planned and wretchedly constructed.
" By intelligence from St Augustine the enemy's force is as follows: 300 Regulars at Fort Tonyn, on St Mary's:
60 at St. John's: 320 at St Augustine: 80 to the southward of St Augustine, with some Florida Rangers, a few Indians,
and some Carolina Tories. Nothing could be more fortunate than such a division of their force.
"I am this moment informed that the Governor of this State has ordered from us to the militia two hundred
barrels of rice. He likewise ordered the galleys 30 miles higher up the river than this place, when, on account
of the shallowness of the water, they cannot come within 10 miles as high up as we now are. Excellent generalship!
If you send a boat, the General would mean that the boat should come to Sunbury where they will receive orders.
We are very badly supplied with medicines. These articles not being sent will not prevent our going on, but it
will occasion the sickness of many, and render us less useful than we should otherwise be."
In a communication addressed to the Honorable Henry Laurens, president of congress, dated Charlestown, June 5,
1778, General Moultrie says: " I yesterday received a letter from General Howe, dated Fort Howe, Alatamaha,
May 23d. He does not inform me what number of men he has with him. We have sent him 600 Continentals from this
State, and Col Williamson is gone from Ninety Six with 800 Militia, and there are between 6 and 700 Continental
Troops belonging to Georgia, and some Militia. With these he intends to proceed to St Mary's to dislodge the enemy
from a strong post they have established there. He says it is absolutely necessary or Georgia may as well be given
The array moved from Fort Howe on the 27th of May and encamped at Reid's Bluff. His further purposes are thus disclosed
by General Howe in a communication to General Moultrie dated Camp at Reid's Bluff, June 12, 1778: —
"Dear General, — I have just a moment to inform you I am setting off instantly upon my march to St Mary's,
where the enemy seem to expect us, and where I had long since been had not ten thousand disappointments arisen,
a few of them from accident, but more from the operations of this State, happened to prevent and detain me. I have
been waiting several weeks for the Militia, which were to have proceeded rapidly, but are not yet arrived, except
400 that are encamped about 4 miles in my rear waiting to be joined by the Governor, who is behind, as we are informed,
with a large body: but from him I have not directly heard for a long time, though I have written to him often upon
very important subjects. He has, I believe, exerted himself to spirit up the people, and I fancy has been greatly
perplexed. I wished to see him before I moved, but I fear I shall not, unless he comes within half an hour. The
brigade under Elbert I advanced to St Ilia to take possession of the river, and, by works thrown up upon both sides,
to facilitate the advance or cover the retreat of the army, either of which may be requisite as soon as I join
him which will be (if nothing happens more than I expect) the next day after tomorrow. I shall proceed to St Mary's
where we shall meet Commodore Bowen with the fleet at an appointed place, and if the enemy favor us so much as
to make face, we shall endeavor to treat them with the attention they deserve and we so ardently wish to bestow."
On the 22d of June General Moultrie sent an express to General Howe informing him that Captains Bachop and Osborne,
who had sailed from St. Augustine on the 12th, had been captured, with their sloops, by a Connecticut vessel of
eighteen guns, and brought into Charlestown. From them he learned that the enemy, to the number of twelve hundred,
had marched out of St. Augustine to oppose the advance of the Americans, and that they were accompanied by a detachment
of Creek Indians. Two galleys, with 24-pounder guns and other heavy cannon on board, had been sent to protect the
entrance into the St. John River. John Glass, a deserter from the first regiment, communicated the additional intelligence
that the enemy's force consisted of 800 regulars, 100 men under Colonel Brown, 150 militia, 300 Scopholites, and
Indians variously estimated at from 95 to 200.
"This force," continues the general, "with two field pieces is to dispute your passage over St.
John's river, and perhaps meet you sooner. I would therefore humbly recommend the keeping of your little army together,
and not to move them by brigades or divisions, as it may be of dangerous consequences in marching through such
a country as you are now in. ... I was told yesterday that Williamson with his militia was not above 9 miles from
Savannah, and that the Governor with his Georgians was about Sunbury. If this be the case, for God's sake, when
will you all join ? If you still continue moving from each other, nothing but Augustine castle can bring you up.
Would it not be best to halt the front, and let them secure themselves and wait till they all come up, then you
may go on slow and sure."
He further notifies General Howe that the inhabitants of St. Augustine were greatly alarmed at the prospect of
an attack, and were hastily transferring their valuables on shipboard ; that the outer line of defense for the
protection of the town was en-tirely out of repair, and the interior line quite feeble ; that only' ' a few pieces
of cannon were mounted at the gate; that negroes were being pressed to work upon the fortifications; that all detachments
had been called in from the river St. Mary; that the castle was defended by walls twenty-five feet high upon which
were mounted one hundred and ten guns and two mortars ; that although the garrison of the castle was well supplied
with provisions, the population of the town was in want; that there was no war vessel in the harbor of St. Augustine
; and that the best method of approach was by the Musquito road, thus taking the town in reverse.
Neither at St. Mary nor at Fort Tonyn did General Howe meet with any resistance from the enemy who, withdrawing
his forces into the interior of Florida, was covering the approaches to St. Augustine. Delays, disagreements, disappointments,
and illness were sorely demoralizing the army and dissipating all the sanguine hopes which had been formed at the
inception of the campaign.
In this sad strain does General Howe unburthen himself to General Moultrie: —
"Fort Tonyn, 5th May, 1778
"Dear General, — I have been waiting for the galley first, and, after her arrival, a tedious while for the
Militia of this State and for the long expected coming of Col. Williamson and our countrymen with him. In short,
if I am ever again to depend upon operations I have no right to guide, and men I have no right to command, I shall
deem it then as now I do, one of the most unfortunate accidents of my life. Had we been able to move on at once,
and those I expected would have been foremost had only been as ready as we were, a blow might have been given our
enemies which would have put it out of their power to have disturbed us, at least not hastily, and perhaps have
been attended with consequences more important than the most sanguine could have expected. But delayed beyond all
possible supposition, and embarrassed, disappointed, perplexed, and distressed beyond expression, the utmost we
can now achieve will be but a poor compensation for the trouble and fatigue we have undergone, excepting we may
be allowed to suppose (what I truly think has been effected) that the movements we have made have drove back the
enemy and prevented an impending invasion of the State of Georgia which would otherwise inevitably have overwhelmed
it, and also a dangerous defection of the people of both States. This good, I am persuaded, has resulted from it,
and this is our consolation.
" The enemy were 2 or 3 days since at Alligator Creek, about 14 miles from this place. Their forces, by all
accounts, are at least equal either to the Governor's troops or mine, and we are on contrary sides of the river
and not within 8 miles of each other. Ask me not how this happened, but rest assured that it has not been my fault.
I believe, however, that the Governor will encamp near me tonight, and if the enemy are still where they were,
which I hope to know tonight or tomorrow morning, we shall probably beat up their quarters."
To dislodge the enemy from their position on Alligator Creek, General Howe ordered forward a detachment of three
hundred men with instructions to reconnoitre, and to attack the foe if not in too strong force or securely fortified.
The camp of the enemy proved to be defended by an intrenchraent impeded in front by logs and brushwood. It was
believed at first that it might be successfully assailed, and Colonel Elijah Clarke, with a detachment of mounted
men, was ordered to penetrate at what appeared to be the weakest point and throw the camp into confusion. Such
impression having been created, the main body was to advance rapidly in front and storm the works. Although his
detachment acted with great gallantry, Colonel Clarke found it impossible to execute the movement. Entangled among
the outlying logs and brushes, his horses with great difficulty forced their way through. Arrived at the ditch
it was so wide that the animals could not leap over it, and so deep that they could not be ridden through. In this
dilemma men and horses were saluted with the fire of the enemy and by loud huzzas before which they retired in
confusion. In this assault three of Clarke's troopers were killed and nine wounded. The colonel himself was shot
through the thigh and narrowly escaped falling into the hands of the enemy. This preliminary movement having failed
of the anticipated results, no attack was attempted on the part of the main body. Finding that the enemy could
not be dislodged, and reinforcements appearing, the Americans retreated and joined the army at Fort Tonyn.
Governor Houstoun, with the Georgia militia, did not reach St. Mary until the 4th of July, and Colonel Williamson,
with his troops, did not form a junction until the 11th. When they did appear existing confusion became worse confounded.
Hear what Colonel Pinckney said of the situation : "After we have waited so long for the junction of the Militia
we now find that we are to have as many independent commanders as corps: Governor Houstoun declaring that he would
not be commanded; Col: Williamson hinting that his men would not be satisfied to be under Continental command or
indeed any other command but his own: and Commodore Bowen insisting that in the naval department he is supreme;
with this divided, this heterogeneous command, what can be done? Even if the season and every other military requisite
were favorable, (but that is far from being the case) the Continental troops have been so violently attacked by
sickness, and the desolation made by it is so rapidly increasing, that if we do not retreat soon, we shall not
be able to retreat at all, and may crown this expedition with another Saratoga affair in reverse. But the many
reasons which ought to induce us to return I cannot now enumerate. Some of the principles I herewith enclose you.
From thence you will learn that we have the strongest grounds to imagine that the enemy mean not to fight us seriously
on this side of St. John's. Skirmish with us they may, perhaps hang upon our flanks, and harass our rear, and,
if we would give them an opportunity, attempt to surprize us; but to fight on this side of St. John's would be
the most imprudent thing they possibly could do, and all their movements show they have no such intention."
A malarial region, intense heat, bad water, insufficient shelter, and salt meat so materially impaired the health
of the command that the hospital returns showed one half the men upon the sick list. Many had been left at Fort
Howe, incapacitated by disease. Through lack of forage thirty-five horses had perished, and those which remained
were in such an enfeebled condition that they were unable to transport the cannon, ammunition, provisions, and
baggage of the army. Dispirited and distracted were the soldiers. The command was rent by factions, and there was
no leading spirit to mould its discordant elements into a harmonious and efficient whole. Sufficiently powerful
was it, if properly handled and wisely led, to have overrun East Florida and compelled the surrender of St. Augustine.
But Governor Houstoun, remembering the powers conferred by his executive council, refused, with his militia, to
receive orders from General Howe. Colonel Williamson's troops would not yield obedience to a continental officer,
and Commodore Bowen insisted that the naval forces were entirely distinct from and independent of the land service.
Thus was General Howe left to rely only upon the continental troops. Had a masterly mind been present quickly would
these discordant elements have been consolidated; rapidly, by stern orders and enforced discipline, would the army,
in all its parts, have been unified and brought into efficient subjection. But there was no potent voice to evoke
order out of confusion, — no iron will to dominate over the emergency. General Howe simply accepted the situation
as he found it, and, discouraged by the perplexing delays which had transpired, appalled by the sickness of the
troops, embarrassed by the want of cooperation among the commanders, the lack of stores, and the inefficiency of
the transportation department, and uncertain as to the future, convened a council of war at Fort Tonyn on the 11th
of July, to pass upon the expediency of an abandonment of the expedition. That council was composed of General
Howe, Colonel Elbert, Colonel White, Colonel Tarling, Colonel Rae, Lieutenant-Colonel Roberts, Lieutenant-Colonel
Scott, Major Wise, Major Habersham, Major Pinckney, Major Grimkie, Colonel Pinckney, Colonel Eveleigh, Colonel
Kirk, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson, Lieutenant-Colonel Mclntosh, Major Brown, Major Roman, Major Lane, and Major
The conference was opened by General Howe, who remarked that the movements of the enemy in East Florida, the posts
they occupied and were endeavoring to secure, the stations held by their men-of-war and armed vessels, the number
of insurgents in Georgia and Carolina taking arms and concentrating in Florida, and the information received from
deserters and reliable parties escaping from St. Augustine as well as from spies sent there to acquire a definite
knowledge of the situation, all united in revealing the fact that an immediate invasion of Georgia was contemplated,—
an incursion to all appearances too formidable to be repelled by that commonwealth alone. He further stated that
South Carolina, responding generously to the call made upon her in this emergency, had, with the utmost readiness,
sent forward for the succor of her sister State a larger body of troops than could reasonably liave been expected;
and that with their assistance the continental forces of Georgia had succeeded in driving out the enemy. Fort Tonyn,
whence the enemy was accustomed to make frequent inroads into Georgia to the detriment of the persons and property
of her inhabitants, having been evacuated, and the contemplated invasion having been frustrated, this council of
Field officers was called to determine whether the object which summoned these forces to the field had not been
accomplished. The general, proclaiming a willingness to subordinate his own views to those which might be entertained
by his officers, before proceeding to submit certain questions for their consideration, added "that drawing
the enemy out of Georgia and dislodging them from Fort Tonyn were the principal ends he aimed at;" that "
had the enemy thought proper, in defence of that post or of any other, to have opposed him, he would have been
happy in defeating them in detail and should have availed himself of every advantage which might have resulted
from the victory;" that from information acquired from Captains Moore, Heyrne, and Taylor, he was persuaded
the roads leading towards St. Augustine, naturally bad, had been rendered impassable by the enemy, who had cut
them in various places, destroyed the bridges, and so occluded the passage that neither artillery nor ammunition
wagons could pass over them without a great expenditure of time and labor; that the enemy had abandoned all thought
of opposition on this side of the river St. John; that the deputy quartermaster-general of the army reported, from
severe marches and hard service, a loss of many horses, and that others were unfit for use; that the physician-general
and the army surgeons " report that at least one half the number of men we set out with are already sick,
many of them dangerously so, and that by the increasing inclemency of the climate the greater part of the army
now well will, either by continuing here or advancing, most probably be destroyed;" and that he learped from
Commodore Bowen the galleys could not get into St. John River without great time and labor spent in cutting a passage
through Amelia Narrows, and that if such passage was effected the enemy was prepared with a superior force to dispute
the ascent of the river.
In view of all these facts, General Howe proposed for the determination of the assembled officers the following
questions, and received from them the subjoined answers: —
"1. As drawing the enemy oat of Georgia and demolishing Fort Tonyn were the objects principally aimed at,
have not these purposes been effected ?
" Resolved unanimously in the affirmative.
" 2. As it appears from information above recited that the enemy do not mean to oppose us in force on this
side of St. John's river, are there any other objects important enough in our present situation to warrant our
" Resolved unanimously in the negative.
" 3. Is the army in a situation to cross St. John's river, attack the enemy, and secure a retreat in case
of accident, though they should be aided by the militia now embodied under Governor Houstoun and Colonel Williamson
" Resolved unanimously in the negative.
"4. Does not the sickness which so fatally prevails in the army render a retreat immediately requisite ?
" Resolved unanimously in the affirmative."
The general then proceeded to inform the council that Governor Houstoun having denied him the right to command
the militia, even if a junction should be formed between them and the continental troops, notwithstanding the resolution
of congress declaring that " as to the propriety of undertaking distant expeditions and enterprises, or other
military operations, and the mode of conducting them, the General, or other commanding officer must finally judge
and determine at his peril," he therefore thought proper to propound these additional inquiries:
" 1. Can he with propriety, honor, and safety to himself, or consistent with the service, relinquish the command
to the Governor?
" Resolved unanimously in the negative.
" 2. Can the army, whilst the command is divided, act with security, vigor, decision, or benefit to the common
" Resolved unanimously in the negative.
Such being the conclusions of the council of war, General Howe accepted them, and resolved to withdraw the continental
troops from the army. Upon taking leave of his command, he published the following general order: —
"Camp at Fobt Tonyn, 14th July, 1778. "
Parole, Savannah - The General leaves the army today. He parts with it with reluctance, and from no other motive
than to make those provisions at proper places necessary to its accommodation. He embraces this opportunity to
testify how highly he approves the conduct both of officers and men whom he had the honor to command.
" The readiness with which the officers received orders and the punctuality with which they executed them
gave pleasure to the General and did honor to themselves. The cheerfulness with which the men supported a long
and fatiguing march under a variety of unavoidable yet distressing circumstances gives them an undoubted claim
to the character of good soldiers, and is a happy presage of the service they will in future render to the glorious
cause in which they are engaged. Commanders of brigades will take care that this order be made known both to officers
With the well men of the continental forces, numbering some three hundred and fifty, under the command of Colonel
Elbert, General Howe returned to Savannah. The sick and convalescent were placed on board the galleys and such
vessels and large boats as could be accumulated, and, under the direction of Colonel C. C. Pinckney, were transported
by the inland passage to Sun-bury. Writing from this town on the 23d of July that officer says:—
" It is with the greatest pleasure I embrace this opportunity of informing you that the sea air has already
had a surprising effect on the men with me. The weak and convalescents are getting strong daily, and the sick recovering
fast. We have hitherto been very much crowded in our vessels, but as the Georgia troops will be landed here, we
shall soon have more room. I shall be able to procure the galleys of Georgia, by General Howe's and Commodore Bowen's
orders, to carry us to Port Royal ferry. From thence (without I receive orders to the contrary, as the Georgia
galleys will go no further with us), I shall march the men to Charlestown. The sick and ailing I shall send round
by water, together with our baggage, and that the men may be better accommodated on their short march I shall send
them off in detachments of 40's and 50's so that they will be able to sleep under cover in gentlemen's barns at
Left to themselves by the withdrawal of the continental forces, Governor Houstoun and Colonel Williamson, with
the Georgia and South Carolina militia, at first contemplated an advance as far as the St. John River. This purpose,
however, conceived in a spirit of pride and vainglory, was speedily given over, and the men under their command
were led back by land and dispersed to their respective homes.
The most that can be said in favor of this campaign, with its lamentable lack of preparation, want of management,
disagreement between commanders, surprising mistakes, inexplicable delays, vexatious disappointments, and fruitless
expenditures of men and munitions, is that it prevented for a season the advance of the enemy from Florida. Whether
even this will atone for the expenditure of time and life and treasure involved may fairly be questioned. Crippled
in no wise, the expectant enemy, biding his time, prepared for another invasion. Meanwhile, marauding parties crossed
the St. Mary, and with sword and torch desolated Georgia plantations.
Encouraged by the commotion and emboldened by the retreat of the American forces, the Creek Indians, although inaugurating
no general war, committed sundry thefts and murders along the frontier. Within the State the loyalists took heart,
and the period was fraught with apprehension, insecurity, and turmoil.
Commenting upon the failure of the enterprise Captain McCalll quaintly observes: "Though this expedition cost
the States of South Carolina and Georgia many lives and much treasure, yet perhaps the experience which was purchased
at such a dear rate may have had its advantages in the final success of the American cause. It had the effect of
teaching the government as well as the commanders of the armies that it was as practicable for one human body to
act consistently under the capricious whims of two heads as for one army to act advantageously under many commanders.
The number of troops in the first instance was not more than equal to one complete brigade, at the head of which
was a heterogeneous association consisting of a State Governor, a Major General, an illiterate Colonel of Militia,
and a Commodore of three or four gallies, with troops unaccustomed to a sickly climate at the hottest season of
the year. It is astonishing that they effected a retreat without being defeated or cut off."
Although St. Augustine still remained in the possession of the English, all hope of its capture was not abandoned
by the Americans. Its reduction was regarded as essential to the peace and safety of Georgia, and the conquest
of East Florida was still a cherished expectation. In the fall of the year it was thought the whole affair might
be successfully managed, and on this wise. Suitable boats for the conveyance of the troops, artillery, and baggage
by the inland route to the St. John's River were to be prepared. These, when engaged in the transportation, were
to be accompanied and guarded by the galleys and other armed vessels. Cattle for the subsistence of the army were
to be driven overland, under a strong guard of cavalry and light infantry, to a point within thirty miles of St.
Augustine where all the forces were to rendezvous and prepare for a short march upon the town. Three thousand men,
with some field artillery, and a train of battering cannon with which to reduce the castle, were deemed sufficient
for the adventure, and the month of November was thought most favorable for the undertaking.
Subsequent events, however, entirely changed the aspect of affairs and incapacitated the Georgians and Carolinians
from embarking in this enterprise.
Upon the return of the Georgia continental troops from Fort Tonyn, Colonel John McIntosh, with one hundred and
twenty-seven men, was posted at Sunbury. The regiments of Colonels Elbert and White were sent to Savannah. General
Howe repaired to Charlestown that he might give his personal attention to military affairs in that quarter. This
season of comparative rest and recuperation was of short duration.
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