User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

When the American Colonies of Great Britain determined to rebel at the stubborn demands of the mother country, Georgia had least cause to join the revolutionary movement.

 

This colony was by fifty years the youngest of the "original thirteen," and had been specially favored by England. She was the largest, but the weakest, of all the provinces. The landless of other countries and of other colonies had come in large numbers to obtain a home where they might own the soil they tilled. At the beginning of the Revolution the total population of Georgia was about 20,000 whites and 17,000 blacks.

Georgia was now exporting rice, indigo, and skins to Europe, and lumber, horses, and provisions to the West Indies. Tobacco was cultivated with great success by the settlers, and all necessaries of life were easily raised on her soil.

The province boasted of one weekly newspaper, called the "Georgia Gazette," which was published every Thursday at Savannah.

Since 1760 the colony had prospered greatly under Sir James Wright, who was one of the most capable and devoted of the British provincial governors. There were few local grievances, and many of the people did not wish to defy the home authority.

But they realized that this restful condition could not long continue, for they occupied an exceedingly dangerous position. The sea coast was easily seized by the British, and they were also exposed to the attacks of the British in Florida, as well as the many savage tribes of Indians on the north and west.

Thus threatened on all sides, Georgia thought it best to join her sister colonies, that she might have protection.

The news of the battle of Lexington removed all hesitation, and united the people of Georgia in the determination to assert their rights. Georgia rallied her mountaineer riflemen to the cause of liberty.

Right manfully did her raw, untrained volunteers respond to the burning, eloquent appeal of Patrick Henry, the Virginian. His speech awoke the sleeping pride of the South, and aroused her sons to action.

Georgia strove to equip her little band of patriots, but she had but few resources. Congress gave her all the aid possible, but soldiers and funds were required everywhere, and Georgia's share was very small. Her sole dependence for protection was her 3,000 raw militia. There were 40,000 Indians to the north and west with 10,000 warriors!

The British bought the friendship of the Indians with presents which the colonists could not afford.

From the first of this war Georgia kept her representatives in the Continental Congress, which met to form plans for mutual protection and defense. In these dark days men thought little of government, nor was much required. Liberty and food and clothing for their families were the principals for which the patriots were now striving.

Many deserters of the American cause took refuge in Florida. These were called Tories. Many of them were lawless men, and continually harassed the colonists of South Georgia. They joined the British and Indians, and made plundering expeditions, sweeping down on the defenseless people, burning the houses, ruining the fields, and committing the most atrocious crimes.

Up to this time, Georgia had often sent food supplies to her countrymen in the north, but now food became so scarce that the governor forbade the exportation of any kind of provisions.

Colonel Brown, who vowed to wreak vengeance on every American citizen, now fulfilled his vow to the uttermost. His murderous bands made their raids in every direction; no mercy was shown to anyone who befriended a patriot.

It seems that the spirit of resistance in the hearts of the people of Georgia would have been crushed by these long continued atrocities. But they never left the field, although often forced to abandon their homes and sometimes even to leave the state.

What better example of the hardihood of the pioneer women of Georgia than in the story of Nancy Hart, a remarkable woman who lived in Elbert County at this time?

When many of the women and children who lived in her neighborhood left their homes to escape the cruelty of Brown's raiders, Nancy Hart remained at home to protect her little property.

How we all love the story of how this rough, simple mountaineer woman outwitted the band of British red coats who demanded food at her cabin.

While she served the meal, she cleverly managed to keep their attention diverted while she signaled for aid, and hid their arms, which they had stacked in a corner. Then, when she was discovered, she covered them with a musket, and, true to her word, shot down the first who stepped forward.

Thus did the women of Georgia meet the dangers to which they were exposed in these perilous times.

When Augusta had been abandoned by the British, many of the inhabitants who had refugeed, returned, hoping for better times. Colonels Elijah Clarke and John Dooly untiringly guarded the frontiers, which were continually threatened by the Tories and Indians. Their zeal encouraged the people, and kept the spirit of liberty awake in the hearts of the sorely-tried patriots.

But their sufferings were not yet over. Savannah must yet be taken from the British. In the long, weary struggle, the brave revolutionists were greatly aided by the French.

The bombardment of Savannah lasted five days. The unfortunate inhabitants suffered greatly. Houses were riddled by shot and shell. Helpless women, children, and old men were forced to seek safety in damp cellars, and even then, many were killed by shots intended for the enemy.

How sad to think of the many precious lives lost in that bloody fray, and the hopes crushed in the hearts of the survivors!

The British still held Savannah, the French sailed away, and the American army retreated northward, leaving Georgia to the enemy.

The death blow had been dealt to the hopes of Georgia. The Tories, exulting in the humiliation of the state, now made raids in every direction, insulting, robbing, and persecuting, the discouraged patriots barbarously. They seized whatever they coveted, clothing, jewels, plate, furniture or negroes. They even beat little children to force them to tell where valuables were hidden.

No mercy was shown to old men who had stayed at home to protect their families. They and their families were driven from the state. All means of conveyance being taken away, even the women and children were forced to make the journey on foot. But the majority of our people were so poor that they were obliged to remain at home, and endure trials more grievous than before.

The conduct of British soldiers in Savannah was such that Whig families residing there found it almost unendurable. But the women bore these hardships with a fortitude becoming the wives of patriots.

At last, three years after the siege of Savannah, Georgia was free of the hated British. Gradually the people returned to their former homes and vocations. But what a sad home-coming! War had laid its desolating hand upon the face of the country.

The state was full of widows and orphans, fully one half of all the available property of her people was swept away, the fields were uncultivated, and there was no money to repair losses. Her boundaries were not well defined, and large tracts of land in her limits were still held by the Indians. Truly, the condition of Georgia was deplorable!

But there was no repining, for the patriots, rejoicing in their liberty, cheerfully set to work to lay the foundations of future prosperity. Gladly they had given their all as the price of Liberty!--Etowah Chapter.