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Patriots Lose the Battle of Brier Creek

Patriots lose the Battle of Brier Creek


On this day in history, March 3, 1779, patriots lose the Battle of Brier Creek. British Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell had captured Augusta, Georgia in January, 1778. Gathering American troops across the Savannah River made Campbell nervous, however, and he abandoned Augusta after only three weeks to return to the coast. Archibald was hoping Tory leader John Boyd would join him, but on the march, he learned Boyd was killed and his army of Loyalists routed at the Battle of Kettle Creek.


North Carolina General John Ashe followed Archibald to the bridge over Brier Creek at its confluence with the Savannah River. Archibald had destroyed the bridge and continued south to Ebenezer where he turned his 900 troops over to Lieutenant Colonel Mark Prevost and went on to Savannah.


General Ashe, meanwhile, was camped out in the fork between Brier Creek and the Savannah. Military experts have criticized him for this because it was too easy to be trapped in the fork with no way of escape. Ashe left on February 28 to meet with other generals in South Carolina for orders, leaving command to his subordinates.


Lt. Col. Prevost then devised an attack plan. He would leave a force south of the creek to act as a diversion and march the main body of his troops up the east side of the river during the night. They would cross at Paris’ Mill Bridge upriver from the patriots, surprise them and trap them in the fork. Prevost’s plan worked like a charm. It has been called one of the smartest movements of the entire Revolution.


On March 2, he arrived at Paris’ Mill Bridge to find it destroyed. He knocked down Francis Paris’ home and mill and used the wood to rebuild the bridge. Some of his cavalry skirmished with a small contingent of Ashe’s men on the opposite side of the river, but they did not get back to camp in time to warn them.


General Ashe returned to camp on March 2 as well, not knowing Prevost and 1,500 men were crossing the river a few miles upstream. Ashe had been instructed to wait for the arrival of Generals Lincoln, Williamson and Rutherford. The plan was to destroy the British and drive them back to the coast in an effort to bring the southern occupation to a quick end.


Instead, on March 3, a rider came into Ashe’s camp frantically warning that the British were approaching. The Americans scrambled to get ready, but the British arrived minutes later and quickly overtook the American defenses. Withering cannon and gunfire decimated the Americans. Many green militia members fled into the swamps.


In the end, the Battle of Brier Creek was a disaster. At least 150 Americans were killed and over 200 captured, many drowning in the swamps trying to escape. The British suffered only 5 dead and 11 wounded. The battle destroyed American hopes to quickly end the war in the south. General Ashe was formally charged with cowardice, but exonerated in a court martial. General William Moultrie later wrote that the defeat at the Battle of Brier Creek unnecessarily extended the war by an entire year.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“Charity is no part of the Legislative Duty of the Government.”

James Madison

The Battle of the Rice Boats begins

The Battle of the Rice Boats begins


On this day in history, March 2, 1776, the Battle of the Rice Boats begins. After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the British army retreated to Boston and was held captive there by the Continental Army for almost an entire year. Troops in the city could only get in or out or get supplies by sea. In December of 1775, a fleet was sent to Georgia to buy rice and provisions for the isolated troops.


When the ships began arriving in Georgia in January, the local patriots were alarmed, thinking they had come to capture Savannah. They immediately arrested the Royal Governor, James Wright and put him under house arrest. Wright, however, escaped on the evening of February 11 and made his way to the HMS Scarborough on the coast where he took up residence.


For the next month, he attempted to negotiate with the Provincial Committee of Safety and was able to buy some supplies for the immediate needs of the fleet. The larger mission, however, of buying much needed supplies for the troops in Boston was at a standstill. Local merchants had agreed to a continent-wide ban on trade with the British in protest against British policies and actions. The agreement not to trade with the British would end on March 1, however, and that’s when the British made their move.


They had already talked with the owners of some of the rice stored on boats at Savannah who agreed to sell their rice on March 1 when the non-trade agreement ended. On that day, several ships of the fleet sailed up the Savannah River from the coast. The local militia, who had taken up positions around the town, assumed they were attempting to take Savannah and fired on one of the ships, beginning the Battle of the Rice Boats.


During the night of March 2, soldiers snuck onto several of the rice boats, but word did not get out until the next morning when some of the rice boat hands got away and warned Colonel Lachlan McIntosh of the Georgia militia. McIntosh sent a negotiating party, but they were arrested. He sent a second party that was fired on and at this point he began raining cannon and gun fire down on the ships from the nearby Yamacraw Bluff in a gunfight that lasted four hours. For this reason, the battle is also called the Battle of Yamacraw Bluff.


The Committee of Safety met during the gun battle and decided the rice boats had to be destroyed to prevent the British from getting the supplies. They lighted the supply ship Inverness on fire, loaded it with explosives and set it on course to crash with the other occupied boats. As it approached the other boats, their British occupiers jumped overboard to escape. Three other rice boats were caught on fire and burned into the night. Two ships escaped upriver, but their crews were caught. Twelve rice boats, however, escaped downriver, were captured by the fleet on the coast and their provisions confiscated.


On March 30, having accomplished their mission, the fleet set sail from Georgia with Governor Wright aboard, ending British rule in Georgia for the time being. The city would be retaken again, however, in 1778. The fleet, which was intended to supply the troops in Boston, was diverted when it was learned the British had abandoned the town. They first went to Newport, Rhode Island where the local militia fired on them when they tried to land and eventually ended up joining the British in Nova Scotia.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government."

Thomas Jefferson, 1781- Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIII


Articles of Confederation are ratified

March 01, 1781 : Articles of Confederation are ratified


On this day in 1781, the Articles of Confederation are finally ratified. The Articles were signed by Congress and sent to the individual states for ratification on November 15, 1777, after 16 months of debate. Bickering over land claims between Virginia and Maryland delayed final ratification for almost four more years. Maryland finally approved the Articles on March 1, 1781, affirming the Articles as the outline of the official government of the United States. The nation was guided by the Articles of Confederation until the implementation of the current U.S. Constitution in 1789.


The critical distinction between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution —the primacy of the states under the Articles—is best understood by comparing the following lines.


The Articles of Confederation begin:


“To all to whom these Present shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States”


By contrast, the Constitution begins:


“We the People of the United Statesdo ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”


The predominance of the states under the Articles of Confederation is made even more explicit by the claims of Article II:


“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”


Less than five years after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, enough leading Americans decided that the system was inadequate to the task of governance that they peacefully overthrew their second government in just over 20 years. The difference between a collection of sovereign states forming a confederation and a federal government created by a sovereign people lay at the heart of debate as the new American people decided what form their government would take.


Between 1776 and 1787, Americans went from living under a sovereign king, to living in sovereign states, to becoming a sovereign people. That transformation defined the American Revolution.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution



Colonel William Washington is Born

Colonel William Washington is born


On this day in history, February 28, 1752, Colonel William Washington is born. He was a second cousin of George Washington who trained to be a minister as a young man. When the Revolution broke out, he joined the local minutemen and became a Captain in the Continental Army.


Washington saw extensive combat during the war. He fought together with his lieutenant, future President James Monroe, at the Battles of Harlem Heights and Trenton, where they were both injured. He fought at Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. Due to his superb horsemanship, he became a major in the Light Dragoons (soldiers on horseback) and after an attack at Old Tappan, New Jersey, in which he was severely injured, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and made the head of the 3rd Light Dragoons.


In 1779, Washington went to join the Continental Army in the south, where he met his nemesis, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton on the battlefield many times. In 1780 and 1781, he was in continuous battle. He fought with Tarleton at Rantowle's Bridge, South Carolina on March 26, 1780 and again at the Rutledge Plantation on the 26th. On April 14, Tarleton won the Battle of Monck's Corner, but Washington escaped. His dragoons were defeated by Tarleton again at Lenud's Ferry on May 5. Washington escaped again, but the dragoons were so decimated they had to withdraw to regroup.


In August, Washington joined General Daniel Morgan in the interior of South Carolina and defeated Loyalists at Rugeley's Mill, where he tricked them into surrendering by using a fake cannon made of a log. Then he won another battle with Loyalists at Hammond's Old Store, which led General Cornwallis to instruct Tarleton to find Morgan and his cavalry at any cost.


In January, 1781, Morgan trapped Tarleton and his dragoons at the Battle of Cowpens. Washington was instrumental in the battle and personally chased Tarleton as he tried to escape. During the escape, Washington became surrounded by several of Tarleton's men. He was nearly killed by a sabre blow, but a black servant shot the sword-handler. Tarleton finally shot Washington's horse from under him and got away.


On September 8, 1781, at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, after being instructed to attack the British in a dense thicket, Washington ordered a retreat when he realized the thicket was too dense for his cavalry. The cavalry was decimated by British fire and Washington's horse was shot from underneath him. He was bayoneted, captured and taken prisoner to Charleston, where he remained until the end of the war.


Back in Charleston, Washington married wealthy heiress Jane Elliott. When the war came to an end, they stayed in Charleston and managed Jane's extensive plantations. Washington served in the South Carolina legislature from 1787 to 1804 and turned down the governorship several times.


Washington became a Brigadier General of the South Carolina militia in 1794 and in 1798, President John Adams appointed him a Brigadier General in the US Army during the Quasi-War with France. He passed away in 1810. Washington's contribution to the American Revolution can be summed up by a comment allegedly made by Lord Cornwallis after surrendering at Yorktown – "There could be no more formidable antagonist in a charge, at the head of his cavalry, than Colonel William Washington."


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society." 

John Adams (1811)

The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge

The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge


On this day in history, February 27, 1776, the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge ends British rule in North Carolina. Governor Josiah Martin had been living in exile aboard a ship off the coast since July of 1775 after a popular uprising. In response to his lobbying, Scottish soldiers Brigadier General Donald McDonald and Lieutenant Colonel Donald MacLeod were sent to raise loyalist troops in the interior, many of whom were of Scottish decent, to help take back the colony.


In early 1776, Governor Martin learned that a fleet would arrive in mid-February and he hoped to have the Loyalists join them. McDonald and MacLeod met with Tory leaders at Cross Creek (present day Fayetteville) on February 5. They quickly raised 3,500 men, but they quickly dwindled when they learned there were no British soldiers to escort them to the coast through patriot friendly territory. By the time the force began its march, only 1,400 remained.


When the Provincial Congress learned of the meeting at Cross Creek, they sent Colonel James Moore to prevent them from reaching the coast. On February 20, McDonald began his march to the coast, intending to cross the Black River at Corbett’s Ferry. Colonel Moore anticipated this and sent Richard Caswell (the future first governor of North Carolina) to block the ferry. Alexander Lillington was sent to block the crossing at Moore’s Creek Bridge, a few miles to the north.


McDonald arrived at Corbett’s Ferry only to find it blocked. He raced north to try to cross at Moore’s Creek Bridge, but Caswell beat him, joining Lillie on the 26th. Lillie had already taken position on the east side of the creek, so Caswell went to the west side. During the night, however, he realized his position was weak, so he moved across the creek to join Lillie and built a semi-circular earthwork around the east side of the bridge during the night.


In the morning, the elderly McDonald was ill and gave command to Lt. Col. MacLeod. MacLeod saw the patriots on the opposite side of the creek, but severely underestimated their numbers. MacLeod ordered 80 swordsmen to charge across the bridge, which had been de-planked and greased by Caswell. The patriots, hiding behind their earthworks on the east side of the bridge, waited until the swordsmen were within only a few feet of them before firing. The swordsmen were wiped out almost immediately, including Lt. Col. MacLeod, who was shot nearly 20 times. The battle lasted only 3 minutes. 50 to 70 Loyalists were killed or injured. The remaining Loyalist forces quickly dissolved and fled.


Caswell re-planked the bridge and began pursuit. Over the next few days, nearly 850 Loyalists and loads of supplies were captured, including 1,500 muskets, 300 rifles and £15,000 in silver coins, all valued at nearly $1,000,000 in today’s money.


The Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge effectively ended any hope of re-establishing British rule in North Carolina. The victory rallied southern patriots to join the militia and the Continental Army in mass. Loyalists became afraid of voicing their opinions. It has been called "The Lexington and Concord of the South." The British would not attempt to take North Carolina again until the southern campaign of 1780 and even then, the lingering memory of the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge would discourage Loyalists from joining General Charles Cornwallis as he attempted to take back the south.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted… If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine commands, and elect bad men to administer the laws."
Noah Webster

Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere, dies

Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere, dies


On this day in history, February 26, 1839, Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere, dies. Sybil Ludington is famed for a midnight ride just like Revere’s when she was only 16 to raise the New York militia when the British raided Danbury, Connecticut.


Sybil was the eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, a New York militia leader, member of the Committee of Safety and organizer of a local spy ring, whose home was near present day Paterson, New York. On April 25, 1777, British General and Governor of New York William Tryon landed a raiding expedition on the shores of Fairfield, Connecticut and marched to Danbury the following day. Danbury was a major supply center of the Hudson River Valley based Continental Army, with thousands of barrels of pork, flour, molasses, rice and rum, and other important supplies such as cots, tents and shoes.


When the soldiers arrived in Danbury, they drove off the small militia force guarding the supplies and began to destroy the storehouses and supplies. Soon, the soldiers found the rum and, instead of destroying it, consumed it and promptly lost all control. They went on a rampage through the town, burning homes and businesses. There was nothing the commanding officers could do to stop them.


Around 4pm, messengers were sent in several directions to rouse the local militia to come to Danbury’s aide. One messenger reached Colonel Ludington’s home around 9 in the evening. Ludington was the commander of 400 New York militia, but they were scattered around the area and it was late. The messenger and his horse were exhausted and Ludington himself had only just arrived home from a long stint with the army on the Hudson River.


16 year old Sybil either volunteered or was asked by her father to round up the local troops. Sybil got on her own horse which she had recently broken and traveled more than 40 miles round trip, through the towns of Carmel, Mahopac, Kent Cliffs, Stormville and Pecksville. The journey was especially dangerous because the area was filled with soldiers, Loyalists, "Skinners" (outlaws) and runaway troops. At every farmhouse along the way, Sybil told the Minutemen that Danbury was under siege and that the militia was gathering at Ludington’s. She drove her horse on with a stick, while the orange glow from the burning Danbury, which was 25 miles away, could be seen in the distance.


By the time Sybil reached home early in the morning of the 27th, most of the militia had gathered there. They were too late to help Danbury, but they aided Generals David Wooster and Benedict Arnold in chasing the British back to the coast, fighting in the Battle of Ridgefield, and along the roads in engagements very similar to the Minutemen chasing the British back to Boston after Lexington and Concord.


In 1784, Sybil would marry a Revolutionary War soldier named Edmund Ogden who had served with Captain John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard. Edmund was a farmer and innkeeper in Catskill, New York. Sybil ran the inn herself after Edmund’s death in 1799. In 1811, she moved to Unadilla, New York, to live with her only son, Henry, who was a lawyer. She passed away there on February 26, 1839. Ironically, Sybil’s story was little known until it was published by her great-nephew, Louis S. Patrick, in 1907.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"The ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense are, first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility."
Alexander Hamilton (1788)

British surrender Fort Sackville

February 25, 1779 : British surrender Fort Sackville

On this day in 1779, Fort Sackville is surrendered, marking the beginning of the end of British domination in America’s western frontier.

Eighteen days earlier, George Rogers Clark departed Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River with a force of approximately 170 men, including Kentucky militia and French volunteers. The party traveled over 200 miles of land covered by deep and icy flood water until they reached Fort Sackville at Vincennes (Indiana) on February 23, 1779. After brutally killing five captive British-allied Indians within view of the fort, Clark secured the surrender of the British garrison under Lieutenant-Governor Henry Hamilton at 10 a.m. on February 25.

Upon their arrival in Vincennes, French settlers, who had allied themselves with Hamilton when he took the fort in December, welcomed and provisioned Clark’s forces. Inside Fort Sackville, Hamilton had only 40 British soldiers and an equal number of mixed French volunteers—French settlers fought on both sides of the American Revolution—and militia from Detroit. The French portion of Hamilton’s force was reluctant to fight once they realized their compatriots had allied themselves with Clark.

Clark managed to make his 170 men seem more like 500 by unfurling flags suitable to a larger number of troops. The able woodsmen filling Clark’s ranks were able to fire at a rapid rate that reinforced Hamilton’s sense that he was surrounded by a substantial army. Meanwhile, Clark began tunneling under the fort with the intent of exploding the gunpowder stores within it. When an Indian raiding party attempted to return to the fort from the Ohio Valley, Clark’s men killed or captured all of them. The public tomahawk executions served upon five of the captives frightened the British as to their fate in Clark’s hands. Their subsequent surrender revealed British weakness to the area’s Indians, who realized they could no longer rely on the British to protect them from the Patriots.

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

“We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.”
Nathanael Greene