Our Georgia History
A Colony at War

By Randy Golden
Exclusively for Our Georgia History

Georgia had to act swiftly. The Continental Congress had imposed an embargo on the colony for its failure to join the Continental Association. Now that the provincial congress had agreed to adopt the articles of the association, it had to ensure that the businessmen abided by the agreement. The radicals were forced to use whatever means necessary to keep the businessmen in line.

Many things were changing on the face of political Georgia. The provincial congress was taking more and more power from the royal governor (whether he liked it or not). Administration was needed for the mundane issues brought before a political entity. One of the more important issues to be decided was the appointment of officers in the militia. To handle these issues, and to give the colony a sense of continuity even when the provincial congress was not in session, a "committee of safety" was appointed, taking power when the provincial congress officially ended on August 17, 1775.

Officers who were to be commissioned had been elected and sent to Royal Governor James Wright for approval. The committee of safety asked Wright to commission the duly elected officers and Wright refused, at which time the committee began to commission them, including Colonel Lachlan McIntosh, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Elbert, and Major Joseph Habersham.

A cool November in Philadelphia did nothing to calm tempers in the Second Continental Congress. Things were not going well for the newly arrived Georgia delegation, thanks to Reverend John J. Zubly, a Presbyterian minister whom John Adams described as "...a doctor of divinity, well read, and with pretensions as a linguist." First came debates on the Continental Association and some of the disagreements Georgia had with the requirements. Then Reverend Zubly argued to raise the trade embargo. He met stiff opposition, especially from Samuel Chase.

While the other delegates from Georgia were closely aligned with men such as Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, Zubly never strayed from his belief that an independent America was a bad idea. Adams supported a "republican government," which Zubly called "..little better than a government of devils..." Although they were willing to accept Zubly in spite of his beliefs, they viewed his writing to Wright to report the actions of the congress as treason. He left the congress in mid-November and returned to Savannah to argue his beliefs among Georgia's Whig society.

Creek Indians on the frontier remained a major concern for Georgia (and South Carolina as well). British agent John Stuart was competing with both colonies on keeping the Creek happy. Since the Whigs were seizing incoming shipments of goods, getting British goods through Savannah and Charleston was nearly impossible. Stuart made an arrangement with the Spanish to allow the trading goods to come in through St. Augustine.

Radical power had been increasing in Georgia. By January, 1776 little occurred in the colony politically without the committee's blessing. When British ships entered the Savannah River, the council of safety ordered Wright and his governor's council be arrested. They were quickly released, but Wright got the message. On February 11, 1776 James Wright boarded an English vessel and sailed to Cockspur Island.

British ships had been dispatched to get food for the hungry troops in the northeast. In early March, 1776, these ships moved up the Savannah River and seized boats, their cargo (they were loaded with rice), and the men on board. Aware that British ships had sailed to Savannah harbor, the Committee of Safety ordered some men to remove the riggings of the ships, which would render them useless. The men were welcomed and detained by the British seamen who had boarded the vessel.

Reports of the number of men at the battle vary widely, and no accurate total will probably ever be calculated. There were an additional 400 South Carolinians a short distance from Savannah, and probably 100 more Whig militia in the city, but not at the bluff.

A group of men attempted to negotiate the release of the men sent to remove the rigging and the return of the boats. These men were also detained when they boarded the ship. The committee issued a call to arms and quickly more than 500 Georgia Whigs, aided by a hundred South Carolina Rebels positioned themselves along the bluff overlooking the harbor, preparing for a land-based attack as the ships attempted to leave for the British base on Cockspur Island. An attempt was made to float a burning ship (the Inverness) into the rice boats, which resulted in the destruction of the Nelly. Two or three other ships suffered some damage from fire.

The British used a channel on the far side of Hutchinson Island to escape the wrath of the Whigs. They would be back.

Next: A State and Union Formed

Acts Of War
Georgia in 1763
Sugar Act; Stamp Act
Townshend Acts
The House dissolved
Radicals Gain Power
Georgia joins the Continental Congress
A Colony at War
A State and Union Formed
The First Florida Expedition
A Leader Dies
The Second Florida Expedition
The Third Florida Expedition
Britain Attacks Georgia
Georgia Fight Backs
The Siege and Battle of Savannah
There Comes a Reaper
The Liberation of Georgia

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