Georgia and the War of 1812
The Coastal War
When historians look at the War of 1812 and Georgia's involvement,
they tend to look only at the Creek War, west of the new western boundary of
the state. Georgia, however, did see some action along her coastal region, mostly
offshore thanks to a British imposed blockade of the southern coast.
Liberty County, Georgia is sometimes called the cradle of the
American Revolution in Georgia because two of the three signers of the Declaration
of Independence lived there. Lyman Hall, who was a doctor at Midway and Button
Gwinnett, who tried his hand at agriculture on St. Catherine's Island both called
Liberty County home, at least for a while. Liberty County's Sunbury, near the
coastal waters and an excellent deep-water port, well remembered an invasion
of the town by the British during the Revolution.
Early in the War of 1812 British vessels plowed the coastal waters
of Georgia and South Carolina. Residents of Sunbury reported frequently seeing
sloops and schooners ablaze at sea. The port city wanted protection for herself
and the many craft that plowed the inland waterway nearby. The United States
decided to curtail the so-called "commerce raiding" of the English.
For the operation several shallow-draft boats were fitted with
small cannon in Charleston. Other weapons were not as easy to find. Neither
was crew for the eighteen-man barges. The expedition left Charleston on July
29, 1812, without its commanding officer, who had been delayed. In his place
a junior naval officer by the name of Charles Grandison led the boats south
to their new home at Sunbury.
Rumors of three British vessels in the area reached the group
of barges. They searched for the ships as far south as Sapelo Island, where
Grandison found the British vessels had been there but left. Grandison decided
to leave a barge at Sapelo and head to Sunbury, where he hoped to meet Captain
G. W. Reed, the commander of the expedition who had been left behind.
Grandison made way to the Medway River and headed inland to Sunbury,
a fine, deep water port, with three barges. Unfortunately, the residents of
Sunbury had heard of the three British vessels in the water off the coast, and
nobody bothered to tell the townspeople that an American fleet was coming. When
the residents saw the barges approaching a call went out to the militia, which
had formed in the town square and begun defensive work when an American flag
was spotted on the incoming barges.
No provision had been made in the town for the incoming crew.
As August wore into September nerves became frayed and nearly a third of the
crewmen deserted. Fights broke out between just about everybody. When word came
that the British privateer Caledonia had captured the American sloop
William, the men in Sunbury were either unwilling or unable to launch
any of the barges. The mission was a complete failure and the men were eventually
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