This Day in History: Carr’s Fort, Kettle Creek, & the Revolution in the South
On this day in 1779, American Patriots end a conflict at Carr’s Fort in Georgia. They’d abandoned a probable victory in order to pursue a larger British force.
They had bigger fish to fry!
At this point in the war, the British had turned their attention toward the South. They’d captured Savannah and Augusta. Many Georgians fled to the Carolinas or hid in forts scattered around the state.
Loyalist Lt. Colonel John Hamilton was dispatched to harass and disarm local Patriots. You won’t be surprised to hear that Patriot militia leaders were soon on his tail. Georgian Colonel John Dooly and Lt. Colonel Elijah Clarke joined forces with South Carolina Colonel Andrew Pickens. The two sides played cat and mouse for days. Pickens later wrote:
“We maneuvered opposite each other for two days up & down the River for ten miles – On the evening of the second day he disappeared – I immediately sent two men to reconnoitre to know whether it was a feint or whether he was gone some distance – They returned & informed me that he had taken the road to a small fort about ten miles from the River . . . .”
Hamilton was headed toward Carr’s Fort. The Patriots began pursuit, but they also sent scouts ahead to tell those at Carr’s Fort that their gates should be shut. They hoped to catch Hamilton out in the open, before he could take refuge in the fort.
They were too late. Hamilton’s Loyalists had arrived ahead of the scouts. The fort was defended by a handful of sick or older men, along with some women and children. The Loyalists were able to get into the fort, but the arrival of the Patriots forced them to abandon their baggage and horses outside of it.
The Patriot militia settled in for a siege. The fort was a small one and Hamilton’s men had been forced to abandon much of their supplies. They couldn’t last too long. Pickens added to this advantage: He sent 40 men to take control of the fort’s only water source. It was no small task. These men were exposed to Loyalist fire as they crossed an open space, but they succeeded in their mission anyway.
Pickens sent in a demand for surrender. It was denied. Yet the Patriots knew they had the upper hand. It was just a matter of time.
At about that time, Pickens received a message. British Colonel James Boyd was crossing into Georgia with a much larger force of men. Boyd’s force was a greater threat than Hamilton’s. He was “destroying by fire and sword whatever lay in his path,” as one historian describes. What should be done?
Pickens and Dooly did what they had to do. They abandoned Hamilton and went after Boyd. They would pursue him for days before engaging at the Battle of Kettle Creek.
That battle would prove to be an important victory for the Americans. Naturally, you have to stay tuned for a few more days if you want to hear more about that battle.
Charles C. Jones, Jr. LL.D., Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia: from its settlement in 1735 to the close of the eighteenth century (1890)
David Lee Russell, Oglethorpe and Colonial Georgia: A History, 1733-1783 (2006)
Georgia: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons Arranged in Cyclopedic Form (Allen Daniel Candler & Clement Anselm Evans eds. 1906)
Letter from Andrew Pickens to Henry Lee (August 28, 1811) (copy available HERE)
Terry M. Mays, Historical Dictionary of the American Revolution (2d ed. 2009)
William R. Reynolds, Jr., Andrew Pickens: South Carolina Patriot in the Revolutionary War (2012)