This Day in History: The Patriots’ much-needed victory at Kettle Creek
On this day in 1779, an outnumbered band of Patriots defeats a group of Loyalists near Kettle Creek in Georgia.
Remember the February 11 post? Americans led by Colonels Andrew Pickens and John Dooly had trapped Loyalist Lt. Colonel John Hamilton at Carr’s Fort. Americans had the upper hand, but then they 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. Pickens and Dooly abandoned Hamilton and went after Boyd.
Boyd was on his way to the Carolinas to recruit Loyalists to join the British army. He’d managed to recruit up to 800 men, and he was now marching back towards the rest of the British army in Augusta.
Okay, well, he tried to march to Augusta. He kept running into trouble along the way.
By the time Boyd reached Kettle Creek, in Georgia, he was down to about 650-700 men. Once there, he planned to stop for a bit. The Loyalists had found some cattle; they would butcher the animals and keep the meat for provisions.
Little did Boyd know that Pickens, with his 300 to 400 men, had discovered their location. Pickens divided his men into three groups. These groups would attack from three directions in a coordinated surprise attack.
As with so many other battles in the Revolution, the attack didn’t go quite as planned. Two of the three groups were slowed down a bit by swamps. The other group fired too soon. Boyd was alerted.
Boyd’s men initially responded well and moved quickly into an elevated position. However, Boyd was mortally wounded in the early rounds, and his men panicked. The Patriots regrouped from their earlier problems. Once unified, the Patriots were able to force the panicking Loyalists into retreat. Most of the retreating Loyalists never joined up with the British army, as intended.
As it turns out, the British chose to abandon recently-acquired Augusta on this same day because American Major General John Ashe was leading more than 1000 militia toward the city.
These events did not stop the British from succeeding in other parts of the South, at least for a little while. However, it did show that the state was not completely under British control, and it undermined British efforts to recruit Loyalists in the area. Pickens would later say that Kettle Creek was “the severest check & chastisment the tories ever received in South Carolina or Georgia.”
Charles C. Jones, Jr. LL.D., Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia: from its settlement in 1735 to the close of the eighteenth century (1890)
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)
William T. Graves, Backcountry Revolutionary (2012)