Georgia was the youngest of the thirteen colonies and was sparsely populated.
There were an estimated 25,000 Georgians in the colony who were located
principally in the Savannah River corridor from the coastal settlement of
Savannah through Wilkes County to Augusta. The majority of the people were
Tories (Loyalists), with sympathies for the Crown.
Mainly for this reason, the British adopted what is called the “Southern
Strategy”, and in late 1778 moved the fighting in the Revolutionary War to the
Southern Colonies. Except for the victory at Yorktown, the conflict focused on
South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina for the remaining years of the war.
In 1995, the Georgia Compatriots of the Sons of the American Revolution
joined with North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to initiate SAR
participation in anniversary observances of the battles at Kings Mountain,
Cowpens and Guilford Court House, where Georgians had fought. The annual treks
became so popular that after three years, Georgia went in search of a
Revolutionary battle of their own.
So it happened that the Georgia Society of the Sons of the American
Revolution (GASSAR) Historical Sites and Celebrations committee
Chairman, Compatriot Robert F. Galer, and his wife, Mary Jane, began a search to
identify some worthy candidates. The site selected was known as Kettle Creek,
located in a remote spot in historic Wilkes County north by northwest of
historic Washington town. The battle was less significant than Kings Mountain
and Cowpens, but its importance lay in being early in the war, almost two years
before those victories. The Patriot victory at Kettle Creek prevented a serious
rallying of Tories in the South at a crucial early time. It served to open up
the backcountry and encouraged Lord Cornwallis, overall Commander of the
occupying forces, to evacuate Augusta.
The Tory leader during the engagement was Colonel Boyd in command of some 700
North and South Carolina Tories. Patriot leaders were Colonels Andrew Pickens,
John Dooly and Elijah Clarke. Pickens, who assumed overall command, had some 250
South Carolina Militia. Dooly and Clarke had a hundred or more Georgia troops.
Encouraged by the British Lt. Col. Campbell’s capture of Savannah, and a
subsequent advance on Augusta, Colonel Boyd raised a force of Tories in Anson
County, NC, near the SC border, and marched to join Lt. Col. John Hamilton in
Georgia. Hamilton was a NC Tory and a veteran of the Scot battle of Culloden,
respected by Whigs and Tories alike. He had organized a regiment of Tory
partisans, mainly in Florida, and was directed by Campbell to rally Tories in
As Boyd crossed SC, he was joined by other Loyalists who swelled his ranks to
about 700. It was early in February 1779 when SC and GA militia joined forces to
pursue Hamilton. Hamilton however, was besieged by rebels at Carr’s Fort and was
in bad straits when Pickens learned of Boyd’s approach. The rebels considered
Boyd bigger game than Hamilton, and started after him in South Carolina.
Oblivious of his danger, Boyd crossed the Broad River near its junction with
the Savannah River the morning of February 13, 1779 and camped that night on the
north side of Kettle Creek. Pickens re-crossed the Savannah River, and followed
Boyd into Georgia soundly defeating the British on February 14th.