Georgia's Role in the American Revolution

Instructor: Joelle Mumley
In this lesson we will learn about the role Georgia played in the American Revolution. We will understand how the colony of Georgia felt about the revolution, and highlight key developments related to Georgia's history at the time. Updated: 11/24/2021

Loyalism in Georgia

Think about the thirteen British colonies during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Chances are, Georgia is not the first colony to come to your mind. You might have thought about Massachusetts, where the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre took place, or maybe you thought about Virginia, home to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Georgia did not play as great a role in the American Revolution as other colonies. Let's find out why.

Bearing reference to King George II, the colony of Georgia was strongly Loyalist. Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the king, and did not want independence from Great Britain. Basically they were the opposite of Patriots. Patriots fought for American independence, while Loyalists fought with the British for union.

Loyalists, also called Tories, were more common throughout the South where radical Republicanism was not nearly as strong. British soldiers there were generally regarded favorably because they helped protect colonists from Native American groups and provided security for merchants and others involved in commerce.

So on the eve of the American Revolution, anti-British sentiment was not nearly as strong in Georgia as it was in other colonies like Boston, New York, or even Virginia. For example, Georgia chose not to participate in discussions protesting British taxation (Stamp Act Congress in 1765), and was the only colony not to participate in the First Continental Congress in 1774, which discussed outrage at the punitive laws Britain imposed on Massachusetts.

Until the outbreak of war, and even afterwards, most Georgians were content to remain British. Of all the 13 thirteen colonies, Georgia was probably the most pro-British.

Early in the War

Not all the colony was for the union however. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a group of Georgian Patriots stormed the British magazine in the capital city of Savannah, and carried away captured powder and arms. Then they proceeded to go after the Royal Governor of Georgia, James Wright. He was briefly captured by Patriot forces, but managed to escape aboard the HMS Scarborough.

With the capital city in Patriot control, the royal government was abolished and Patriot Lyman Hall was sent to the Second Continental Congress where he would later sign the Declaration of Independence. Whether all the citizens agreed or not, Georgia was now a rebel state committed to the Revolutionary cause.

The opening of the Revolutionary War took place primarily throughout the North. The British encountered stiff resistance there. By late 1778, they adopted a new strategy focusing instead on the South. The British hoped Loyalist support in the South would bring success on the battlefield and an end to the rebellion.

The Second Half of the War

The First Battle of Savannah took place in December 1778. In this battle the British recaptured Savannah and re-installed James Wright as Royal Governor. However, not all of the colony of Georgia was returned to British control.

It's very important to recognize that during the second half of the Revolutionary War, Georgia was basically in the midst of a civil war. Essentially it had two governments: the British government under the leadership of James Wright centered in Savannah, and the Patriot shadow government in exile. Both of these governments competed against each other for the hearts and minds of ordinary Georgians.

Savannah and other cities were under British control, while other more rural areas were still under Patriot control. Loyalist-Patriot conflict was common throughout the countryside of Georgia.

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