The Role of Georgia in the American Revolution

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson we will take a look at the role of Georgia during the American Revolution. We will highlight key themes and developments as they relate to Georgia's history during this time.

Georgia on the Eve of War

What happened in Georgia during the American Revolution? We hear a lot about events in Massachusetts or Virginia, but what were things like in the colony of Georgia during America's War for Independence?

In 1732, Georgia became the last British colony to be founded. Originally intended by founder James Oglethorpe to be a refuge for debtors and the 'worthy poor,' the colony was founded as a buffer zone to protect southern colonies from Spanish incursions. Georgia did not have a prominent role in the American Revolution the way other colonies like Massachusetts or Virginia did.

Bearing reference to King George II, Loyalist sentiment was common throughout the colony. Loyalists were those American colonists who did not desire independence from Great Britain but instead remained 'loyal' to the Crown. Sometimes Loyalists were also called 'Tories.' Loyalists tended to be more common throughout the South, where republicanism was not as strong and where British troops were regarded more favorably because they helped protect settlers from Native American tribes.

It's safe to say that on the eve of the American Revolution, anti-British sentiment was not nearly as pronounced in Georgia as it was in other colonies. For example, Georgia did not participate in the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 or the First Continental Congress in 1774 due to a lack of anti-British sentiment. Until the outbreak of violence at Lexington and Concord, most Georgian colonists were perfectly content to be British subjects. Georgia was probably the most pro-British of the 13 colonies, but this would not remain the case for long.

Georgia During the Revolutionary War

Following the events at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Georgian patriots stormed the royal magazine in the capital city of Savannah and captured arms. They then briefly captured Royal Governor James Wright, until he managed to escape via the HMS Scarborough. Having taken control of the capital, patriot forces sent delegate Lyman Hall to the Second Continental Congress in 1775. He would become one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Georgia was now on-board with the Revolutionary cause.

Royal Governor James Wright.
James Wright

Meanwhile, Royal Governor James Wright was plotting his return. Having encountered stiff resistance in the North, the British turned their attention to the South, where they hoped Loyalist support would aid their military maneuvers. The First Battle of Savannah was fought in December 1778. British forces were successful in recapturing the city, and James Wright was re-installed as Royal Governor. Not all of Georgia, but large sections of it, were then returned to British control. Essentially, a civil war existed throughout portions of rural Georgia between Loyalist forces on one side and patriot forces on the other.

Determined to regain control of the capital, the Second Battle of Savannah consisted of an American-French siege on the city in the fall of 1779. The city was bombarded by French ships and eventually stormed. British defenses held, however, and the city remained in British control until 1782.

American forces assault British positions during the Second Battle of Savannah.
savannah

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