Kettle Creek, Georgia

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Kettle Creek, Georgia

KETTLE CREEK, GEORGIA. 14 February 1779. Loyalist defeat. Encouraged by Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell's capture of Savannah on 29 December 1778 and his advance on Augusta, Colonel James Boyd raised a force of 350 Loyalists from his base at Spartanburg, South Carolina, and marched toward Augusta. On the way they were joined by 250 Loyalists from North Carolina commanded by John Moore.

Campbell took Augusta on 29 January and, leaving a Loyalist garrison under Thomas Brown, started establishing posts in western Georgia. There were skirmishes about thirty miles up the Savannah River from Augusta between Patriot Colonel John Dooley and three hundred Loyalists under Colonel McGirth and Major John Hamilton. Dooley had crossed the river and then been driven back into South Carolina by Hamilton when Colonel Andrew Pickens joined him with reinforcements that brought their total strength up to about 350. Pickens assumed command of the combined forces and on 10 February crossed the Savannah at Cowen's Ferry to attack Hamilton. The latter was besieged at Robert Carr's Fort (or Fort Cars) and was in bad straits when Pickens learned of Boyd's approach. The rebels considered Boyd bigger game than Hamilton and started after him. Pickens recrossed the Savannah near Fort Charlotte (close to the junction of the Broad and Savannah Rivers). Learning of his approach, Boyd—who was moving due west toward the Savannah from Ninety Six—headed for the crossing of the river at Cherokee Ford, ten miles north of Fort Charlotte. Here he was stopped by eight men with two swivel guns in a redoubt, but he moved five miles upstream, crossed on rafts, and continued toward Augusta.

Pickens moved upstream on the South Carolina side to cross the Savannah behind Boyd and then followed him down the Georgia side. Oblivious that he was being followed, Boyd crossed the Broad near its junction with the Savannah on the morning of the 13th and camped that night on the north side of Kettle Creek atop a rocky hill. He sent his prisoners on to Augusta, unaware that the British had just abandoned the town earlier that same day. On the morning of the 14th, while Boyd's horses were turned out to graze and his men were slaughtering cattle, the rebels attacked. Pickens led his troops in a direct assault on the rocky hill where Boyd had his camp, while Dooly and Clarke attacked the camp across the creek from the left and right sides respectively. Disobeying orders, Pickens's advance guard fired on the Loyalist sentries. Alerted to the attack, the Loyalist pickets fired and fell back into camp. Although his troops were in the greatest disorder, Boyd pulled them together and put up a fight that lasted nearly an hour. But Boyd was shot and killed, and the fighting broke into firefights between small groups, much of it in the nearby swamp. The Loyalists lost forty killed and wounded and seventy captured, the Patriots nine killed and twenty-three wounded. The Loyalist prisoners were taken to Ninety Six and tried for treason. Five were hanged there and two more were taken to North Carolina to be hanged; the remainder were pardoned.

Of Boyd's nearly 700 men, 270 reached British lines and were integrated into the North and South Carolina Royal Volunteers. Pickens's strength is generally given as between three hundred and five hundred. His victory prevented any serious rallying of Loyalists in the South for another year and encouraged Patriot militia to flock into General Benjamin Lincoln's camp at Purysburg, leading the latter to undertake his counteroffensive to liberate Georgia.

SEE ALSO Lincoln, Benjamin; Southern Theater, Military Operations in.


Coleman, Kenneth. The American Revolution in Georgia, 1763–1789. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1958.

                     revised by Michael Bellesiles