Jim Lighthizer, president of the American Battlefield Trust.
May 31, 2017
Dear Fellow Battlefield Preservationist,
With those eight words, Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene – George Washington’s most-trusted general – tells us how he and the citizen soldiers under his command helped win our independence.
With those eight words, General Greene tells us how he ultimately defeated the British army in the “Southern Campaign,” bleeding and exhausting them to the point of surrender at Yorktown.
And with those eight words, General Greene also inspires you and me to never give up fighting to save our country’s priceless history, as it is written on its battlefields, sanctified by the blood of those who fought there, and those who lie there still in patriot graves.
“We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.” Has there ever been a clearer statement of American determination to fight on, no matter the odds? If there is a better one, I don’t know it.
If you will give me just the next two minutes, I will do my best to quickly update you on these exciting opportunities at Kettle Creek, Georgia, and Hanging Rock and Eutaw Springs in South Carolina, three key battles of the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War . . . the campaign that turned the tide of the American Revolution!
That’s a bold claim, I know. Many people still think of the Southern Campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas as a minor sideshow to the better-known northern battles of Bunker Hill, Princeton, Saratoga . . . and then, the story goes, the British surrendered at Yorktown, and everyone went home.
But the more I have learned about the Southern Campaign, the more I understand this is a crucial part of our country’s history that many people – even people who have an excellent knowledge of American history – simply do not know.
What is most exciting to me is that while many of those better-known Revolutionary War battles fought in densely developed northeastern states still have important battlefield land that needs to be saved, property is very expensive, and the acreage available to buy is often very small.
In the Southern Campaign, it is much the opposite; there are not only hundreds if not thousands of acres of open battlefield land that still can be saved, those acres are also much more affordable, meaning that your donation dollar will have an exponentially greater impact.
There are also some significant matching fund opportunities (that’s how we get to a $7.75-to-$1 match on the land I’m writing to you about today), and there are some great local partner groups, like the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust and the Kettle Creek Battlefield Association, who are leading the way and helping us efficiently target which land to save.
Are you with me? Then let’s begin at Kettle Creek, one of the largest and most important Revolutionary War battles fought in Georgia, soon after the British captured Savannah and Augusta as part of their strategy to separate the southern colonies from their rebellious northern sister colonies.
British Colonel Archibald Campbell had dispatched Colonel James Boyd into the Carolinas to recruit Loyalist sympathizers and destroy any Patriot forces in the area. By January 29, 1779, Col. Boyd had recruited only 700 soldiers in the Carolinas. He then started his return march to Georgia.
The patriot commanders in the area, Colonel John Dooly and Lt. Colonel Elijah Clarke, concerned about this force, asked for assistance from Colonel Andrew Pickens at Fort Ninety Six in South Carolina. Under the command of Col. Pickens, the smaller Patriot forces sought to launch a surprise attack against Col. Boyd, who they found encamped along Kettle Creek in Wilkes County.
The Loyalists were caught off guard, and in the crucial opening shots of the battle, in which Pickens mounted a three-prong attack, Boyd was mortally wounded. With the loss of their commander, the British forces began to panic and by 11:30 a.m. they were defeated. On the same day Col. Campbell, fearing an attack from a large Patriot force, abandoned Augusta.
The Battle of Kettle Creek was intense and brutal. The resulting Patriot victory was heralded in newspapers as far away as Boston and Philadelphia. The victory emboldened the Patriot cause, but even more important, it exposed the fatal flaw in the British Southern Strategy: They would never see the outpouring of Loyalist sympathizers in the backcountry they had expected.
Because of Kettle Creek, the British strategy began to unravel. The Battle of Kettle Creek was the first in a chain of Patriot victories that ultimately led to the British abandonment of their Southern Strategy. Kettle Creek truly was a prelude to the culminating American victory at Yorktown.
Pickens, who also fought at the battles of Charleston, Cowpens, Augusta, Ninety-Six and Eutaw Springs, later wrote that, “the severest conflict I ever had with the disaffected or Tories was in Georgia at Kettle Creek in 1779.”
The 180-acre tract of land we are working to save is extremely significant because it contains the area where the battle began, and is the burial site of several of the Revolutionary War soldiers who fought there. (A 2016 study using cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar discovered six possible Revolutionary War graves on this tract of land. Experts believe that Col. Boyd, shot three times at the beginning of the engagement, may be buried in one of these possible gravesites.)
Moving from Georgia to South Carolina, we come to the Battle of Hanging Rock, where you helped save 122 acres last year. Located on the road between Camden, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina, Hanging Rock served as one of a series of British strongholds intended to maintain their position in South Carolina.
The Americans, led by Major William Richardson Davie, first attacked the post on July 30, 1780; at the same time, General Thomas Sumter (the “Gamecock”) attacked Rocky Mount. Major Davie targeted a nearby house and successfully took 60 horses and 100 stands of arms but was unable to take the British camp at Hanging Rock.
On August 5, General Sumter, Major Davie, Colonel Robert Irwin, and 800 men marched 16 miles through the night, reaching Hanging Rock. The attack began at 6:00 a.m., when Sumter’s men crossed the creek slamming into the British line, breaking its center within half an hour.
When Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s men charged with bayonets, General Sumter’s men took cover behind rocks and trees, firing into the lines of British troops. Within a few minutes, most of the British officers were wounded or killed. After three long hours, the battle ended and the victorious Americans plundered the camp while the British watched helplessly.
As at Kettle Creek, the 15 acres we are saving today is where the first American advance against the British camp occurred, and adds significantly to the land we saved in 2016. The Civil War equivalent would be to save land associated with the first shots fired at Gettysburg, or Stonewall Jackson’s Flank Attack at Chancellorsville.
The final tracts I need to tell you about today are at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, South Carolina, fought September 8, 1781. Not only was General Nathanael Greene in command on the field, but other Revolutionary War heroes such as Francis “the Swamp Fox” Marion and “Light-Horse” Harry Lee, father to Robert E. Lee, led troops in this crucial battle.
Determined to destroy the 2,300-man British army under Lt. Colonel Alexander Stewart, Greene had his 2,100-man force on the road at daylight, after camping – undetected – just a few miles away. The battle started when a British “rooting party” foraging for food, ran into “Light-Horse” Lee’s advance cavalry.
Greene’s army marched and fought their way across the tracts we are attempting to save today (13 acres in all). The bloody and obstinate fight lasted four excruciatingly hot hours, and saw the use of infantry, artillery, and cavalry . . . hand-to-hand combat with bayonet and sword . . . charge and countercharge . . . broken lines and timely reinforcements, until both sides were exhausted.
Although the British held the field, they were forced to draw away the next day, giving the Americans a major strategic victory. Eutaw Springs was one of the bloodiest fights of the entire war. By saving these 13 acres today, at a battlefield where only about 5 acres has been saved before, you and I have the chance to expand the story of this crucial battle in the fight for our independence.
The Marquis de Lafayette said, “in the very name of Greene are remembered all the virtues and talents which illustrate the patriot, the statesman, and the military leader.” For his actions at Eutaw Springs, the Continental Congress awarded him a Congressional Gold Medal, its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements. Yet, even after all this acclaim, he died in Georgia in 1786, still suffering from the severe financial difficulties incurred during his long service to our country, just one month shy of his 44th birthday.
Remember his words: “We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.”
Today, I need you to help me fight to save these three battlefields . . . 209 acres worth more than $766,000 . . . and to help preserve the legacy of heroes like Nathanael Greene. With the matching grants we either have in place or anticipate receiving, we believe we have all but $99,101 of that amount already covered! That’s a $7.75-to-$1 match of every dollar you can send to help today.
Hopefully, you are now on your way to becoming an expert on the Southern Campaign, and you are ready to join in the fight to save this essential, unknown part of our history.
Every $1 you give turns into $7.75 to save an enormously important part of our history that few people know about. Not only are you saving history, but you are making history at the same time.
That’s why I ask you to please consider sending the most generous contribution you can to help the Revolutionary War Trust (formerly Campaign 1776), a division of the American Battlefield Trust, raise our portion of the match, $99,101. I know this is a lot of money, but remember that every $1 you give to this effort is multiplied into nearly $7.75 – an unbeatable return on your charitable “investment.”
Any amount that you can send today will help tremendously, and will be greatly, greatly appreciated. I can never thank you enough for your stalwart support for this historic effort.
I remain, very truly yours,
Please help save these crucial parts of our nation’s history with your most generous contribution today. For more information, please visit our special web page dedicated specifically for this campaign at www.battlefields.org/2017Southern. Thank you for all you do!