(Kettle Creek, Ga.) – U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, University of Georgia football legend Coach Vince Dooley, the Civil War Trust’s Campaign 1776 initiative and the Kettle Creek Battlefield Association today announced the acquisition of 180 acres to triple the size of the battlefield park marking a crucial but often-overlooked Revolutionary War struggle in 1779.
Civil War Trust President James Lighthizer announced that Campaign 1776, the Trust’s national initiative to preserve battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, will add the newly acquired land to the 77-acre Kettle Creek Battlefield Park in Wilkes County near Washington, Ga. The acquisition will enlarge the park by more than 233 percent and preserve the ground where combat between Patriots and the British began, 239 years ago this Wednesday.
Hice, who represents Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, said the site will be a living memorial to the patriots who fought to create our nation, and an outdoor classroom linking military events with American history’s political and social changes. The congressman praised a National Park Service program, one of the country’s most successful land-preservation ventures, for enabling partners to save the storied site.
“As a native of Georgia and a student of history, I am thrilled that this significant battlefield is being preserved,” Hice said. “I am proud to have supported the American Battlefield Protection Program in Congress and am honored it is being used – for the first time – to preserve a Revolutionary War site here in Georgia. Without the support of this program, as well as several state and local partners, this important land could have been lost. Now, it will be preserved and enjoyed as an outdoor classroom for generations to come.”
The federal Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant Program has helped save historic places such as Princeton, New Jersey, Waxhaws, South Carolina, and dozens of Civil War battlegrounds, including several in Georgia – Resaca, Chickamauga, and Rocky Face Ridge, he noted.
“Fought in 1779 on what is now Valentine’s Day, the Battle of Kettle Creek deserves to be far better known,” said Dooley, a proud Georgian who serves on the Civil War Trust’s board of trustees. “A surprise victory for the Patriot militia, Kettle Creek made headlines in Philadelphia, Boston and London. Coming just two months after Savannah had fallen to the British, it was the Patriots’ first big win in Georgia and presaged later American successes as the war ground on in the southern colonies.”
Little wonder that the British came to call northeast Georgia the “Hornet’s Nest” for the refuge it gave backcountry revolutionaries when the world’s mightiest power occupied all the rest of the Deep South, Dooley said. Preserving such places is critical to more people engaging with the nation’s history and appreciating its twists and turns, he said.
Dooley thanked Hice for his long support of historic preservation. Twice named National Coach of the Year, Dooley is the only person to have been president of both the American Football Coaches Association and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. An author and noted gardener, he chairs the Georgia Historical Society.
Lighthizer, the Trust’s president, highlighted the importance of the against-all-odds battles in Georgia and the Carolinas to the outcome of the war. With fighting in the northern colonies stalemated, Americans’ liberty was won in the Revolution’s hard-fought Southern Campaign, which led to ultimate victory at Yorktown, he said.
“I want to personally thank the local community – Wilkes County; the Kettle Creek Battlefield Association; Georgia Society Sons of the American Revolution; and Georgia State Society Daughters of the American Revolution – for their steadfast efforts to preserve the Kettle Creek battlefield over the years,” he said. “None of the work we do around the country would be possible without the efforts of such local partners on the ground.”
Lighthizer also recognized the contributions of the Watson-Brown Foundation of Thomson, Ga., the Georgia Battlefields Association, and the Georgia Piedmont Land Trust to preserve the land, and the Weyerhaeuser Co. for its willingness to sell the acreage. The Trust will continue working with the Kettle Creek Battlefield Association and Wilkes County to acquire other critical properties needed to complete preservation of the battlefield and help realize its potential as a heritage tourism destination, he said.
Walker Chewning, president of the Kettle Creek Battlefield Association, said the park’s 180-acre addition will include the area where the battle began and the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers who fought there. “Kettle Creek foretold that the British didn’t have a winning strategy in the South, their last and best hope to defeat American independence,” Chewning said. “They couldn’t recruit enough Loyalist sympathizers, quash the insurgency, and win the Revolutionary War. This battle signaled that Britain would not conquer the people’s patriotic spirit in Georgia and the Carolinas.”
Militia leader Andrew Pickens, who commanded the Patriot forces, later told Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee for his history of the Southern Campaign that Kettle Creek’s combat was brutal and intense. A battle-hardened veteran nicknamed “The Wizard Owl,” Pickens called it “the severest check and chastisement the Tories ever received in South Carolina or Georgia.”
Chewning said the association is finishing an interpretive trail at War Hill. Earlier, it found and marked Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves and discovered Battle of Kettle Creek artifacts on the newly preserved land, and commissioned a University of Georgia study on preserving and interpreting the battlefield’s evocative landscape. The group hopes to build a second, longer trail on the now-saved tract. Monday’s event followed the weekend’s Revolutionary Days in Wilkes County, held annually by the Georgia Society Sons of the American Revolution to commemorate the battle and its patriots. Kettle Creek Battlefield is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Student musicians with Camden Military Academy’s Fife and Drum Corps traveled to Kettle Creek from Camden, S.C., to perform Revolutionary War tunes for Monday’s event, dressed in Colonial-era uniforms. Dignitaries concluded the news conference with a ceremonial ribbon cutting beside the granite obelisk that the U.S. War Department placed in 1930 atop the park’s War Hill. As part of that final flourish, officials from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources dedicated the brand-new War Hill Loop Trail, which the state supported with a $77,000 grant to Wilkes County.
Within a few months, the Trust will transfer the preserved acreage to Wilkes County for incorporation into the battlefield park. To protect it, the Georgia Piedmont Land Trust will hold a conservation easement on the site.
Campaign 1776 is a national initiative of the Civil War Trust, America’s premiere battlefield preservation organization. Its purpose is to protect the battlefields of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, and to educate the public about the importance of these battlefields in forging the nation we are today. To learn more, visit www.campaign1776.org.
Learn more: The Battle of Kettle Creek
Campaign 1776 was created in 2014 as an initiative of the Civil War Trust; in May 2018 it became the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.