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This Day in Georgia History

November 01, 1788

Samuel Elbert Died

Merchant, soldier, and politician Samuel Elbert died in Savannah, Georgia. Born in 1740 in Savannah (or possibly South Carolina), Elbert was one of the earliest successful merchants in the Georgia colony. Owning a considerable amount of land and running a profitable import business, he naturally was interested in British economic policies toward the colonies in the years preceding the American Revolution. Elbert was also a military leader and had risen to the rank of captain in the Georgia militia before war broke out with England. He was a major participant in the group of Patriots who regularly met at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah to plot resistance to the British. By February 1776, Elbert had been commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the first Continental troops assembled in Georgia. During the next three years, he was active in virtually all the Georgia patriot military encounters against the British. On March 3, 1779, Elbert was taken prisoner after the Battle of Briar Creek. Two years later, he was exchanged for a British general, promoted to brigadier general in the Continental Army, and immediately reported to General George Washington for duty. Elbert was on hand for the great American victory at Yorktown, Virginia and was placed in charge of the large deposit of arms and military stores taken in the battle. Elbert returned to Savannah after the war to resume overseeing his commercial business (left in disarray by the war), but soon was called upon for political service. In 1783 he acted as treaty commissioner for the Indian talks, and the following year was chosen as a delegate to the Continental Congress (though he declined to serve). In 1785, the General Assembly elected Elbert governor of Georgia by a nearly unanimous vote. Even though his health was beginning to fail, Elbert accepted this position with enthusiasm, devoting much of his attention to defense and Creek relations - matters with which he was already very familiar. Also noteworthy during his one-year term as governor was the passage of the act chartering a state University of Georgia. After his term as governor, Elbert served one year as sheriff of Chatham County - but by then his health was failing badly. He died November 1, 1788, and was buried near his home in Savannah. On December 10, 1790, the General Assembly named Georgia’s 13th county in his honor. In 1924, Elbert’s remains were re-interred in the Colonial Cemetery in Savannah.