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In Their Own Words

May 06, 1778

Letter on Dealing with South Carolina Loyalists

In Augusta, the state legislature met to consider what to do about South Carolina loyalists traveling through Georgia to the British colony of East Florida. The assembly’s clerk, James Whitefield, wrote to Congress:

“I have in command from the General Assembly now sitting to acquaint Congress with the distressed situation of this state and represent in some measure the urgent necessity which requires immediate exertions from your respectable council in its behalf. Although invaded by sea and land and surrounded by a multitude of enemies who commit daily depredations, the people still retain an unabated ardor to uphold and maintain that sacred cause which has for its object the civil and independent rights of the United States.

“About five weeks since a large body of disaffected persons amounting to about 600 men by the most accurate information embodied themselves in the back parts of the state of South Carolina and forced a march through the upper settlements of this state to the province of East Florida and formed a junction with the tyrant’s forces and adherents there… .

“… General Provost with an army of about 1200 men … left Augustine and has established strong posts, one on the River St. John’s and another on the south side of St. Mary’s Rivers … . I must add to this that the enemy formed a further design on establishing a post at Frederica, but the gallant behavior of the officers and men belonging to the galleys in the service of this state and the troops under the command of Colonel Elbert prevented it by taking three of the enemy’s vessels of war … .

” … We have concluded on an expedition against the province of East Florida, which is now forwarding with all possible dispatch. To speak in terms of positive truth the question must shortly be decided whether Georgia will be free or not.

“The alarming complexion of things induced the Assembly to request the Governor to take the field in person, which he has accordingly done with a body of militia and with the assistance from South Carolina to cooperate with the Continental troops under the command of General Howe… .

“The innumerable evils arising from our large emissions of paper currency render it a matter of necessity that Congress should assist this state with the means of redeeming itself I am there commanded by the Assembly to request that Congress would immediately furnish us with one million of Continental dollars for the purpose of supporting the credit of our former emission made for Continental service and defraying the expense of the present expedition. A supply of this nature forwarded with dispatch would raise the spirits of the distressed people whose critical situation in such as not to admit of any delay. It [Georgia] is a frontier state, sir, far removed from the immediate eye of Congress, laboring under the weight of internal and external oppression… .”

Source: Edward J. Cashin (ed.), A Wilderness Still The Cradle of Nature: Frontier Georgia (Savannah, Beehive Press, 1994), pp. 179-181.