STORIES OF GEORGIA
By Joel Chandler Harris
Copyright, 1896, by American Book Company
In preparing the pages that follow, the writer has had in view the desirability of familiarizing the youth of Georgia with the salient facts of the State's history in a way that shall make the further study of that history a delight instead of a task. The ground has been gone over before by various writers, but the narratives that are here retold, and the characterizations that are here attempted, have not been brought together heretofore. They lie wide apart in volumes that are little known and out of print.
The stories and the characterizations have been grouped together so as to form a series of connecting links in the rise and progress of Georgia; yet it must not be forgotten that these links are themselves connected with facts and events in the State's development that are quite as interesting, and of as far-reaching importance, as those that have been narrated here. Some such suggestion as this, it is hoped, will cross the minds of young students, and lead them to investigate for themselves the interesting intervals that lie between.
It is unfortunately true that there is no history of Georgia in which the dry bones of facts have been clothed with the flesh and blood of popular narrative. Colonel Charles C. Jones saw what was needed, and entered upon the task of writing the history of the State with characteristic enthusiasm. He had not proceeded far, however, when the fact dawned upon his mind that such a work as he contemplated must be for the most part a labor of love. He felt the influence of cold neglect from every source that might have been expected to afford him aid and encouragement. He was almost compelled to confine himself to a bare recital of facts, for he had reason to know that, at the end of his task, public inappreciation was awaiting him.
And yet it seems to the present writer that every person interested in the growth and development of the republic should turn with eager attention to a narrative embodying the events that have marked the progress of Georgia. It was in this State that some of the most surprising and spectacular scenes of the Revolution took place. In one corner of Georgia those who were fighting for the independence of the republic made their last desperate stand; and if they had surrendered to the odds that faced them, the battle of King's Mountain would never have been fought, Greene's southern campaign would have been crippled, and the struggle for liberty in the south would have ended in smoke.
It is to illustrate the larger events that these stories have been written; and while some of them may seem far away from this point of view, they all have one common purpose and tend to one common end.
STORIES OF GEORGIA.
A SEARCH FOR TREASURE.
So far as written records tell us, Hernando de Soto and his companions in arms were the first white men to enter and explore the territory now known on the map as the State of Georgia. Tradition has small voice in the matter, but such as it has tells another story. There are hints that other white men ventured into this territory before De Soto and his men beheld it. General Oglethorpe, when he came to Georgia with his gentle colony, which had been tamed and sobered by misfortune and ill luck, was firmly of the opinion that Sir Walter Raleigh, the famous soldier, sailor, and scholar, had been there before him. So believing, the founder of the Georgian Colony carried with him Sir Walter's diary. He was confirmed in his opinion by a tradition, among the Indians of the Yamacraw tribe, that Raleigh had landed where Savannah now stands. There are also traditions in regard to the visits of other white men to Georgia. These traditions may be true, or they may be the results of dreams, but it is certain that De Soto and his picked company of Spaniards were the first to march through the territory that is now Georgia. The De Soto expedition was made up of the flower of Spanish chivalry,—men Used to war, and fond of adventure. Some of them were soldiers, anxious to win fame by feats of arms in a new land; some were missionaries, professing an anxiety for the souls of such heathen as they might encounter, but even these men were not unfamiliar with the use of the sword; some were physicians, as ready to kill as to heal; some were botanists, who knew as much about the rapier and the poniard as they did about the stamens, pistils, and petals of the flowers; and some were reporters, men selected to write the history of the expedition. As it turned out, these reporters were entirely faithful to their trust They told all that happened with a fidelity that leaves nothing to be desired. The record they have left shows that the expedition was bent on finding gold and other treasures.
On the 30th of May, 1539, De Soto's expedition landed at Tampa Bay, Fla., and his men pitched their tents on the beach. The army was not a large one; but it was made up of chosen men, who were used to the dangers of war, and who, as stated before, were fond of adventure. There was but one gray head in the expedition: therefore, though the army was a small one, it was the most enthusiastic and warlike array that had ever been seen in the New World. The soldiers wore rich armor, and the cavalry rode gayly caparisoned horses. The army was accompanied by slaves and mules to bear the burdens. It had artillery and other weapons of war; handcuffs, neck collars, and chains for prisoners; crucibles for refining gold; bloodhounds, greyhounds, and a drove of hogs.
For nearly a year the little army of De Soto wandered about in Florida, ransacking the burying grounds of the Indians in search of treasures, and committing such other depredations as were common to the civilization of that age. When inquiries were made for gold, the Indians always pointed toward the north; and, following these hints, the expedition pursued its way through Florida, wandering about in the swamps and slashes, but always held together by the enthusiasm of the men and their hopes of securing rich spoils.
On the 3d of March, 1540, De Soto's army left Anhayca, which is said to have been near the site of Tallahassee, and marched northward. Before leaving the Spaniards seized from the Indians a large supply of maize (now commonly known as corn), and appropriated whatever else struck their fancy. They had spent some time with the Indians at this town of Anhayca, and had sent out parties that committed depredations wherever an Indian settlement could be found. They made slaves of many Indians, treating them with more severity than they treated their beasts of burden. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Indians, discovering the greed of the Spaniards for gold, should have spread rumors that large quantities of the yellow metal were to be found farther north.
Reports came to the Spaniards of a wonderful Indian queen who reigned at a place called Yupaha, a settlement as large as a city. One day an Indian boy, who had been brought to camp with other prisoners, told the Spaniards a good deal about this great Indian queen. He said that she ruled not only her own people, but all the neighboring chiefs, and as far as the Indian settlements extended. The boy told the Spaniards that all the Indians paid tribute to this great queen, and sent her fine presents of clothing and gold. De Soto and his men cared nothing about fine clothing. They were greedy only for gold and precious stones. They asked the Indian boy many questions, and he answered them all. He told how the gold was taken from the earth, and how it was melted and refined. His description was so exact that the Spaniards no longer had any doubt. Their spirits rose mightily, and, after robbing and plundering the Indians who had fed and sheltered them during the winter months, they broke up their camp and moved northward.
Four days after leaving Tallahassee, the Spaniards came to a deep river, which Colonel C. C. Jones, jun., in his "History of Georgia," says was the Ocklockonnee, very close to the southwest boundary of Georgia. Two days later they came to an Indian village from which the inhabitants fled, but a little later a squad of five soldiers was set upon by the Indians hiding near the encampment. One of the Spaniards was killed, while three others were badly wounded. De Soto left this Indian village on the 11th of March, and presently came to a piece of country which the Spanish historian describes as a desert. But it was not a desert then, and it is not a desert now. It was really a pine barren, such as may be seen to this day in what is called the wire-grass region of southern Georgia. In these barrens the soil is sandy and the land level, stretching away for miles. De Soto and his men saw the primeval pines; but these have long since disappeared, and their places are taken by pines of a smaller growth. On the 21st of March, the Spaniards came to the Ocmulgee River, near which they found an Indian town called Toalli.
There will always be a dispute about the route followed by De Soto in his march. This dispute is interesting, but not important. Some say that the expedition moved parallel with the coast until the Savannah River was reached, at a point twenty-five miles below Augusta; but it is just as probable that the route, after reaching the Ocmulgee, was along the banks of that stream and in a northwesterly direction.
At Toalli the Indians had summer and winter houses to live in, and they had storehouses for their maize. The women wore blankets or shawls made of the fiber of silk grass, and the blankets were dyed vermilion or black. Thenceforward the Indians whom the Spaniards met with were of a higher order of intelligence, and of a more industrious turn, than those left behind in Florida and along the southern boundary of Georgia.
As De Soto marched along, he seized Indians and made guides of them, or made prisoners and held them until he was furnished with guides and interpreters. He also announced to the Indians that he was the Child of the Sun, who had been sent to seek out the greatest Prince and Princess. This made a great impression on the Indians, many of whom were sun worshipers.
Many times during the march the Spaniards were on the point of starvation, and the account of their sufferings as set forth in the history of the expedition is intended to be quite pathetic. We need not pause to shed any tears over these things, for the sufferings the Spaniards endured were nothing compared to the sufferings they inflicted on the Indians. They murdered and robbed right and left, and no doubt the Indians regarded them as demons rather than Christians. More than once when the Spaniards were wandering aimlessly about in the wilderness, they were found by the Indians and saved from starvation. In turn the simple-minded natives were treated with a harshness that would be beyond belief if the sickening details were not piously set forth by the Spanish historian of the expedition.
About the 28th of April the expedition reached the neighborhood of Cutifachiqui, having been told by three Indians whom they had taken, that the queen of that province knew of the approach of the Spaniards, and was awaiting them at her chief town just across the river. As De Soto came to the shore of the stream, four canoes started from the opposite side. One of them contained a kinswoman of the queen, who had been selected to invite the Spaniards to enter the town. Shortly afterwards the queen came forth from the town, seated on a palanquin or litter, which was borne by the principal men. Coming to the water side, the queen entered a canoe, over the stern of which was stretched an awning to shelter her from the sun.
Under this awning she reclined on cushions; and thus, in company with her chiefs, and attended by many of her people in canoes, she crossed the river to meet De Soto. She landed, and gave the Spaniard a gracious welcome. As an offering of peace and good will, she took from her neck a long string of pearls, and gave the gems to De Soto. She also gave him many shawls and finely dressed deerskins. The Spaniard acknowledged the beautiful gifts by taking from his hand a gold ring set with a ruby, and placing it upon one of the queen's fingers.
The old historian pretends that De Soto and his men were very much impressed by the dignity and courtesy of the Indian queen. She was the first woman ruler they had met in their wanderings. She was tall, finely formed, and had great beauty of countenance. She was both gracious and graceful. All this is set down in the most pompous way by the Spanish chroniclers; but the truth seems to be that De Soto and his men cared nothing for the courtesy and hospitality of the queen, and that they were not moved by her beauty and kindness. The Spaniards crossed the river in canoes furnished by the queen's people, and found themselves surrounded by the most hospitable Indians they had yet seen. They were supplied with everything the land afforded, and rested in comfortable wigwams under the shade of mulberry trees. The soldiers were so delighted with the situation, that they were anxious to form a settlement there; but De Soto refused to forget the only object of the expedition, which was to search for gold and other treasures. His determination had the desired effect His men recovered their energies. While enjoying the hospitality of the queen, they found out the burial places of her people, and gathered from the graves, according to the statement of the Spanish historian, "three hundred and fifty weight of pearls, and figures of babies and birds, made from iridescent shells."
The mother of the queen lived not far from the town where the Spaniards were quartered, and, as she was said to be the owner of many fine pearls, De Soto expressed a desire to see her. Upon hearing this, the queen sent twelve of her principal men to beg her mother to come to see the white strangers and the wonderful animals they had brought with them; but the mother of the queen was very shrewd. She rebuked the messengers, and sent them back with some sharp words for her daughter; and though De Soto did his best to capture the woman, he was never able to carry out his purpose.
He then turned his attention to a temple that stood on the side of a deserted settlement which had formerly been the chief town of the queen's people. This temple, as described by the Spanish chronicler, was more than one hundred steps long by forty broad, the walls high in proportion, and the roof elevated so as to allow the water to run off. On the roof were various shells arranged in artistic order, and the shells were connected by strings of pearls. These pearls extended from the top of the roof to the bottom in long festoons, and the sun shining on them produced a very brilliant effect. At the door of the temple were twelve giant-like statues made of wood. These figures were so ferocious in their appearance, that the Spaniards hesitated for some time before they could persuade themselves to enter the temple. The statues were armed with clubs, maces, copper axes, and pikes ornamented with copper at both ends. In the middle of the temple were three rows of chests, placed one upon another in the form of pyramids. Each pyramid consisted of five or six chests, the largest at the bottom, and the smallest at the top. These chests, the Spanish chroniclers say, were filled with pearls, the largest containing the finest pearls, and the smallest only seed pearls.
It is just as well to believe a little of this as to believe a great deal. It was an easy matter for the survivors of the expedition to exaggerate these things, and they probably took great liberties with the facts; but there is no doubt that the Indians possessed many pearls. Mussels like those from which they took the gems are still to be found in the small streams and creeks of Georgia, and an enterprising boy might even now be able to find a seed pearl if he sought for it patiently.
It is not to be doubted that rich stores of pearls were found. Some were distributed to the officers and men; but the bulk of them, strange to say, were left undisturbed, to await the return of the Spaniards another day. De Soto was still intent on searching for gold, and he would hear of nothing else. He would neither settle among the queen's people for a season, nor return to Tampa with the great store of pearls discovered. Being a resolute man and of few words, he had his way, and made preparations to journey farther north to the province called Chiaha, which was governed by a great Indian king. The conduct of the Spaniards had been so cruel during their stay at Cutifachiqui, that the queen had come to regard them with fear and hatred, and she refused to supply them with guides and burden bearers. De Soto thereupon placed her under guard; and when he took up his march for Chiaha, the queen who had received him with so much grace, dignity, and hospitality, was compelled to accompany him on foot, escorted by her female attendants. The old Spanish chronicler is moved to remark that "it was not so good usage as she deserved for the good will she shewed and the good entertainment that she had made him." This was the return the Spanish leader made to the queen who had received and entertained his army,—to seize her, place her under guard, and compel her to accompany his expedition on foot.
One reason why De Soto made the queen his prisoner and carried her with the expedition was to use her influence in controlling the Indians along his line of march. The result was all that he could have expected. In all the towns through which the Spaniards passed, the queen commanded the Indians to carry the burdens of the army; and thus they went for a hundred leagues, the Indians obeying the queen without question. After a march of seven days, De Soto arrived at the province of Chelaque, which was the country of the Cherokees. Here the soldiers added to their stores of provisions, and renewed their march; and on May 15 they arrived in the province of Xualla, the chief town of which is supposed to have been situated in the Nacoochee valley. Inclining his course westwardly from the Nacoochee valley, De Soto set out for Guaxule, which marked the limit of the queen's dominion, and which has been identified as Old Town, in Murray County. On this march the queen made her escape, taking with her a cane box filled with large pearls of great value. This box had been borne by one of the queen's attendants up to the moment when she disappeared from the Spanish camp. De Soto made every effort to recapture the queen. No doubt the bloodhounds, which formed a part of the expedition, were called in to aid in the search; but it was all to no purpose. The queen hid herself as easily as a young partridge hides, and neither men nor dogs could find her. De Soto went on his way, deploring the loss of the valuable pearls.
From Nacoochee to Murray County the march was fatiguing. The route lay over mountains as well as valleys. One of the foot soldiers, Juan Terron (his folly has caused history to preserve his name), grew so weary on this march, that he drew from his wallet a linen bag containing six pounds of pearls. Calling to a cavalryman, Juan Terron offered him the bag of pearls if he would carry them. The cavalryman refused the offer, and told his comrade to keep them. But Juan Terron would not have it so. He untied the bag, whirled it around his head, and scattered the pearls in all directions. This done, he replaced the empty bag in his wallet, and marched on, leaving his companions amazed at his folly. Thirty of the pearls were recovered by the soldiers. The gems were of great size, and perfect in every particular; and it was estimated that the six pounds of pearls would have fetched six thousand ducats in Spain (over twelve thousand dollars). The folly of the foot soldier gave rise to a saying in the army, that is no doubt current in Spain to this day,—"There are no pearls for Juan Terron," which means that a fool makes no profits.
Continuing their march, the Spaniards came to the town of Chiaha,—a site that is now occupied by the flourishing city of Rome. De Soto remained at Chiaha a month, sending out exploring expeditions in search of the much-coveted gold. They found traces of the precious metal, but nothing more. On the 1st of July, 1540, De Soto left Chiaha, going down the valley of the Coosa. His expedition was organized by the spirit of greed. It spread desolation wherever it went, and it ended in disaster and despair. De Soto himself found a grave in the waters of the Mississippi, and the survivors who made their way back home were broken in health and spirits.
An attempt has been made to throw a halo of romance over this march of the Spaniards through the wilderness of the New World, but there is nothing romantic or inspiring about it. It was simply a search for riches, in which hundreds of lives were most cruelly sacrificed, and thousands of homes destroyed.
OGLETHORPE AND HIS GENTLE COLONY
General James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of the Colony of Georgia, was among the few really good and great men that history tells us of. We need to keep a close eye on the antics of history. She places the laurels of fame in the hands of butchers, plunderers, and adventurers, and even assassins share her favors; so that, if we are going to enjoy the feast that history offers us, we must not inquire too closely into the characters of the men whom she makes heroes of. We find, when we come to look into the matter, that but few of those who figured as the great men of the world have been entirely unselfish; and unselfishness is the test of a man who is really good and great. Judged by this test, General Oglethorpe stands among the greatest men known to history.
He had served in the army with distinction, as his father had before him. He was on the staff of the great soldier Eugene of Savoy, and under that commander made himself conspicuous by his fidelity and fearlessness. A story is told of him that is interesting, if not characteristic. While serving under Eugene, he one day found himself sitting at table with a prince of Wuertemberg. He was a beardless youngster, and the prince thought to have some sport with him. Taking up a glass of wine, the prince gave it a fillip, so that a little flew in Oglethorpe's face. The young Englishman, looking straight at the prince, and smiling, said, "My prince, that is only a part of the joke as the English know it: I will show you the whole of it." With that he threw a glassful of wine in the prince's face. An old general who sat by laughed dryly, and remarked, "He did well, my prince: you began it."
Born in 1689, Oglethorpe entered the English army when twenty-one years of age. In 1714 he became captain lieutenant of the first troop of the queen's guards. He shortly afterwards joined Eugene on the continent, and remained with that soldier until the peace of 1718. On the death of his brother, he succeeded to the family estate in England. In 1722 he was elected to Parliament from Haslemere, county of Surrey, and this borough he represented continuously for thirty-two years. His parliamentary career was marked by wise prudence and consistency; and his sympathies were warmly enlisted for the relief of unfortunate soldiers, and in securing reform in the conduct of prisons. In this way Oglethorpe became a philanthropist, and, without intending it, attracted the attention of all England. Pope, the poet, eulogizes his "strong benevolence of soul."
In that day and time, men were imprisoned for debt in England. The law was brutal, and those who executed it were cruel. There was no discrimination between fraud and misfortune. The man who was unable to pay his debts was judged to be as criminal as the man who, though able, refused to pay. Both were thrown into the same prison, and subjected to the same hardships. In "Little Dorrit," Charles Dickens has told something of those unfortunates who were thrown into prison for debt.
There was apparently nothing too atrocious to be sanctioned by the commercial ambition of the English. It armed creditors with the power to impose the most cruel burdens upon their debtors, and it sanctioned the slave trade. Many crimes have been committed to promote the commercial supremacy of Great Britain, and on that blind policy was based the law which suffered innocent debtors to be deprived of their liberty and thrown into prison.
This condition of affairs Oglethorpe set himself to reform; and while thus engaged, he became impressed with the idea that many of the unfortunates, guilty of no crime, and of respectable connections, might benefit themselves, relieve England of the shame of their imprisonment, and confirm and extend the dominion of the mother country in the New World, by being freed from the claims of those to whom they owed money, on condition that they would consent to become colonists in America. To this class were to be added recruits from those who, through lack of work and of means, were likely to be imprisoned on account of their misfortunes. Oglethorpe was also of the opinion that men of means, enterprise, and ambition could be enlisted in the cause; and in this he was not mistaken.
He had no hope whatever of personal gain or private benefit. The plan that he had conceived was entirely for the benefit of the unfortunate, based on broad and high ideas of benevolence; and so thoroughly was this understood, that Oglethorpe had no difficulty whatever in securing the aid of men of wealth and influence. A charter or grant from the government was applied for, in order that the scheme might have the sanction and authority of the government. Accordingly a charter was granted, and the men most prominent in the scheme of benevolence were incorporated under the name of "The Trustees for establishing the Colony of Georgia in America." Georgia in America, was, under the terms of the charter, a pretty large slice of America. It embraced all that part of the continent lying between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers, and extending westerly from the heads of these rivers in direct lines to the South Seas; so that the original territory of Georgia extended from ocean to ocean.
In aid of this enterprise, Oglethorpe not only contributed largely from his private means, and solicited contributions from his wealthy friends, but wrote a tract in which he used arguments that were practical as well as ingenious.
On the 17th of November, 1732, all arrangements having been completed, the "Anne" set sail for the Colony of Georgia, accompanied by Oglethorpe, who furnished his own cabin, and laid in provisions not only for himself, but for his fellow-passengers. On the 13th of January, 1733, the "Anne" anchored in Charleston harbor. From Charleston the vessel sailed to Port Royal; and the colonists were soon quartered in the barracks of Beaufort-town, which had been prepared for their reception. Oglethorpe left the colonists at Beaufort, and, in company with Colonel William Bull, proceeded to the Savannah River. He went up this stream as far as Yamacraw Bluff, which he selected as the site of the settlement he was about to make. He marked out the town, and named it Savannah. The site was a beautiful one in Oglethorpe's day, and it is still more beautiful now. The little settlement that the founder of the Colony marked out has grown into a flourishing city, and art has added its advantages to those of nature to make Savannah one of the most beautiful cities in the United States.
Close by the site which Oglethorpe chose for his colony was an Indian village occupied by the Yamacraws,—a small tribe, of which Tomochichi was chief. At this point, too, was a trading post, which had been established by a white man named John Musgrove. This man had married a half-breed woman whose Indian name was Coosaponakesee, but who was known as Mary Musgrove. In order to insure the friendly reception of his little colony and its future safety, Oglethorpe went to the village and had a talk with Tomochichi. Mary Musgrove not only acted as interpreter, but used her influence, which was very great, in favor of her husband's countrymen. This was fortunate, for the Indians were very uneasy when they learned that a colony of whites was to be established near their village, and some of them even threatened to use force to prevent it; but Oglethorpe's friendly attitude, and Mary Musgrove's influence, at last persuaded them to give their consent. They made an agreement to cede the necessary land, and promised to receive the colonists in a friendly manner. Oglethorpe returned to Beaufort when he had concluded this treaty, and the Sunday following his return was celebrated as a day of thanksgiving. After religious services there was a barbecue, which, history tells us, consisted of four fat hogs, turkeys, fowls English beef, a hogshead of punch, a hogshead of beer, and a quantity of wine.
On the 30th of January, 1733, the immigrants set sail from Beaufort, and on the afternoon of the next day they arrived at Yamacraw Bluff. On the site of the town that had already been marked off, they pitched four tents large enough to accommodate all the people. Oglethorpe, after posting his sentinels, slept on the ground under the shelter of the tall pines, near the central watch fire. As a soldier should, he slept soundly. He had planted the new Colony, and thus far all had gone well with him and with those whose interests he had charge of.
To bring these colonists across the ocean, and place them in a position where they might begin life anew, was not a very difficult undertaking; but to plant a colony amongst savages already suspicious of the whites, and to succeed in obtaining their respect, friendship, and aid, was something that required wisdom, courage, prudence, and large experience. This Oglethorpe did; and it is to his credit, that, during the time he had charge of the Colony, he never in any shape or form took advantage of the ignorance of the Indians. His method of dealing with them was very simple. He conciliated them by showing them that the whites could be just, fair, and honorable in their dealings; and thus, in the very beginning, he won the friendship of those whose enmity to the little Colony would have proved ruinous.
Providence favored Oglethorpe in this matter. He had to deal with an Indian chief full of years, wisdom, and experience. This was Tomochichi, who was at the head of the Yamacraws. From this kindly Indian the Georgia Colony received untold benefits. He remained the steadfast friend of the settlers, and used his influence in their behalf in every possible way, and on all occasions. Although he was a very old man, he was strong and active, and of commanding presence. He possessed remarkable intelligence; and this, added to his experience, made him one of the most remarkable of the Indians whose names have been preserved in history. There was something of a mystery about him that adds to the interest which his active friendship for the whites has given to his name. He belonged to the tribe of Lower Creeks; but for some reason or other, he, with a number of his tribemen, had been banished. The cause of his exile has never been made known; but at this late day it may be guessed that he became disgusted with the factional disputes among the Creeks, and sought in another part of the territory the peace and repose to which his years of service had entitled him; and that when he had taken this step, the factions which he had opposed succeeded in having him banished. Some such theory as this is necessary to account for the tributes that were paid to his character and influence by the Creek chiefs who assembled at Savannah to make a treaty with Oglethorpe. Tomochichi was ninety-one years old when the Georgia Colony was founded, and he had gathered about him a number of disaffected Creeks and Yemassees, known as the tribe of the Yamacraws. When the Creeks came to Savannah to meet Oglethorpe, the greatest of their chiefs said that he was related to Tomochichi, who was a good man, and had been a great warrior.
Thus, with Oglethorpe to direct it, and with Tomochichi as its friend, the little Georgia Colony was founded, and, as we shall see, thrived and flourished.
THE EMPRESS OF GEORGIA
When Oglethorpe landed at Yamacraw Bluff, he was greatly aided in his efforts to conciliate the Indians by the wife of John Musgrove, a half-breed woman whose Indian name was Coosaponakesee. She was known by the colonists as Mary Musgrove, and her friendship for the whites was timely and fortunate. She was Oglethorpe's interpreter in his first interview with Tomochichi. She was very friendly and accommodating, giving aid to Oglethorpe and his colony in every possible way. Finding that she had great influence, and could be made very useful to the colonists, Oglethorpe employed her as interpreter, and paid her yearly one hundred pounds sterling, which in that day was equal to a great deal more than five hundred dollars; but Mary Musgrove earned all that was paid her, and more. She used all her influence in behalf of the whites. She aided in concluding treaties, and also in securing warriors from the Creek nation in the war that occurred between the colonists and the Spaniards who occupied Florida.
General Oglethorpe had a sincere friendship for Mary Musgrove, and his influence over her was such that she never refused a request he made. If Oglethorpe had remained in Georgia, it is probable that the curious episode in which Mary took a leading part would never have occurred.
Oglethorpe left Georgia on the 23d of July, 1743, and never returned. John Musgrove died shortly afterwards, and Mary married a man named Matthews, who also died. She then married a man named Thomas Bosomworth, who had been chaplain to Oglethorpe's regiment. In 1743, before Oglethorpe's departure, Bosomworth had been commissioned to perform all religious and ecclesiastical affairs in Georgia. Previous to that he had accepted a grant of lands, and had taken up his abode in the Colony. He appears to have been a pompous and an ambitious person, with just enough learning to make him dangerous.
Before Mary Musgrove married Bosomworth she had never ceased to labor for the good of the Colony. No sacrifice was too great for her to make in behalf of her white friends. It is true, she had not been fully paid for her services; but she had faith in the good intentions of the government, and was content. In 1744, a year after Oglethorpe's departure from the Colony, Mary married Bosomworth, and after that her conduct was such as to keep the whites in constant fear of massacre and extermination.
In 1745, Thomas Bosomworth went to England and informed the trustees of the Georgia Company that he intended to give up his residence in the Georgia Colony. The next year he returned to Georgia, and violated the regulations of the trustees by introducing six negro slaves on the plantation of his wife near the Altamaha River. This action was at once resented; and President Stephens, who had succeeded Oglethorpe in the management of the Colony's affairs, was ordered to have the negro slaves removed from the territory of Georgia. This was done, and from that time forth Bosomworth and his wife began to plot against the peace and good order of the Georgia Colony. He used the influence of his wife to conciliate the Indians, and secure their sympathy and support. While this was going on, he was busy in preparing a claim against the government of the Colony for the services rendered and losses sustained by his wife, which he valued at five hundred pounds sterling. In her name he also claimed possession of the islands of Ossabaw, St. Catharine, and Sapelo, and of a tract of land near Savannah which in former treaties had been reserved to the Indians.
Bosomworth was shrewd enough not to act alone. In some mysterious way, not clearly told in history, he secured the sympathy and support of Major William Horton, commander of Oglethorpe's regiment stationed at Frederica, and other officers. Colonel Heron, who succeeded Major Horton as commander of the regiment in 1747, was likewise gained over to the cause of the Bosomworths. By the connivance of this officer, a body of Indians, with Malatche at their head, marched to Frederica for a conference. At this conference Malatche made a speech in which he told of the services which his sister Mary had rendered the colonists, and requested that a messenger be sent to England to tell the King that he, Malatche, was emperor of all the Creeks. He declared, also, that Mary, his sister, was confided in by the whole Creek nation, and that the nation had decided to abide by her will and desire.
Bosomworth saw the necessity of pushing the matter forward, and so he suggested to Malatche the importance of having himself crowned as emperor by those who were with him. Accordingly a paper was drawn up giving to Malatche full authority as emperor. This done, Bosomworth was quick to procure from the Creek emperor a deed of conveyance to Thomas and Mary Bosomworth of the islands of Ossabaw, Sapelo, and St. Catharine.
Matters went on peaceably for a while; but Bosomworth was active and energetic, and his wife appears to have been entirely under his control. He bought on credit a great number of cattle from planters in South Carolina, and these he placed on the islands that had been given him by Malatche. When his debts fell due, he was unable to pay them. Rather than surrender the property for which he was unable to pay, he suggested to his wife that she take the title of an independent empress. It is doubtful if she knew what an empress was; but she had an idea, that, if she claimed to be one, she would be able to buy some red calico at the nearest store, as well as an extra bottle of rum. So she fell eagerly into the Rev. Mr. Bosom-worth's plans. She sent word to the Creeks that she had suddenly become a genuine empress, and called a meeting of the big men of the nation. The big men assembled; and Mary made a speech, in which she insisted that she was the Empress of Georgia. She must have been a pretty good talker; for the Indians became very much excited, and pledged themselves to stand by her to the last drop of their blood.
Having thus obtained the support of the Indians, Mary set out for Savannah, accompanied by a large body of them. She sent before her a messenger to inform the president of the Province that she had become empress over the whole territory belonging to the Upper and Lower Creeks; that she was on her way to demand the instant surrender of all the lands that had belonged to Doth nations; and that, if there should be any serious opposition to her demands, the settlement would be attacked and destroyed.
It was a dark hour for the colonists, who were vastly outnumbered by the Indians. The president and council were disturbed by the bold threats made by Mary Bosomworth. Their first plan was to meet the Indians peaceably, and, by gentle measures, find an opportunity to seize Mary Bosomworth and ship her to England. In the town of Savannah there were only one hundred and seventy men able to bear arms. The president of the Province sent a messenger to Mary, while she and her followers were still several miles distant, warning her to give up her wild scheme. Mary sent back a message expressing her contempt for the Colony and its officials. Thereupon the president of the Province determined to put the best possible face on the matter, and receive Mary and her savage followers boldly. Accordingly the militia was ordered under arms; and as the Indians entered the town, they were stopped by Colonel Noble Jones, who, at the head of a company of horse, demanded to know whether they came with friendly or hostile intentions. He received no satisfactory answer to his demand, whereupon he informed the Indians that they must ground their arms, as he had orders not to permit an armed man among them to set foot within the town. The Indians submitted to the unexpected demand, but with great reluctance.
Having grounded their arms, the Indians were allowed to enter the town. They marched in regular order, headed by Thomas Bosomworth, who, decked out in full canonical robes, with Mary by his side, was followed by the various chiefs according to their rank. The army of Indians made a formidable appearance as they marched into the town, and the inhabitants were terror-stricken at the sight. They marched to the parade ground, where they found the militia drawn up to receive them. Here they were saluted with fifteen guns, and then conducted to the president's house. When the Indians were assembled there, Thomas and Mary Bosomworth were ordered to withdraw. Then the president and council asked the Indian chiefs in a friendly manner why they visited the town in so large a body, not having been sent for by any person in lawful authority. The Indians replied that Mary, their empress, was to speak for them, and that they would abide by what she said. They had heard that she was to be made a prisoner and sent across the great waters, and they wanted to know why they were to lose their queen. They said they intended no harm to the whites, and begged that their arms might be restored to them. Then, after talking with Bosomworth and his wife, they would return and settle all public affairs. Their arms were restored to them, but orders were given that on no account should any ammunition be issued until the true purpose of their visit was made known.
The Indians then had a conference with Mary Bosomworth, and on the following day began to conduct themselves riotously, running up and down the streets like madmen. As all the men were obliged to perform guard duty, the women were compelled to remain alone in their houses. They were in a constant state of terror and alarm, expecting every moment to be set upon and killed by the unruly savages. While the confusion was at its worst, a rumor was circulated that the Indians had cut off the head of the president of the council. The report was false; but the colonists were in such a state of excitement, that they could scarcely be restrained from firing on the Indians. The situation was very critical. Great prudence was necessary in order to prevent bloodshed, and save the town from destruction.
At this crisis orders were given to the militia to lay hold of Thomas Bosomworth, and place him in close confinement. When this order was carried out, Mary became frantic, and made threats of vengeance against the whole Colony. She cursed General Oglethorpe, declared that his treaties were fraudulent, and ordered the colonists to depart from her territory. She raved furiously, and claimed control over the entire earth. But while engaged in cutting up these extraordinary capers, she kept an eye on the leading men among the Indians, who she knew could be easily bribed.
The president of the Province, finding that nothing could be done with the Indians while they remained under the influence of their so-called empress, caused Mary to be privately arrested, and placed her under guard with her husband. When this was done, quiet was at once restored. The Indians ceased to be boisterous. When the time seemed to be ripe, the president of the Province employed men acquainted with the Creek language to entertain the chiefs and their warriors in the friendliest way. A feast was prepared; and in the midst of it the chiefs were told that Bosomworth had become involved in debt, and was anxious to secure not only all the lands of the Creeks, but also a large share of the bounty paid to them by the King of England, so that he might be able to pay his creditors in Carolina. He was also told that the King's presents were intended only for the Indians; that the lands near the town were reserved for them for their encampments; that the sea islands were reserved for them to hunt upon when they should come to bathe in the salt waters; and that neither Mary nor her husband had any right to these lands, which were the common property of the Creek nations.
For the moment this policy was successful. Even Malatche, Mary's brother, seemed to be satisfied; and many of the chiefs declared that they were convinced that Bosomworth had deceived them, and that they would trust him no more. But Malatche, at his own request, had another talk with Thomas and Mary Bosomworth, and was again won over to support their wild pretensions; so that, when the Indians were gathered together to receive their shares of the royal bounty, Malatche stood up in the midst of them, and delivered a most violent speech in favor of the claims of Mary as the Empress of Georgia. He declared that she had three thousand warriors at her command, and that every man of them would take up arms in her defense. At the conclusion of his speech, Malatche drew forth a paper and presented it to the president of the council This paper was merely the sum and substance of Malatche's speech; and it was so clearly the production of Bosomworth, that the effect was far different from what the Indians had expected. The astonishment of the president and council was so apparent, that Malatche begged to have the paper again, so that he might deliver it to the person from whom he had received it.
It was important that another conference should be had with the Indians. Accordingly they were called together again; and the president of the Province made an address, recalling to their minds the fact that when General Oglethorpe and his colony landed in Georgia, they found Mary, then the wife of John Musgrove, living in a hut at Yamacraw; that at that time she was comparatively poor and friendless, being neglected and despised by the Creeks, and going about in rags; that General Oglethorpe, finding that she could speak both the English and the Creek tongues, employed her as an interpreter, gave her rich clothes, and made her a woman of some consequence; that she was respected by the colonists until she married Thomas Bosomworth, but from that time forth they no longer had any confidence in her; that she had no lands of her own; and that General Oglethorpe had no treaty with her, but dealt with the old and wise leaders of the Creeks, who voluntarily surrendered their waste lands to the whites. The president then went on to show that Mary's claims had been invented by Thomas Bosomworth as an easy means of paying a debt of four hundred pounds which he owed in South Carolina for cattle, and that his quarrel with the colonists was due to the fact that they had refused to give him a third part of the royal bounty which belonged by right to the Indians.
At this point the Creek chiefs begged the president to stop. They had heard enough to convince them, they said, and now they wanted to smoke the pipe of peace. Apparently this was a happy ending to a very serious dispute. But at the very moment when everything was serene, Mary Bosomworth made her appearance amongst those who were patching up their differences. She had escaped from her guards, and, having secured a supply of rum, now made her appearance drunk and furious. She filled the air with threats. The president told her, that, unless she ceased her efforts to poison the minds of the Indians, he would again order her into close confinement. Thereupon Mary turned to Malatche and told him what the president had said. In a rage, Malatche seized his arms, and, calling to the rest of the Indians to do the same, dared the whites to touch the empress. The uproar was great. Every Indian had his tomahawk in his hand, and the council expected nothing less than instant death.
At this moment, Captain Noble Jones, who commanded the guard, ordered the Indians to deliver up their arms. The savages were overawed by the coolness and courage of this intrepid officer. They yielded up their arms, and Mary was shut in a private room, and a guard set over her. There she was securely kept, and while the Indians remained she had no further communication with them. Her husband was then sent for, and the president and council tried to reason with him; but he remained obstinate, declaring that he would stand up for his wife's rights to the last. Finding Bosomworth unreasonable, the council caused him to be seized and confined. This done, the authorities then set about persuading the Indians to leave the town peaceably and return to their own settlements. This the savages did after a while, leaving Savannah in small parties until all were gone.
Finding himself no longer supported by the Indians, Thomas Bosomworth at last repented of his folly. He wrote to the president and council, apologizing for his wanton conduct. He acknowledged the title of his wife to be groundless, and relinquished all claim to the lands of the Province. Though his offense had been serious, the colonists pardoned him, and thus ended the career of Coosaponakesee as Empress of Georgia.
And yet, after all, the Rev. Thomas Bosomworth had his way. Mary seems to have lived long; and her husband pressed her claims in London, so that, when Henry Ellis was made governor of the Province, he was authorized, in 1759, to sell the islands of Ossabaw and Sapelo, as well as other Indian lands near Savannah, and out of the moneys received to settle the demands of the Bosomworths, and to give them a title to the Island of St. Catharine, which they had settled and improved. Mary Bosomworth was given four hundred and fifty pounds for goods she had expended in the King's service, and it was provided also that she should be allowed sixteen hundred and fifty pounds for her services as agent. In addition, she was given two thousand pounds, the sum for which Ossabaw and Sapelo sold at auction. A grant of St. Catharine Island was also made to Mary Bosomworth; so that it may be considered that she was richly rewarded for the many good turns she did the colonists in her better days, before her mind had been poisoned by the Rev. Mr. Bosomworth.
THE LIBERTY BOYS.
In 1765, what is known as the Stamp Act was passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, in spite of all the protests made by the agents of the Colonies. The people of the Colonies felt that taxation without representation was an exercise of power not to be tolerated.
The Stamp Act itself was a very small matter; but many of the American Colonies had been setting up claims of independence in various matters. As Benjamin Franklin said, the British nation was provoked by these claims of independence, and all parties proposed by this piece of legislation to settle the question once for all. While the agents of the Colonies, and among them Franklin, protested against the Stamp Act, none of them supposed that it would be met by armed resistance; and yet the terms of the act were insolent and sweeping. It was provided that if the stamps were not used, "marriages would be null and void, notes of hand valueless, ships at sea prizes to the first captors, suits at law impossible, transfers of real estate invalid, inheritances irreclaimable." In spite of these sweeping terms, Benjamin Franklin did not doubt that the act would be carried into effect, and other patriotic Americans thought that the colonists should submit. Even James Otis of Boston, who was afterwards among the first to advocate the calling of an American congress to deliberate upon the propriety of the acts of Great Britain, was of this opinion.
The Georgia authorities regarded the stamp duty as just as any that could be generally imposed on the Colonies, though the manner of imposing it greatly inspired alarm. But while the other Colonies were hesitating, a voice was heard in Virginia. Patrick Henry, speaking for the Virginians, made an eloquent protest against the law, and his boldness kindled into flames the spirit of opposition that had been smoldering in all the Colonies. The Sons of Liberty were organized North and South. In Georgia they were known as "Liberty Boys." "Liberty, property, and no stamps!" was the cry, and it was a cry that stirred the country from one end to the other.
The congress suggested by James Otis of Boston assembled on Monday, the 7th of October, 1765, Georgia had no delegates in the congress, but was represented by a messenger who was sent to obtain a copy of the proceedings. Such representation was not because the Colony of Georgia failed to sympathize with the purpose for which the congress was called, but was entirely due to the influence and popularity of Governor Wright, the royal governor, who was not only a good man personally, but wise, prudent, and far-seeing. Owing to his exertions, Georgia was not represented in the person of delegates. The speaker of the Georgia House of Assembly had indeed called a convention of the members for the purpose of selecting delegates to the Colonial Congress called to meet in New York, and sixteen members had responded to the call; but such was the influence of Governor Wright, that these members of the assembly were prevailed upon not to send delegates to the congress. But they could not be prevented from preparing and sending a response to the Massachusetts invitation. They had resolved, they said, to support heartily every measure that might be suggested for the support of the common rights of the Colonies.
We learn from the letters of Governor Wright, written to the Earl of Halifax, that it was as much as he could do (and he was a very active as well as a very wise governor) to prevail on the people to maintain at least the outward show of loyalty to the King. And he was not successful even in this, for he informs another correspondent (Mr. Secretary Conway) on the 31st of January, 1766, that the same spirit of "sedition, or rather rebellion, which first appeared at Boston," had reached Georgia, and that he had been constantly engaged for the space of three months in trying to convince the people that they ought to submit to the King's authority until they could point out their grievances and apply for redress in a constitutional way. Governor Wright also states to the same correspondent that he has had much trouble in preserving from destruction at the hands of the people the stamp papers that had been forwarded for the collection of the tax. He received "incendiary" letters; he had to issue proclamations against riots and "tumultuous and unlawful assemblies;" and he had also to take measures against the Liberty Boys, who began to have private meetings, and who had formed themselves into a society to oppose and prevent the distribution of the stamp papers.
In short, the good governor was kept in a constant state of alarm lest the Liberty Boys should seize some advantage and cause his Majesty the King of England to have a moment of grief. The Liberty Boys were so active, and made so many threatening demonstrations, that Governor Wright was driven to what he describes as extreme measures. He was compelled to send the obnoxious stamp papers to a place of safety to prevent the people from destroying them; and when he had the papers securely hidden, he was compelled to place men on duty day and night to protect the precious stamps. He was obliged to send a posse of men to protect the stamp distributer by hiding him, and was then moved to send him into the country for a season, in order to avoid the resentment of the people; and then, after all his trouble, the good governor found that the people had determined not to apply for any papers, stamped or unstamped, until the King had acted on the petitions sent from the Colonies. No wonder that he was moved to call it "a wretched situation." It was indeed a wretched situation for one who had no higher ideas of duty than to continue to serve the King and oppose the interests of the people.
There was something more of an uproar in South Carolina than in Georgia; but the truth of history appears to be that the resistance offered to the Stamp Act in Georgia was much more serious than that displayed in Carolina. Although Governor Wright used all his influence to support the act, the people exercised so much vigilance in watching the stamp papers and the officer sent to issue them, that none of the papers found their way into use.
The Colonies were bordering on a state of revolution, when, through the influence of the Earl of Chatham, the Stamp Act was repealed. There was great rejoicing among the people, and a general manifestation of a renewal of loyalty to the mother country. But the seeds of dissension had been sown. The Stamp Act unnecessary and uncalled for, had given the people cause to ponder over their real relations to the Crown; and out of the discussion that had taken place arose a spirit of independence that grew and thrived and spread day by day.
In short, the repeal of the Stamp Act gave the people of the Colonies only momentary satisfaction. Their success in securing its repeal gave them a new taste for liberty of action, and a new sense of their importance as individuals. But King George III. was never satisfied with the repeal of the Stamp Act of 1765. He declared that it had wounded the Majesty of England. It fretted him, and the irritation that he felt extended like a contagion to his cabinet. When the Earl of Chatham died, there was no statesman to take his place. The mantle of his office fell on Charles Townshend, who was more anxious to please the King than to secure good government to the people of the Colonies. He was anxious for the British Government to assert with vigor its right to govern the Colonies as it saw fit.
Meanwhile the spirit of independence in the Colonies continued to assert itself more openly day by day, and the determination grew among them not to submit to taxation without representation in Parliament. The organization of Sons of Liberty and Liberty Boys grew and spread both North and South. One of the most fruitful causes of discontent was the fact that Georgia and the other Colonies were compelled to depend upon the will of the British Government in all matters. Every act passed by a colonial assembly must receive the sanction of the British Parliament before it became a law. Petitions were disregarded. Frequently there was a delay of two years between the passage of an act by the Colonial General Assembly and its ratification. But every measure had to receive the approval of the Crown. While the affairs of the country were in this peculiar condition, the people became more and more dissatisfied.
It is now known that Governor James Wright, loyal to the King as he proved himself to be, was fully sensible of the injustice to which the Colonies were compelled to submit. On the 15th of August, 1769, he addressed a letter to the Earl of Hillsborough, which was not read until fifteen months after it was written. In this letter the governor warned the British cabinet that the Colonies would never submit to taxation without representation. There was no disaffection, he said, toward the King or the royal family, but simply a determination on the part of the people to stand on their rights. But the governor's letter lay unread for fifteen months, and there was no reply to the numerous petitions sent from the Colonies. At last the Americans determined to appeal to the pockets instead of to the sentiments of the people of Great Britain. They determined to import no goods whatever that could be manufactured or produced at home.
This determination, instead of causing the British people to conciliate the Americans by securing the repeal of unfriendly laws, turned the popular opinion against the Colonies; and this feeling was intensified by the Boston Tea Party. A bill was passed by both Houses of the British Parliament to close the port of Boston, and the discussion of the measure gave an opportunity to some of the statesmen of the mother country to show their spite. Another law was passed, limiting and cutting down the power of the representative assembly of Massachusetts, and providing that town meetings should not be held except on permission in writing from the royal governor. Another act was passed, giving the governor of the Province the power to send to Great Britain or to other Colonies persons indicted for murder or charged with capital crimes committed in aiding the government of Massachusetts. These acts, intended to humiliate the Colonies, had the effect of inflaming them, and the Liberty Boys grew in numbers and determination.
On the 20th of July, 1774, "The Georgia Gazette," published at Savannah, contained an invitation to the people of the Province to meet at Tondee's Tavern on the 27th of July to take into consideration the unjust laws that had been passed by the British Parliament. The cause of Massachusetts was the cause of all. The meeting was held, and stood adjourned to the 10th of August, in order to give all the parishes an opportunity to be represented by delegates. Governor Wright, loyal to the last, issued a proclamation warning the people of the Province to avoid attending the meeting; but the proclamation was disregarded, and a meeting of the people of the Province was held at Tondee's Tavern on the 10th of August, 1774. Resolutions were adopted, declaring that his Majesty's subjects in America owed the same allegiance, and were entitled to the same rights and privileges, as their fellow-subjects in Great Britain; that the act lately passed for blockading the port of Boston was contrary to the British constitution; that the act for abolishing the charter of Massachusetts Bay tended to the subversion of American rights; that the Parliament of Great Britain had not, nor ever had, the right to tax his Majesty's American subjects; and that every demand for the support of government should be by requisition made to the several houses of representatives. The resolutions covered all the grievances of the people of the Colonies.
Meanwhile, Governor Wright was not idle. He called a convention of Royalists, which met, and signed a protest against the resolutions. Copies of this protest were made, and sent into all the parishes, by the governor's friends. Under pressure, many timid men who were really in sympathy with the Liberty Boys signed the protest. The signatures of dead men were used, and other frauds practiced, in order to make the demonstration in favor of the King sufficient to overawe those who had pledged themselves to American independence. In all this, Governor Wright was aided by the fact that the only newspaper in the Province, "The Georgia Gazette," was under his control. He was also aided by the geographical situation of Georgia, and by his own personal popularity. He had made a good governor. He had worked as hard for the prosperity and progress of the Province as he now worked to prevent the people from joining the movement for independence.
The governor was successful to the extent that he was able to prevent Georgia from sending duly accredited representatives to the First Continental Congress; and this fact has been taken by some writers of history to mean that the spirit of liberty and independence was not as earnest and as enthusiastic in Georgia as in the other Provinces. Later, when Georgia was overrun by British and Tory influences, and appeared to be conquered, ill-natured critics recalled the fact that her people were slow to join hands with those who advocated resistance to tyranny.
When the South Carolina delegates to the First Continental Congress returned to their homes, bearing with them copies of the Declaration of Colonial Rights, the Liberty Boys of Georgia renewed their movement with great zeal. Copies of the Declaration were distributed throughout the Province. The result was, that the Liberty Boys grew steadily stronger in numbers, and more defiant in action. An idea of the situation at this time may be gathered from a letter written by Governor Wright to the Earl of Dartmouth on the 13th of December, 1774. He declared that the spirit of independence, or, as he called it, the spirit of enthusiasm, which many were possessed of before, "is raised to such a height of frenzy, that God knows what the consequences may be, or what man or whose property may escape their resentment."
No doubt the amiable governor misunderstood the situation. What he regarded as "frenzy" was merely the eager desire and the determination of the Liberty Boys of Georgia to redeem themselves in the eyes of their brethren in the other Colonies. They were humiliated by their failure to send representatives to the Continental Congress, and they endeavored to redeem themselves by increased zeal and enthusiasm.
They arranged to hold a provincial congress in Savannah on the 18th of January, 1775. Governor Wright, on hearing of this, determined to convene the Provincial General Assembly on the same day, hoping and believing that this would prevent a meeting of the Provincial Congress, or greatly hamper its action. But the governor was mistaken. The General Assembly met in response to the call, and so did the Provincial Congress. Governor Wright addressed the members, declaring to them the danger of the situation, and imploring them to be prudent and loyal. The upper house of the General Assembly made a response agreeable to the governor's expectations, but the lower house gave to its address a tone of independence that was not at all pleasing to the King's officer. He showed his displeasure, and placed a serious obstacle in the way of the Liberty Boys by adjourning the General Assembly until the 9th of the following May. The Assembly had met on the 18th of January, and was adjourned on the 10th of February; so that the Liberty Boys, who made up a majority of the lower house, had no time to appoint delegates to the Philadelphia congress soon to be held, nor to take any official action in behalf of the independence of Georgia.
Governor Wright's plans were certainly very shrewdly laid. His adjournment of the General Assembly not only hampered the Provincial Congress (or convention) that had met at Savannah simultaneously with the legislature, but threw the delegates into confusion and disorder, and was the means of causing the convention to adjourn without taking such action as the friends of liberty hoped for. All that it did was to elect three representatives to the Philadelphia congress. This was something, but it was not enough. The Liberty Boys expected the Provincial Convention to adopt all the measures and resolutions suggested by the Continental Congress. They therefore felt mortified when the convention adjourned, and left Georgia still outside the continental association.
This event was a serious embarrassment to the other Colonies, and aroused the anger of those friends of liberty who were unable to understand the peculiar conditions that surrounded the movement for independence in Georgia. The friends of liberty in South Carolina were so indignant, that they denounced the Georgians "as unworthy the rights of freemen, and as inimical to the liberties of their country." Throughout the Colonies, the partisans of American independence were deeply wounded by the apparent hesitation of the Georgians, while the Royalists were delighted.
Though the Provincial Convention remained in session only seven days before adjourning, the delegates of St. John's Parish had withdrawn from the body. These delegates insisted on an emphatic indorsement of the acts of the Continental Congress, and they retired as soon as they found there would be some difficulty in bringing some of the hesitating members to their way of thinking. They retired, and selected Dr. Lyman Hall to represent St. John's in the Philadelphia congress. He took his seat in that body, and although he cast no vote, he made his voice heard in the discussions.
In spite of all the drawbacks which the Liberty Boys in Georgia had experienced, their enthusiasm did not cool. They never ceased their efforts, and the independence movement continued to grow. The public mind became more and more inflamed with resentment against the tyranny of King George and his Parliament, as the people heard of the progress of events in the more northern Colonies. By the 10th of May the people of Savannah had heard of the shedding of American blood by British troops at Lexington and Concord. As the news spread from parish to parish, the people became aroused, and the response of public sentiment was all that American patriots could expect.
The first response of the Liberty Boys at Savannah was to seize the ammunition stored in the magazine. This event occurred on the night of the 11th of May, and was planned and carried out by the members of the Council of Safety. About six hundred pounds of powder fell into the hands of the Liberty Boys. Some was sent to South Carolina, and the rest was hidden in the garrets and cellars of the patriots who had seized it. Tradition says that some of this powder was sent to Massachusetts, where it was used by the patriots who drove the British before them at the battle of Bunker Hill.
Other events occurred that showed the temper of the Liberty Boys. On the 4th of June, when Governor Wright came to fire salutes in honor of King George's birthday, he found the cannon had been spiked, dismounted, and rolled to the bottom of the bluff. On the 5th of June the first liberty pole in the Colony was set up at Savannah. A young man named Hopkins, who spoke contemptuously of the members of the Committee of Public Safety was seized by a mob, tarred and feathered, placed in an illuminated cart, and paraded up and down the streets of Savannah.
As the days went by, the independence movement in Georgia became more enthusiastic, the Liberty Boys more active. The first vessel armed and equipped for naval warfare during the Revolution was fitted up by the Liberty Boys of Georgia under the authority of the Provincial Convention, which had assembled in Savannah on the 4th of July, 1775. This event is interesting. The Carolina Committee of Safety had heard that a British ship had sailed for Georgia with a cargo of powder intended for the Indians and for the use of the Royalists. The Carolinians at once resolved to capture the ship and seize the cargo. To that end, two barges, manned by forty well-armed men, were embarked from Beaufort, and went to the mouth of the Savannah River, where they encamped on a point that commanded a full view of Tybee Lighthouse. The Provincial Convention, hearing of this expedition, offered to assist the officers in every way possible. There was an armed British schooner in the river at that time; and the Liberty Boys of Savannah determined to join forces with the Carolinians at Tybee, and effect her capture. For this purpose a schooner was equipped by the Provincial Convention, and placed under command of Captain Bowen and Joseph Habersham. This vessel was armed with ten carriage guns and swivels, and carried fifty men. The British armed vessel was not inclined to enter into a contest, but, when the Georgia schooner appeared, weighed anchor and sailed away. The schooner then took position beyond the harbor bar, and waited for the ship carrying the cargo of powder. She had not long to wait. On the 10th of July, 1775, the powder ship, commanded by Captain Maitland, made her appearance. Before entering Tybee Inlet, however, Captain Maitland saw the armed schooner. Suspecting that he was about to fall into a trap, he brought his vessel round, tacked, and stood out to sea. But he had gone too far. The Georgia schooner gave chase, and soon overtook and captured the ship. It was a fortunate capture for the Colonies. Five thousand pounds of powder were sent to Philadelphia, and nine thousand fell to the share of Georgia.
The convention that commissioned the first armed vessel of the Revolution did more important work than this. It placed the Province of Georgia in political union with her sister Colonies, and gave her fellowship with those struggling Provinces. She was welcomed into the United Colonies with joyful demonstrations by the Continental Congress. By the 15th of April, 1776, the Liberty Boys in Georgia were so strong that Governor Wright had taken refuge on one of the King's vessels at Tybee; and on that date the patriots took full charge of the government of the Province. Archibald Bulloch was the first republican president of Georgia.
This is how the Liberty Boys took the Province of Georgia from his Majesty the King, and made a free and independent government. Their struggle did not end here, but the details of that struggle must be left to history to relate.
A GROUP OF CHARACTERS
The Revolutionary War in Georgia developed some very romantic figures, which are known to us rather by tradition than by recorded history. First among them, on the side of the patriots, was Robert Sallette. Neither history nor tradition gives us the place of his birth or the date of his death; yet it is known that he played a more important part in the struggle in the Colony than any man who had no troops at his command. He seems to have slipped mysteriously on the scene at the beginning of the war. He fought bravely, even fiercely, to the end, and then, having nothing else to do, slipped away as mysteriously as he came. "In Liberty County," says history, "there lived during the Revolution a man by the name of Robert Sallette, distinguished for his opposition to the Tories. It is not known with certainty to what particular command he was attached. He appears to have been a sort of roving character, doing things in his own way." Here is the mystery of romance to begin with. Here is the wanderer,—the character so dear to the imagination of youth.
"The Tories," says history further, "stood very much in dread of him; and well they might, for never had they a more, formidable foe." Here, then, is the hero and the wanderer combined in one person, and that person fighting for the holiest cause in which man can take up arms,—the rights and liberties of the people. What more could be asked?
Curious as we may be to know something of the personal history of Robert Sallette, it is not to be found chronicled in the books. The French twist to his name makes it probable that he was a descendant of those unfortunate Acadians who, years before, had been stripped of their lands and possessions in Nova Scotia by the British, their houses and barns burned, and they themselves transported away from their homes. They were scattered at various points along the American coast. Some were landed at Philadelphia, and some were carried to Louisiana. Four hundred were sent to Georgia. The British had many acts of cruelty to answer for in those days, but none more infamous than this treatment of the gentle and helpless Acadians. It stands in history to-day a stain upon the British name.
Another fact that leads to the belief that Robert Sallette was a descendant of the unfortunate Acadians was the ferocity with which he pursued the British and the Tories. The little that is told about him makes it certain that he never gave quarter to the enemies of his country.
His name was a terror to the Tories. One of them, a man of considerable means, offered a reward of one hundred guineas to any person who would bring him the head of Robert Sallette. The Tory had never seen Sallette, but his alarm was such that he offered a reward large enough to tempt some one to assassinate the daring partisan. When Sallette heard of the reward, he disguised himself as a farmer, and provided himself with a pumpkin, which he placed in a bag. With the bag swinging across his shoulder, he made his way to the house of the Tory. He was invited in, and deposited the bag on the floor beside him, the pumpkin striking the boards with a thump.
"I have brought you the head of Robert Sallette," said he. "I hear that you have offered a reward of one hundred guineas for it."
"Where is it?" asked the Tory.
"I have it with me," replied Sallette, shaking the loose end of the bag. "Count me out the money and take the head."
The Tory, neither doubting nor suspecting, counted out the money, and placed it on the table.
"Now show me the head," said he.
Sallette removed his hat, tapped himself on the forehead, and said, "Here is the head of Robert Sallette!"
The Tory was so frightened that he jumped from the room, and Sallette pocketed the money and departed.
On one occasion Robert Sallette is known to have spared the lives of two Tories, at least for a little while. Once when he and Andrew Walthour (for whom Walthourville in Georgia is named) and another man were riding along a narrow trail late in the afternoon, they met three other riders whom they suspected to be Tories. The plan that Sallette and his companions adopted to capture the men was very simple. Andrew Walthour, who was riding in front, was to pass the first and second men, Robert Sallette to pass the first. As Walthour came to the third man when Sallette had come to the second, and their companion to the first, the Liberty Boys seized the guns of the three simultaneously. The men had no opportunity either to fight or escape.
"Dismount, gentlemen!" said Sallette. Then he addressed himself to the leader. "What is your name?"
In reply to this, a fictitious name was given, as Sallette and his companions afterwards found out.
"Where is your camp?" asked Sallette.
"We are from over the river," answered the man, meaning the Altamaha.
"Where did you cross?"
"At Beards Ferry." This was where the Whigs and the Liberty Boys were most numerous.
"That is not true!" exclaimed Sallette.
Then he turned to the second man, asked the same questions, and received the same replies. He turned to the third man, asked the same questions, and received the same replies.
"If you do not tell me the truth," exclaimed Sallette to this last man, "I'll cut off your head!"
The man persisted, and Sallette was as good as his word. The others begged for their lives, and declared that they would guide Sallette straight to their camp. This they did; and Sallette, aided by his prisoners, captured a large party of Tories.
Once when Robert Sallette and Andrew Walthour were marching with the advance guard of the American troops, they suddenly met the advance guard of the British. A short but sharp skirmish followed, during which a very large man of the British guard was killed. Observing that the dead man wore a pair of good boots, Sallette determined to get them. While he was pulling them off in the midst of a furious fire from the enemy, his companions called out to him to come away or he would surely be killed. "I must have the boots!" cried Sallette to his companions. "I want them for little John Way!"
Here was fun in the midst of tragedy; for it is said that little John Way could have put both his feet and his fists into one of the boots.
One day Sallette dressed himself up as a British officer and accepted an invitation to dine with a party of the enemy. Suddenly, in the midst of the toasting and drinking, Sallette drew his sword, killed the men who sat to the right and left of him, sprang on his horse, and rode off unhurt, though he was in such a hurry that he had no time to throw the bridle reins over the horse's head.
At the White House, near Sunbury, Major Baker, of the patriot army, with thirty men, attacked and defeated a party of Tories under command of Captain Goldsmith.
Among the slain was Lieutenant Gray, whose head was almost severed from his body by a stroke of Robert Sallette's sword.
On many occasions, when a battle was in progress, Sallette would detach himself from the American army, gain the rear of the enemy, and kill many men before he was discovered. If this brave man was indeed a descendant of the Acadians, he avenged the wrongs of many of his countrymen.
Another character who attracted attention during the War of the Revolution was Patrick Carr, whose hatred of the Tories made his name celebrated among the Liberty Boys of Georgia. Paddy Carr, as he was called, lived and died in Jefferson County. He was born in Ireland, but came to Georgia before the Revolution. When the independence movement began, he threw himself into it with all the ardor of his race. Owing to the cruelty of the Tories, he conceived a special hatred against them. He showed them no quarter. History gives but a word or two to his achievements, but tradition still keeps his name alive in the region where he operated. Like Sallette, he was an independent partisan; but, unlike Sallette, his operations were among those who could remember well enough, but who would not take the trouble to preserve the particulars of even the least of his exploits. We know that Patrick Carr lived. We know that he became famous where recklessness and daring were common. But that is nearly all we know. It is said of him that during the war he killed one hundred Tories with his own hands. Once, when praised for his bravery, he smiled and shook his head, saying that he would have made a very good soldier, but the Lord had given him a heart that was too merciful. He no doubt remembered the atrocities of the Tories in the section that is now Jefferson, Columbia, Burke, and Wilkes counties. The cruelties they committed in that region during the Revolution have no parallel in civilized warfare.
Among the adventurous characters of that time, on the side of the British, Daniel McGirth stands easily first. The history of his career during the war is a strange one. He was born in South Carolina, and entered into the struggle against the British with the utmost enthusiasm. He was a brave man, a hard fighter, and one of the most active of those who took up arms against the King. He was an expert woodsman, and was at home in the saddle. He was assigned to duty as a scout, and was better equipped for that service, perhaps, than any man in the American army. The ease with which he secured information of the enemy's movements and plans, and the energy that marked his movements, made his services of great value to the patriot cause. This was not thoroughly appreciated by some of the officers under whom McGirth acted.
He brought with him into the army a mare which he called "The Gray Goose." She is said to have been an elegant animal, and McGirth was very proud of her. With this mare under him, he always felt safe from pursuit. One of the American officers, who was a good judge of horseflesh, and who probably wanted to "cut a dash," as the saying is, saw this beautiful mare, and coveted her. Finding that McGirth scorned all offers to sell her, the officer adopted various means to obtain her. These efforts were resisted by McGirth, mainly on the ground that the mare was his own private property, and that she was essential to the duties he was called on to perform. Failing to gain his ends in this way, the officer continued to worry McGirth in other ways. He no doubt did something to rouse the ire of the scout, who was an irritable man, and who felt the importance of the service he was rendering to the cause. It is not now known how McGirth insulted the officer,—whether in a moment of passion he struck him, or whether he merely used rough language to him.