History of Georgia, Wilkes County

History of Georgia, Wilkes County

By Rev. George White, M. A. (1854)

Page 683
Wilkes County
Battle of Kettle Creek

Kettle Creek is famous as the battle-ground where Clarke, Dooly, and Pickens, distinguished themselves in the war of the Revolution. When Savannah was taken, Colonel Campbell advanced to Augusta. Colonel Boyd, who had just returned from New-York, was to notify the disaffected, and excite the Tories on the western parts of North and South Carolina, and force his way to join Colonel Campbell at Augusta. Colonel Campbell immediately moved up Savannah River with several hundred mounted men; and after manoeuvering in the neighbourhood of where Petersburg now stands; and Kerr's Fort, in order to effect a junction with Boyd, he was compelled by the Whigs to return. Colonel Pickens with only three hundred and twenty men, after driving back Campbell, pursued Boyd, and forced him to cross the river eighteen miles above the junction of Savannah and Broad rivers. He then crossed at their junction, and joined by Dooley and Lieutenant-Colonel Clarke, with about one hundred dragoons. Colonel Dooley, with great patriotism, gave the command of all the forces to him. They pursued Boyd rapidly, who had taken a circuituous route through the Cherokee Nation until they overtook him in a few days, on the east bank of Kettle Creek, in Georgia, just as his men had shot down some beeves, and were preparing their breakfast. Colonel Pickens had divided his forces into three divisions, Colonel Dooley commanding the right, and Clarke the left, with directions to flank the enemy, while he commanded the attack from the centre, giving strict orders not to fire until within thirty-five paces of the foe.

Colonel Boyd was a brave, active man, but was shot down early in the engagement. After close fighting for half an hour the Whigs drove the enemy through the cane, and over the creek, They fought with desperation, and left a great many dead and wounded upon the field. They rallied on a rising ground on the west bank, and renewed the fight, the Whigs finding great difficulties in passing thorough the cane. However victory was complete. The Whigs had four hundred and twenty, and the Tories upwards of seven hundred; and out of that number, not more than three hundred ever reached Colonel Campbell, in Augusta. This success was of far more importance than the number engaged would indicate. It broke up the Tories throughout North Carolina, who never afterwards assembled, except in small parties, or under the immediate protection of foreign force. Although they were dreaded for their desperate and malignant outrages upon the country, yet they acted more for the plunder and murder of individuals than for concerted and manly warfare. This battle of Kettle Creek decided their fate.

This country has produced a number of men who would have done honour to any country.

Colonel John Graves died in the seventy-seventh year of his age. He was born in Culpepper County, Virginia. He entered the army, in


1776, as a lieutenant in the Eighth Virginia Regiment, and when he retired from the service, had the rank and command of a Major. He was at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmounth, and at the siege of York. When General Greene, in 1781, had to cross the Yadkin River, Colonel Graves was intrusted with the command of two hundred men, detached by the General to protect the passage of the troops. This small band, headed by their gallant commander, sustained a desperate encounter with the army of Cornwallis and succeeded in protecting the passage of the American troops and themselves in crossing the Yadkin, with the loss of only nine men killed and five wounded.

During the eventful and critical period of the American Revolution, Colonel Graves was constantly in the field, defending, with consummate energy and bravery, the liberties of his native country. He never for one moment despaired of the great cause of which he was so gallant a champion. Amid the distresses of the Souther army, after the defeat of Gates at Camden, and during the retreat of the Americans before the victorious Cornwallis, Colonel Graves, with cool intrepidity, supported every privation, and with the greatest fortitude waited for a change in the gloomy prospects that were before the army at that time.

Shortly after peace, Colonel Graves settled in Georgia. In 1786, he was in command of a regiment against the Creek Indians, who had committed acts of hostility upon the inhabitants of the State.

Colonel Nicholas Long died on the 22d of August, 1819, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. He was a young, active, and meritorious officer of dragoons, attached to the Virginia and North Carolina lines during the Revolutionary War. In the last war with Great Britain, he was appointed to the command of the Forty-third Regiment of United States Infantry, raised for the maritime frontier of North and South Carolina and Georgia. His exposure in this service impaired his constitution, and produced a pulmonary disease. He was an early settler of Wilkes.

Rev. Jesse Mercer--- This gentleman was the son of Silas Mercer, and was born in Halifax County, North Carolina, December 16, 1769. Before he was twenty years of age, he was ordained to the ministry of the Baptist Church.

Such was his thirst for knowledge, that ager his marriage and ordination, he went to school two years, to the Rev. Mr. Springer, a Presbyterian clergyman, under whom he made considerable proficiency in the learned languages.

In 1798, Mr Mercer was a member of the Convention which was appointed to amend the State Constitution. His services in that body were highly valuable. A lawyer moved that the ministers of the Gospel be ineligible to the office of legislator, which was warmly advocated by both doctors and lawyers. Mr. Mercer offered an amendment, to the effect that both these professions be included in the contemplated


act. The motion was speedily withdrawn. He offered himself once for Senator in the county in which he then resided, but was not elected. Afterwards, he was urged to allow his name to be used for the office of Governors, but positively declined the honour.

His approach to the tomb was gradual, having been in a low state of health for years before his death. This event, deeply lamented by thousands, took place in Butts County, September 6, 1841. His remains were taken to Penfield, and buried near the site of Mercer University, named in honour of him.

His estate, which was large, was bequeathed to the above University, and other benevolent objects.*

Duncan G. Campbell came to Wilkes in 1804, and took charge of a female school. For Several years he represented the county in the State Legislature. He was also one of the Commissioners who negotiated a treaty with the Creeks at the Indian Springs. He died on the 31st of July, 1828.

General Elijah Clarke was a native of North Carolina, who came to Georgia in 1774, and settled in Wilkes County. Endowed with a hardihood and decision of character, he was fitted for any enterprise. His first appearance in the history of Georgia dates in the year 1776, as Captain of a company intrusted with the care of some wagons loaded with provisions for the army. Whilst crossing a small steam, he was attacked by a body of Indians, who after a severe contest, were put to flight. In Hows's expedition against East Florida, he rendered important services. In the battle of Kettle Creek, he increased his military fame.

After the victory at Kettle Creek, many of the citizens of Georgia who had gone to South Carolina for safety, returned with their families and property to Wilkes County, but shortly afterwards were much alarmed by the approach of a body of Indians; and to Colonel Clarke was committed the highly responsible duty of remaining on frontiers to guard the forts. This was a trying period. The enemy had devastated the fairest portion of Georgia. Colonel Clarke's house was pillaged and burnt, and his family ordered to leave the State. The love of freedom, a persuasion that Heaven would favour the righteous cause of the Americans, inspired Clarke with hope; and the loss of his property, and the indignities offered to the helpless females of his family, did not in the least intimidate him, but nerved him to renewed action. Accordingly, he succeeded in recruiting men for his regiment, and gave the enemy so much trouble, by cutting off their supplies, that it was determined to bring him to a general action. Colonel Innis pursued him to Wafford's Iron Works, where his ground have been judiciously chosen. Clarke waited the attack, and bravely defended his post. His constant annoyance of the foraging parties of the enemy became so provoking, that Colonel Innis resolved to augment his force, and drive him from the country. Having re-


ceived reinforcements, Clarke met the enemy about four miles north of Musgrove's Mill, and defeated him.>p> In the battle of Long Cane, Colonel Clarke was severely wounded, and carried off the field. After his recovery he joined the command of General Pickens, and was sent by him against Major Dunlap, whom he compelled to surrender. Shortly after this affair he was attacked with the small-pox, but in a very brief period ad so far recovered as to resume his, and was present when Augusta surrendered to the Americans. Indeed, he had gallantly confined the British garrison to their works for weeks before Colonel Lee arrived.

With the Indians, Colonel Clarke was engaged in several battles, the principal of which was the battle of Jack's Creek, fought in 1789-7, in which he defeated the Creeks.

In 17--, Clarke made an attempt to settle on the Indian side of the Oconee River, and also crossed the St. Mary's to the Florida side, and drove in the Spanish posts. For these acts he incurred the displeasure of the United States Government. His merits as a soldier may be easily known, when it is remembered that he was solicited by two great European nations to engage in their service. He died December 15, 1799.

The following will explain the nature of the settlement which Clarke made on the Oconee:--

In May, 1794, Governor Mathews receiving information that some adventurers, supposed to be in the French interest, were making settlements on the southwest side of the Oconee River, ordered General Irwin to direct the settlers immediately to disperse, and was informed, a few days afterwards, that they had obeyed the injunction. On the 14th of July, the Governor received a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Gaither, stating that Elijah Clarke, lately a Major-General in the Militia of Georgia, with a party of men, had encamped on the southwest side of the Oconee, opposite to Fort Fidius. General Irwin sent two officers to Clarke, ordering him to move off without delay, which he refused to do. On the 28th of July, the Governor issued a proclamation, forbidding such proceeding; and also wrote to one of the judges, directing him to issue his warrant, and have Clarke apprehended. At the Superior Court for Wilkes County, Clarke surrendered himself to the judge, who referred the case to some of the justices of the county, whose decision was as follows:--->p> State of Georgia, Wilkes County.

Whereas, a proclamation was issued on the 28th day of July last, by his Excellency George Matthews, Governor or this State, stating that Elijah Clarke, Esqlats Major-General of the Militia of this State has gone over the Oconee River with an intent to establish a separate and independent government, on the lands allotted to the Indians for their hunting-grounds, and commanded, in the said proclamation, all Judges, Justices, Sheriffs, and other officers, and all the citizens of this State, to be diligent in aiding and assisting in apprehending the said Elijah


Clarke and his adherents, in order that they may severally be brought to justice; and whereas the said Elijah Clarke, who in the object of the said proclamation, has this day personally appeared before us, the undersigned Justices of the Peace for the County of Wilkes, and surrendered himself into custody; and it being our duty to do speedy justice to the said State, as well as to the party charged, we proceeded to the most mature consideration of the cause, and after an examination of the laws of the State, and the treaties made, and the laws passed by the United States, do give it as our decided and unanimous opinion that the said Elijah Clarke be, and is hereby discharged.

(Signed, )
R. Woosham, J.P.
R. Christmas, J.P.
G. Wooldridge, J.P.
William Bell, J.P.

This decision greatly encouraged Clarke;s party, and the settlements were pushed with vigour. The measure had become popular, and it was thought that the militia would not march against them. Under these circumstances, Clarke's works were completed; houses were erected within his forts, and a town was laid off at Fort Advance. He was chosen Major-General, and placed at the head of the enterprise; a Committee of Safety was appointed, and everything wore the appearance of a permanent settlement.

Governor Matthews, upon hearing this, directed that one-third of the militia should hold themselves in readiness to march, and in the meantime, sent Generals Twiggs and Irwin to General Clarke to induce him to remove. These officers visited him at this post, but were unsuccessful in their effort. General Twiggs gave orders to Major Adams to cross the river and endeavour to prevail upon Clarke to abandon the settlement; but his life was threatened, which so exasperated the inhabitants in that neighbourhood, that they held a meeting at which it was determined that Major Adams should go to Augusta and request the Governor to give him orders to dispossess the people.

A few days afterward, a Cornet and eighteen men, of Colonel Fauche's dragoons, came to the post, and took one of Clarke's lieutenants prisoner, and made arrangements to cut off supplies. In the meantime, Clarke made every effort to strengthen his post. General Irwin collected pa party of militia, and too post at Town Creek, nine miles from Fort Fidius, and encamped on the bank opposite Fort Advance; whilst Colonel Melton and Lamar, and Major Adams, crossed with 130 men, and cut off the communication on the south side of the river. Irwin promised Clarke, if he would evacuate the post, himself and the men should be protected in their persons and property. Accordingly, a party of the militia too possession of his works, and set the fort on fire, when Clarke abandoned the enterprise.

Here is a proper place to introduce the name of Mrs. Hillhouse, a lady of great energy and enterprise, Upon the death of her hus-


band, in 1804, she took charge of his newspaper, called the Monitor and Impartial Observer, and conducted it for several year. The Journal of the House of Representatives of Georgia was printed in her office, and sent to Louisville, then the seat of government. * See Mallory's Life of Jesse Mercer.

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Transcribed by Thomas Hammack, Jr.

Created on ... October 29, 2003

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