On This Day...
The Patriots attempted a two-pronged attack. Pickens' line engaged the Loyalists, while Dooly and Clarke's men attempted to cross the creek and surrounding swamp. Dooly and Clarke's troops were soon bogged down in the difficult crossing and though Boyd had sent 150 of his men out to forage for food that morning, the Loyalists still had the upper hand.
The tide turned when the Loyalists saw their commander, Boyd, collapse from a musket wound. Panicked, they disintegrated into a disorderly retreat towards the creek as Pickens' Patriots fired down upon their camp from above. Shortly thereafter, the two South Carolina commanders, Dooly and Clarke, emerged with their men from the swamp and surrounded the shocked Loyalists, who were attempting to retreat across the creek.
By the end of the action, the Loyalists suffered 70 killed and another 70 captured, compared to 9 killed and 23 wounded for the Patriots. Colonel Boyd, who was wounded during the engagement, died shortly afterward. The victory was the only significant Patriot victory in Georgia and delayed the consolidation of British control in the largely Loyalist colony.
In 1780, Colonel John Dooly was murdered at his log cabin home on his Georgia plantation by South Carolina Loyalists. Dooly County, Georgia, was named in his honor, and the spring near his former cabin in Lincoln County, Georgia, within the grounds of the Elijah Clarke State Park-named for his former Patriot partner--bears a historic marker in the martyred patriot's memory.
The Battle of Kettle Creek
The backwoods of Georgia held many challenges for the British Army. Many of the people in Georgia were strongly anti-British.
On February 11, 100 Patriots attack them while crossing Van(n)'s Creek in spite of being outnumbered by the British force..
On February 14, when Col. James Boyd and 700 British loyalists set up camp along Kettle Creek, they knew to be prepared for an attack. Things were not going well for the Loyalists. Boyd is expecting additional men to assist in a strike against the Patriots. His men are not regulars and dissention fills the ranks. And the skirmish at Vann's Creek alert Cols. John Dooly and Andrew Pickens to the Loyalist's presence in Wilkes County. As was the custom, the Loyalist send scavengers out to find food.
That morning, about 150 men were out searching for food when Pickens attacked. With a combined total of 340 men, the Patriots attacked in 3 columns, Col. Dooly on the right, Pickens in the middle, and Lt. Col. Elijah Clark, Dooly's second in command, on the left. A small advance guard was sent in front of the columns to scout the British. Col. Pickens scouts were surprised by Boyd's Loyalist sentries and opened fire.
Alerted to the attack by the sound of gunfire, Boyd rallied his men and advanced with a small group to the top of a nearby hill, where they waited behind rocks and fallen trees for the Patriots. To the left and right, the men under command of Dooly and Clarke had problems crossing the high water of the creek and nearby swamps.
Pickens continued his advance to the fence on top of the hill, where Boyd's men awaited the advancing Americans. On the approach of Pickens, the Loyalists opened fire. Men at the lead of the column fell victim to the first rounds. Clarke and Dooly, unable to advance quickly through the cane, were helpless. By all accounts, outnumbered and caught by surprise, the Patriots were losing the battle.
Pickens rallied and advanced his men towards the Loyalist camp. At the same time, Dooly's men emerged from the swamp. Surrounded on 3 fronts, with the creek to their back, about 450 Tories followed Boyd's second in command, Maj. Spurgen, across Kettle Creek. While they were crossing the creek, Clarke emerged on the other side and charged with 50 men. The Loyalists fled, soundly defeated.
The men who fled the battlefield eventually made their way back to Wrightsville, although some were captured and hung later that year. Pickens, who became famous for his many battles in the Revolutionary War, would later write that Kettle Creek was the "severest chastisement" for the Loyalists in South Carolina and Georgia. Dooly was later brutally murdered by British Regulars.
NARRATIVE FOR KETTLE CREEK BATTLEFIELD MARKER
THE PATRIOTS WHOES NAMES APPEAR ON THIS MARKER ARE THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN PROVED TO HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THE BATTLE OF KETTLE CREEK ON FEBRUARY 14, 1779.
WILKES COUNTY REGIMENTS,
Col. John Dooly, Comdr.
UPPER NINETY-SIX REGIMENT,
Col. Andrew Pickens, Comdr.
FROM THE AUDITOR GENERAL ACCOUNT BOOK, 1778 - 1780,
RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE MEMORIAL MARKER