EUREKA! The Battle of Brier Creek Found

Exerpt from Campbell's Map coloredExcellent news.  Cypress Consulting’s Archaeologist. under the leadership of Dan Battle, have located and identified key locations of Georgia’s Battle of Brier Creek.  Part of the strategy for defining the location and footprint of the March 3, 1779 Battle of Brier Creek has been successful.  These assessments, however, are still in the early stages of development and  photographs of the artifacts and maps will be forthcoming.

After carefully examining the excellent maps produced from aerial LiDAR, it was possible to theorize the topographical situation at hand that was laid before the opposing armies facing off during the Battle of Brier Creek Georgia.  One natural feature, unseen on the typical USGS maps but prevalent on the LiDAR mapping, was in the form of an elongated swag hundreds of meters in length but only about 30-40 meters in width.  This feature suspiciously coincided with theLiDAR annotated directional battle formation lines hinted at in the British maps produced by Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell.  This natural feature was targeted by the team during the reconnaissance phase of this project.  Positive results in the form military artifacts were indeed located along  this feature proving that it played a significant role in the battle.  On March 3, 1779, a quickly established defense was necessitated by American Gen. John Ashe.  At 4:00 pm on the evening of March 3, 1779, the Americans found themselves trapped in an area that many believed to be a strong defensive position.  British Forces were incorrectly perceived to be entirely located south of a narrow but defensible rushing watercourse known as Brier Creek.  In a skillfully executed military maneuver, the British Army quickly reversed this situation and put the Americans at a great disadvantage.  An inconsequential swag wet spring feature behind the American Army was obviously not the intended defensive position of choice.  Out of necessity and being perhaps the only option still left to the Americans, a battle line was hastily formed to contend with the surprising arrival of attacking British Forces in the rear of the American Bivouacs.  Evidence now strongly suggesthat this low feature is what the Americans tried to defend from on March 3, 1779.

Wilson's Briar Creek mapDuring the reconnaissance phase of this battlefield assessment by the study group, only a small portion of the area was required to be sampled in order to positively identify the area of this historic event.  Sites were identified by use of metal detection.  This had extremely minimal impacts to the located resources.  Several additional sites of interest were also located and recorded.  All sites were given mapped location points by use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) equipment.  These sites of interest might again be revisited whereas more traditional archaeological methods might be applied to them.  Although heavy vegetation proved challenging to our reconnaissance team, the American line of battle is believed to have been identified for the formal upcoming study still several months away.  Early assessments indicate that a linear field of strewn battlefield evidence stretches several hundred meters along a naturally low topographical feature.  These locations appear to retain excellent information gathering potential.  Samples so far collected include several musket and rifled musketball projectiles of various calibers.  Most are unfired with the exception of one or two that need closer inspection and analysis.  Other artifacts include military gun hardware parts, watch pieces,  and various clothing related artifacts.  As limited as this reconnaissance was from overgrowth vegetation, its information was highly productive.  It is believed, for example, that at least one key aspect of the battlefield was located.  This is the location that is believed to be where the Georgia Continentals regulars and militia made a legendary stand against repeated British attacks before being overwhelmed and captured.

The current condition of the site, impacted noticeably by tree farming activities, is of concern and should be addressed to the State Archaeologist Bryan Tucker immediately.  This is a necessity due to the maturity of the pines present at these locations which could be harvested at any time.  A management plan should be put in place that will protect this particular site.  Any additional heavy damage impacted at this site may greatly diminish our understanding of the events surrounding this battlefield.  It is believed that the buried remains of United States soldiers exist at these locations and may be well preserved.  Included are also interments of various militia soldiers from several states and the remains of soldiers from the British Army.

Daniel Battle

Principal Investigator, Cypress Cultural Consultants, Beaufort, SC

Dan Battle and his research team have been working on surveying the site of the Battle of Brier Creek for about a year and have just announced their exciting results.  Interestingly, they are using social media, FaceBook, to share some documents and comments on their research.  See   This project has come a long way since Sylvania, Georgia Mayor Margaret Evans and SCAR hosted a group of Briar Creek scholars Hill-Brier Creek Workgroup_12-12-09_smat R & D’s Restaurant for a discussion and tour in December 2009.  SCAR’s “hat’s off” to Dan Battle’s excellent research team and the local Remember Brier Creek Committee, including Jason Beard, Alex Lee, David Buie, Al Freeland, Norm Hill, and Mayor Evans who gave consistent vision and leadership to this project.  (In addition to the Briar Creek Remembrance Committee pictured left are David Wilson, Nancy Lindroth, Dan Elliott, Rita Elliott, Charles Baxley, Steve Rauch, Barbara Abernethy, Robert Scott Davis, and Kim Stacy.)

Now all we have to do is to permanently protect the site from the state, interpret the site, make it accessible, and spread the word of this important piece of our Nation’s birth story.

The Brier Creek plaque and picnic area is located on the north side of Brier Creek, 12 miles east of Sylvania, Georgia, on Brannens Bridge Road.  It is about one mile upstream of the colonial bridge crossing and the battlefield.  The battlefield is in the 15,000 acre Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area, owned by the State of Georgia and managed for timber and hunting.

Map top is from Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell’s report, annotated by Charles B. Baxley.  The green map is an artificial LiDAR image of the battlefield area annotated by remote sensing archaeologist Matthew Luke.  The map below, by David K. Wilson, is from his excellent book, The Southern Strategy (Columbia, SC: USC Press, 2005).  Click on the image above for a closer look.

August 05, 2013