Georgia Gov. Stephen Heard letter[1]

Stephen HeardStephen Heard (November 1, 1740 – November 15, 1815) was appointed the chief executive of Georgia on February 18, 1780 and served until Dr. Nathan Brownson was elected in August 1781.  Heard had fought in the French and Indian War and served as a colonel in the Georgia militia.  He was reportedly at the Battle of Kettle Creek and later was captured by Loyalist and escaped though his wife and child died of exposure after being burned out of their house by Tories.  After serving as Governor, he served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1794 to 1795.  Heard was born in Hanover County, Virginia in 1740, and died in Elbert County, Georgia, in 1815, at the age of 75.  Heard’s Fort was built in Wilkes County, Georgia in 1774, by Stephen Heard.  It was the seat of the rebel government of British occupied Georgia from February 3, 1780, until the rebel governor was forced to flee Georgia in the fall of 1780.  The fort set the groundwork for the town of Washington, Georgia.  Heard County, Georgia was named after Stephen Heard.

SCAR solicits your help and input in updating the transcription and annotation of this report by Georgia Governor Stephen Heard, in exile in Virginia, covering the events of 1780 and 1781 in the Georgia and western South Carolina backcountry.  Please send your suggestions and comments to Charles B. Baxley at

Page: [1]   [jpg image of letter]

Dr. [Dear] Sir.

Virginia   Henry County                                                                March 2d 1781

After your Departor [Departure] from Georgia General Williamson[2] in a few Days Retreated from Augusta to his own Plantation Nier [Near] Ninty Six.  They [The] Council Thought Proper to Adjourn to Wilkes County and Join Camp Expecting to Act occationly [occasionally] with the South Carolineans to Defend the Uper [Upper] parts of Both States till Assistance Could be Sent to our Relief, But to our grate [great] Surprize [Surprise] Williamson and part of his Bragaed [Brigade] Capitulated with a Capt Paris that Imbodied [Embodied] they [the] Torys [Tories] on [illegible][.][3]   [A]t this Time Colo [Colonel Thomas] Brown[4] was on his march [deleted: [illegible]] far up as Mr Galphins,[.][5]  Under these Circumstances [deleted: the] Many of the Georgians was much Discouraged[.]   [B]oth officers and men being informed at the Same time that Bodies of Disaffected ware [were] Collected on the frontiers of Caroliniain order to Prevent their passing through to the American Troops,[.]  [U]pon this a flag wass [was] Sent from the Commanding officer [document damaged] Colo [Colonel] Brown to no [know] what powers he wass [was] invested [document damaged] with thee [the] inhabitants, upon Which the Cou[document damaged] Colo [Colonel] John Jones[6] from burk [Burke] County and myself with about one hundred brave Georgians Retired to th[document damaged] formed a Camp Sent an Express inwards but got no Answer[.]  The Tory Reports was very much in favour [favor] of [document damaged] [deleted: [illegible]] answer [added: to the flag] was sent to they [the] Inhabitants of we[document damaged] The Coald [Could] be Received as prisoners of war [added: on parole] to which [document damaged] agreed to and about four hundred Capitulated and Capt Manson[7] Trancated [Transacted] that Buisuness [Business] [deleted: Being] apointed [appointed] an Assistant to Colo [Colonel] Brown at this Time things Bore a glumy [gloomy] Aspect theer [their] [added: all] Communication being intirly [entirely] Cut of [off] From our Friends it was Detemined [Determined] that we Should march and with some [illegible] and Through Danger maid [made]

Page: [2]   [jpg image of letter]

our way by the Mountains to the Frontiers of North Carolina whare [where] we Joined Colo [Colonel] Macdowel,[.][8]   Colo [Colonel] Jones[,] as he Marched Through The Frontieres [Frontiers] of South Carolina[,] Fell in with a party of Thirty od Torys [odd Tories] Disarmed thim [them] and [illegible] Each to a Small bound[.][9]  They [illegible] Persued [Pursued] Jones a party Comanded [Commanded] by a Capt [James] Dunlap[10] which Came upon they [the] Georgians late in the Evning atempting [Evening attempting] a surprise[.]  [B]ut beining [being] Joined by the North Carolineans and their officers and men Behaving so Exceeding well the British was put to the [unclear: Rout] with som [some] Loss[.][11]   [S]everall [several] of the Georgians suffered very much as the [they] Bore the Burden of the Action[,] Some of which Died a few Days after[.]  [T]he next Day the Georgians and North Carolinians pursued [.]  [T]he Enemy Came up and [we] Drove them many miles[,] Took some prisoners and kiled [killed] a number of Toryce [Tories][.][12]  Soon after they [the] Georgians was Joined by a Colo [Colonel] Shelby[13] Comandnding [Commanding] a party of Virginians From Holsons [Holston] River marched in to South Carolina Took a fort with upwards of one hundred prisoner put them on parole with the Loss of their arms[.][14]  [S]oon after this Clark[15] and Shelby fell in with a party of Fergissons [Maj. Patrick Ferguson’s] men nier they [near the] [Wofford’s] Iron works on [unclear: Pacolet River, actually Lawsons Fork][document damaged] Drove them some miles[.]  [T]here the Brave [unclear: Burwell Smith[16]] [document damaged] of the wilks Militia Fell[.]  [A]t this Time the Niews [News] of General [document damaged – Horatio Gates] advancing to our Assistance and having a very formaedable [formidable] [document damaged – Army under] his Command seemed to Change the apperances [appearances] of things [document damaged] [unclear: Camden][.]  [T]hey [the] Georgians flushed with hops [hopes] of [document damaged] Sotheren [Southern] Army attempted to march through the uper [upper] parts of Suth Carolina towards Ninty Six with the Assistance of they [the] Brave Carolineans which they affected as far as the [unclear: Enoree River] thare [there] fell in with a Regular British force Comanded [Commanded] by a Colo [Colonel] Innes[.]  [A] fair Action hapened [happened] with out any Surprize [Surprise] and Continued for some tim [time][.]  [T]he British was forced to Retreat with a loss of a number kiled [killed] and wounded on the ground and a number of prisoners taken[17]

Page: [3]   [jpg image of letter]

which was marched to hilsborrou[18] under they [the] [illegible] of Colo [Colonel James] Williams[19] who afterward fell by Forgisson [Ferguson] at kings Mountain[.]  [T]he Disagreeable niews [news] of Gateses Defeat[20] Reched [Reached] us which[,] in a Little time [,] semed [seemed] to give life and Action to both British and Torys [Tories][.]    [T]he British[unclear: Prescribed] an oath for the Inhabitants of Georgia to Subscribe which was objected [added: to] by a number though Thretened [Threatened] if the [they] Did not Comply by a Cartain [Certain] Day they would be Demed [Deemed] Enemy and Treated Accordingly[.]  [T]he Georgians Looking upon them [document damaged] Disingaged [Disengaged] from their paroles they ware Detemined [were Determined] to lift Arms before the [they] would bare [bear] Such treat[added: ment][.]   Colo [Colonel] Clark going to Georgia at [document damaged: the] same time four Hundred and od Joned [odd Joined] him Marched to Augusta whare thare [where there] was a large Body of Indians from the Creeks and Cherokes Caled [Called] to a treaty by Colo [Colonel] Brow[n.][21]     [T]he [unclear: Britis] formed up at Seamores white house the Indians on their Right in the wods [woods] who brought on the Action but our men advanced and kiled [killed] a number of Indians[,] took two Fieldpieces and obliged the British to take Sheltor [Shelter] in houses[.]  [T]hat night intrenched [entrenched] themselves Colo [Colonel] Clark Reniewed [Renewed] the Action the next Day and Raised [document damaged] Round the Enemy [document damaged] of Every Supply[,] Shattered their hous[document damaged] the Fieldpieces and our men behaving so well that the [document damaged] of the Enemy in their works so that Colo [Colonel] Brown sent a [document damaged] bury his Dead which was granted[.]  Such as ware [were] in his works [document damaged] musta Cartainly Sarrenderd [must have Certainly Surrendered] in a few hours had not Colo [Colonel] [document damaged – John Harris Cruger commander of ] Ninty Six marched to their assistance with a Regular force [document damaged  – and a] large Body of Torys [Tories] which obliged Colo [Colonel] Clark to order a retreat and [document damaged][.]  [He was] persued [pursued] was obliged to Cross the Mountans [Mountains][.]  [T]e British marched up in [document damaged – Wilkes] County Distresed [Distressed] the Inhabitants Cruelly took a number of prisoner and obliged the people to give up twenty of their [unclear: princaple [principal] Whig] friends as hostages for the piece [peace] and good behaviour [bahavior][.][22]  [Ferguson] Forgisson Being Defeated at kings mountain[23] The Georgians marched Sothardly [Southwardly] Colos [Colonels] Few[,] Twigs [Twiggs,] Clark [, and] Major Jackson and Lindsay [unclear: Davies]and [SC militia Gen. Thomas] Sumter formed a Junction with the Suth Carolineans[.]   Colo [Banastre Tarleton] Tarlington was detached [unclear: after] Cornwallis with a party of [unclear: his]

Page: [4]   [jpg image of letter]

Trops [Troops] to fall in with us which we met with the officers and men Behaved so Exceeding well that obliged [Tarleton] tarlington[,] though his troops ware [were] Regulars and over our numbers[,] to Retreat with a very Considerable loss[.][24]  [T]he Georgians proceeded to march to the uper [upper] parts of South Carolina and penetrated as far as pickingers [Col. Andrew Pickens[25]] Regment [Regiment] a number of which Joined our Camps Colo [Colonel] Pickings [Pickens] himself is very Active with us which is much in our favour [favor] as his Regment [Regiment] is almost good [document damaged] the Georgian and South Carolinians have been in Every Action [document damaged] the sothard [southward][.]   And if Cornwallis was out of our way, [added: which we [illegible]] [deleted: [illegible]] [document damaged] be Capable of taking and keeping the uper [upper] parts of both States as the Torys [Tories] are many of them kiled [killed][.]  [Lt. Col. James] Grierson[26] and Andrew More[27] and [Col.] Thomas waters[28] of Wilks is very Active Against us [-] have the Command of Aug[added: usta]and upwards Ingram[29] is also Active[.]  They ware [were] the Caus [Cause] of Removing a number of Famalies [Families] from Georgia of such persons as ware [were] in arms against them in a very unseasonable time of the year.  The Brave Georgians that was in Camp when you left Augusta have [document damaged] Sarvice [Service] Ever sinc [since] and is mu[document damaged] distressed both officers and [document damaged] much for Clothing and all most [almost] Every necery [necessary] the State [document damaged] to Relieve their wants and must Airnestly Requst [Earnestly Request] that you [document damaged] in their Behalf with the Honourable [Honorable] the [document damaged] for som [some] Relief both in Clothing and Money as its uncartain [uncertain] [document damaged] got will be before we Recover our State[.]  [F]ully upwards of Five hundred Georgians left the state but not over three hundred keeps constant to Camp and some of their Necessity obliges to lieve [leave] Camp at times in order to procure some necesaries [necessaries] for their support what money was in they [the] treasury was advanced at general Williamsons Request for the [unclear: Support] of the Commacary [Commissary] and quartermaster Departments which was to be Replaced but Cannot be Drawn from the Confederate [illegible] [added: as] Colo [Colonel] Wily[30] and Cuthbert[31] are both in Augusta on parol [parole][.]  [Y]ours [your letter] by Capt Walton[32] and Major Jackson[33] Came to hand the Resolve of Councel [Council] you mention [illegible] at as they both are in a [illegible] in Georgia[.]  Mrs [Richard] Howly[34] and the Children was well the Last [illegible] from
I am Sir your ser [servant]
[Signed] Stephen Heard

NB [Nota Bene] the Many Loses [Losses] and Disapp[document damaged]tments prevented me from sending [document damaged][.]   Mr Lindsay is woundend [wounded] and Taken Prisoner with Henry Candlerson to the late [illegible] Hawkins[illegible] [document damaged] Let him Return as soon as possable [possible][.]
[Signed] SH [Stephen Heard]

[1] Stephen Heard from Wilkes County, Ga. was the Whig Governor of Georgia 1780-1781 while almost all of Georgia was under British control.  He escaped to Virginia as the Georgia backcountry was under the harsh rule of the British and Loyalists.  The intended recipient of this letter is thought to be Georgia Delegate to the Continental Congress, Richard Howley.   Accessed at on February 12, 2014.   Letter courtesy of Linda Heard.  The transcription and bracketed interpretation is courtesy of the Hargrett Library Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia, and annotated by Charles B. Baxley.  Baxley has added some suggested punctuation and capitalization in [] to make this letter easier to read.  See also Mary B. Warren’s publication of this letter in her book Revolutionary Memoirs and Muster Rolls (Athens, Ga.: Heritage Papers, 1994).

[2] Gen. Andrew Williamson, SC militia commander from the Ninety Six District until June 1780.  His plantation home, White Hall, was on Hard Labor Creek, about 20 miles west of Ninety Six.

[3] Gen. Williamson surrendered to Loyalist militia Capt.  Richard Parris in June 1780 and was granted parole by the British, along with many of his militia brigade.

[4] Col. Thomas Brown of Augusta, Georgia Loyalist commandant of the King’s Rangers provincial regiment.

[5] George Galphin, Indian trader and appointed rebel Indian Agent to the Creeks, had his home and trading post on the Savannah River below Augusta at Silver Bluff, South Carolina, which was fortified and called Galphin’s Fort or Ft. Dreadnaught by the British.

[6] Col. John Jones was a Georgia militia regiment commander from Burke County.

[7] Capt. (Maj.) Daniel Manson, Loyalist officer of the North Carolina Royalists provincial regiment.

[8] Col. Charles McDowell, NC militia area commander of Quaker Meadows, formed his camp at Earle’s Ford on the North Pacolet River at the NC-SC state line.  This is in modern Spartanburg County, just east of Landrum, SC.  There Col. Jones’ refugees joined McDowell’s camp the evening before the party was raided by Capt. James Dunlap’s Loyalist cavalry.

[9] Col. Jones by gile, pretending to be Loyalist reinforcements, took over a group of Loyalist soldiers occupying Gowan’s Fort on July 13, 1780.  Jones’ party of Georgia refugees was immediately pursued to McDowell’s camp the next night.

[10] Capt. James Dunlap was an aggressive Loyalist cavalry officer from New York, detailed to patrol near Ninety Six on the South Carolina frontier.  He will be murdered by Americans while a prisoner of war.

[11] This details Capt. Dunlap’s night attack on Jones’ camp, which Dunlap did not know was actually next to a much larger American militia force of Col. Charles McDowell.

[12] The Americans hotly pursued Dunlap’s troops back to Fort Prince which was east of the Wellford community of modern Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

[13] Col. Isaac Shelby, western NC militia commander, part of the so called “Overmountain Men”.

[14] This reference is to the capitulation of Fort Anderson/Thicketty Fort to the Americans on July 30, 1780.

[15] Col. Elijah Clarke, Wilkes County, Georgia militia.

[16] Probably a reference to Maj. Burwell Smith, Georgia militia officer in the Wilkes County Regiment.

[17] This is the Battle of Musgrove Mill on the Enoree River where American militias under Cols. James Williams (SC), Elijah Clarke (Ga.) and Isaac Shelby (NC) attacked a militia outpost which had been reinforced by Col. Alexander Innes’ South Carolina Royalist provincials.  It occurred on August 19, 1780 and was an American victory.

[18] Hillsborough, NC, the revolutionary era capital of North Carolina.

[19] Col. James Williams, SC militia, died from wounds received at the Battle of Kings Mountain, the highest ranked American killed there.

[20] The new Southern Commander, Gen. Horatio Gates, the hero of the American victory at Saratoga, new York, was soundly beaten by Lord Charles Cornwallis at the Battle of Camden (SC) on August 16, 1780.

[21] This is Col. Elijah Clarke and South Carolina militia Maj. James McCall’s unsuccessful first Siege of Augusta or McKay’s Trading Post on September 14-18, 1780.

[22] The September 1780 punitive raid into Wilkes County burned over 100 Whig plantations, took 21 prominent Whigs as hostages, and 13 Whigs were hung in Augusta by Col. Cruger.

[23] Battle of Kings Mountain, South Carolina, American victory over the Maj. Patrick Ferguson and Loyalist on October 8, 1780.

[24] This American victory occurred at Blackstock’s Plantation on the Tyger River on November 20, 1780 and clearly demonstrated that Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton could be stopped, a lesson to be well applied to Tarleton again by the Americans at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781.

[25] SC militia Col. Andrew Pickens, a popular and skilled leader, was on parole until his home was burned by Maj. James Dunlop, which he believed released him from his parole and “British protection”.   He retook his militia leadership role by joining Gen. Daniel Morgan at Grindal Shoals on the Pacolet River in early January 1781 before the Battle of Cowpens.

[26] Georgia Loyalist militia Lt. Col. James Grierson was a prominent resident of Augusta.   He will be murdered while a prisoner of War by the Americans on July 5, 1781.

[27] Andrew Moore?

[28] Georgia Loyalist militia Col. Thomas Waters, a prominent Wilkes County resident, former member of the Georgia Assembly and Loyalist militia regimental commander.

[29] ??? Ingram

[30] Col. Richard Wylly of Effingham County, Ga. acted as Quartermaster General of Georgia and President of the Council.

[31] Seth John Cuthbert, President of the Supreme Executive Council of Georgia 1779 (acting governor) and Georgia militia major.

[32] Capt. George Walton of Augusta, member of the Continental Congress, post-War Governor of Georgia.

[33] Maj. James Jackson, Georgia Continental line officer and post-War Governor of Georgia.

[34] Richard Howley was elected as Governor of Georgia and delegate to the Continental Congress; he chose to go to Congress.

February 22, 2014