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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Revolutionary War: Sawpit Bluff

Button Gwinnett took issue with the appointment of Lachlan McIntosh as the military commander. He proceeded to gain recognition and glory by capturing St. Augustine now held by the British in Florida. During 1775 the Georgia colonials had undertaken another futile expedition to St. Augustine. As with the first expedition under Oglethorpe, the summer heat and August fevers took its toll. Fifteen men died per day on Sapelo Island. The army scattered along the coast, never encountering the British. Lachlan McIntosh had participated in that expedition. But Button Gwinnett was seeking personal glory and refused to be setback. He actively went on expeditions against the English in southern Georgia. In February of 1777, just before he was elected to the presidency, the British had captured Fort McIntosh on the Satilla River and had almost won Fort Howe on the Altamaha. Now was his chance. He assumed complete command as president and insisted that civilian authorities were charged with the responsibility for military operations. But General McIntosh refused to accept this division of authority and ignored the council. Finally Gwinnett himself took the field. Meanwhile, the council bickered over the division of authority and recalled both the president and General McIntosh to Savannah, and turned the expedition over to Colonel Samuel Elbert. Colonel Elbert was to proceed down the coast to meet the Georgia militia under Colonel John Baker in a junction of forces at Sawpit Bluff on the St. Johns River. They never met. Each had to fight the British armies separately, and Elbert was badly defeated. Gwinnett's fall from power was not long delayed. When the new Assembly met on May 1st to elect a successor to Bulloch, it passed over the acting president and chose John Adam Treutlen. Two weeks later, Gwinnett (now a private citizen again) and General McIntosh appeared before the Assembly at its summons, for a post-mortem on the Florida debacle.

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