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Of bullion they had been nearly drained by northern traders who would take only specie for their articles; and their paper currency was daily depreciating. Manufactures they had none, and the precarious trade on which they depended for supplies, was not at all adequate to their de. mands, for, in addition to the usual dangers of the sea, their fr proximity to the naval rendezvous of Bermuda, the refugee province of Florida, and the fleet-covered Archipelago of the West Indies, enhanced to such a degree the hazard of commercial intercourse, even with the parts which were open, that twenty per cent. was often demanded for insuring vessels bound to the southern provinces, and soon, no policy, at any premium, could be obtained for a clearance to Savannah. The ships with their cargoes lay idly in our waters, or, attempting to run out, were seized by the enemy. The wheels of the saw-mills stopped, because there was no demand for lumber; the spade and the hoe rested in the field, for their use, save for the purposes of domestic consumption, realized no gains, and conferred no benefit: the whole industrial machinery of the province was suddenly arrested, and distress flung her tattered mantle over the once blooming fields, and flourishing hamlets of Georgia. But patriotism hushed every repining murmur, and they counted not their own lives dear unto them, if they might but successfully maintain the cause of freedom.
In June, 1775, Governor Wright wrote to the Earl of Dartmouth, “a few troops twelve months ago would have kept all the southern provinces out of rebellion;" and, according to the direction of the noble Earl, the Governor, that same month, wrote to General Gage and Admiral Graves, soliciting immediate assistance, which would have been promptly ren. dered, but for the interception of the letters by the Committee of Safety at Charleston, and their transmitting by the post others, stating that Georgia was quiet, and no occasion existed for the troops or vessels which they had been commanded to hold subject to his order. The ships and soldiers were consequently withheld, and it was not until Sir James Wright, casually meeting General Gage in London, some years after, inquired the cause of his non-compliance with so pressing a request, that the forgery was revealed to them.
In consequence of the arrival of several men-of-war at Tybee on the 17th, the Council of Safety, on the 18th ol
January, 1776, resolved to secure the person of Sir James Wright, to preyent his communicating with the officers on board, and thereby assisting their operations against the State. Joseph Habersham, a youthful, patriot, undertook the task. Proceeding that very afternoon to the house of the Governor, who had assembled a few officers at a dinner party; he passed the sentinel at the door, entered the hall, bowed politely to the company, then marched to the head of the table, and laying his hand upon the shoulder of the Governor, said, “Sir, you are my prisoner.” The party, astonished at his boldness, and supposing, from his firm manner, that a large force was surrounding them, fled in the utmost precipitation through doors and windows. The Governor gave his solemn parole, but on the night of the 11th of February, he escaped from his house, went in haste to BonaFenture, and thence in an open boat to the Scarborough, of twenty guns, Captain Barclay, where he arrived at three o'clock in the morning. This deed was one of the most signal instances of deliberate and daring prowess, in the history of the war. For a youth of twenty-four, unarmed and unsupported, to enter the mansion of the Chief Magistrate, and at his own table, in broad day light, and amidst a circle of officers, each of whom had some weapon of defence, and place him under arrest, is an act of heroism ranking with the most brilliant exploits of Roman or of Grecian fame. It was the sublimity of courage. Some months previous to this, Sir James Wright had asked leave to return to England, saying in his letter soliciting permission, “that a King's Governor has little or no business here,” and this request had been granted. Colonel Campbell being appointed to the provisional magistracy, until the occupation of Savannah by the British forces, under Provost, when, in 1780, Sir James again assumed the government. From his retreat in the Scarborough, he wrote to the Assembly, desiring them to procure fresh supplies for the fleet; but they refused, and the vigilance of the Council of Safety prevented its obtaining any, except by rifling the vessels, which attempted to elude the blockade. Pacific negotiations having failed, force was resorted to, for the purpose of capturing the eleven rice ships which lay under the bluff, waiting to proceed to sea. On the last of February, 1776, the Scarborough, Hiclinbroke, St. John, and two large transports, with soldiers, came up the
river, and anchored at “five fathoms.” This was a demonstration not to be misunderstood. On the 2d of March, the Council of Safety convened, and passed a resolution, “that all the shipping in port be dismantled, and that the valuation of the houses of those appertaining to the friends of America be taken, for the purpose of burning the same, rather than suffer the British to possess them. than thon cufton the British access themes
And with a
and devotion akin to that of Decius and Codrus, not one dissenting voice was raised against the measure, though the enforcing of it would make nearly every member of the Council a beggar. What said the Carolinians now? They, who but a few years before, termed Georgia, “ that infamous colony ?" and who scarcely a twelvemonth back had resolved “ to hold her inhabitants as inimical to the liberties of their country?" What thought they of those daring measures ? Their Provincial Congress, in a letter signed by its President, Mr. Henry Drayton, declared it “noble, patriotic, vigorous," and that "it was an instance of heroic principle, not exceeded by any, and equalled but by few, in history." .
Having previously sounded Back river, two of the vessels on the 2d of March sailed up that channel. One anchored directly opposite the town, and the other grounded at the west end of Hutchinson's Island in attempting to pass round it and come down upon the shipping from above. During the night, the troops from the first vessel under Majors Maitland and Grant, were silently marched across Hutchinson's Island, and embarked in merchant vessels which lay on the other side. When the morning of the 3d of March, 1776, revealed the proximity of the naval and military force, the inhabitants were filled with the utmost indignation. The grounded vessel was immediately attacked by a company of riflemen under Major John Habersham, who soon drove every man from its deck, and would have made it his prize, but having no boats to effect it, he had the mortification of seeing her float off at high water and escape. In the mean time General McIntosh had collected a few troops, and despatched a flag of truce with several officers, to demand why the soldiers had been brought up to town, and placed in merchantmen in the river ? The flag was detained ; another, sent to learn the cause of the detention, was denied admittance; and firing upon the soldiers who had insolently ordered it off, received in return a volley, which wounded
one man, and so shattered the boat that it with difficulty reached the shore. Having no artillery of sufficient calibre to dislodge them, an order was given to set the vessels on fire. In the afternoon a few adventurers, among whom was General James Jackson,-he, who was in the first and the last battle in Georgia, proceeded to the ship Inverness, loaded with rice, deer skins, &c., which they set on fire, and slipping her cable, she drifted with the tide upon the brig Nelly, which was soon wrapped in flames. The officers and soldiers precipitately abandoned her, and in their confusion threw themselves in the half-drained and uliginous rice fields, whence they were extricated the next morning, with the loss of their arms and ammunition. Two other vessels were also consumed, and the invaders totally routed, not however without the sacrifice of several valuable lives. The scenes of that day and night were solemn and terrific. The sudden marshalling of troops, the alarm of the people, the hurried death-volley, and the vessels wrapped in flames, every mast a pinnacle of fire, their loosened sails fanning the element which was destroying them, and making the darkness hideous with a lurid glare, combined to form a scene of awful and soul-stirring sublimity. Hitherto, they had but heard of British aggression, but now, their own soil was moist with the blood of their slain; their quiet homes had been assailed; their property pillaged; and their province threatened with devastation and ruin. The crisis had arrived, they met it like heroes.
Gentlemen of the Historical Society, I have thus in feebleness and brevity attempted to trace the progress of revolutionary proceedings in Georgia, from their incipiency, until the first blood had been spilt in its borders. But the most interesting part of that contest yet remains; the sanguinary scenes of New England were to find an answering token in the gushing life-tide of our own citizens, the blazing horrors of Charlestown and Falmouth, were met by the responsive flames from our own dwellings; and the earthquake-voice of misery, which rose from the suffering thousands of other colonies, was echoed back by the wretched and destitute of our own besieged and war-stricken province.
The revolution found Georgia the most defenceless, it scourged her the severest, it left her the weakest of the thir
teen colonies; but, though often cast down, she did not despond; though overrun, she was not subdued ; “faint, yet pursuing," she never relaxed her efforts, and never withheld her aid. The motto of her illustrious founder, “Nescit cedere,” was inscribed on every banner, and her soil, consecrated by the blood of a McIntosh, a D'Estaing, a Screven, a Pulaski, was,-is,-and ever shall be,—the soil of patriotism.
It is well, in coming up to celebrate this birth-day of our State, that we should gather together the several Societies which this day honor us with their presence. A day, whose thrilling associations should be hallowed in all coming time, by the citizens of Georgia. United as we are, in the various relations of life, the ties of our union extend even to the earliest annals of this commonwealth. We are connected by a long series of eventful and blending histories; and though now arranged under the badges of our respective associations, we are all protected by the same broad folds whose stars and stripes have become the universal watchword of the free.
Casting my eye in historic retrospect across the ocean, and the “ocean-girted isle" into the heart of Europe, I see an assemblage of way-worn travellers enter a city of Nassau, singing the songs of Zion as they walk. A rude cart conveys their few worldly goods, and two covered ones help on their toilsome journey ; the aged parent, the feeble wife, and the helpless infant. The charity of the benevolent supplies their wants, their confidence in God supports their strength; the distant hills have shut out the last view of the homes of their youth, and a wide ocean stretches its stormy waves before them. Who are these ? and where are they going? They are the exiled Saltzburgers journeying to the American Canaan. They are the future settlers of Georgia, destined to give shape and tone to its whole character, who in a few months pitched their tents in the squares of our city, and who shortly ended their wanderings by the erection of a village, to which, in the spirit of Samuel of old, they gave the name of Ebenezer, feeling with the prophet, that hitherto the Lord had indeed helped them. Gentlemen of the German Friendly Society, these were from your father-land, the pious pilgrims of the old world, the noble and upright citizens of the new, whose industry, integrity and worth will ever be conspicuous in the records of our State.