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The Battle of Fort Grierson (Second)

May 23, 1781 at Fort Grierson, Richmond County, Georgia
(aka Battle of Augusta)

American Forces Commanded by
Brig. Gen. Andrew Pickens
Strength Killed & Wounded Missing / Captured
400+ 40 ?
British Forces Commanded by
Col. James Grierson
Strength Killed Wounded, Missing / Captured
200+ 30 45
Conclusion: American Victory

On May 22, a group of Loyalist militia went on a raid against the local Patriots. The Loyalists surprised a group of militia guarding horses, killing the guards and taking 400 horses back with them to the fort.

On May 23, Brig. Gen. Andrew Pickens decided on a plan to dislodge the Loyalist garrison at Fort Grierson and intercept the Loyalists before they could reach nearby Fort Cornwallis. On the 23rd of May (Johnson says the 24th), Fort Grierson, was surrounded by Pickens and Lee and Maj. Eaton, and a battery was opened up against it. Maintaining the siege and keeping watch on Fort Cornwallis were the Legion cavalry under Major Eggleston, and some of the militia. Brown tried to make a sortie to thwart the effort, but was himself driven back into Fort Cornwallis where he cannonaded the besiegers instead. A while after, Lieut. Col. Grierson issued from the fort of his name, in an effort to escape to Fort Cornwallis. A sharp skirmish ensued, and upwards of 40 of Grierson’s men were captured, while Grierson with a handful of others, by moving under the cover of the river bank, were able to reach Fort Cornwallis in safety. In addition, the loyalists lost 30 killed. Pickens and Lee captured two cannon from Grierson, which they then proceeded to deploy against Fort Cornwallis. The Americans lost two wounded, and Maj. Pinkertham Eaton killed. Some accounts claim that in the shuffle of what transpired he was taken prisoner and his death occurred moments after the fighting had already ceased. Capt. Robert Smith subsequently replaced him in command of the North Carolina Continental detachment.

Lee, in his memoirs, praises the effort of a Capt. Handy who led the “Marylanders” against one of Brown’s forays. Evidently this individual was Capt. George Handy, from Maryland, of the Legion Infantry, and it was that unit (not a detachment from the Maryland Regiment as might otherwise seem to have been implied) which took part in the skirmish with Brown. Further in support of this, there is an unrelated anecdote in Lee’s memoirs suggests that the “Capt. Handy” of Augusta belonged to the Legion.

Kirkwood: "Received express from Col. Lee that he had taken two redoubts [Ft. Grierson, and apparently making reference as well to Ft. Galphin as well] at Augusta in Georgia, making 70 of them prisoners & Killed about 40, taking a Quantity of stores, Rum, etcs."

Tarleton Brown: “The next fort we attacked [after Fort Balfour, see 17 April] was that commanded by the wretched Grason [Grierson], at the upper end of town, This we soon stormed and took -- Captain Alexander shooting Grason [Grierson] for his villainous conduct in the country. Some made their escape from us by fleeing to Brown's fort, near the river. Before we laid siege to Brown's fort, a fellow by the name of Rutherford (a villain withal) took a company and slipped out in the night down the river, opposite Beach Island, and just at the break of day surprised our horse guard. It being in the bend of the river, the British and Tories got round them, and having a superior force, our men took to the river, but they killed several of our brave fellows while they were swimming, some making their escape -- my brother Bartlett Brown, was one among that number. We heard of their trip after our guard, and pushed to cut them off, but were too late by a few momentarily, for as we got within one hundred and fifty yards on the lane, we saw them enter. A few moments sooner, and we would have fixed them smugly.”

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