American Revolution

Glynn County, Georgia

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Colonel Samuel Elbert's Letter

Colonel Samuel Elbert’s description of the Revolutionary War Victory at St. Simons in April 1778 was contained in a letter to General Robert Howe, Continental Army Commander of Southern Department, located at Savannah. Colonel Elbert’s letter was published in the April 23, 1778, issue of Charlestown’s newspaper, South Carolina and American General Gazette. An uncorrected typed copy of Colonel Elbert’s letter in bold type follows in five paragraphs:

"Dear General, Frederica, April 19,1778

I have the happiness to inform you that about 10 o'clock this forenoon, the Brigantine Hinchinbrook, the Sloop Rebecca, and a Prize Brig, all struck the British Tyrant's colours and surrendered to the American arms.

"Having received intelligence that the above vessels were at this place, I put about 300 men, by detachment from the troops under my command at Fort Howe on board the three gallies—the Washington, Capt. Hardy; the Lee, Capt. Braddock; and the Bulloch, Capt. Hatcher —and a detachment of artillery with 2 field pieces, under Capt. Young, I put on board a boat.

"With this little army, we embarked at Darien, and last evening effected a landing at a bluff about a mile below the town; leaving Col. White on board the Lee, Capt. Melvin on board the Washington, and Lieut. Petty on board the Bulloch, each with a sufficient party of troops. Immediately on Landing, I dispatched Lieut. Col. Ray and Major Roberts, with about 100 men, who marched directly up to the town, and made prisoners three marines and two sailors belonging to the Hinchinbrooke.

"It being late, the gallies did not engage until this morning. You must imagine what my feelings were, to see our three little men of war going on to the attack of these three vessels who have spread terror on our coast, and who were drawn up in order of battle; but the weight of our metal soon damped the courage of these heroes, who soon took to their boats; and, as many as could, abandoned the vessels with everything on board, of which we immediately took possession. What is extraordinary, we have not one man hurt. Capt. Ellis [of the Hinchinbrook] is drowned, and Capt. Mowbry [of the Rebecca] made his escape."

"As soon as I see Col. White, who has not yet come to us with his prizes, I shall consult with him, the other three officers, and the commanding officers of the galleys, on the expediency of attacking the Galatea now lying off Jekyll. I send you this by Brigade Major Habersham, who will inform you of the other particulars. I am. Samuel Elbert, Col. Commandant."

The probable reason for Colonel Elbert’s exclamation of pleasure was this victory represented his first major success against the British East Florida forces during the Florida Expeditions. It also provided a measure of retribution for the HMS Hinchenbrook’s participation in the attempt to capture the rice boats at Savannah in March of 1776, and the Americans’ defeat at Thomas Creek during the Second Florida Expedition in May of 1777.


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