Battle of Brier Creek - Screven County, Georgia
Battle of Brier Creek - Screven County, Georgia
Battle of Brier Creek
The battle was a disaster for Patriot forces and,
according to one leading officer of the time,
extended the American Revolution by one year.
Battle of Brier Creek
The Revolutionary War battle
is commemorated at a small
park about 11 miles northeast
of Sylvania, Georgia.
Bridge over Brier Creek
The American forces were
rebuilding a destroyed bridge
over the creek when the
British flanked their position
and attacked.
Battle of Brier Creek - Screven County, Georgia
Brier Creek Battlefield Site
Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: May 25, 2013
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American Revolution in the South
Brier Creek Battlefield
New Bridge Road runs
through the battlefield site
after it crosses Brier Creek
northeast of Sylvania.
Colonel Samuel Elbert
A marker commemorates
Col. Samuel Elbert, who was
captured while leading his
Continentels in a desperate
fight in the battle.
The tide of a major British invasion of
Georgia was turning in favor of the Patriots
until disaster struck the American army at the
Battle of Brier Creek.

The battlefield is 11 miles northeast of
Sylvania in Screven County, Gerogia.

The events leading to the Battle of Brier
Creek had started in the fall of 1778 when
British forces began a major campaign to
take control of Georgia for King George III.
The American Revolution was then in its third
year and the focus of the war was shifting

British forces advancing by land from East
Florida turned back after the
Battle of Midway
Church, fearful of rumored American
reinforcements. An amphibious attempt to
Fort Morris at Sunbury ended in failure
after the Patriot commander, Col. John
McIntosh, dared the British to "Come and
take it!"

The King's forces had more success on
December 29, 1778, when they captured
Savannah. Pushing quickly inland, they took
Augusta by January 31, 1779. Things then
took a turn in favor of the Americans.

A force of irregular Loyalist militia led by Col.
James Boyd tried to make its way from South
Carolina into Georgia to join the British at
Augusta. They were met and badly defeated
at the
Battle of Kettle Creek on St. Valentine's
Day, February 14, 1779, by the forces of Gen.
Andrew Pickens, Col. John Dooly and Lt. Col.
Elijah Clarke.

The destruction of Boyd's command at Kettle
Creek led the British to conclude that their
position at Augusta was too vulnerable and
they began a slow retreat to the safety of
Savannah. American forces, led by Brig. Gen.
John Ashe, moved across the Savannah
River in pursuit.

When the British reached Ebenezer, they
halted. Command was turned over to Lt. Col.
Mark Prevost, who turned on the Patriot force
that had been slowly following him.

The Americans, meanwhile, went into camp
near the confluence of Brier Creek and the
Savannah River on February 26, 1779. The
British had destroyed a bridge over the creek
during the withdrawal and the Patriots now
began the effort of repairing it.

Ashe's total army included around 1,300
men, 200 of whom were light cavalry. They
were camped with Brier Creek between them
and the British, who were thought to be far
away at Ebenezer.

Prevost took full advantage of the false sense
of security in the American ranks by sending
a decoy force of around 500 regular and
militia to within 3 miles of the burned out
bridge being repaired by Ashe's army. They
took up a position there to capture and hold
the attention of the American commanders.

Lt. Col. Prevost in person then led a larger
force of 900 regulars and seasoned militia
soldiers north up the creek to a mill owned by
Francis Paris. They quickly repaired the
destroyed bridge there, using timbers from
Paris' house and barn.

The British crossing at Paris' Mill went
completely undetected by the Americans and
Prevost immediately pushed south toward
the rear of Ashe's army.

On the afternoon of March 3, 1779, the British
struck. A man on horseback rode desperately
into the American lines with word that a large
enemy force was approaching. Ashe ordered
his men to form for battle, but the effort was
hurried and not carried out with precision.
The two forces opened fire at long range and
disaster quickly followed. Col. Samuel Elbert
moved forward from the American lines with
a mixed force of Continentals and Georgia
militia. Under heavy fire, however, Elbert's
men drifted somewhat out of position and
blocked the fire of part of the American army.

At the same time, British cavalry caused the
American right flank to contract, creating
another gap in the lines. Seizing the moment,
Prevost ordered a bayonet charge.

British forces surged forward, the American
lines were broken and disaster followed. No
one really knows how many casualties the
Patriots sustained at Brier Creek. Lt. Col.
Prevost later estimated that 150 were killed,
but Ashe's army disintegrated into the
swamps and there is just no way to know.

Gen. William Moultrie, the famed "Gamecock"
of South Carolina, later proclaimed that Brier
Creek was so disastrous that it extended the
war for another 12 months.

Col. Elbert was captured in the chaos, along
with 227 American soldiers, many of them
Continentals. Elbert had fought a desperate
rear guard action to allow other Patriot troops
time to escape. The British reported losses
of only 5 killed and 8 wounded.

Gen. Ashe later faced a military trial for his
role in the disaster. He was found not guilty
of cowardice under fire, but guilty of failing to
properly secure his camp.

The Brier Creek Battlefield today is primarily
wooded and undeveloped. A large part of it is
in the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management area. A
small park is on the banks of the creek.

To reach the park, which includes interpretive
markers on the battle, travel north on US 301
from Sylvania, Georgia. Stay on 301 for 5
miles, then turn right onto GA 24 (Newington
Highway). Follow 24 for 2.7 miles and turn
left onto New Bridge Road. Follow New
Bridge Road for a little under 3 miles and you
will cross Brier Creek. The park will be on
your left after you cross the bridge.

There is no cost to visit the park and at this
time the only interpretation for the battle are a
few historic markers.
Battle of Brier Creek
The creek is a tributary of the
Savannah River, which it joins
just below the battlefield. It is
popular today for fishing and
other activities.