Fort Morris State Historic Site - Midway, Georgia
Fort Morris State Historic Site - Midway, Georgia
Fort Morris State Historic Site
The fort gained fame in American history when its
commander, Col. John McIntosh, responded to a
British surrender demand with, "Come and take it!"
Fort Morris State Historic Site
Most of the earthworks scene
on the site today were part of
Fort Defiance, which was built
during the War of 1812.
Cannon at Fort Morris
Fort Morris protected the
important Town of Sunbury
from British attack during the
American Revolution.
Fort Morris State Historic Site - Midway, Georgia
A Landmark of the Revolution
Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: May 10, 2013
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Forts of the Georgia Coast
Original Cannon on Display
An original gun from the fort is
on display - in pieces - at the
museum. It broke apart when
some local teenagers tried to
fire it in 1909 or 1910.
"Come and Take It!"
Patriot forces held Fort Morris
in 1778 when British troops
surrounded the fort and
demanded its surrender.
Fort Morris State Historic Site preserves the
scene of a landmark moment in American
history. The park is located a few miles east
of the historic town of Midway, Georgia.

Authorized by the Continental Congress in
1776 and apparently completed one or two
years later, Fort Morris was a rectangular
work with bastions on each corner. that
enclosed about one-acre of ground. Built of
earth and wood, it was armed with an
impressive array of more than 25 cannon
and garrisoned by around 200 men.

The purpose of the fort was to protect the
seaport town of Sunbury, then a thriving
coastal community that in some ways rivaled
nearby Savannah. Located on the Medway
River, Sunbury was vital to the defense of
Savannah because its capture could provide
the British with an avenue for taking that city
as well.

By the fall of 1778, Fort Morris was under the
command of Colonel John McIntosh, a brave
and determined officer. He was on duty at the
fort when it faced major danger for the first

East and West Florida were British colonies
at the time of the American Revolution. Spain
had lost control of the future state to England
at the end of the French and Indian War in
1763. When the 13 other colonies rebelled
against King George III in 1775, Florida did
not join them. As a result, British troops
posted there posed a constant threat to the
new state of Georgia throughout the war.

Such a threat developed in the fall of 1778
when Lt. Col. L.V. Fuser moved north from St.
Augustine by water with 500 British soldiers.
A second British force, headed by Lt. Col.
Mark Prevost, paralleled Fuser's advance by
marching up the King's Highway from Florida.

Unexpected delays slowed Fuser and
Prevost arrived just south of Midway Meeting
House with 700 men before the amphibious
force could reach nearby Sunbury and its
defender, Fort Morris. Patriot forces had been
skirmishing with Prevost as he advanced,
and resistance intensified as the British
approached Midway.

The Patriots were severely outnumbered,  but
determined not to give up Midway without a
fight. As Prevost and his men advanced,
American Colonels John White and James
Screven joined with Major James Jackson
and formed a line of battle across the King's
Highway about 1.5 miles south of the
meeting house.  They had a force of only 100
Continentals and 20 militia reinforcements.

Prevost attacked and broke the American
lines on November 22, 1778, wounding and
capturing Screven in the process. White and
Jackson fell back to a defensive position they
had prepared around Midway Meeting
House, but decided to evacuate the position
before they could be attacked a second time.
Behind they left a faked letter that told of
heavy American reinforcements from
Savannah gathering to oppose the British
advance at the Ogeechee River.

As they had anticipated it would, the letter
made its way into Prevost's hands. Having
heard nothing from Fuser, he set fire to the
church and retreated.  When the latter officer
came ashore at Sunbury three days after the
fight near Midway, he was surprised to find
that Prevost was not there waiting for him.

Even without the 750 men of Prevost's
column, Fuser still had 500 British Regulars
at his disposal, as well as perhaps 250 other
Loyalist militiamen. They moved into position
around Fort Morris on November 24, 1778.

As the British set up camp on elevated
ground facing the fort, they built fires behind
their position. When these could be seen
burning, Colonel McIntosh's artillerymen
opened fire from Fort Morris. As Fuser had
planned, however, the shots flew high and no
real damage was done.

The shelling continued through the night
while the British reconnoitered and tried to
get a better assessment of the strength of
the fort and the situation in the vicinity. A
company of East Florida Rangers (Loyalists)
was sent to Midway Meeting House to look
for Prevost, but he was no where to be found.

The next morning, November 25, 1778,
Colonel Fuser sent a surrender demand to
the fort, calling on McIntosh to lay down his
arms and "remain neuter' until the fate of
America, is determined." The demand
concluded with an ominous warning:

...Since this letter was closed some of your
people have been scattering shot about the
line. I am to inform you that if a stop is not put
to such irregular proceedings, I shall burn a
house for every shot so fired.

Fuser's demand for the surrender of Fort
Morris provoked one of the most noteworthy
responses of all time:

...We, sir, are fighting the battles of America,
and therefore distain to remain neutral till its
fate is determined. As to surrendering the fort,
receive this laconic reply: COME AND TAKE
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In reply to Fuser's threat to burn the houses
of Sunbury, McIntosh responded that if the
British officer set fire to one side of the town,
the Americans would do the same to the
other side.

The bold challenge to battle stunned Fuser
and his officers. Although some of them
wanted to make the attempt, the colonel
himself knew that the American cannon
could inflict heavy casualties on his men. He
ordered a withdrawal.

By sundown the British were in full retreat
back to their vessels, their steps hastened by
the American cannonballs that fell in the dust
of their columns. The British invasion of
Georgia had been defeated.

Colonel McIntosh became an American hero
for his courage and defiance at Fort Morris.
The Georgia Legislature voted to honor him
with a sword, on the blade of which were
inscribed his now famous words, "Come and
take it!"

Fort Morris eventually fell to the British in
1779, but Colonel McIntosh had moved on to
another assignment by that time. He served
his country until the end of the American
Revolution and again during the War of 1812
and is buried today at Mallow Cemetery in
Liberty County, Georgia.  His words, however,
continue to live.

"Come and take it!" became an American
battle cry that would echo time and time
again on battlefields across the continent. In
perhaps their best known reincarnation, they
were used by the citizens of Gonzales, Texas,
in 1835 when they defied the Mexican Army's
attempt to seize their small cannon by
hoisting a flag emblazoned with McIntosh's
words of defiance.

Unlike Fuser and the British, the Mexican
soldiers accepted the challenge and tried to
take the Gonzales cannon on October 2,
1835. They were defeated in what became
known as the Battle of Gonzales, where the
"Come and take it" cannon fired the first
artillery shot of the Texas Revolution.
click here to learn more.

The Gonzales "Come and Take It!" flag
symbolizes for many Texans still today the
spirit of resistance and defiance of their
ancestors who fought for and won Texas
Independence against overwhelming forces.

Fort Morris, meanwhile, fell into disrepair
over the years and was in ruins by 1812
when a new war with Great Britain threatened
the safety of Georgia. A new battery - Fort
Defiance - was built at the site. Its earthen
ramparts may have included a portion of the
walls of the original much larger fort.

The earthworks of Fort Defiance are the ones
that can still be seen at Fort Morris State
Historic Site, although archaeologists have
found traces of the original Revolutionary War
fort as well. The site offers stunning views of
the Medway River and serves as a perfect
base for exploring the historic ghost town of

Fort Morris State Historic Site is open
Thursday - Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., but
is closed Sunday - Wednesday. The park
features a museum, walking trail, picnicking,
interpretive signs and the sites and ruins of
both Fort Morris and Fort Defiance.

The entry fee is $5 for adults, $4 for Seniors
(62+), $3 for Youth (6-17) and $1 for kids 6
and under. The fort is located at 2559 Fort
Morris Road, Midway, Georgia.

Please click here to visit the official state park
website for more information.
Saint Catherines Sound
The fort provides spectaular
views of Saint Catherine's
Sound and is a great place for
both absorbing history and
enjoying nature.
Museum at Fort Morris
The visitor center features an
outstanding small museum
that interprets the Fort Morris
The Original Fort Morris?
Archaeologists believe the
embankment at right might be
a surviving part of the original
Revolutionary War fort.
Sunbury Cemetery
Gravestones and old roads
are all that remain of the once
famous port of Sunbury. Fort
Morris was built to protect the