War of 1812 Raid on St. Simons Island, Georgia
|War of 1812 on St. Simons Island
The St. Simons Lighthouse stands on part of the
grounds of the Couper Plantation, where British
troops caused great destruction in 1815.
War of 1812 on St. Simons
Eyewitness accounts show
that British troops raided the
slave cabins on St. Simons
Redcoats in the Golden Isles
British troops raided Jekyll, St.
Simons and Cumberland
Islands during the closing
days of the War of 1812.
War of 1812 Raid on St. Simons Island, Georgia
The 1815 British Invasion
|Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: December 20, 2013
War of 1812 Sites in the South
Admiral George Cockburn
The raid on St. Simons Island
was led by Admiral George
Cockburn, the same man that
ordered the burning of
In February of 1815, British troops raided St.
Simon's Island, Georgia. The incident was
one of the final actions of the War of 1812.
One of the beautiful Golden Isles of Georgia,
St. Simons Island is 84 miles south of
Savannah, 75 miles north of Jacksonville and
just across the F.J. Torres Causeway from
The Raid on St. Simons Island was part of
the last campaign of the War of 1812. British
Rear Admiral George Cockburn had burned
Washington, D.C., but failed in his attempt to
take Fort McHenry and Baltimore, Maryland.
Turning his eyes southward to Georgia, he
decided to take Cumberland Island on the
The plan was for Cumberland to serve as a
springboard for a major invasion of Georgia.
Forces from there would drive north up the
coast to Savannah while a second column
marched from Nicolls' Outpost at the forks of
the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers to finish
the conquest of the then southernmost state.
Cumberland Island fell to Cockburn's Royal
and Colonial Marines on January 11, 1815.
St. Mary's was taken two days later after a
brief but sharp battle with the U.S. troops
holding the fort at Point Petre (Point Peter) on
the St. Mary's River.
When Cockburn's marines completed their
looting of St. Mary's and the surrounding
area, they were withdrawn to Cumberland
Island on January 24th. Once they had
refitted, the admiral ordered them north to St.
Simons and Jekyll Islands.
The British forces came ashore at St.
Simons Island at the end of January 1815.
Their orders were clear: 1) To collect African-
American slaves as recruits for the Colonial
Marines, and 2) To confiscate cotton and
St. Simons and to some degree neighboring
Jekyll Island were then the centers of a
prosperous plantation district. Hundreds of
slaves ready flocked to the British standard
and even though it was mid-winter, there was
plenty of worth to attract the eyes of the
Moving up the Frederica River on the back of
the island, the British set up their command
post at the ruins of Fort Frederica. From there
they sent out detachments to scour St.
Simons and its plantations. In a little known
but significant facet of its history, Frederica
became the center for one of the largest
military emancipations of slaves in Georgia
As hundreds of liberated African-Americans
gathered at Fort Frederica, British troops
spread across St. Simons and neighboring
Jekyll to carry out their orders. They even put
the cotton gins into operation to gin out raw
cotton to increase its value before hauling it
One eyewitness described the scene in a
letter to a friend on February 13, 1815:
In truth it is impossible to state
circumstancially the loss which the
unfortunate inhabitants have sustained;
Cattle slaughtered in every direction; property
of every description held in requisition or
destroyed. My feelings prevent my adding to
this hateful catalogue of woe. - Resident of St.
Simon's Island, February 13, 1815.
On the plantation of John Couper, which lay
at the southern point of the island, the British
took 80 slaves - some of them skilled at
various trades - and ten bales of cotton. In
1804 Couper had provided four acres of his
land for the building of the first St. Simons
Lighthouse and the current landmark still
stands at the same site.
At the plantation of Dr. R. Grant, British
marines liberated one enslaved woman and
took four bales of cotton, destroyed all of his
furniture and spoiled his cotton gins while
trying to gin more cotton.
Grant's plantation was for sale at the time
and according to the listing in a Charleston
newspaper included "a large Barn and
Machinery for the preparing of Cotton, and
with little expence may be turned into a Sugar
Mill; a small Dwelling-House, with other
convenient out Houses and Negro Houses,
with 4 or 5000 Orange Trees on the place."
At Gascoigne Bluff, where the causeway from
the mainland reaches the island today, the
raiders struck the Hamilton Plantation. There
they liberated 182 slaves and confiscated 25
bales of cotton, along with "all his plantation
stores, medicines, tools, paint pots, old iron
and gin boxes." From the home of James
Hamilton they took carpet, the books of his
library, pistols and other weapons.
The story was much the same across the
island. American officials later complained
that the British continued their looting even
after news arrived that the war had ended
with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. That
news reached Admiral Cockburn on February
6, 1815, but the raid on St. Simons Island
continued for another seven days.
The British withdrew from the island on
January 13, 1815. U.S. troops were quickly
posted there to prevent a second raid, but the
damage had been done. Every plantation
had been looted and hundreds of slaves
liberated. They eventually were resettled in
Sites associated with the War of 1812 raid
can be seen at points across St. Simons
Lands of the Couper Plantation are marked
by the St. Simons Lighthouse and Neptune
Park. The British headquarters site is
preserved at Fort Frederica National
Monument, which focuses primarily on the
early history of the fort.
Two well-preserved slave cabins from the
1830s mark the site of the Hamilton
Plantation on Arthur J. Moore Drive near the
entrance to Epworth By The Sea. The site is
on Gascoigne Bluffs where magnificent oak
trees grow. Timber for the famed frigate USS
Constitution - "Old Ironsides - was cut here.
Please click here to learn more about historic
St. Simons Island, Georgia.
British Marines rampaged
through Hamilton Plantation
at Gascoigne Bluff, where
timber had been cut for the
USS Constitution ("Old
The British occupied the old
fort when they landed on St.
Simons Island in 1815. It was
the site of once of the largest
military emancipation of
slaves in Georgia history.