HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Robert S. Davis, renowned professor of history and family research expert at Wallace State, spoke at the 10th annual commemoration of the Battle of Van Creek (Ga.) on December 3. That clash of arms occurred on Feb. 11, 1779, but the commemoration is held so as not to conflict with the ceremonies for the subsequent Battle of Kettle Creek three days later.
Chapters of the Sons and of the Daughters of the American Revolution presented wreaths at the ceremony held at Richard Russell State Park. One wreath was laid in the water in memory of the one Patriot soldier reported to have been killed in the fighting. The Samuel Elbert Chapter of the SAR organizes the ceremony each year.
Professor Davis spoke on the “winter soldiers” at Van Creek and Kettle Creek in February 1779. He described them all as brave Americans, seeking a new world better than colonial America. The Loyalists or Tories who crossed the Savannah River were foreign born or the sons of immigrants. They wanted British protection from their native born American neighbors (the Patriots or Whigs) and the right to continue to hold their colonial land reserves.
The 600 or more Loyalists were trying to reinforce the British army then at Augusta and crossed the Savannah River at Van Creek. They were opposed by only some 100 Georgia and South Carolina militiamen who knew how desperate the odds were against them.
In the ensuing fight, the Patriots were defeated and lost some 30 or more men as captives or wounded. Reportedly, 100 of the Loyalists abandoned this march and used the fighting to return to their homes in the Carolinas, however. Three days later, the remaining Loyalists were defeated at the Battle of Kettle Creek by a Patriot force barely half their number, which included the men who had tried to stop them at Van Creek.
Davis spoke of how the ambitions of these men, some family and neighbors on opposite sides, came together at Van Creek in conflicted ways. Some of the Patriots, for example, would give up on the United States and move to what became Spanish Alabama and Florida while many of the Loyalists would decide to stay and, with their descendants, help build the new country.
Despite the important symbolism of Van Creek and Kettle Creek, they are not recognized as national landmarks because even together they did not produce ghastly numbers of dead and wounded. Davis’s ancestor Dempsey Tyner was in these battles, likely in both camps as a Patriot spy passing as black, Indian, and white, as needed. He was later forced to serve in the King’s militia at the Patriot victory at King’s Mountain.
Professor Davis has many awards, books, and publications. An article by him on the different politics of frontier Georgia was recently the cover article of the Georgia Historical Quarterly. He is a new member of the Cullman Chapter of the SAR.
Continuing education classes in researching family history/genealogy are taught by Davis every semester at Wallace State through the college’s Extended Learning Program. For more information on those classes contact Mandi Perkins at (256) 352-7826 or at Mandi.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.
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