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1778

British capture Savannah, Georgia

On this day in 1778, British Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell and his force of between 2500 and 3600 troops, which included the 71st Highland regiment, New York Loyalists, and Hessian mercenaries, launch a surprise attack on American forces defending Savannah, Georgia.

American Major General Robert Howe and his paltry force of between 650 and 900 men were severely outnumbered. Campbell also outflanked the Continental forces by locating a path through the swamp to the right of the American position. Howe ordered the city to be evacuated and the army to withdraw from combat. During the process, the Georgia Brigade took heavy losses when it was cut off from Howe’s other forces. The Patriots lost 83 men and another 483 were captured, while the British lost only 3 men and another 10 were wounded.

Savannah remained in British control until the Redcoats left of their own accord on July 11, 1782. French and American forces held Savannah under siege from September 23 to October 18, 1779, but failed to reclaim the city.

The French troops included 500 free Haitians of African descent, calling themselves the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Dominigue. Soldiers of African descent fighting for the Patriots was an anomaly during the southern campaign–most American slaves attempted to flee and join British forces, as they had no desire to defend their Patriot masters’ right to enslave them. Many of the Volontaires themselves later went on to rebel against French control of Haiti. In fact, the Volontaires’ twelve year old drummer, Henri Christoph, commanded Haiti’s revolutionary army and later became king of Haiti.

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