War of Independence (detail of Boston massacre print)

War in the South

British operations in the South were initially successful. In 1778, British troops captured Savannah, Georgia, and moved inland, taking “a stripe and a star from the rebel flag of Congress.” In 1780 they captured Charleston, South Carolina, taking 6,000 prisoners. But when British forces attempted to move beyond the coast, their progress was slowed by repeated clashes with Continental troops and local partisan militias.

Partisans knew the swamps, savannahs, and pine forests of South Carolina and Georgia. They fought from tree to tree and advanced under cover. Some had deadly accurate, long-range rifled muskets. They used hit-and-run ambushes and ruthless, take-no-prisoners combat, not the close-order volleys and bayonet charges of open-field linear warfare favored by regular armies. They won few outright victories, but they frustrated British efforts to control the South.

Much of the fighting in Georgia and the Carolinas took place between Americans Many colonists there—as in all the colonies—remained fiercely loyal to the king. Some were wealthy aristocrats; most were farmers or tradesmen. Some took refuge in British strongholds in Charleston, South Carolina, or fled to Canada, the Caribbean, or England. Many others joined loyalist militia and fought against opposing partisan units comprised of their own neighbors.


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