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Kettle Creek battle site is worth a visit

Posted: January 9, 2013 - 1:14am

If you’re any kind of history buff, I’d highly recommend a little day trip in a few weeks.

Don’t worry; the Super Bowl will be over by then, so there’s no reason to sit in front of the television.

Less than an hour away, the quaint city of Washington, Ga., and Wilkes County hold their annual Revolutionary Days Feb. 8-10.

Yeah, a lot of it is the usual hokie stuff that you get from historical re-enactments: A lot of grown men and women dressed in period costumes, talking about the minutia of somewhat minor events with local significance.

But Washington’s event, built around the history of the Battle of Kettle Creek, tells a really neat story about a pivotal point in the American Revolution that more Georgians should learn about.

I’ve always felt that far too many people around here, when they ponder the Revolution, think about George Washington rather than Washington, Ga., which is named for the general and first president.

Not that Washington the man is unimportant, mind you. Certainly he is. But the point is that our history books focus mostly on the big battles and incidents that occurred far north of us during our war for independence. As a result, we tend not to learn as much about the battles fought here, or the personalities who also were our nation’s founders.

For example, you could probably quiz 10 people and easily find out a few things (even if most were incorrect) about Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, or Benjamin Franklin. But how many of them would know anything about William Few except that we’ve got a road named after him? Or Elijah Clark, other than there’s a nearby state park with his name?

As a lieutenant in the Patriot forces, Clark was an important figure in the Feb. 14, 1779 battle of Kettle Creek where a Patriot militia (which, I found out a few years ago, included some of my ancestors) surprised and defeated loyalist troops.

I like the story because it is one in which underdogs defeated arrogance. The loyalists had made themselves at home, traveling like a locust swarm through the backcountry and helping themselves to farmers’ cattle.

But the Patriot militia was made up of such hardscrabble pioneers, and unlike the interlopers they were familiar with the deep woods around Wilkes County. That helped them surround and defeat the loyalists, helping persuade them to abandon Augusta and eventually adding to the defeats that forced the British out of Georgia – and out of America.

The tale is worth hearing, and Washington is a pretty place to visit, too. You can get more information from www.washingtonwilkes.org. Take a day trip and let me know what you think.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-868-1222, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/barrypaschal.)

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