The gentlemen may cry, "Peace, peace! but there is no peace.... I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
- Virginia Statesman Patrick Henry, on the eve of the American Revolution
The anti-war drumbeats stirring on college campuses and a few of our streets today didnt start with the 60s-era Vietnam generation. Protests, pacifism and other shallow ideals for solving lifes major problems are nothing new.
Thomas Brown, the Brit-ish loyalist who was tarred, feathered, and nearly beaten to death for refusing to fight for American independence - and whose land would become the seat of Columbia County - wasnt the only one who opposed the Revolution. Nearly one in four colonists remained loyal to the Crown throughout the war. In Georgia that ratio was one in three, with the bulk of the revolutionary foot-draggers living in the backcountry - now called Columbia, Richmond and Wilkes counties.
Like todays protesters, our forebears had their reasons for opposing the war, too. The Quakers of Wrightsboro objected to war on religious grounds; landowners on Americas newest frontier were more interested in developing their newly acquired property than establishing a new government; and nearly every backcountry resident, justly or without cause, was too afraid of his Indian neighbors to lose the protection of the Crown.
In Georgia, before the revolution, it was the pro-war Sons of Liberty who marched in the streets to proclaim their views and protest the actions of the Crown, not the other way around.
As history proves, the war movement would grow and include Georgia, too. How-ever, when the impassioned Sons met in Savannah to draw up a war resolution, even they could not muster enough support to send representatives to the First Continental Congress and join other colonies in registering support for independence.
Several of Georgias 12 parishes didnt even send delegates to the Savannah meeting. Dissenters included 60 men from the Kyokee and Broad River settlements, who objected not only to the war but to any resolution-making without their input or dissent.
When these dissenters, including brothers William and Benjamin Few, realized American rights couldnt be won apart from war they joined the fight. But many Georgians would not change their minds. Despite certain confiscation of their property, some 2,000 would leave for Florida, Nova Scotia, or England, never to return.
Others would decide to fight, but on the British side, leading brother to fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, and father against son, a condition local author Barry Fleming (not the county commissioner) calls Americas First Civil War.
But divided loyalties and de-fections werent the only problems hampering Georgias war effort 225 years ago. A few Amer-icans may be protesting the Bush Administrations war policies today, but assessing Revolutionary War tactics was everyones game.
There were no war colleges or boot camps to prepare soldiers for battle, and little unity behind their equally untrained leaders. Chains of command and spheres of responsibility were ill defined, and it wasnt uncommon for one military officer to oppose the order of another.
But worse than the disagreements within the military was the rivalry between Georgias military leaders and her new provincial government, one time especially.
In 1777, Button Gwinnett, who had distinguished himself by signing the Declaration of Independence the year before, briefly became Georgias second provincial governor. He insisted on fully discharging his presumed title of commander-in-chief of Georgias military forces, ignoring the advice of his military leaders and ordering campaigns of his own choosing.
Understandably, Gwin-netts ill-conceived decisions damaged any cohesion there might have been between his government and the military, and likely hastened the fall of Savannah and Augusta to the British. When Georgias ranking military leader, Col. Lachlan McIntosh, called the interfering governor a scoundrel, Gwinnett challenged his accuser to a duel. Both suffered wounds, but only McIntosh would recover.
After unsuccessfully trying the colonel for murder, Gwinnetts supporters refused to work with him, and the capable McIntosh left Georgia to fight with the continental army under Gen. George Washington. Geor-gias forces were in less-capable hands when her cities fell.
The similarity running through current and historical disagreements on how or if to wage war, is that the greatest problems occur among those who either have limited information, or who magnify only one part of the issue.
America, lets learn all we can about the greater conflict at hand, and then stand together lest we leave the defense of all our cities and towns in less-than-capable hands.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara @aol.com.)
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