Saturday, October 13, 2018

An Eleven-Day Exodus from Georgia

by Denise Weimer

During the Revolutionary War, defeats in the North and threats from the French navy forced King George III to turn his eye southward. His “southern strategy” bombarded Colonial ports and enlisted Indian and Loyalist help.

Patriots attempting to hold their land in backwoods Georgia faced fighting so fierce the area earned the nickname “The Hornet’s Nest.” Famed Indian fighter Elijah Clark rose to the rank of colonel, leading militia from Wilkes County to victory at the Battle of Kettle Creek.

But by 1780, conditions look dire for the patriots. Charleston, Savannah, and Augusta have fallen to the British. For refusing the oath of allegiance, Clark’s band of followers are known as the Georgia Refugees. A last stand buckles, and Clark is faced with retreat.

Elijah Clark

But he’s not alone. Around six hundred women, children, and people of color flock to his camp at Dennis Mills on the Little River, south of Washington, Georgia. Homeless and hungry, they need his protection to flee their state. Thus ensues an amazing eleven-day journey on foot. The travelers lack provisions and have to live on acorns, haws, and crab apples, but they do not complain.

They cross the Savannah River below the Tugaloo River and head to North Carolina, where they hope to shelter in the settlement of Watauga. The Watauga pioneers purchased their land from the Cherokee and boast some of the fiercest fighters in the Appalachians, known as the Overmountain Men.

The British don’t make escape easy. Under the orders of Lord Cornwallis, Lt. Col. Patrick Ferguson pursues, lying in wait at James Steps. But the wily Clark takes another route. By October 3, Ferguson reports failure. The Georgia Refugees shelter in Watauga, while thirty of Clark’s men under Major William Candler leave the main body. They join the Overmountain Men bound for the Battle of King’s Mountain. In April of 1781, Clark’s men march back to Georgia, quickly clearing the state for the return of their families.

I found the courage and resilience of these people so amazing that I chose the “Hornet’s Nest” as the setting for my Backcountry Brides novella, Across Three Autumns. In the midst of Indian attacks, spying Loyalists, and the Watauga exodus, love springs up between settler Jenny White and Scottish militia scout Caylan McIntosh. Backcountry Brides on Amazon

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s an editor for the historical imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! To learn more about HHH’s newest contributor, connect with Denise here: 

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  1. I haven't heard about this event before. Thanks for sharing it with us. Welcome, again, to Heroes, Heroine & History!

  2. Denise, I really enjoyed Across Three Autumns. It is so amazing the tenacity and courage that the people had in those times. I love reading about the Overmountain Men and Watauga. I've been a couple of times to the outdoor play, Liberty!, at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton, TN.

    1. Kay, thank you so much! I am encouraged to hear that you enjoyed my novella. The Overmountain men definitely inspire a sense of awe. The play you mentioned sounds nerve-tingling!!