SYLVANIA, Ga. — More than two centuries after a daring British surprise attack routed American forces at Brier Creek, new efforts are underway to preserve one of Georgia’s least explored Revolutionary War sites.
“This battlefield has all the components very rarely seen in preservation,” said archaeologist Dan Battle, who has spent the past year assessing the Screven County historic site to determine what secrets it might still hold.
The Battle of Brier Creek unfolded March 3, 1779, when a British force of 1,500 men led by Col. Marc Prevost circled back on Gen. John Ashe’s encamped Patriot army, which included about 1,700 soldiers.
The late afternoon attack was a complete surprise. About 150 Americansdied, while hundreds of others were captured. The fleeing survivors left behind their arms, food and supplies.
The British victory was so decisive scholars believe it prolonged the American Revolution by a year, changing the course of U.S. history.
Today, much of the site lies within the 15,100-acre Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area owned by the state of Georgia and managed for hunting and fishing – but not specifically for historic preservation. Portions of the battlefield and related camps sprawl onto private tracts. Although the area is marked by a bronze historical commission marker erected in 1956, little has been done in terms of formal archaeology.
Battle’s company, Cypress Cultural Consultants, began evaluating the area last year with funding from a Transportation Enhancement Act matching grant obtained by the city of Sylvania.
Objectives of the cursory assessment include pinpointing certain battle features – and possibly graves of the soldiers who died there.
Although a final report isn’t due until later this year, the results are encouraging.
Using technology known as LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, three-dimensional maps were used to identify the defensive line hastily arranged by the Patriot forces. Further studies helped locate other key areas, which are remarkably intact.
“The American camp is still in good shape – not pilfered,” Battle said. “We’ve also come across a site where the Patriots were manufacturing musket balls, which is unique in its own right.”
Teams extracted about 600 items that were carefully preserved and recorded and will undergo curation and analysis at University of Georgia. “There are things from the camp, from the American lines – and we even know where the exchange of gunfire occurred,” he said.