Revolutionary War book focuses on southern battles

Professor Scott Martin holds a copy of his co-authored book, “Savannah 1779,” published through Osprey Publishing.

When most people study the Revolutionary War, facts and figures are often centered on the Northeast. However, if professor Scott Martin and Curriculum Operations and Support Specialist Bernard Harris Jr. have their collective way, attention should be turned to the South and specifically Georgia.

“Savannah 1779: The British Turn South” was published at the end of August through Osprey Publishing, as part of its Campaign Series books.

Martin pitched the idea to the review board of the niche publishing house more than two years ago. As with other budding historians, Martin knew he needed to learn all he could about Savannah and the missions in Georgia.

“The battles were not lengthy,” he said. “I knew so little about the region. It was one of the last colonial states to overthrow the British. We had four signers of the Declaration of Independence involved in the area.”

Starting in January of 1779, Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell marched the British force 10 miles to Hudson’s Ferry. During most of the month, the British took more wins than losses. Battles waged throughout the year through the middle of October.

“I visited the Savannah Historical Library and I wanted to see if I could find two sources to verify the stories,” Martin said. “I moved through the sieges and battles. I would say I am looking at almost two years of research.”

Ironically, Martin, a Liberty School District resident, is not a professor of history. He teaches in the Department of Logistics and Resource Operations at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

“Writing history is a hobby,” he said. “I looked at a period of time and wondered how both sides sustained troops, including fuel, food and water. I also wanted to look at something new for me. I have studied the Napoleonic and civil wars and, of course, the knowledge about the Swamp Fox. I figured I had 1779 because many have written about the Siege of Charleston in 1780.”

As part of Osprey’s requirements, Harris, who also works at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, stepped in to help collect all of the illustrations and images for the book, which provide a visual representation of the narrative.

“My mission was to collect 65 illustrations/images, along with information to create six 2D maps, three 3D maps and three original paintings Osprey would assign to a famous painter,” he said. “I began the process by searching the internet, but soon realized websites with digitized images of events occurring 1778 to 1779 in the Southern United States would be hard to find. So, I decided to take the next step and conduct a few research trips to find our material.”

Like Martin who visited battlefields and museums, in 2015 Harris went several places including Kettle Creek Battlefield near Washington, Georgia; Briar Creek Battlefield near Sylania, Georgia; the National Archives in Atlanta; the Savannah Visitor Center; and Tybee Island, about 15 miles from Savannah.

“Often, anything about the two battles fought in Savannah don’t warrant more than a paragraph in most history books,” Martin said.

Harris also made a significant research trip in May 2016. He went to the National Archives, the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters, the National Portrait Gallery, the Library of Congress and the David Library of the American Revolution.

“I tell my students to pick a topic that they are passionate about,” Martin said. “It’s about the discovery of learning. I didn’t take a sabbatical to do this, either.”

The Second Battle of Savannah was waged from Sept. 16 to Oct. 18, 1779. Campbell lead and during the attack, Polish nobleman Count Casimir Pułaski, leading the combined cavalry forces on the American side, was mortally wounded. With the failure of the joint attack, the siege was abandoned, and the British remained in control of Savannah until July 1782, near the end of the war.

During 1779, recruits came up from Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), under the command of French nobleman Charles Hector, Comte d’Estaing. British military planners decided to embark on a southern strategy to conquer the rebellious colonies, with the support of loyalists in the South. Other leaders included Brigadier General Augustine Prevost and Major General Benjamin Lincoln. The final October battle was considered bloody with 244 killed, nearly 600 wounded and 120 taken prisoner.

“This story fills a void in the Osprey Campaign Series on the American Revolution and in my opinion helps add to the general knowledge of the period,” Harris said. “I collected images to represent the activities of almost all races and genders who took part in the campaign. I also collected images of the equipment used by both sides. Scott and I also provided pictures of what the battlefields look like today. These modern battlefield pictures are invaluable to anyone who has traced their ancestry to these battlefields and wish to walk the same ground.”

Martin and Harris worked on the project for more than 30 months.

“I am hopeful our book will inspire others to dig deeper into our collective past,” Harris said.

Martin said he hopes this niche book will capture readers.

“I am already talking to Osprey for the next book proposal,” Martin said. “It’s an enjoyable project to tell the stories of these historic stories.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630. 

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