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THE CAPTURE OF ST. MARY'S, GEORGIA, BY AD
A letter from Thomas Harvey Miller of St. Mary's, Ga., to John Blount Miller, of Sumter, S. C.
[Thomas Harvey Miller, author of following letter, was the son of Andrew Miller, a loyal British subject who suffered confiscation of his American estate during the War of the Revolution. The family took refuge in the Bermudas, where Thomas was born in 1779. He married Mary Scott Jackson, of Savannah, and settled as a planter near St. Mary's, Georgia, where he suffered contumelious treatment at the hands of the very nation for which his father had sacrificed so ch. He died in 1844, and was the progenitor of many eminent Georgians, among them the late distinguished Andrew J. Miller, of Augusta, and his son, F. H. Miller. The Association is indebted to the kindness of Miss Kate Furman, Sumter, S. C., for this letter.]
ST MARYS 22nd March 1815 Dr John:
Yours of the 23d Dec last came safe to hand abt ten days ago which was the first I had from you since yours of the 9th Sept. I shall be happy to see you here at any time. I was fortunate in getting my Ginned Cotton to Amelia the Day before the Action took place. Mr. Taylor wrote me that Mother had requested him to send me funds and that more was at my service from him, but being fortunate in disposing of my cotton was not in want of their kind offer.
I will now give you a complete acct. of what has taken place at this unprotected Place which for the last 5 mo. before the Action had Paid into the Treasury upwards of $80,000. On the 8 Jany. the Enemy appeared off Cumberland of which we had notice of. On Tuesday Evening the Command'g Officer at Point Peter called on me to take command of his Picket abt 5 miles from the Fort, & at the same time made a call on the Col. of Militia to send me 20 men as his Picket was but 4. With this small force of men I remained until Wednesday Evening, no Militia having come to me, I was relieved by the New Guard. On Wednesday Morning 19 of their Barges were in Sight abt 7 miles off stand'g down, of which Movements I gave information. They proceeded down on the Cumberland side & Landed at Mrs. Millers on the Island abt way opposite to me & the Fort (the Fort is on a Neck of Land at the extreme Point. I was at the head of the Neck), there they remained until Friday Morning when they Landed at the Picket which fell back on the Road to the Fort. Abt 60 Riflemen & Infantry had marched out to attack them at a certain Defile, which I had pointed out the Day before & had Trees thrown down by the Com'g Officer. The Enemy got there first & halted, our small force came up & and a severe Action took Place, the Enemy must have lost abt 80 in K & wounded. For further Particulars I refer you to Captn. Massias Letter of the 13th Jany which is Published.
On Thursday 12 I was busy packing up all that we could do without & making Camps in the Woods for my Negros & on the 13 was just done Breakfast when I was informed of their Landing & our men gone to meet them. I started to Town for the Purpose to get Men to go to the Fort, but on my arrival there found that Colo. Scott had gone out to the head of the Neck with 90 men, all that he could raise, but the Action was Over before he got way. The People of the Town were much alarmed & called on me to go out & request Colo. Scott not to come into Town. By this time the Fort had Struck the Flag. I went out & met his Maj". about one mile who informed me that they would not come in & I returned. By this time their Barges 39 were pass the fort & 1 way up to Town, when we thought it best to send a Flag to meet them, which was done, while I was getting the few Armed Men to leave the Town so that it may be saved. When the first Barge came up the com'g Officer said he saw some Armed Men in Town & if a Gun was fired he would fire the Town in 15 Minutes. I answered him that they had all been requested to leave the Town & that there should not be a Gun fired. I was again requested to go out abt 2 miles to where Scott & Massias was & inform them that the Town would be Burnt if they came, when they said they would not & I returned & informed them that the Town was peacibly given up. They Promised that Private Property & Person should be respected, which promise they broke in a short time by Plundering the Stores & Private Houses, breaking up the Church floors & doing all the most shameful acts they could, Making the unarmed Citizens Prisoners of War & working under the orders of their Officer to Pull down a Block-House we had made to defend us from the Indians & other Acts that are shameful to relate. They respected the Ladies. This band of Plunderers left the Chesapeake on the 20 Dec.: They Evacuated this Place on the 24 Jan'y.
Being in Town & having taken an active part to save the Town & informing the British Officer where I lived & that their Army was then at my House I got leave to come home. On my arrival home found they had just crossed over down the river to Town (the Army of 1200 )& had left 200 at the Fort abt, a mile from my House. Finding my family safe & my negroes had all obeyed my orders, I started that Night to a Place I had charge of abt 10 miles off to see if the Overseer had done as I had directed him & returned home on Sunday evening. When I got abt 150 yards from the House I sent the boy I had forward to look out & go & tell Mrs M. where I was, as I had been informed there had been a number of Armed Men at my House that day. The boy advanced & was stoped by a Centry, I being abt 40 yards behind halted & heard him say he was glad he had got me & hailed, when I retreated to the woods for I did not like to fall into their hands at this time for they might consider me a Spy after outstaying my time. They took the boy & a Corporals Guard & went after me the Road I had come. I heard them & left the Road. The Palmettos being thick and high they heard Me & followed after : they were at one time within 20 yards of me. There being a large Pond with high Grass in it I made for it & when I got in crept on my hands & knees until I got abt Waist Deep & saved myself. They fired two Guns at Me & then got the Dogs to hunt for me in the Hammock. I crossed the Pond & being a Rainey Night travelled all Night through the Scrub, got lost several times & arrived at a friends House abt 8 o'clock on Monday Morning when I got Dry Clothes & something to eat & some rest: Abt 4 O'Clock that afternoon I got a letter from home by the Cook-Wench that the Admiral was at my House & said I was raising men & breaking my Parole & if I was not in this Place by Daylight the next Morning he would make me Suffer and also my Wife. He was for two hours deliberating whether to burn my House or no but was persuaded by one of his Officers from it. He made particular enquiries abt my age, height &c abt my cotton. After this my Wife & none of the family could go out of the yard without a Centry with them & none allowed to leave the Plantation. The next Morning I appeared at his head Quarters here & mistaking a Captn. Barry for him handed him a Letter which I had brought in open which he read & left me a short time. I saw a Citizen Passing by & shook Hands & was talking with him when the old Brute Barry saw me & hollowed out