Video: Savannah Under Attack

When recounting well-known battles of the American Revolution names like Lexington, Saratoga, and Bunker Hill invariably appear. Savannah, site of some of the bloodiest fighting as well as battlefield intrigue, is not often mentioned. From September to October in 1779, Georgia Patriots aided by the French tried to retake Savannah from the British. As explained by Dr. Preston Russell, a medical doctor and historian who paints miniatures of soldiers to create museum dioramas, the French first bombarded the city with cannonball fire in preparation of an attack. In early October, the American and French forces planned a surprise attack but were foiled when a deserter revealed their plans to the British, and they failed to attack before daybreak. Killed in the ensuing battle were the Polish Count Casimir Pulaski and the French Count Charles Henri d’Estaing, noblemen helping in the fight for liberty. Colonial reenactor J. Edward Jackson describes the actions of William Jasper also killed in the battle. All three men are remembered today as heroes of the American Revolution. As the Patriots were being routed by the British, another group stepped in and saved the day from becoming a massacre. Murry Dorty of the Coastal Heritage Society describes how black Haitian troops known as chasseurs stood their ground firing as the American troops retreated. In the end, a battle was lost, but the war was ultimately won.

Teacher tip: Discuss this battle and what it meant to both sides. Use the Internet to explore maps of Savannah to discover how the heroes of the battle have been commemorated.