Thursday, October 15, 2009

Battle of Gully Hole Creek - St. SImons Island, Georgia

It is strange to consider today, but one of the most significant battles in the history of the South was actually a small skirmish fought at a place called Gully Hole Creek on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

The War of Jenkins' Ear (named for the severed ear of an English sea captain) was then underway between England and Spain. English troops, led by General James Oglethorpe, had invaded Florida but failed to take the powerful fort of Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine. In June of 1742, the Spanish retaliated when Governor Don Manuel de Montiano led a fleet of warships and an army of 5,000 men up the Georgia coast.

After forcing his way into St. Simons Sound past the guns of Fort St. Simons (see yesterday's post), Montiano began landing his army on St. Simons Island. Realizing that he was outnumbered, Oglethorpe executed a withdrawal up the island to Fort Frederica while Montiano occupied the now evacuated Fort St. Simons.

On July 7, 1742, the Spanish moved forward a force of around 200 troops and Indian auxiliaries, intending to take up a position near Fort Frederica from which they could launch an attack on the English post. This force was to prepare entrenchments for the main army, which would soon follow.

As the Spanish force was moving across the open marsh at Gully Hole Creek, a small stream about one mile south of Fort Frederica, they ran into Oglethorpe's scouts who engaged them while the General brought up a company of Independent Highlanders to join the resistance, while ordering other troops to follow.

The sudden counterattack stunned the Spanish, who fought fiercely but were soon forced to withdraw back down the island. Oglethorpe and his forces followed. The fight resulted in the deaths of 12 Spanish soldiers and the capture or wounding of a number of others. The English supposedly lost only a single man.

Remembered today as the Battle of Gully Hole Creek, the skirmish turned the tide of the campaign against the Spanish. It was followed later in the day by the Battle of Bloody Marsh (also on St. Stimons Island). Together the two skirmishes overawed the superior Spanish force and prevented them from making further land attempts against Fort Frederica.

The failure of the Spanish troops at Gully Hole Creek began a chain of events that unraveled the whole campaign. Montiano's dream of taking both Georgia and South Carolina back from the English would fail and, as a result, the Spanish forever lost their hold on both colonies. A large part of the South fell permanently under the influence of the English.

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