Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fort Morris State Historic Site - Midway, Georgia

Fortifications at Fort Morris State Historic Site
One of the classic moments in American history took place at a rough fort in Liberty County, Georgia, in 1778.  The place was Fort Morris and the moment developed when a British force surrounded the outpost and demanded its surrender:

Sir: - You cannot be ignorant that four armies are in motion to reduce this Province. One is already under the guns of your fort, and may be joined when I think proper by Col. Prevost, who is now at the Midway Meeting-House. The resistance you can or intend to make will only bring destruction upon this country. On the contrary, if you will deliver to me the fort which you command, lay down your arms, and remain neuter until the fate of America is determined, you shall, together with all the inhabitants of this parish, remain in peaceable possession of your property. Your answer, which I expect in an hour's time, will determine the fate of this country, whether it be laid in ashes, or remain as above proposed. - Col. L.V. Fuser, British Commander

Earthworks at Fort Morris State Historic Site
The British had invaded Georgia from East Florida, which along with West Florida had not joined in the revolt and had remained loyal to King George III. One British force, commanded by Lt. Col. J.;M. Prevost, had defeated outnumbered Patriot forces at the Battle of Midway Church and had already burned the Midway Congregational Church, which Col. Fuser referred to in his demand as Midway Meeting-House.

Fuser's column, which was to surround and pin down the garrison of Fort Morris at the port town of Sunbury, had been slow in arriving and Col. Fuser did not know on the date he issued his demand that Col. Prevost had already begun a slow withdrawal back to Florida.

Neither did Col. John McIntosh, the American commander of Fort Morris, not that he would have cared:

American Cannon at Fort Morris State Historic Site
Sir: - We acknowledge we are not ignorant that your army is in motion to endeavor to reduce this State. We believe it entirely chimerial that Col. Prevost is at the Meeting-House; but should it be so, we are in no degree apprehensive of danger from a juncture of his army with yours. We have no property which we value a rush, compared with the object for which we content, and would rather perish in a vigorous defense than accept of your proposals. We, sir, are fighting the battles of America, and therefore disdain to remain neutral till its fate is determined. As to surrendering the fort, receive this laconic reply: COME AND TAKE IT. - Col. John McIntosh, American Commander.

"Come and take it!" would become a battle cry for generations of Americans and would symbolize defiance against attacking forces for years to come. In the Texas Revolution, for example, it was adopted in 1835 by the men of Gonzales who organized to defend a cannon from an attempt by the Mexican government to take it from them. They raised a flag emblazoned with the words, "Come and take it!" and when the Mexican army tried to do that, defeated them in the first fighting of the Texas Revolution.

Fort Morris also stood defiant against the British in 1778. Viewing the walls of the fort, its 24 pieces of artillery and having read Col. McIntosh's bold words, Col. Fuser decided not to make the attempt. His men withdrew from Sunbury and retreated to their ships, American cannon balls falling in their dust.

Fort Morris State Historic Site is a fascinating place on the Georgia Coast just south of Savannah. To learn more, please visit

Take a video tour of the site here:

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