Colonel Samuel Elbert's Letter
Colonel Samuel Elbert’s description of the
Revolutionary War Victory at St. Simons in April 1778 was contained in a
letter to General Robert Howe, Continental Army Commander of Southern
Department, located at Savannah. Colonel Elbert’s letter was published in
the April 23, 1778, issue of Charlestown’s newspaper, South Carolina and
American General Gazette. An uncorrected typed copy of Colonel
Elbert’s letter in bold type follows in five paragraphs:
"Dear General, Frederica, April 19,1778
I have the happiness to inform you that about
10 o'clock this forenoon, the Brigantine Hinchinbrook, the Sloop Rebecca,
and a Prize Brig, all struck the British Tyrant's colours and surrendered to
the American arms.
"Having received intelligence that the above
vessels were at this place, I put about 300 men, by detachment from the
troops under my command at Fort Howe on board the three gallies—the
Washington, Capt. Hardy; the Lee, Capt. Braddock; and the Bulloch, Capt.
Hatcher —and a detachment of artillery with 2 field pieces, under Capt.
Young, I put on board a boat.
"With this little army, we embarked at
Darien, and last evening effected a landing at a bluff about a mile below
the town; leaving Col. White on board the Lee, Capt. Melvin on board the
Washington, and Lieut. Petty on board the Bulloch, each with a sufficient
party of troops. Immediately on Landing, I dispatched Lieut. Col. Ray and
Major Roberts, with about 100 men, who marched directly up to the town, and
made prisoners three marines and two sailors belonging to the Hinchinbrooke.
being late, the gallies did not engage until this morning. You must imagine
what my feelings were, to see our three little men of war going on to the
attack of these three vessels who have spread terror on our coast, and who
were drawn up in order of battle; but the weight of our metal soon damped
the courage of these heroes, who soon took to their boats; and, as many as
could, abandoned the vessels with everything on board, of which we
immediately took possession. What is extraordinary, we have not one man
hurt. Capt. Ellis [of the Hinchinbrook] is drowned, and Capt. Mowbry [of the
Rebecca] made his escape."
"As soon as I see Col. White, who has not yet
come to us with his prizes, I shall consult with him, the other three
officers, and the commanding officers of the galleys, on the expediency of
attacking the Galatea now lying off Jekyll. I send you this by Brigade Major
Habersham, who will inform you of the other particulars. I am. Samuel
Elbert, Col. Commandant."
The probable reason for Colonel Elbert’s
exclamation of pleasure was this victory represented his first major success
against the British East Florida forces during the Florida Expeditions. It
also provided a measure of retribution for the HMS Hinchenbrook’s
participation in the attempt to capture the rice boats at Savannah in March
of 1776, and the Americans’ defeat at Thomas Creek during the Second Florida
Expedition in May of 1777.