Three peoples, one king: Loyalists, Indians, slaves and the American Revolution in the Deep South, 17751782 (Georgia, South Carolina)

James R. Piecuch
Dept. of History, William and Mary College
July, 2005


This study examines the roles of white loyalists, Indians and African-Americans in the British effort to regain control of South Carolina and Georgia during the American Revolution, 1775--1782.
British officials believed that support from these three groups would make the conquest of the Deep South colonies a relatively easy task. But when the British launched a major effort to regain first Georgia and then South Carolina, the attempt ultimately ended in failure. Most historians have explained this outcome by arguing that British planning was faulty in its conception, and that officials overestimated both the numbers of southern loyalists and the effectiveness of Indian support. A detailed account of the contributions loyalists, Indians and slaves made to British operations in the South demonstrates the scope and effectiveness of this support, and concludes that neither a lack of assistance from these three groups nor poorly conceived plans were responsible for British failure to regain control of Georgia and South Carolina. Rather, British leaders failed to coordinate effectively the efforts of their supporters in the Deep South, largely because they did not recognize that the peoples on whom they counted for aid had disparate interests and a history of mutual animosity that needed to be overcome to achieve their full cooperation. Furthermore, the British never provided their supporters with adequate protection from regular troops, which allowed the American rebels to undertake a brutal campaign of suppression against all who favored the royal cause. Although loyalists, Indians, and slaves strove valiantly to aid the British in the face of such persecution, the violence eventually took its toll and enabled the rebels to overcome their opponents.