Today, the Georgia and South Carolina State Quarter Coins remember the events of March 1776 on the coast of Georgia.
Known as the Battle of the Rice Boats or the Battle of Yamacraw Bluff, the men of Georgia and South Carolina rebuffed the Royal soldiers.
As a defensive measure, on March 3, the Georgia Safety Council voted to burn the ship Inverness and set her adrift.
The Historical Collections of Georgia by George White, published in 1854, included the document sent from Georgia to South Carolina describing the events.
Letter from the Council of Safety in Georgia to the Hon. Council of Safety for South Carolina.
Savannah, Georgia, March 4th, 1776.
Gentlemen, —Our dispositions on the evening of the 2d were such as appeared to our officers the most likely to prevent the landing of our enemy; and so as, if they should make their landing good, either above or below the town, to prevent their getting in.
However, notwithstanding our vigilance, they, by collusion with the masters and others on board the merchant ships which hauled near the shore of Hutchison’s Island, in the night-time got on board these ships, about four o’clock yesterday morning, to the number, as far as we are competent to judge from the observations we made, and the intelligence we received, of between 200 and 300, where they affected to conceal themselves.
We had our fears respecting these shipping, and therefore kept a good watch upon them; but it was impossible for sentinels on shore to descry them in boarding from the other, the vessels being betwixt.
Captain Rice, who commanded a boat of observation, was sent on board the shipping about nine o’clock, to order the rigging on shore, and was, without any noise, or the smallest knowledge of us, kidnapped. This we did not know till about half an hour afterwards.
Two sailors, under pretence of coming on shore for clothes, gave information of the troops being on board the shipping, and of Rice’s being taken.
About 300 men were then immediately marched to Yamacraw, opposite the shipping, with three four-pounders, and threw up a breastwork.
The armed schooner Hinchinbrook, of — guns, with a number of men on board, which, with others, went up the Back river in the afternoon of the day preceding, about this time set sail down the South river, with intent, no doubt, of covering the landing of the troops from on board the merchant shipping.
But being continually fired at by two companies of rifle men, who were placed in ambuscade, she was obliged to come very slowly and often came to, and returned a very smart fire at every place where the riflemen fired from, until the tide was spent, and she could not go down.
During the course of this firing, only one of our men got wounded, and that slightly, in the thigh; but on board several were seen to fall.
In town, we had exhibited a still more interesting scene.
We found the men and officers clamorous about the capture and detention of Rice; and two gentlemen, Lieut. Daniel Roberts, of the St. John Rangers, and Mr. Raymond Demere, of St. Andrew’s Parish, solicited and were permitted to go on board to demand a surrender of Rice and his people.
They accordingly divested themselves of arms, and were rowed by a negro on board a vessel in which were Captain Barclay, the Commodore, and Major Grant, and these officers, contrary to all principles which cement society and govern mankind, immediately arrested our deputies, and yet detain them as prisoners.
We waited with anxious expectation for near half an hour, when we demanded our deputies, by the help of a trumpet, without getting any other but insulting answers.
Whereupon we fired two four-pounders directly into them, and then they informed us that they would send an answer in writing; which they presently afterwards did, and signed by Lieutenant Roberts and Mr. Demere, purporting that if we would send two of the persons in whom the people most confided, they would treat with them.
Capt. Screven, of the St. John Rangers, and Capt. Baker, of the St. John Riflemen, chagrined, no doubt, (the former particularly on account of his lieutenant,) by detention of our deputies, took about a dozen of the riflemen in a boat, and rowed directly under the stern of Captain Inglis, in whose vessel were a great part of the soldiery.
And in peremptory terms demanded the deputies, and were informed, after one shot from Capt. Baker, by a discharge down directly upon them of near 200 shot, both from swivels and small arms, which were kept up while they were in reach.
The captains and men in the boats not in the smallest degree confused, or even, perhaps, disappointed by the attack, fired three rifles, most of them three several times, as they say, not without execution and wonderful to tell, not a man of them was killed.
One man only received a slug in the fleshy part of his shoulder, which was immediately cut out, without the smallest inconvenience or danger.
The spectators all declare, as we now do, that such a providential deliverance has not yet been known.
The unmanly attack upon a few men in an open boat produced a general fire from our field-pieces and entrenchments, and as smart a return from two four-pounders and several swivels from the shipping, which lasted from about 12 o’clock to 4.
And although they often fired langrage, which continually whistled about our men, not a single man was even touched, but we have no doubt a number of the enemy met with a worse fate, as they were seen frequently to fall.
About 4 o’clock we called a council, and determined to have the vessels immediately burnt, and issued orders to Colonel McIntosh accordingly.
Whereupon the Inverness, late Capt. McGillivray, loaded with rice and deer-skins, was set on fire and cut loose.
Upon this, the soldiers, in the most laughable confusion, got ashore in the marsh, while our riflemen and field-pieces with grape-shot were incessantly galling them.
The shipping were now also in confusion. Some got up the river, under cover of the armed schooner, while others caught the flame.
And as night approached, exhibited a scene, as they passed and repassed with the tide, which at any but the present time would be truly horrible, but now a subject only of gratitude and applause.
The ships of Captains Inglis and Wardell neither got up the river nor on fire; they were ordered on shore, and now are prisoners of Capt. Screven in the country, and their vessels brought down close into a wharf.
They were permitted to write to Capt. Barclay in the evening, to inform them of their situation, and to request an exchange of prisoners, which the latter peremptorily refused.
We have thus given you a particular detail of things as they really happened, to prevent the belief of any erroneous intelligence, and from which you will be competent to judge of our situation.
Col. McIntosh laid before the Board a resolution of your Congress, to aid us, accompanied by a letter from Mr. Lowndes; and we are very glad that you have determined to afford us further assistance.
We wish it may arrive in time.
By order of the Council of Safety.
Wm. Ewen, President
The Georgia and South Carolina State Quarter Coins show beside a map of Savannah and the coast, circa 1790s.