“to receive the keys of Savannah” — Georgia State Quarter Coin

Today, the Georgia State Quarter Coin remembers when the British evacuated Savannah on July 11, 1782.

From The History of Georgia: Revolutionary Epoch by Charles Colcock Jones, published in 1883:

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“Satisfied with the assurances of protection which were given,” writes Captain McCall, “many of the British subjects who resided with their families in Savannah discontinued the preparations which they had commenced for removal, and became citizens of the United States.

“Such of the loyalists as were unwilling to subscribe to the conditions proposed removed with their families and the property they had in possession to Cockspur and Tybee islands where they encamped until the transports were ready to sail.

“Among this number there were many whose atrocious conduct during the war would have placed their lives at great hazard if they had been tried by the civil authorities of the State. Others had in possession large fortunes in negroes and other property which had been plundered from their Republican countrymen.”

In anticipation of the early departure of the British forces General Wayne published the following order:

“Headquarters, Camp at Gibbons’, July 10th, 1782.

“As the enemy may be expected daily to evacuate the town, the troops will take care to be provided with a clean shift of linnen, and to make themselves as respectable as possible for the occasion. The officers are particularly called upon to attend to this order and see it executed in their respective corps.

“No followers of the army are to be permitted to enter the town until the main body has marched in.

“Lieut. Col. Jackson, in consideration of his severe and fatiguing service in the advance, is to receive the keys of Savannah, and is allowed to enter at the western gate, keeping a patrole in town to apprehend stragglers who may steal in with the hopes of plunder.

“Marauders may assure themselves of the most severe and exemplary punishment.”

The very next day (July 11, 1782) the British troops evacuated Savannah, and, in the afternoon, General Wayne entered with his forces and took possession of the town.

This done, the following order was forthwith promulgated:

“Headquarters, Savannah, 11th July, 1782.

“The light infantry company under Captain Parker to take post in the centre work in front of the town, placing sentries at the respective gateways and sally ports to prevent any person or persons going from or entering the lines without written permits until further orders.

“No insults or depredations to be committed upon the persons or property of the inhabitants on any pretext whatever. The civil authority only will take cognizance of the criminals or defaulters belonging to the State, if any there be.

“The merchants and traders are immediately to make out an exact and true invoice of all goods, wares, or merchandise of every species, dry, wet, or hard, respectively belonging to them or in their possession, with the original invoices, to the Commissary, who will select such articles as may be necessary for the army and for the public uses of the State, for which a reasonable profit will be allowed.

“No goods or merchandise of any kind whatever are to be removed, secreted, sold, or disposed of until the public and army are first served, which will be as soon as possible after the receipt of the invoices, &c.

“N. B. Orders will be left with Captain Parker for the immediate admission of the Honorable the Executive Council, and the Honorable the Members of the Legislature, with their officers and attendants.”

To Colonel Jackson were the keys of the town delivered, at its principal gate, in token of formal surrender; and he enjoyed the profound pleasure and distinguished honor of being the first to enter Savannah from which the patriots had been forcibly expelled in December, 1778.

This compliment was well merited and handsomely bestowed. It was a just recognition of the patriotism and gallantry which characterized him during the war, and of the activity displayed by him as the leader of the vanguard of the army of occupation.

Thus, after the lapse of three years and a half, was the capital of Georgia wrested from the dominion of the royal forces and restored to the possession of the sons of liberty.

With the departure of the British garrison there lingered not a single servant of the king on Georgia soil.

Although no treaty of peace had yet been consummated between England and America, this surrender of Georgia into the hands of the republicans was hailed as a practical abandonment of the war on the part of the Realm, and was regarded as an earnest of a speedy recognition of the independence of the United States.

And so it proved.

If we may credit the contemporaneous accounts, between the 12th and 25th of July, 1782, in addition to the garrison, from Savannah and its vicinity were transported five hundred women and children, three hundred Indians, and several thousand negroes.

Governor Wright, accompanied by some of the civil and military officers, was conveyed to Charlestown, South Carolina, in the Princess Caroline.

General Alured Clarke, with a portion of the British regulars, sailed for New York.

Colonel Brown with his rangers and some Indians repaired to St. Augustine.

Others, including the negroes, were carried to the West India islands under convoy of the frigate Zebra, the sloop of war Vulture, and other armed vessels which had been ordered to the Georgia coast for that purpose.

By these departing loyalists, many of whom had been guilty of enormities the most revolting, was Georgia grossly despoiled.

Gathering about them slaves and personal property plundered, during a series of years, from republican owners intent upon an assertion of their claims to liberty, they effected an escape to distant parts where, avoiding punishment for past offenses, they enjoyed their gains ill-gotten in an unholy strife.

So far as the record stands, no return was ever made of this stolen property, no compensation offered to the impoverished republicans who, amid the general wreck of desolated homes and vanished possessions, sought a modicum of comfort and subsistence.

Leaving Colonel Jackson with his legion and Major John Habersham’s corps of new recruits in charge of Savannah, General Wayne marched with his forces to South Carolina where he joined General Greene.

“I wish you to be persuaded,” wrote that great and generous officer to his subaltern, “that I shall do you ample justice in my public accounts to Congress and the Commander in Chief. I think you have conducted your command with great prudence and with astonishing perseverance; and in so doing you have fully answered the high expectations I ever entertained of your military abilities from our earliest acquaintance.”

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The Georgia State Quarter Coin shows with an image of the Plan of Savannah and its fortifications in 1782, oriented with north toward the lower right.

Georgia State Quarter Coin

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