Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.
The Rev. George White's book, entitled “Historical Collections of Georgia: Containing the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc.,” was published in 1855.White included in the Bulloch County section, "the following extracts from the minutes of the first Court held in this county (held) at the house of Stephen Mills, (on) the 16th day of May, 1797."
"During the Revolutionary War, the section of the State now known as Bulloch County was a favourite resort of Colonel DANIEL McGirth. He was a native of Kershaw District, South Carolina."
And, "From his early attachments and associates, he joined cordially in opposition to the claims of the British Government. Being a practised hunter, and an excellent rider, he was well acquainted with the woods."
Therefore, "He was highly valuable to the Americans for the facility with which he acquired information of the enemy, and for the accuracy and minuteness with which he communicated what he had obtained."
In addition, "He had brought with him into the service a favourite mare, his own property, an elegant animal, on which he felt safe from pursuit when engaged in the duties of a scout."
Joseph Johnson’s book “Traditions and Reminiscences 0f the American Revolution” (1851) wrote of how scout Daniel McGirth of South Caroline next became the leading pro-British guerilla leader.
At first, McGirth "was highly valuable to the Americans.” Unfortunately, McGirth’s horse was coveted by “An American officer at St. Ilia, in Georgia.” McGirth refused to give his horse up.
The officer, John Baker, had him “arrested, tried by a court-martial, found guilty, (and) put in prison.” McGirth not only broke free but managed to steal back his horse.
McGirth yelled out loudly that he would enact “vengeance against all the Americans for his ill treatment. Indulging his savage, vindictive temper, (McGirth) was indeed productive of great injury to the American cause.”
Wilbur Siebert’s article, entitled “East Florida as a Refuge of Southern Loyalists,” 1774-1785, was published in the American Antiquarian Society (1927.) Siebert reported that McGirth next seems to have been appointed to lead an independent company, which operated in small groups when it went out scouting and cattle stealing in Georgia.
Wayne Lynch’s article, “Daniel McGirth, Banditti on the Southern Frontier,” published in the “Journal of the American Revolution” (2016), reveals McGirth had become a Lieutenant Colonel in the Florida Rangers.
According to Lynch, when Militia Colonel John Baker (the horse stealer) encountered the Georgia ‘Continental’ Colonel Samuel Elbert, McGirth, his Bandit Militia, and their Indian allies attacked.
Baker’s men panicked, he himself barely escaped alive, losing his own favorite horse. McGirth set up another ambush near Bull-Town Swamp, and once again Col. Baker barely made it out alive.
Then, McGirth set up the trap in Midway Settlement which cost General Screven his life. The South Carolina Gazette and Advertiser (1779) declared “the most infamous banditti and horse thieves (followed) McGirtt.”
McGirth’s forces, the Gazette wrote, were composed of “A corps of Indians, with Negro and white savages disguised like them, and about 1,500 of the most savage disaffected poor people.”
In Ramsay’s “History of South Carolina,” (1858), author David Ramsay wrote that “Mr. Tonyn, governor (of) East Florida, granted a commission to a horse thief of the name of McGirtt” to be a pro-British raider.
A Bulloch County Tory sympathizer named Cargile harbored McGirth’s raiders, despite Cargile being advised it meant his death if he was found to be harboring McGirth.
Not long after, Bulloch's William Cone was hunting deer on the Ogeechee when he saw McGirth and Cargile together. He shot and killed Cargile but McGirth once again escaped.
After McGirth and his Tories attacked a Bulloch County settlement, and stole their horses and more, a group of locals, led by none other than Capt. Cone, took up pursuit.
After Cone’s scout shot and killed one of the Tories, Cone’s men then drove the Tories across the Ohoopee River and beyond. After peace was proclaimed, McGirth and his gang of thieves terrorized East Florida.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at email@example.com.