Colonel Joseph Coffell (or Scophol) was said by Patriot General William Moultrie to have been an "illiterate, stupid, and noisy blockhead." Stupid though he may have been, he certainly gave them a great deal of trouble.
He served as a constable in the Orangeburg, South Carolina District, where he was charged with being "guilty of evil Practices in the Execution of his Office" after he received whippings for, first, cattle rustling and, secondly, stealing nearly 40 chickens.
Documents show that he swore the charge "was a dom'd lie, there were only sax and thirty, for I eat the guzzards." Coffell then appointed himself a colonel, and along with his forces began arresting "Regulators" in March of 1769.
Colonel William Thompson of the South Carolina Militia informed the Carolina Council that Coffell's band was imprisoning "Women and Children as well as men and going from house to house taking their provisions."
It wasn't long before he and his men became known as "Scopholites." Early in April of 1778, a band of these Scopholites from the Ninety-Six area in South Carolina crossed the Savannah River about 40 miles below Augusta.
Here they were joined by Georgia raiders led by Colonel Thomas "Burnt Foot" Brown. Seizing boats loaded with corn and flour, they took what they needed and burned the rest. Numbering nearly 600 fighters, they marched southward to Florida.
On their way, they destroyed or confiscated everything they found. Along with escaped black slaves and outlaw Indian warriors, the Scopholites relentlessly attacked settlers between the Alatamaha and Saint Mary's River mercilessly. Eventually, the British sent 500 troops up from Florida commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Mark Prevost to seize Georgia.
In addition, Colonel L.V. Fuser sailed up the coast with another 500 British force of men, several hundred Creek warriors came from the western Indian lands, and 300 of Brown's guerrillas accompanied by 30 "artillerists" headed for the rendezvous as well.
Georgia could field at this time no more than 550 militiamen, along with 250 Continental Infantry. The two opposing sides forces clashed in the area around Midway.
In the fierce engagement to drive the British back that ensued, General James Screven was wounded and died while in British captivity. Before the British left Midway, they burned the Midway Meeting House.
After this victory, the Scopholites headed north to join up with the German mercenaries (the Hessians) from New York in order to take part in the siege of Savannah, and then later in the "reduction" of Charleston.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger email@example.com