October 9, 1779 – The French, supporting American Independance, attempt to defeat the British in Savannah.

Chase Anderson and Christine Tudor kindly contributed this article. A bit of Franco-American history!

Savannah, Georgia —

Before dawn. October 9th, 1779 — Thousands of French, American and Haitian troops assemble under cover of darkness for what is to be a surprise attack on British forces who had captured Savannah one year earlier. Little do the Allies know – spies have already warned the British. Before dawn the eerie wail of bagpipes drift toward the Allies through the fog. The British had brought in their fiercest troops — the 71st Highlanders.

At the first light of dawn — Admiral Comte d’Estaing, against the advice of his top officers, launches the assault. The drummers beat the command to charge bayonets. They emerge from the fog. The French vanguard surges forward toward Spring Hill redoubt. The British spray them with musket fire and grapeshot–pieces of scrap iron, nails, bolts, steel blades, and chain. One French officer writes — “we were shoved back into the swampy ground on our left — Half of us were killed or left stuck in the mud.The Allied troops, helpless and exposed to deadly musket and artillery cross-fire, are butchered in the ditch. The moment of retreat, another officer writes later, “with the cries of our dying comrades piercing my heart is the bitterest of my life.”

The two sides observe a four-hour truce to collect and bury the dead and to retrieve the wounded. 151 French are killed and 370 wounded, 231 Americans killed and wounded. The British lose only 18 killed and 39 wounded. For the Allies, Savannah is the bloodiest battle of the war, a Bunker Hill in reverse. d’Estaing prepares the retreat, marches his troops back to the French ships, leaving many unmarked French graves behind, loads his guns and equipment aboard, and sets sail for the West Indies and France.

The Battle for Savannah was considered to be a major defeat for the Franco-American Alliance but the French sacrifice in blood for American liberty will never be forgotten by Americans who still breathe the air of freedom and remember those French who purchased it in blood and money. This Saturday, a public march honoring the Franco-American troops at Spring Hill will commence at dawn near Spring Hill in Savannah — an annual event hosted by Savannah’s Coastal Heritage Society. (http://www.chsgeorgia.org/home.cfm/page/Calendar/Date/10.09.10/Event/324.html)

A Savannah-French walking tour, honoring the historic French presence in and influence upon Savannah is in the final planning stages. The tour will be led by Parisian born, Christine Tudor.  Christine also conducts Savannah history tours in French for visitors seeking a tour in their native language.

Contact: Chase Anderson
Savannah Cultural Heritage Tours

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Author: Mark