September-October, 1779: Siege of Savannah Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Americans believed the recovery of Savannah was the best way of regaining control of Georgia. In September of 1779, Major General Benjamin Lincoln advanced with 4,000 troops toward Savannah. At the same time, Admiral Comte Hector d’Estaing sailed in from the West Indies with thirty-five ships and 4,000 troops.

The Americans believed the recovery of Savannah was the best way of regaining control of Georgia. In September of 1779, Major General Benjamin Lincoln advanced with 4,000 troops toward Savannah. At the same time, Admiral Comte Hector d’Estaing sailed in from the West Indies with thirty-five ships and 4,000 troops.

The British, led by Major General Augustine Prevost, were unprepared. The city of Savannah’s defenses were in disrepair. Fortunately for the British, d’Estaing was slow in the debarkation of his troops.

Upon reaching the city, d’Estaing demanded surrender. Prevost, buying time for reinforcements to arrive, requested a twenty-four-hour truce. D’Estaing foolishly agreed. When Prevost rejected the surrender demand the next day, the allies prepared for a siege. Actual siege operations began September 23.

Concerned about his unprotected ships and the approaching hurricane season in the West Indies, and despite the objections of the Americans, d’Estaing took matters into his own hands and gave the order to attack on October 9.

British attack on Savannah on October 8, 1779. From an illustration by Arthur I. Keller (1866–1924). (National Archives)

The siege lasted nine days with the superior British troops prevailing. The allies lost 244 men, and 584 were wounded. British casualties included 125 missing or wounded and 40 killed. The defeat at Savannah dealt a severe blow to the revolutionary cause in the south and put further strain on the American-French alliance.

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