IN 1735, two years after the first settlers arrived in Georgia, the threat of invasion by the Spanish in Florida demanded a military settlement south of Savannah. For this important post, which he had decided must be near the mouth of the Altamaha River, James Edward Oglethorpe commissioned Hugh Mackay and Captain George Dunbar to recruit a Highland company from Scotland.
So, on January 10, 1736, the Prince of Wales, Captain Dunbar, master, arrived in Georgia with 170 Scottish Highlanders—men, women, and children, most of them from near Inverness, and many of them descendants of survivors of the Jacobite uprising of 1715. William MacKenzie of Edinburgh, who was engaged in some investigation for the Georgia Historical Society, wrote in 1844 that “the government of the day were very happy to see the Ga. emigrants fairly out of Scotland as their connections all belonged to the Jacobite party.” In another letter MacKenzie said, “I have ascertained, 1st. That those who emigrated to Ga. were men of good character, and that they were carefully selected for their military qualities. … Also, that those in authority among them, were highly connected in the Highlands.”1
These Scots established their settlement on the Altamaha River near the ruins of Fort King George which had been abandoned in 1727. They named their town Darien in memory of the ill-fated late 17th century Scottish settlement on the Isthmus of Panama, which, after decimation by tropical diseases, the Spanish had forced them to abandon in 1700. Many of the same clans that came to Georgia had participated in the Darien Company as investors and/or settlers. Their naming this new settlement after the former one was an act of bravery and a defiance of the Spanish in Florida. In 1739 the district was called Darien, and the town was known for two or three years as New Inverness. Afterwards both town and district were known as Darien.2
John McIntosh Mor (Moor, Mohr3) of the Borlum branch, age 36, was the leader of the group. He was accompanied to Georgia by his wife, Margaret (or Marjorie) Fraser McIntosh, age 30; their sons, William, age 10; Lachlan (writer of the letters in this publication), age 9; John, age 8; Phineas, age 3; and the twins, Lewis and Janet, age about 14 months. Their daughter, Anne, and their son, George, were born in Darien in 1737 and 1739, respectively. The family Bible indicates that Phineas, Lewis, and Janet died young in Darien. The circumstances of the death in 1738 of Lewis was reported by William Stephens, “And at Darien, a most unhappy Accident befell Mr. McIntosh’s Family, whose two Sons (young Lads) being swimming in the River, an Alligator snapped one, and carried him quite off.”4
The Earl of Egmont referred to John McIntosh Mor as “Gent.; Chief of Darien.” MacKenzie, mentioned above, wrote that “John M. McIntosh, previous to his going out with Oglethorpe, was a gentleman farmer—a class now extinct in the Highlands.” In addition to his military duties he seems to have been an unofficial mentor and arbitrator of internal disputes. An early Savannah newspaper said of him, “Many of these new Emigrants, being all together, never learned the English language, and the whole lived in the greatest simplicity and harmony, having neither Lawyers nor Courts, but their differences all amicably settled by the decisions of their good old Captain.”
At the unsuccessful siege of St. Augustine in 1740, John McIntosh Mor, Captain of the Highland Company, was captured at Fort Moosa by the Spanish and carried to Spain where he was held a prisoner for several years. Young William, who had followed his father to Fort Moosa, saw him fall, covered with blood from his wounds. He fled in panic just as he, too, was about to be captured. On being exchanged, John McIntosh Mor returned to Georgia, with his health broken from long confinement. He died in 1761 on his plantation, Essick, on Sapelo River. “He died prematurely, in the 63rd year of his age, by the quackery and ignorance of the first Doctor who ever tried to make his fortune amongst these honest patriarchs.”5
William, the eldest son, was a cadet in Oglethorpe’s Regiment and as such took part in the Battle of Bloody Marsh in 1742, though he was only sixteen at the time. He later became a planter on the Altamaha. In 1775 he was a delegate from St. Andrews Parish to the Provincial Congress in Savannah. In the early years of the Revolution he was a Colonel of Light Horse, but resigned his commission because of ill health. William remained in Georgia during the war as a prisoner on parole: his plantation was plundered by Tories and he suffered severe financial losses. He died in 1801.6 William’s oldest son John is, next to Lachlan, the best known member of the family. John was a Lt. Colonel in the Revolution and issued the challenge, “Come and take it,” to the British who demanded the surrender of Fort Morris. He was also a General in the War of 1812.
John, Jr., third son of John McIntosh Mor, left Georgia when he was about twenty-four years old. He died at his home, Hermitage, in St. Thomas’ East in the Island of Jamaica in December 1786, at the age of sixty-nine. He left no family.7
Anne, the only surviving daughter, married Robert Baillie. The Baillies were Loyalists during the Revolution, but their political beliefs did not overrule their natural family affection, evidenced by the letter Robert Baillie wrote in 1781 to his brother-in-law, Lachlan, a Brigadier-General in the Continental Army and then in Philadelphia, having been recently exchanged as a prisoner of war, “I saw William & his family a few days ago. … This cursed War has ruin’d us all, however, I still flatter myself it will soon be at an End, and that we shall again be able to return to our Plantations & live peaceably together which I assure you I most sincerely wish for. … We are very anxious to hear where Mrs. McIntosh & the Children are. I hope you will now be able to have them with you, her present Situation in North Carolina must have been very disagreeable as it has been the Seat of War.”8
George, the youngest child of John McIntosh Mor, when about eleven years old was taken to Charles Town by his brother Lachlan, and placed in a grammar school. “After he had acquired such other accomplishments as were then taught at that place,” Lachlan wrote, he was “bound for four years to an Architect.” Lachlan brought him back to Georgia and had him appointed commissary of supplies for the troops at Frederica and other posts. He also instructed him in geometry and surveying, but his “inclination … led him to planting” and he soon became a large landholder in the parishes of St. John, St. Andrew, and St. Mary, also owning a lot in the town of Savannah. He married Ann Priscilla Houstoun, only daughter of Sir Patrick Houstoun. In 1764-1768 and 1772 he was a member of the Commons House of Assembly of Georgia, and in 1775 was a delegate to the Provincial Congress from St. Andrews Parish, as were his brothers, William and Lachlan. Early in the Revolution George was accused of furnishing rice and other supplies to the enemy in Florida. The Governor of Georgia ordered that he be sent to Philadelphia to stand trial by the Continental Congress, but Congress refused to try him because of insufficient evidence. Many historians believe that the charges against George were trumped up as a part of the plot to get rid of Lachlan as Continental Commander in Georgia. George died in 1779 and his considerable estate passed to his son, John Houstoun McIntosh, then about seven years old. His wife had died a few years before George.
Lachlan, whose papers in the Keith Read Collection in the University of Georgia Library are presented below, was the second son of John McIntosh Mor. Born in Badenoch in 1725, he came to Georgia as a child of nine years and readily fitted into life on the frontier. The forest wilderness bordering the Altamaha, contrasting strangely with his native Highlands, appealed to the youth. His brother William said of him, “there was not an Indian in all the tribes that could compete with him in the race.” After his father’s capture at Fort Moosa in 1740 and imprisonment in Spain, Lachlan and sister Anne were at Bethesda, the orphanage of the Rev. George Whitefield near Savannah, for their keep and education. While there Lachlan wrote dolefully of the orphanage, “The Spirit of the Lord I hope is beginning to blow among the dry Bones here. The House was never since I came thither liklier to answer the end of its Institution than now: Little Boys and little Girls, at this and that corner, crying unto the Lord, that he would have Mercy upon them.” Lachlan left Bethesda on April 26, 1742, as he was “ordered by Gen. Oglethorpe to his regiment at Frederica being a cadet there.’’ Anne also left Bethesda in 1742, and returned to her mother.9
Thomas Spalding, grandson of William McIntosh, wrote that as Oglethorpe was leaving Georgia, because of rumors of an invasion of England by the Young Pretender, the young McIntosh brothers, William and Lachlan, both members of Oglethorpe’s regiment, were found hidden in the hold of another vessel. They, too, had heard the rumors and were anxious to return to Scotland to follow “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” Oglethorpe ordered the two lads to his cabin, spoke to them at length, and persuaded them that the Stuart cause was hopeless and that their future lay in Georgia.10
In 1748 the twenty-one-year old Lachlan left Georgia and went to Charles Town where he worked for a number of years in the counting-house of Henry Laurens with whom he formed a warm and life-long friendship. On his return to Georgia he became a successful planter on the Altamaha River and a land surveyor. In January 1756 in Williamsburg, South Carolina, he married Sarah Threadcraft, daughter of George and Esther Lesesne Threadcraft.
In 1775 he was chairman of the committee of the lower district of St. Andrews Parish to elect delegates to the Provincial Congress in Savannah, and was himself elected one of the delegates.
His heritage as a member of a Highland-soldier family and his experience as a cadet in Oglethorpe’s regiment contributed to his unusual ability in military affairs. In January 1776 he was appointed Colonel of the 1st Regiment, Georgia Line, and in September of that year he was promoted to Brigadier-General in the Continental Army. Button Gwinnett coveted the Continental command in Georgia and his jealousy and interference in military affairs created an animosity between the two men and a political intrigue which led to the well known duel on May 16, 1777. Both men were wounded; Gwinnett died within three days and McIntosh recovered. He stood trial, was acquitted, and was ordered to Headquarters for a new assignment. He was with Washington at Valley Forge in that terrible winter of 1777-1778, and afterwards was transferred to command of the Western Department, where he led an expedition against the Indians. Two of the forts built at this time were given familiar names —Fort Laurens for his friend, Henry Laurens, then President of the Continental Congress, and Fort McIntosh for himself. Here, too, he was a subject of controversy.11
At his own request he was returned to Georgia in 1779 and led the Georgia Continental troops in the unsuccessful attempt to recapture Savannah with French assistance in September and October of that year. During the siege of the town his wife and five small children were stranded in Savannah, despite a formal request to General Prevost to permit them to leave. They were exposed to shot and shell from both sides; their belongings were plundered, and Mrs. McIntosh was reduced to “manual Labour.”
In May 1780 McIntosh was captured at the fall of Charles Town and was for a time a prisoner of war. After being exchanged he continued in active service until the end of the Revolution, attaining the rank of Major-General. His family spent a semi-nomadic existence during these years, going from Savannah to South Carolina, to North Carolina, to Virginia, and back to Georgia at the end of the war. McIntosh wrote that “with only the bare Clothes they had on” they were “drove from place to place before the enemy … and obliged to exist on the bounty of such as might wish to assist.”
Two of Lachlan’s sons, Lachlan, Jr., and William, also served in the Revolution. Lachlan, Jr., attained the rank of Major and at different times was aide to his father and to Major-General Baron von Steuben and Inspector General of the Western Department. He died in Camden, South Carolina, in 1783 while escorting his mother and younger brothers and sisters back to Savannah after their long exile. William served during the entire war, beginning as Ensign in the 1st Regiment, Georgia Line, in 1776; he attained the rank of Captain in 1777 and was breveted Major in 1783.12 Lachlan’s oldest son, John, was in Jamaica with his Uncle John at the outbreak of the Revolution, and probably stayed there during the war, for no record of service for him has been found.
After the war Lachlan returned to Georgia and resumed planting. In 1783 he was one of the organizers of the Society of the Cincinnati, was elected the first president of the Georgia Society, and served in that capacity for several years. He was a delegate from Georgia to the Continental Congress in 1784, one of the commissioners for Georgia at the Hopewell treaty with the Cherokee Indians in 1785, and a commissioner for Georgia at the Beaufort Convention in 1787 which settled the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. Except for the time he spent on his various plantations, his residence was in Savannah in the home he bought in 1777 after his Altamaha River plantation was plundered by Tories. He died in Savannah on February 20, 1806, shortly before his eightieth birthday.13
Though Lachlan was still a large landowner, the war had ruined him financially. At the time of his death he had not recovered from the state and nation the sums due him for his service or the money from his personal resources which he had put into the American cause. Nor had he and his friends entirely succeeded in vindicating him of the false charges deriving from the plot against him by the adherents of Gwinnett. Despite these charges he was respected and well liked. William Bartram, the naturalist, visited him in 1773 and wrote that he was welcomed by that “friendly man” who “smiling, & with a grace & dignity peculiar to himself, took me by the hand and accosted me thus: ‘Friend Bartram, come under my roof, and I desire you to make my house your house, as long as convenient to yourself; remember from this moment, that you are part of my family’.” The officers of the Georgia Continental Line declared “that they ever had, and do Still retain the highest respect for the General as a Gentleman, and approbation of his conduct as an officer, and that there is not another officer on the continent that they would prefer to the General to command them.” Mordecai Sheftall referred to him as a man of “Strict probity and Honour.”14 That he was a devoted husband and parent, ardent advocate of the American cause, and an able military leader is evident in his papers.
No personal papers from the early years of Lachlan McIntosh’s life have survived. Most of his papers were at one time in the collection of James Vallence Bevan who had been authorized by the State of Georgia in 1824 to write an official history of the state but whose untimely death in 1830 put an end to this project.15 A few of the papers have been published before, as indicated, in the footnotes. On the whole, they add little information to the known facts of McIntosh’s life and career but supply considerable detail. They should be read in connection with “The Papers of Lachlan McIntosh, 1774-1799,” published as Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, Vol. XII (Savannah, 1957), for the two collections, having once been a single collection, supplement each other. The account of the horse-whipping of George Walton, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and recently elected Chief Justice of Georgia, by William, Lachlan’s son, was an unknown incident until it came to light in these papers. It seems a peculiarly fitting climax to the efforts of Walton to discredit General McIntosh.
Several of the papers in the collection could not be included in this publication because of the illegibility. Some of the papers included herein are badly mutilated. In many places they are torn and some parts are missing. I have added in brackets material to complete the meaning and have also inserted in brackets my interpretation of illegible words and phrases.
In editing the papers I have made few changes except occasionally in punctuation for clarification. Careless duplications of words have been omitted. No attempt was made to identify every person mentioned; most of them are so well known as to make this unnecessary.
I am indebted to Miss Bessie Lewis of Pine Harbor, McIntosh County, for her aid and advice.
Lilla Mills Hawes
Georgia Historical Society