Battle of Fort Peter
The Battle of Fort Peter, or the Battle of Fort Point Peter or Fort Point Petre, was a successful attack by a British force on St. Marys, Georgia and a smaller force of American soldiers at Fort Peter, a small fort protecting the town. Point Peter is located at the mouth of Point Peter Creek and the St. Marys River.[Note 2]
The battle occurred in January 1815, after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which would end the War of 1812, but before the treaty's ratification. The attack on Fort Peter occurred at the same time as the Siege of Fort St. Philip in Louisiana and was part of the British occupation of St. Marys and Cumberland Island.
On January 10, 1815, British forces under the command of Admiral Sir George Cockburn landed on Cumberland Island, Georgia, in an effort to tie up American forces and keep them from joining other American forces defending New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast. The British force consisted of the three Royal Marines Battalions (560 men in the 1st & 2nd, plus the six companies of the 3rd), ships' detachments of Royal Marines from the squadron (120 men), and two companies from the 2nd West India Regiment (190 men).
Bad weather and lack of materials and ships delayed Cockburn until it was too late to produce any effect on the outcome of the battle for New Orleans. Despite the U.S. victory at New Orleans, the occupation of Cumberland Island continued.
The British land force then headed for St. Marys along the St. Mary’s River. While they were on their way they encountered a small American force of 160 soldiers of the 43rd Infantry Regiment and the Rifle Corps under Captain Abraham A. Massias. A skirmish ensued before the Americans retreated.
Massias estimated the size of the British force as 1500 men. He reported that American casualties on 13 January numbered 1 killed, 4 wounded, and 9 missing. Although Massias believed that British casualties were numerous, they amounted to only three men killed and five wounded in the entire expedition.
On January 15 the British captured St. Marys. American reports suggest that the British looted the town's jewelry store and stole fine china and other goods from the residents. British reports are that they agreed terms with the town's inhabitants under which the residents gave up all public property and all the British respected all private property. The British captured two American gunboats and 12 merchantmen, including the East Indiaman Countess of Harcourt, which an American privateer had captured on her way from India to London.
The British ended their occupation of St. Marys after about a week. They burned the fort, including its blockhouses and barracks, and withdrew to Cumberland Island. This small battle was the only land engagement during the war to occur within the state of Georgia.
Fort Point Peter Today
The British burned Fort Point Peter to the ground after their victory; it was never rebuilt. In 1953, a historical marker was placed at the battlefield.
In 2002, a planned housing development at Point Peter spurred archaeological interest in the former site of the fort. Due to activists and the close proximity to the Kings Bay Naval Base, the development came under pressure to survey the cultural resources of Point Peter. The developer hired Scott Butler, an archaeologist for Brockington and Associates, to conduct a study. As of 2009, archaeologists have found thousands of artifacts, including cannons, muskets, musket balls, knives and uniform buttons.
Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum opened an exhibit on the findings of the dig.
- The vessels were: Dragon (74-guns), Regulus (44 guns; en flute), Brune (56 guns; en flute), Severn (40 guns), Hebrus (36 guns), Rota (38 guns), Primrose (18 guns), Terror and Devastation (both bomb vessels of 8 guns), and the schooners Canso (10 guns) and Whiting (12 guns).
- The St. Mary's River forms the boundary between Georgia and Florida. It is a 'black water' river, the result of the presence of a great deal of dissolved organic carbon.
- Jane Lucas de Grummond (ed), and George S. Gaines, Richard Terrell, Alexander C. Henderson, Andrew Jackson and Alexander Cochrane. "Platter of Glory", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Autumn, 1962), pp. 316-359.
- Michael Phillips "Ships of the Old Navy" - HMS Albion (1802).,
- NICOLAS, Paul Harris - "Historical Record of the Royal Marine Forces", Volume 2, pp. 266-268, 287 refers to a deployment (from the force) of Captain Wills with 150 men of the 1st Battn. In addition, Lt Fraser with a company of the 2nd Battalion, and Lt Agassiz with a company of the 3rd Battalion, and a company of the 2nd West India Regiment amounted to 160 men
- HSC Heritage Auctions Manuscripts Auction Catalog #6031, Heritage Auctions, Inc., Editor James L. Halperin.
- Mike Toner. The Last Invasion. Archaeology Magazine. January/February 2007.