AN ENGAGEMENT NEAR COWFORD — Only one Revolutionary War battle occurred in Florida, and it took place in what became Duval County (Jacksonville). What was this encounter called? And who won it?
If you drive north on Highway 17 toward Yulee, you’ll pass pretty close to the battlefield. The Battle of Thomas Creek was fought in the vicinity of the Nassau River bridge. It proved to be Florida’s only real battle during the Revolution, although there were some other raids & skirmishes. Thomas Creek was also the southernmost battle of the Revolutionary War.
A few hundred men participated in the engagement, with the Patriots facing off against the Loyalists, British soldiers, and Creek Indians. Thankfully, America’s independence didn’t depend on Thomas Creek, for the Patriots suffered a serious rout. Out of about 100 individuals, their losses totaled eight dead, nine wounded, and 39 captured.
Here’s how the battle come to pass: The British had been raiding into Georgia from Florida, which was under British control. To stop these incursions, the Patriots marched into Florida in 1777. Under the command of Colonel John Baker, a Patriot force of about 100 Georgia militia men (something like the National Guard) was supposed to join a group of 400 Continental soldiers. Baker’s troops waited for their reinforcements on the south bank of Thomas Creek, a tributary of the Nassau River, which divides present-day Duval County from Nassau County.
AMBUSH AT DAYBREAK — Before the militia could meet up with the Continentals, however, a group of British Loyalists attacked the Patriots at dawn on May 17. The appearance of regular British troops, marching in three columns, quickly dispersed the out-numbered militia men. Only the use of their horses saved the Patriots from further losses.
Nevertheless, some of the militia men did abandon their horses in order to flee into into nearby swamps. Twenty-four of these Patriots were slain by Indians allied with the British. The Creeks did this in retaliation, for the Patriots had killed an Indian brave earlier on the Trout River.
~written by Glenn Emery