Long-lost Carr’s Fort site found by LAMAR’s archaeology team
“Our LAMAR field team discovered Carr’s Fort on the last hour of the last day of the field project,” said Daniel Elliott, president of the LAMAR Institute. “The search for Carr’s Fort was like looking for a needle in a haystack, only harder. We had no map and few descriptions of the fort, so its location was entirely unknown. Historians and land surveyors provided some clues to about a dozen potential target areas, which helped narrow the search.”
When evidence of the fort’s location finally surfaced in a stand of 10-year-old pines on private land, Elliott said, his team volunteered to come back. “Although our grant funds were depleted, I had no trouble convincing my crew to volunteer with me to return for another day or two to better establish the identity of the archaeological finds as Carr’s Fort,” he said.
Once the team had found the location early in April, they conducted a more detailed search of the area. Battlefield archaeology at Carr’s Fort yielded about a dozen fired musket balls, several musket parts, and several hundred iron and brass items from the 18th century.
Next, the team will return to Wilkes County the week of May 20 with ground-penetrating radar equipment to locate the exact location of the old fort’s walls. “We have two different areas where we were getting bullets, one of which is the fort, and one is from a house uphill from the fort,” he said. “The house uphill from the fort is probably where the American riflemen were at, shooting down into he fort.
The site shows a scatter of metal about 75 yards across, he said, “so the fort is smaller than that. Along one side, we’re getting several bullets and some spikes indicating it was a wall, so we’re hoping to find the wall with the radar and metal detecting. If we can accomplish that, we’ll be happy.”
Funded by a $68,500 grant from the National Park Service American Battlefields Protection Program, the month-long search by the team of six researchers encompassed more than 2,700 wooded acres of the Beaverdam Creek watershed.
“Our archaeological team had used metal detectors to systematically comb the woods for any evidence of the fort and battlefield. Each find was labeled and carefully plotted using GPS technology. More than a dozen 18th-century settlements were located, but none of these proved to be the fort,” Elliott said. The rural population of Wilkes County was higher and much denser than it is today, and pioneers often settled in clusters with wooden palisade walls for protection.
By the middle of February, Elliot told the News-Reporter that his team had gotten permission from landowners to explore 1,100 acres that had been in the Carr family, and was finding evidence of some 18thcentury homesteads, but nothing that had yet indicated a battle site.
Early in April, however, the team volunteered to return to the most promising area and, on the last day of their extended search, found definitive proof of the site of Carr’s Fort.
Although it was just a small family settlement with wooden walls, Carr’s Fort was an important outpost for Patriot forces fighting British and Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, and those forces clashed just four days before the better-known Battle of Kettle Creek just a few miles away.
“Robert Carr was a Captain in the Georgia Patriot militia and by 1778 his frontier home became a fort for more than 100 soldiers,” Elliott said. The British were having a rough time in the northern colonies, and thought the colonists in Georgia and South Carolina would be more loyal to the Crown. They brought in more troops to Savannah and recruited, often by force, large numbers of Georgia men to fight against the Patriots.
“On February 10, 1779, Carr’s Fort was attacked by 80 Loyalists,” he said. “Almost immediately, 400 Georgia and South Carolina Patriot militia, who had been hot on the trail of the Loyalists, laid siege to the fort in an attempt to take it back from the Loyalists.”
An intense firefight raged for several hours, Elliott said, in which more than a dozen were killed or wounded on each side. The Patriot forces under Col. Pickens later met up with other Patriot companies and, four days after the fight at Carr’s Fort, defeated Loyalist forces at Kettle Creek a few miles away.
A complete report on the Carr’s Fort Battlefield project will be available to the public in early 2014.