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Drawn portrait of Thomas Brown

Thomas Brown

Thomas Brown was left disfigured by a patriot mob when he refused to join them. What would you endure for a cause?

The price of loyalty

On August 2, 1775, a patriot mob descended on the home of prominent Georgia loyalist Thomas Brown. They demanded that Brown join the patriot cause. When he defiantly refused, the mob turned violent.

Brown was partially scalped, burned, and tarred and feathered. The torturous punishment caused the loss of two toes and life-long headaches from a fractured skull, but injuries only strengthened his loyalist resolve.

A prominent Georgia landowner

Thomas Brown was born in England in 1750. By his mid-20s, Brown obtained the rights to several thousand acres of land near Augusta, Georgia by sponsoring the passage of settlers from England to the colony.

An illustrated map showing the location of Thomas Brown's Brownsborough settlement on the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia.

Thomas established the settlement at Brownsborough in late 1774 and soon became a prosperous planter and magistrate. As the Revolutionary War began Brown supported the royal government, remaining loyal to his British roots.

A painting of Archibald Bulloch and his family.

When the Georgia Provincial Congress led by Archibald Bulloch voted to join the Continental Association in July 1775, Brown joined a loyalist counter-association.

Image: The Archibald Bulloch Family, by Henry Benbridge; Georgia Museum of Art

An illustrated map showing the location of East Florida.

Forced to flee

Though local patriots "presented him with a genteel and fashionable suit of tar and feathers," Brown was undeterred. He continued to rally loyalists in Georgia and South Carolina until he was forced to flee to British East Florida to avoid capture by powerful revolutionaries.

Once there, Brown hoped to mobilize Cherokee warriors to fight for the British, but the plan failed. Instead, Brown raised a regiment of loyalist refugees who had fled to East Florida from the southern colonies. Brown led his East Florida Rangers in several campaigns, defending the colony from patriot invasion and launching raids into Georgia and South Carolina.

Fighting for Royal Georgia

In December 1778 British troops conquered Georgia, which became the only rebelling colony to have royal government restored during the course of the war. Since there was no longer a patriot threat emanating from Georgia, the East Florida Rangers disbanded. In their place Thomas Brown raised the King’s Rangers. This unit served with the British in the southern campaigns for the remainder of the war. Brown also served as superintendent of the Southern Indian Department, making him responsible for managing relations with the Creek and Cherokee.

Brown’s King’s Rangers helped defend British-occupied when the Franco-American army besieged the city in October 1779. Following heavy losses, the patriots were forced to lift their siege after a month.

A French pictorial map of the Siege on Savannah

This successful defense solidified the British hold on Savannah and enabled them to establish a base of operations in the South.

Illustrated map of Augusta.

They then defended Augusta against a patriot attack in September 1780, and hanged 13 captured patriots after they violated their parole agreements not to take up arms.

Illustration of mahem tower used at the siege of Augusta.

Brown's position was besieged again in 1781. This time patriots used a "Maham tower", depicted here in a previous implementation at Fort Watson, to fire down on the fortress. On June 5 Thomas Brown and the King’s Rangers surrendered.

Image: 19th-century engraving depicting the siege tower at Fort Watson; Wikipedia

Exiled to the Caribbean

Brown was allowed to return to British territory as part of a prisoner exchange. He returned to British-occupied East Florida, but not for long. Britain ceded that colony to Spain in the treaty that ended the war. Brown then moved across the British Caribbean until finally settling in St. Vincent. There he received a large land grant, but spent two years imprisoned on a charge of fraud.

He died on his Caribbean plantation in 1825, never ceasing in his loyalties to the British.

Themes of the period
Modern-day Legacy

Historical marker: Maham Tower, Augusta, GA

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