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Though just a child, Clarke sparked revolutionary victory
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There was no mystery about it. This was war. The adventurous boy of 13 had dreamed about it, and had seen many battles through his father's life as a soldier.      


As he sat silently on an ammunition box and waited, he knew that time was running out. Soon, he'd be using what he'd learned bout knives, swords, muskets and hand-to-hand fighting.


Suddenly, there was an erratic rustle of men and horses, a few voices breaking the stillness, and the teenage soldier felt a chill. A lump came to his throat. "I'm ready," he thought. "This is my hour to fight for Georgia and freedom," he muttered.


The place of this desperate drama was a swampy plateau, hedged by a large bluff, about eight miles from Washington, Ga., near the Little River, the campsite of 800 British soldiers under the command of Gen. Thomas Boyd. They had just captured Augusta, and had moved eastward to bring all Georgia to its knees. They called this place The Hornet's Nest.


This is the story of John Clarke and his father, Gen. Elijah Clarke, in one of the most important battles of the American War for Independence.


Just as the ardent sunlight quivered its way through the morning mists of Feb. 14, 1779, Gen. Clarke and his 500 soldiers, rounded up from nearby farms, marshalled for a surprise attack on the British invaders.


Suddenly, John's eyes caught the sight of a dashing figure on horseback, and heard his father's command: "Move out." There was no turning back, now. The savage and bloody battle known as Kettle Creek was about to begin.


The sweeping wave of men and steel moved steadily toward the edge of the campsite. Then suddenly, men began to tumble from their horses, while those already on foot followed with a frantic pace. Surprised by the sound of the horses' hooves and unexpected sounds in the distance, a Redcoat yelled: "Americans!  Americans!"


Muskets crackled. Smoke filled the air with small clouds, as farmer soldiers attacked the scattered detachment like lions upon their prey. Fierce body-to-body snaps and rumbles resounded, as Georgia patriots and the King's soldiers fought it out.


Sounds of a sustained deluge of musketry could be heard between the screams of the wounded. By nightfall, bodies were strewn across the fields. Some still moved, still grappling with death. Toward morning, John Clarke was told his father's horse had been shot from under him, and that the British commander, Gen. Boyd, had been killed.


The gallant Georgians, under Gen. Elijah Clarke, had won a victory which reversed the law of kings, and said people in America would be free and their property would be theirs to have and hold. John Clarke emerged from the battle of Kettle Creek as the youngest hero of the American War for Independence.

Troubles between England and her American colonies began to multiply after the Seven Years War. England's national debt had almost doubled, and the increased difficulty of maintaining and protecting her vast empire across the sea rose to overwhelming proportions. To defend landowners and other interests in America, England sought through taxation legislation to send 10,000 troops; these actions led finally to the Stamp Act.


Americans were infuriated, and the revolutionary wheels began to spin in favor of American independent government.


Iron-fisted control of the colonists by England brought unbearable hardships; defiance finally developed into a shooting war.


Responding to the rebel spirit, the colonists became more and more militant, and when Gen. Thomas Gage was made the new military governor of Massachusetts and a large military force was brought to Boston, the Americans were ready to take action with organized resistance.


Then when the British forces moved to stop a munitions build-up by the Americans, Paul Revere roused the "minutemen" to action at Lexington on April 19, 1775. In this desperate defense, eight Americans were killed. The British continued their march on to Concord, but on their return to Boston the American sharpshooters, hiding behind walls, in ditches, behind trees and other objects, fired upon the Redcoats with fury. More than 300 British soldiers were killed, wounded or captured by the patriots.


This was the actual beginning of the War for Independence.


The American Revolution and the whole struggle for independence were significant parts of a greater, more human movement of self-determination which had a world-wide impact, and set the example for the cause of freedom.


As the British plan to conquer the North failed, the war moved southward. From 1778 until the end in 1783, the battleground was in the South. In October 1777, the British and American Indian allies invaded Georgia. Savannah fell just before Christmas 1778, but the conflict between liberty and loyalty reached its greatest intensity in Georgia with Boyd, Britain's enforcer, captured Augusta. The end came for him at Kettle Creek.


Now, about John Clarke. At Kettle Creek, and in other skirmishes with the American Indians, John's attributes as a soldier were recognized. His name was heralded far and wide. To his fellow Georgians, he became an example of the highest and the best in frontier American life, and the fight for freedom.


Young Clarke rose to prominence as a leader in a battle the writers of history coined as "Jack's Creek."


John also gained popularity in the realm of politics. As a leader in the Jefferson/Jackson Party, composed primarily of farmers, he changed his name by dropping the "e", and pursued a career in Georgia government.


His efforts led to success, and he was elected twice as governor by the General Assembly. His crowning achievement was his campaign which amended the constitution to provide for the election of governors by the people.