Fort Heard (1774-1780) - A Patriot Colonial settler fort established in 1774 and used as a protection during the Revolutionary War. Located near present-day town of Washington in Wilkes County, Georgia. Named Fort Heard after Stephen Heard who saw to the construction. Occupied briefly by Loyalist troops in 1779. Designated as a seat of state government when Stephen Heard became the acting governor in 1780. Renamed Fort Washington (8) following the naming of the surrounding town as Washington in 1780. Probably abandoned as a fortification after the war and subsequently became the site of the home of General B.W. Heard.
Note: Some authors use the name Fort Heard and Heard's Fort interchangeably but they are probably two different forts. See excerpt below.
Stephen Heard led a colony of immigrants from Westmoreland County, Virginia to the present day site of Washington, Georgia on 31 Dec 1773. The next day, 1 Jan 1774, they began work on a stockaded fort as a protection from hostile Indians. After completing the first fort, Heard and family move seven miles north and constructed a second fort known as Heard's Fort.
The following excerpt from Ouzts below sheds some light on the confusion of the two forts:
In 1773 the Treaty of Augusta was signed by both Creeks and Cherokees, ceding their lands north of the Little River to the British. Shortly thereafter Heard moved into the ceded lands. To offer settlers protection from Indian attacks, Heard and his brother Barnard constructed a fort (Fort #1). Completed in 1774, Fort Heard served as a refuge for local inhabitants and later became the focal point for the town of Washington, the seat of Wilkes County.
Almost immediately, Heard, along with his father and brother Barnard, moved north again and established another fortification (Fort #2), this one known as Heard's Fort near Fishing Creek, seven miles north of Washington. On 3 Feb 1780, the fort was designated Georgia's seat of government, before the British recaptured Augusta in early June 1780. The Executive Council met and transacted the affairs of state in this temporary capital until at least May 1780. Historians disagree about where meetings were held between that time and August 1781, when they resumed in Augusta.
As the Revolutionary War escalated, Tories and Indians harassed the small colony. On one occasion, while Heard was absent, his young wife was driven out into a snowstorm by Tories with her small baby and both perished. Other members of this family were imprisoned by the British in Augusta but were rescued during the siege of Agusta.
On 14 Feb 1779, Heard took part in the Battle of Kettle Creek in Wilkes County. Patriot forces ambushed a regiment of almost 600 Loyalist Tories. The Loyalist forces were defeated with only 270 surviving the ambush. Heard distinguished himself in the Battle of Kettle Creek, was wounded, captured and taken as a prisoner to Fort Cornwallis in then British-held Augusta to be hung for treason. He was reportedly rescued by his female slave Mammy Kate. Kate convinced the British to let her bring Heard food and fresh clothing. On her departure, she hid Heard in a large laundry basket and carried him out of the prison on her head. (Heard is described as a small but handsome man)
Stephen Heard gave Kate her freedom and a small tract of land with a comfortable four-room house where she lived until she died. Kate and her husband are buried in the same family cemetery as Stephen Heard.
Fort #1 was initially known as Fort Heard, was renamed Fort Washington when the town became Washington and was probably abandoned as a fortification sometime after the war. The site subsequently became the home of General B.W. Heard and is now a portion of courthouse square known as Fort Washington Park. There is a marker for Fort Washington (8) in back of the courthouse.
The roadside marker for Heard's Fort is located about eight miles north of Washington along county route 44 in the approximate location described for Fort #2 (8 miles north of Washington).
Visited: 9 Feb 2018