When the War of 1812 occurred, there were widespread preparations in Liberty County to improve its defenses should the war spread to the Georgia coast.
Colonel Daniel Stewart was promoted to the rank of brigadier general on March 6, 1809, and assigned to command the newly authorized Brigade of Cavalry, Georgia Militia. He, William Fleming, John Winn, John Elliott, John Stevens, and Joseph Law were appointed by the state to a Committee of Safety for Liberty County. They were authorized to take charge of all local defenses, and to impress local citizens for such efforts as they deemed necessary.
Fort Morris was renamed either Fort Defiance or Fort Defense, and was remodeled and made more effective by order of Major General Thomas Pinckney, commander of the Southern Division of the U.S. He worked closely with the Committee of Safety on all county defense efforts. Major General Joseph G. Swift, chief of engineers, U.S. Army, ordered inspections of Fort Morris three times during the War of 1812.
The county militia was well organized and engaged in maintaining a watch along the coastline. It was assisted by ships of the U.S. Navy which patrolled the Midway River, and often established their headquarters at Sunbury.
Major Robert Bowling was in command of a detachment of troops from the First Division, Georgia Militia, mustered into federal service from February to September 1814, and stationed at Sunbury. Captain James Hamilton commanded a company of militia artillery from Hancock County, Georgia. which was stationed at Sunbury from October 1814 to early 1815.
Seth John Cuthbert was a second lieutenant in the Eighth Company of Foot, Georgia Militia, commanded by Captain George Walton, in 1775, and a major in the Second Battalion, Georgia Militia, in 1776. He and his wife, Mary, resided at Sunbury after the Revolutionary War. He died in 1788, the year his son, John A. Cuthbert was born. One incident during the War of 1812 involved John A. Cuthbert, an account of which appeared in the Hinesville Gazette in 1878:
“Nothing occurred to disturb the quiet of our village until the commencement of the war with Great Britain in 1812.
“Up to that time, our navy consisted principally of gunboats and barges. These were distributed to all seaports, and Sunbury got nine for her defenses.
“I shall never forget the commotion that their arrival occasioned among the citizens. We had no intimation of their coming. Barges of the British frigate laying off Cumberland Island were often seen in the St. Catherines Island sound. So, when we saw these barges approaching, there was a great deal of apprehension.
“The British barges had been robbing our coastal vessels and setting them afire. I have seen two burning in one night.
“It was but natural to conclude that the enemy was coming up. And to confirm this belief, there were no colors displayed.
“Some of the inhabitants of the old town and a few others took flight and some families never returned until the war was over.
“John A. Cuthbert and his forces formed a line on the bluff. On their right were larger scholars from Sunbury Academy, under command of Charles Floyd, one of the number.
“The barges came to anchor in the front river Gust outside the old wreck and formed a line about 50 yards apart.
“Then at a given signal the American flag was run up the masthead of each barge. When they did, you never heard such a cheering and shouting in your life.
“The barges continued to guard Sunbury for six months. It was a beautiful sight on a clear day to see them sailing down to the sound and back again.
“They were anchored at night opposite each wharf, and every hour the watch word would be passed – All is Well.”
John A. Cuthbert was a state legislator and a U.S. congressman. He relocated in Mobile, Alabama, in 1837.
It was in 1815 that the Liberty Independent Troop, commanded by Captain Joseph Jones, was ordered to active duty by Brigadier General Daniel Stewart, commander of the Brigade of Cavalry, Georgia Militia, during the War of 1812. Two U.S. Army units had been routed by British troops at Saint Marys, and were marching to the north. It was believed that the retreating force would be attached from the west by a force of Tories, Creek Indians, and Negroes, commanded by a British officer whose surname was Woodbine.
The Liberty Independent Troop, and other militia units, was ordered to cover the retreat. The militia units marched as far south as Darien, Georgia. They were there 12 days, when it was learned that a peace treaty had been concluded between the U.S. and England. The Liberty Independent Troop saw no combat action, and was not on federal active duty at the time.