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Memorial for 230 years of American history

A memorial service, complete with cannon fire and a color guard, is scheduled for March 3 in Screven County -- the 230th anniversary of the American Revolutionary War’s Battle of Brier Creek.

The service will begin at 10 a.m. at the battle site in the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area, about 12 miles from downtown Sylvania.

It’s the third year the ceremony has been held to honor the men who fought at Brier Creek. An estimated 150 American Patriots who died in the battle lie in a yet undiscovered grave. Five British soldiers also are believed to be buried at the site, said Alex Lee, unofficial county historian.

“One hundred and 50 men lost their lives out there and there’s nothing to show for it,” said Sylvania Mayor Margaret Evans, who has taken an active role in efforts to create a national historic site commemorating the battle. The site would be on a 200-acre parcel in the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area, which is a state-owned 15,000-acre hunting and fishing preserve along the Savannah River.

The memorial service is sponsored by the Remember Brier Creek Committee and the City of Sylvania. The committee has applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service to pay for an archaeological study aimed at finding the battle lines and possibly the burial site. Lee said the group expects to learn whether it will receive the grant sometime this summer.

Lee said 18th century accounts and maps tell about the battle, but overlapping those with modern-day maps is difficult. The study would search for musket balls that would help pin down the specific battle site. Depending on the amount of money raised, the group also might be able to search for the burial site, which is described in pension papers.

The state Department of Natural Resources, which operates the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area, has welcomed efforts by the committee to create the historic site.

Organizers are hoping for their largest crowd ever at this year’s memorial service, which is on a Tuesday morning. Fewer than 50 people attended last year’s ceremony.

This year, some middle school students are expected to attend. The group is planning to publicize the memorial service in newspaper ads and church bulletins.

At the ceremony, the chairman of the Remember Brier Creek Committee, Jason Beard, will welcome everyone. The Sons of the American Revolution will provide a color guard and a wreath will be placed at the site. The Rev. David Buie will offer a prayer of remembrance. Lee will explain the battle and give a brief overview of the features of the battlefield. Dr. Al Freeland will fire his cannon. Guns from the period will be on display and steel engravings of people involved in the battle also will be displayed.

Descendants of people who fought in the battle are being notified and encouraged to come.

A nearby Revolutionary War battle site recently held a three-day celebration. The festivities at the Battle of Kettle Creek, in Washington, Ga., included people re-enacting the battle, Lee said. “Brier Creek was a bigger battle,” he said. “We’re a little bit more remote. We’re an important battle too. We hope it’ll grow by the year.”

Everyone is encouraged to come. People are asked to assemble in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church in Sylvania at 9:30 a.m. and proceed from there to the site. If the weather is bad, the ceremony will be held in the assembly hall of First Baptist Church.