The City of Washington, Ga., will unveil a new monument featuring a scultpture by UGA instructor Kinzey Branham that honors American patriots who fought in the Revolutionary War - including African Americans and Native Americans - on Aug. 11 at 10 a.m. on the square in downtown Washington.
Branham created a three-piece granite and bronze monument with the bust of American spy James Armistead Lafayette as its centerpiece. The monument also will tell the story of Wilkes County slave Austin Dabney and honor the estimated 5,000 to 8,000 African-American soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War.
“My family has been in Wilkes County since the late 1700s, so being involved with this monument on the square in Washington has added meaning for me,” said Branham, who found the image of Lafayette to use for the bust. “Using that picture, I was actually able to put a face on all those black slaves who served, and it was his face.”
Wilkes County was the site of the Battle of Kettle Creek on Feb. 14, 1779, when militia forces led by Col. Andrew Pickens of South Carolina attacked an expedition of British Loyalists. While not a major event in the overall war, the victory served to boost patriot morale and prolong the British effort to gain control of the Georgia backcountry, becoming one of the most important revolutionary war battles to be fought in Georgia.
While accurate numbers for percentages and participation of all populations in the colonial armies are elusive, African Americans and Native Americans were regularly conscripted to serve in the patriot army and militias. Dabney, who fought against the British, was the only African American to be granted land by the state of Georgia in recognition of his bravery and service. Lafayette was the first African-American spy, who joined the army under Gen. Marquis de Lafayette and posed as a runaway slave to supply information on British troop movement and arms.
Branham, an adjunct faculty member in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, was great to talk to and this new public work means a lot to him - and to UGA, as his alma mater and current academic home. For the city of Washington to be one of the few localities in the country to honor African American and native American patriots of the Revolutionary War is a visionary civic statement by what is already a beautiful small southern town. Yet one more reason to visit.