Augustine Prevost

1723–1786 — British Officer, American Revolutionary War

Augustine Prevost (1723–1786) was a Genevan soldier best known for his service in the British Army during the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War.

General Augustine Prevost, Illustration

General Augustine Prevost. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Who was Augustine Prevost?

Augustine Prevost was a British commander in East Florida from 1723 to 1786. During the American Revolutionary War, he led forces in the South. He also defended against the Americans and French in the Siege of Savannah and later returned to England.

Augustine Prevost Facts — 5 Things to Know

  1. Augustine Prevost was born on August 22, 1723, in Geneva, Switzerland.
  2. He joined the British Army in 1756 and served in North America during the French and Indian War.
  3. Prevost was wounded during the Battle of Quebec (September 13, 1759), earning the nickname, “Old Bullethead.”
  4. Prevost died on May 5, 1786, a the age of 62.
  5. Prevost was important to the American Revolutionary War for his role in leading British forces in the Southern Theater of the war and winning the Siege of Savannah.
General Benjamin Lincoln, Illustration
General Benjamin Lincoln opposed Prevost in the South. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Augustine Prevost During the American Revolutionary War

Augustin Prevost, born on August 22, 1723, in Geneva, Switzerland, was one of five brothers engaged in mercenary soldiering. After serving with the Dutch army, he joined the English in 1756 as part of the 60th Regiment, the Royal Americans, specializing in light infantry tactics. 

Prevost and the French and Indian War

Prevost earned recognition and suffered a severe injury in Quebec on September 13, 1759, when a bullet grazed his skull, earning him the nickname “Old Bullethead.”

In 1761, Prevost was promoted to lieutenant colonel and participated in the sieges of Martinique and Havana. 

In 1763, following the French and Indian War, he returned to England.

Prevost and the American Revolutionary War

Following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, he raised a new battalion, received the rank of Colonel, and sailed to East Florida, which had been established as a colony by the Proclamation of 1763.

Stationed at St. Augustine, Prevost organized British Regulars, Loyalists, and Native American Indians, defending against several American forces that came out of Georgia. 

Capture of Savannah

The Capture of Savannah by Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell on December 29,  1778, prompted Prevost to march north. 

After taking Fort Morris in January 1779, he discovered that American forces under General Benjamin Lincoln were gathering in Purysburg. Prevost landed some of his troops behind the Americans to divert their advance on Augusta and buy time for Campbell to recruit Loyalists. 

Savannah Georgia in 1734, Illustration
Savannah, Georgia in 1734. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Battle of Beaufort at Port Royal Island

Prevost sent troops to engage Americans under General William Moultrie at Beaufort on Port Royal Island. The Battle of Beaufort (February 3, 1779) was won by American forces.

On the same day, Prevost assumed the positions of Major General and Ccommander-in-Chief of British forces in the South. 

Battle of Briar Creek

Meanwhile, Campbell withdrew from Augusta and was pursued by American forces led by General John Ashe. Prevost made the strategic decision to attack Ashe before he could receive reinforcements from the main body led by Lincoln. 

On March 3, 1779, British forces, commanded by his brother, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Prevost, launched an attack and decisively defeated the Americans at Briar Creek. Following this victory, Prevost marched north to threaten Charleston, South Carolina. 

First Siege of Charleston

He nearly coerced Governor John Rutledge into signing a neutrality pact but was pushed back into Georgia on May 3, 1779, due to the arrival of American forces under Lincoln and Colonel Casimir Pulaski, following the Battle of Stono Ferry (June 29, 1779).

Siege of Savannah

The stalemate in the South continued for several months until Admiral Charles-Hector-Théodat, Comte d’Estaing, arrived off the coast in September 1779. He joined American forces under the command of General Benjamin Lincoln and initiated the Siege of Savannah.

When Lincoln demanded Prevost’s surrender, he asked for a 24-hour truce to consider the proposal. During that time, he managed to sneak in an additional 800 soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel John Maitland, increasing the number of men under his command to 3,000.

Vice Admiral Charles Henri d’Estaing, Illustration
Charles Henri d’Estaing. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The Allies surrounded Savannah and were making significant progress when d’Estaing became increasingly concerned about the approaching hurricane season. This led to a direct assault on October 9, 1779. French and American forces advanced towards British fortifications at Spring Hill, exactly as Prevost anticipated, and were repelled. 

The Allies suffered over 750 casualties, while the British lost 155 soldiers. Subsequently, d’Estaing sailed away, leaving Lincoln outnumbered. It was the second time d’Estaing abandoned American forces. The first having taken place at the Battle of Rhode Island (August 29, 1778).

Start of the British Southern Campaign

Lincoln was forced to retreat to Charleston, prompting British officials to devise a campaign to recapture the Southern Colonies. General Henry Clinton organized an expedition to capture Charleston for the upcoming spring. Georgia remained under British control until nearly the conclusion of the war.

Return to England and Death

Prevost’s victory at Savannah was the conclusion of his military service. He returned to England and passed away in Hertfordshire on May 5, 1786.

His son, General George Prevost, held the position of Commander-in-Chief of British forces in Canada during the War of 1812.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Augustine Prevost
  • Date 1723–1786
  • Author
  • Keywords Augustine Prevost
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 30, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 12, 2023