St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

History Made in Georgia with Revolutionary Grave Marking for a Black Patriot

The morning had the feel of another winter morning in Pike County, Georgia. The thermometer was hovering right at the freezing point, and there was a light mist in the air. People began to congregate and soon over 200 citizens were deep in the woods at a site just off of the old Mitchell Plantation in Zebulon. They were all there for a cause. They were all there to honor a true American Patriot from the American Revolution.

Austin Dabney (abt 1760-1830) was a slave. Austin Dabney was a great American, even though he didn't know it.

Dabney entered the Georgia Militia in the late 1770s as a substitute for his master. Dabney fought under Elijah Clarke and was wounded at the Battle of Kettle Creek in 1779. The Battle of Kettle Creek was one of the most significant battles (and wins) during colonists' fight for freedom in Georgia. The anniversary of Kettle Creek is February 14 and is celebrated each year by the Sons of the American Revolution.

Dabney, who is believed to be the only black man in the battle, was deeply wounded and taken home by a white militiaman by the name of Giles Harris. Harris and his family cared for Dabney during his recuperation and a bond was formed. A bond so strong that it would last for the rest of their lives. They became friends and Harris would later name children after Dabney.

Dabney remained close to the Harris family and eventually relocated with them to what is now Pike County, GA.

Dabney was honored on January 30, 2010, by the crowd assembled deep in the woods. While the grave dedication was sponsored primarily by the Sons of the American Revolution, the crowd consisted of Americans, black, white, Army, Navy, and history lovers, who came to learn more of this particular patriot.

Dabney was granted his freedom by the state of Georgia, received land for his service to America and received a federal pension. At his death, Dabney left his land and property to the Harris family. At the death of William Harris, he requested to be buried with his friend and mentor, Dabney Harris.

At the ceremony, a young black child was looking at the grave site, which is piled high with stones, and asked, "Where is he buried? Why is this such a big deal?" Well, my young friend, Austin Dabney is buried below those stones with his best friend. The marking of a true American Patriot's final resting spot is history. This marking and honoring of Austin Dabney is the first marking of a black Revolutionary Patriot in Georgia and one of only a handful in the Nation. This man knew the meaning of liberty and fought for it, alongside his American brothers. We thank Austin Dabney and all the patriots for believing in the American Cause and for the making of this country.

Dabney left no known blood descendants. Well, Americans, then and now, are proud he's part of American history and his story will continue to be told.

Did you know that it is estimated that close to 20,000 black men were part of the American forces in the Revolution?

Genealogy. It can bring the past to life. And what a phenomenal life Austin Dabney had. Wouldn't it be grand to spend time hearing of his life in his words?

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