By Randy Murray, Fort Stewart Public AffairsMay 14, 2009
FORT STEWART, Ga. - The American Revolutionary War gave us many heroes, among them George Washington, Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion, Nathaniel Greene, Daniel Morgan and Nathan Hale. Another lesser known hero of the American Revolution is Robert Sallette, the local hero for whom Fort Stewart's U.S. Army Garrison headquarters, building 624, is named.
A tarnished bronze plaque near the main entrance dedicates the building to Sallette, only his named is spelled differently from the few historical documents that mention him. Below his name are the supposed dates he was born and died, 1754 and 1793 in Midway, Ga.
A question mark is inserted next to each date, indicating the uncertainty about him. Georgia author, journalist and folklorist Joel Chandler Harris commented on Sallette's anonymity in his book, "Stories from American History: Georgia."
"He seems to have slipped mysteriously on the scene at the beginning of the war," Harris said of Sallette. "He fought bravely, even fiercely, to the end, and then, having nothing else to do, slipped away as mysteriously as he came...Yet it is known that he played a more important part in the struggle in the Colony than any man who had no troops at his command."
The plaque notes Sallette as a "Private Soldier" who distinguished himself during the Revolutionary War with "many daring exploits" as a "scout for Major Frazer." There is a certain amount of ambivalence in the description of Sallette as a "private Soldier" in that he apparently was not an officer or noncommissioned officer, but he wasn't a private, either.
According to historian Sophie Lee Foster, Sallette really didn't serve under this Maj. Frazer, so much as he served with him and another no-first-name officer, Maj. Baker, who defeated a number of Tories near Sunbury, a battle in which Sallette is specifically mentioned as killing the Tory leader with his saber.
Sallette is also noted as a contemporary of another local Revolutionary War leader, Andrew Walthour, for whom the nearby town of Walthourville is named.
"Sallette was a roving character, belonging to no particular command," said Foster. "He fought valiantly and zealously but always in his own peculiar way and style. He didn't seem to especially value his own life and never the life of his foe."
Walter Meeks, Fort Stewart's museum curator, and a historian, said Sallette is mentioned in a few paragraphs of Robert Long Groover's book, "Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of Liberty County, Georgia." He agrees with the brief biographical information offered by Harris and Foster, including evidence that Sallette was probably Acadian, a people who suffered greatly at the hands of the British in Canada.
This fact would explain Sallette's extreme hatred for the British and those that supported them, particularly the Tories.
Meeks emphasized that few Americans realize the ferocity with which the American Revolutionary War was fought in the Southern states, particularly here in Liberty County.
Sallette, by the way, is buried in Midway's famous cemetery, where Brigadier General Daniel Stewart and Brigadier General James Screven are also buried.
In the coming weeks, the Frontline will highlight other local historic figures buried in local cemeteries on and off post and for whom Fort Stewart buildings and nearby towns are named.