By Jim Miles
Button Gwinnett’s Career
People are startled to learn that one of America’s most valuable autographs is that of Button Gwinnett. Who? Gwinnett signed the Declaration of Independence for Georgia, soon after dying in a duel which left him unavailable for signing his name.
The English born Gwinnett reached America in the 1760’s. He purchased St. Catherine’s Island, but was a failure in farming and business and turned to politics, where he was a controversial figure. A radical advocating independence, he craved command of Georgia’s military forces, but was checked by rival Lachian McIntosh.
Button Gwinnett represented Georgia at the Second Continental Congress, signed the Declaration, and returned home to Georgia. Thwarted again as military commander, he became speaker of the Georgia legislature and the second president (some would say governor) of Georgia.
Button Gwinnett’s Duel
Gwinnett hoped to command a military expedition against Florida, but, frustrated again, he then foiled McIntosh’s ambition. Both accompanied the expedition as far as Sunbury, quarreling like children, and were sent back to Savannah.
In the General Assembly McIntosh called Gwinnett a liar and scoundrel, and Gwinnett responded with a challenge. The duel, fought May 16, 1777, at a distance of only 12 feet, left both men seriously wounded. Gwinnett died of his wounds three days later, aged 42.
Ironically, in death Button Gwinnett and McIntosh are neighbors in historic Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah. Gwinnett’s gravesite was lost two centuries ago, but an impressive monument honors him as a signer of the Declaration, wherever he lies.
Jim Miles is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org