The Signers Button Gwinnett

Portrait of Button Gwinnett
Signer of the Declaration of Independence
from Georgia
Nathaniel Hone
Sotheby's catalog, January 18-19, 2001
Lot # 457 - Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Button Gwinnett


Success in the factional rivalry within Georgia's Whig movement led to Gwinnett's election to the Continental Congress and his arrival in Philadelphia in May 1776. He supported the resolution for independence and signed the Declaration of Independence.

Gwinnett soon returned to Georgia where, frustrated in his efforts to obtain a military command, he helped his party gain control of the legislature, served as Speaker, and headed the committee that drafted the newly independent state's first constitution. He began to purge military officers sympathetic to the other faction, including friends and relatives of Lachlan McIntosh, commander of the state's Continental battalion and long-time source of frustration for Gwinnett's military ambitions.

In February 1777 Gwinnett became president of the council of safety, which included command of the state militia. His expedition to capture St. Augustine in Florida failed, partly for lack of effective cooperation with McIntosh's Continental troops. A legislative investigation of the Florida debacle cleared Gwinnett but offended McIntosh, who publicly denounced Gwinnett. Gwinnett challenged McIntosh to a duel, and the two met outside Savannah on May 16, 1777. Both were wounded, McIntosh not seriously, but Gwinnett mortally.

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