The American victory at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777, and France's subsequent entry into the Revolutionary War as an American ally, forced British officials to abandon their effort to achieve victory in the northern colonies. Instead, they decided to strike at the southern colonies, where they believed that a relatively small force of British troops aided by southern Loyalists, Native Americans, and possibly slaves, could regain control of Georgia and the Carolinas.
In December 1778, 3,000 British troops from New York captured Savannah, Georgia. Months of inconclusive campaigning followed. American forces defeated a party of Loyalists at Kettle Creek, Georgia, in February 1779, and the next month the British defeated the Americans at Briar Creek, also in Georgia.
The British invaded South Carolina in April 1779 and threatened Charleston, but withdrew on the approach of the larger American army. A French fleet and army arrived to reinforce the Americans in September, and the combined force besieged Savannah. American and French troops attacked the town on October 9, but were defeated. The French sailed away and the American commander, Major General Benjamin Lincoln, returned to South Carolina.
Shortly afterward, 8,000 British troops sailed from New York to attack Charleston. Lincoln was surrounded and forced to surrender on May 12. British detachments quickly established control of the interior of South Carolina and Georgia. Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, assumed command of royal forces in the South. On August 16, he decisively defeated Major General Horatio Gate's American army at Camden.