Archibald Bulloch was a Revolutionary soldier, a leader of Georgia’s Liberty Party, and the state’s first chief executive and commander in chief. Bulloch County, in southeast Georgia, is named in his honor.
Bulloch was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1730. His father, James Bulloch, had immigrated to South Carolina in the 1720s from Scotland. His mother, Jean, was the daughter of a Puritan minister, the Reverend Archibald Stobo. Archibald Bulloch was the great-great-grandfather of Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the United States.
Bulloch was educated in Charleston and began his political career in South Carolina while he practiced law. He was commissioned lieutenant in a South Carolina regiment in 1757. In 1758 the Bulloch family relocated to Georgia. In October 1764, after Bulloch moved to Savannah, he married Mary De Veaux, daughter of Judge James De Veaux, a prominent Savannah landowner. Bulloch resumed his political career in his new state and quickly became a leader of the Liberty Party, guiding it during the resistance to the oppressive measures of the British colonial government. He was one of seven Liberty Party candidates elected to the Commons House of Assembly in the pivotal election of 1768. The success of Bulloch and the other candidates of the Liberty Party in this election prompted the South Carolina Gazette to note approvingly that “Liberty prevailed.”
Bulloch was one of the signers of the invitation to meet at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah on July 27, 1774, to discuss the “critical situation” resulting from the recent acts of the British Parliament to tax the colonies “without the consent of the people.” The 1775 Provincial Congress of Georgia, meeting at Tondee’s Tavern, elected Bulloch to be its president, thus formalizing the leadership role that he had thus far assumed in the conflict with Britain. It also elected him as one of Georgia’s representatives to the Continental Congress.
At the Continental Congress, Bulloch immediately impressed the delegates from the other colonies when he arrived wearing homespun clothes, symbolizing Georgia’s commitment to the embargo on British goods. On November 7, 1775, Bulloch was appointed to the Secret Committee of the Continental Congress. This important committee contracted for the importation of gunpowder, arms, and ammunition for the conflict with Britain.
In addition to his political posts, Bulloch also fought in the American Revolution. In March 1776 he served under Colonel Lachlan McIntosh in the Battle of the Rice Boats. On March 25, 1776, he was entrusted with leading a dangerous expedition to Tybee Island. Bulloch and his men destroyed facilities used by the British and killed and captured British marines and supporters. On June 20, 1776, Bulloch became the first president and commander in chief of Georgia under the new state’s temporary Republican government. He held this post until his death eight months later.
On February 22, 1777, in the face of an invasion by the British from Florida, Georgia’s Council of Safety requested that Bulloch “take upon himself the whole Executive Powers of Government.” Just two days after he was handed what amounted to dictatorial powers, however, he died. Though some have speculated that he was poisoned, the cause of his death remains unknown.