Non-copyrightable portions were transcribed from The Revolution Remembered, Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence, edited by John C. Dann, where additional comments will be found. It is presented by Dann as having been a literal transcription from the original and we accept it as such.
Submitted by Charles Baxley. Transcribed by John Robertson.
In the summer of 1775, North Carolina having raised some regiments of minutemen, a species of regular troops at that day but enrolled without receiving any bounty, I entered into one raised in Halifax, my own district, composed of six large counties, commanded by Col. Nicholas Long of Halifax, my own town company by Capt. Christopher Dudley, Lt. John Geddie, and Ensign ____. And late in November or in December of that year, a detachment of that regiment (say 250) was called into actual service to march to the Great Bridge near Norfolk in Virginia, to assist some Virginians posted at its upper end in opposition to Captain Fordyce of the British grenadiers posted at its lower end under cover of a fort which Lord Dunmore, the last regal governor of Virginia, had caused to be rected there, when, after the defeat of Fordyce, who was killed on the bridge or causeway, they entered Norfolk and was there at the time the town was burnt.
In the month of February following (1776), the whole of that regiment being called into actual service again to suppress a most formidable insurrection of the loyalists (Tories) in the south and west assembled at Cross Creek on Cape Fear River, I also marched with said regiment, and after the defeat of the said loyalists as Moore's Creek Bridge, near Wilmington (sixteen miles), by Colonels Caswell and Lillington, detachments from this regiment were sent up the country in pursuit of the fugitives, when Brigadier General McDonald, their commanding officer, and many others of distinction were made prisoners and conducted to Halifax, where they were for a while shut up in the common prison with a strong guard around it, and the minutemen were, for the present, dismissed. This tour, performed in the months of February and March, 1776, continued about forty days as well as I can now recollect.
The details of my other military services during the Revolution will be seen in my answers to the interrogatories propounded by the court aforesaid, which follows here...
I was called into actual service as a minuteman in February 1776 and marched against the insurgents who had assembled at Cross Creek in great force, having belonged to a regiment of this description of troops from July 1775, commanded by Col. Nicholas Long of Halifax as already related in the first page of this declaration. I was neither drafted, nor was I a substitute, but a volunteer of said regiment and performed all the duties of a private soldier from the repeated calls of my captain and the colonel commandant for nine months, until the minute regiments were dissolved about the month of May, 1776, after the provincial Congress which sat at Halifax that spring had completed the quota of North Carolina troops (nine regiments of foot and three companies of light horse). In this service, performed by minutemen, there were no regular officers of the line with us, although North Carolina had raised two regiments the summer before. The next actual service I engaged in was in June 1780, after the fall of Charleston, in a company of volunteers raised in Halifax (mostly by myself), commanded by Lt. Col. Samuel Lockhart, lately an officer of the Continental line of North Carolina, then at home, acting as captain, Lt. John Geddie, and Ens. Dolphin Davis, having with us Capt. James Bradley, another Continental officer serving as a private soldier.
Under the direction of Captain Lockhart, the company marched into South Carolina after taking a most circuitous route for want of proper information, crossing the Yadkin first, above the narrows (a great natural curiosity), and then falling down that river to Colson's on Pee Dee and Rocky River and thence to Anson Old Courthouse, where the British had a small garrison but which was withdrawn before our arrival. Finding himself too far ahead of all other troops about to enter South Carolina and out of reach of support from any quarter, Captain Lockhart's situation became very perilous. He therefore determined to recross Pee Dee at Mask's or Haley's Ferry and fall down that river on its eastern side to Cheraw Hill, where he hoped to overtake Major General Caswell's division of militia just then penetrating into South Carolina in that direction, but who had crossed the river one day before us.
In the meantime, Lord Rawdon had broken up the post at Cheraw, commanded by Major McArthur, an experience British officer with 350 prime troops, and called them to him, as well as the small garrison at Anson Courthouse, concentrating his whole field force at Big Lynch's Creek, about forty-two miles above Cheraw Hill on the Camden road. Captain Lockhart, with his volunteers in prime order and hight spirits, by forced marches in the sultry weather of the last of July over bald sand hills and pine plains overtook Caswell's division of North Carolina militia between Brown's and Big Lynch's creeks, who were immediately sent forward to overtake (without halting) Caswell's light infantry, a few miles in front, then under the direction of Maj. John Armstrong, another Continental officer of the North Carolina line and whom we found posted at the fork of Cheraw and Rocky River roads, and remaining under his command three or four days until General Gates, who, marching by the latter road, formed a junction at that point with Caswell's division of militia, when the command of all the light troops was given to Lieutenant Colonel Porterfield, a regular officer of the Virginia line, having under him Capt. Thomas Drew with a company of regular troops of the same line.
Col. Henry Dixon of Caswell County, whom I well knew and who was at home without employment, likewise a regular officer of the North Carolina line, had the command of a regiment of Caswell's militia and who by his skill in military discipline and tactics had trained his troops to stand and to their duty in battle with great firmness and order.
Col. John Pugh Williams, Col. Benjamin Williams, and Col. Thos. Blount, also Continental officers but of lower grades, likewise took commands in the militia of North Carolina (the latter acting as adjutant general) and were of the suite of General Caswell. These were all the Continental officers then serving with us that I can now recollect, and it would be an endless business to enumerate all the names of the officer of distinction among the militia with whom I was acquainted, except I should mention the names of Brigadier Generals Rutherford and Gregory of North Carolina, both of whom were wounded in battle and the former taken prisoner. Nor will I attempt to mention the names of the Continental officers of the Maryland and Delaware lines with whom I served, except Col. Otho Holland Williams of the Maryland line, adjutant general of Gates's army and a most valuable officer, whom I happend to meet at General Caswell's quarters at Clermont (Rugeley's Mill) when sent there from the advanced corps upon business the preceding the fatal disasters of the morning of the sixteenth August, 1780, at which very time the detachment of Maryland troops under Colonel Woolford was turning out to march over the Wateree River to join General Sumter, who was then ready to strike the British convoy coming from Ninety Six to Camden, and who did actually capture the same with escort the next morning (the eighteenth) near the latter place with the assistance of the Maryland troops just mentioned.
I was in the night action of the fifteenth of August, 1780, on the plains above Camden and fought near the person of Colonel Porterfield, who was mortally wounded, and carried him off to a place of safety for the present, and remaining by his side the rest of the night. And after providing for the proper assistance to carry him further off (for I was unable to do it by myself), just at the dawn of day, left him with Capt. Thomas Drew, Lieutenant Vaughan, three surgeons, and eight or ten privates whom I caused to be searched for that night, and forming a litter and, placing the colonel upon it, was in the act of moving away with him to a place of greater safety from the enemy when the rattling of our cannon about a mile to the east of where I had lain with him that night announced the commencement of the battle, to which I hastened with all the speed in my power upon my starved, broken-down horse (for I was a light dragoon), leaving Colonel Porterfield and the party steering north to someplace where we hoped he would be safe until the battle should be over, not dreaming of a defeat. Here I encountered the difficulties and dangers of that disastrous morning, and remained on the ground, rendering my unavailing aid, sometimes nearly surrounded by the enemy, and then chased by his cavalry until our army was entirely defeated, and yet I escaped with all my arms and equipage. The result is but too well known. Then falling back with the relics of our army, first to Charlotte (North Carolina), then to Salisbury, and Hillsboro, where I remained ten days, and then finally home.
I have no written discharge to produce from my services heretofore, the proper officers verbally discharging their men when they returned hom, and it is well known that everybody, after this disastrous battle was over or during the conflict, discharged himself. I served three months, however, during this unprosperous campaign.
Remaining at home after this expedition in the prosecution of my private business until February 1781, and during the arduous and skillful retreat of General Greene across the state of North Carolina into Virginia, when I entered into the service of my country again and joined a volunteer corps of 250 mounted infantry and cavalry raised also in the town and county of Halifax and placed under the direction of Maj. James Read, a Continental officer, by the legislature then in session in that town, which corps was forthwith marched to join General Greene wherever he might be found, Lord Cornwallis with the British army then lying in Hillsboro.
This corps (after joining General Greene, whom we found posted above Reedy Fork of Haw River and a few miles below Guilford Courthouse, Lord Cornwallis lying upon Little Alamance about twelve miles southeast), serving day and night with the American army, most frequently on detachment until about seven days after the Battle of Guilford, that is on the twenty-second of March, General Greene then having his headquarters at Troublesome (Speedwell's) Ironworks, twelve miles from the courthouse, when the corps was reorganized, and instead of horse, became foot, at which time I was called from the ranks and appointed major of the First Battalion of North Carolina militia (all the field officers having at that place retired from the service with consent, and a new set through the management of General Greene was commissioned by Governor Nash, then in camp, mostly taken from the Halifax volunteers and put in their place in such regiments as could be collected there) and was in pursuit of Cornwallis down to Ramsay's Mills on Deep River, a distance perhaps from the ironworks of between ninety and one hundred miles. General Greene having at Ramsay's Mills discharged all the Virginia and North Carolina militia except one regiment of the latter commanded by Col. James Read, who had before commanded the corps of Halifax volunteers, I was promoted to the rank of (senior) lieutenant colonel of one of the battalions of that regiment about the last of March of 1781. And General Greene, after mature deliberation having determined to carry the war back into South Carolina, I marched also into that state, crossing Deep River at Searcey's Ford, about thirty miles from Ramsay's, thence to Colson's on Big Pee Dee, where the river is about 500 yards wide, which we forded, horse, foot, and artillery and, crossing a very narrow point of land, immediately forded Rocky River (of Pee Dee), also about 150 yards wide, a rapid stream with an appropriate name, and thence on to Camden, crossing Big and Little Lynch's creeks at the points where Colonel Porterfield crossed them the year before when conducting General Gates's advanced troops to the same scene of action. I should not have been so minute in describing our route, but it seems to be required in order to show my knowledge of the marches of our armies where I served and the geography of the countries through which we passed, and I am perfectly willing to be interrogated not only on all such points, but on every other within my knowledge that may tend to give satisfaction at the War Department.
In the morning of the nineteenth of April, 1781, General Greene arrived before Camden and sat down upon the beautiful eminence of Logtown, which overlooked the enemy's works three-quarters of mile north of Camden, with his little army in excellent spirits, the great Waxhaw Road passing over its eastern point, Logtown then in flames, and the houses crumbling down, the enemy having, upon our approach, withdrawn their pickets, etc., and applied the torch to that small appendage to the village of Camden. Here we lay three days in full view of the town, our militia riflemen often venturing down near the enemy's works to skirmish with the Yagers and other marksmen, who, under cover of a few trunks of pine trees left here and there and from behind their abatis, began a desultory game that provoked our men to retaliate.
Camden stands on a peninsula formed by Pine Tree Creek on the east and the Wateree on the west, the forts stretching across an open, lovely plain, divested of its timber on the north side and about three-quarters of a mile in extent every way, the forts bearing no particular names, but numbered from Pine Tree Creek in the east, 1, 2, 1, 4, 5, 6 to the Wateree in the west, under the protection of the last of which stood the British hospital on the banks of the river, the ferry one mile below the town and then covered by a fort also.
In the afternoon of the twentieth, the day after General Greene sat down on the eminence of Logtown, a most unpleasant and disgusting circumstance occurred which seemed for a moment to disturb even the equanimity of the general himself. Lieutenant Colonel Webb's battalion of militia, which with my own constituted the command of Colonel Read, insisted on their discharge, alleging that their term of service had expired. This was at first refused and the allegation denied, when they evinced a spirit of mutiny, encouraged and heightened by Captain R. of that battalion, who was their chief spokesman. Persuasion and even entreaty was used by the field officers of the regiment, pointing to the enemy's works staring us in the face at a short distance and telling them not to desert their general but have patience and wait only a few days longer, when their services might be all important to him in the plain before us. But all this only made them more eager and determined upon being discharged, and finding our entreaties unavailing, one of us went to the general and gave him the unpleasing information, when he, with great condescension, mounted his horse, and, accompanied by Col. O. H. Williams, rode into our camp on the aforesaid eminence at a short distance from the regular troops and used all his persuasion and eloquence to detain them but a few days longer, when, as before observed to them, they might be of important service to him. The general was seconded by Colonel Williams, who in the most persuasive manner reasoned with them and urged their delay, but all to no purpose. Captain R. and the others became more clamorous, and General Greene, mortified and disgusted, directed Colonel Williams to write their discharge, which done, they were instantly off, and Lieutenant Colonel Webb had the mortification to attend them back into North Carolina.
There was General Greene, in a moment, and that one of danger and difficulty too, deprived of 250 of his efficient force — men who, though but militia, he had considerable hopes from their services since the change of field officers which took place at the ironworks and their subsequent training. My battalion, with Colonel Read still at its head, were now the only militia in the southern army, and they were soon to experience the reality of uncommon active service and hard fighting.
The general having determined, for reasons too long to detail here, to shift his position from Logtown on the north to the lower side of Sand Hill Creek on the east, four miles from Camden on the Charleston road, and finding his baggage and artillery would be only an encumbrance to him when crossing the deep and muddy swamps he had to wade through, resolved to send them away to Upton's Mill on Big Lynch's Creek, twenty-seven miles from Camden and near the Cheraw Road, escorted by my battalion, having with us all the quartermasters and commissaries together with our herds of lean cattle and swine, all the provisions the southern army had to subsist upon. This movement took place on the twenty-second of April. Here (at Upton's Mill) we remained until about one or two o'clock P.M., the twenty-fourth, when unexpectedly an express arrived from General Greene ordering the whole, troops, baggage, and artillery, etc., to return with all haste to our former position near Logtown. In half an hour all was in motion again, and marching all that day and until three or four o'clock the next morning without halting, sat down about five or six hundred yards in the rear of General Greene's Continental troops, then returned from Sand Hill Creek and posted in one line upon the lofty summit of Hobkick's or Hobkirk's Hill, in the rear of Logtown, having the great Waxhaw Road running directly over it, a favorable position with a handsome rivulet running by its northern base.
On the morning of the twenty-fifth of April, 1781, after breakfast, my battalion, with the artillery in front, Colonel Harrison of Virginia at its head, slowly moved on to take our post in the line wherever ordered. Lord Rawdon finding himself more and more straitened for provisions, despairing of the safe return of Colonel Watson to the garrison, and for other cogent reasons, had determined upon giving General Greene battle that morning and accordingly made his sally about nine o'clock. We were just ascending the hill with the militia and artillery when the firing commenced by our sentries and pickets, which brought on the fierce and sanguinary Battle of Hobkick's Hill. When about halfway up, we were met by Col. O. H. Williams, adjutant general, from whom we received this very brief order, "March to the right and support Colonel Campbell," for there was no time to say more. This movement was made with great celerity, obliquely up the hill with trailed arms and open files, the deep sand sliding from under our feet at every step. But, before we had reached a third of the way to our destined post, the artillery, which had so opportunely arrived and taken its station in the road between the two wings of our army, commenced a spirited and well-directed fire with cannister shot upon the British column as it advanced, and in a moment, notwithstanding some disorder and confusion that happened at first, there was an universal blaze of musketry from left to right throughout our whole line for an hour, every officer exhorting all the bravery and energy of his soul, the general himself, with his cool intrepidity risking his invaluable person in the thickest of the battle. Yet at last a retreat became necessary, which was effected with very little loss after we fell back to the foot of the hill, although the enemy pursued our right wing for a mile through the woods, keeping up their fire upon us, whilst our flying troops, in their quarter, were repeatedly rallied by the activity of their officers, faced about, and would pour in volley after volley as the enemy rushed upon us, until we finally gave up the contest.
The left wing of our army fell back to Saunder's Creek, three and a half or four miles from Camden, whilst the right, not knowing precisely their fate, but judging merely from the awful silence that had prevailed there for an hour, nor the fate of General Greene personally, whom we knew had greatly exposed himself during the conflict, especially on the left, nor yet what had become of the artillery and baggage, shaped our course through the woods, over bog and morass, at a respectful distance from the road until we first crossed Saunder's Creek, then Sutton's, and lastly Gates's battleground on the plains above Sutton's, when it was agreed to oblique to the right, and we soon entered the great road, nearly seven miles above Camden, where we most fortunately met General Greene, who, as well as the left wing which had halted at Saunder's Creek below, were equally uncertain what had become of us.
With the general at our head, the right wing of our army then fell down and reunited with the left at Saunder's Creek about three or four o'clock in the afternoon whilst Rawdon was burying the dead on both sides on Hobkick's Hill and affording what relief he could to the wounded in the absence of four of his surgeons brought off by Colonel Washington from the enemy's rear during the engagement.
Thus the battle terminated unfavorably to the American army, though without affording the least advantage to Lord Rawdon and the British garrison. Lieutenant Colonel Kosciusko, chief engineer to the southern army, and Major Pierce, aide-de-camp to General Greene, were both separated from the general in the course of this action, probably sent with orders to Hawes and Campbell on the right about the time that wing gave way, and continued with us during the remainder of the time we were disputing the ground with the enemy, in our ultimate retreat, and until we joined the rest of the army at Saunder's Creek.
On the twenty-sixth (the day after the battle), Colonel Read of the militia (who was a Continental major) was sent back into North Carolina to attend to some matters there, when I became commandant of the remaining militia and continued so until expiration of our tour, as may be seen by my discharge from the southern army.
On the twenty-sixth also, General Greene fell back from Saunder's Creek and by a rapid march passed by Rugeley's Mill and took post that night about one and a half miles higher up the Waxhaw Road, thirteen miles above Camden. Here, on the twenty-seventh, General Greene directed a court-martial to convene near headquarters for the trial of twenty or twenty-five deserters whom we had taken in battle on Hobkirk's Hill on the twenty-fifth. They were all equally guilty as to matter of fact, but some of them were more notorious offenders than the rest. The general therefore was pleased to order the execution of five of them only. The rest were pardoned and returned to their duty in their respective companies in the Maryland line.
This and some other transaction which took place in our camp above Rugeley's being finished, and General Sumter not yet joining as was expected when we first sat down before Camden on the nineteenth, General Greene became restless for want of employment and from his too-remote position from the garrison in Camden. He therefore determined to change his position once more, from the eastern to the western side of the Wateree, and accordingly, on the twenty-eighth, broke up from that camp, and passing down by Rugeley's a mile or two, filed off from the Camden Road to the right, and soon reached the Wateree at a very rocky ford about nine miles above that town, four or five hundred yards wide, which we forded, horse, foot, and artillery, as we had done before at Colson's on Big Pee Dee, and, keeping out from the river a mile or two until we entered the main road leading down from Rocky Mount, etc., to the ferry below Camden, pitched our tents opposite to that village, in an open plain covered with pine about two miles from us and with the river interposed. This movement was made for the double purpose of more effectually cutting off the supplies coming down on that side or from Ninety Six, if that should be attempted, as well as to intercept Colonel Watson on his return to the garrison, should he evade Marion and Lee on Santee and then, crossing Congaree at Fort Motte or elsewhere, force his way to Camden on the upper road, on the west side of the Wateree.
Watson, however, at last evaded Marion and Lee and made good his passage to Camden on the eastern side of the Wateree altogether unexpectedly. It was not long, however, before General Greene got intelligence of this circumstance, and therefore was upon the lookout for a visit from Lord Rawdon with his increased force, which we were not exactly in a situation to resist with our mortified troops, whose spirits were yet rather depressed by their late repulse before Camden.
General Greene, knowing his adversary would strike at him as soon as Watson reached Camden, hastily broke up from this camp about an hour by sun in the evening of the sixth or seventh of May and, falling back by a rapid march, gained the heights of Sawney's Creek, the strongest position I ever saw anywhere in South Carolina or perhaps anywhere else, and sat down on its summit, a stupendous hill faced with rock, having a difficult pass of steep ascent to climb up, his artillery posted in the road, on the eminence, where the gap was somewhat lower than the hill on either side.
In the morning of the seventh or eighth, before day, Rawdon put his army in motion and, crossing the ferry below town, was at the dawn of day in General Greene's deserted camp, greatly disappointed by not finding his intended victim there, but still determined upon his destruction, followed him up to the lower side of Sawney's Creek, covered with lofty timber, both of pine and oak, and where his advanced troops met our strong pickets and Colonel Washington's cavalry (always their terror) judiciously posted. Instantly a handsome firing took place. Lord Rawdon paused, examined with caution the ground his adversary occupied, Washington keeping himself raised up in his stirrups, watching the exact moment when to strike with the saber his quondam friend Major Coffin, with the British cavalry in view.
In the meantime, on the upper side of the creek all was in motion, General Greene in person and the adjutant general forming our troops on the heights in battle array, my battalion ordered down the hill to cross a narrow, lengthy field in the bottom, not in cultivation that spring, and to post myself in and around sundry deserted houses near the ford of Sawney's Creek under the supposition that the enemy would force a passage, and there to maintain my post as long as I could. This order I received from the general himself on the brow of the hill. But scarcely had I reached the houses before I was recalled. At this moment the general had received information of another crossing place about two miles lower down the creek, quite convenient for the enemy's purpose of getting at him and attacking him in the rear of his present position on the lofty summits of the hill. This intelligence instantly changed the mind of the general and produced the determination to retrograde again and once more fall back three or four miles to a large creek of still, deep water (Colonel's, I believe it was called), having over it a framed bridge covered with plank. Lord Rawdon, not liking to risk an attack upon his adversary in his strong position on the heights, thought it best to retire into Camden, at the same moment Greene was retrograding, and prepare for its evacuation. On the upper side of this bridge I posted my battalion, having in charge the baggage of the army, our herds of cattle, swine, etc., whilst the general with his suite halted about a mile below and took up his headquarters in a comfortable dwelling house on the margin of the road. Here (at the bridge), I remained until the evening of the tenth, when the general rode up to visit my quarters and did me the honor to invite me to breakfast the next morning at headquarters, an occurrence, or to dine with him in rotation with other officers, not unfrequently happened. This invitation it may be easily imagined I readily accepted and, accordingly in the morn of the eleventh, at the proper hour, waited on him, when the general, who seemed to have been expecting me, came to the front door of his apartment and saw me close at hand and ready to dismount at the gate in the upper corner of the yard. At the first glance I thought I perceived in the general's countenance an expression of something of a pleasing and interesting nature, and so there was. With his accustomed politeness he stepped out of the door, his fine manly face wearing the smile of complacency and benevolence so natural to him, and met me at the yard gate, where, hardly taking time to present his hand, his invariable practice whenever an officer visited him, with apparent eagerness asked me if I had heard the news?"
Struck by the manner of his asking the question, I hastily replied, "No, Sir, what news?"
"Rawdon evacuated Camden yesterday afternoon," and added in a facetious way, "has left Capt. Jack Smith commandant of the place, in the care of his sick and wounded, as well as ours, and pushed towards Nelson's Ferry on the Santee." This pleasing intelligence the general had but just received himself, no patrols of our cavalry having been on that side of the river for several days, nor down about the ferry the evening before, nor that morning, where they must have seen the conflagration of houses, etc., which Lord Rawdon, in his clemency, thought proper to destroy by fire. Things being in the situation in our camp at Colonel's Creek before described, and Rawdon returning to Santee with great celerity as if afraid of being overtaken by General Greene, the latter ordered his army to be put in motion and directing me, while at headquarters, to bring down my battalion and the baggage. We broke up from that place and continued our march down the river a couple of miles below the ferry on the west side of Wateree and halted on the upper road leading from Camden to Friday's Ferry on Congaree, where I was, with my battalion, "discharged from the Southern army, by order of Major General Greene," as may be seen by my written discharge signed by O. H. Williams, adjutant general, now in file with other original papers of mine and left in the hands of the chairman of the Committee on Pensions, in the Senate of the United States. There were many and uncommon incidents that occurred in this Battle of Hobkick's or Hobkirk's Hill such as I never heard of before, and which I witnessed myself and was a sharer in them, wholly dissimilar, however, to anything that happened in Gates's defeat, a few miles farther off on the piney plains above Sutton's Creek, and which I must forbear to detail here because this declaration is already swelled to too great a length perhaps for those whose official business it may become to read it. I therefore forbear at this point, but I must yet go on some further with my declaratory narrative ....
Having left the southern army beyond Camden on the road leading from the ferry there to Friday's Ferry on the Congaree, and returning through that town with my battalion, marched them back into North Carolina on the road General Greene marched them out, where I discharged them at the request of my officers, that they might take the nearest routes to their respective homes, determining myself to take the road leading from Pee Dee to Searcey's Ford on Deep River (where we crossed before) and thence to Chatham Courthouse, being my nearest route home. But when I got upon Little River of Pee Dee, I found the country in my front all the way to Haw River and Chatham Courthouse (on my right down along Drowning Creek and the Raft Swamp to Wilmington, on my left to Uharie Creek and the Yadkin River) in a state of insurrection and parties of armed Tories spreading themselves in every direction before me and on either flank. I nevertheless determined to push on with my baggage wagon and its valuable contents to Chatham Courthouse, not only as my best route home, but as my nearest point of safety, with only one companion in arms, a youth of nineteen years old and a cadet in Washington's regiment of cavalry. But before I got to Searcey's Ford I found we were hemmed in on every side; yet I was still determined to go on and cut my way through if possible, for there was no alternative, and retreat in any direction was equally hazardous for want of correct intelligence from some person upon whom I could rely, for they were all Tories and in arms. Crossing the ford, and leaving the wagon to come on with all expedition, I went forward with my young friend, both of us well armed with sabers and holster pistols.
I soon fell in with the infamously celebrated Col. David Fanning, a loyalist (Tory), then and long before in the British service, and his party, lately recruited, well armed, and mounted upon the best horses the country afforded, with whom I had two rencounters [sic] in the space of little more than an hour, in the last of which I was forced to give up my baggage wagon with many valuable effects, both public and private, and retreated up the country to Randolph Old Courthouse, in a direction quite contrary to that I wished to go, and chased for about six miles by the party, when they had to decline the pursuit owing to the fleetness of our horses. Finding myself at the courthouse upon the old trading road leading from Hillsboro to Salisbury, I turned down it to the east and reached Bell's Mill on Deep River, three miles below, where I lodged in secret that night, being surrounded at that time by Tories in arms on every side, having traveled sixty miles that day, twenty of which was with my baggage wagon.
Rising at daybreak the next morning, instead of keeping the direct road down to Hillsboro, about fifty-five miles, I had to turn to my left, among three roads that centered at Bell's Mill, and, directing my course in a north direction, entered the New Garden settlement of Quakers in about sixteen or eighteen miles, considerably above Guilford Courthouse, and at last reached this latter place, where I deemed myself safe from further pursuit and molestation and where I halted to see my acquaintance Captain Barrett, who was left there in March so dangerously wounded and whom I found in a convalescent state, and from thence down to Hillsboro, about fifty or fifty-five miles, having been turned out of my proper course by Fanning and other royalists about an hundred miles. Here (at Hillsboro) I was met by Brigadier General Butler of that district and solicited to take the command, as colonel of a regiment of volunteer mounted infantry and cavalry that he was then raising, which office I accepted on the twentysecond of May, 1781, and in a few days thereafter took the field in the prosecution of my duty against the infamously celebrated Col. David Fanning already mentioned, who had free ingress and egress into the British garrison at Wilmington with his plunder and prisoners at all times. Having, after various marches and countermarches, obtained the object for which this regiment was sent into the field, to wit, either to defeat Fanning or compel him to disband his forces and quit the country, the latter alternative was his choice when he could no longer avoid coming to action and retired to Wilmington with such of his followers as chose to adhere to his fortunes, whereby peace and safety for a time at least was restored to that part of the country, and the legislature, which had convened early in June at Wake Courthouse (now the city of Raleigh), protected from certain captivity or dispersion, when I received a letter of thanks and discharge from General Butler and returned home after an absence of five months in the unintermittent and active service of my country. But here I was not permitted to remain at rest, being engaged in reconnoitering the enemy (Tarleton and Simcoe) when making their excursions into the parts of Virginia contiguous to North Carolina, from James River, and whose alarms spread over the country.
When the French fleet and army under the command of Count de Grasse and Marquis St. Simon arrived in Virginia and blocked up the Chesapeake, about the last of August, 1781, the news of which event reached Halifax on the second day of September, where the governor and his suite then were on public business, when the opinion of the executive, as well as the general expectation, was that Lord Cornwallis, of whose headquarters and movements we then knew nothing, would endeavor to save himself and his army by retreating through North Carolina to Wilmington or to Charleston. I was applied to by the governor and requested to take the command of a party of observation, consisting of light dragoons belonging to the new state legion, some recruits of which were assembled there, and proceed immediately into Virginia, search out where his lordship might be, what route he was taking, throw myself in his front, ascertain his force of every description, and lastly to give the executive information by express, from time to time, of these particulars. I accepted the command because the occasion was urgent and important, and in the space of two hours, which I waited to give Governor Burke time to draw up my instructions and write two letters, one to General Muhlenberg and the other to Colonel Parker of Norfolk or Princess Anne County, marched at the head of my party with all the expedition the nature of the service would admit.
On this service I was gone about a fortnight or upwards, my men and horses often suffering for want of food, such being the scarcity in Virginia owing to the previous marching and counter. marching of the enemy through that part of the county where my route lay, which, from the circumstances of the times and our ignorance of the movements of the British, was of necessity a devious one. At last I reached Swan's Point on James River opposite to old Jamestown, near to which I had marched before I got my intelligence of Lord Cornwallis's last movement from Portsmouth to Yorktown. Waiting here for several days without a possibility of crossing the river (three miles wide) for want of boats, and happening by mere accident to hear of the arrival of General Washington and Count Rochambeau with their respected suites at Williamsburg, where the Marquis Lafayette with his small army lay, whilst Count St. Simon had debarked his troops at old Jamestown and were in full view of Swan's Point, where I was posted, having fulfilled the governor's wishes as far as practicable by frequently conveying to him such intelligence as I could procure of the condition of Lord Cornwallis and the situation of the combined forces, I withdrew from Swan's Point on James River and returned home with my party, adding two months more service to the tours already enumerated from the time I received my discharge from General Butler in July.
I have indeed been, it may be thought, too prolix in drawing up this my declaration, but the occasion seemed to require it, and the rules and regulations adopted by the War Department in regard to applicants for pensions under the late law of Congress I hope will justify it, being, as I am, desirous of giving every evidence of my Revolutionary services and all other satisfaction in my power, but especially to avoid every imputation of suspicion of imposition.