Agent 355, the Culper Spy Ring female agent

August 20, 2014

 

 

Agent 355 was the code name of a female spy during the American Revolution, part of the Culper Ring. Her real identity remains unknown.

The only direct reference to Agent 355 in any of the Culper Ring’s missives was from Abraham Woodhull (Samuel Culper Sr.), to General George Washington in 1778. Little is known for sure about this mysterious lady, but speculation abounds. What is known is that she was located in New York and at some point had contact with Major John Andre and Benedict Arnold. It is believed that 355 was a member of a prominent Loyalist family, and within easy reach of British commanders.[1] When Andre, in particular, was in New York, the Culper’s information came fast and furious, but when Andre was in the southern colonies with Sir Henry Clinton, the information slowed considerably. At this point, Washington complained that the Culpers were a waste of money. This leads historians to believe that 355 was one of the flock of females that surrounded Major Andre.

The identity of the woman known solely as 355 has yet to be discovered. However, several theories have been developed, ranging from claims that 355 must have been the already-known Anna Smith Strong to hypotheses about other relations of identified ring members. Others say that she did not really exist, that 355 was simply just a lady of acquaintance to Abraham Woodhull who was mentioned in passing and really no help to the Culpers at all. However, John Burke and Andrea Meyer have made a case for 355’s involvement in the spy ring using circumstantial evidence.[2] If the story is to be believed, 355 was a great asset to the American bid for independence.

Footnotes

  • Intelligence in the War of Independence > Personalities. Central Intelligence Agency
  • John A. Burke and Andrea Meyer, “Spies of the Revolution,” New York State Archives Magazine, Fall 2009, Vol. 9, no. 2

 

Bibliography

  • Intelligence in the War of Independence > Personalities. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved on 2008-04-17.
  • David W. Jacobs: Who Was Agent 355? (Am Rev) Broadside, the Newsletter of the American Revolution Round Table (11-21-06)
  • Rose, Alexander. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. New York: Bantam, 2006
  • John A. Burke and Andrea Meyer, “Spies of the Revolution,” New York State Archives Magazine, Fall 2009, Vol. 9, no. 2

John Hall, Associate Justice on North Carolina Supreme Court

August 19, 2014

 

 

John Hall (1767–1833) was an American jurist who served as one of the original three judges of the North Carolina Supreme Court.[2] He was elected by the North Carolina General Assembly to the court in 1818 and served on that court from its first meeting in January 1819 until his declining health led him to retire in 1832.

Hall, a Staunton, Virginia native and alumnus of the College of William and Mary, moved to Warrenton, North Carolina to practice law and served as a state superior court judge (1800–1818).

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References

  1. “Officers of the Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of North Carolina, the first 100 years”. Raleigh, North Carolina, USA: Grand Lodge of North Carolina. http://www.grandlodge-nc.org/Archive/gline1.htm
  2. “Justices of the NC Supreme Court”. Raleigh, North Carolina, USA: North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society. http://www.ncschs.net/Justices_of_the_Court.aspx

Battle of Musgrove Mill

August 18, 2014

 

 

The Battle of Musgrove Mill, August 18-19, 1780, occurred near a ford of the Enoree River, near the present-day border between Spartanburg, Laurens and Union Counties in South Carolina.[1] During the course of the battle, 200 Patriot militiamen defeated a combined force of approximately 300 Loyalist militiamen and 200 provincial regulars.

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Site of Musgrove Mill

By the summer of 1780, the war that raged in the backcountry of South Carolina had effectively become America’s first civil war.[2] Few men engaged on either side had ever seen Great Britain, and backcountry fighting tended to be especially brutal and retaliatory.[3]

On the evening of August 18, two hundred mounted Patriot partisans under joint command of Colonels Isaac Shelby, James Williams, and Elijah Clarke prepared to raid a Loyalist camp at Musgrove’s Mill, which controlled the local grain supply and guarded a ford of the Enoree River. The Patriots anticipated surprising a garrison of about an equal number of Loyalists, but a local farmer informed them that the Tories had recently been reinforced by about a hundred Loyalist militia and two hundred provincial regulars on their way to join British Major Patrick Ferguson.[4]

With their position compromised by an enemy patrol and horses unable to go on without rest, the Patriots understood that they must stand and fight despite being outnumbered better than two to one. At the top of a ridge across the road leading down to Musgrove Mill, the partisans quickly formed a semicircular breastwork of brush and fallen timber about three hundred yards long.[5]

In the best tradition of guerrilla tactics, a band of about twenty men under the leadership of Captain Shadrach Inman crossed the Enoree and engaged the enemy. Feigning confusion they retreated back toward the line of ambush until the Loyalists were nearly on the Patriot line. When the Loyalists spotted the Patriot line, they fired too early. The Patriots, however, held their fire until the Loyalists got within killing range of their muskets.[5]

Patriot musket fire operated “with devastating effect.” [6] Nonetheless, the Tory regulars were well disciplined and nearly overwhelmed the Patriot right flank with a bayonet charge. (Frontiersmen had no bayonets.) Isaac Shelby ordered his reserve of “Overmountain Men” to support him, and they rushed into the battle shrieking Indian war cries.[7] The Tories wavered, and when a number of their officers went down, they broke—although not before Captain Inman, who had a key role in implementing the Patriot strategy, was killed on the battlefield.

Patriots ran from their positions “yelling, shooting, and slashing on every hand.”[8] The whole battle took perhaps an hour. Within that period, sixty-three Tories were killed, an unknown number wounded, and seventy were taken prisoner.[9] The Patriots lost only about four dead and twelve wounded.[10]

Some Whig leaders briefly considered attacking the Tory stronghold at Ninety Six, South Carolina; but they hurriedly dispersed after learning that a large Patriot army had been defeated at Camden three days previous.

Shelby’s forces covered sixty miles with Ferguson in hot pursuit before making good their escape.[11] In the wake of General Horatio Gates’ blundering defeat at Camden, the victory at Musgrove Mill heartened the Patriots and served as further evidence that the South Carolina backcountry could not be held by the Tories.

Shelby and his Overmountain Men crossed back over the Appalachian Mountains and into the territory of the Watauga Association at Sycamore Shoals in present day Elizabethton, Tennessee, and by the next month on September 25, 1780, Colonels Shelby, John Sevier, and Charles McDowell and their 600 Overmountain Men had combined forces with Col. William Campbell and his 400 Virginia men at the Sycamore Shoals muster in advance of the October 7, 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain near present day Blacksburg, South Carolina.

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Historical Marker at the site of the Battle of Musgrove Mill

The Musgrove Mill battlefield has been preserved at the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, as the newest unit of the South Carolina park system. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Notes

  1. Musgrove Mill State Historic Site website
  2. Walter Edgar, Partisans and Redcoats: The Southern Conflict That Turned the Tide of the American Revolution (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), xi. In the nineteenth century, George Bancroft wrote “South Carolina moved toward independence through the bitterest afflictions of civil war… Families were divided; patriots outlawed and savagely assassinated; houses burned, and children driven into the forests.” History of the United States, 11th ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1875), 10:300
  3. Edgar, 130-38. “The British army of occupation and its Tory allies, by unleashing the horrors of civil war on South Carolina, sowed the seeds for the defeat of their cause.”
  4. John Buchanan, The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997), 177. “Provincial regulars” were Americans who enlisted in British army units, as opposed to British regulars and Tory militia. Edgar, 153
  5. Edgar, 114, Buchanan, 177
  6. Edgar, 114
  7. Buchanan, 178. The Overmountain Men were frontiersmen from the Sycamore Shoals along the Watauga River at present-day Elizabethton, Tennessee.
  8. Edward McCrady, The History of the Revolution in South Carolina (New York: Macmillan, 1902), 2:693
  9. Buchanan and Edgar give the losses as 63 killed, 90 wounded, 70 taken prisoner. Buchanan, 178; Edgar, 115. The figures in the text are those from a wayside at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site.
  10. Buchanan gives Patriot losses as four killed and seven wounded. Buchanan, 179
  11. Edgar, 115, Buchanan, 179: “In forty-eight hours they had completed two forced marches, had neither slept nor rested, and had fought and won against a superior force an action renowned for its ferocity.”

John Nelson, Boston merchant and statesman

August 17, 2014

 

 

John Nelson was an English colonial merchant, trader, and statesman, active in New England. He was born near London, England in 1654 to Robert and Mary Nelson. He came to Boston in 1680 and married Elizabeth Tailer, who was 12 years his junior.[1]

He was a nephew of Sir Thomas Temple,[2] a British proprietor and governor of Nova Scotia, and inherited much of Temple’s estate, including his territorial claims to Nova Scotia (which had been restored to France as Acadia in the Treaty of Breda (1667)).

On April 19, 1689, Nelson, a resident of Long Island in Boston Harbor, was one of a number of prominent Bostonians leading a revolt against Governor Sir Edmund Andros. Andros, the hated governor of the Dominion of New England, had angered may colonists by vacating land titles, enforcing the Navigation Acts, and promoting the Church of England.

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Portrait of John Nelson by John Smybert (1732)

During 1690, John Nelson bought all of the property from the tenants on Long Island with the exception of four and one-half acres owned by Thomas Stanberg, a shopkeeper from Boston. Stanberg was one of the original tenants on Long Island. Nelson was well connected politically being a close relative of Sir Thomas Temple, and the husband of Elizabeth Tailer, the niece of Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton and sister to Lieutenant Governor William Tailer. On June 4, Nelson mortgaged his Long Island property to William and Benjamin Browne from Salem, Massachusetts for 1,200 pounds. Henry Mare managed the Browne’s house and land on Long Island.

In 1692, John Nelson was captured by the French while on a trading or privateering voyage to Acadia, and was imprisoned in Quebec. It was common for local privateers to receive commissions in Boston but were considered pirates by the other nations of the world, especially the French and Spanish, who were the superpowers at the time.

While in prison, Nelson learned about secret French plans for attacks against the Massachusetts colonies. Nelson discreetly informed the Massachusetts authorities of this information from his prison cell. For this act, Nelson was punished by being transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the Bastille prison in France. In 1702, after ten years of imprisonment, his relative, Sir Purbeck Temple, obtained his release. Nelson immediately returned home to Nelson’s Island (Long Island) as a local hero.[3]

Nelson was a signer of “The Humble Address of the Publicans of New-England” in 1691.[4]

He was not allowed any share in the subsequent government, likely on account of his being an Episcopalian, according to Thomas Hutchinson.

Nelson married his wife, Elizabeth, circa 1686 and had six children. Rebecca, who married Henry Lloyd, Elizabeth, who married Nathaniel Hubbard, Mehetable, who married Captain Robert Temple, Margaret who married Captain Thomas Steele, Temple, and Pachal.

Nelson and his wife were active in the activities of King’s Chapel from 1700 to 1719. He died in 1734.

Notes

  1. Bolton, Charles Knowles (2006). The Founders: Portraits of Persons Born Abroad Who Came to the Colonies in North America Before the Year 1701. Kessinger Publishing. p. 797
  2. Temple, Thomas, 1614-1674. Correspondence concerning Nova Scotia: Guide. Houghton Library, Harvard College Library. There is much correspondence between Temple and his nephew, John Nelson
  3. The Islands of Boston Harbor”, in “Some Events of Boston and Its Neighbors”, Chapter 4, printed for the State Street Trust Company, Boston, Massachusetts, 1917

“The island [Long Island] is chiefly noted as the residence of John Nelson, who is looked upon as a hero by the American people. He was captured by the French in a voyage to the eastward and imprisoned in Quebec. While there he informed Massachusetts that the French were forming plans against the New England Colonies, and for this he was sent to the Bastille. He was finally released, and on his return to Long Island the Nelson family gave him a great feast of welcome, and part of the table-cloth is believed still to be preserved by his descendants”.

  1. Johnson, Richard R., “The Humble Address of the Publicans of New-England: A Reassessment (in Memoranda and Documents)”, p. 245

References

  • Bosher, J.F., “Huguenot Merchants and the Protestant International in the Seventeenth Century”, The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Series, v. LII, n. I, January 1995, pp. 77–102. Page 88 and onwards mentions John Nelson. [1]
  • Johnson, Richard R., “The Humble Address of the Publicans of New-England: A Reassessment (in Memoranda and Documents)”, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 2. (Jun., 1978), pp. 241–249. Cf. p. 245 and on for mention of John Nelson. [2]

Battle of Camden

August 16, 2014

 

The Battle of Camden was a major victory for the British in the Southern theater of the American Revolution. On August 16, 1780, British forces under Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis routed the American forces of Major General Horatio Gates about 5 miles north of Camden, South Carolina, strengthening the British hold on the Carolinas following the capture of Charleston.

The rout was an humiliating defeat for Gates, the American general best known for commanding the Americans at the British defeat of Saratoga, whose army had possessed a large numerical superiority over the British force. Following the battle, he never held a field command again. His political connections, however, helped him avoid inquiries and courts martial into the debacle.

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Battle of Camden—Death of De Kalb

Following the British defeat at Saratoga in 1777 and French entry into the American Revolutionary War in early 1778, the British decided to renew a “southern strategy” to win back their rebellious North American colonies. This campaign began in December 1778 with the capture of Savannah, Georgia, and gained further ground in January 1780, when General Sir Henry Clinton led an army and captured Charleston, South Carolina. Clinton returned to New York in the summer of 1780, leaving Lord Cornwallis the task of fortifying the South and raising the anticipated large numbers of Loyalists. The Continental Army in the south, most of which had surrendered at Charleston, was completely driven from South Carolina in the May 1780 Battle of Waxhaws.

The only Patriot resistance remaining in South Carolina consisted of militia partisan companies under commanders like Thomas Sumter, William Davie, and Francis Marion. The Continental Army began to reform at Charlotte, North Carolina under Horatio Gates, the “hero of Saratoga”. Gates arrived in late July, and met with the local militia and Continental Army commanders. Against the advice of council, Gates, even before he knew the full capabilities of the troops under his command, ordered a march into South Carolina through an area he had been advised had strong Loyalist tendencies. A significant number of his troops were relatively untested militia companies, and even some of the Continentals under his command had little battlefield experience.

Because of its crossroads location, Camden was considered a key to controlling the back country of the Carolinas. On July 27, Gates advanced into South Carolina, heading towards Camden, then garrisoned by about 1,000 men under Lord Rawdon.[3] Gates established a camp at Rugeley’s Mill, north of Camden, where he was joined by militia companies from North Carolina and Virginia. The weather was extremely hot, and a significant number of troops were put out of action by the heat and diseases like dysentery. Although Gates had over 4,000 men in camp, only about 2000 of them were effective for combat, in part because Gates further reduced their numbers by sending several hundred men in support of operations by Sumter and Marion, and because the night before, the men had been fed green corn, known for giving humans bowel problems.

General Cornwallis, alerted to Gates’ movement on August 9, marched from Charleston with reinforcements, arriving at Camden on August 13, bringing the effective British troop strength over 2,000 men.

Gates formed up first on the field. He had around 3,700 troops, of which around only 1,500 of them were regular troops. On his right flank he placed Mordecai Gist, Johann de Kalb’s 2nd Maryland and a Delaware Regiment. On his left flank, he placed 2,500 untried North Carolina militia under Colonel Richard Caswell. Gates stayed with the reserve force, the 1st Maryland Brigade under William Smallwood. Gates placed seven guns along the line. Behind the militia, he placed companies of cavalry and light infantry. With this formation, a typical British practice of the time, Gates was placing the untested militia, his weakest forces, against the most experienced British regiments, while his best troops would face the weaker elements of the British forces.

Cornwallis had around 2,100 men, of which around 600 were Loyalist militia and Volunteers of Ireland. The other 1,500 were regular troops. Cornwallis also had the infamous and highly experienced Tarleton’s Legion, around 250 cavalry and 200 infantry who were formidable in a pursuit situation. Cornwallis formed his army in two brigades. Lord Rawdon was in command of the left wing, facing the Continental Infantry with the Irish Volunteers, Banastre Tarleton’s infantry and the Loyalist troops. On the right was Lieutenant Colonel James Webster, facing the inexperienced militia with the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 33rd Regiment of Foot. In reserve, Cornwallis had two battalions of the 71st Regiment of Foot and Tarleton’s cavalry force. He also placed four guns in the British center.[3]

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General Horatio Gates, portrait by Gilbert Stuart

Both armies advanced at each other just after dawn. The British troops opened the battle, when the right flank fired a volley into the militia regiments, causing a significant number of casualties. They followed the volley up with a bayonet charge. The militia, lacking bayonets, panicked and fled before the British regiments even reached them. Only one company of militia managed to fire a volley before fleeing. The panic quickly spread to the North Carolina militia, and they also broke ranks and fled. Seeing his left flank collapse, Gates fled with the first of the militia to run from the field. Within a matter of minutes, the whole American left wing had evaporated. The Virginia militia ran away so quickly that they suffered only three casualties.[4]

While the militia was routing, and before Gates’ flight, he ordered his right flank under de Kalb to attack the opposing British militia forces. Rawdon’s troops advanced forward in two charges, but a heavy fire repulsed his regiments. The Continental troops then launched a counter attack which came close to breaking Rawdon’s line, which began to falter. Cornwallis rode to his left flank and steadied Rawdon’s men. Instead of pursuing the fleeing militia, Webster wheeled around and launched a bayonet charge into the left flank of the Continental regiments in the center.

The North Carolina militia that had been stationed next to the Delaware regiment held its ground, the only militia unit to do so. The Continental regiments fought a stiff fight for some time, but only 800 Continentals were by this time facing over 2,000 British troops. Cornwallis, rather than fight a sustained fight with a heavy loss, ordered Tarleton’s cavalry to charge the rear of the Continental line. The cavalry charge broke up the formation of the Continental troops, who finally broke and fled.

De Kalb, attempting to rally his men was shot eleven times by musket fire. After just one hour of combat, the American troops had been utterly defeated, suffering over 2,000 casualties. Tarleton’s cavalry pursued and harried the retreating Continental troops for some 20 miles (32 km) before drawing rein. By that evening, Gates, mounted on a swift horse, had taken refuge 60 miles (97 km) away in Charlotte, North Carolina.[3]

The British casualties were 68 killed, 245 wounded and 11 missing.[1] Hugh Rankin says, “of the known dead, 162 were Continentals, 12 were South Carolina militiamen, 3 were Virginia militiamen and 63 were North Carolina militiamen”.[5] David Ramsay says, “290 American wounded prisoners were carried into Camden after this action. Of this number, 206 were Continentals, 82 were North Carolina militia and 2 were Virginia militia. The resistance made by each corps may in some degree be estimated from the number of wounded. The Americans lost the whole of their artillery – 8 field pieces, upwards of 200 wagons and the greatest part of their baggage.”[6] A letter from Cornwallis to Lord George Germain, dated 21 August 1780, says that his army took “about one thousand Prisoners, many of whom wounded” on August 18.[7] The website Documentary History of the Battle of Camden, 16 August 1780 details on its Officer Casualties at Camden page the fates of 48 Continental officers at Camden: 5 were killed, 4 died of wounds, 4 were wounded without being captured, 11 were wounded and captured and 24 were captured without being wounded. These ratios would suggest that a significant number of the Americans wounded in the battle escaped capture.

There are many reasons given for Gates’ defeat. The most prominent are the following:

The Battle of Camden has been scrutinized as one of the worst tactical decisions made on part of the Americans throughout the entire war. Following the surrender at Saratoga, Gates became overconfident in the ability of the American troops, which was displayed during this battle as he rushed his tactical deployment. Gates was a former British officer, and was therefore accustomed to the traditional British deployment of the most experienced regiments on the place of honour—the right flank of the battle line. Gates had therefore placed the Continental regiments on his right flank, and the mass of militia which had joined him, nearly all of which had never even fought in a battle before on the left flank, facing the most experienced British regiments.

At first impression, it may seem curious that Gates putting his regiments in the fashion was a grave tactical error, as Cornwallis had done exactly the same thing: his Loyalist troops faced the Continentals just as his Regulars faced the militia. However, the forces were dissimilar, in that the Loyalists were far more experienced in combat at this point than their southern colonial counterparts. As a result, the Loyalists therefore managed to hold the line against the best Continental troops during the battle, while the Regulars effectively broke the colonial militias.

Aside from tactics on the battlefield, Gates had made several strategic errors before joining the battle:

  • His aggressive movement brought his forces deep into British territory, where residents still loyal to the Crown would extend no supplies nor join his army.
  • So far from their supply lines, Gates’ forces were weakened by lack of adequate food and fresh water, many of them falling victim to dysentery.
  • Gates took great confidence in his victory at Saratoga but erred in mapping the inexperience of Burgoyne (his opponent in that battle) onto Cornwallis, who was a gifted strategist.

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Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Gates’ army had been utterly defeated; it had suffered over 2,000 casualties, some 1,000 of the troops being prisoners. They lost all seven guns and the whole baggage train. Gates lost control of the southern army due to his cowardice. Major General Nathanael Greene, standing next to George Washington as the most able and trusted Colonial officer of the Revolution, was given command of the southern army and started recruiting additional troops.

Gates, who had strong political connections in the Continental Congress, successfully avoided inquiries into the debacle.

The Camden Battlefield, located about 5 miles north of Camden, is owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and is undergoing preservation in a private-public partnership. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Aspects of the battle were included in the 2000 movie The Patriot, in which Ben and Gabriel Martin are seen watching a similar battle. Ben comments at the stupidity of Gates fighting “muzzle to muzzle with Redcoats”. The film is not historically accurate, depicting too many Continental troops relative to the number of militia, and that the Continentals and militia retreated at the same time.

Notes

  1. Boatner, p. 169
  2. Sava, Dameron p.252
  3. My Revolutionary War: The Battle of Camden
  4. Buchanan, p. 170
  5. Rankin, p. 244
  6. Ramsay, p. 169
  7. Letter from Charles, the Earl, Cornwallis to Lord George Germain, dated 21 August 1780, State Records of North Carolina XV:269-273.

References

  • Boatner, Mark Mayo, Cassell’s Biographical Dictionary of the American War of Independence, 1763-1783, Cassell and Company Ltd., London, 1966. ISBN 0-304-29296-6
  • Buchanan, John, The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The Revolution In The Carolinas.1997, John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 0-471-32716-6
  • Ramsay, David, The History of the American Revolution, Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1990 (first published 1789), Volume II
  • Rankin, Hugh F. (1971). The North Carolina Continentals. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-1154-8.
  • Russell, David Lee The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies 2000.
  • Ward, Christopher War of the Revolution 2 Volumes, MacMillan, New York, 1952

John Wise, pastor and political activist

August 15, 2014

 

 

John Wise was a Congregationalist reverend and political leader in Massachusetts during the American colonial period. Wise was noted for his political activism, specifically his protests against British taxation, for which he was once jailed[1] As the pastor of the Chebacco Parish from 1680 to his death in 1725, Wise lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts, often called “the birthplace of American independence.”

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John Wise home in Ipswich, Massachusetts

On August 15, 1652, Wise was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph and Mary (Thompson) Wise. Mary was daughter of Alice Freeman Thompson Parke.[2]

He attended the Roxbury Latin School, in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, graduating in 1669. He then was admitted to Harvard College (now Harvard University). After graduating from Harvard in 1673, he began studying theology, and preached in at Branford, Connecticut and Hatfield, Massachusetts. On August 12, 1683, Wise was ordained as the pastor of the newly organized Chebacco Parish, a new parish formed out of Ipswich.

In 1688, Wise led Ipswich citizens in a protest against royal governor, Edmund Andros and colonial taxation.[1][3] Andras took a hard-line position to the effect that the colonists had left behind all their rights as Englishmen when they left England. When in 1687 Wise rallied his parishioners to protest and resistant taxes, Andrus had him arrested, convicted and fined. As an Andros official explained, “Mr. Wise, you have no more privileges Left you then not to be Sold for Slaves.”[4]

Calvin Coolidge referred to him as one of the inspirations for the Declaration of Independence.[3] John Wise Avenue, a section of Route 133 in Massachusetts, is named after him. Liberty ship SS John Wise, launched on June 14, 1942 and scrapped in 1971, was also named after him.

On December 5, 1678, he married Abigail Gardner, granddaughter of Thomas Gardner (Roxbury). They had seven children:

  • Rev Jeremiah Wise[5][6](November 2, 1679 – January 20, 1756) married Mary Shipway
  • Lucy Wise (born c. 1681 – March 5, 1727) married John White
  • John Wise (born c. 1683 – August 31, 1762) married Mary Rogers
  • Mary Wise (May 12, 1685 – March 23, 1735/36)
  • Joseph Wise (February 16, 1686 – September 23, 1745) married Martha Appleton
  • Amni Ruhami Wise (born c. 1688 – July 6, 1749) married Mary Ringe
  • Henry Wise (born c. 1697 – November 12, 1775) married Mary Wade

Through his wife, Rev John was a great-uncle of President John Adams.

He died on April 8, 1725, at age 73, in Ipswich and is buried in the Old Graveyard at Essex, Massachusetts.

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Inscription on John Wise’s gravestone.

Notes

1. Fiske, 338

2. Roberts, GB #68 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: Notable Descendants of Mrs. Alice Freeman Thompson Parke, RD

3. Coolidge, C. (1926) The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence via calvin-coolidge.org

4. Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America (2001) p. 277

5. Rev. Jeremiah Wise graduated from Harvard in 1700 [1]

6. Maine Historical Society, p. 321

References

  • Colonial graduates
  • Cook, George Allan. John Wise: Early American Democrat. New York: Octagon Books, Inc, 1966, ©1952
  • familysearch.org
  • Fiske, John. The Beginnings of New England; Or, The Puritan Theocracy in Its Relations to Civil and Religious Liberty. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1902
  • Maine Historical Society. Collections of the Maine Historical Society. Portland, Me: Maine Historical Society, 1831

Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, The Carolina Gamecock

August 14, 2014

Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, The Carolina Gamecock

 

Thomas Sumter nicknamed the “Carolina Gamecock” (after his house was burned down and he went on a rampage of killing British soldiers), was a hero of the American Revolution and went on to become a longtime member of the Congress of the United States.

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Portrait c. 1795 by Rembrandt Peale

Thomas Sumter was born near Charlottesville in Hanover County, Virginia, on August 14, 1734. His father, William Sumter was an emigrant from Wales who operated a mill. Given a rudimentary education, Sumter enlisted in the Virginia militia, and served in the disastrous 1755 Braddock Expedition.

In 1761 Sumter was invited to join an expedition organized by Colonel Adam Stephen to visit the Overhill Cherokee (in present-day Tennessee) to verify that war with the Cherokee had actually ended in the Virginia backcountry. Stephen gave command of the expedition to Henry Timberlake, who volunteered for the assignment.[1] Timberlake was accompanied by Sumter (then a sergeant), an interpreter named John McCormack, and an unknown servant. The group purchased a canoe and 10 days’ worth of provisions with money Sumter had borrowed. The plan was to follow the Holston River to its confluence with the French Broad River, and then proceed to the Little Tennessee River, where the Overhill towns were situated.[2]

Timberlake’s party left Long Island on November 28, 1761. The Holston River’s unusually low water levels almost immediately stalled the journey as the party was forced to drag the canoe over exposed shoals and sandbars. The party ran out of provisions after several days, but McCormack managed to shoot a bear, supplying them with several days’ worth of meat. Around December 7, the party explored a stalactite-filled cave situated approximately 50 feet (15 m) above the river, and Timberlake described an incident in which Sumter swam nearly a half-mile in the near-freezing river waters to retrieve their canoe, which had somehow drifted away while they were exploring the cave.[3]

On December 13, the expedition reached a series of treacherous cascades that Timberlake called “Great Falls.” The party spent a whole day carefully maneuvering their way down the cascades only to find the Holston frozen over immediately downstream. The ice slowed the expedition’s progress, but rains on the night of December 14 thawed the ice, and the party passed through the mouth of the Holston (in modern Knoxville) into what is now the Tennessee River on December 15.[4]

The deeper waters of the Tennessee River allowed the expedition to proceed much more quickly. A hunting party led by the Cherokee chief Slave Catcher met the expedition near the mouth of the Little Tennessee River, and supplied the weary expedition with provisions of “dried venison, homminy, and boiled corn.”[5] The following day, Slave Catcher guided the expedition up the Little Tennessee, although the Timberlake party struggled to keep up, with Timberlake recalling, “my hands were so galled, that the blood trickled from them, and when we set out the next morning I was scarce able to handle a pole.”[5] The Timberlake party arrived in the Overhill town of Tomotley on December 20, where they were greeted by the town’s head man, Chief Ostenaco.[6]

After spending several days in Tomotley as guests of Ostenaco, they proceeded to the Overhill mother town of Chota, where a number of chiefs had gathered in the town’s large council house. Ostenaco gave a speech and ceremoniously buried a hatchet in the ground, symbolizing a state of peace between the English and the Cherokee. Afterward, Timberlake partook in a ceremony in which he smoked several peace pipes with the gathered chiefs, a practice Timberlake personally found “very disagreeable,” but participated without openly complaining.[7]

The party continued southward to Citico, where Timberlake was greeted by a ceremonial dance involving some 400 Cherokee. Timberlake recalled that the dancers were “painted all over in a hideous manner” and that they “danced in a very uncommon figure.”[8] The town’s chief, Cheulah, presented Timberlake with a string of beads and held another pipe-smoking ceremony. The non-stop pipe smoking made Timberlake so sick that he “could not stir for several hours.”[9] The following day, Timberlake and Ostenaco traveled to Chilhowee, the second southernmost of the Overhill towns on Timberlake’s map, where the town’s chief, Yachtino, held a peace procession similar to that at Citico.

The assignment largely completed, the party returned to Tomotley with Ostenaco on January 2, 1762. Timberlake spent the next few weeks studying Cherokee habits and making notes for his map of the Overhill country. At the end of January, rumors began trickling in from Cherokee scouts of renewed hostilities with rival tribes to the north. Although the rumors turned out to be based on a misunderstanding, Timberlake nevertheless grew anxious and begged Ostenaco to guide him back to Virginia. Ostenaco reluctantly agreed, and the party set out on March 10, 1762. Just before departure, Timberlake witnessed the ceremonial return of a war party led by Chief Willinawaw. The party sang “the war-song” and planted a scalp-filled pole next to the council house door.[10]

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Portrait of Ostenaco by Sir Joshua Reynolds

The Timberlake party had decided to make the return trip overland, having purchased horses from the Cherokee. Ostenaco, accompanied by several hundred Cherokee warriors, guided the Timberlake group northward across what is now known as the Great Indian Warpath, which follows the western base of the Appalachian Mountains. On March 11, the party arrived at the abandoned village of Elajoy along the Little River in what is now Maryville, and crossed the French Broad River the following day. A week later, they reached Fort Robinson, which the Stephen garrison had abandoned but had left behind a large supply of flour. The expedition left Long Island on March 22, continuing northward to an abandoned army camp where Timberlake was despaired to find that a trunk containing his belongings had been looted. The party finally arrived in Williamsburg in early April.[11]

While in Williamsburg, Timberlake and Ostenaco attended a dinner party at William & Mary College at which Ostenaco professed his desire to meet the king of England. Although he feared the trip would break him financially, Timberlake agreed. In May 1762, Timberlake, Sumter, and three distinguished Cherokee leaders, including Ostenaco, departed for London.[12]

Arriving in early June, the Cherokee were an immediate attraction, drawing crowds all over the city. The poet Oliver Goldsmith waited for three hours to meet the Cherokee, and offered a gift to Ostenaco.[13] They sat for Sir Joshua Reynolds to take their portraits,[14] and they met personally with King George III.[15] The Cherokee returned to North America with Sergeant Sumter on about August 25, 1762.[16]

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Statue of Thomas Sumter on the courthouse lawn, Sumter, South Carolina

Upon returning to the colonies, Sumter became stranded in South Carolina due to financial difficulties. He petitioned the colony of South Carolina for reimbursement of his travel expenses, but was denied, and was subsequently imprisoned for debt in Virginia. When his friend and fellow soldier Joseph Martin arrived in Staunton, Virginia, Martin asked to spend the night with Sumter in jail. Martin gave Sumter 10 guineas and a tomahawk. Sumter used the money to buy his way out of jail in 1766.[17] When Martin and Sumter were reunited some 30 years later, Sumter repaid the money.[18]

Sumter settled in Stateburg in the High Hills of Santee in the Claremont (later Sumter) district, now Sumter County. He married the widow Mary Jameson in 1767, and together they opened several small businesses and became successful plantation owners. Due to his wealth and the respect in the community, he was able to form a local militia group.

In February 1776, he was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Regiment of the South Carolina Line of which he was later appointed Colonel. He subsequently was appointed Brigadier General of the South Carolina militia, a post he held until the end of the war. He participated in several battles in the early months of the war, including the campaign to prevent an invasion of Georgia. Perhaps his greatest military achievement was his partisan campaigning that contributed to the decision by Lord Cornwallis to leave the Carolinas for Virginia, where Cornwallis met his fate at Yorktown in October 1781.

He acquired the nickname, “The Carolina Gamecock” during the American Revolution for his fierce fighting tactics, regardless of his size. A British General commented that Sumter “fought like a gamecock”, and Cornwallis paid him the finest tribute when he described the Gamecock as his greatest plague.[19]

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Thomas Sumter – plaque at the South Carolina statehouse

After the Revolution, Sumter served as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from March 4, 1789 to March 4, 1793 and from March 4, 1797 to December 15, 1801 when he was elected a U. S. Senator to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Charles Pinckney. Sumter served in the Senate until his retirement on December 16, 1810.

Sumter died on June 1, 1832 at South Mount, his home near Stateburg, South Carolina, at the age of 97 years.

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Gravesite of Thomas Sumter

The town of Sumter, South Carolina, wherein his memorial is located, and Sumter County, South Carolina were named for him. The town of Sumter is even dubbed “The Gamecock City” after his nickname. “Gamecock” is one of the several traditional nicknames for a native of South Carolina.

The University of South Carolina’s official nickname is the “Fighting Gamecocks,” though since 1903 the teams have been simply known as the “Gamecocks.”

In addition, Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor was named for Sumter after the War of 1812. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.

Sumter and his actions served as one of the sources for the fictional character of Benjamin Martin in The Patriot, a motion picture released in 2000.

References

  1. Henry Timberlake, Samuel Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 1756-1765 (Marietta, Georgia: Continental Book Co., 1948), 38-39
  2. Robert Bass, Gamecock: The Life and Campaigns of General Thomas Sumter (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1961), 9
  3. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 41-48
  4. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 49-54
  5. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 56
  6. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 57-58
  7. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 59-61
  8. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 63
  9. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 65
  10. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 109-113
  11. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 118-129
  12. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 130-133
  13. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 136
  14. St James Chronicle, July 3, 1762
  15. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 143-144
  16. Timberlake, Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 145-147
  17. Henry Timberlake, Duane King (ed.) The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake: The Story of a Soldier, Adventurer, and Emissary to the Cherokees, 1756-1765. UNC Press, xxvii
  18. General Joseph Martin, A Forgotten Pioneer (1740–1848), Gordon Aronhime, rootsweb.ancestry.com
  19. John Buchanan, The Road to Guilford Courthouse, 393

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