Outnumbered patriots defeat Loyalists at the Battle of Shallow Ford

October 14, 2014



The Battle of Shallow Ford was an American Revolution skirmish that took place on October 14, 1780, in Huntsville, North Carolina. A company of 600 Loyalist militia, led by Colonel Gideon Wright and his brother Captain Hezikiah Wright, were attempting to cross the Yadkin River to join General Cornwallis in Charlotte. Colonel Joseph Williams gathered 300 Patriot militia and laid an ambush at the ford.

A short battle followed, with the Patriot forces winning decisively. The Loyalist militia became scattered and fled.[1] Fifteen casualties were reported, fourteen Loyalists and one Patriot, Henry Francis, a captain in the Virginia militia. A tombstone at the site of the skirmish honors Francis.[2] The Big Poplar Tree, a landmark at the site, is believed to have been shot out during the battle.[3]


The battle shares its name with a play written by Ed Simpson, a native of nearby Lewisville.


  1. One Heroic Hour at King’s Mountain, by Pat Alderman, Page 68
  2. “Marker to honor newly discovered hero,” Winston-Salem Journal article by Jay Woodruff, June 11, 1994
  3. The Heritage of Yadkin County, Frances Harding Casstevens, editor, page 24

Battle of Charlotte

September 26, 2014



The Battle of Charlotte was an American Revolutionary War battle fought in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 26, 1780. The battle took place at the Mecklenburg County Court House, which is now the site of the Bank of America tower at Trade and Tryon Streets in downtown Charlotte. An advance guard of General Charles Cornwallis’ army rode into town and encountered a well-prepared Patriot militia under the command of William R. Davie in front of the court house. A skirmish ensued in which George Hanger, leading the British cavalry, was wounded. The small Patriot force, which had not intended more than token resistance, withdrew north toward Salisbury upon the arrival of Cornwallis and the main army.


George Hanger, portrait by Thomas Beach

Pursuant to the British “southern strategy” for winning the American Revolution, British forces had captured Charleston, South Carolina early in 1780, and had driven Continental Army forces from South Carolina. Following his successful routing of a second Continental Army at Camden in August 1780, British General Lord Cornwallis paused with his army in the Waxhaws region of northern South Carolina. Believing British and Loyalist forces to be in control of Georgia and South Carolina, he decided to turn north and address the threat posed by the Continental Army remnants in North Carolina. In mid-September he began moving north toward Charlotte, North Carolina.

Cornwallis’ movements were shadowed by militia companies from North and South Carolina. One force under Thomas Sumter stayed back and harassed British and Loyalist outposts in the South Carolina backcountry, while another, led by Major William R. Davie, maintained fairly close contact with portions of his force as Cornwallis moved northward. Davie successfully surprised a detachment of Cornwallis’ Loyalist forces at Wahab’s Plantation on September 20, and then moved on to Charlotte, where he set up an ambush to harass Cornwallis’ vanguard.[3]

Charlotte was then a small town, with two main roads crossing at the town center, where the Mecklenburg County courthouse dominated the intersection. The southern facade of the courthouse had a series of pillars, between which a stone wall about 3.5 feet high had been constructed to provide an area that served as the local market.[1] Davie positioned three rows of militia at and north of the courthouse, with one behind the stone wall, and placed cavalry companies on the east and west sides of the courthouse, covering the roads leading away in those directions. Finally, he put a company of 20 men behind a house on the southern road, where he was expecting the British advance.[1]

As his column approached Charlotte, Cornwallis would normally have sent Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his British Legion to investigate the town. However, Tarleton was ill, so Cornwallis gave the assignment to Tarleton’s subordinate, Major George Hanger, an impetuous young Englishman from an aristocratic family.[4] Cornwallis ordered Hanger to cautiously enter the town and check for militia, which he expected to be in the area.[4]


William R. Davie, posthumous portrait by Charles Willson Peale

Contrary to Cornwallis’ orders, Hanger and his cavalry blithely galloped into town. Even after the 20 men behind the house opened fire, Hanger’s men continued to ride on until he was met by heavy fire from the line of militia behind the stone wall.[1] When the first militia line maneuvered to make way for the second, Hanger misinterpreted their movement as retreat, and continued the charge. This brought him into a withering crossfire from the second line and the cavalry companies stationed to the east and west. Hanger went down with a wound, and his cavalry retreated in some disarray back to the Legion’s infantry.[5]

Cornwallis, alerted by the sound of battle, rode forward to assess the situation. Sarcastically calling out “you have everything to lose, but nothing to gain,” the earl ordered the legion forward once more.[5] By this time the main army’s light infantry had also begun to arrive, and Davie withdrew his forces.[5][3]

Hanger termed the incident “a trifling insignificant skirmish”, but it did clearly communicate to Cornwallis that he would have to expect further resistance.[5] Hanger then also fell ill, further disabling the effectiveness of Tarleton’s Legion. Instead of advancing on Hillsboro, Cornwallis occupied Charlotte.[5] His position was never entirely secure, because the Patriot militia interfered with any significant attempts to communicate with the countryside. Cornwallis’ left flank, commanded by Patrick Ferguson, was virtually destroyed in early October at Kings Mountain, and Cornwallis eventually withdrew to Winnsboro, South Carolina in November on reports of persistent Patriot militia activity in South Carolina.


  1. Wickwire, p. 198
  2. Pancake (1985), p. 84
  3. Pancake (1985), p. 116
  4. Wickwire, p. 196
  5. Wickwire, p. 199
  • Lossing
  • Pancake, John (1985). This Destructive War. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0817301917
  • Wickwire, Franklin and Mary (1970). Cornwallis: the American Adventure. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Alfred Moore, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

May 21, 2014



Alfred Moore was a North Carolina judge who became a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Moore Square, a park located in the Moore Square Historic District in Raleigh, North Carolina was named in his honor. Moore County, established in 1784, also in the state of North Carolina, is named in his honor.

Moore was born on May 21, 1755, in New Hanover County, North Carolina. Moore’s father, Maurice, preceded him in the practice of law and served as a colonial judge in North Carolina. Alfred was sent to Boston to complete his education, but he returned to North Carolina and read law as an apprentice to his father before being admitted to the bar at the age of twenty.


Portrait of Justice Alfred Moore. No artist information available.

In 1775 the American Revolution broke out and Alfred served as a captain in the First Regiment, North Carolina Line, of which his uncle, James Moore, was colonel, and took part in the defense of Charleston, S.C. in June 1776. He resigned in 1777, but served in the militia against Cornwallis after the Battle of Guilford Court House. The war was costly to the Moore family. British troops captured the Moore plantation and burned the family home, and Alfred’s father, brother, and an uncle were among those who served and died.

At the end of the war Moore was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly, which eventually elected him to serve as Attorney General; a position he held from 1782 to 1791. As Attorney General in 1787 he argued the State’s case in Bayard v. Singleton [I NC (Mart) 5], which as decided (against the State) became an important early instance of the application of judicial review. Moore was an ardent Federalist favoring a strong national government and he took a leading role in securing North Carolina’s ratification of the United States Constitution after the state had initially rejected it in 1788. After North Carolina’s admission to the Union as the 12th state, Moore worked as a lawyer, was active in political affairs, and served as a judge of the superior court in 1798 and 1799. [1] He served in the North Carolina State legislature, but lost by a single vote in his run for the United States Senate.

Moore was nominated by President John Adams to a seat vacated by James Iredell. Moore’s service was terminated on January 26, 1804, due to resignation.

In 1799, Associate Justice James Iredell died suddenly. On December 4, 1799, President Adams responded to the vacancy by nominating Moore, who was then confirmed by the United States Senate on December 10, 1799, receiving his commission the same day. At 4 feet 5 inches tall he is the shortest justice ever to sit on the Supreme Court and, due to poor health, Moore’s contribution to the court was abbreviated. In his five years of service he wrote only one opinion, Bas v. Tingy, upholding a conclusion that France was an enemy in the undeclared Quasi-War of 1798–1799. Moore’s scant contribution led one Court observer to place him atop a list of the worst justices in the history of the Court.[1]

In the early 1780s, he married Suzanne Eagles. After leaving the Supreme Court in 1804, he helped found the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He died in Bladen County, North Carolina, on October 15, 1810. Moore was buried at the St. Philip’s Church at Winnabow, North Carolina, near Wilmington.


The inscription on his gravestone reads:


His summer home, Moorefields, built around 1785 in Orange County, North Carolina near Hillsborough, still stands, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. Bernard Schwartz, “Ten Worst Supreme Court Justices”, A Book of Legal Lists (1997)

Brigadier General Jethro Exum Sumner, North Carolina patriot

March 18, 2014

Jethro Exum Sumner was a brigadier general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

Sumner was born in Virginia in 1733. He was active in the measures that preceded the Revolution, and in 1760 was paymaster of the provincial troops of North Carolina and commander at Fort Cumberland. He was also a commissioned officer in the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War. In 1776 he was appointed by the Provincial congress colonel of the 3rd North Carolina Regiment, and served under George Washington in the north. He was commissioned brigadier-general by the Continental Congress in 1779, was ordered to join General Horatio Gates in the south, and was at the Battle of Camden in 1780. He then served under General Nathanael Greene, and at the Battle of Eutaw Springs, September 8, 1781, made a bayonet charge, after which he was active in keeping the Tories in check in North Carolina until the close of the war.

Sumner was active after the war in the creation of North Carolina’s chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati, serving as its first president.


He died on March 18, 1785, in Warren County, North Carolina. Sumner County, Tennessee (originally part of North Carolina) was named for him.


Brigadier General William Lee Davidson, killed in action at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford

February 1, 2014

William Lee Davidson was a North Carolina militia general during the American Revolutionary War.


One of General Davidson’s pistols

His father moved with his family to Rowan County, North Carolina, in 1750, and William, the youngest son, born in 1746, was educated at Queen’s Museum (later Liberty Hall) in Charlotte.[1]

Active in the war from the beginning as adjutant to General Griffith Rutherford during the Snow Campaign in December 1775, he was promoted to major of the Fourth Regiment of the North Carolina line in 1776. He marched with the North Carolina line to the north and was at the Battle of Germantown, after which he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Fifth Regiment of the North Carolina line. At Valley Forge with Washington, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Daniel Morgan and others, he became friends with most of the influential military commanders in the Continental Line. Left without a command he had been ordered out for the purpose of preventing the British from crossing the Catawba. Griffith Rutherford appointed Davidson his second in command. Severely wounded at the Battle of Colson’s Mill on July 21, 1780, he did not participate in the Battle of Camden at which Rutherford was captured. Davidson was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Rutherford’s Salisbury District militia. He participated in resisting the entry of Lord Cornwallis into Charlotte in late September 1780. He was killed at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on February 1, 1781 while opposing the re-entry of Cornwallis into North Carolina. Davidson’s body was recovered after the battle and was buried at Hopewell Presbyterian Church located on Beatties Ford Road North of Charlotte.[2] [3] [4] [5] [6]


Congress voted $500 for a monument to him, but it has never been erected.[1]


  1. “Davidson, William”. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900
  2. William S. Powell, Ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill: 1991), Vol. 2, pp. 27-28
  3. Charles B. Baxley, “Battle of Cowan’s Ford”, SCAR, Vol. 3, No. 2, February 2006, p. 3
  4. Chalmers Davidson. Piedmont Partisan: The Life and Times of Brigadier General William Lee Davidson. Davidson: Davidson College, 1951
  5. O’Kelley, Patrick. Nothing but Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas: Volume Three 1781. Booklocker.com, 2005
  6. Muster Roll of 5th NC Division at Valley Forge

Private Isaac Garrison, survey companion of George Washington

January 28, 2014

Isaac Garrison was born in 1732 possibly in North Carolina. As listed in the DAR Patriot Index, Isaac was a recognized patriot in North Carolina during the Revolutionary period. He is on several tax lists for Surry County, North Carolina and also fought as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

Isaac married his first wife (name unknown) in about 1767 when he would have been 35 years old. They had 4 children: Sarah, Isaac, John, and Mary.

His first wife having died, Isaac was married to Martha (last name unknown) in about 1783 in Surry County, North Carolina. Isaac and Martha had 4 sons and 4 daughters. Only the sons’ names are known: David, Joseph, William, and James.

According to family tradition, Isaac Garrison knew George Washington in his youth and went with him on surveying trips. He is also said to have known Daniel Boone well and supposedly went with him on trips into the Kentucky Territory. It was a source of pride with him that he had come from the same generation as George Washington and Daniel Boone and had outlived both of them.

Isaac Garrison is believed to have first served in the North Carolina troops under either General Francis Nash or Col. Edward Buncombe. Their troops were from Surry, Wilkes, and other Northern counties of North Carolina. And their men served in the Battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777 and in the Battle of Germantown on Oct. 4, 1777. Both Nash and Buncombe were mortally wounded at Germantown along with six other officers. After the deaths of these two commanders, it is believed that their regiments combined to become the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment.

The Pennsylvania Archives do give record that Isaac Garrison served as a private in Joseph Howell’s Company, 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment from July 1, 1777 to August 1778 when it became Capt. Peter Gosner’s Company. This company served at Valley Forge under General Nathaniel Greene. He continued serving in this company until 1781.

After the Revolutionary War ended, Isaac Garrison was granted land in the Lick Creek area of Rowan and Surry County, North Carolina. He came to own 981 ½ acres of land in Surry County, North Carolina. This land became part of Stokes County in 1789. He sold the last of his North Carolina property in 1791, when he moved to Grayson County, Virginia. He moved back to Stokes County in 1795 but stayed only a short time.

He then went westward to Hawkins County in eastern Tennessee, where he bought land from John Cotteral in 1798. There he purchased 200 acres in Puncheon Camp Valley. Amazingly, he left Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1832 at the age of 100 and came to Missouri with his sons Joseph, James, and William. Joseph settled on the Dry Auglaze in what is now Camden County. The other two settled in Greene County, Missouri, in a place known as “The Rich Woods” on Finley Creek, northwest of the present site of Ozark. This is where the Richwood Cemetery got its name in later years.

After 4 years of living in southwest Missouri, Isaac Garrison died in 1836 in what was Greene County, Missouri and now is in Christian County. He was 104 years old at his death. His marker is in the southwest corner of the Richwood Cemetery.


Monument to Isaac Garrison

The monument currently at Isaac’s grave, was placed there by Jack Farthing of Ozark, Darrell Garrison, and other members of the Isaac Garrison Family Association in about 1976. The DAR marker was placed by the Meyongo Chapter of DAR from Buffalo in about 1990. About 20 Garrison descendants were present at that grave marking ceremony. Ozark Mountain Chapter SAR held a dedication service on November 19, 1994 (an SAR insignia had been placed at his grave several years earlier.)

Source: RootsWeb http://www.rootsweb.com/~moomcsam/garrison.html

Archibald Maclaine, North Carolina Federalist

December 9, 2013

By Jessica Lee Thompson, North Carolina History Project

An influential supporter of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Archibald Maclaine may have been even more influential if not for his defense of Tories within the state. One of the original trustees of the University of North Carolina, Maclaine was known for his belief in the law and order and for his willingness to stand in the minority for issues he supported.

Although his father was of Scottish decent, Maclaine was born in Banbridge, Ireland on December 9, 1728. As a young man, Maclaine worked as a mercantile apprentice until he moved to America at age twenty-one. Originally landing in Philadelphia in June 1750, Maclaine left for Cape Fear, North Carolina the following month. On November 6, 1752, Maclaine married Elizabeth (Polly) Rowan, the stepdaughter of acting governor (1753-1754), Matthew Rowan, in Wilmington.


Sketch of Archibald Maclaine by Henry Bone after Unknown artist (1807) courtesy National Portrait Gallery

Maclaine worked in Wilmington as a merchant but his business eventually failed when his partner, John Maclaine, died. Shortly afterward, Maclaine studied law, despite his alleged minimal formal education. Maclaine quickly became an influential barrister in the colony and was appointed as a clerk for the Supreme Court.

Although Maclaine greatly respected many of the political officials under the British crown (such as his stepfather, Matthew Rowan), Maclaine defended the Patriot cause early and opposed the government’s actions during the Stamp Act crisis. In 1774 Maclaine served on the committee that issued Wilmington residents’ call for a Provincial Congress, was elected to that congress in 1775 and 1776, and was a member of the Safety Committee in 1776. Also in 1776, Maclaine sat on the committee responsible for drafting the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Maclaine served a member of the General Assembly from 1780 to 18781 and again from 1783 to 1787. Maclaine was nominated twice to serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress but he refused the proposal both times.

While Maclaine clearly stood with the Patriot cause, he also faced political repercussions for his opinions on how North Carolina law should treat Tories and Loyalist. For instance, during an August 1782 session of court in Bladen County, Maclaine was assaulted while defending a loyalist in court. A North Carolina Continental officer, Robert Raiford, burst into the Bladen County Court House at the head of thirty men and provided testimony that clerk John White was rumored to be “a damned Tory.” Maclaine believed that Raiford was drunk and told the sitting justices that Raiford’s remarks were “highly derogatory to its [the court's] Dignity, and that Rayford should be reproved.” Raiford then attacked Maclaine with a “horseman’s sword” which led to a small riot in the courthouse that left Maclaine with serious injuries.

The mob beat the court clerk for no apparent reason and then moved the riot out into the street. After electing “field officers,” the mob marched around the county apprehending Loyalists without any orders from a higher commanding officer.

A warrant was issued for Raiford’s arrest, but he had returned to Maj. Gen. Greene’s army where he had been put in command of the light infantry. A year later, Raiford was brought to trial, but he was acquitted.

Maclaine also associated himself with the Tory cause spending time and political capital in an attempt to obtain a safe return to North Carolina for his stepson, George Hooper, who had fled the state at the onset of the war.

Maclaine backed North Carolina’s participation in a constitutional convention and in 1788 he served as a delegate to the Hillsborough convention. Maclaine supported adoption of the constitution and voted in the minority at the Hillsborough convention. Maclaine wrote pamphlets arguing in favor of the adoption of the constitution under the pen name, “Publicola.”

Maclaine passed away on December 20, 1790, at his home in Wilmington. His daughter and son-in-law, Catherine and George Hooper, inherited Maclaine’s estate with a bequest for his wife.


John R. Maass, “The Cure for All Our Political Calamities: Archibald Maclaine and the Politics of Moderation in Revolutionary North Carolina”, The North Carolina Historical Review 85 (July, 2008); William Powell ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography: Vol. 4 L-O (Chapel Hill, 1996).


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