HON. CHAS. B. AYCOCK
R. F. BEASLEY, ESQ.,
On the occasion of the unveiling of the
Colonial Column and the Monument
to Captain James Morehead, at
Guilford Battle Ground,
July 4, 1901.
THE GUILFORD BATTLE GROUND COMPANY,
GREFNS30R0, N. C
Digitized by tine Internet Arcinive
in 2010 witin funding from
Tine Library of Congress
HON. CHAS. B. AYCOCK
R. F. BEASLEY, ESQ.,
On the occasion of the unveiling of the
Colonial Column and the Monument
to Captain James Morehead, at
Guilford Battle Ground,
July 4, 1901.
THE GUILFORD BATTLE GROUND COMPANY,
GREENSBORO, N. C
PROGRAM OF THE ANNUAL CELEBRATION AT THE GUIL-
FORD BATTLE GROUND ON JULY THE FOURTH, 1901.
Procession will form on the Salisbury Road at 10:30 in the following order:
Dr. Charles L. Scott, Chief Marshall, and Assistants.
Orators of the Day, Chaplain, Master of Ceremonies and
Distinguished Guests in Carriages.
Directors and Stockholders of the Guilford Battle Ground
Procession when formed will move to the Grand Stand.
ORDER OF EXERCISES.
At the Pavillion.
Music by the Band— "The Old North State."
Prayer by the Chaplain, Dr. L. W. Crawford.
Oration— Governor Aycock.
Presentation of the Portrait of Joseph M. Morehead by the
Artist and Donor, David Clark, Esq.,
by Hon. Alfred M. Scales.
Response by Dr. Charles D. McIver.
Music — "The Star Spangled Banner."
Procession Reformed and March to the
Captain James Morehead Monument and the Colonial Column
Then to be Unveiled.
Adjourn to Dinner.
Reassemble at Pavillion at 2:30 p. m.
Music by Band.
Oration on the Battle of Elizabethtown by
R. F. Beasley, Esq.
Grand Concert by Proximity Band.
JAMES W. FORBIS, Master of Ceremonies.
The stress of public duties preventing- Governor Aycock
from giving- us a copy of his address for publication, the fol-
Ji lowing extracts from the press are inserted.
The Biblical Recorder, July 10, 1901.
At only one place in North Carolina so far as we know, was the fourth
of July— the birthday of Independence— appropriately observed. That was
on the Guilford battlefield — a worthy place indeed. There a monument
to virtue and and heroism and the spirit of independence was unveiled;
and Governor Aycock and Editor Rowland F. Beasley delivered addresses.
North Carol iua Christian Advocate, July 10, 1901.
THE GUILFORD BATTLE GROUND CELEBRATION,
During the colonial period and the Revolutionary War North Carolina
was the theatre on which many heroic deeds were enacted and many
places within her bounds were made sacred by the valor of her sons.
* * *
The Guilford Battle Ground Company has wisely set apart the fourth
of July, the birth of our Nation, as the time for the annual celebration of
the battle of Guilford Court House. It has become a day and an occasion
that are looked forth to with great interest and every year thousands of
people repair hither to commemorate the deeds of the noble men who fought
in the Revolutionary war and who met and vanquished the enemy on that
In some particulars the exercises on last Thursday were more interest-
ing than on any previous occasion.
Hon. Charles B. Aycock, Governor of the State, was the principal
orator, while Mr. R. F. Beasley, Prof M. H. Holt and President Chas. D.
Mclver made appropriate addresses. It is the first time in the history of
the Association when two granite monuments were unveiled at one time.
One of these commemorates the last battle of the Revolutionary war fought
within the borders of the State in September, 1781. The other an impos-
ing Colonial Column with four large shields on its sides, sets forth the
State's history from May, 177 1, to April, 1776, the most heroic period in
the history of the Commonwealth.
Too much cannot be said in praise of the men who have done so much
to make prominent this historic place and draw to it year after year many
of the best people of the State where is kindled anew in their bosoms the
fires of patriotism.
We commend their example to others.
% » *
Greensboro Patriot, Wednesday, July 10, 1901.
THE GLORIOUS FOURTH.
The Battle Ground Celebration— Speeches by Governor Aycock
and Mr. Beasley.
The annual celebration at the Guilford Battle Ground last Thursday
attracted a great many people, who greatly enjoyed the exercises of the
day. The principal events of the day were an address by Governor
Aycock on the colonial history of North Carolina, and one by R. F. Beas-
* * *
The Governor spoke of the struggles which went on from the earliest
settlement of North Carolina until the people wrested their freedom from
British tyranny and oppression. He said while in other sections of Amer-
ica the struggle for liberty was usually begun by the leaders, in North
Carolina it was the masses who first took up the fight for individual rights,
maintaining the struggle until their representatives were instructed to de-
clare for independence of Great Britain. The first blood of the Revolu-
tion was spilled on North Carolina soil, at the battle of Alamance, and the
Regulators, who stood there against foreign oppression were not lawbreak-
ers, though they were fierce. But for Alamance, declared the Governor,
North Carolina would not have been the first State to pronounce the
Declaration of Independence.
In closing his speech the Governor made a strong plea for education,
saying this was the only way of maintaining the liberty laequeathed by the
* * *
Governor Aycock was followed by Mr. R. F. Beasley, editor of the
Monroe Journal, formerly editor of the Greensboro Telegram, who deliv-
ered a learned and scholarly address on the battle of Eiizabethtown, which
was fought in Bladen county in September, 1781. This is a portion of im-
portant North Carolina history of which little is known, and Mr. Beasley's
address displayed much thought and patient research.
After the speaking the beautiful Colonial Column and the monu-
ment to Capt. James Morehead were unveiled with appropriate cere-
monies. The Colonial Column is the first monument erected to the mem-
ory of the men who fought at Alamance and who made memorable the few
years just preceding that battle.
* * * ,
A pleasing incident of the celebration was the presentation by Mr. D.
L. Clark, the High Point artist, of a very fine oil piintmg of Maj. Joseph
M. Morehead, the indefatigable vice-president of the Guilford Battle
Ground Company. The presentation speech was made by Prof. M. H.
Holt, of Oak Ridge. The painting was accepted by Dr. Charles D. Mc-
Judge Schenck, the venerable president of the Guilford Battle Ground
Company, was too feeble to attend the exercises.
The Battle of Elizabethtown
By R. F. BEASLEY.
Speech delivered on the occasion of the Annual Celebration at
the Guilford Battle Ground^ f^i^y 4-, i^oi.
Ladies and Gentlemen:—
In the large gathering here to-day, in the great speech of
your Governor to which you have just listened, and in the
ceremony which you are yet to witness, a stranger must read
the signs of an auspicious day in North Carolina, a day when
the actions and motives of a virtuous people are not only vin-
dicated, but honored in the unveiling of a beautiful structure
of granite with its sides emblazoned with tablets of living
letters which fitly tell a story of glory more imperishable than
the bronze and adament upon which 'tis written. This day is
more auspicious than the similar ones that have gone before,
because it is the culmination of the things we have done be-
fore. To-day, for the first time, we extend the circle of our
endeavors and bring within its scope some men whose deeds
have not only been too much unhonored and unsung, but who
have actually been regarded by some of our so-called histo-
rians as extremely suspicious characters.
On any day some fifteen years ago, if a traveler had been
venturesome enough to attempt to pass the tangle of the "Old
Salisbury road" he might have seen somewhere on this field a
stoutly-made man, robust in body and with a strong face, de-
noting remarkable mental activity, busily engaged with a
score of laborers in clearing underbrush, measuring distances,
marking lines or laying out avenues. That man you all know.
It was Judge David Schenck, to-day the honored president of
your company, and he has nobly served you, not only in the
work done on this field, but in the writing of a book of sledge-
hammer facts and logic which has forever swept away an un-
worthy charge against North Carolina's honor.
But upon this field again could have been seen the figure
of another worker'; it was upon a spot in front of where I now
stand, midway between Greene's Virginia militia and his Con-
tinental troops, and it was but the i6th of last May — the fig-
ure was that of Major Joseph M. Morehead*, who was busily
engaged in completing the turfing around yon grand Colonial
Column, perhaps the handsomest monument in the State and
one of the handsomest anywhere. To that tireless citizen of
Greensboro we owe that great achievement in monument
building and also to him do we owe the fact that after a cen-
tury and a quarter of either obscurity or misrepresentation,
the Regulators and their motives and the consequences of
their actions are understood and properly published to the
worldt. I have said that to-day we have enlarged the scope
of our celebration. Do you know that upon this good day,
we are enabled to properly celebrate upon this field the first
battle of the Revolution, the first American victory in that
war, one of the decisive battles, and the last engagement on
the soil of our State — Alamance, Moore's Creek, Guilford
Court House and Elizabethtown ? The work of the two gen-
tlemen whom I have named represents the beginning and the
realization of the possibility of this day. That is why I say
this hour is doubly auspicious. What reflections must crowd
upon the minds of the patriotic citizens gathered here to-day!
Who has not asked himself the question, "Why do we
build monuments ? " And who of the many visitors that come
to this place from Maine to California do not look upon the
shafts here and ask themselves why it all is.? Is it for the
dead that we build .? What care these heroes whose bones
sleep on forgotten fields whether their names be written on
brass or marble ?
"Can storied urn or animated bust,
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath ? "
Why should it not be said of each that —
"We carved not a line,
And we raised not a stone,
But left him alone in his glory ? "
Ah, we make statues and write history that the glorious
dead may yet speak to the living ; that those whose deeds
have wrought good to race or country may bring their mes-
sage to us as they gave it to their contemporaries, thus being
* It should not be inferred that this was Major Morehead's first service
in this cause. Since its incipiency he has been, year in and year out, tire-
less in the cause of the Guilford Battle Ground, spending his money, time
and labor freely in its behalf His last work is but the crownmg effort of
f Major Morehead is the author of a most reliable historical pamphlet,
here referred to — "James Hunter, General of the Regulators."
"heirs of all the ages," we have before our eyes for emulation
the cumulative virtue and wisdom of the centuries. We build
monuments for the honor of the past, for the inspiration of the
present, and for the protection of the future. Monument-
making is an ethical force. It is ethical, because, in North
Carolina, at least, we build only to the great or the good, and
their virtues are thus inculcated in the young. "The portraits
and statues of the honored dead," says Edward Everett,
"kindle the generous ambition of the youthful aspirants to
fame. Themistocles could not sleep for the trophies in the
Ceramicus; and when the living Demothenes had ceased to
speak the stony lips remained to rebuke and exhort his de-
generate countrymen. We can never look on the portrait of
Washington, but his serene and noble countenance, perpetu-
ated by the chisel and the pencil, is familiar to far greater
multitudes than ever stood in his living presence, and will be
thus familiar to the latest generations." Macauley's lone fish-
erman may one day mend his nets upon the deserted banks
of the Thames, but when will the picture of Good Queen Bess
riding among her small band of sailors and exhorting them to
hurl back the all-powerful Spanish Armada fade from the
mind of the race that would esteem heroic action ? Some day
we may cease to hear the throb of the war drum, but when
shall we cease to point proudly to the record of a warrior like
Robert E. Lee and glory in his unblemished character, his
tender sympathy, his knightly courage, his gallant bearing
and his unswerving devotion ^ When Napoleon bade his sol-
diers remember that from the pyramids forty centuries looked
down upon them, he voiced the fact that the greatest incen-
tive to noble action in the present is the desire to be worthy
of the noble actions of the past.
What father, as he passes over this battlefield, will not
strive harder to instil into his son's mind and heart the lessons
of virtue and patriotism which here open so abundantly before
him ? Let the youth of our land be brought to spots like
these and be taught the love of country and devotion to the
public good, the majesty of liberty and the sacredness of law,
the greatness of unselfishness and the beneficence of high
ideals. At this shrine of patriotism let them drink in the fact
that they are of the present as these heroes were of the past ;
that to each lot some duty falls ; that none who shrink are
worthy, and that while no invading enemy is now threatening
and may never again threaten our country, there are daily
calls to duty, to unselfishness and devotion to the public good.
Let them understand that when from the fathers they inheri-
ted the freedom and glory of a great country they assumed
the obligation to transmit them undefiled. Infuse into them
these truths and you have a generation of men, who, when the
crises come, will meet them in whatever form presented as
the men of these hills met British invasion. Tell me not that
we cannot thus rear our youth, and tell me not that when so
reared they will be recreant to any public trust or liberty-
given responsibility. Tell me not that a people nurtured and
reared in the spirit of freedom will fail to act as that spirit
dictates when the na*^^ion comes, in its larger life, to the solu-
tion of questions which are thrust upon it as the freest and
grandest country on the globe, or that we shall extend our
ministrations to other peoples except as a benediction. The
freedom and greatness of our country are in the hearts of its
people as they were in the hearts of the heroes who sleep here,
and no earthly power can dislodge them. Then let us, de-
scendants of worthy sires, as we meet in the very shadows of
their glory, draw determination from their record and resolve
to do what duty and country demand of us, and not only
shall our country live, but its glory and blessings shall en-
compass the earth. There is no place in the economy of the
universe for selfishness, either in men or nations, and God
never opened the windows of heaven and showered so pro-
fusely his blessings upon this country that we might enjoy
them alone and do nothing for His creatures in the benighted
sections of the world. The idea that patriotism is enmity to
other nations is wrong. Rome died because her patriotism
became petrified into national and individual selfishness.
England lives to-day because she learned well the lesson
taught her on this very field, reversed her policy and became
a real mother to her colonies instead of a tyrant over them.
To-day the sun never sets on her possessions and the only
cords that bind them are those of love.
Standing to-day in the shadow of the past, recollecting
the sacred blood that has been consecrated to our country's
cause, and appreciating the dangers, responsibilities and op-
portunities of the present, I declare to you that we should not
look with pessimistic eye to the future of our country, but
should gaze upon its rising sun with hope, determinition and
To-day we meet principally to unveil the Colonial Col-
umn. This is a great event, for so late as the 12th of last
month a distinguished jurist and historian of this State was
able to say truthfully in a speech before the Teachers' Assem-
bly that so far nowhere had a monument in honor of Ala-
mance and the grand years just preceding the final outbreak
of the Revolution been unveiled. The same distinguished
citizen spoke earnestly for the perpetuation of our history by
means of the painter's brush and the sculptor's chisel. That
policy we are endeavoring to carry out here, and it is that
policy that must vivify our history and endear it to our peo-
ple who do not have the time or inclination to go to the
musty volumes of old print. In consonance with this policy I
am proud to inform you that not only do we to-day unveil the
Colonial Column, but another monument also. This is one
erected to the memory of Captain James Morehead of the
Tenth North Carolina Continental line, by Col. James T.
and Major Joseph M. Morehead and Capt. R. Percy Gray.
May their example of honoring a revolutionary kinsman be
followed by others.
I desire to ask this vast audience not to allow the lesser
event of the day to be swallowed up wholly in the greater,
and that you may not, I submit some remarks in connection
with the record of him to whom this monument is dedicated.
Of this true American whose memory is yet so dear to his
kinsmen that they, after a century, thus honor his name, we
know little. The men of his day were too busy laying the
foundations of our commonwealth to take time to write his-
tory, and, as is always true, the immediate descendants were
careless. All too many of even the names of gallant men of
that day have been forgotten. Many of the bravest of the
brave have no scratch of pen to tell of their services. To-day
in some obscure manuscript we see that a certain man of that
time did a valiant deed for his country, worthy of immortal
renown, and to-morrow we see that he fell and was buried in
an unmarked grave, and that is all that we may find recorded.
Captain James Morehead was born in 1750 and died in
181 5, and his bones probably rest in the old family burying
ground in Richmond county. Tradition says that he
was a "thin, tall man, of mild and amiable temper," and
he was a bachelor. We know that he was appointed
lieutenant in the Tenth North Carolina Continental
Line on March 23, 1779, and that he subsequently became
captain. He went to South Carolina with the nine-months
men under Sumner, and was in the battle of Stono, near
Charleston, June 20, 1779, and that he was in the battle of
Elizabethtown in Bladen county in 1781. We also know that
Captain Morehead stood high in the estimation of his coun-
trymen after the war, because he represented his county in the
General Assembly about 1797. In those days only the wisest
men and those of the highest character were sent to the Leg-
islature, and it was not unusual for retired governors, sena-
tors, foreign ambassadors and judges, of the greatest note to
be sent time and again to represent their counties in the Leg-
islature. The very next monument that should be erected
upon this field should be to the distinguished soldier, states-.
man, diplomat and member of the Legislature, William R.
Davie, and then will be completed a set of tablets to that gal-
lant quartette who fought together — Sumner, Dixon, More-
head and Davie.
I digress here a moment to heartily congratulate Major
Morehead on his adoption of the particular forms, or designs of
the two memorials about to be unveiled. The first is a solid
granite, a tent 5x5x5 feet in length, breadth and height and
weighs about ten thousand pounds. This form, so far as I
know, is absolutely unique and its selection for a stone upon
this famous battle field, is strikingly appropriate for
"On fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread."
I have said that Captain Morehead was in the remarkable
battle of Elizabethtown, and in that gallant struggle I am
sure he bore an important part. Unfortunately we have had
no adequate history of this action of vast importance, not be-
cause of the number engaged, but on account of the valor of
the patriot band and of the results attained. In keeping with
the idea that addresses on the annual celebration here shall
be of historic interest, I shall attempt to give you a short ac-
count of this struggle. The time at my disposal has not been
sufficient to allow me to master the details of the fight, as I
hope to do later and to publish for their intrinsic worth, but
by the aid of Colonel Hamilton McMillan, of Red Springs, a
gentleman who has engaged much in patriotic research, I am
enabled to give the general facts relative thereto. This was
one of the most important of the many struggles that oc-
curred in our State between the Whigs and Tories, and as
King's Mountain and Ramsour's Mill previously had para-
lyzed Tory spirit in the West, so this action freed a large sec-
tion in the east from the most galling of Tory oppression.
During the Revolution North Carolina patriots were con-
stantly called upon to be prepared to repel invasion of their
own State, to help their sister States, to furnish levies for the
Continental armies, and to keep down disaffection at home.
Added to these they were compelled to make subsistence for
themselves and their families on their farms and to largely or
wholly supply the armies. The East particularly suffered,
especially during the time our troops were engaged with the
enemy in South Carolina and in the repelling invasion in the
West. At the time of [the battle of Elizabethtown, though
Cornwallis had left the State for Virginia, the British were in
possession of Wilmington, and the Tories held Fayetteville.
Some idea of the general state of the country may be had at
this time when the patriotic troops had left the State to rescue
South Carolina and Georgia when it is remembered that a
band of Tories boldly went to Hillsboro and captured Gover-
nor Burke and his council and other officials and carried them
as prisoners to Wilmington. The eastern country was
harassed beyond measure by the British from Wilmington
and the Tories of the section acting under their protection.
These eastern counties had an unusually large per cent, of
loyalists, and no doubt many real friends of liberty were ter-
rorized into activity. That section was filled with Scotch of
very recent immigration. These Scotch had as an alterna-
tive to remaining in Europe and suffering the penalties of
treason to the British crown, come to America. They natur-
ally enough had quite a wholesome dread of England's power.
Besides they naturally doubtless had absolutely no confidence
in the ability of the people to govern themselves, nor had
they had the taste of freedom and the self reliance born of
having been in America for one or nearly two hundred years.
They constituted the Tory army to Moore's Creek Bridge.
I have made the following extracts from letters and docu-
ments written in the year 1781 to show the distressed condi-
tion of the lower counties and their subjection to and perse-
cution by the British and Tories. These will also be seen to
bear out the truthfulness of the story of the battle which I
shall read you :
Colonel Thos. Brown to General Lillington, from Elizaheth-
town, February 19th:
"I enclose you Colonel Emmett's letter to inform you
how infamously the Newbern district hath behaved, and, I am
told, chiefly on account of Capt. Thomas. I will guard the
river on account of the baggage and as far as lies in my pow-
er, but the greatest part of the people in this count)'- is en-
gaged back against the Tories, and seems very loath to go
against the British and leave their families exposed to a set
of villains who daily threaten their destruction."
Captain Geo. Doherty to General Sumner, from Duplin, June
*T embrace the opportunity of Colonel Kenan's going to
the Assembly to inform you that the tumults in this part of
the country have been the cause of the draft and everything
relative thereto, being, I suppose, later and more out of order
here than in any other section of the State. We have at pres-
ent some little respite from the cursed Tories, but cannot say
that they are entirely subdued. The draft was made in Dup-
Hn, but the more than half of them have been among the
Tories or the so disaffected that they will not appear. The
number that we ought to have here is about 70 men and there
is not yet above 24 appeared and about 20 from Onslow. The
men have been so harassed by being kept in arms, that here-
tofore they could not attend to providing the clothing re-
quired by law, and without clothing the troops cannot march,
as not one among them has got a second change and some
have hardly dudds to cover them."
General Sumner to General Greene, from Camp, July 25th:
"Major Craig at Wilmington continues his ravages for 30
or 40 miles up the Cape Fear with little or no opposition.
His Excellency, the Governor, a few days since, sent me or-
ders to march all the drafts collected to Duplin county, but
sir, it was so incompatible with my orders and at that time I
was not joined by Major Dixon with the Hillsboro drafts,
neither has those from Edenton come up."
General Drayton to Governor Burke, 12 miles from Cross
Creek, July 6th :
"Craig, as I have already mentioned, has ordered the
men of Bladen county to be in arms by such a time and it is
supposed for establishing posts at Elizabeth and Cross Creek.
Out of fifteen companies in the county I am informed 12 in-
cline for Craig. Still there are a number of men not wanting
that are willing to endeavor to prevent such step of the enemy
proceeding, but sir, they are at a loss for a head."
Colonel Kenan to Governor Burke, from Duplin, July 6th:
"I hope your excellency will order assistance to this part
of the country, otherwise good people here will be under the
necessity of giving up in order to save their property if possi-
ble, but this will be the last step taken."
Colonel Kenan to Governor Burke, from Duplin, July 9th :
"I am much afraid the enemy will penetrate into this
county before we shall receive any re-inforcement, as I am
told Colonel Linton is ordered to the westward. I hope your
excellency will be mindful of this distressed part of the coun-
Isaac Williams to General Caswell, from Cape Fear, July
"I have heard nearly the same as 1 wrote you before,
that there is between two and five hundred of the Tories on
or near the Raft embodied. We had a muster on
Monday last, when the third and fourth number was ordered
to meet in order to march after the Tories, but there was
neither officers nor men met, only eight or ten. The colonel
never came at all"
Colonel Jno. Kenan to Governor Burke, July 15th :
"The enemy has moved out of Wilmington up to the
Long Bridge and are rebuilding, it is said by several gentle-
men who have left the town. Their intention is to give no
more paroles and will sell every man's property who will not
join them and become British subjects."
Colonel Kenan to Governor Burke, from Duplin, August 2nd :
"I am now convinced that this county with several oth-
ers will be over-run with the British and Tories."
General Greene to Governor Burke, from Headquarters on the
Santee, August 12th:
, "I perfectly agree with you in opinion that the best way
of silencing the Tories is by routing the enemy from Wil-
mington, for while they have footing there the Tories will re-
ceive such encouragement as to keep their hopes and expec-
tations alive, and their incursions will be continued. Nor will
it be in your power to crush them with all the force you can
raise, as they act in small parties, and appear in so many
different shapes, and have so many different hiding places and
secret springs of intelligence that you may wear out an army
and still be unable to subdue them."
This was the deplorable state of affairs when the action
of Elizabethtown occurred on the 29th of September, 1781.
Wheeler says that the battle was fought some time in July,
without giving a definite date, and that the Whigs were com-
manded by General Brown. Both of these statements are
wrong. Honorable Hamilton McMillan has proven conclu-
sively that the fight occurred September 29th and that the
leader was Colonel Thomas Roberson. Mr. McMillan has
kindly procured for me a perfectly authenticated manuscript
written in 1845 by Robert E. Troy, a prominent lawyer of his
day, living in Lumberton. The manuscript was written at
the dictation of James Cain, a Revolutionary veteran who was
in the battle which he describes. By the aid of Mr. McMillan,
I think every statement of this account, witli the exception of
an immaterial one, can be proven true, and since it is entirely
unknown to North Carolinians, and as it gives a very graphic
account of the battle, I cannot do better than to read it to
you, in lieu of any transcription of its facts.
Copy of a letter written by Robert E. Troy, Esq., to The
Fayetteville Observer, March 12, 1845, telling of an interview
with James Cain, of Bladen county, N. C, a Revolutionary
veteran, who relates the history of the battle of Elizabethtown,
fought September 29, 1781 :
LUMBERTON, N. C, March 12, 1845.
Dear Sir : It has been a matter of regret that the events
of the revolutionary war in North Carolina, while they exhib-
ited some of the most" brilliant feats of daring and chivalrous
courage which distinguished that contest with the mother
country, have almost entirely escaped the notice of the histo-
rians who have attempted to transmit to posterity a record of
that interesting and eventful period. And who has not deep-
ly and painfully felt that regret, as some greyhaired veteran
of the Revolution, with all the interest and fidelity of an eye-
witness and a participant, narrated the particulars of some
bold adventure, or some wild and dangerous enterprise, when
bravery and conduct supplied the place of numbers, as he re-
flects that those acts, which, in the dark ages of knight-
errantry, would have won for those who were engaged in
them the highest glory, will soon pass into oblivion and be
forgotten forever .-'
Under the influence of such feelings as those, I have
taken the liberty of sending you the following account of the
"Battle of Elizabethtown " which I received in almost the very
words in which I have given it from one (perhaps the only
living witness) who was present and who fought bravely for
liberty on that and every other occasion, when fortune gave
him opportunity. It is impossible to hear him as he relates
with eloquence and truth, the trials, the dangers and priva-
tions of those dark and turbulent times and doubt for a mo-
ment the authenticity of his statement ; he speaks as one who
knows and feels — ''Quaeqiie ipse miserriina vidi, et quorum
magna pars fui.'"
Some time during the summer of 178 1 or 1782, my infor-
mant could not tell with certainty which, but he rather in-
clined to the belief that it was 1781, about 400 Tories under
Slingsby established their quarters at Elizabethtown and
about 500 more under Colonel Fanning four miles above at a
place called Brompton on the river. Both the leaders and
most of the men were "wicked Tories." There w,ere, however,
some true Whigs in principle who had been forced to take up
arms against their country, and who were called in the lan-
guage of that time "signed Tories."
From these two points they ravaged the country in every
direction, insulting and plundering the most respectable fam-
ilies, burning several private dwellings, wantonly destroying
a great quantity of valuable property and committing upon
the defenceless inhabitants outrages of the most horrible and
There were in the neighborhood i8o Whigs under the
command of Colonel Thomas Robeson, u'ho felt themselves
too weak to either attack the Tories in a body and avenge the
wrongs they daily suffered or to protect their homes from the
depredations of the remorseless marauders. Colonel Thomas
Brown, the regular commanding officer of the Whigs, had
been wounded a short time before in a skirmish with the Brit-
ish regulars near Wilmington, and was unable to continue in
active service. Colonel Robeson had no commission at that
time, (his former commission having expired) and he volun-
teered to take command at the request of Colonel Brown and
the Whigs generally, during the absence of that officer in
consequence of the wounds he had received. These i8o men
remained lurking in the swamps and thickets for three weeks,
hoping for reinforcements and watching for opportunities of
cutting off detached parties of Tories ; they could not, how-
ever, get a shot at a single Tory, nor did they obtain one re-
cruit. They then resolved to endeavor to enlist the feelings
of their fellow Whigs in the adjoining counties, and marched
through Duplin, Johnston, Wake, Chatham and the upper
corner of Cumberland. In these counties, though they found
many friends and were kindly received and hospitably enter-
tained at almost every place where they made their appear-
ance, and three general musters were called to supply them
with the necessary re-enforcements, yet they could not find a
man who was willing to join them and march against the
Tories. Such was the general consternation and so great was
the terror of the names of Fanning and Slingsby, that all men
so far from the scene of suffering chose rather to stay at home
and take care of themselves and families than thus, as they
conceived, to voluntarily throw themselves into the lion's
It was now six weeks since Colonel Robeson and his men
set out on their recruiting expedition, and when they returned
to Duplin (now Sampson) they found instead of having in-
creased their numbers, that, with those who had deserted and
those who had obtained leave of absence upon furlough, they
had only 71 men, all of the original company which had left
the Cape Fear. They were all mounted and all had guns,
but many of their horses were worn to the bone, and in all
the bones seemed to stick through the skin. The knees, el-
bows and shoulders of a great many of the men were exposed
and some had not even a change of clothes. In that plight,
worn out and dispirited, they arrived at the house of Gabriel
Holmes, a true Whig and a fervent friend of liberty. Here
Colonel Robeson announced to his little band his determina-
tion to return home and disperse the Tories or perish in the
attempt, and called upon all who were willing to go with him
in this desperate undertaking to step forward. At the word
every man advanced but one. They had been occasionally
informed during their route by messengers going and return-
ing between this patriotic band and their homes, that the
Tories had grown every day more bold and unscrupulous by
impunity and that their outrages and insults had become
literally intolerable. These 70 men, scantily supplied with
ammunition, without clothes and without provisions, and
broken down with a long march, set out early one morning to
give battle to the same 400 whom they felt too weak to en-
counter when they had three times their present number and
were all fresh and well supplied with provisions and all neces-
saries of war. After a forced march of two days through a
country laid waste and deserted or only occupied by a few
unfriendly inhabitants, they reached the bank of the river
opposite the village of Elizabethtown undiscovered about
dusk on the evening of the 28th of September. Since they
left the house of Mr. Holmes the men had not eaten one
morsel of anything whatever and the horses had only eaten
what grass they could get as they halted along the road two
or three times during the march to rest them and let them
graze. Having reached the river, they again halted to take a
few hours repose, and wait for the hour of attack. The moon
shown nearly all night; just as she was going down about an
hour before day, they again put themselves in motion. One
man was left to take care of the horses. Sixty-nine undressed
and waded the river. The water was "breast deep." They
then resumed their clothes and prepared their guns for action.
The men were separated into three companies, 25 men in
each, and with the stillness of death they approached the
Tory quarters from three directions at a time. The signal for
attack was to be the first gun that was fired by a Tory sen-
tinel ; the orders were then to pay no attention to the sen-
tinels, but at the discharge of the first gun, which was to be
the signal of attack, each party was to rush up, and at the
command of its leader, fire right into the midst of the Tories.
My informant was in the party which was first hailed by the
sentinel. "Stand; who goes there .'^" was repeated three
times, but the little band of twenty-three men continued stead-
ily and silently advancing, like a dark shadaw, without pay-
ing the least attention to the summons. The sentinel then
fired his gun into the air and instead of retreating to the main
body fled into the woods. In an instant the Whigs poured
into the midst of the alarmed and unprepared Tories a volley
which threw them into complete disorder. It was now per-
fectly dark, nothing could be seen but the constant flash of
the Whig guns and the half- naked Tories as they sprang from
their slumbers and rushed to and fro in every direction, seek-
ing some place of refuge from the devouring wrath of their
adversaries. The watch-word was "Washington" and as it
was shouted from man to man and from rank to rank among
the Whigs, completed the panic and consternation which the
first discharge of the Whigs had begun, and the unhappy
Tories conceived that the "Father of his Country," with all
his host, was upon them, and that they were surrounded and
that nothing remained but for every man to be presently cut
to pieces. Most of them plunged headlong into the deep
ravine which has since been called the "Tory Hole" and the
rest ran for their lives into the neighboring thickets and none
of them stopped until they had placed many miles between
them and the terrible visitors who had so unceremoniously
disturbed their rest on that awful night.
When the battle was over and the Tories were complete-
ly dispersed the day had just dawned. Seventeen of the
Tories, among them their leader, Colonel Slingsby, were left
dead on the field. Not one of the Whigs was killed and but
four wounded, who were William Glover, Matthew White,
James Singletary and James Cain. The Whigs then supplied
themselves with what arms and ammunition they could carry
and returned in triumph to the other side of the river, and
marched across Colly Swamp where they encamped. It was
now the third day since they had taken a mouthful of food,
and so far from being worn out or defeated the brave old
patriot, who gave me this account, declared he never saw a
more jovial or active band in his life. "In fact" he said, "I
will tell you the truth, I was so over-joyed that I did not feel
the cravings of hunger any more than if I had just risen from
the best meal I ever ate, and if I could have lived always just
as I felt then I do not know that I would have eaten another
The power of Tories was completely broken and they
never made headway in that part of the country afterwards.
Among many amusing anecdotes of the terror of the
Tories on that occasion he relates the following : "One poor
fellow, at the first round which was fired by the Whigs, threw
away his musket and rushed, frightened out of his wits, into
the nearest thicket. He continued his flight till he reached
his home in the upper part of Robeson (then Bladen) county,
only stopping to beg the necessary refreshments and relate
the horrors of the awful onslaught from which he had just so
narrowly escaped, and which he described as terrific in the
extreme, for he declared the first thing he knew Washington
had completely surrounded them with the whole Continental
army and that they had all been massacred and that he sup-
posed that he was the only man who had made his escape,
which he only did by cutting his way through the thick files
of the American Regulars. He mentioned the name of one
man who fell on his right, of another on his left and of one
whose dead body he jumped over as he broke through the
hostile ranks. He said that he had passed within fifteen
steps of the mouth of a cannon, which they snapped at him
as he ran and which, if it had fired, would have blown him to
atoms, but luckily for him and the cause of King George, the
cannon snapped and he left.,' "Y.',
Was braver deed ever written in the annals of war or
chivalry.'' But other ones of equal valor may be found in the
glorious history of our State. "Time," says Emerson, "dissi-
pates into shining ether the solid angularity of facts." Fel-
low-citizens, I appeal to you to study the story of our past,
gather up the neighborhood legends and traditions as well as
the larger events before they are all dissipated into shining
ether, and teach them to the young. It has been said that
"national recollection is the foundation of national character."
My effort to-day has failed if it has not impressed upon your
minds that fact, and more than that, all the work done here
and your annual celebrations will be for naught, if by them
our history is not clarified and made dear to the present and
future generations. And in the work of illuminating the
present by the lamp of our history, the Guilford Battle Ground
Company has been and must continue to be a pioneer.
This spot must be our Revolutionary Pantheon, dedicated
not to mythical gods and goddesses, but to the memory of the
heroes who conceived under the King's wrath and won in the
teeth of the King's army, the right to control their own des-
tiny as a free people. Here we must keep brightly burning
the constant vestal fires of patriotism, and here our country-
men from less favored sections of the State may make pious
but joyful pilgrimage and kindle afresh within their bosoms
the sacred flame. Here, "the high water mark of British in-
vasion of North Carolina," shall be the high water mark of
our constant endeavor to write the name and fame of every
worthy hero and enterprise of the great fight of North Caro-
lina as leader in the Revolution. Twelve or fifteen years
ago, when the originator of the idea to wrest this field from
the riotous brush and briar began his patriotic labors, even
his vigorous imagination did not stretch its flight to conceive
of such magnificent results as have been attained in the beau-
tification of these grounds. But as the work progressed and
the plan and effort unfolded themselves, ambitious designs
lent speed to the thought of him and his helpers, till now,
behold the magnificent work of their hands ! Much work still
remains for patriotic private hands. That work is to con-
tinue to care for and build to this park till such time as the
general government, having learned from the "philosophy of
history," that Yorktown was a sequence of Guilford Court
House, and that no spot in this broad land is so favorable for
a tangible acknowledgment of those blessings of freedom
which followed the successful termination of that war, as this
one, shall thankfully receive from this company the work
that it has done and pledge itself to construct and maintain
here a magnificent national military park. Sometime this
may be, if not, well and good. North Carolina, ever foremost
in patriotic endeavor, will continue to care for it. In the
ownership of this spot the people of Greensboro and Guilford
county have a priceless possession. Many of these people
are the descendants of the men who fought here, and both by
reason of this and their proximity to the grounds, they are
peculiarly its guardians. And so let them continue the good
work which their Schenck began and has carried on so nobly,
and to which their devoted Morehead has added lustre. Men
of Greensboro, the national government may do much, but it
has not; the State of North Carolina does something and
may or may not do more, but you have done great things and
must do greater.