Skip to main content

Full text of "Addresses of Hon. Chas. B. Aycock and R. F. Beasley, esq., on the occasion of the unveiling of the colonial column and the monument to Captain James Morehead .."

See other formats

E4 C9 
opy 1 







On the occasion of the unveiling of the 

Colonial Column and the Monument 

to Captain James Morehead, at 

Guilford Battle Ground, 

July 4, 1901. 




Digitized by tine Internet Arcinive 
in 2010 witin funding from 
Tine Library of Congress 







On the occasion of the unveiling of the 

Colonial Column and the Monument 

to Captain James Morehead, at 

Guilford Battle Ground, 

July 4, 1901. 




Procession will form on the Salisbury Road at 10:30 in the following order: 

Dr. Charles L. Scott, Chief Marshall, and Assistants. 

Proximity Band. 

Orators of the Day, Chaplain, Master of Ceremonies and 
Distinguished Guests in Carriages. 

Directors and Stockholders of the Guilford Battle Ground 


Citizens Generally. 

Procession when formed will move to the Grand Stand. 


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. 

By transfer 


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. 

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 
bloody field. 

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 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- 
ley, Esq. 

* * * 

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 


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 
past achievement. 

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 
patriotic fervor. 

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 
22nd : 

*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 
22nd : 
"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 
barbarous nature. 

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 
mouthful again." 

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.