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Full text of "Address on the life and services of Brigadier General Jethro Sumner : at the battle ground of Guilford Court House, July 4th, 1891"

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Brigadier General Jethro Sumner, 



Guilford Couri~ House, 

JULY 4TH. 1891. 


Reece & Elani, Book and Job Printers. 


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Qnit)et0itp of jfl5ottl) Carolina 

Collection of j^ort^ Caroliniana 
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ADDRESS b>«€«vcs*.^ 




Brigadier General Jethro Sumner, 



Guilford Court House, 

JULY 4TH. 1891. 


Reece & Elam, Book and Job Printers. 

1 891. 

Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

The President of the Gjilford Battle-Grouud Com- 
pany, who, with wonderful energ;y and success, has been 
making green the memories of the warriors, who, on the 
15th of March, 1781, 1 10 years ago, on this spot inflicted 
on the disciplined arm\^ of Cornwallis the blow which 
saved the Carolinas from slavery, has caused to be trans- 
ported the remains of General Jethro Sumner from, the 
wilds of Warren county to yonder green mound. The 
heavy stones, which by the care of his daughter, were 
over his dust, have been reverently taken down and as 
reverently re-erected here. It is my duty to-day to en- 
deavor to aid the noble efforts of our President in sweep- 
ing away the dust which has accumulated over the his- 
tory of this patriot of 1776. 

The task has not been an easy one. The facts of his 
career were only obtainable by diligent re-search through 
many manuscripts of a public nature and through numer- 
ous volumes relating to the history of Virginia and the 
Carolinas and of the United States. His Family Bible, 
his private papers, his correspondence with his intimate 
friends, have been in the vicissitudes of years irretrieva- 
bly lost. If I do not depict with such detail as you would 
like large parts of his career, you must attribute the fail- 
ure, not to want of industry on my part, but to the de- 
struction of the family records, so characteristic of this 
res'less, rapidly changing population of ours. 

We know nothing of Gen. JethroSumnersfamily in Eng- 
land, whence it came. It must have been one of respecta- 
bility and substance, (or we find his grand -father William 
Sumner becomiingafree-holderof Virginia soon after Wil- 
liam and Mary ousted from the English throne Mary's 
tyrannical father, James II. He came about the time of 


i:ic I'Liiioval b\" the clK.-lcric Gn\-frn.i!- Xich^-l^-n v( ihc 
c:q->itr)l from JanustowTi to WilliamsburL; and (»f the fVtuncl- 
irig of till' >cc()ncl collcg'c in America, the noble old Wdl- 
liam and .\rar\-, n.uned in lienor of the new Sox'ereigns, 
(1691). (.)n his plantatiiMi, called Manor, (for Kni;lish 
w a)-s atid Knglish nanus were then much liked j one mile 
trom the town of Suffolk, he r.used his tijbacco and his 
Corn anil wheat, ami after the fashi(.in of the da}", his 
ljl<")0(Jeil h(xrses and fat cattle, while a fimil\- of fi\'e bo\'s 
and one daughter grew up around him. 

The name of the daughter has not come elown to us 
The names of the fi\'e bo)'s were Jethro, John, James, Wil- 
liam and Dempsex". It i> altogether probable that Jethro 
was the oldest. The right of j>rimo-geniture then ex- 
i.>ted and was dear to the lantl-holders, w ho had not lost 
their English lo\'e of aggrandizing the famil\- name by 
entailing the principal homestead on the oldest son. I 
hnd that Jethro Sumner was in 1743 one of the first ves- 
trymen of the Episcopal church at Suffolk, and his oldest 
Son, Thomas, was in his stead four x'cars afterwards- 
General Sumner in his will refers to the " Manor planta- 
ti'in"of his brother in Virginia. These facts seem to show 
that Jethro, the elder, inherited the paternal lanel. 

They are niTt conclusive, however. There is a seem- 
ingly well authenticated tradition that he married a 
Mealthy woman. This may have enabled him to own a 
"Manor i)lantation" near his native place, to attain the 
dignity of a vestr\'man, and de\-ol\-e the same on his eld- 
est SOU- 

Jcthro Sumner, the elder, died early, leaving three chil- 
dren, Thomas, alrcad}' named, Jethro and Sarah. Tliomas 
lix'ed man\- years and died a bachelor, though not child- 
less. General Sumner's will shows that he did not devise "Manor plantation" to him, but bce]ueathed liim onl)- 
.1 legac}' in money. 


Sarah inarried a man with the singular name of Rush- 
Avorms, whose family seems to have become extinct. 

Jethro Sumner, the younger, was born in 1733 and was 
probably about twelve years of age at the death of his 
father. How long he had been deprived of a mother's 
care we do not know. There is a tradition that he was 
well cared for by his mother's mother. 

It is important to understand the influences by which 
his character was moulded and his ph}-sical powers fitted 
for the rough life he was destined to undergo. To use 
the word so much a favorite with scientists, what were 
his environmients in childhood and bo\'hood? 

His father, as I have stated, was a vestrymian of a par- 
ish of the church of England, that of Suffolk. Associa- 
ted with him was Andrew Meade, one of the wealthiest 
and m.ost influential men of his da)',, father of Richard 
Kidder Meade, one of Washington's m.ost- trusted aides- 
decamp throughout the Revolutionary war, and grand- 
father of the eminent Bishop William Meade, who re- 
vived the Episcopal church in Virginia and whose book 
on the "Old Churches and Families of Virginia" is a 
store-house of valuable information. With Meade and 
Sumner were Edward and John Norfleet, Lemuel Rid- 
■dick, Daniel Pugh and John Gregory, members of prom- 
inent families in Virginia and North Carolina. It was the 
custom for the heads of the great families of each neigh- 
borhood to be placed on the vestries because, as church 
and State were united, they were civil as well as ecclesi- 
astical officers. They levied taxes and enforced the laws. 
Most of the Burgesses who made the laws were vestry- 
men. In the old vestry lists appear George Washing- 
ton, Peyton Randolph, Edmund Pendleton, General Nel- 
son, Governor Page, Richard Henry Lee, George Mason 
and hundreds of others, the best men of Virginia. 
While nominal adhesion to the Church of England was 

required, no exhibition of piety or relig-ious behaviour- 
was a condition pre:edent or sub.^.cquent for holdini^ the- 
office. In many cases parsons were not patternsfor their 
flocks. I give onh' one instance out of man_\- to illustrate 
tliis statement. One of the colonial parsons engaged iii 
a fisticuff fight with his vestry an i signalized his success 
over his adversaries b)- a triumphant sernion on the f )1- 
h>wing Sunday on the text from the prophet Xehemiah, 
" I contended with them and cursed them, and sm<^te 
certain of theiTi and plucked off their hair." It i-^ to the 
credit of the \'estr>- of Suffolk that they ejected froni 
their church one Balfour who was guilty of drunkenness 
and profanit)'. Of course there were numbers of ex- 
cellent men like Commissar\- Hlair, but when bad exam- 
ples were not uncommon it could not be expected that the 
laity should have a much higher standard of Godly piet>-. 
The Kast Virginia planters of Colonial days were a 
race of striking virtue's, but with man\' defects both as tc/ 
character and conduct. The>' were high spirited, brave- 
and truthful. The\- were loyal to the English v.'rown, but 
they understood their rights and were alwa\-s read)- to 
defend them. As their plantations supplied them with- 
nearly all the necessaries of life and they had a surplus- 
'Sufficient to furnish theguns and powder and shot, the tea 
and coffee and sugar, the ribbons, the laces and other knick- 
nacks, which the fair sex of all age^ and under every 
clime must have to gild the refined gold of their natural' 
charms, they were in heart and habit independent. The 
countrv mansions were the theatres of generous hospi- 
talit}' and kindness. There was lavish abundance ot 
home-made productions. There was not myuch travelling 
when thift\--five or fort}' miles a day over rough roads- 
and dangerous ferries were the rule, but the people were 
free from the feverish restlessness engendered hy our 
railroads and steamboats. The occasional visits to rela- 

trvcs and friends on occasions of weddincrs or natal days 
or Christmas holidays, or to the great world at Norfolk 
or Richmond, or the capital, Williamsburg, were produc- 
tive of more thrilling pleasure than the frequent and 
stale modern excursions to seaside or to mountain. 

The occasional visits to the town gave glimpses into 
the world of fashion. Theatrical companies aped the act- 
ing of London and Paris, and the great balls brought out 
powdered wigs and bespangled coats and magnitudinous 
hoops anci gorgeous silks and ruffles which would have 
passed muster in the circles beyond the Atlantic. 

The colonial planters were devoted to horses, and 
boasted justly that they owned scions of the best racers 
of England. They had frequent races and both sexes 
thought it no harm to bet on them, the men heavily, often 
to the impairment of their fortunes, the ladies seldom 
venturing beyond a pair of gloves. Foxes abounded so 
as to threaten the existence of lambs and poultry; great 
hunts were not only a sport but a necessity. These were 
rounded off with bountiful feasts and drinking frolics, 
thereby causing the name of fox-hunting to be synono- 
mous with reckless dissipation. Cock-fighting and gam- 
bling atcards were considered respectable in those "good 
old days." Grand balls assembled the young and the old for 
the stately minuet and the lively Virginia reel, and wed- 
dings were celebrated with festivities which lasted for 
many days. They were a gay and fun-loving people. 
There has come down to us an advertisement which de- 
scribes the sports which doubtless young Jethro often 

First is to be a horse-race. Then came a match at 
cudgelling (or fighting with sticks) for a hat as the win- 
ner's prize. Then twenty fiddlers are to compete for a 
new fiddle, all the competitors to play together and each 
a different tune. Twelve boys are to run 1 12 yards for a 

hat worth twelve .shiilinijs. A wrestling match follows , a, 
silver buckle is to adorn the leg of the victor. The pret- 
tiest girl on the ground is to have a pair of silk stockings 
worth a "pist<de" (a Spanish gold coin of about $4.00 
value). The nnanagcrs a,ssufe the public "this mirth 
ts designed to be purely innocent.' 

The youi:;g n'.en learned the art of horscmansliip not 
onl\' in, fox-ch.cises, but by coiistant habit ot visiting and 
trav'cUing opi horseback. So deep-rooted was this fash- 
ion, that a traveller of thiat day avers that he lias often 
seen men walk males to catch a horse in order to ride 

The use of tire-arms was learned b}' practice m hunt- 
ing bears ar.d deer, wild turkey.s and squirrels, and other 
game so p.umerous as to seriously threaten the existence 
of food crop^-^ Shooting-matches, too, were common, 
die victor not onl\' v/inning the stake, but receiving the- 
plaudits of admiring neighborhoods. 

There was little o( what we call education. A few 
boys received college training at William and Mary 
Still fewer were sent to the great schools or universities 
of England, but the greater part were content with read- 
ing and writing and a little arithmetic. The writing was 
invariably legible, but much liberty in spelling v/as al- 
lowable. Shakespeare spelt his own nam.e in four differ- 
ent ways 150 years before, and his exam^pie of jndepen- 
cy was followed in colonial tim.cs. If Washington and 
his generals liad not fought better than they spelt, Clin- 
ton and Cornwallis would hav^e shaken hands over a sub- 
jugated country. In General Sumner's will the county of 
" Isle of Wight" is spelled " Ilewhite." The gallant 
Murfree writes of " legenary coors" ( legionary corps) .^ 
Uniformi spelling came in with Webster's blue-back spell- 
mg-book. The colonial gentleman was likewise tocr 
proud to be willing to submit himself to the strict gram- 


matical rules of the solemn pedant who posed as the 
predecessor of Lindley Murray. 

But while there was little education from books, there 
was a most valuable training' from the exigencies of life 
in a country full of natural resources, but requiring for 
their development incessant watchfulness and incessant 
toil. The carrying the chain and the compass through 
thickets almost impenetrable and swamps almost impass- 
ible, the felling of forests, the defence from floods, the 
-war of extermination against w^ild animals, the occasional 
march to help the settlers of the mountain lands to repel 
the hostile, or to barter for furs with the friendly, In- 
dians, the rough sports on horse and on foot, all these, 
joined with watchful criticism and discussion of their rights 
by charter and by inheritance, made a hardy, self-reliant, 
independent, proud and daring people. They were, as a 
rule, respectful to those in authority, friendly and courteous 
to their equals, kind and considerate to their inferiors, but 
equally ready when angered by encroachment upon their 
rights to resist fiercely, to avenge insults, to crush insub- 
ordination even with cruelty. 

While the bulk of the Eastern Virginia planters pre- 
served the characteristics I have described, there were 
great modifications in individual instances caused by the 
New Light revival of religion about the time when the 
celebrated George Whitefield passed through the colonies, 
and by the thunders of his eloquence mightily stirred the 
hearts of the people. Many were moved to discard the 
prevailing amusements as sinful, but in the main the old 
ways and sentiments continued until rudely interrupted 
by the terrible destruction of wealth caused by the war of 
Independence. In some communities they lingered for 
many years afterwards, even up to the recent great civil 

I have been minute in depicting the habits and the 


cl)aractcr of the people amon;4 whom )-ounj4' Jcthro Suin- 
rii.r WTi^ triiinecl up tc nKinhoocl, because in describins^ 
t!:em I ha\'e pictured Idm^ His remo\-al to Xorth Caro- 
liria did !i.*t chani^e him fur the better or for the worse. 

flardl}- liad Jetliro Sumner readied maturit}' before a 
C(*ntest Ijroke (nit, of tremendous influence on the destinies 
(if this countr)-. This was the great stru<^rgle between 
the h'rench and the iMigHsh for the ownership of the 
magnihccnt territor)', ch-ained by the Mississippi and the 
great lakes and their tributaries. The French sought b_\- 
cunnecting (Juebec and New Orleans with ciiains of forts, 
an,l b\' gaining tlie alliance of powerful Iiulian tribes to 
contine rhe Knglish between the ocean and the Allegha- 
nies. If this plan should succeed the hated (jauls with 
their cr^rrupt, despotic government and Roman Catholic 
religi'jn, would dominate the W'estern world, as under the 
(jrand ?iionarque, Louis XIV. the>' had dominated Europe. 
Tlie Knglish colonies would be stunted in their growth 
and possibl)' be swallowed up finally b)" their powerful 
neighb'jr. The colonies saw their danger and frr)m 
Maine to Georgia they declared for war. 

In the early stages the plans of the hTeiich were 
crowned with success. Our colonies had been designedly 
kept in a state of pupilage to the mother country. While 
there was great individual capacitx', the\' had not been 
tauglit to organize into armies. Looking each to Eng- 
land (or their commerce, and most of them for their cliief 
c.\ecuti\'e and judicial officers and their clerg\", tlie>'knew 
little O'f one another. Their laws were subject to the 
ro\-al \'eto. The\- had :iot learned the immense \'alue of 
union among themsehces. Their levies of soldiers were 
badl)' supp'Tte-l antl badl\- armed. At first too, the Eng- 
lish go\-ernmeiit supported them in a manner feeble and 
ajtualis' tending to cripple their efforts. The officers 
sent were stupid and arrogant, as full of conceit of their 

1 I 

own iinportance as contempt for the colonists. There 
was disaster almost ever\-\vhere. Washington was forced 
to surrender to superior numbers at Great Meadows in 
1754. In 1755 the pompous but brav^e old braggart, 
Braddock, lost his army and his life near Fort Du 
Ouesne, the English were driven from Oswego, and from 
Lake George and the able and heroic Montcalm held 
possession of Louisburg, which commands the mouth of 
the St. Lawrence, Crown Point and Ticonderoga on Lake 
Champlain, Frontenac and Niagara on Lake Ontario, 
Presque Isle on Lake Erie and the chain of forts ending 
with Fort Du Ouesne 011 the Ohio, while ruthless savages 
were la}'ing waste the entire North West frontier of the 
British colonies. 

In 1757 the genius of Pitt changed disaster into victory. 
He gained the confidence of the colonies by consulting 
their legislatures about the conduct of the war. He prom- 
ised arms and ammunition, tents and provisions, the 
colonies to raise, clothe and pa>' the twenty thousand 
troops called into service with promise of reimbursement 
by parliament. Incompetent officers were replaced by 
able officers. Amherst captured Louisburg and super- 
ceded Abercrombie, who had lost two thousand 
troops in a rash assault on Ticonderoga. Bradstreet cap- 
tured Oswego. Forbes, aided by Washington, seized 
Fort Du Quesne, and on the 13th of September the great 
contest was virtuall)' won by Wolfe's heroic capture of 
Quebec. Well might old Governor Dobbs cause his 
glorious Thanksgiving Hymn to be sung to show our 
gratification for such signal victories, which he piously 
assures the Great Commoner, were in accordance with 
the prophecies of the Book of Revelations. The French 
power was broken and in the following year (1760,) 
which witnessed the death of the old King George II 
and the succession of his grandson George III, also wit- 

1'ic->^clI the final conquest of Canada and the end of the 
L;d()ri(jLi.s Llream of a doniinatini; New France in the Xew 
World. Three \-ears later the Eng'lish flai^ \va\'ed o\'er 
all the land from tlie ( )cean to the Missi.ssip{)i, 
I !-;'ivc some verses of Go\-ernor Dobbs' hx'mn: 

To God, uur (rod's AlmiL;hty Name, 

Let Britons all their voices raise, 
Ami publish hv the mouth of tame 

In soni^^s of ioy our Saviour's Praise. 

His church from p.ipal Thraldom freed 
And (iallir Powers united Force 
■ His great vicegerent he decreed 

C)'er Briton's Isle to steer his course. 

From Wood the British Lion roars 
L'prears the Christian sanguine cross, 

O'er Eagle, Beast, triunaphant soars 
With Angels riding the white horse. 

Now Angels charged with vials dire 
Of Gods Great WTath 'gainst Papal Beast, 

Are poured forth in God's great Ire 

C)'er Beast, f.alse Prophet, Heathen Priest. 

Let Angels then in chorus sing 

With us in Hymns of joy abroad 
Hosanna to our Saviour King 

Hosanna to his Christ our God I 

Jethro Stimner was an actor in this j^reat strugn;le. 
Hearini^ a letter of commendation from Governor Dinwid- 
dle to Colonel Washington, he was in [758 ap[)ointed a 
Lieutenant in a \"irL,dnia rei^iment of which Wm. H\-rd 
was Colonel, General Joseph P'orbes beini:; Commander- 
in-Chief Washinij^ton had been endeavorin<^ with in- 
sufficient means, to defend the long frontier from the 
terrible savages, whose destruction of propert)' and 
slaughter and torture of the settlers, old and _\-oung. 


iTiale and feirialc, had. been inconceivabl)" horrible. Nc:, 
effectual stoppage could be put to their ravai^es without 
the capture of Fort Du Ouesne. Forbes determined to 
lead an expedition against it. Washington urged that 
the old Braddock road should be followed. Interested spec- 
ulators in Pennsylvania persuaded old General Forbes, 
now in the last stages of disease, to cut a new road 
through the wilderness of that State. Fifty days were 
occupied in going fifty miles. 1^'orbes' second in com- 
mand, Col. Henr\' Bouquet, desirous of winning all the 
glory, pushed forward Major Grant with about eight 
hundred Highlanders and a company of \^irginians. 
Like Braddock's, his force was utterh* defeated. The 
X^irginians saved the detachment from annihilation, as 
they saved the remains of Braddock's forces. The win- 
ter was coming on. The fierce winds began to blow; 
the snow began to whiten the hills. The General and his 
council of war talked of delaying the march till spring. 
Washington begged to be allowed to lead the van with 
liis provincials, who were clamoring for an onward move. 
Through all difficulties, watching against ambuscades, 
infusing his indomitable spirit into his men, he pressed on. 
The French officer saw that he had an officer of brains 
and daring in his front, and, setting fire to the wood-work 
■of the fort, he fled with his troops down the Ohio. On 
the 25th of November, 1758, Washington and his brave 
troops marched into the ruined fortress. Jethro Sumner 
was one of those daring men, who gained for the Anglo- 
Saxon race the control of the Ohio, and started their on- 
ward march, which from that day has had no backward 
move, and ninet)' years later climbed the lofty Rockies 
and planted the starr}' flag on the shores of the Pacific. 
His were likewise among the kindly hands which, af- 
ter the victory was gained, reverently and tenderly gath- 
ered the bones of Braddock's men, whitened by the sun, 


anu ,iin;.U:t the solemn '-ilcnce of tlie inti,rmiiiablc forest^ 
■^ them christian huriat. A great >.it\-, whose smiokc 
from a thousand factories (.ver.shadow the scenes of those 
ohi h^htin^s. com.meniorates b}' its iKune o\ Pittsburi.^ 
tlie sagacious and tlaring war niinister wIm.^. prepared the 

Although \\' ashington, after h:s great object was gained, 
being elected a member of the As--embh', rcsij^^ned hi'^ cdo- 
nelc\"and carried his kn'el\' bride to enj^?,)- the festi\'ities of 
Williamsburg, Sumner remaii'ieci in ser\'ice until liis regi- 
ment was disbamJeiJ in 1761 He '>\-as e\-idcnt;_\- an officer 
of merit. An order jniblished in the Colonial Records of 
i>ur State, datetl Xo\"eniber 26Lh, 1760, from Colonel 
Houquct, his superior, shows that he was intrusted with 
separate com.niand at Fort Bedford, His regiment 
marched twice into tfie Cherokee ccjuntr)- as far as Hol- 
stoii river, v/hile Coh^nel Grant with ari arm\' of twenty- 
six hundred men terribh- avenged the massacre c;f the 
garris(_m of Fort Loudon. For their services grants of 
land v/ere authorized to be given to the discharged officers 
and soldiers who had served during the war — five thou- 
sand acres to field officers, three thousand to captains, two 
thousand to sub altern and staff officers, two hundred to 
n(:)n--comimissioned officers, and fifty to privates. Sum- 
ner having reached the grade of Captain., was entitled t'.> 
three thousand acres. 

This war prepared the way for Airierican Independence. 
It taught the Cohmists their 'uvn strength. It taught 
them how to fight, and what is c,( still more importance, 
that they could fight. When the)' themselves had pro- 
tected the arrogant British regulars from destruction. 
when they had seen the superiority of their own officers 
to those of the mother country, the superiority of Wash- 
ington, for example, over Braddock, the traditional idea 
of colonial inferiority vanished forever. They learned 


the value of union. The\- learned the value of ort^aniza- 
tion and discipline. The war was a training school for 
.their officers — for Washington and Mercer, Sumner and 
Montgomer}', Putnam and Morgan and man\- others. 

After his return to Nansemond the j-oung officer de- 
termined to change his home. Probabl)'his long service 
among the hills and mountains had given him a distaste 
to the drear\- flatness of the lands which adjoin the great 
Dismal Swamp. Onl)- an im^aginar}- line separates our 
State from Virginia. There has been for two centuries 
51 stead)' movem.ent of population from the dearer lands of 
the valley of the James to the cheaper lands drained b}' the 
streams which flow into the Albemarle and the upper waters 
of the Tar. The Sumners, the Eatons, the Mannings, 
Smiths of Scotland Neck, the Ransoms, the Armsteads, 
the Riddicks, the Norfleets, the Saunderses, the Lewises, 
the Ruffins, the Camerons, the Battles, the Plummers.the 
Bakers, the Pughs, the Winstons, the Winbornes, the Hun- 
ters, the Bridgerses, the Thomases, the Taylors and hun- 
dreds, perhaps thousands of others, were all old Virginia 
families. Some changed their homes because, being young- 
er sons, they had no share in. the paternal lands; others, be- 
cause high living or losses by gaming had worsted their es- 
tates; others to exchange fev\' acres for many equally fertile, 
or old fields for virgin forest, others to escape by settlement 
among the rolling hills of Bute and the country west- 
ward the miasmatic diseases of the low country. But 
for whatever cause they migrated the}' changed neither 
their o])inions nor their practices, nor their business 
habits The}' still sent their produ^^e to Virginia mar- 
kets — Richmond. Petersburg or Norfolk. Returning 
wagons brought back the tea and coffee and sugar and 
molasses and ladies' finery. The}' kept their accounts m 
both Virginia and North Carolina currency. Visits to these 
cities for shopping or pleasure were the siiuitnun bonum of 


the aspirati()ns of \-()un;^" men and maidens. Those \vhn> 
enjoyed tliis entrancini^ felicit}' were considered as £(i'eater 
travellers, and were reL^ardeil with more envy those 
udic.) now tell (y\ scrding- Alpine Summits, or _«;a/.int; at 
the dc^mes c^f St Peter or St. I'aul, (ir ch.rifferin<^ with the 
shop ^njds of Paris. Wdien 1 was \':iunt^ I heard frrim the 
lips of those who Were belles .>[ \Varren_ nearly a hundred 
X'ears aL(o stories of the i^^ayet}- of the balls and the splen- 
dor lit the theatres, and the g'ory-eousness of the dresses 
of the VdrL^inia cities. What a strand State we would 
have if James ri\'er were o,ur Xortliern boundar\'! How 
iiiuch wealth and how\- brii^ht sons and daui^^'hters 
of ours ha\'e been carried otT to enrich our neiL^libors! 

Most of these emigrants t'rom \'irginia became true 
Xorth Carolinians. Occasional 1\' wr)uld be heard arro- 
gant boasting of Virginia superiorit}-, as from the old 
man, menti(^netl to me by my mother, who answered all 
who disputed with him, " Weren't I born in Jam.cs river, 
and oug'h'iit I t(^ know.-*" But most of them, as Jethro^ 
Sumner did, devoted their affections and their energies to 
their adopted State. 

Captain Sumner settled at the court house of the new- 
county of Bute fpronounceti Boot), named in honor of 
the first instructor and niinister of George III, wdio be- 
came so odious that a tavorite amusement among the 
populace was with groans of derision to throw an old 
jack-boot into a bon-fire and dance around the crackling 
effig"y. An early General Assembly of free North Car(-)- 
lina expunged the name of the odious Marquis from the 
map and substituted Warren and Franklin as names o( 
the new^ counties carved from the old. The court house 
of Bute was a few miles to the south of the present 
county seat of Warren. Here Jethro Sumner set up his 
liousehold gods. 

It is a lovely country. A traveller, a captain in the 

Hritish army, J. F. D. Smyth, who visited all parts of the 
country south of the Potomac and Ohio about a year be- 
fore the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, says, 
"There is an extreme valuable body of rich hi_<^h land 
that extends five miles around Bute court house; this 
whole tract is strong and fertile in an uncommon degree. 
There is scarcely a pine tree to be found within that dis- 
tance, although the surrounding woods on ever\' side are 
much mixed with them." Governor Josiah Martin, in a 
letter to Earl Hillsborough in 1772, mentions having 
passed through Granville and Bute, and is strong in his 
expressions of praises of their preeminence both in soil 
and cultivation as well as in the manners and condition 
of the inhabitants. He was preparing to buy a home 
here when he was driven from our State. 

We do not know the exact date of Sumner's settle- 
ment in Bute. It was certainly prior to 1769. Pv'Ir. Wm. 
J. Norwood has in his possession an accountbook kept with 
all the neatness of penmanship and durability of black 
ink so remarkable among our ancestors. It contains the 
dealings of the neighbors with the keeper of the tav- 
ern at Bute Court House. It shows among many others 
the account of General Sumner from November 1769 to 
November, 1774. It effectually contradicts the statement 
of Captain Smyth as to his occupation. He says Sumner 
pursued the business of tavern-keeper, and that more 
than one-third of the general officers of the American 
army had the same occupation, and were chiefly indebted 
to that circumstance for their rank. He gives as a reason 
that by this public calling their principles became known, 
and their ambitious views were excited by the variety 
of the company they entertained. Smyth's book shows 
violent false prejudices throughout. In his opinion Wash- 
ington was a very poor General, but a most cunning 
demagogue, his moderation and disclaimer of desire for 


('ttice being' onl\' for electioneering^ purposes. The book 
is x'akiaij'.e in main- respects, but utterly unreliable in its 
statements about the officers ot our arm\\ It would ha\'e 
been no Lliscredit to Sumner if he had been the keeper of 
the o;ii\- inn at the Court House, but this account-book 
shows that he was the owner of it and rented it to one 
]'dliott fo)- £36 per annum. Sm\'th states, as we learn 
frnm other sources, that he had married ''a N'ouni;" woman 
of g-ood familv", uhn l^rouyht him a hands(ime fortune." 

Captain Sumner w a-- aj)pointed sheriff in I7<p2. The 
office was a ver_\' diiiuified anil responsible one. The ap- 
l^ointment wa< b\- the Gcnx-rnor of one out of three nom- 
inated by the justices of the county. I ha\'e a copy of 
his Commission, sic^ned b)- Gov. Jo. Martin at Hills- 
borough at iVUL;aist Term, 1773. it is a i^roof of the hii^'h 
character and business habits of Sumner, that while there 
had been <.;'reat ujjrisim^rs of angr\- people in some of the 
counties almost adi()ining Hutc, and loud complaints of 
extortiiMi and eml)ez/.lement in those and man}' others, 
there were no cliarges of such criminal conduct in l^ute. 
There were no Bute militia in Tr\'on's army wdiich march - 
eci against the Regulators in 1771, from which I gather 
that w hile the}" themselves were not disposed to join the 
insurrection the}' knew too well the sufferings of their 
neighbors to be willing to crush them by armed violence. 

The account-book of Bute Court House tavern confirms 
ni}- statement that Sumner and his neighbors retained the 
liabits and feelings of Eastern Virginia. The Xevv Light 
and Great Reviwd, if the}' made an}' impression on 
them, it was onl}' t'-ansitor}'. We see glimpses of the same 
high-li\ing and love of fun. We sec notices of a Court 
J louse ball, of a "bull-dance," the progenitor pr()babl}" 
ol the modern "stag," of a game oi' pitch, (quoits, prob- 
abl}',, of which Chief }us;ice Marshall was especiall}' 
-ond); o[ games at cards, at which one of the players 


" t^ot broke " and borrowed mone\' i^f the landlord, of 
/" 10 paid b>- Suinner for the erection of a batter>', which 
was a wooden wall for plaj-ing the i^ood old L,fame <)f 
"fives ;" of a barbecue costing; ^6, /s and 3d, c(i\en b)' 
William Park; and of fox-hunts of course. All these 
were accompanied b\' drinking of liquor in some shape. 
Sometimes it is rum pure and simple, or as we sa\- 
"straight;" more seldom it is brandy, never whiske}', but 
usually it is some mixture. The most common is bumbo, 
composed of rum, water, sugar and nutmeg; but we have 
also juleps (spelt julips) and grog and flip; sometimes we 
see wine and sangaree and cider too (spelt cyder). There 
is an entry which the rising generation hardly under- 
stands. After a "rousing frolic" is a charge for "broke 
glasses." This suggests the foolish custom of winding 
up the feast with some jolly toast and, after drinking it, 
smashing the tumblers against the ceiling, typif\'ing that 
having conferred a pleasure so di\'ine, they should never 
henceforth be debased to any ignoble use. 

And in this account-book we detect William Person 
(called Billy Parsons) and Green Hill, members of the 
General Assembly, engaged in what w^e consider a crime, 
but was then expected of all candidates — that is, treating 
at elections. They are charged with their proportions of 
"liquors expended in the court house while voting, 10 shil- 
lings; also toddy is and 3d. Rum is 6d. Toddy is 2d." 

There was a strange hallucination in regard to spirit- 
uous liquors in the "good old days." The men of that 
generation thought they were drinking health and jo\-and 
long life. In truth they were drmking down gout and 
dropsy, and liver disease, and kidney-troubles, and short 
life. There were few old men of that generation. 

General Sumner was like the rest — he kept the prevail- 
ing fashion. Smyth says he was a "facetious" man. 
Doubtless he told good stories about his experiences iii 


ihc ai'iii}', aiul the peculiarities of the unlettered back- 
woodsmen with whom as sheriiT he had dealinj.^'s. He 
was "of person lustx' and rather handsome." sa}'s Sm}'th, 
that is he had a stroni,^ body and vij^^orous health, and ;i 
fine manh' bearing;'. The cx'nical Kn^lishman of a na- 
tir)n of grumblers, chronicles that his dinner was excel- 
lent. All those colonial ijentlemen understood the art of 
giving" good dinners. The woods swarmed with fat tur- 
keys, tame and wild. Pigs were alwa\"s ready to supph' 
'the luscious barbecue. Steaks of \-enison or tender 
bee\'es, hot biscuits and glorioLis corn-bread, nn\y to be 
found on Southern tables, savor\- ham and fresh fish from 
the fish trap in the creek, together with abundant \'ege- 
tables and the jams and preserx'es and plum pudding, 
which his \'oung \vife with her snowy aprnn and her 
>.tatel\' courtes)- knew so well how to make; all these and 
more smoked on the table, while the odors (^f nutmeg and 
mint fioated in the air. We can easil}- call to our mind 
the fethro Sumner of that da\', at the age of fort\'-two, 
his long hair combed back so as full)' to expose his rubi- 
cund face, tied in a cue behind, his countenance frank 
and open, looking one straight in the face with a clear, 
bright e>'e, his body inclining to portliness, as became 
the dex'ourer of good cheer; vigorous from out-door ex- 
ercise, on foot or on horse, in sport and on business, hav- 
ing the air of authority as became the executive officer 
of a C(Hmt_\- in those monarchial da\-s when official sta- 
tion inspired far more awe than at present; as became too 
a man v ho had learned the art of command in actual 
'ser\'ice in an arm}- where officers and men were widely 
separated by social as well as arm)- rank; as became, too, 
the (Mxner o^. a great estate and man\- laborers. At the 
dinner-table^ in the familiarit)- of social intercourse with 
a )'oung militar)- officer of w-ealth and good blood, he 
showeLl appreciation of a good joke, a qualit)' wdiich has 


not yet died out in North Carolina. I think better of him 
for that. Capt. William Biggs, an admirer of Chief Ju.s- 
tice Merrimon. and Col. Henr\' A. Uowd, an admirer of 
Senator Vance, were once rather heatedly discus.sing the 
relative excellencies of their favorites; " I admit," said 
Biggs, "that Vance can tell a joke better than Merri- 
mon" — "Stopright there!" shouted Dowd, " I tell )'ou no 
man but a smart man can tell a good joke." It is a pleas- 
ant picture — these two — the Bute county sheriff and the 
English officer exchanging their army anecdotes over 
their nuts and wine, or rather, I should say, over their 
hickory nuts and bumbo, in the beautiful month of No- 
vember, 1774, both too polite to discuss the angry ques- 
tions which will in three years arra)'them in opposite ar- 
mies at Germantown, thirsting for each other's blood, the 
host an American colonel, the guest a British captain. 
Notwithstanding Sumner's desire to be agreeable to his 
guest, Smyth notices that he was a man "of violent prin- 
ciples " in regard to the pending quarrel between the 
mother country and the colonies. Being a man of ar- 
dent temper he embraced the cause of the colonists 
with his whole soul. A few words as to the nature of 
this difference. 

The last French and Indian war left Great Britain with 
a debt so enormous in the eyes of the financiers of that 
day that it seemed impossible to pay it, $700,000,000. To 
an Englishman, the claim that the colonies should help 
to pay these expenses incurred partly for their own ben- 
efit seemed most reasonable. It seemed equally clear to 
him that parliament should exercise the taxing power for 
the purpose of securing such payment. To Americans 
also the nrst proposition Avas not unreasonable, but to the 
second was determined and angry dissent. Planting 
themselves on their rights as inheritors of the principles 
of Magna Charta and other great bulwarks of liberty, and 

(Ill their spccicil riL^lit: Lnnntcci by tlicir charters the coh^- 
nists said " th.c I'ritish jiarHameiit can tax the pr<)])erty 
of the people whom, it-- members re-present, but the par- 
liament ()t each coIe-Piv is the onh' bo^h- which can tax 
the propert)' ' <r Its pe(^ple." Vov oxtr one huTidred and 
tift\' \'ears they had p:)ssessed home rule in rec;'ard to the 
control (.f their liberties and their [)ropert\-, arid tliis, 
hoine-riile the_\' iletermined to retain in all its inte:_^rit\\ 
or die. Kini^s. Lords and Comm'~in>, the les^dslature of 
(ireat Ih'itain C()uld regulate th.e int^nial aftairs of the 
British Isles. KIiil;, Council and As-embl\- onl\- h.iil 
[><nver to rei;ulate the internal affairs of each colon\' 
The)" had submitted to odious naxai^ation laws passed b\' 
the imperial parliatment because the\- alTected their ex- 
ternal relations, but the)' haiJ never submitted and the)" 
voweil the)' never would subnait to the acts of parliament, 
not elected by themseK'es, affectinL; their internal rela- 
tions, for would be sla\'er\' The)- were P^nglishnien 
and as such loved the niori.arch)'. Thic )'outhful Kin^^ 
Geor!:;"e was for a tinie popular. He and Charlotte of 
Mecklenburi,'^ had homel)' virtues and kindly hearts. Al- 
though our ancestors exj.nmged from our maps the odious, 
names of Tr)-on and P)Ute the\' allowed the of 
Mecklenburg" and Charlotte to remain. They loved to 
talk of " Farmer George." The\' belie\'ed that the hos- 
tile legislature was the work onl)' of the Lords and the 
Commons, and hence the)' constantl)- and in vehement 
terms even in the earl)' da)'s (^f the war protested their 
loyalty to tlie crown and ctMifidence in the people of Lng- 
land, as distinguished from the ptditicians. The)' found 
to their cost that although, in his private capacit)' he was 
a man of benevolence, as sovereign, the King's views of 
the royal perogative made him the most lasting enem)' of 
their independence, and after blood began to flow the- 
people seemed to sustain the parliament 

No part of the State was more unanimous in resistance 
To luii^lish agi^ressiveness than the count}- of wliich Sum- 
ner was sheriff. "There were no Tories in Bute " was the 
proud boast. And few famiHes contributed as much to 
the common cause as the descendants of Wilham Sum- 
ner. One of his g'randsons, Luke Sumner, repeatedl}' 
represented his county, Chowan, in the State Congresses 
before and the State Senate during the war, and was the 
highly trusted chairman of the committee of safety from 
Chowan, member of the eminent ccMTimittee which re- 
ported the constitution of 1776, and many other impor- 
tant committees, such as those for the purchase and man- 
ufacture of arms. David Sumner was a member of the 
State Congress of August, 1775, and of the committee of 
safet)' of Halifax and Lieutenant Colonel of Militia. 
James Sumner was Lieutenant in a company of Light 
Horse. Robert Sumner was member from Hertford of the 
Convention of 1776 which formed the State Constitution, 
and of the State Senate afterwards, while Elizabeth Sum- 
ner's husband, Elisha Battle, was representative from 
Edgecombe in the State Congress of 1775, 1776 and the 
State Senate under the Constitution, 

• But the most eminent of all the family was Jethro Sum- 
ner, whose "violent principles" were noticed by Smyth. 
As sheriff it was his duty to hold the elections, and he 
could not himself be elected to the Convention of 1774 
and of March, 1775, but after the flight of Governor Mar- 
tin to the royal-ship Cruiser, we find him member of the 
Hillsboro Congress of August, 1775. This notable Pro- 
vincial Congress, still holding to the constitutional notion 
that the king could do no wrong and that consequentl\' 
all acts in his name were the acts of parliament or of 
ministers, all signed a test, drawn up by a committee of 
which Hooper was chairman. No man could be a mem- 
ber without a\'Owin"' inwritinff his determination to resist 


to the utmost cx'tremit)" all attempts by parliament to im- 
{)ose taxes 111)011 the C()h)nit:s, or to interfere with its local 
concerns, and plecli^in^ himself under the sar;Ction ot 
virtue, honor and the sacred law of lihert\- to support all 
acts of the Continental and Proviiicial Cong-resses, be- 
cause the\' were freel}' represented in them. This test 
was afterwards to be signed generall)' by ever\' organ- 
ized bod}' in the Province. 

The Congress proceeded \\ith firmness and wisdom to 
inaugurate a pr<:)visionaI government and [prepare for war. 
The militia was organized, a special force of five hun- 
dred minute men for each of si.x Judicial districts was or- 
dered to be raised, besides two regiments of fx-e hun- 
dred each for the continental arm\-. l^ounties were of- 
fered for the manufacture of articles most needed. 

Captain Sumner was chosen Major of the minute men 
of the Halifax District. The\' were in effect volunteer 
militia, with privilege of electing their company commis- 
sioned ()fficers. A bounty of 25 shillings was allowed 
privates to buy a uniform, to consist of a hunting-shirt, 
leggings and black garters. An allowance of ten shil- 
lings for a smooth-bore musket and twent}' shillings for 
a rifle was made to those furnishiiig these weapons. 
When in actual service the colonel was paid 14 shillings 
a da}-, major 9 shillings and 6 pence and so on; a private 
IS 2od 3f. The minute men were to serve six months anci 
were to be drilled 14 da}-s at the beginning of their ser- 
vice and once a fortnight afterwards. The\' were to be 
subject while in service to the laws of war. The officers 
w ere to out rank militia officers of the same grade. Some 
of these minute men did excellent work in the [preven- 
tion of the rising of tories and sometimes in actual ght- 

Major Jethro Sumner at once showed the superiority 
natural to one who had learned the art of war under 


Washington. Occasion was now had for his ser\'ices. 
Within a few weeks after the adjournment of Congress 
the following order was issued: 

In Committee of Safety, 

November 28th, 1775, Halifax. 
Ordered that Major Jethro Sumner raise what minute 
men and volunteers he can, and follow Colonel Long 
with the utmost dispatch. By order. 
A copy. Oroox. Davis, Clerk. 

Colonel Long was doubtless Nicholas Long, of Hali- 
fax, Colonel of Sumner's batalion. Three companies had 
been apportioned to Halifa.x and two to Bute. Lord 
Dunmore, the execrated Governor of Virginia, was rav- 
aging the coast of the Chesapeake and threatening Nor- 
folk. Most probably Colonel Long had hurried to the 
defence of Norfolk, and Sumner followed with the m\\\- 
ute men of Bute. On the 9th December, eleven days after 
the order ofthe committee of safety, the minute men of Vir- 
ginia defeated Fordyce's grenadiers in the action at Great 
Bridge. Colonel Howe, afterwards General Howe, hur- 
ried forward the second regiment of Continentals, and 
took command of them and of the North Carolina min- 
ute men. He arrived two days after the victory of the 
Great Bridge, but he and his troops so gallantly defended 
Norfolk that the baffled Dunmore on the first day of Jan- 
uary, 1776, burnt the town and sailed away. Howe was 
emphatic in his praises of the troops under his command 
and the Legislature of Virginia thanked him and his men 
for their efficient services, while the Provincial Council 
of our State resolved "that he was justly entitled to the 
most honorable testimony of the approbation of the 
Council for his important services " and thanked him and 
all the brave officers and soldiers 'under his command for 


their splendid conduct, hax'inc^ acquitted themselves 
C,'reatl\' to their honor and the g<)od of the countr\"."" 

The slender hope of acconimodatinL,^ the differences of 
the two Countries y;re\v rapidly less. Bh^od was shed on 
Xorth Carolina soil. Tlie Iw-itish authorities, with the 
co-operation of Governor Martin, formed a scheme to 
bring' upon the Proxince thu horrors of a civil strife with 
the T(H-ies, of insurrection of the shu'es and Indian mas- 
sacres on the western frontiers. Tiie}- were all checked 
by the defeat of the Tories at Moore's Creek Bridge and 
b_\- the cru>hing of the Chcrokees by Rutherf >rd. The 
Congress uf 4th April, 1776, at Halifax, lo(^ked the great 
issue boldh" in the face, discarded their hope of friend- 
ship from the English King or English people, and, the 
first of all the colonies, authorized its delegates in the 
Continental Congress to \"ote for Independence. The 
militia was ordered to consist n{ all bet\\'een 16 and 60 
\ears ut age. A Brigadiier-Cjcneral for each district was 
electCLl. Eour additional regiments were \(ited for the 
American Continental arm)-, and ^"400,000 or :f; 1,000, 000 
in bills of credit were ordered to be issued for t'ne pur- 
pose of paying all expenses. The name of Pr()vincial 
Council for the supreme executive power was found to be 
inap[)ri)priate, as the woi'd " Provincial " implied a recog- 
nition of dependence on Great Britain. The name i.'oun- 
cil of Safet}- was substituted. Large executive and ju- 
dicial powers were gi\'en, care being taken, howe\'er, 
that the}" should not be despotic. Three vessels of war 
were ordered to be built and officers appointed for them. 

So highl\- appreciated was the coniluct of Major Sum- 
ner that at the next meeting in April of the Provincial 
Congress he vvas promoted to the Cok^^nelcy of the ^rd 
Regiment of the Continental troops. His field officers 
were William Alston, Lieutenant-Colonel; Samuel Lock- 
hart, Major. His Captains were William Brinkley, Pin- 


Iccthman P2aton, John Gra)-, William Barrett, Jacob Tur- 
ner, George Granbur}', James Cook, James Emmett 
The other Colonels were Thomas Park of the 4th, Ed- 
ward Buncombe of the 5th, anci Alexander LillinQ-ton of 
the 6th. Owing to the promotion of Generals Moore 
and Howe to be Brigadier-Generals, F^rancis Nash soon 
to be promoted, and Alexander Martin were made Colo- 
nels of the 1st and 2nd Regiments. The enlisting of 
men was voluntar\', and the following instructions to re- 
cruiting officers are interesting. They were to accept 
"able-bodied men only, capable of marching well and of 
undisputed iO\-alt}'." Regard must be had as much as 
possible to "moral character, particularly sobriet\-." The 
Colonel was authorized to reject those not fit for service. 
No soldier under 5 feet 4 inches high shall be enlisted. 
They must be healthy, strong-made, and well-limrbed. 
The character of disqualifying bodily infirmities sounds- 
strange in our day. They must be " not deaf or subject 
to fits, or ulcers on their legs, or ruptures." The last 
mentioned may have been frequent on account of the 
practice of log-rolling matches, and other violent exer- 
cises, but what causi-d the prevalence of ulcers and fits is 
a mystery. The recruit took an oath to be " faithful and 
true to the United Colonies" and to "lay down his arms 
peaceably when required so to do by the Continental 
Congress; " that he would serve the United Colonies to- 
the utmost of his power in defence of the just rights of 
America against all enemies whatsoever," so that the sol- 
diers were no longer in any manner subject to the orders 
of North Carolina. This probably explains the jealousy 
of certain North Carolina officials toward them. 

The amount of information we have of the early move- 
ments from day to day of these Continental troops is re- 
markably meagre. The statement of Hugh McDonald, an 
unlettered private in the6th regiment, written athis dicta- 


lion \'ears after the war, printed in the Xorth Caiolina 
University Magazine, is almost our sole authorit\- for 
much of their history. 

McDonald, recently from Scotland, who had been with 
his father a Tor\-, at Moore's Creek Bridge, was taken as a 
guide by a party of Whigs, engaged in arresting the par- 
ticipants of that battle. He was offered the liberty of 
returning to his father, but being fearful of his ven- 
geance, enlisted in the 6th regiment under Lillington, 
when "about the age of fourteen years." About the 
middle of Jul}', 1776, the recruits were carried to Wil- 
mington, where General Francis Nash was in charge of 
the brigade of 6 regiments. Lillington was too old to go 
on parade, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lambe was substitu- 
ted. Recruiting had been very successful and the regi- 
ments were full. About the middle of November the 
troops were marched north to join Washington, but were 
stopped for three weeks in Halifax on the land of Col. 
Nicholas Long, now Commissary-General of this State. 
They were marched back to participate in a campaign 
against Florida. They paused on their journe\' near the 
boundary line of South Carolina, about three weeks, 
"makingexcellent bedsof the long moss of the trees." Here 
a squad of men claimed that they were enlisted for onh' 
six months, and on being refused their discharges de- 
serted. " Three of them were colored people," so it ap- 
pears that free colored men helped to gain American Li- 
dependence. From this camp they marched to Charleston, 
and lay in camp opposite to Fort Sullivan until the mid- 
dle of March, living on fresh pork and rice as their con- 
stant diet, the expedition to Florida being abandoned. 

The account of McDonald is in the main correct, 
without doubt, but is not true as to at least three of the 
Continental regiments. It has always been thought 
that only the first and second regiments under Colo- 


aiels Moore and Martin, brigaded under Brigadier-General 
Howe, participated in the brilliant defence of Charleston 
-on the 28th of June, 1776, Charles Lee being General in 
Chief, and that they only of the North Carolina soldiers 
were entitled to the splendid praise of General Lee, all 
"the more valuable because he had been an officer in the 
English ar^Tiy, "their conduct is such as does them the 
greatest honor-; no men ever did and it is impossible ever 
can behave better," and again in his report to the Vir- 
ginia Convention, "I know not which corps I have the 
greatest reason to be pleased with — Mecklenburg's, Vir- 
ginia's or the North Carolina troops; they are both 
equally alert, zealous and spirited." But a letter from 
Col. Jethro Sumner to Lieutenant-Colonel William 
Alston, printed in the loth volume of our Colonial Re- 
cords p 790, shows, I think, that Sumner and his regi- 
ment were at the defence of Charleston. 

A few days after this victory at Charleston in July, 
1776, General Lee undertook an ill-advised expedition to 
attack St. Augustine in Florida, taking with him, says 
Moultrie who was second in command, the Virginia and 
North Carolina troops. At Savannah, after losing many 
from sickness, he halted until he was ordered North by 
Congress. Moultrie refused to continue the movement 
unless properly furnished with material and supplies, 
%vhich Lee had totally neglected and which were never 
furnished. The letter from Sumner to Alston dated Sep- 
tember the 3rd, shows that his regiment was with this 
ill-starred expedition and of course was with Lee at 

The letter places Sumner in the most favorable light. 
He states that General Lee had given him leave to re- 
turn to North Carolina for the purpose of providing 
necessaries for the troops in view of the coming winter. 
He urges Lieutenant-Colonel Alston to be particularly 

c.'irefui of the tlisci[)Iinc and to keep a '^n) 1 Lindcrstainl- 
iiig amoiii:;' tlie officers and soldiers. He wishes them 
informed oi' the cause of liis leax'iiv^r^ that it was to their 
benefit. He says, " You are at all tii"nes t.) keep up a 
strict discipline, btit to reserve a mode of clemenc)" as 
amoni^" _\-oun!^'- trtx'ps; now and then to throw something 
of a promising hope among them of a quick return to 
North Carolina, which I doubt n<)t but sometin'iC hence 
will be the case. It will engage the mind and fjr a time 
dispense with inconveniences. Be careful in seeing nO' 
fraud is done them b\' the commissaries, and their pay 
regular!)- to a month dcliveretl b\' their captains." 

Wc see here a kind, fatherl}- and careful heart. Re- 
ceiving his commission in April his troops are raised and 
when first under fire at Charleston two months after- 
ward behavetl with conspicuous gallan.try. We learn 
from man)' sources that the)- were badl)' provided with- 
arms and clothing. The)- are marched by the restless, am- 
bitious, injudicious Lee in the sickl)' season, through the 
swamps of South Caroliiia to Savannah. Findin.giti mpos- 
sible to go farther for want of supplies, the)' are placed 
in pestilential camp witliout aii\- near prospect of active 
serx'ice. Their (Colonel, believing that the)' will remain 
in winter cpiartLrs here, g'ets leave to go to their distant 
homes in (^rder to obiain necessaries for their comfort. 
His heart )X'arns for them in his absence, and he urges 
the Lieutenant-Colonel wIki is to command them to be 
strict in discipline, but at the same time to remember- 
that they are young tr<-)ops, and need eiicou.ragement and 
comfort. He fears that the)- will become homesick, and 
that the)- will be cheated b)" the commissaries. He ex- 
horts the Lieutenant-Colonels to keep up their spirits by 
arousing hopes of early return to their beloved State, and 
to see that they get their rights. Soldiers with such a 
sympathetic and careful commander were sure to- recip- 


Tocate his watchruliic^s fir tlicm b_\- attention to dut)' in 
camp and on the battlc-fieUl. 

At the same time that Colonel Sumner went to 
North Carolina, Lee was ordered North to join Wash- 
ini^ton. xA.t the uri^ent request of the authorities of 
Georgia and South Carolina, the North Carolina troops 
remained for the defence of those States during the fall 
and winter following the Declaration of Independence. 
During this time Washington's army by the expiration of 
enlistments and the casualties of the retreat across New 
Jersey, frequent skirmishes, including the brilliant victo- 
ries of Princeton and Trenton, had been reduced to 
7,000 men. It became probable that the next struggle 
would be for the possession of Philadelphia. The North 
Carolina troops were on the 15th of March, 1777, or- 
dered to join hi.-<army. The route was by Wilmington, 
Halifax and Richmond. The story of their brilliant vic- 
tory over the British fleet had preceded them. Their 
progress through Virginia was an ovation. The}' could, 
says the chronicle, hardly march two miles without being 
stopped by ladies and gentlemen who flocked to see them. 
At Georgetown those who had not suffered from small- 
pox were inoculated with such success that not a man was 
lost. They reached Washington's^camp at Middle-brook 
about the last of June. They were placed under the 
comm.and of General Alexander, Lord Sterling. 

Thev had only a short rest. In a few days, after fin- 
ishing their long march, General Howe, the British com- 
mander, embarked 18,000 men on transports, and landing 
at Elkton marched towards Philadelphia. Although 
Washington had onl)' i i,ooomen, part of them raw militia, 
he concluded that it would ciemoralize the country to give 
up Philadelphia without risking a battle. He met the enemy 
on the nth of September at Brandywine. Sterling's di- 
vision, includingNash's brigade, was under the command 


of Sullivan. They showed praiseworthy coura,L,^e. The flight 
of Sullivan's own division exposed the flank of Sterling 
and of Stephen. As Bancroft says " These two divisions, 
only half as numerous as their assailants, in spite of the 
unofficer-like behaviour of Stephen, fought in' good ear- 
nest, using their artillei'}" from a distance, thefr muskets 
only while within forty paces." They were forced to 
yield to superior numbers. Sullivan redeemed his want 
of generalship by personal bravery, and Lafayette fought 
by their side as a volunteer and was shot through the 

Within five days Washington was^ ready for another 
fight, but the conflict was prevented by a furious rain- 
storm, which damaged the powder of both armies. On 
the 4th of October he formed an c.vcellent plan for at- 
tacking the enemy at Germantown. The brigades of 
Maxwell and Nash under Sterling, formed the reserve in 
the most diffiicult attack — that on the British left. This 
attack was successful, and if it had been properly sup- 
ported by other parts of the army would have won the 
victory. North Carolina lost some of her ablest men — 
General Nash. Cal Henry Irvin. Jacob Turner, a captain 
in Sumner's regiment, and soon afterwards the noble- 
hearted Colonel Kdward Buncombe who was wounded 
and fell into the hands^ of the enemy, died at Philadel- 
phia. Although the attack at GenrKintown failed, the 
i^pirit shown, the admirable plan, the speedy recover}- 
from the disaster at l^rand)-wi,ne, proved to the world 
tliat such, troops, with a leader so constant and wise and 
energetic, could not be conquered. It convinced the 
court of France that an alliance with the struggling col- 
onies would be safe and tend to cripple her hereditary 

. Two miore regiments from' North CaroHna joined the 
army during the winter of i7'J7-7?>; tlie 8th under James 


Armstrong, Colonel, and the 9th under John P. Williams, 
Colonel, and at least Armstroni^ arri\'ed in time to partic- 
ipate in the battle of Germantown. 

The North Carolina brigade went through \vith fortitude 
the heart-rending sufferings at Valle}' Forge in the win- 
ter of i777-'78. When the news of the Alliance of the 
United States and France and the sailing of the French 
fleet to America induced the British commander to re- 
treat to New York, giving up Philadelphia, they as usual 
did faithful service at Monmouth on the 20th of June — a 
victory which would have been most signal for the Amer- 
icans but for the misconduct of the traitor Gen. Charles 
Lee. They were posted on the left of the army and pre- 
vented the turning of that flank by Cornwallis. 

In May, 1778, on account of the diminished numbers, 
the North Carolina batallions, as they were called after 
joining Washington's army, were consolidated. The 6th 
was put into the 1st under Col. Thomas Clark; the 4th 
into the 2nd under Col. John Patton, and the 5th into the 
3rd under Col. Jethro Sumner. 

After the battle of Monmouth there was little fighting 
by Washington's army until the Yorktown campaign. It 
lay near Morristown, in New Jersey, and to the North of 
that point, watching the army of Clinton in New York. 
Sumner was promoted for his faithful services to be Briga- 
dier-General on January 9th, 1779. The North Carolina 
regulars, dwindled to only seven hundred men, were 
ordered to the South for defence of Georgia and South 
Carolina. General Howe had been disastrously defeated 
near Savannah,, and Congress had superseded him with 
General Lincoln. General Sumner and his brigade had 
the post of honor in the attack on the intrenchments of 
the enemy at Ston© Ferry on June 20th, 1779. The 
troops were ordered to trust to the bayonet only, but 
meeting with a heavy fire, they could not be restrained 


from retm'ninL;' it. Tlic\' behaved uitli cjreat spirit, but 
as Moultrie, wlio had been chari^ed with this dut\', was 
unable for the want of boats to prevent the arrival of re- 
inforcements to the British, Lincoln withdrew his men 
with small loss and in good order. S()on after the battle 
active o[>erations ceased, on account of the heated air la- 
den with malaria. Sumner's strong constitution, which 
had resisted the fierce cold of a Penns\dvania winter, 
could not sa\'e him from the prevailing fever. He was 
forced to ask leave of absence, expecting a speed}' re- 
cr)very in the highlanels of Warren. Mis presence in 
North Carolina was needed to aid in forwarding recruits 
to his depleted brigade. His request was granted earl)' 
in Jul)', and he was therefore not engaged in the disas- 
trous assault on Savanaah b)' the P^rcnch and American 
forces on October 9th, 1779. 

In Xiixember, 1779, Gen. Sumner was again with 
Lincoln and joined in the adivice to cross the Savannah 
into Georgia, a mo\'ement rendered of no a\'ail by the 
defeat of General Ashe. On account of his great per- 
sonal intluence in North Carolina he was detached to raise 
four new regiments of regulars, and so escaped being 
captured at Charleston. 

A more difficult and thankless task could not be con- 
ceived. He met with no s)'mpathy from the civil author- 
ities or fn^m the people. The latter preferred the short 
terms and less exacting discipline of the militia service; 
the former sympathized with them and gave little aid tc) 
the enlistments in the regular service until the disaster 
of Camden and the invasion of Cornwallis made them 
tremble for the fate of the State. 

Baffled in the attempt to conquer the Middle States the 
British ministry determined to transfer the theatre of war 
to the South. The)' believed that the fears of slave in- 
surrections and the presence of a large Tor)' element in 


the South would fnsure a speedy reduction of Georg"ia and 
South Carolina, North CaroHna and Virginia to the au- 
thorit}' of the crown. The character of the war was to 
be changed. Those who refused to return to their alle- 
giance and to render active aid to the British cause were 
to be treated as traitors. Terror of imprisonment and 
death, loss of propert)', and insult, even outrage, to 
women and children was to be employed as a potent ar- 
gument. The worst elements of societ}',the robbers and 
murderers, were to be furnished with authority to 
perform their nefarious calling, legitimated by the King's 
commission. All the horrors which have attended civil 
war in the darkest ages and among the most cruel people 
were now to be experienced by the Southern States, un- 
der the new policy of Clinton and Cornwallis. 

The policy seemed for awhile successful. In 1779 oc- 
curred the disastrous failure to capture Savannah. In 
May, 1780, Charleston capitulated, and by the blundering 
policy of General Lincoln, 2,000 of our best regular sol- 
diers, the heroes of many hard-fought battles, including 
the North Carolina brigade under Gen. Hogan, were lost 
forever. Georgia and South Carolina were overrun, onl}- a 
few small partizan bodies under Marion and Sumter and 
others, keeping alive the slumbering fires of existence. 

To make matters worse. Congress which had already 
inflicted one unwise General on the South, now sent 
another still worse. The defeat of Gates at Camden left 
North Carolina open to invasion, and inspired with cour- 
age all the dispairing and disaffected to increase the ranks 
of the Tories. But the pluck and endurance of the pa- 
triots paralyzed for a short while, were soon as strong as 

General Sumner was one of the most active and effi- 
cient officers in the movement which led to the salvation 
of the Corolinas. I sketch briefly his services, premising 


that Judi,^e Schcnck has, witli his accustomed ability. 
g-i\'cn tlic same in greater detail in his valuable book, 
"North Carolina in i/So-'Si." 

As said before the Xorth Carol ina regulars, except those 
who were absent on leave, were captured under Lincoln at 
Charleston. Gen. Greene on account of unreliabilit}' of 
short term troops earnestl}' desired the organization of 
another brigade of regulars. He was abl\- seconded b>' 
the General Assembl\', whose determinations like that of 
Senators of old Rome, rose higher as the invader drew 
nigher. As the Roman Senators did in times of extreme 
danger, the}' appointed a Dictator — a Council-E.xtraor- 
dinarx' — composed of the Go\'ernor (Xash), ex-Go\'ernor 
Caswell and William Brignol of Xew Berne, and for fear 
the Assembly should be prevented from meeting, gave it 
all the powers \"ested in the Hoard of \\'ar and Council of 
State, the powers of the purse and of the sword, the 
])Ower "to do and execute exery act and tloing which may 
conduce t() the securitx', defence and preservation of this 

A new militia law was passed much more stringent and 
eflicient than bef:)re, bjt cv^n in tlieir g>'--'i-t extremity 
their dread of a centralized gox'ernment was emphasized 
b}' the prox'ision that officers of the Continental service 
shouki not be placed over the militia Conscription, the 
last resort of a self-governing people, was adopted. A 
law to raise 2,720 men for filling up the Continental ba- 
tallions was enacted and great bounties offered. The mi- 
litia was divided into classes of fifteen, and the option 
to volunteer was given. If there was no volunteer, one 
from each class was to be drafted. Each volunteer or 
draft was to receive a bounty of /'3,ooo in bills or non- 
taxable certificates bearing six per cent, interest and re- 
ceivable for taxes. In addition to this amount three 
barrels of corn per annum for the wife and each child un- 


dcr ten years of age were to be given ever}' }'ear while 
the husband or father continued in service. A special tax 
of three per cent, of all the property of each class was 
levied to pay these bounties. To volunteers in the Con- 
tinental line duringthe continuance of the war were offer- 
ed ^2,000 in cash, and at the close of service a prime 
slave and 640 acres of land. And finally all run-aways 
and deserters, all those who harbored deserters, all who 
failed to appear at the time of drafting, were to be ipso 
facto privates in the Continental army for twelve months. 

Other strong measures were authorized, such as power 
of impressment of supplies for the army, the confiscation of 
property of Tories, and a specific tax of one peck of corn or 
the equivalent in other provisions, for each £iOO of prop- 
erty. This was afterwards increased to one bushel. These 
were stern measures, and could only have been enacteci by 
those who valued freedom over property and life. 

Prior to the battle of Guilford, March 15th, 1781, there 
seems to have been small success in recruiting. The 
rapid movements and apparently the overwhelming su- 
periority of Cornwallis, the fjars engendered by his pos- 
session of Hillsboro and the great impetus given to the 
Tor)' movement, seemed to paral\'ze the people. Greene 
was forced to replenish his small army with militia. 
Seeing this state of things, Sumner, with the full ap- 
proval and at the request of Greene, offered his services 
as commander of a brigade of mili'ia. Greene had faith 
in the saying of the ancients that an army of hares with 
a lion at the head is superior to an army of lions with a 
hare to command them. The able patriot, Willie Jones, 
General of the Halifax brigade, was willing to surrender 
his place in favor of the tried veteran. But General Cas- 
well refused the tender of service, and Jones being inca- 
pacitated by sickness. Gen. Thos. Eaton, the next in 
command, insisted on leading the brigade to their dis- 


_L^racefuI desertion at Guilfortl Coui't Hnuse. after hax-fnc^, 
as Judge Schenck shows, performed their dut}' at the be- 
L^inninij of tlie fiyht. Once before had Sumner been 
treated with scant courtes}-. When, after his tliL;ht from 
Camden, Gates left Caswell at Charlotte to Leather to- 
c^ether the fra^^ments of militia, he thouL;'ht best to 
j()in Gates in Hillsboro and left Sumner in command. 
H}- some influence the latter was superseded b\' 
Smallwood, not a citizen, and certainh' n')t his superior 
in abilit}'. He was in command, too, over a brigade of 
militia at R-ar i» s eu -r's Mills, on Deep Ri\"er, Caswell being 
present, on September 5th, 1780. \\'h\- Caswell refused 
the services of so eminent and useful a soldier it is impos- 
sible now to ascertain. A charitable conjecture is that 
he thought the x'iews of discipline held b\- a Continental 
officer trained under the exacting discipline of Frederick 
the Great, Baron Steuben, too severe for militia. His ex- 
perience at Camden should ha\"e taught him sounder 
military \iews. The admirers of Caswell may excuse 
him on the ground that the law prohibited the employ- 
ment of Continental officers o\'er the militia, but this de- 
fence is metb\- the factthat theCr)uncil Extraordinary had 
full power to assign Sumner to this dut\- if in its opinion 
the safet}' of the State required it. An_\- two of the coun- 
cil could act, and Go\'ernor Xash, it is known, was, in his 
favor. On Caswell seems to be the sole responsibilit)" of 
ha\'ing in charge of our militia, not the proved veteran 
Sumner, nor John Ba[)tista Ashe, nor Murfree. two other 
Continental officers chafing under enforced idleness, b u 
Butler and Eaton, good men, but destitute of militaryt 
experience, in whom the soldiers had little confidence 
and of whom the\- were not afraid. Virginia made no 
such mistake. The stern \'eteran. Stevens, placed behind 
his militia some of his grim, fear less old soldiers, ^\■ith instruc- 
tions to shoot all retreating without orders, and hence 


rhe extraordinaril}- soldier-like behax'iour of those raw 
troops. Morgan pursued similar tactics when he formed 
his militia at Cowpens, with a deep river behind them. 
They were afraid not to fight. As an old friend said to 
me once, "Fright is the bravest of all passions." 

Gov. Alexander Martin differed widely from Caswell. 
On the 1st day of January, 1772, he made an urgent re- 
quest to General Sumner for Continental officers. He 
writes, "With \'0ur leave. Major Hogg accepts a com- 
mand of Light Infantry of 500 men with Major McCree; 
Captain Tatum in command of a troop of horse attached 
to Major Hogg. Captain Dixon also will command such 
of the State troops as are now at Warren Court House 
until the corps can be organized under Lieutenant Mar- 
shall. * * ^ J flatter myself with the great ad- 
vantage this State will derive from having the honor of 
Continental officers in its service at this important period 
which may finally blast the hopes of a despairing enem}' 
and cause them to fall an easy prey to our arms." 

Denied the opportunity of leading the militia in the pend- 
ingcampaign, imitating his greatcommander, Washington, 
who performed his public duty with serene indifference to 
misunderstanding and jealousy, in defiance of all difficul- 
ties and discouragements, Sumner energetically contin- 
ued his efforts to rais€ his Continental brigade. His 
correspondence with Colonel Nicholas Long, Major John 
Armstrong, Major Pinketham Eaton, Col. Hal Dixon, 
and others, shows clearly the number and weight of his 
difficulties, and the extraordinar}- efforts to overcome 

By letter and by personal visits he endeavored to spur 
up the recruiting officers to the enlistment of volunteers, 
the militia colonels to the enforcement of the drafts, the 
commissaries and quarter-masters to the collecting of 
Supplies. He urged La Fajxtte and Steuben to forward 


arms from \'iri^M'nia. In Mime directions liis success, was- 
flattering; in otlicrs t!ic work was impeded b\' the fear of 
Tories, b}' the disloyalt}- or inertness of the drafting offi- 
cers, b\- the povert)' of sections, which had been harrowed 
[)}• tile enem)' or b}- domestic marauder^. Rank T(~)ries 
often enlisted, dre^\' their bounties and the same night de- 
serted. He wrote strong and mi>\'ing appeals to encour- 
age volunteering (^r to reconcile the people to drafting — 
with no grace of stxde, but with the eloquence of earnest- 

His efforts were onh' in part successful. Col. John 
Armstrong, in a letter to Sumner, gives graphic account 
of the trials. He sa\'s: "The General 'Greene) seems 
ver\' uneas\- about the dela}' of the draft of the Salisbur\' 
district and of the deserti()ns that frequently' happen by 
reason of the forced number of Tories into the service,, 
and as soon as the\' receix'e the bounty the\- desert. I 
have received nigh 300 men, and will not ha\'e above 200 
in the field. I did e\"erything in my power to bring out 
the drafts of this district, but all to no purpose. Tliere is 
one-half at home }-et, anil remain without molestation. 
As for clothing, tliere -was little or none sent fit for a 
negro to wear, e.xcept from Rowa.n. I am sorr\' that I 
ever had anything to do with such slothful officers and 
neglected soldiers. There is a number of them now al- 
mcTst naked, and when cold weather sets in the\' must 
be discharged, for no (officer would pretend to put them 
on duty. The neglect we have labored under heretofore, 
together with the present, make the service ver}' disa- 
greeable to every officer in camp. We are without 
mone\', clothing, or an}- kind of nourishment for our sick,- 
not one gill of rum, sugar or coffee, no tents or camp ket- 
tles or canteens, no doctor, no medicine; under these cir- 
cumstances we must become very inefficient." * * 
"1 am afraid that in. a short time you will have but few 


officers in the field, by reason of the shameful neglect of 
the State. We seem rather a burden than a benefit to 
them; we are tossed to and fro like a ship in a storm." 

At one time Sumner had orders to join Baron Steuben 
in Virginia. Armstrong says, " I wish it had been my 
lot to have gone with you to Virginia where we would 
have been under your immediate care. * * i 
am fully satisfied that you are not acquainted with our 
circumstances here, or otherwise it would have been re- 

The only thing praised by Armstrong is the pleasant- 
ness of the situation of the camp, "plenty of good water." 
" But," he adds, with a groan, " It hath one failing — it 
will not make grog." At that day, spirituous liquors, 
chiefly rum, were regarded as necessaries more than either 
sugar or coffee, classed with medicine. General Wm. R. 
Davie, the Commissary-General of the State, on Novem- 
ber 1st, in a letter to General Sumner, writes: "I have 
ordered some rum to be put in motion for the Southern 
army for the use of your brigade." "You are sensible," 
he naively adds, "that unless it is sent in charge of one 
of your own officers, it may lose much on its journey, 
and may not be properly applied on its arrival. General 
Davie's views accord with those of the old Scotch preach- 
er, "My brethren! It is said that the test of honesty is 
being.entrusted with uncounted gold. I am proud to say 
that many of you can stand that test. But there is one 
which I fear none of you can stand — ^being entrusted with 
unmeasured whiskey." 

It will be noticed that Armstrong says that if Sumner 
had known of the sad condition of the soldiers a remedy 
would have been found. This is confirmation of what I 
have already mentioned of his tender care of his troops. 

Although the required number had not been raised, yet 
Sumner was able on the 14th of July, 17S1, to march 


tVom Salisbur\- f(Tr Greene's camp in South Camlina, to 
take Command of a tliin iDri^dde of one thousand men, 
distributed into three bataUions, commanded b\- Coloneh-; 
John Baptista Ashe, John Armstrong-, and Reading;' 
Blount. Arms had been received cliietly from \'iri;inia, 
-r)nie 250 of the muskets beiuL,^ excellent weapons, made in 
!'hilaLlel}.)hia. Idie residue consisted of old weapons on 
w hich repairs were made after reachini^- camj). 

In the pleasant hills of the Santee the raw soldiers, 
many of whom were conscrij^ted because of their deser- 
tion from their militia duties, were tauL[ht the driHinii^and 
discipline of soldiers. The enem\-, under Stewart, was 
near the confluence of the Wateree and Con;^aree, each 
arm\' in siyht of the watch-fires of the other. Two large 
ri\'ers ran between, eftectualh' preventing surprises, and 
the operations were confined to cutting off con\'o\'s and 
foraging parties, in which the infantr\- was not em- 

Greene was the first to move. On the 22nd of August 
he marched uj) the Santee, and Stewart, divining his in- 
tention to cross, fell back forty miles nearer his supplies 
at Eutaw Sj)rings, where the battle occurred. In this 
stubborn conflict, in which both sides displayed the loft>- 
qualities for which the Anglo-Saxon race is distinguished, 
Sumner and his brigade, although the soldiers were new 
levies with onl\- three months' training, and most of them 
had never before been in battle, midesuch a brilliant charge 
as to win from General Greene the strong commendation, 
"I was at a loss which most to admire, the gallantr)' of 
the officers or the good conduct of the men. " And 
again, "The North Carolina brigade under Sumner were 
(M'dered to support them, and though not abo\'e t'.iree 
months men, behaved nobly." Go\'ernor Martin wrote: 
" I congratulate you on the honor you have gained at the 


head of the North CaroHna arm\- at the Eutaw." And 
such was the general verdict. Captain Smyth, the Brit- 
ish officer heretofore mentioned, speaks of Sumner's 
ha\'ing " distinguished himself in the course of the late 
war, being the General Sumner of the American arm}', 
who has been so active in the Carolinas." 

Although the glory of the conceded victor}- was de- 
nied the Americans, the British forces hurried off to 
Charleston, and Greene, weakened b}'the expiration of the 
term of service of so many of his men, retired to his 
old camp among the hills of the Santee. soon to rejoice 
over the glorious news from Yorktown. Here he waited 
for recruits and watched the enem}-. 

As soon as the camp was reached, Sumner at Greene's 
request returned to North Carolina for a second time on 
the thankless business of raising new forces and urging 
the supplying of his brigade with food and clothing. 
Colonel Armstrong wrote on February 13th, 1782. from 
camp at Colonel Shivers, 30 miles from Charleston: 
"Your officers and soldiers are very naked and no hopes 
of being better. ^ ■^ General Greene hath asked 
me several times if I had any accounts from you and 
likewise about some clothing he expected you to send to 
camp." * * '' Everything in this State seems to 
be in our favor. The Assembly of this State is now sit- 
ting at Jacksonborough, and is determined to raise two 
regiments, be the expense what it will. They have made 
a present of ten thousand guineas to General Greene, to 
be paid in land, negroes and handsel furniture of such 
estate that hath been confiscated in the present Assembl}-.'- 

On April 7th, 1782, an official report signed by Henry 
Dixon, Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2nd reg-jment,- a>nd at- 
tested b}- Major J. Burnett, aid de camp of Greene, shows', 
that the brigade then consisted of L154 nxen, but that the 
terms of 326. would expire in tlie same luonth, 299 in 


May, 141 in June, and so on — 1,000 in all b)' the ist of 
January, 1783 — leaving only i 54 for service. The officers 
of the South Carolina line and of the legionar)' corps were 
authorized by Greene to enlist North Carolina Continen- 
tals as fast as discharged. There was universal apathy. 
The currency became worthless, and people in defiance of 
stringent laws began to refuse to accept it. Specie began 
to make its appearance at the North, but very little found 
its way to our State. There was no "provision made for 
the soldiers when recruited. One officer writes that he 
lias men, but no food; another that he has not a single 
blanket to his company. Another that his drafted men 
have not come in, and if he obeys Sumner's order to 
march he will go alone. Another says that the men came 
in slowly, and that numbers desert, "we are very scarce 
of provisions and under the necessity of impressing from 
the inhabitants who have been greatly disturbed." * * 
The people will make very little corn in this (Caswell) 

It is impossible at this late day to trace with any min- 
uteness the actions of General Sumner during the last 
eighteen months of the war. As no great movements of the 
armies were inaugurated it is probable that he remained in 
North Carolina, prosecuting his duty of raising troops. 
In this, his efforts, as were similar efforts in other States, 
had little success. The ravages of disease in the low 
lands of South Carolina where the operations were 
carried on, had been so great that each recruit as he turned 
his back on North Carolina felt that he was marching to 
suffering and death. Drafting was the only remedy, and 
this became so odious that only one-third of those liable 
in North Carolina were procured, while in Virginia and 
South Carolina the authorities refused to adopt this 
method of replenishing their armies. The country 
seemed exhausted, and the long prayed for peace came 
none too soon. 


On the 23rd of April, 1783, furloughs were granted to 
the North CaroHna soldiers, and they returned gladly to 
their homes. In some few places they were received with 
festivites and rejoicings, but most of them settled 
■quietly to the pursuits of peace. It should be remem- 
bered that no North Carolina soldiers were guilty of mu- 
tinous attempts to obtain their rights by force, as were 
those of various other States, and that a North Carolinian 
i(Howe) was called by Washington to protect the Na- 
tional Legislature from the threats of violence of mobs. 
Our officers and privates were content to rely on the 
sense of justice of their State government, and history 
shows that all was done that could be done by a ruined 
people. Large grants of the fertile lands of Tennessee 
were made them, including 25,000 acres to General 
»Greene, while General Sumner's share was 12,000 acres. 
A commission was appointed to settle and pay the just 
•dues, which the Continental Congress had failed to dis- 

In the closing years of the war only the energy gen- 
erated by fears of defeat and ruin had kept up the people 
to the fighting point. After the capture of Cornwallis 
there was a universal feeling that the war was practically 
over. The exertions, which were the fruit of terror and 
dispair, gave way to supineness and lethargy. The poor 
soldiers, far from home, seemed to have been forgotten. 
In some commands there were mutinies and threats to 
enforce their rights at the point of the bayonets. An 
Alexander, a Caesar, a Napoleon, might have urged the 
fierce discontent of the army for the auguration of a mili- 
tary despotism. The great and good Washington, by 
the union of kindly sympathy and occasional force, 
quieted these troubles. The brave soldiers who encoun- 
tered all the sufferings which can afflict mankind, hunger, 
thirst, nakedness, disease, wounds, separation from loved 

46- • 

•)ncs, apparent inL^ratituclc and iic.L;"lcct trfjni those in civil" 
authority, otficcrs whose fame will ne\'er (lie, and their 
humble followers, "unnameLl demigods of histor\'," hung- 
up their swru'ds and their niuskets on the bar: walls of 
their ruined dwellini^'s, and addressed themselves man- 
fulK' to repairin.'^" their shattered and lax'ing' the 
foundation (■■( the Great Republic of the worl;:l. As S. S. 
I'rentiss so beaulitully said to the returned soldiers from 
tlie Mexican v.'ar: "Thus the dark thunder cloud at Na- 
ture's summons marshals its black batallions and hovers 
in the horizon.', but at len.g'th its lightnings spent, its nission 
finished, its dread artillery silenced, it melts awav into 
the blue, and the next morning m^iy be four.d glit- 
rering in the dew drops among the flowers, or assisting, 
by its kindl}' moisture the growth, of the youn.g and ten- 
der plants." 

General Sumner was exempt from some of the trials 
suffered by his compatriots. He was a man of large 
possessions. His home was not in the track of the ar- 
mies 'and suffered no injur\- from rude soldier)'. His 
neighbors were all lo\-al to America and we find no. 
depredations of Tories or deserters in Bute. His pru- 
dence kept him from debt. In the midst of admiring 
friends, enjoying the satisfaction of a well-earned repu- 
tation, he spent the residue of his days in the manage- 
ment of his estate, tlve care of his slaves and his blooded 
horses, the training of his children and the exercise of a. 
generous hospitality. His wife probabl}' died during the 
war, as she seems to have been living in 178 1, and was 
not living in 1785. 

Only once was he induced to leave his privacy. Iiv 
1784 was formed the Societ}- of the Cincinnati, composed 
of officers of the Continental army. Its nam-e was taken' 
from the personification of Washington called like Cin- 
cinnatus of old from- his farm to- the salvation of his coup.- 


\ry. It was designed to pei'pctu.ite the feelings of pa- 
triotism and brotherl}' affection engendered by the long 
struggle together for Independence, and provide for the 
indigent in their ranks. Washington was its President 
General. General Sumner was President of the North 
Carolina division and presided over a meeting of the del- 
gates at Hillsboro on April 13th. As delegates to the 
general body he appointed /Xrchibald Lyttle, Maj. Read- 
ing Blount and Maj. Griffith J.McRee. As in the original 
incorporation the primogeniture principle was contempla- 
ted, fears entered the public mind that the Societ}' was 
an entering wedge for the introduction of an aristocracy 
into our country. This hostilit}'. coupled with the diffi- 
culty of communication in this large but thinly settled 
State gave it a short. life here. In sorRe of the States it 
still flourishes, Hamilton Fish, of New York, being the 
successor of Washington as President General. From it 
is derived the name of one of the most flourishing cities 
of the West. 

Before closing, I must give you some details throwing 
•light upon General Sumner as a citizen. 

We have the inventory of his effects, returned by his 
<^xecutors. Including the bounty lands'in Tennessee, he 
left over 20,000 acres of land, besides town lots in Hali- 
fax, Louisburg and Smithfield, in Virginia. He owned two 
valuable farms in Warren county, one called his "Manor 
Plantation " and the other his " Bute Court House Plan- 
tation." On them were thirty-five slaves, nearly all able 
to work" and seventeen horses, some of them racers; and 
about 240 hogs, twenty sheep and eighty-six head of 
other cattle. The possession of this large amount of 
stock, together with 150 barrels of old corn and a quan- 
tit}' of bacon and beef and "six hogsheads of prized to- 
bacco and about two to prize," as late as the 15th of 
March, after the winter was passed, is a pretty good 

showing' for his manag"ement. The mention ofa " quan- 
tit}' of quart bottles, some rum, brand}-, c>'der and wine,'" 
five large China bowls and four small ditto, shows that he 
kept up the convivial habits which distinguished Warrert 
society for so many years, while the " one chamber 
chair " suggests that the war-worn veteran, after leaving 
his active army life, may have contractexl by too- 
generous living tliat affliction fomierl}- called the aristo- 
cratic disease, the gout, exceedingl}- common in that day. 
There is an enumeration of large quantities of earthen- 
ware and china, silver and ivory-handled knives and 
forks, " two square tables, two round tables ajird two tea 
ditto,." which shows that he was accustomed to exercise 
bountiful hospitalit}'. As memeatos of his army expe- 
rience we find ;^2,374, 9s, 6d, of army certificates, his 
silver-handled sword, bequeathed to his eldest son, his 
fire-arms bequeathed to his second so^n, ajid "his camp- 
beds, bedsteads and furniture," which he g^ave to- his 
daughter. The silver salver, silver spoons, " large and 
small," silver-handled aad ivory-handled kiuves, china- 
ware and other furniture, gold watch and silver watch, 
show that he lived in good style, while his division of his 
"printed books V between his two sons, in that day whent 
books were quite rare, indicates tliat he had some taste, 
for literature. 

The end was much nearer than the ag-e of fiftv-t wo )-ears 
would seem to make probable. The e.xposures of war 
from the bitter cold of Valley Forge to the fever swamps 
of South Carolina, whence deadly miasma rises almost 
like a visible mist, underm-ined his strong constitution- 
General Sumner's will is dated March 15th, 17S5, and the 
inventory returned by his executors is dated March iQth^ 
1785,30 that he must have died between these dates. 

I regret that I can ascertain nothing" satisfactory about 
General Sumner's wife. Sm\-th states, as I have mention- 


ed, that she was )'oung at the time of tlie marriai;o. of 
i^''()od family and of a handsome fortune. Wheeler says 
that she was a wid )\v Heiss, of New Berne, but none of 
the (dd inhabitants of that town know anv'thiiiL;" about 
her. General Sumner bequeaths to his dau^^^hter the 
"clothing- and jewels of his wife, now in possession of 
Airs. Long-, of Halifax." Mrs. Long of Halifa.x, the 
widow of Col. Xicholas Long, the Commissar_\'-General, 
was a notable lady, whose maiden name was AIcKinnie, 
and, from the fact that Mrs. Sumner's clothing and jew- 
els were left with her, coupled with the fact that one of 
her sons was named McKinnie Hurst, and further that it 
appears from an act of the General Assembl}', disentail- 
ing some lands, that the McKinnies and Hursts were re- 
lated, the presumption is that she was either a McKinnie 
or a Hurst, nearl)- related to Mrs. Long-. This presump- 
tion is streng-thened b\' the fact that one of the devisees 
of Sumner's lands, in case of the death of all his chil- 
dren in their minority, was Nicholas Long, Jr., a son of 
Mrs. Long-. 

General Sumner left three children, all minors. We 
do not know the dates of his marriage or of the birth of 
any of his children, except Jacky Sullivan, who married 
Thomas Blount, a brother of Major Reading Blount, one 
of Sumner's Colonels. She changed her name to Mary 
Sumner Blount, and died in 1823. She was born in 1778 
and was probably the }'oungest child. The two sons 
were Thomas Edward and Mc Kinney Hurst. To the 
former doubtless the oldest child, w.'vs devised his Manor 
Plantation. To McKinney Hurst, the Bute Court House 
Plantation. In case either should die in their minority 
the other was to have the whole. If all his children 
should che in their minority his lands were to go to Nich- 
olas Long. Jr., and the oldest son of Benjamin McCul- 
lock aud James Gray. His executors nomin^ated were 


l^eniaiiiin AlcCullock, Jr>lin l^apti^ta Aslie YonnL; AIc- 
Lcmon and James Gre}', but only McCullock and (jrc\- 
qualified. The s<)ns died without issue, and so all the 
propert}- final!}- vestetl in Airs. Jack)' Sullixan i.or M ir\- 
Sumner Hlount) and was by her scattered amonc;' sixt\- 
lec^'atees, incku.linL;' the I^piscj^al church of KaleiL^ii and 
friend.s who had been kind to her. Her hu.'^banLl wms a 
member of Con;_;'ress of the United States, and one of the 
commissioners to locate the Capital and a!s(> the L^niversitw 
I'd'om the fire^'oinc^ sketch, hastily prei)ared h"om ma- 
terials scattered throuL,di scores oi manuscript letters antl 
numerous printed br)oks, we are able to estimate what 
manner of man Jethro Sumner was. Me was not a i^x-- 
nius; he had little education deri\-ed from bioks. Hut he 
had a L^enerc^us nature and a bii^ heart. One of his colc)- 
nels writes, " Dear General, }'ou are no strani^^er to our 
sufferings; we have our eyes u[)on y(3u as our support in 
our hour of need." They did not lean on a broken reed, 
but on a sturdy oaken staff He had a stroni;' heat! and 
sound common sense. General Greene and Governor 
Nash and scores of militar\' leaders in the dark hours of 
■a desolated State, of civil strife, of ruined currency, of 
despondency and of terror, asked the aid of his sai^acity 
and pluck, and asked not in wain. He had a long- expe- 
rience in actual military service in the field through most 
of the French war, and from the burning of Norfolk, Jan- 
uary 1st, 1776, until the close in 1783, in fierce battles, in 
laborious m.arches, in drear}' encampments, in thankless 
recruiting service, from a Lieutei-iant to a l^rigatiier- 
General's place. Although not brilliaiU, he was ;ilwa}-s 
faithful and reliable, performing his full dutv without fd- 
tering and without a murmur. In all his letters we find 
no carping at superiors, no jealous}- of equals, ho de- 
,spondenc}' or cowardice of heart. He was a lo}-al, brave. 
true, gallant soldier. He had no art to push himself, or 


publish his cxph^its. He kept no predecessor ot 
the iiiodern newspaper correspondent in his tent in 
order to puff liim into notoriet)'. He chd his whole duty 
and made no boast. He left no posterit\- to keep his 
fame burnished. The noble State love of Judge Schenck 
has brous^'ht his bones from their secluded restin<;-place 
in the woods of AVarren to this beautiful battle park, 
where his monument can be seen and his name read by 
countless visitors. He has likewise caused me to e.x- 
hume his military and civil record from musty manu- 
scripts and notices scattered in many books, and expose it 
to the eyes of all who take interest in the deeds and suf- 
ferings of our forefathers. J thank him and his committee 
for putting this task upon me. 

F"ellow Citizens: I have endeavored to give you a truth- 
ful account, not making the ^^ubject of my address a hero 
impossible to be imitated, or an unapproachable saint, but 
exactly as he was — a man, a gentle-man, whom all should 
know and love. I hope, in view of all his sacrifices for 
us and our liberties, in view of his kindly acts to our suf- 
fering ancestors, you will join m.e in thanks to the giver 
•of all good, because of His gift to North Carolina of 
" Jethro Sumner, one of the Heroes of 1776."* 

* This is the inscriiv'tii'n du Sumner's mouuiiK-nt. 

Note. — By a shp of memory it is slated on page 34 that Sumner 
joined in the advice to Lincoln to cross the Savannah in Novem- 
ber, instead of .April, 1779. Ashe's defeat was in November 1779, //>*'^-* £--^ 
and of course did not iVustrate the movement. K. P. B. 



This book may be kept out one month unless a recall 
notice is sent to you. It must be brought to the North 
Carolina Collection (in Wilson Library) for renewal. 

JAN 1 zaio