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Peter Francisco 




Delivered at the unveiling of a Tablet to his Memory 
at Guilford Battle Ground, July 4th, 1910 




Peter Francisco 




Delivered at the unveiling of a Tablet to his Memory 
at-Guilford Battle Ground, July 4th, 1910 




Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2011 witii funding from 

University of Nortii Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Mr. President atid Gentlemen of Guilford Battle Ground 
Company, Ladies and Gentlemen: 

In the South from the time of the earliest settlements, 
tobacco raising was a profitable industry, and the question of 
labor a very important one. England undertook to supply 
this demand, and great numbers of people were sent over 
from the mother country. Convicted criminals were trans- 
ported here, as later they were sent to Botany Bay. Others 
from the lower classes, who were unable to pay for their 
transportation, were also sent to this country. A protest 
from the Colonies against the criminal class was sent over to 
England, and their transportation gradually ceased. Boys 
and girls were kidnapped in the streets of London and shipped 
to America, to be indentured to farmers. The cry for cheap 
labor was still heard in the land, and they brought negroes 
from the jungles of Africa, until the South was filled with a 
people that has caused untold suffering and sorrow to this 
goodly land. And now the cry has been going up from the 
manufacturers, especially of the North, for cheap labor, and 
a class of undesirable citizens has been pouring in there, 
which will give this country trouble again unless something 
is done to check it. 

About the year 1768 an English vessel landed at City 
Point on the James River, in Virginia, and among other things 
brought to that colony was a little boy 6 or 7 years old, with 
keen black eyes and dark complexion, with a shock of black 
hair covering his well shaped head. He was too small to be 
of service to any one and so this kidnapped waif was left 
upon the wharf when the ship sailed, and there he stayed 
for several days without a friend; his wistful eyes often 


turned down the river in a vain search for some one. His 
cry might have been heard at midnight, as the wail of a 
child for a lost mother. The sailors fed him to keep him 
from starving. There, thousands of miles from those who 
might have cared for him, alone, friendless and penniless, 
was little Peter Francisco. He who does not let a sparrow 
fall without his notice, however, did not forsake Peter, and 
finally a very kind-hearted, sympathetic, benevolent man (we 
have a goodly number of the same sort with us today,) took 
the little fellow to his home. Oh ! no ! he sent him to the 
poor house of Prince George County, where you may be 
sure he was clothed in fine linen and fared sumptuously every 
day — just as they do now, especially in those counties where 
the poor are put up to the lowest bidder — that is the man 
who will keep them the most scrimpingly. Peter remained 
in the poor house until he was large enough to be of service to 
man, and then he was bound out to Mr. Anthony Winston, 
of Buckingham County, Va. Mr. Winston lived in the country 
between the historic Appomattox and the magnificent James 
River, in a beautiful home known as Hunting Tower. Mr. 
Winston was an uncle of Patrick Henry, and young Peter 
was brought to his 16th year in a family full of patriotism 
and love of liberty, and in an old country home which is 
about as near to the mansions in the skies as any place on 
earth. This brave, intelligent boy imbibed the spirit of the 
times, and became enthusiastic for the American cause. He 
was noted at an early age for his physical strength. He was 
a born athlete. He could throw down, out run, or whip any 
boy in Buckingham County, and the wonderful feats performed 
by him won for him the respect and confidence of the whole 
community. The war spirit v/as strong in him and at the 
age of 16 years he obtained permission from Mr. Winston to 
join the American Army as a volunteer, and from that day 
to the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown his strong right 
arm and his undaunted courage were used in behalf of 
American independence. 

Peter Francisco was a modern Hercules, and his personal 

appearance was most striking. He was the kind of a man 
that people turn to look at when he passes by. Over six feet 
high and weighing 260 pounds, without an ounce of super- 
fluous flesh, an extremely handsome face, with black hair and 
piercing black eyes — no wonder people looked again at him. 
An ordinary sword was entirely too short and light for him 
to use effectually, and General Washington had one made for 
him in a blacksmith shop, six feet long, which he could 
wield as a feather. A veritable giant, with an eye like a 
hawk — the spirit of a king eagle, a breast like a lion, strong 
as a buffalo, and with the breath of a hound. He could keep 
pace with the King's horsemen in their fiery rides. He was a 
typical American soldier. Devoted passionately to the cause 
which he had made his own, there is no such picturesque 
figure in the whole continental army as Peter Francisco. 

He entered most heartily upon the duties of a soldier, 
and received his "baptism of fire" at the battle of Brandy 
Wine under the gallant LaFayette. In the following month 
he participated in the battle of Germantown, and although 
our army was defeated, the fault did not lie at the door of 
Francisco, and the heroic bearing of men like him made 
Frederick of Prussia say that "when the American soldiers 
become disciplined they will be very formidable." It is but 
natural then that the soldiers themselves should soon have 
received encouragement, and that a vision of great posibilities 
should have lured them on to more daring deeds. 

Immediately after the battle of Germantown we find our 
hero, under Col. Smith, taking part in the defence of Fort 
Mifflin, which was situated on an island in the Delaware River. 
Day after day the besieged withstood the bombardment of the 
enemy with persistent energy and bravery, until the block 
houses were beaten down, the palisades demolished, and the 
guns dismounted. Many of the brave defenders were killed 
or wounded, and when the few still left were unable to 
longer defend the fort they set fire to whatever was com- 
bustible, and crossed the river at night by the light of the 
flames. Young Francisco during this terrible siege stood 

side by side with the bravest of the defenders and was the 
peer of the best. He was with his command during that 
awful winter at Valley Forge, and at Monmouth the follow- 
ing summer when he was severely wounded. He appears 
again at Stony Point under "Mad Anthony Wayne". The 
first man to enter the fort was Major Gibbon and next to 
him was the dauntless dark eyed Francisco, who killed the 
color bearer, and received a bayonet wound in his own body. 
This exploit gave him great renown, and he became the hero 
of his command. Later we find him under General Morgan, 
taking part in many skirmishes, around New York and Phila- 
delphia. There was a marked resemblance between Morgan 
and Francisco in person and character. Morgan was of 
gigantic stature and strength, and of unsurpassed courage and 
fortitude. Like Francisco, he was faithful in every fibre and 
Morgan was a figure to stir the imagination and ambition 
of a young giant like Francisco. Coming South with Morgan 
he was at the battle of Camden, where he witnessed the 
defeat which caused the "Laurels of Saratoga to change to 
Southern willows". In this battle Francisco saved the life 
of Col. Mayo, by killing the man who had his gun leveled 
at the gallant Colonel. At the close of the battle he was 
charged upon by one of Tarleton's troopers, but that proved 
to be his last charge, for Francisco ran his sword through the 
trooper's body, and mounting his horse made his escape. Later 
he again came upon Col. Mayo, whose life he had saved but 
an hour before, and finding him exhausted from fatigue, he 
dismounted from the dead trooper's horse, and insisted upon 
the Colonel's mounting him in his stead, and upon this horse 
Col. Mayo was enabled to reach Hillsboro, North Carolina. 
Out of gratitude for this act of unselfish devotion, and for 
the greater act of saving his life, Col. Mayo afterwards pre- 
sented Francisco with a thousand acres of fertile land in the 
State of Eentueky. 

After the defeat of Gates at Camden, Gen. Nathanael 
Greene was placed in command in the South, and this General, 
aided by the intrepid ]\torgan, soon changed affairs and new 


hope again came to our army. The battle of Cowpens was 
a decided victory. Morgan and Francisco were there. Cam- 
den was redeemed. Then came the Battle of Guilford Court 
House, and on this spot Francisco did some of his most 
wonderful fighting. That long sword, made in a blacksmith's 
shop, was very bloody. The carnage was dreadful and Lt. 
Holcomb, of Washington's light horse, says that the strong 
arm of Francisco slew three men in one charge, and eleven 
before the battle was over. One of the enemy made a fearful 
thrust with his bayonet at Francisco and pinned his leg to 
his saddle. Francisco quietly assisted his foe to extricate 
his bayonet, forbearing to strike an enemy while practically 
unarmed, but as soon as the man was in a position to defend 
himself, Francisco made a furious blow wdth his sword, which 
cleft the fellow's head down to his shoulders. 

Francisco received the commendation of Col. Washing- 
ton for his matchless bravery on this battlefield. After the 
excitement of the battle was over Francisco found himself 
]iinable to move on account of that bayonet thrust which had 
entered above the knee, piercing the whole length of the leg to 
the hip socket. Francisco was left upon the battle field 
among the dead. In this lone and bleeding condition he was 
discovered by some good man who took him to his home and 
cared for him until he could once more mount his faithful 
horse. I wish I knew the name of that good Samaritan. 
I would be glad to call it in this presence today. 

There v/as at one time, under Napoleon Bonaparte, a 
private soldier who, like Francisco, refused to be promoted, 
l)ut preferred to remain in the ranks, and who v/as so brave 
and devoted and daring that he, like Francisco, became the 
hero of his command, and when he was killed Napoleon 
ordered that his heart should be taken out, and intrusted 
to the keeping of his regiment, and when his name was 
called the next to him should answer, "dead upon the field 
of honor". Had Francisco died on this spot, well might 
the same thing have been done for him. No braver or heroic 
man ever marched up to the loaded cannon's mouth than 

Peter Francisco. As soon as Francisco could travel he set 
out for Virginia, and shortly after his return he had a most 
thrilling experience. While alone one day he fell in with 
nine of Tarleton's Cavalry, and one of them demanded his 
knee-buekles. "Take them off yourself", replied Francisco. 
The cavalryman stooped to unbuckle them, when as swift 
and as silent as an Indian Francisco seized the fellow's sword, 
split his head open and turning killed two others, one of 
whom sat upon a horse, snapping a musket in his face. The 
others fled, and Francisco, mounting one of the enemy's 
horses, made his escape in the face of Tarleton's troops con- 
sisting of 400 men who were riding rapidly to the rescue of 
their fellows. 

At Yorktown the military career of our hero closes. He 
witnessed the surrender of Cornwallis and the Revolutionary 
War was over — the independence of the Colonies assured. 

The following story is told of Francisco by no less a 
personage than Henry Clay : 

Henry Clay paid him a visit about 1826, when examining 
his large, muscular arms, jNIr. Clay asked him if he had ever 
met his equal. Francisco replied that when he kept a tavern 
at the New Store a Mr. Pamphlet rode up one day, and made 
a full stop ; he advanced to meet him, supposing him a guest, 
when Mr. Pamphlet, sitting on his horse, addressed him thus : 
"Are you, sir, Peter Francisco?" "Yes, sir." "Well, I 
have rode all the way from Kentucky to whip you for noth- 
ing." "Sir?" "Yes, sir." Francisco called to a servant, 
telling him to go to the meadow and bring him a bunch of 
willow switches. When they had been brought, Francisco 
handed them to Mr^ Pamphlet, requesting him to use them 
over his shoulders, and to go back and say that he had accom- 
plished his purpose. Mr. Pamphlet seeing his proposal turned 
into ridicule, dismounted, and entering a flowergarden in 
which Francisco stood, asked if he might be allowed to feel 
of Francisco's weight. With ease he lifted the giant several 
times, saying, though, that he was quite heavy. "Now, Mr. 
Pamphlet, let me feel of yours," said Francisco, who lifting 

the sportive gentleman t^dce into the air, the third time 
pitched him over a railing fence four feet high into the public 
road. The would-be bully wailed from his dusty resting 
place, that if Francisco would put his horse over also he 
would go home satisfied. The story goes, vouched for by 
many reliable people, that Francisco led the horse to the 
railing, and, with his left arm under the horse's breast and 
the right one behind him, put him over as requested, after 
which performance the discomforted Mr. Pamphlet took his 
way back to Kentucky. Mr, Clay, it is said, laughed heartily 
over this story, exclaiming that he was indeed glad to know 
one of the mischievous Pamphlet family had at least been 
conquered. At that time many malicious pamphlets concern- 
ing him were in circulation. 

The native worth of Francisco introduced him into good 
society, and his matrimonial connections were highly credit- 
able. His first wife was Mary Anderson ; second, Catherine 
Fauntleroy Brooke ; and third, Mary B. "West, a widow whose 
maiden name was Grymes; each of whom belonged to repre- 
sentative Virginia families. A portrait of Francisco hangs 
in the State Library at Richmond, Virginia. 

In 1819 Francisco applied to Congress for a pension, but 
owing to the spirit of parsimony which then existed, the pen- 
sion was refused, and this heroic old soldier died without 
any recognition of his services by the government, the inde- 
pendence of which he had fought for so bravely and well. 
Congress, after his death, however, did pension his widow. 

Francisco was for several terms sergeant-at-arms of the 
House of Delegates of Virginia, and was serving in that 
capacity when he died. The Richmond Enquirer, of January 
17th, 1831, gives the following obituary notice : 

Died. — On Sunday, in this city, after a lingering indis- 
position, Peter Francisco, Esq., the Sergeant-at-arms of 
H. of Delegates, and a Revolutionary Soldier, celebrated 
for his extraordinary strength, his undaunted courage, and 
his brilliant feats. The House of Delegates have determined 
to pay him the honors of a Public Funeral, and to bury him 


with the honors of war. The House have accordingly ad- 
journed until tomorrow. The Eesolutions passed on this occa- 
sion, and the Encomiums that were paid to the old Soldier's 
memory, are dietailed in our account of the Proceedings of the 

Proceedings in the House of Delegates, January 17, 1831 
Death op Peter Francisco 

Mr. Yancey said, that he had the painful duty to perform 
of announcing to the House, the death of Peter Francisco, 
late Seargeant-at-arms of this body. He had yesterday re- 
ceived a message from him, expressing, as his last dying 
request, a wish to be buried with military honors. Mr. Yancey 
had prepared two or three resolutions for the occasion, which 
he would now submit: 

Resolved unanimously, As a testimony of regret, for the 
death, and a token of respect for the memory of Peter 
Francisco, Sergeant-at-arms to this House, that the mem- 
bers of this House will form a procession and attend the 
place of his interment. 

Resolved also, That in consideration of the distinguished 
military services rendered by the said Peter Francisco, dur- 
ing the Revolutionary War, that the Governor of this Com- 
monwealth cause the remains of the said Peter Francisco 
to be interred with military honors, and at the public expense. 

Resolved, That a conmiittee be appointed, to consist of five 
members, to superintend the funeral, arrange the order of 
procession, and interment of Peter Francisco, deceased, and 
that the committee invite the attendance of the Governor and 
Council, the Speaker and members of the Senate and their 

Mr. Barbour rose to second the resolutions presented to 
the House. The loss of any citizen, who was an officer of 
the House, could not but be deeply regretted. But Francisco 
was no common man and he was happy that some record 
was to be left to his merits and his memory. In ancient times 


monuments were erected to men who had performed worthy 
services; but in modern times their worth was inscribed on 
our records and by the aid of the press were sent far and 
wide. He had said Francisco was no common man. By 
nature he had been endowed with extraordinary strength, 
the most determined intrepidity, and the warmest patriotism. 
It was not his lot to be advanced in rank during our Kevolu- 
tionary struggle. But as a private soldier he gave a striking 
example of bravery, and performed exploits that have scarcely 
ever been excelled. Niot only in the North, but the South, he 
displayed his heroism. And the achievements which he per- 
formed in Virginia, overcoming three or four of the enemy, 
and causing them to fly, leaving their property in his pos- 
session, has seldom been equalled. Let us, then, perform 
due honors to the memory of Francisco. Such opportunities 
of honoring the brave would not occur very often, for the 
ranks of the Revolutionary heroes were fast decaying. By 
the arms of such men the liberty of our country was achieved, 
an achievement of vast moment to the whole world, for it had 
not been confined to this country. It had gone across the 
waters, to the shores of Europe, where nations were follow- 
ing the example of America. To such men, then, honor was 
due ; and he joined most heartily in the respect proposed to 
be paid to the remains of Peter Francisco. 

Col. Edward Pescud, of Petersburg, Va., married Susan 
Brooke Francisco, the daughter of Peter Francisco by his 
second wife, Catherine Fauntleroy Brooke, of Essex County, 
Virginia. Col. Pescud was the editor of the Republican, a 
paper published at Petersburg, served in the war of 1812, 
and was a very prominent citizen. Peter Francisco Pescud, 
the oldest son of Col. Pescud, married Mary Wilson, and 
their eldest son, John S. Pescud, married Isabella Hinton, 
and their descendants are living, most of them, in North 
Carolina. Jane Pescud married Prof. W. A. Withers, now of 
the A. & M. College at Raleigh ; Mary Wilson Pescud married 
Percy Lynch, of New Orleans ; Annie Lawrence Pescud mar- 
ried H. J. Lovick, of New Berne, and Miss Isabella Pescud 


and John Shaw live with their father, John Shaw Pescud, in 
Raleigh, N. C. 

A large number of other descendants are now living in Vir- 
ginia, Louisiana and elsewhere. These have all had a glorious 
heritage left to them by their splendid ancestor of blood and 
bravery. How very fitting that a tablet to the memory of 
Peter Francisco should be unveiled today upon this battle- 
field, where he did some of his most heroic deeds, and where 
he poured out his blood so freely for American Independence, 
How seldom do we find tablets unveiled or monuments 
erected to the man behind the guns, but officers of an army 
could make no renown if they had no brave men to do the 
fighting. I take my hat off to the private soldier, to the man 
who never wavered in battle or on the march, whose brawny 
arm and trusty broadsword thinned the ranks of the enemy 
wherever he went, the man whose memory we honor today 
by yonder tablet, the typical American soldier, Peter Fran- 

[ In the erection of monuments upon its grounds the Guil- 
ford Battle Ground Company achieved the most gratifying 
success of its history July 4, 1909. Handsome memorials to 
Clio, the muse of history, and to Dr. David Caldwell, were 
completed and dedicated, and also a fine octagon shaft to 
Colonel William Washington, to whose command Peter Fran- 
cisco belonged, was also completed, except tablets to same. 

In the spring of 1910, through the patriotic liberality of 
Mr. Peter F. Pescud, a native of Raleigh, N. C, now a citizen 
of Louisiana, a large and handsome bronze tablet to his ances- 
tor, Peter Francisco, was presented the Company, attached 
to this shaft and unveiled July 4, 1910. 

Jos. M. Morehead, 
President Guilford Battle Ground Company. ]