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Sketches of North Carolina
Chapter XXXIV - Charlotte and her Recollections

BESIDES the honor of being the seat of the Convention, in 1775, that issued the first Declaration of Independence, Charlotte, in Mecklenburg, North Carolina, has claims upon posterity both singular and meritorious. The centre of a fertile and populous county, she was doomed to see the blood of her sons shed, and the Declaration of Independence of all foreign dominion, maintained at the point of the British bayonet.

After the battle of Camden, Charlotte, that had been a rallying place for the American forces, became designated as the headquarters of the British army. The resistance made by the few troops that could be hastily assembled, was in the hope of delaying and intimidating, rather than in the expectation of successfully opposing the advance of the enemy.

Tarleton in his "History of the Southern Campaign, 1780 and 1781," page 159, says, "Earl Cornwallis moved forward as soon as the legion under Major Hanger joined him. A party of militia fired at the advanced dragoons and light infantry as they entered the town, and a more considerable body appeared drawn up near the court-house. The conduct of the Americans created suspicion in the British; an ambuscade was apprehended by the Iight troops, who moved forward for some time with great circumspection; a charge of cavalry under Major Hanger dissipated this ill-grounded jealousy, and totally dispersed the militia. The pursuit lasted some time, and about thirty of the enemy were killed and taken.

"The King's troops did not come out of this skirmish unhurt Major Hanger, and Captains Campbell and McDonald were wounded, and twelve non-commissioned officers and men were killed and wounded."

The position of Charlotte, however favorable to the Americans, was anything; but agreeable to the Earl Cornwallis. He possessed in the adjacent country a few friends and timid dependents. The panic that had gone over South Carolina after the success of the British in that State, and had driven multitudes to "take protection," in despair of self-preservation, had in some degree extended itself to North Carolina; and on the approach of the enemy, some families "took protection" from the spoliations of the foraging parties.

But notwithstanding the terror of his arms, his lordship found his situation in Charlotte, which became his Bead-quarters on the 26th of September, to be distressing and humiliating. The reasons given by Tarleton are both striking and sufficient. He says, "Charlotte town afforded some conveniences blended with great disadvantages. The mills in its neighborhood were supposed of sufficient consequenee to render it for the present an eligible position, and in future a necessary post when the army advanced. But the aptness of its intermediate situation between Camden and Salisbury, and the quantity of its mills, did not counterbalance its defects."

"It was evident, and had been frequently mentioned to the king's officers, that the counties of Mecklenburg and Rohan" (Rowan) "were more hostile to England than any others in America. The vigilance and animosity of these surrounding districts checked the exertions of the well-affected, and totally destroyed all communication between the king's troops and the loyalists in other parts of the province. No British commander could obtain any information in that position which would facilitate his designs, or guide his future conduct."

A higher encomium of the principles and patriotism of the Irish, or rather Scotch-Irish, settlements in Carolina could not have been given. It is the testimony of an eve-witness, and he an inveterate enemy, with the best means of information. Of the town and its environs, he goes on to say—"the town and its environs abounded with inveterate enemies. The plantations in the neighborhood were small and uncultivated; the road narrow and crossed in every direction; and the whole face of the country covered with close and thick woods. In addition to these disadvantages, no estimation could be made of the sentiments of half the inhabitants of North Carolina, whilst the royal army remained at Charlotte."

After speaking of the almost entire impossibility of obtaining correct information concerning the movements of the Governor and Assembly,—the preparations of the Militia,—and the forces and designs of the Continentals, Tarleton dwells at large upon the difficulty of obtaining provisions while he remained in Charlotte. The same difficulty, though not always to the same degree, attended the British army during the whole campaign in North Carolina. He says—"the foraging parties were every day harassed by the inhabitants, who did not remain at home to receive payment for the product of their plantations, but generally fired from covert places, to annoy the British detachments. Ineffectual attempts were made upon convoys coming from Camden, and the intermediate post at Blair's .hill—but individuals with expresses were frequently murdered. An attack was directed against the piquet at Polk's Mill, two miles from the town. The Americans were gallantly received by Lieut. Guyon, of the 23d regiment: and the fire of his party, from a loopholed building adjoining the mill, repulsed the assailants."

"Notwithstanding the different checks and losses sustained by the militia of the district, they continued their hostilities with unwearied perseverance; and the British troops were so effectually blockaded in their present position, that very few out of a great many messengers could reach Charlottetown, in the beginning of October, to give intelligence of Ferguson's situation."

The repulse at McIntire's is a good illustration of what Tarlton says in these quotations. The commander in Charlotte having heard of the abundant supply of grain and fodder that might be obtained from the rebel neighborhood, some seven miles from Charlotte, on the road to Beattie's Ford, sends out a force sufficient, as was supposed, to overawe the neighborhood, accompanied with a sufficient train of baggage wagons to bring in the necessary supplies. A lad, who was ploughing a field by the road side, upon seeing the advance of the soldiers, leaves his plough, mounts his horse and gallops through bye-paths to give notice to the inhabitants that a foraging party was out. They, of course, fled and spread the alarm, riding away their horses, and hiding or removing their most valuable effects.

The family at Mr. McIntire's had just time to escape; the men in the fields armed themselves and took to the woods; and the women and servants rode off towards the residences of neighbors, whose houses were supposed to be out of the track of this armed force; the house and all the property were left to the mercy of the foragers.

The neighboring men, conjecturing the object of the party, rallied around McIntire's farm, according to the rules which had been voluntarily adopted, that neighbors would help each other; and about a dozen of them, armed with rifles and divided into companies of two, lay concealed in the woods in sight of the house, not far from each other.

While lying there, they witnessed the advance of the British,—saw them pause on the brow of the hill near the branch and reconnoitre, and then slowly advance to the house. The dragoons dismounted and fastened their horses, and the work of plunder began. Harnessing some of their horses to the farm wagons they began to load them with forage; and when the baggage wagons arrived they proceeded to load them with corn and oats. While this was doing the soldiers were running down and catching the poultry in the yard, and killing pigs and calves. By accident some of them over-set the beehives ranged by the garden fence, and the enraged insects fell in fury upon the soldiery. The scene became one of uproar and boisterous merriment. The commander of the forces, a portly florid Englishman, stood in the door with one hand on each post, enjoying the scene of plunder, and laughing at the antics of the soldiers discomfitted by the bees.

The owner and his neighbors had approached within rifle shot of the house, under cover of the woods, and were exasperated witnesses of the merry plunder of the foragers. At length one of them cried out—"Boys, I can't stand this—J take the captain. Every one choose his roan and look to yourselves." Quick as his word, the sharp crack of his rifle was heard; and the captain fell from the doorway. The rifles of the other eleven answered in quick succession; and nine men and two horses lay upon the ground.

The trumpet sounded a recall; and the dragoons hastened to form a line. The assailants shifted their position, and from another direction, from a skirt of woods, poured in another straggling fire, with fatal accuracy. The dragoons began a pursuit, and set on the dogs; but soon a fire from another direction alarmed them, lest they were surrounded. The dogs came on the trail of these retreating men, and the leading one sprung upon the heels of a man who had just discharged his rifle. A pistol-shot laid him dead and the other dogs, Corning up to him, paused, gave a howl, and returned. The alarm became general, and the troops hastened their retreat, attempting to carry off the loaded wagons. But the more distant neighbors had now rallied, and the woods echoed on all sides with the rifles and buns of concealed enemies. The leading horses of the wagons were some of theirs shot down before they ascended the hill by the branch, and the road was blocked up; and the retreat became a scene of confusion in spite of the discipline of the British soldiers, who drew up in battle array and offered fight to the invisible enemy that only changed their ground and renewed their fire. In full belief that they were assailed by a numerous foe, and disappointed of their forage, they returned to camp—swearing that every bush on the road concealed a rebel.

The men that brought about this retreat were well known in Mecklenburg. One of them, whose residence was not far from the spot, now lies in the burying-ground in Charlotte, with the following inscription on the marble slab that covers his grave:

On the 20th of March, 1826, in the 68th year of his age.
He lived more than half a century in the vicinity of
This place, and Was a zealous and active defender of his
in the
and one of the GALLANT TWELVE who dared to attack,
and actually drove 400 British troops at McIntire's
7 miles North of Charlotte,
on the 3d of October, 1750.
GEORGE GRAHAM filled many high and responsible
the duties of which he discharged with fidelity.
He was the people's friend, not their fetterer,
and uniformly engaged the
and respect of his

This George Graham is the same person that is mentioned by General Joseph Graham, as his brother that was sent to Salisbury by the committee of Mecklenburg, to bring the two delinquents to justice. The concurrent voice of tradition is that he merited all that is said of him on his tomb stone.

It has been thought by some that Tarleton, in his Memoirs of the Southern Campaigns, was more unfavorable to Lord Cornwallis than justice would require; and while he had no inducement to favor in any way the American cause, he magnified his lordship's blunders and misfortunes. Another English writer, who was a professed friend of Cornwallis, and was surgeon in his army through the whole southern war, and had the best means of information, giving an account of the taking of Charlotte, thus writes:—

"And Charlotte was taken possession of after a slight resistance by the militia, towards the end of September. At this period, Major Hanger commanded the legion, Colonel Tarleton being ill. In the centre of Charlotte, intersecting the two principal streets, stood a large brick building, the upper Part being the Court-House, and the lower part the Market-House. Behind the shambles, a few Americans on horseback had placed themselves. The legion was ordered to drive them off; but upon receving a fire from behind the stalls, this corps fell back. Lord Cornwallis rode tip in person and made use of these words: 'Legion, remember you have everything to lose but nothing; to gain;' alluding, it is supposed, to the former reputation of this corps. Webster's brigade moved on, drove the Americans from behind the Court-I-louse, the legion then pursued them; but the whole of the British army was actually kept at bay for some minutes, by a few mounted Americans, not exceeding twenty in number."—Steadman's history of the American War, vol. ii., p. 217.

This writer then goes on to describe the difficulties of obtaining provisions, much in the same terms as Tarleton has done in the preceding quotations; and adds, in a copious note, remarks, of which the following are a part: "In Colonel Polk's mill were found 28,000, and a quantity of wheat. There were several large well cultivated farms in the neighborhood of Charlotte. An abundance of cattle, few sheep; the, cattle mostly milch cows, or cows with calf, which, at that season of the year, was the best beef. When the army was at Charlotte, we killed, upon average, 100 head per day. The leanness of the cattle will account for the numbers killed each day. In one day no less than 37 cows in calf."

"At this period the Royal army was supported by Lord Raw-don's moving with one half of the army one clay, and Col. Webster with the other half the next day, as a covering party to protect the foraging parties and cattle drivers." It is not improbable the affair at McIntire's compelled them to move with greater forces when they wished to gather forage. The writer then proceeds to state, that the reason the southern sections of the country suffered so much in the campaign was, that so much of their wealth lay in cattle, and so much of their work iii the lower sections was done by negroes.

The British army lay encamped, the short time they passed at Charlotte, on a plain, south of the town, about midway to the place where the court was first held, then occupied by Mr. Thomas Spratt, now by Major Morrow, and on the right hand of the road from the village; and the general's head-quarters, a white house on the southeast corner from the old Court-House, now the second house from the corner.
From all these circumstances combined, as mentioned by the English writers, and handed down by tradition, we cease to wonder that Cornwallis called Charlotte the "hornets' nest," and that, unwilling to pay for supplies with so much English "blood," after the fatal battle of King's Mountain became known to him, his lordship determined to leave this vexatious post. To prevent annoyance, he chose to depart suddenly, and in the night. Mr. McCafferty, a man of wealth and standing, a Scotchman, and resident in Charlotte, was chosen as their guide to lead them by the upper and nearest route to South Carolina. After so bewildering the army in the swamps, that much of their baggage was lost, he contrived to escape, and leave the army to find their way by the returning light of day.

Colonel Thomas Polk, so favorably mentioned in the history of the declarations, owned property in and around Charlotte. His mill was between two and three miles south of the village, and is now called Bissell's. His body lies interred in the graveyard of the village. Over his grave and that of his wife Susanna, his son William Polk, late of Raleigh, erected a marble slab, a memorial of his resting-place.

The Polk family came early to Mecklenburg, and in the time of the Revolution were numerous, and some of them very wealthy. They resided, part of them, in the bounds of Sugar Creek congregation; and part of them in Providence. Among them was Ezekiel Polk, the grandfather of James K. Polk, President of the United States. The descendants have all emigrated from the county, mostly to Tennessee, or States further south.

Thomas Spratt, at whose house the court was first held, is said to have been the first man that moved his family, on wheels, across the Yadkin. He stopped first on the Rocky River; but being disturbed by the Indians he removed to the spot, near to Charlotte, where he died, and lies buried in the angle of the woods, near his dwelling. There appears to have been at this place a burying-ground as old as that of Sugar Creek, now entirely grown over with trees. The forests here, as elsewhere, seem to strive to eradicate the footsteps of man, and resume their dominion.

Garden, in his anecdotes of the American Revolution, says: "Nor were the ladies in Mecklenburg in any degree inferior in enthusiasm to the male population. I find in the South Carolina and American General Gazette, from the 2d to the 9th of February, the following paragraph!—'The young ladies of the best families of Mecklenburg colony, North Carolina, have entered into a voluntary association that they will not receive the addresses of any young gentleman at that place, except the brave volunteers who served in the expedition to South Carolina, and assisted in subduing the Scovalite insurgents. The ladies being of opinion that such persons as stay loitering at home, when the important calls of the country demand their military services abroad, must certainly be destitute of that nobleness of sentiment, that brave, manly spirit which would qualify them to be the defenders and guardians of the fair sex.'

"The ladies of the adjoining county of Rowan have desired the plan of a similar association to be drawn up and prepared for signature."

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