The Battle family, one of the most numerous and distinguished families of the state, had its origin in this county. Elisha Battle, the progenitor of the family, was born in Nansemond County, Virginia, January 9, 1723. He moved to Tar River, in this county, in 1748. About 1764 he joined the Baptists, was chosen deacon, and continued a consistent and zealous member of this denomination until his death. Equally useful was he in the affairs of state; he was elected for twenty years successively to represent this county in the legislature; he was also a member of the provincial congress at Halifax, which formed the state constitution, and a member of the convention at Hillsboro, to deliberate upon the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. In 1742, he was married to Elizabeth Sumner; in 1799 (March 6th,) he died, leaving eight children.
William Horn Battle, late one of the judges of the supreme and superior courts of North Carolina, was a native of this county, born October 17, 1802. He was the son of Joel Battle, and grandson of William, the fifth child of Elisha Battle, just mentioned. His education was received at the university, where he graduated in 1820, delivering the valedictory, then the prize of the scholar second in rank. This was no small distinction among such scholars as Bartholomew F. Moore, Bishop Otey, Charles G. Spaight, and others of that class. He read law with Judge Henderson, and was licensed to practice in 1824. From his modest and retiring demeanor, his success was but slow, and gave but little promise of future eminence, and for years but few briefs engaged his services. But he persevered, and finally attained the highest honors of his profession. This example should certainly afford encouragement to young and briefless lawyers. His time was occupied in constant study, and in laying deep and broad his knowledge of the law. He prepared a second edition of the first volume of Haywood's Reports, greatly enhanced in value by the addition of notes showing the changes made in the course of forty years' legislation, and new decisions construing the law. This edition was received by the profession with great commendation, and gave Mr. Battle such a reputation that he was appointed by the governor, with other able jurists, to revise the statutes of the state. After the labor of three years, these "Revised Statutes" were submitted to the legislature for ratification, and adopted.
Mr. Battle had been associated with Mr. Devereux as reporter of the decisions of the supreme court. On the resignation of his associate in 1839, Mr. Battle became the sole reporter. The fidelity and accuracy with which he discharged the duties of this post, won for him the approbation and applause of the profession on the bench and at the bar, and, therefore, upon the resignation of Judge Toomer, he was appointed by Governor Dudley, in August, 1840, one of the judges of the superior court, which appointment was confirmed at its next session by the legislature.
In 1843 he removed to Chapel Hill, and in 1845 was elected, by the trustees of the university, Professor of Law, conferring upon him, at the same time, the degree of LL.D. On the death of Judge Daniel, he was appointed (May, 1848,) by Governor Graham, one of the justices of the supreme court of the state, but this appointment was not confirmed by the legislature, although, by the same body, upon the resignation of Honorable Augustus Moore, one of the judges of the superior court, he was elected to fill that vacancy. He held this position for some time. In December, 1852, he was elected by the legislature one of the justices of the supreme court. The circumstances, so gratifying and honorable, connected with this appointment are best explained by the following correspondence:
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