The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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Battle of Alamance (which was in May 16, 1771), Governor Tryon took steps to cure this more methodical madness by swearing her "whole militia companies together." So well did his prescription work upon the consciences of a Bible-reading community that when a convention of delegates from these same militia companies assembled in Charlotte on May 19, 1775, with the common sentiment that 'the cause of Boston is the cause of all,' 'to take such measures as might be thought best to be pursued,' and independence was boldly proposed as the only remedy, quite a scene was produced by the delegate, who replied, "I should be glad to know how gentlemen can clear their consciences after taking that oath." The same argument that satisfied him, and made the vote unanimous, was effectually used by Dr. Caldwell in his congregations in Guilford, and was a triumph of sound reason and righteousness over the machinations of tyrants.*

        * Rev. E. W. Caruther's "Life of Rev. Dr. David Caldwell," p. 136.

        Dr. Caldwell was a most influential character, and, although not so mentioned by the historians of the adjacent States, figured conspicuously in connection with the battles, both of Alamance, and of Guilford Court House.

        The same author, who, from the mouth of eye witnesses, has given elsewhere, many unpublished incidents connected with the battle of Guilford Court House, March 15, 1780, and the affair on the Alamance, May 16, 1771, in speaking of the six prisoners hung by Tryon at Hillsboro, says: "Nor will the fate of Captain Merrill excite much less regret. He was from the Jersey settlement, according to McPherson; or as others say, from Mecklenburg county. He was regarded as a pious man; was much esteemed wherever he was known. He was within an easy day's march of the place of meeting, with three hundred men under his command, when he heard of the defeat, and if he had got there in time, the result would have been very different. His men immediately dispersed; but he was taken prisoner, and his life was the forfeit."

        To get positive information on this head, as well as of a prior rebellion in Mecklenburg, which arose out of British land titles, would now be about as difficult as obtaining access to the archives of an "invisible empire."

        Under the head of Wake County, we will publish documents to refute the sweeping assumption made by a critic in the North American Review, of April 1874, that "in the year 1819, the Raleigh Register surprised its readers, etc., with the announcement of a Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, dated May 20, 1775."


        Robert Polk was born in Ireland. The name is a corruption of Pollock. He came to America in 1735. Had eight children--six sons and two daughters; and settled in Somerset county, Maryland. Three sons of Robert--Thomas, Ezekiel, and Charles--in 1750, came to Mecklenburg county, then Anson county (Mecklenburg was formed in 1762 from Anson). John, son of Robert, was the father of William.

        William Polk, grandson of Robert had (1) Charles, (2) Susan (married Alexander), (3) John (4) Ezekiel, (5) Thomas, (6) Margaret (married McRee).

        Ezekiel Polk, son of William, married, first, Miss Wilson; second Mrs. Lennard, and was the father of Samuel Polk, who married Jane Knox, and so became the father of James Knox Polk, (born November 2, 1795--died June 15, 1849) who was the eldest of his children. He was born eleven miles south of Charlotte, near little Sugar Creek church. When he was about eleven years old, his father moved to Tennessee. He was educated at the University, where he graduated in 1818, in the same class with Robert Donaldson, Thomas J. Green, William M. Green, now Bishop of Mississippi, Hamilton C. Jones, Edward J. Mallett, Rev. Robert H. Morrison, William D. Mosely (since Governor of Florida) and Hugh Waddell. He took the first honors of his class. He never missed a single
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