The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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He became a soldier, served with distinction in the American army, and attained the rank of Major. It is not our object to give a detailed account of the exploits of Denny Porterfield, but will simply endeavor to record his daring bravery as exhibited in his last battle.

        It is a well known fact that while Cornwallis retreated from Guilford Court House via Fayetteville and Wilmington to Yorktown, where he was compelled to surrender to the prowess of Washington, Gen. Greene, instead of pursuing him, determined to relieve North and South Carolina from the persecutions of Lord Rawdon, and so pressed upon him, that in July, 1781, he took post at the Eutaw Springs, where the Americans attacked him and drove him from his entrenchments. Foremost in this intrepid charge was the high-souled and valorous Denny Porterfield who seemed to have a charmed life, as he exposed himself upon his mettled charger, with epaulettes and red and buff vest on, to the murderous fire of the enemy. Lieut. Col. Campbell received a mortal wound while leading the successful charge. Porterfield and his brave companions rushed on to avenge his death, and took upwards of five hundred prisoners.

        In their retreat the British took post in a strong brick house and picqueted garden, and from this advantageous position, under cover, commenced firing.

        At this crisis in the battle Gen. Greene desired to bring forward re-inforcements to storm the house. To save time it became important that some one should ride within range of the British cannon. It was in reality a forlorn hope. The American General would detail no one for the enterprise, but asked if any one would volunteer. Instantly Denny Porterfield mounted his charger and rode into his presence. Gen. Greene inquired if he was aware of the peril, if he knew that his path lay between converging fires, and in full sight of the British army. Porterfield modestly replied, that when he entered the American army he had subjected his powers of mind and body to the glorious cause, and if needs he was prepared to die in its behalf.

        Greene communicated the command, which was to order into service a reserved corps that lay in ambuscade, ready to advance upon receiving the signal agreed on.

        With a brave and undaunted bearing Major Porterfield dashed off upon his fleet courser, and so sudden and unexpected was his appearance among the British, and so heroic the deed, that they paused to admire his bravery, and omitted to fire until he was beyond the reach of their guns; but on his return, they fired, the shot took effect in his breast, and the brave Denny Porterfield fell, and sealed his devotion to the cause with his blood, on the plains of Eutaw. His horse escaped unhurt galloped into the American lines, and never halted till he reached his accustomed place in the ranks.

        Gen. Greene, who witnessed the instinct of the animal, shed tears, and ordered David Twiggs, father of Miss Winny Twiggs, now of Fayetteville, to take charge of the horse and carry him to Mrs. Porterfield at Cross Creek. And upon a Sunday afternoon the mother of the distinguished gentleman who communicated some of the facts detailed, remembered to have met David Twiggs coming into Cross Creek, who in one breath announced the fall of his beloved Major and the success of the American arms at Eutaw. He brought with him the red buff vest that Major Porterfield wore, and Gen. James Owen has informed me that he remembers to have seen it, and that there was a rent or tear on one side and slightly blood-stained. On the retreat of Lord Rawdon, Gen. Greene retained possession of the field, and there the body of Denny Porterfield found an honorable grave. His
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