The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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        In 1775 this was a frontier County and was considered to extend with the territorial limits of North Carolina to the Mississippi. Its early inhabitants were the devoted friends of American liberty. In that year (1775) her heroic men formed a Committee of Safety; its journal has been preserved, as also are names worthy of record. Benjamin Cleveland was the Chairman, William Lenoir its Secretary, Joseph Winston, Jessie Walton, John Hamlin, Samuel Freeman, Benjamin Herndon, Charles Lynch, John Armstrong, James Hampton, Richard Goode, George Lash, David Martin, Charles Waddle and others, were its members. Their resolutions breathe a determined resistance to oppression and formed a government simple and effective for the protection of the citizen.

        Benjamin Cleveland, the chairman of this committee, was one of the most active and resolute heroes of the Revolution and worthily is his name preserved in one of the most beautiful counties of the State. He devoted himself to the cause of liberty. He was in the Provincial Congress which met at Hillsboro', August 21, 1775 and he was appointed an Ensign in the 2nd. Continental Regiment, raised by the State, commanded by Robert Howe. His name does not appear in the rolls of this regiment, which service was long and active, but we have abundant proof that Colonel Cleveland was an active, resolute and useful officer, and a terror to the Tories. On one occasion two men, (Jones and Coil), abandoned and atrocious characters, were brought before him. Cleveland, after consulting some of the leading men of the community, hanged them. For this act he was indicated in the Superior Court of the district at Salisbury for murder, but on a petition to the Legislature he was pardoned.

        Soon after this event he was taken prisoner by some Tories at the Old Fields, on New River, to which place he had gone alone on private business. They took him some distance into a secluded portion of the country, and first required him to give them passes to protect them from the Whigs. He knew when this was accomplished they would kill him. He was some time in writing the passes, as he was but an ordinary pensman, and he was in no particular hurry. While thus engaged, his brother, Captain Robert Cleveland, with a party of men, knowing the peril of his brother, pursued and fired upon them. They incontinently fled; and so Colonel Cleveland's life was saved. Several months after this, one of these same Tories, Riddle, his son and another man, were captured and brought before Cleveland. He hanged all three of them at the Mulberry Field Meeting House, where the town of Wilkesboro' now stands. Such resolution and promptness was called for by the daring and desperate conduct of the Tories.

        He was, although daring and rash, a most useful officer. He commanded the left wing of the Americans at the battle of King's Mountain, October 7, 1780, and was engaged in the battle of Guilford Court House.

        When Wilkes County was taken from Surry (1777) he was one of the first members elected to the Legislature; and in 1779 was elected to the Senate. He had an impediment in his speech, which prevented any effort at oratory; but he was as brave as he was patriotic. For
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