There were few common elements in the militia organization to be found
among the southern states. Virginia and South Carolina along the sea coast were
heavily populated whereas in most of North Carolina the government had the
greatest difficulty finding enough men within a day's ride to make up a militia
company. The greatest problem for all the southern colonies came in organizing
the militia on the frontier. The principal, if not exclusive, reason why the southern
colonies created a militia was to combat the native Americans, with whom clashes
occurred almost constantly from the earliest days forward. The second reason the
southern militias were formed was to contain the growing slave populations, which,
in some areas, outnumbered the slave-owning population. Virginia, and occasionally the other southern colonies, used the militia to contain the growing number of
indentured servants and convict laborers.
While the northern and middle provinces had enlisted indentured servants,
Amerindians and even black slaves in their militias, southern colonies were rarely
prepared to admit any of these classes into their militias. These exclusions were
generally enforced despite the fact that the pool of eligible white, free males was
so greatly reduced that the southern militia system was unable to function well.
The militia system in the southern states was able to provide protection because,
for the most part, the aborigines were too weak and undivided to offer much of a
challenge, and because several civilized tribes sided with the colonists. In Virginia
and a part of Maryland, the Algonquin tribes, especially the Powhatan Confederation, fed and sustained the English settlers more frequently than they fought with
them. In Georgia there were essentially no problems with the Amerindians until
the English stirred them up at the time of the American War for Independence. The
southern tribes, such as the Cherokee, Catawba, Yamasee and Creek were
essentially agricultural peoples who were more settled than the northern tribes. The
large body of Cherokee remained generally friendly until 1759. South Carolina's
Catawba were removed far enough from the settlers on the coast that they did not
believe that the whites were a threat until about the end of the eighteenth century.
Because the Spanish settlers in Florida favored the local tribes, the great Creek
nation, traditional enemies of the Florida tribes, sided with the English who hated
the Spanish. The principal Indian problems came from the Yamasee, a displaced
tribe from Florida who fought the Carolinians as early as 1715.
Also, there was essentially no rivalry in conquest from any other European
power the way the northern colonies suffered from the rivalry between the French
and the English for supremacy in North America. Occasionally, Georgia
experienced incursions from the Spanish; and in the Seven Years' War the French
presented a very few minor problems in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. In
that war Virginia, Maryland and to a far lesser degree, the Carolinas, did supply
troops to fight against the French in western Pennsylvania.
With a substantial portion of the southern population being slaves the
militias in the south took on a special duty that was inappropriate to the north: they
ran slave patrols. Slaves generally could not carry or own firearms. On each
plantation one slave could be licensed to carry a gun for the purpose of hunting
down predators and otherwise protecting the master's property. For cause,
additional trusted slaves might be entrusted with arms, usually shotguns. The slave
patrols were always staffed with white militiamen.
Typical of laws enacted in response to real or imagined slave revolts was
that resolved by the Norfolk, Virginia, city council, of 7 July 1741.(1)
Resolved by the Common Council that for the future the inhabitants of this
Borough shall, to prevent any invasion or insurrection, be armed at the Church
upon Sundays, or other Days of Worship or Divine Service, upon the penalty of
five shillings . . . . Josiah Smith, Mayor
Were these duties not tied to the militia by law and custom, one might
imagine that slave patrols were logically tied more to the posse comitatus. This
ancient Anglo-Saxon legal term refers to the power or force of the county. In
medieval times a sheriff could summon all able-bodied men, 15 years of age or
older, to assist in the enforcement of the law, maintenance of the peace and the
pursuit and apprehension of felons and runaway slaves and servants. In the United
States a sheriff may summon a posse to search for a criminal or assist in making an
arrest.(2) Southern militia constituted a standing posse, available at any time and
often deployed on a regular schedule, whether there was suspicion of a crime or
runaway slave or not. After regular forces and select militia units were created in
the south, militia units often had no real function or duties save for slave patrols.
During the Revolution the southern militia served primarily as guerrillas
to harass the British army, like forces to counter the tory militias and auxiliaries
which occupied territory and prevented extensive British control of populations and
land. Many southern political leaders, however, treated the militia as an alternative
to, or substitute for, the regular standing army, rather than as an auxiliary.(3)
I should like to express my appreciation to the Marguerite Eyer Wilbur
Foundation and the Second Amendment Foundation for their support. Much credit
is also due to two devoted assistants, Damon Dale Weyant and Kevin Ray Spiker,
Jr. Professor W. Reynold McLeon offered valuable suggestions as did my
anonymous referees. My esteemed department chair, Allan Hammock supplied
support for copying. I thank Mrs Mildred Moyers and Mrs Christine Chang of the
West Virginia University Library system were most courteous and helpful in
locating and gathering up materials for me.
The Virginia Militia
The Virginia militia was of greatest significance in the seventeenth
century, during which time the development passed through several stages. The
first quarter of the seventeenth century was marked by improvisation and
experimentation as the colonists attempted to develop a formula which would work
in the colony's particular circumstances. In the second quarter of the century "this
system was reorganized, refined, and repeatedly tested in combat." In the third
quarter the colonial leaders excluded slaves and indentured servants, but dwelled
on intensive training of specialized units, such as the frontier rangers. Virtually all
adult, free, white males answered the muster call. Following Bacon's Rebellion,
1675-77, the base of recruitment was further reduced and a gentlemen's militia,
similar to the militia found Stuart England, emerged. The bulk of the population
after 1677 constituted an under-utilized, rarely mustered reserve, similar to the
medieval great fyrd. After 1680 few poor men served in any militia capacity,
although some might enlist in a crown regiment for the pay. The chronic economic
crises had reduced much of the population to poverty, so most of the poor were
delighted to discover that the militia law was not going to be universally enforced.
To most poor reduction of military duty meant that they had more time to plow and
harvest and could pocket the money they might otherwise have to lay out for militia
arms, supplies, gunpowder and accoutrements. The government began to establish
central armories and gunpowder magazines rather than depending on the populace
to store individual supplies. Changes in the number and distribution of guns as
Virginia approached the eighteenth century were functions of economic and social
In 1606 the English King provided a charter to the Virginia Company of
London. It required the civil authority to recruit and train a militia and other
prepare defenses to "encounter, repulse and resist" all the king's and the colony's
enemies, suppress insurrection and treason and to enforce the law.(5) The Virginia
Charter of 1612 required the government to provide the citizenry with "Armour,
Weapons, Ordnance, Munition, Powder [and] Shot" for its defense.(6)
The first settlers arrived on 24 May on the Sarah Constant, Goodspeed
and Discovery, establishing Fort James, soon named Jamestown. The Company
sent John Smith, a hardened military veteran, to establish a self-defense force.
Upon his initial review of the men Smith observed that they were "for most part of
such tender educations and small experience in martial accidents" as to be
essentially useless. He immediately undertook to train them to "march, fight and
skirmish" and to form an "order of battle" wherewith to provide some defense
against the native aborigine. He exercised the company every Saturday night.
Smith especially emphasized forming a proper battle order designed for the New
World.(7) Smith departed Virginia in 1609, but there was no change in the
exercise of the martial arts since the new leaders sent by the Virginia Company
were also veterans of many European battles. If anything the new military leaders
intensified the militarization of the colony. Much of Smith's work had come
unraveled because of famine, disease and deaths at the hands of the Indians.
Understanding that development and maintenance of a militia was the primary
necessity, the "excellent old soldiers" divided the colonists into "several Companies
for war." They appointed an officer for each fifty men "to train them at convenient
times and to teach them to use their arms and weapons."(8)
The primary problems with the defense of the colony were not military.
The colonists had settled on one of the most inhospitable and undesirable pieces
of land available and diseases of all kinds reduced the numbers of colonists.
Famine was also a constant threat.
By 1610 the Virginia militia was sufficiently powerful to take the
offensive against the natives. Beginning with small forays into Amerindian
territory, the militia became emboldened with small victories its first campaign. In
1614 the militia captured Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas, and this brought the
first Indian campaign to halt, with the militia having tasted victory for the first time.
Initial successes and the removal of the immediate threat to the settlement brought
a certain inertia and the militia ceased its frequent practices. Peace also brought an
end the military dictatorship of the militia company and its professional officers.(9)
In 1613 Sir Thomas Dale concluded a treaty with the Chickahominies
under Powhatan who were now closely allied because of the marriage of
Pocahontas. Among other provisions, the tribe agreed that all members were now
Englishmen, subject to the king, and that "every fighting man at gathering their
Corn should bring two Bushel;s to the Store as Tribute, for which they should
receive as many hatchets." They also agreed to supply 300 men to join the colonial
militia to fight against the Spanish or any other enemy of the Crown.(10)
On the whole it must be said that Powhatan Confederation sustained the
colonists more frequently than it made war upon them. The Powhatan Algonquins
initially did not view the settlers as much of a threat. Reports came to Powhatan
that the English had neither much corn nor many trees in England, and thus were
For their part, the English saw the Chickahominies as a potential threat,
although within a sixty mile radius of Jamestown there were few villages of more
than fifty inhabitants, and the entire Amerindian population was probably less than
5000, of which perhaps 1500 were warriors. Tribes allied with Powhatan could
have raised fewer than 2500 warriors. The colonists could match these numbers,
and they were armed with firearms and iron and steel weapons. Nonetheless, the
governor published and edict that "no Indian should be taught to shoot with Guns,
on Pain of Death to Teacher and Learner."(11)
In 1618 the Virginia company reorganized, with a wholly civilian rule
replacing the military one. No civil officer held military rank or was selected
because of his military expertise or service. Another part of that reorganization
brought about a change in the mission of the militia. Henceforth the militia was to
be a defensive force, prepared only to keep the peace. The civil officers issued a
stern warning against stirring up the Amerindians or violating any part of the
negotiated peace. The new officers discouraged private ownership of martial arms
and neglected the militia, essentially unilaterally disarming the colony.(12)
On 24 July 1621 Governor Francis Wyatt issued three important orders.
First, he instructed masters and apprentices to remain loyal to their trades and not
give them up to make quick and easy profits "planting tobacco or any such useless
commodity." Second, he ordered that any servants condemned to punishment for
"common offenses" be placed to work on public works projects for the benefit of
the whole colony. Third, he ordered that guards be placed around public fields for
the protection of farmers.(13)
During the first fifteen years of Virginia's existence as many as 10,000
English settlers and their slaves had come to the colony, but in 1622 perhaps only
about 2200 remained. Many died and others returned to England. The temporary
peace with the Amerindians did not last. In 1622 the Amerindians, angered at the
rapid expansion of the colony made war against the whites along the James River
On 22 March 1622 an Amerindian attack left 347 colonists dead, although the
colony was saved because Christian Indians warned some men of the impending
attack. Governor Francis Wyatt led the survivors into pallisaded towns where they
took refuge against the marauders. As hunger, thirst and disease again ravished the
colonists Wyatt ordered that available military stores be brought forth for whatever
storage areas had been created when the colony demilitarized. With almost no
training, save for the distant memories of a few of the earlier discipline, the militia
sallied forth. With more luck than good management, Wyatt managed to win more
skirmishes than he lost. Firearms and steel edged weapons proved decisive against
the stone age weapons of the aborigine. The Amerindians had planned little for a
campaign and had
laid up few supplies and were therefore as vulnerable in their own way as the
undrilled colonial militia.
In March 1624 Wyatt recommended additional laws be enacted by the
legislature to reduce the threat from the Amerindians. Article 23 required that all
homes be pallisaded, article 24 required the people to go about armed at all times,
and article 28 set a night watch for every community. Article 32 provided for state
support of families of men killed, and for men disabled, in action against the
The colonists appealed to England for assistance. On 17 July the colonists
received a reply. "His majesty was so far sensible of the loss of his subjects and
of the present estate of the Colony . . . he was graciously pleased to promise them
assistance . . . . It [the petition] was answered [with] munition . . . whereby they
might be enabled to take a just revenge of these treacherous Indians . . . . It pleased
his Majesty to promise them some arms out of the Tower as was desired . . . ." The
king sent 100 brigandines, also called plate coats; 40 jackets of mail; 400 jerkins
or shirts of mail; 200 skull caps and an unspecified quantity of halberts and spears.
This initial shipment was followed by a shipment of 20 barrels of gunpowder and
100 firearms of unspecified type.(15)
Wyatt decided that he would not be caught unprepared again. He also
knew that the could not count on support from the financially troubled Virginia
Company, so he had no choice but to revitalize the militia and revamp the militia
law. Virginia statutes of 1622 provided death penalty for servants who ran away
and traded or sold guns to the Amerindians;(16) and statutes of 1623 provided that
"no man go or send abroad without a sufficient will [well] armed" and that the
work "men go not to worke in the ground without their arms." Furthere, "the
commander of every Plantation [is] to take care that there be sufficient of powder
and ammunition within their Plantation under his command and their pieces [of war
equipment] fixed and their armes compleat."(17) In 1624 the militia law provided that
militiamen wounded or otherwise injured while in the public service would receive
public support and the families of those killed while in service would be supported
at the public expense. Survivors of the early years were exempted from further
compulsory militia service. When a militiaman was impressed into duty his
neighbors were required to spend one day a week assisting with his duties and
chores at home.(18) Shortly after the enactment of the new militia law Wyatt received
word that the Virginia Company had failed and that hereafter the colony would be
under the Crown.
The Stuart kings had provided no more assistance to the colony than had
the Virginia Company. Defense remained a local obligation. All able-bodied
males between 16 and 60 years of age, excepting only older veterans and certain
newcomers, were enrolled in the militia. Those not serving in the militia were
taxed for its support and were required to offer assistance on the farms of those
who were in actual militia service. Gentlemen were to be placed in proper ranks,
so that there was no social levelling and they were not reduced to serving as
common soldiers. Regular drill was mandated by law. The law created officers
whose duty it was to "exercise and drill them, whereby they may be made more fit
for service upon any occasion." The legislature also ordered that a regular system
of defensive shelters be built and maintained.(19)
In October 1629 the General Assembly enacted a new series of militia
laws. Plantation overseers were to reorganize their militias in preparation for new
wars against the native aborigine. Three expedition, to begin in November 1629
and March and July 1630, were designed to "doe all manner of spoile and offence
to the Indians that may possibly bee effected." So successful was the first
expedition that the legislature ordered that the war be prosecuted without the
possibility of surrender or peace.(20) At this time the Virginia militia could muster
no less than 2000 men. The second war with the Powhatan Indians continued until
1632, but the weight of numbers and superiority of equipment enabled the colonists
to win. This time, following the Second Powhatan War, there was no disassembly
of the militia.
On 21 February 1631 Governor Harvey recommended that the legislature
place a tax upon ships entering and leaving Virginia harbors. This tax, Harvey
wrote, will give the colony "a continuall supply of ammunition." The House of
Burgesses agreed and enacted this dedicated tax.(21)
In 1632 the Virginia House of Burgesses ordered that every physically fit
free white male bring his gun to church services so that, immediately following
Sunday service, he might join his neighbors in exercising with it. No settler was
even to speak to an Amerindian under penalty of the law. Militiamen were
authorized to kill any Amerindian found "lurking" or thought to be stealing cattle.
In 1633 the legislature set the new penalty for selling guns to the Amerindians as
the loss of goods and chattles and imprisonment for life.(22)
In 1634 the militia was reorganized following the lines of the eight
existing counties. The governor appointed county lieutenants and other officers in
each county. In 1639 the governor issued a call for select militiamen, fifteen from
each county, to punish one or more bands of marauding natives. While each
militiaman provided his own gun and edged weapon, his neighbors otherwise
supplied him. His neighbors also looked after his farm and each provided one day's
service to the militiaman.(23) Under the act of 6 January 1639, all able-bodied men
were made liable for militia service and were to provide themselves with arms and
ammunition "or be fined as the pleasure of the Governor and Council." Slaves
were specifically exempted from the obligation, for the act contained the language,
"all persons except negroes."(24) In 1633 the colony recognized the importance of
musicians and appointed drummers, paying them 1000 pounds of tobacco and six
barrels of corn per year.(25)
In the earliest days Virginia struggled to provide enough food to ward off
starvation. After the first few years the colony could afford to sustain a militia and,
with basic food, clothing and shelter provided for, mandate attendance at militia
musters without disrupting the colony. Sundays became the regular militia training
days, combining religious, military and social functions. Forty years later the
militia trained only three times a year. In that time span much of the threat from
the native aborigine had been contained. But another development, the trained
specialist, had emerged, usually in the guise of frontiersmen, who knew how to
fight the Indians on their own terms. These specialists served at times for pay and
at other times as volunteer militia.
There were also frontier forts to be garrisoned and this required a
considerable number of men. Demands were so great that Virginia had to resort
to paying some men. Since many volunteers had to be paid, there was a constant
drain on the treasury. In the early eighteenth century was generally too impoverished to defend itself adequately so it had to rely primarily on retaliation.
Since the frontier, with its large plantations and farms, was but sparsely
settled and the loss of a few men from a particular area usually meant disaster. The
families of the settlers could not defend themselves and would often abandon the
land and return to the east. There were few fortified places or garrison houses on
the frontier wherein settlers or their families could take refuge except for the
scattered forts. Neither were there sufficient resources on the frontier to sustain the
militia when units were deployed there.
In 1642 the Lords of Trade sent a new set of orders to Governor Berkeley,
including instructions concerning the militia.
11. To the end the country may be the better served against all Hostil Invasions it
is requisite that all persons from the age of 16 to 60 be armed with arms, both
offensive and defensive. And if any person be defective in this kind, wee strictly
charge you to command them to provide themselves of sufficient arms within one
year or sooner if possible it may be done, and if any shall fail to be armed at the
end of the Term limited we will that you punish them severely.
12. And for that Arms without the Knowledge of the use of them are of no effect
wee ordain that there be one Muster Master Generall, appointed by as for the
Colony, who shall 4 times in the year and oftener (if cause be) not only view the
arms, ammunition and furniture of every Person in the Colony, but also train and
exercise the people, touching the use and order of arms and shall also certify the
defects if any be either of appearance or otherwise to you the Governor and
Councill. . . . And for his competent maintenance we will that you, the Governor
and Councill, so order the business at a General Assembly that every Plantation be
rated equally according to the number of persons, wherein you are to follow the
course practised in the Realm of England.
13. That you cause likewise 10 Guarders to he maintained for the Port at Point
Comfort. And that you take course that ye Capt of ye said Port have a competent
allowance for his services there. Also that the said fort be well kept in Reparation
and provided with ammunition.
14. That new Comers be exempted the 1st yeare from going in p'son or contributing to the wars Save only in defence of the place where they shall inhabit and that
only when the enemies shall assail them, but all others in the Colony shall go or be
rated to the maintenance of the war proportionately to their abilitys, neither shall
any man be priviledged for going to the warr that is above 16 years old and under
60, respect being had to the quality of the person, that officers be not forced to go
as private soldiers or in places inferior to their Degrees, unless in case of supreme
Virginia pursued a conscious plan of confrontation with the Amerindians
between 1622 and 1644, a policy aimed at extermination or at least complete
pacification. Initially Virginia's political authorities considered all Amerindians to
be enemies and hostiles to be eliminated, adopting for perhaps the first time the
maxim that the only good Indian was a dead one. There was almost constant
warfare, although the number of real battles was few. In such a war of attrition, the
demands on the militia were great and men groaned under the constant militia
musters. An essential ingredient of the policy was constant and unremitting
harassment of the enemy. The legislature again in 1643 ordered that no quarter be
given to warring Amerindian tribes. This law essentially allowed militia to attack
villages at will. Home county courts of the militia paid the expenses of the roving
bands of terrorists.(27)
On 17 April 1643, the Northampton County Court ordered that "no person
or persons whatsoever within the County of Northampton except those of the
Commission, shall from henceforth travel from house to house within said county
without a sufficient fixed gun with powder and shot." Penalty for non-compliance
was 100 pounds of tobacco, with the possibility of imprisonment for repeated
failures to carry a gun.(28) Following the enactment of this local legislation, the
Virginia legislature enacted a similar law. That law required that "every family
shall bring with them to Church on Sundays, one fixed and serviceable gun . . .
under penalty of ten pounds of tobacco." White male servants who were required
otherwise to bear arms were to receive guns from their masters. If they failed to
carry their guns to church they were subject to the penalty of "twenty lashes, well
In 1644 the Powhatan Indians again attacked the outlying and isolated
farms along the James River. The governor ordered the militia, some 300 strong,
into the field, where, for six weeks, they pursued the Indians, burned the crops and
sacked their towns. This marked the end of the threat from the exhausted and
depleted Powhatan tribes. Following the Third Powhatan War, the governor
divided Virginia into two basic military districts, one north, and one south, of the
James River. Each district made its own military policies and created its own
In 1651 the militia was again reorganized along county lines, following
the model created by Massachusetts in 1643.(31)
In February 1645 the legislature authorized the association of its three
principal counties to create the first regimental structure in the colony. The law
also designated the militia as the official source for soldiers. For each fifteen
militiamen the counties were to furnish one soldier.(32) The system of drafting one
man among each 15 taxables proved to be quite unpopular, especially when the
pool of 15 could not agree upon which man should serve. There was widespread
resistance to the drafting of militia, forcing the legislature to pass an explanatory
act in 1648.
The colony augmented force with some vague promises of scalp bounties,
plunder, profits for sales of prisoners and land grants for service as an indispensable to sustaining support and morale. These laws were repealed only after peace
had been established. In 1645 the legislature pursued a war against the Mansimum
and their allies by "cutting up their corn and doing or performing any act of
hostility against them" to such a degree that their towns were destroyed and the
Amerindians reduced to hiding in the woods and ambushing whatever whites they
might fall upon.(33)
Although a populous and prosperous state Virginia could not sustain the
costs of constant Indian wars that this policy promoted. The colony attempted to
support those wounded in Indian wars, or their widows and offspring, or to at least
remit taxes upon those injured or widowed.(34) By 1646 the colony adopted a kinder,
more gentle policy toward the Amerindians. The colony made peace with the
Mansimum in October 1646 on its own terms. The Indians ceded all land between
the falls of the James River and the York River, acknowledged the sovereignty of
the English king, surrendered all firearms, and return all runaway slaves, escaped
prisoners, and indentured servants. Indians who returned to their former homes
could be killed instantly.(35)
The legislature considered several interesting ideas about "civilizing" and
pacifying their former enemies. First, they would offer the chiefs a cow for every
eight wolfs' heads turned in. When the men came to collect, the churchmen would
attempt to convert them to Christianity. Amerindian children could be brought into
settlers' homes provided they be instructed in Christianity. Indian traders would be
controlled and licensed and would guide clergymen to the villages. As we have
seen, Virginia had long attempted to contain the Amerindians by limiting their
access to firearms and gunpowder, and this ban was to be continued.(36) On 25
November 1652, the colonial legislature passed a new law which provided,
Whereas divers of the Inhabitants of this [Northumberland] County doe employ
Indians with guns & powder and shott, very frequently and usually to the great
danger of a Massacre, the Court doth think fitt to declare and publish unto the
whole county that if any person or persons who so ever shall with 10 days after the
date hereof deliver either gun powder or shott to any Indian under what pretence
so over shall be proceeded with all according to the Act of assembly in that case
provided and after that manner of persons that have any guns out amongst the
Indians after publication hereof shall get them in with all convenient speed and that
no persons what so ever imploy any Indian at all nor supply them with powder and
In 1658 the Virginia House of Burgesses created a rudimentary militia act
which required that
a provident supplie be made of gunn powder and shott to our owne people, and this
strictly to bee lookt to by the officers of the militia, vizt., That every man able to
beare armes have in his house a fitt gunn, two pounds of powder and eight pound
of shott at least which are to be provided by every man for his family before the last
of March next, and whosoever shall faile of makeing such provision to be fined
fiftie pounds of tobacco to bee laied out by the county courts for a common stock
of amunition for the county.(38)
In the same year, the legislature attempted to guarantee the natives' title
to their land in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond, but still allowed, even
authorized and financed, exploration of the area. The law still permitted the killing
of an aborigine if he was suspected of "mischief." The legislature also permitted
them to own guns, although there was no clear avenue for their sale or barter, or of
supplying gunpowder, lead and flints.(39) It was simply a matter of time until
additional land, especially in the fertile and beautiful Shenandoah Valley, was
traded for trinkets, guns and supplies. Where title was obtained, the organization
of a militia among the settlers was inevitable.
In 1660 John Powell carried a complaint to the legislature in which he
alleged that Amerindians had encroached on his land, committing unspecified
damages. The legislature authorized him to capture as many Amerindians as would
satisfy his claim and sell them as slaves abroad. The local militia was authorized
to assist him in rounding up the slaves. In other cases over the next few years, the
legislature attempted to protect the Amerindians' land, even to the point of ordering
the militia to burn houses built on illegally obtained land. The legislature voided
some questionable land conveyances, protecting the natives in a way as if "the same
had bin done to an Englishman."(40)
With the increasing encroachment of settlers into the western areas of
Virginia, tribes on the frontier came under increasing pressure. Additionally, the
Iroquois made occasional raids as far south as Maryland and Virginia. A few tribes
found support from some of their traditional enemies. It appears that the
Amerindians were beginning to understand that the tribes must either stand united
or be decimated piecemeal. As early as 1662 Virginia warned the western
Amerindians that they must not encroach on settlements, raid villages or homesteads, or molest tributary Indians. The whites, fearing that an alliance was in the
making, demanded that a number of children be surrendered from the Potomaks
and allied northern tribes. In a white man was killed the Amerindians in the closest
village were to be held responsible.(41)
In 1666 Thomas Ludwell wrote a travelogue of Virginia. He observed the
militia and reported to the Lords of Trade,
Every county within ye said Province hath a regiment of ffoot under ye command
of a colonel and other inferior officers and many of them a troop of horse under ye
command of a captain . . . . Great care is taken that ye respective officers doe train
them and see their Armes [are] well fixed and truly, my Lords, I believe all to be
in so good order as an Enemy would gain little advantage by attempting anything
By 1675 Virginia was fighting the last of its great colonial Indian wars.
The natives were in submission and most were nominally allied with the colony,
which, in reality, meant that they were dependent upon Virginia for daily support
and protection. The Senecas of the Five Nations stirred up the Susquehannocks
and Piscataways along the Potomac and a large combined force attacked the settlers
in Maryland and northern Virginia. Six chiefs attempted to reestablish the peace,
but were treacherously murdered. This outrage roused the Amerindians who slew
a hundred colonists in revenge. A second time the confederated tribes offered
peace and a second time their offer was rejected. The colonists were bent on
revenge for the merciless slayings and wanted to exterminate the Indians. Initially,
Governor William Berkeley had sought to adopt a largely defensive posture which
required a minimum number of troops. But the legislature supported the people
who clamored for war and authorized the counties to call out their militias. It
declared war and passed a number of laws designed to bring the militia units up to
full strength. Taxes were increased to pay for the equipping and salaries of the
Meanwhile, the colony was torn with contentions incident to the
Restoration, and these troubles culminated in what is known as Bacon's Rebellion.
The deprivations and outrages perpetrated by the Amerindians, and the stiffening
Amerindian resistance, afforded the rebels their excuse for arming. In 1676
Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., led a group of settlers who applied great pressure on Berkeley
to double the number of militia called for duty in order to launch a great all-out
offensive against the Amerindians, designed to end the menace forever. In 1676
Sir William Berkeley, Governor of the colony, called for a standing army of 500
levies drafted out of the militia units, and paid for by the increase in public
taxation. The planters who dominated the legislature objected, saying that the
colony could not sustain the additional taxes.(44)
Bacon, an articulate planter, made a counter-proposal, calling for a force
of 1000 volunteers, funded by the spoils of war. The assembly was dominated by
Bacon's followers and it authorized the creation of the full fore of one thousand
militiamen by assigning quotas to each of the eighteen counties.
Berkeley correctly surmised that Bacon's mercenaries would plunder the
wealthiest tribes, which were peaceful, and ignore the poorer ones that were
warlike.(45) The uncivilized and more warlike aborigine had few desirable goods
whereas the more peaceful "civilized" Indians had considerable goods.
Still, since Bacon was able to dominate the legislature, which became
known as the Bacon Assembly, his legislation passed. His militia act attempted to
distinguish between friendly and hostile Amerindians. The act declared that any
Amerindian found outside his village was to be considered an enemy. All
Amerindians had to surrender their arms, even guns that had been heretofore
legally owned. They must agree not to hide, shelter, conceal, or even trade with,
any warriors from other tribes, and had to deliver up any strangers who came
among them. If the visitors were too strong for the hosts to capture, they must
assist the militia in taking them. Each town must provide an accounting of its
warriors, women and children. All Amerindians taken in battle were to be
enslaved, with proceeds of their sale to be accounted as booty of war.(46)
Following the massacre of the relatively unarmed and peaceful Occaneechee in May 1676, and just before the anticipated slaughter of the like Pamunkeys,
Berkeley ordered Bacon to disband and relinquish his command. Bacon marched
against Berkeley, burned James Town, and assumed political control of the
colony.(47) Commands were given by trumpet for the first time in the Virginia
The Bacon Assembly suspended all trade with the Amerindians, but this
caused too great a loss to the traders so trade was permitted with those adjudged
to be friendly. Natives wishing to trade had to come unarmed. Two forty day
trading sessions were established north and south of the James River, with the
governor and council receiving a percentage of the profits. At any point, whites
might demand that any native approaching must lay down his arms.(49)
Upon hearing that a British army was on its way from the Chesapeake area
to restore order, Bacon was unshaken. He would merely adopt tactics learned in
fighting the Amerindians. "Are we not acquainted with the country, so that we can
lay ambuscades?" Bacon asked, "Can we not hide behind trees to render their
discipline of no avail? Are we not as good or better shots than they?"(50) Bacon's
position became gospel to the colonists and is something that might have been
uttered by any of a large number of militiamen during the American Revolution.
In October 1676 Bacon died and Berkeley reestablished his authority.
One thousand regular troops arrived, sent by the Stuarts from England, and a
commission investigated Berkeley's alleged despotism. In May 1677 Berkeley
returned to England, but died there on 9 July 1677, before the matter was settled.
With Stuart troops firmly in charge the remainder of Bacon's militia disbanded and
melted back into the frontier. Since both of the principals were now dead nothing
more was done at court and, having received a pledge of renewed loyalty from the
colonists, the troops were withdrawn.(51) William Sherwood's account was hardly
flattering of Bacon and his men, viewing them as seditious rebels. "Ye Rabble
giveing out they will have their owne Lawes, demanding ye Militia to be settled in
them with such like rebellious practices."(52)
Some settlers complained that they were forced to leave their farms and
neglect their occupations and stand seacoast watch and garrison duty in outlying
frontier forts, but received no compensation for serving their militia duty and that
impressment into the militia was a cause of the rebellion. Others complained of the
burden the law imposed by requiring them to buy arms to stand the hated militia
duty. Having armed themselves, they found themselves disarmed by the same
government which imposed the purchase upon them. "Wee have been compelled
to buy ourselves Guns, Pistols and other Armes . . . [and] have now had them taken
away from us, the which wee desire to be restored to us again."(53)
The destruction of the Amerindians was essentially complete. The poor
remnants that remained were of no great consequence, with most reduced to tue
most wretched poverty. Tribal distinctions all but disappeared as the survivors
struggled merely to exist. Berkeley in 1680 claimed that "the Indians our
neighbours are absolutely subjected, so that there is no fear of them." Amerindian
country was clear for western expansion.(54)
Soon after Bacon's Rebellion, the North Carolina's government was
threatened by a second popular uprising, known as Culpeper's Rebellion. As a
protest against the arbitrary rule of Governor John Jenkins, Thomas Miller,
unpopular leader of the proprietary faction, combined the functions of governor
with the lucrative post of customs collector. On 3 December 1677 the anti-proprietary faction arrested and imprisoned Miller. Miller escaped and fled to
England and put his case before the Privy Council. The governor considered
calling out the militia to restore order and the home government considered
dispatching troops from England. John Culpeper of Virginia defended the leaders
of the anti-proprietary party. Meanwhile, the Earl of Shaftsbury, having decided
that Miller had exceeded his authority, mediated the dispute, and the uneasy peace
was made permanent.
In 1679 the Assembly decided to construct four garrison-houses on the
headwaters of the four great rivers, Potomac, Rappahannock, Mattapony and
James, "and that every 40 tithables within this colony be assessed and be obliged
to fitt out and sett forth one able and sufficient man and horse with furniture well
and completely armed with a case of good pistols, carbine or short Gunn, and a
sword." The settlers on the Rappahannock were to have "in readiness upon all
occasions, at beate of drum, fifty able men well armed." Additionally, two hundred
men were to be counted as reserves, to be called when needed. Major Lawrence
Smith was to organize the militia and for this service was to receive 14,000 acres
of land. William Bird was to have the same amount of land for organizing the
militia near the fall on the James River.(55)
In 1680 the assembly in Jamestown, Virginia, ordered that all persons of
color be disarmed. Blacks were prohibited from carrying swords, clubs, guns or
any other weapons for either offensive or defensive use. The assembly was
likewise afraid of the black assemblies because "the frequent meetings of
considerable numbers of negroe slaves, under pretence of feasts and burialls is
judged [to be] of dangerous consequence."(56) In 1705 the law was mitigated by
substituting the word slave for negro, and that "all and every such person or
persons be exempted from serving either in horse or foot."(57)
At this point Virginia reconsidered its militia policy. Few poor men could
realistically afford to buy their firearms and other militia supplies so the colony
undertook to finance many expenses for individual militiamen. The government
could not afford to both maintain the militia and provide static fortifications. By
recruiting only among gentlemen the colony was freed from having to make
contributions to the support of the militiamen. No formal law or edict disarmed the
poor. They were merely relegated to a position as inactive militia. Disarmament
occurred by attrition. No one inspected arms or mustered the great militia and the
poor neglected to maintain and update their arms.
In April 1684 Charles II approved a major change in the colony's militia
law. The law is significant in several ways. It decreed the right, as well as the
obligation, of colonists to own their weapons; and it protected the arms owned by
the subjects from government confiscation.
For the encouragement of the inhabitants of this his majesties collony and
dominion of Virginia, to provide themselves with arms and ammunition, for the
defence of this his majesties country, and that they may appear well and compleatly
furnished when commanded to musters and other the king's service which many
persons have hitherto delayed to do; for that their arms have been imprest and taken
from them. Be it (a) enacted by the governour, council and burgesses of this
present general assembly, and the authority thereof, and it is hereby enacted, that
all such swords, musketts, (b) pistolls, carbines, guns, and other armes and
furniture, as the inhabitants of this country are already provided, or shall provide
and furnish themselves with, for their necessary use and service, shall from
henceforth be free and exempted from being imprest or taken from him or them,
that already are provided or shall soe provide or furnish himselfe, neither shall the
same be lyable to be taken by any distresse, seizure, attachment or execution. Any
law, usage or custom to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.
And be it further enacted, That between this and the five and twentieth day
of March, which shall be in the yeare of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty
six, every trooper of the respective counties of this country, shall furnish and
supply himself with a good able horse, saddle, and all arms and (c) furniture, fitt
and compleat for a trooper, and that every foot soldier, shall furnish and supply
himselfe, with a sword, musquet and other furniture fitt for a soldier, and that each
trooper and foot souldier, be provided with two pounds of powder, and eight
pounds of shott, and shall continually keep their armes well fixt, cleane and fitt for
the king's service.
And be it further enacted, That every trooper, failing to supply himselfe
within the time aforesaid, with such arms and furniture, and not afterwards keeping
the same well fixt, shall forfeite four hundred pounds of tobacco, to his majesty,
for the use of the county in which the (a) delinquent shall live, towards the
provideing of colours, drums and trumpetts therein, and every foot souldier soe
failing to provide himselfe, within the time aforesaid, and not keeping the same
well fixt, shall forfeit two hundred pounds of tobacco to his majesty, for the use
aforesaid, and that all the militia officers of this country, take care to see the
execution and due observation of this act, in their several and respective regiments,
troops and companies.
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every collonell
of a regiment within this country, shall once every yeare, upon the first Thursday
in October, yearly, cause a generall muster, and exercise of the regiment under his
command, or oftener if occasion shall require. And that every captain or
commander of any troop of horse or foot company, within this country, shall once
at the least in every three months, muster, traine and exercise, the troop or company
under his command, to the end, they may be the better fitted and enabled, for his
majesties and the countryes service when they shall be commanded thereunto.(58)
Some thought that there were problems with he practice of the militia law,
if not defects in the law itself. The governor was frequently remiss in appointing
officers to take control over the colony's militia. On 4 July 1687 Lieutenant-colonel William Fitzhugh complained that in Stafford County, "I know not there
being one Militia Officer in Commission in the whole County & consequently
people best spared cannot be commanded into Service & appointed to guard the
remotest, most suspected and dangerous places." He submitted a full list of men
eligible for militia duty, but pointed out that a select militia would make more
sense. At least on the frontier, where few musters could be readily scheduled,
intensively training the few made more sense than half training the many. "A full
number with a soldier like appearance," Fitzhugh wrote, "is far more suitable and
commendable than a far greater number presenting themselves in the field with
clubs and staves rather like a rabble rout than a well disciplined militia."(59) In this
year the legislature appropriated tax money for the purchase of colors, drums and
trumpets for the militia. It also agreed to purchase all musicians' instruments at
Those exempted from militia service in the 1690s included physicians,
surgeons, readers, clerks, ferrymen and persons of color.(61) By effectively
disarming the poorer classes the authorities had less cause to worry about a popular
In 1691 the legislature repealed all former prohibitions to, and restrictions
on, the Indian trade. This act also had the effect of protecting all Amerindians from
being newly enslaved after that date. Neither could they be enlisted in the militia
against their will.(63)
Ranging companies were commonplace in the middle colonies by the time
of the American Revolution, but were uncommon in the seventeenth century.
Virginia had formed companies of rangers by 1690, for there is a notation in the
British Public Records Office dated 23 April 1692 which refers to gunpowder and
other supplies having been sent to the rangers of King & Queen County, Virginia.(64)
By 1701 the militia of those two counties alone numbered 132 officers and non-commissioned officers; 152 horsemen; 222 dragoons; 415 foot soldiers. Among
their arms were 575 swords, 141 pistols and 543 muskets.(65)
A new military-Indian policy proved to be more reasonable. Virginia
would ally with and materially support friendly, civilized tribes who would
guarantee the provincial borders. The colony built a string of forts along the
frontier and recruited mounted rangers to maintain order and peace. These militia-cavalry were the equivalent of the much vaunted New England minutemen. The
system generally worked well.
On 9 December 1698 the king appointed a new executive, Lieutenant-governor Nicholson. He proved to be highly unpopular by exercising powers
heretofore reserved to, or traditionally exercised by, council or legislature. Two
usurpations of power were related to the militia. First, Nicholson assumed
appointment of superior militia officers. Second, he was charged with "advancing
men of inferior stations to the chief commands of the militia" while "all colonels,
lieutenant-colonels, majors and captains . . . are put in and turned out" arbitrarily."(66)
So great were the protestations that the king removed Nicholson on 15 August
One of the unique functions of the militia in the late seventeenth, and early
eighteenth, centuries was the enforcement of religious participation. The militia
was charged with forcing all persons, whether religious or not, to attend services
at the Church of England.
By the end of the seventeenth century Virginia's needs for militia were
changing. The population of the colony increased, making training and recruitment
easier and expediting the creation and maintenance of militia enrollment lists. Still,
increasingly poorer emigrants swelled the ranks while failing because of poverty
to arm themselves adequately. Her concern for Amerindian attacks was minimal
since by 1700 the colony had subdued the stronger tribes. The Carolinas served as
a successful barrier to the south and the Appalachian mountains, with a few frontier
forts, guarded her western boundary. The French did not threaten Virginia's
interests for another half century. What remained of the decimated Amerindian
tribes received support from the colonial government. They frequently sold their
services as scouts and even warriors. The colony had to provide only money,
command and a few supplemental frontiersmen to serve as scouts. In the Tuscarora
War of 1712 Virginia was able to rely on the Carolina militias and Governor
Spotswood's diplomacy.(67) When Colonel John Barnwell took his troops into battle
in the Tuscarora War he manipulated his mounted troops with trumpets and his foot
soldiers with drums.(68)
In 1710 the Assembly authorized the lieutenant-governor, as military
commander of the colony, to form several bands of rangers. Each county lieutenant
"shall choose out and list eleven able-bodied men, with horses and accouterments,
arms and ammunition, resideing as near as conveniently may be to that frontier
station." The lieutenant served simultaneously as county militia commander and
commandant of the rangers.(69)
With the coming of the war known as Queen Anne's War, 1702-1713,
authorities thought that Virginia needed an adequate militia law. The militia law
of 1705 was the first truly comprehensive enactment on the subject promulgated
in the colony. The law created a general obligation to keep and bear arms in
defense of country. There was a long list of exemptions to the requirement that
men muster, including: millers with active mills; members of the House of
Burgesses and the King's Council; slaves and imported servants; officers and men
on active duty with the king's forces; the attorney general; justices of the peace; the
clerks of parishes, council, counties and the general court; constables and sheriffs;
ministers; schoolmasters; and overseers charged with the supervision of four or
more slaves. Those exempted still had to supply their own arms and could be fined
for failure to do so. Those exempted were charged with an obligation to "provide
and keep at their respective places of abode a troopers horse, furniture, arms and
ammunition, according to the directions of this act hereafter mentioned." They
could be mustered in case of invasion or insurrection. "And in case of any rebellion
or invasion[they] shall also be obliged to appear when thereunto required, and
serve in such stations as are suitable for gentlemen, under the direction of the
colonel or chief officer of the county where he or they shall reside, under the same
penaltys as any other person or persons, who by this act are injoyned to be listed
in the militia. . . ." Militiamen who failed to appear with the required arms,
ammunition and accoutrements were fined 100 pounds of tobacco. The commander of each troop was required to appoint a clerk who was to record courts-martial and receive the company fines. The other major provisions of the law read
For the settling, arming and training a militia for her majestie's service, to be ready
on all occasions for the defence and preservation of this her colony and dominion,
be it enacted, by the governor, council, and burgesses, of this present general
assembly . . . to list all male persons whatsoever, from sixteen to sixty years of age
within his respective county, to serve in horse or foot, as in his discretion he shall
see cause and think reasonable . . . . The colonell or chief officer of the militia of
every county be required, and every of them is hereby required, as soon as
conveniently may be, after the publication of this act, to make or cause to be made,
a new list of all the male persons in his respective county capable by this act to
serve in the militia, and to order and dispose them into troops or companys . . . .
each trouper or ffoot soldier may be thereby guided to provide and furnish himself
with such arms and ammunition and within such time as this act hereafter directs.
. . . That every ffoot soldier be provided with a firelock, muskett or fusee well
fixed, a good sword and cartouch box, and six charges of powder, and appear
constantly with the same at time and place appointed for muster and exercise, and
that besides those each foot soldier have at his place of abode two pounds of
powder and eight pounds of shott, and bring the same into the field with him when
thereunto specially required, and that every soldier belonging to the horse be
provided with a good serviceable horse, a good saddle, holsters, brest plate and
crouper, a case of good pistolls well fixed, sword and double cartouch box, and
twelve charges of powder, and constantly appear with the same when and where
appointed to muster and exercise, and that besides those each soldier belonging to
the horse have at his usuall place of abode a well fixed carabine, with belt and
swivel, two pounds of powder and eight pounds of shott, and bring the same into
the ffield with him, when thereunto specially required. . . . eighteen months time
[is] be given and allowed to each trouper and ffoot soldier . . . to furnish and
provide himself with arms and ammunition . . . . for the encouragement of every
soldier in horse or ffoot to provide and furnish himself according to this act and his
security to keep his horse, arms and ammunition, when provided, . . . the musket
or ffuzee, the sword, cartouch box and ammunition of every ffoot soldier, and time
horse, saddle and furniture, the carbine, pistolls, sword, cartouch box and
ammunition of every trooper provided and kept in pursuance of this act to appear
and exercise withall be free and exempted at all times from being impressed upon
any account whatsoever, and likewise from being seized or taken by any manner
of distress, attachment, or writt of execution, and that every distress, seizure,
attachment or execution made or served upon any of the premises, be unlawful and
void . . . . the colonel or chief officer of the militia of every county once every year
at least, [is to] cause a general muster and exercise of all the horse and ffoot in his
county . . . [and] every captain both of horse and foot once in every three months,
muster, train and exercise his troop or company, or oftener if occasion require.
Provided, That no soldier in horse or foot, be fined above five times in one year for
neglect in appearing. . . . all soldiers in horse and ffoot during the time they are in
arms, shall observe amid obediently perform the commands of their officer relating
to their exercising according to time best of their skill, and that the chief officers
upon time place shall and may imprison mutineers and such soldiers as do not their
dutys as soldiers at time day of their musters and training, and shall and may inflict
for punishment for every such offence, any mulet not exceeding fifty pounds of
tobacco, or the penalty of imprisonment without bail or main prise, not exceeding
The militia act did not yield the desired results. At the end of Queen
Anne's War, Governor Alexander Spotswood thought "the Virginians to be capable
of being made as good a militia as any in the World, yet I do take them to be at this
time the worst in the King's Dominions."(71) In 1713 Governor Spotswood called out
the militia against a weak Amerindian enemy, but it failed to respond. He
attempted to recruit, first by a call for volunteers, and then by offering substantial
pay incentives, an army of frontiersmen. He found that those living inland shared
little concern for the lives of the frontiersmen; and that in time of Amerindian
threat the frontiersmen did not want to leave their homes, farms, crops and families.
In a long letter to the Board of Trade he argued that the rich had gotten off
too easily in the past and that the poor had unfairly borne the burden. After a year
filled with great frustration, Spotswood declared that "no Man of an Estate is under
any Obligation to Muster . . . [while] even the Servants or Overseers of the Rich
are likewise exempted," and thus "the whole burthen lyes upon the poorest sort of
people," he thought to scrap the whole militia system. Disgusted, he proposed that
the House of Burgesses rewrite the law, changing the general militia into a select
one. What Spotswood proposed would constitute a radical change. A select force
of skilled, trained and disciplined militiamen would be recruited, consisting of
approximately one-third of the adult, free, male population. The remaining two-thirds would be taxed to support the select militia. The citizen-soldiers would be
exempted from paying the militia tax. The militia would exercise ten times a year.
He proposed extending the frontier mounted ranger principle to encompass the
entire militia system. A select militia system would wholly replace the general
militia and "Persons of Estates . . . would not come off so easily as they do now."
(72) Disillusioned by defeat of his plan in the legislature, Spotswood made peace
with the Tuscarora who soon moved on to become the sixth tribe associated with
the League of the Iroquois.
As in New England, militia training days, especially the annual regimental
muster, had become important social events in Virginia. As 1737 the militia put
on a public demonstration of its skills at a county fair, passing in review before
those assembled and practicing the manual of arms and other drill exercises. The
militia musicians played music for the entertainment of the spectators "and gave as
great Satisfaction, in general, as could be possibly expected." Refreshments, games
and general socializing followed the militia's performance. The most accomplished
regimental trumpeter often displayed his skills in support of a horse race. Few
events were more popular among the spectators than the culminating parade in
which all militia units passed in formal review before the highest ranking militia
officers and various political authorities.(73)
The Lords of Trade inquired of Governor Spotswood as to the number of
inhabitants and the state of the militia in 1712. Spotswood responded on 26 July
1712. "The number of freemen fit to bear arms . . . [is] 12,051 and I believe there
cannot be less than an equal number of Negroes and other Servants, if it were fit
to arm them upon any occasion."(74) On 16 February 1716 Governor Spotswood
reported to the Lords of Trade on the numbers enrolled in the Virginia militia. "Ye
number of Militia of this Colony . . . consists of about 14,000 horse and foot . . .
The list of tythables . . . last year amounted to 31,658 . . . all male persons, white
and black, above ye age of 16." He also reported that there were 300 firelocks in
the public stores.(75) On 7 February 1716 Spotswood proposed the Commission of
Trade and Plantations that Virginia form a "standing militia" of select membership.
Membership would rotate on an annual basis, but those serving during a certain
year would be in "permanent condition of muster." He called for 3000 foot and
1500 horsemen "at a yearly cost of 600,000 pounds of tobacco."(76) He argued his
case in a letter to the Board of Trade,
What my Designs were, by the Scheme I laid before the Assembly regulating their
Militia, will best appear from the Project it self, which, because it is not inserted
in the Journals of the Assembly . . . I think it becomes me to employ my Thoughts
in search of what may better conduce to the Welfare of the People committed to my
charge, and do apprehend that I have the same Liberty of Recommending my
notions to the Assembly, to be brought, (if they consent,) into a Bill, as they have
of Proposing Their's to me to be pass'd, (if I assent,) into a Law; yet I offer'd no
Scheme upon this Head 'till, after the House of Burgesses had Addressed,(77)
expressing their Inclinations to have the Militia of this Colony under a better
Regulation, and, at the same time, desiring me to propose a Method by which it
might be rendered more usefull . . . my Project for the better Regulation of the
Militia was no more than what is agreeable to the Constitution of Great Britain, I
hope your Lordships will rather approve the same, and not judgde that I have
endeavoured to destroy a profitable People by desiring them to imitate the Justice
and Policy of their Mother Country, where no such unequal Burthen is laid upon
the poor as that of defending the Estates of the Rich, while those contribute nothing
themselves; For, according to the present constitution of the Militia here, no Man
of an Estate is under any Obligation to Muster, and even ye Servants or Overseers
of the Rich are likewise exempted; the whole Burthen lyes upon the poorest sort
of people, who are to subsist by their Labour; these are Finable if they don't
provide themselves with Arms, Ammunition and Accoutrements, and appear at
Muster five times in a Year; but an officer may appear without Arms, who may
absent himself from Duty as often as he pleases without being liable to any Fine at
all; nay, and if it be his interest to ingratiate himself with the Men, he will not
command them out, and then the Soldier, not being summoned to march, is not
liable to be fined any more than the Officer. Besides, when the Poorer Inhabitants
are diverted from their Labour to attend at Muster, it is to no manner of purpose,
their being not one Officer in the Militia of this Government that has served in any
Station in the Army, nor knows how to exercise his Men when he calls them
together. This is the State of the Militia under the present Law, and therefore I
could not imagine that my endeavouring a Reformation thereof would be imputed
to me as a Crime; That 3,000 Foot and 1,500 Horse should be more a Standing
Army or a greater means for me to govern Arbitrarily than 11,000 Foot and 4,000
Horse, of which the Militia now consists, is surprizing to every Body's understanding but the Querist's own. That these 15,000 men, mustering each five times in a
year, should be less burthensome than 4,500 Men, mustering ten times in a year,
is no less strange, unless the Querist has found out a new kind of Arithmetick, or
that he looks upon the Labour of those People who are now obliged to Muster to
be of no value. On the contrary, it is demonstrable by my Scheme that above two-thirds of the Inhabitants now listed in the Militia would have been eased from the
trouble of Mustering, and consequently that the Man which stayed at home would
not be charged with so much as half the pay of him that attended in the Field,
which Exemption, costing less than Seven pounds of Tobacco per Muster, there is
scarce one man serving in the Militia now who would not be content to pay more
than Thrice as much for being to follow his own business instead of travelling 20
or 30 Miles to a Muster. And if, by one Man thus paying his poorer Neighbour for
four or five days' Service in a Year, above 600,000 pounds of Tobacco, (as the
Querist computes,) should be spent throughout the whole Colony; yet, far from
granting that such a Charge must be to the entire Ruin of the Country, I apprehend
yet it must be rather a benefit to the Publick by the Circulation of Money and
Credit that would be increased thereby, and this circulation would be more just and
beneficial, seeing ye Payments would generally happen to be made by the Richer
to the Poorer sort. It is true, that by my Scheme Persons of Estates would not come
off so easily as they do now, They must have contributed to the Arming as well as
Paying the Men who were to be train'd up for the defence of their Estates; And I
cannot but pitty the simplicity of the Vulgar here, who, at every offer of a Governor
to make their Militia usefull, (tho' the Regulation be never so much in their favour,)
are set on to cry out against him as if he was to introduce a Standing Army,
Arbitrary Power, burthensome Taxes, &c. And as for their Abettors, who chose
rather to risk their whole Country than to be brought to Club for its defence, I wish
they or their Posterity may not have cause to Repent of their present Folly When
an Enemy shall happen to be at their Doors. For, tho' I will allow the Virginians
to be capable of being made as good a Militia as any in the World, Yet I do take
them to be at this time the worst in the King's Dominions, and I do think it's not in
the power of a Governor to make them Serviceable under the present constitution
of the Law. It is, indeed, a Strange Inference. The Querist, upon the Proposal of
Adjutants, that they were to huff and Bully the People, This, I am sure, was never
intended as any part of their Office in my Scheme, nor am I apt to believe the
House of Burgesses, to whom it was referred, would readily have given 'em such
an authority. These Adjutants were proposed to be of the Inhabitants of the
Country who were first to be exercised and instructed by me in Military Discipline,
and afterwards to go into their respective Countys to teach the Officers and
Soldiers. However, if, in the above mentioned Scheme there appeared any thing
disagreeable to the Inclinations or Interest of the People, I was far from pressing
them to it, Seeing it is evident from my Message to the House of Burgesses that I
left it to them to adapt it to the Circumstances of the Country.(78)
The Tuscarora War of 1711-12 in North Carolina, in which at least two
hundred settlers were massacred, had been won only with the assistance of the
militias of South Carolina and Virginia. As the remnants of the once mighty
Tuscarora began to migrate northward, Virginia thought it wise policy to exclude
these savage warriors from its lands. When two Germans, Lawson and
deGraffeured, seeking land for a colony of their countrymen in western Virginia,
were taken by Tuscarora in September 1711, the governor mustered frontier
ranging militia and dispatched to the area of the New River. Alexander Spotswood
attempted to forge a treaty with the Tuscarora, secured by Amerindian hostages, to
guarantee the peace of his colony, but failed. Spotswood next tried to make a show
of force by mustering six hundred of the best militia to be located, but the
Tuscarora had seen militia in the Carolinas and were unimpressed. For his part, the
governor genuinely sought an honest, just and equitable settlement and peace.
But the legislature entered the picture, thinking Governor Spotswood's
response to be quite inadequate. The legislators feared the Tuscarora who would
thought still to include as many as two thousand warriors, while the province could
field 12,051 militiamen who were scattered all over the vast territory. So they
created a special regiment of rangers, empowering it with the power to kill hostiles
on sight. The legislative definition of hostiles included any Amerindian fleeing
from a white man or refusing to respond to an order to halt. Fleeing braves could
be killed without any fear of prosecution. Indians who were found in the forest and
who could not "give a good account of themselves" might be killed, enslaved or
imprisoned. Enemy Indians who were captured were enslaved and sold to the
benefit of the militiaman. The law excluded these rangers from accountability and
punishment for killing any presumed hostile Amerindian. When a company
commander certified that a militiaman had killed an Amerindian who had
previously attacked or killed any white man or woman, the man received a bonus
of £20. As a bonus, those who served as rangers would be exempted for one year
thereafter from serving in the militia or being subject to parish or county levies.
The legislature denied the Tuscarora the right to live, gather firewood, hunt, or be
servants within the provincial boundaries. It budgeted £20,000 to fund the militia.
The act was given an effective period of only one year, but was extended at least
Spotswood thought the measures to be far too harsh. In reporting the
overreaction of the legislature to the Board of Trade, he wrote,
So violent an humour amongst them [the Assembly] for extirpating all the Indians
without distinction of Friends or Enemys that even a project I laid before them for
assisting the College to support the charge of those Hostages has been thrown aside
without allowing it a debate in their House tho' it was proposed on such a foot as
would not have cost the country one farthing.(80)
The Tuscarora initially capitulated and accepted the legislature's
conditions after learning of the extent of Virginia's response. They surrendered the
hostages, children of their principal leaders, who were then to be converted to
Christianity and educated. They released deGraffenreid.
The legislative enactment permitted only men of the Eastern Shore,
Pamunkey and Chickahominy tribes to hunt in any area east of the Shenandoah
Valley. These tribes became known as the Tributary Indians and the law afforded
them certain protections and a few privileges. They alone could harvest seafish and
shellfish, although they had to wait until the whites had taken all they wanted first.
They were required to act as spies and report on any movements of foreign warriors
on the frontier. They were expected to join the militia in wars against the hostile
tribes to the west. In 1712 the legislature expanded the list of tributary Indians to
include the Nansemond, Nottoway, Maherin, Sapon, Stukanocks, Occoneechee,
and Tottero tribes. These Amerindians could trade for arms, ammunition and
However, the scope of the conflict widened. Southern tribes who were
traditional enemies of the Tuscarora entered the conflict by offering their services
to North Carolina. The Cherokee, Creek, Catawba and Yammassee tribes joined
with South Carolina to eliminate the Tuscarora menace. The Iroquois Confederation, or at least the Seneca tribe, threatened to join with the Tuscarora, drawing all
the northern colonies into the conflict. Spotswood, if not his legislature, thought
Virginia to be too divided to wage war effectively, and he wished merely to
preserve the peace. But the South Carolina militia, much emboldened by the
Amerindian support, fell upon the villages that were supposedly protected by
treaty. The Tuscarora and their allies retaliated by massacring both settlers and the
tributary Indians. The Nottoways bore the brunt of the attacks.
The large combined force of Carolina militia, Virginia militia, and
southern Indians engaged the Tuscarora at the Neuse River and soundly defeated
them. Many captives were sold in the West Indies as slaves. The hostile remnant
of the Tuscarora migrated for to the north, eventually allying with the Iroquois as
the sixth confederated tribe.(82)
With the Tuscarora War finally over, Virginia again turned its eyes
westward. The next arena of military action would be in the rich trading area west
of the Allegheny mountain range. The Virginia merchants competed with the
French for control of the great Mississippi Valley. During the fifteen hundred mile
trips, the traders were at great risk from the warring, often intoxicated, Indians who
were allied with the French.(83) By treaty signed at Albany, New York, the Iroquois
were not to make war, travel, or trade south of the Poyomac River or east of the
Allegheny mountain range without a passport from the New York governor.
Virginia's tributary Indians were to remain east of the Alleghenies and south of the
Potomac River. By these means the colonists sought to establish peace, enlarge
their domain, and increase their settlements.(84)
Spotswood thought the frontier inhabitants to have been comprised of
people "of the lowest sort." Most had been transported to the colony either as
indentured or convict servants "and being out of their time they settle themselves
where land is to be taken up and that will produce the necessarys of Life with little
Labour. It is pretty well known what morals such people bring with them. . . ."
They quickly learned that an enormous profit could be earned by selling liquor to
the natives "and make no scruple of first making them drunk and then cheating
them of their skins, and even beating them in the bargain." Spotswood thought
them incapable of dealing honestly, serving in the militia faithfully, or supporting
the government fully. Their misbehavior and cheating ways prompted Indian
On 9 May 1723, the militia law was revised, requiring service of men
between ages 21 and sixty. Regarding persons of color, the law was changed back
to its original language, denying to any "free negro, mulatto or indian whatsoever,"
the right to "keep or carry any gun, powder or shot, or any club, or other weapon
whatsoever, offensive or defensive" under penalty of "whipping, not to exceed 39
lashes." However, "every free Negro, Mulatto or Indian . . . listed in the Militia
may be permitted to keep one gun, powder and shot." Those not enlisted were
given a few months in which to dispose of any arms they possessed. Slaves and
free blacks could be required to serve as musicians. In time of invasion, rebellion
or insurrection, persons of color "shall be obliged to attend and march with the
militia, as to do the duty of pioneers, or such other servile labor as they shall be
directed to perform."(86) In case of emergency free or enslaved blacks might be
required to join the militia to do "the duty of pioneers, or other such servile labor
as they shall be directed to perform."(87)
Before 1713, Virginia demanded and received two hostages from each
tributary Indian village. Governor Spotswood though that this was the best way to
keep these Amerindians peaceful, while giving some of the most talented of their
numbers an English style education. As early as 1713 there were seventeen of
these students being educated by the College of William and Mary. Shortly
thereafter, a special Indian school was erected at Christanna and some additional
tributary Indians were brought from reservations to be educated there. A
mathematics professor, Hugh Jones, left a memoir of his experience with them.
The young Indians, procured from the tributary Indians . . .with much difficulty
were formerly boarded and lodged in town, where the abundance of them used to
die, either through sickness, change of provision, and way of life, . . . often for
want of proper necessaries and due care of them. Those of them that have escaped
well, and have been taught to read and write, have, for the most part, returned to
their home. . . . A few of them have lived as servants with the English. . . . But it
is a pity more care is not taken of them after they are dismissed from school. They
have admirable capacities when their humors and tempers are perfectly
Virginia, like most colonies, used the militia as a reservoir from which
troops could be recruited into select ranging forces and such regular military units
as were populated by Americans. These units were not under the standard militia
limitation of being confined to deployment within the colony. Virginia sought to
recruit by advertising for recruits.
An Act for raising Levies and Recruits to serve in the present expedition against
the French on the Ohio. Whereas his Majesty has been pleased to send Instructions
to his Lieutenant-Governor of this Colony, to raise and levy Soldiers for carrying
on the present Expedition against the French on the Ohio; and this present General
Assembly being desirous, upon all Occasions, to testify their Loyalty and Duty;
and taking into their Consideration that there in every County and Corporation
within this Colony, able-bodied Persons, for to serve his Majesty . . . . The Justices
of the Peace of every County and Corporation within this Colony . . . are appointed
or impowered to solicit Men, to raise and levy such able bodied men . . . to serve
his Majesty as Soldiers on the present Expedition . . . . Nothing in this Act
contained shall extend to the taking or levying any Person to serve as a Soldier . .
. who is, or shall be, an indented or bought Servant, or any person under the Age
of 21 years or above the Age of 65 years.(89)
Between 1727 and 1749 Governor William Gooch reported that the
Virginia militia consisted of 8800 foot soldiers divided into 176 companies; and
5000 horsemen in 100 troops. The unenrolled militia consisted of all able bodied
freemen between ages 21 and 60. The enrolled militia, Gooch ordered, "will be
constantly kept under regular discipline and the common men [i.e., unenrolled
militia] will be improved in their manner, which want not a little pushing."(90) In
1726 King and Queen County reported that the number of militia to include 221
horsemen and 607 foot-men.(91)
In 1728 William Byrd wrote on the recurrent problems with the
Amerindians. He noted that nearly all Amerindian tribes with which Virginians
came into contact were now armed with firearms, having completely abandoned
their traditional weapons. Byrd wondered why they have given up their bows for
a warrior could fire most of a quiver of arrows in the time it took to reload a gun.
The Amerindians could make bows and arrows themselves and thus did not become
dependent on whites for supplies. They were dependent upon traders and others
to supply them with gunpowder, flints and lead balls. Time was on the side of the
colonists because they Indians failed to maintain their arms and they could not
themselves repair firearms or manufacture gunpowder. Control of the Indian trade
was far more important than several companies of militia.(92)
By act of 1738, the legislature mandated that the county militia officers
"shall list all free male persons, above the age of one and twenty years" and train
them as he saw fit. The men were to provide suitable arms at their own expense for
service either as foot soldiers or cavalrymen. The law, reaffirmed by acts of 1755
and 1758, required free blacks, Indians and mulattoes to report at militia musters.
Failure to appear invoked the fine of 100 pounds of tobacco. Blacks, whether
enslaved or free, and Indians living within white settlements were still forbidden
to own or carry firearms. They could serve as pioneers, sappers and miners,
trumpeters and drummers.(93) Many blacks served as musicians in the Virginia, and
other colonial, militia units.
England declared war on Spain on 19 October 1739 in what is commonly
known as the War of Jenkins' Ear. Britain assigned a quota of men to be recruited
in the thirteen colonies for service in the West Indies. Lord Cathcart commanded
British troops and troops of the thirteen colonies came under the command of
Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia who was to hold the rank of major-general, quartermaster-general, chief of colonial staff and second in command of
the expedition. Colonel William Blakeney was to assist Spotswood in recruiting,
drafting if necessary, troops from the colonial militias. Blakeney carried with him
signed blank commissions for colonial officers and arms and supplies. Included
in Blakeney's instructions was a provision that, if Spotswood could not command
the colonial troops, Virginia's Lieutenant-governor William Gooch was to serve in
his stead. Spotswood died of a chill on 7 June 1740, before Blakeney arrived with
his commission. Thus, responsibility for filling both the Virginia and the entire
colonial assessment of troops devolved on Gooch. The American recruits became
popularly known as Gooch's American Foot.(94)
The entire expedition soon devolved into a complicated mess. Gooch's
commission was inspecific as to rank, so he served as a junior colonel, and was not
included in the Council of War once the troops arrived in Jamiaica. When the men
and officers left on 25 September 1741, money was not available for transportation
of all troops, so the cost was borne through private subscription and the generosity
of private ship owners. When the colonial troops arrived they found that no one
had made provision for their rations or pay so officers pooled their funds and
purchased rations at exorbitant prices from British merchants. Likewise, the
colonial troops were not included in orders given to the medical staff and few, if
any, physicians and surgeons had been recruited in the colonies. It was common
practice for each regiment to guard its own medical facilities jealously and to refuse
to treat the men of other regiments unless ordered to do so. Most colonials were
impressed into sea service and were given the most degrading physical duties, such
as manning bilge pumps. British naval officers moved colonial enlisted men
around among the ships as they chose, often in open defiance of their officers,
although this practice had long been prohibited to British soldiers. Two men were
reportedly killed or maimed after being beaten or flogged according to British naval
Had Spotswood lived he would have been a member of the Council of
War, and as a major-general, would have been privy to the most intimate circles of
command. As it was, Gooch was treated as a colonel of inferior standing, ignored
and excluded from command decisions. He and other colonial officers wrote
memorials to the senior British officers, but these had little effect. No records are
available to account for colonial casualties, but all evidence points to their having
been large. Disease took a heavy toll of lives. The American regiment was
disbanded of 24 October 1742, on which date there were still 7 officers and 133
enlisted men hospitalized.
The experiences of militiamen in the War of Jenkins' Ear were, to say the
least, bitter. Doubtless, many colonial volunteers were of the lower class,
freebooters, adventurers and just plain scoundrels, but many others were
unemployed laborers and frontiersmen seeking cash to support their families or to
buy a piece of property. They came back with stinging tales of army brutality and
of the open disdain in which both British officers and soldiers held them. They
were much disgusted with the lack of planning for their arrival, their mis-deployment once they arrived and the failure of the Council of War to integrate
them into the army once their presence was made known. The British soldiers and
officers, for their part, were unimpressed with the Americans whom they saw only
serving duties for which they were ill suited and for which they had not been
recruited.(95) Yet another step had been taken down the road to independence.
By 1742 the frontiersmen had pushed west of the mountains, into what is
now the state of West Virginia. The first recorded clash between the Virginia
provincial militia and Indians west of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia
occurred on December 18-19, 1742. Colonel James Patton, commander of the
Augusta County regiment, reported on the engagement which occurred near
Balcony Falls in present-day Rockbridge County, Virginia to Virginia's Governor
Gooch. Colonel Patton's first report was dated December 18. The second, dated
December 23, contains a longer account but differed from the first in the number
of men slain.
A parcel of Indians appear'd in an hostile manner amongst us Killing and carrying
off Horses &c. Capt. John Buchanan and Capt. John McDowel came up with them
this day, and sent a Man with a Signal of Peace to them, which Man they kill'd on
the Spot and fir'd on our Men, which was return'd with Bravery, in about 45
Minutes the Indians fled, leaving eight or ten of their Men dead, and eleven of ours
are dead, among whom is Capt. McDowel, we have also sundry wounded. Last
night I had an Account of ye Behaviour of the Indians, and immediately travel'd
towards them with a Party of Men, and came up within two or three hours after the
Battle was over. I have summon'd all the Men in our County together in order to
prevent their doing any further Damage, and to repel them force by force. We hear
of many Indians on our Frontiers: the particulars of the Battle and Motions of the
Enemy I have not time now to write. I am, Yr. Honor's most obedient Servt., James
P.S. There are some white men (whom we believe to be French) among the
Indians. Our People are uneasy but full of Spirits, and hope yr Behaviour will
shew it for the future, they not being any way daunted at what has happen 'd.
Augusta County Xher 22 1742
Honrd Sr.: Thirty six Indians appear 'd in our County ye 5th Instant well equipp'd
for War, pretending a Visit to the Catabaws, they had a Letter dated the 10th of
Ober from James Silver near Harris's ferry in pensilvania directed to one Wm.
Hogg a Justice o' Peace desiring him to give them a Pass to travel through Virginia
to their Enemies, wch Letter they shew'd here, and I serv'd as a pass where Silver's
hand was well known. Instead of going directly along the Road they visited moot
of our Plantations, killing our Stock, and taking Provisions by force. The 14th
Instant they got into Burden's Land about 20 miles from my house, the 15th Capt.
McDowel by an Express inform'd me of their insolent Behaviour as also of the
uneasiness of the Neighbours, and desird my Directions, on wch I wrote to him and
Capt. John Buchanan that the Law of Nature and Nations obliged us to repel an
Enemy force by force, but that they were to supply those Indians wth Provisions
wch they shd be paid for at the Governments Charge, at the same time to attend yr
Motions until they got fairly out of our County. The 16th 17th and 18th Instant
they kill'd several valuable Horses, besides carrying off many for their Luggage,
which so exasperated our Men that they upbraided our two Captains with
Cowardice. Never the less our Captains to prevent mischief sent two men with a
White Flag the 10th Instant, desiring Peace and Friendship, to which they answer'd,
"O Friends are you there, have we found you, and on that fir d on our Flag, kill'd
Capt. McDowel and six more of our Men, on which Capt. Buchanan gave the word
of Command and bravely return 'd ye Compliment, and stood his Ground with a
very few hands (for our Men were not all come up) in 45 Minutes the Indians fled,
leaving 8 of yr Men dead on the spot, amongst whom were two of their Captains.
Our Capt. pursued them with only 8 Men several hundred yards, the Enemy getting
into a Thicket, he return'd to the Field which he cow'd not by any means prevail on
his Men to keep, and stand by him. The Night before the Engagemt I heard of the
Indians Behaviour, and march 'd up with 23 Men, and met our Capt. returning 14
Miles distance from where they had ingaged, to which place I went next Day and
brought off our Dead being 8 in Number, Capt. Buchanan having taken off ye
Wounded the Day before. I have order'd out Patrawlers on all our Frontiers well
equipped, and drafted out a certain Number of Young Men out of each Company
to be in readiness to reinforce any Party or Place that first needs help, have ordered
the Captains to guard their own precincts, have appointed places of Rendez-vous
where each Neighbourhood may draw to an Occasion, and have call'd in the
stragling Families that lived at a Distance.(96)
Under an act passed in October 1748, slaves living on plantations located
on the frontier, and threatened by Amerindian attack, could obtain licensed
firearms. The slaves' owners had to sign applications allowing the slave to own
guns and they were made responsible for the slaves' use of the guns. While this act
did not formally admit slaves to membership in the militias, it did have the effect
of allowing them to act as a levees en masse in defense of their own lives and the
property and safety of their owners.
On 25 October 1743 France signed a treaty known as the Second Family
Compact with Spain and on 15 March 1744 joined Spain's war against England.
The French made an unsuccessful assault on Annapolis Royal [Port Royal], Nova
Scotia, in 1744. On 16 June 1745 Sir Peter Warren captured Fort Louisbourg. The
press in New England was highly critical of Virginia for failing to support the
expedition. Virginia had contributed no money and only 150 volunteer militiamen
to the expedition, although Virginia was the most populous province and the
In the early 1750s there were many reports that the French were stirring
up the Amerindians in the western frontier of the Carolinas and Virginia.
Reportedly the French were building forts as bases of supply for the coming war.
The Ohio Company assisted the province of Virginia in recruiting and equipping
volunteers who would serve in the militia.(98) The newspapers continued to report
the alleged movements and actions of the French throughout 1753 and 1754 with
great anxiety. The French were alleged to have issued orders to kill or take
prisoner all whites, especially traders, caught within the territory they claimed,
including Ohio.(99) The press paid no attention to provincial boundaries in reporting
"trouble on the frontier" and one article might contain unsubstantiated reports of
Indian attacks from the Carolinas to New England.(100) Governor Robert Dinwiddie,
a man with essentially no experience in military affairs, was so anxious to enter the
war and chase the French from the Ohio territory that he moved without authorization from his superiors or the legislature. He was unable to convince the House of
Burgesses that Virginia had any interest in the war. He attempted to use his
executive powers to order out a draft of the militia which was essentially a paper
organization.(101) The end result was unsatisfactory to everyone.
On 27 February 1752 the legislature passed a new militia act. Each county
lieutenant was to enlist all able-bodied men between ages 18 and sixty, excepting
indentured servants and slaves, Amerindians and free persons of color. Within two
months of the passage of the law, the militia commanders were to muster and
enumerate the men and report their names to the governor. Amerindians and free
and enslaved black men could still be admitted to service as musicians, or be used
in servile capacities as required in emergencies. Strangely, there was no mention
of any militia obligation for indentured servants.(102)
The French and Indian war opened with an engagement between the
Virginia militia commanded by George Washington and the French in what is now
western Pennsylvania, territory then claimed by Virginia. In the absence of any
militia force from Pennsylvania, Virginia Governor Dinwiddie ordered his colonial
militia to build fortifications at the Forks of Ohio [present day Pittsburgh]. The
French had already erected Fort Duquesne and Washington's militia, which had
constructed Fort Necessity, clashed with a force led by Coulon de Villiers at Great
Meadows on 28 May 1754. Washington had about 150 militiamen and other
recruits which brought his force to about 300. The French had about 900 men. In
July 1754 Washington was forced to capitulate after losing 30 killed and 70
wounded. He optimistically reported that he had inflicted 300 casualties on the
French force.(103) The news of the beginning of hostilities was widely reported.
On 14 February 1754 the Assembly appropriated £10,000 "for the
encouragement and protection of western settlers." Five days later Governor
Dinwiddie issued a proclamation granting land bounties, in addition to regular pay,
to all militiamen who would volunteer "to expel the French and Indians and help
to erect a fort at the Forks of the Monongahela." As it turned out, only about 90
men shared in grants that totaled 200,000 acres, most of it between the Kanawha
and Great Sandy rivers.(104) George Washington was ordered to go from
Williamsburg to Fort Cumberland a few days later. He assumed command of some
Virginia men and a company each from South Carolina and New York and on 20
March was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. Colonel Joshua Fry recruited the first
Virginia volunteer regiment at Alexandria, consisting of 75 men, of which Fry had
personally enlisted 50. The volunteers now numbered about 300. As his men
marched westward Fry died at Patterson's Creek, probably on 31 May.
As we have seen, Colonel George Washington had assumed command of
the Virginia volunteers upon the death of Colonel Fry. Washington's command
was forced to seek terms from the French on 17 April 1754. On 3 July he returned
to Mount Vernon and in October resigned his commission.
Colonels William Byrd and Adam Stephen joined the Virginia volunteers
as officers. Colonel James Innes assumed command at Fort Cumberland,
Maryland. In October 1754 the Assembly again authorized recruitment of
volunteers, and the drafting of the unemployed, to serve against the French in the
West. Justices of the peace, county lieutenants, and other officers were "to raise
and levy such able-bodied men as do not follow or exercises any lawful calling or
employment, or have not some other lawful and sufficient support and maintenance, to serve his Majesty as soldiers." Any soldier maimed would be supported
afterward at the public expense, and families of those killed would also receive
By the first of September, Dinwiddie had received numerous petitions
from the southwestern frontier reporting Amerindian incursions and massacres of
isolated homesteads. He proposed building several forts on Holstein's and Green
Brier's rivers. On 6 October 1754 Colonel Lewis led forty or fifty men on a
punitive expedition into the Indian country. Lewis remained in West Augusta until
In 1755 Dinwiddie reported to the Lords of Trade the number of militia
and inhabitants in Virginia. There were 43,329 white heads of households and an
estimated total white population of 173,316. He estimated that there were 60,078
black males of military age and a total population of 120,156 blacks in the
province. That provided an estimated total population of 293,472 persons in
Virginia. He numbered the militia at 36,000, with another 6000 potential
militiamen exempted by various provisions of the militia law. Worse, Dinwiddie
reported, "the Militia are not above one-half armed, and their Small Arms are of
On 19 February 1755 General Edward Braddock arrived at Hampton,
Virginia. The next day Braddock assumed command of all the king's troops in
North America. Washington accepted reappointment to his old rank and joined
Braddock. Braddock formed two companies of artificers, principally skilled
carpenters, to accompany his expedition to cut a road and build fortifications. He
next selected a company of light horsemen and four companies of rangers to join
his two Irish regiments.(107) Dinwiddie called a council of governors, which met on
14 April, at Alexandria, to discuss manning, equipping, supplying, and funding
Braddock's expedition. Meanwhile, Braddock's army marched to Winchester and
on to Cumberland, arriving there on 10 May. Like all southern colonies Virginia
constantly feared a slave revolt and took legislative action designed to minimize the
possibility of such an armed insurrection among a most numerous population.
Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie, upon hearing of slave problems near Fort
Cumberland, remarked that "The villainy of the Negroes on an emergency of
government is what I always feared."(108) However, General Edward Braddock
notified Dinwiddie that he intended to utilize a number of free blacks and
mulattoes, although he would not necessarily arm them.(109) On 27 June, Braddock's
force was joined by Cherokee and Catawba warriors. On 9 July Braddock was
surprised near Fort DuQuesne and his army decimated.
Before his defeat, Braddock had predicted that, if his army were to be
destroyed, the savages would fall upon the frontier settlements with a vengeance.
He also predicted that, as his army neared Fort DuQuesne, the Amerindians would
circle around and attack along the frontier to the south. Dinwiddie agreed, and
ordered his militia to increase the number serving watch duty. At least one-tenth
of the militia was to be stationed at armed readiness at all times. Fast runners were
to stationed at all vital spots to carry messages to various ranging stations, the
militia, and the governor. Despite the many precautions, massacres occurred along
the Holstein River. Dinwiddie summoned Colonel Lewis, asking him to increase
the number of rangers and lookouts on the frontier.(110)
Dinwiddie's first recorded correspondence acknowledging Braddock's
defeat was dated 16 July. Dinwiddie wrote to Colonel Patton in the Greenbrier
area, asking that he strengthen the militia under his command and ordering him to
do as much damage as possible to the marauding Amerindian forces. "I have
ordered the whole militia of this dominion to be in arms," Dinwiddie wrote, "and
your neighboring counties are directed to send men to your assistance." He
dispatched Colonel Stewart and about fifty rangers to assist. In the New River
area, between October 1754 and August 1755, 21 persons were killed, 7 wounded
and nine taken prisoner. Among those killed were Colonel Patton and his deputy,
Lieutenant Wright. The latter was killed just three days after Braddock's defeat by
Amerindians whose courage had been bolstered by news of that event.
At about the same time the first reports of the terrible massacre were
received along the New River. Reverend Hugh McAden, who kept a journal of his
times, reported that settlers by the hundred were fleeing the frontier. Many came
first to Bedford, and then moved to North Carolina. John Madison, clerk of
Augusta County, reported families fleeing from the Roanoke area.(111)
On 25 July Dinwiddie wrote to Washington, informing him that he had
ordered three companies of rangers to patrol the frontier. To Colonel John
Buchanan he wrote a letter urging him to stand firm and reporting that his ranging
company would soon be augmented by the addition of fifty rangers from
Lunenburg County under Captain Nathaniel Terry and companies of forty or more
rangers led by Captains Lewis, Patton, and Smith. These, Dinwiddie thought, "will
be sufficient for the Protection of the Frontiers, without calling out the militia,
which is not to be done till a great Extremity." Dinwiddie requested Samuel
Overton to raise a company of volunteers in Hanover County and Captain John
Phelps to do the same in Bedford County. All ranging companies were to "proceed
with all expedition to annoy and destroy the enemy." As an incentive to enlist men
and to have them fight, Dinwiddie placed a bounty of £5 on Amerindian scalps.
The governor thought the incursions would end by Christmas and that peace would
come to the frontier by spring.(112)
Governor Dinwiddie expressed his hope that Colonel Dunbar would not
take the remnants of Braddock's army into winter camp, leaving the frontier
undefended. Dinwiddie decided to pursue a multi-faceted self-help plan for
defense of the colony. He would equip and support the ranging companies,
improve the militia, build a select militia, continue the bounty payments for
Amerindian scalps, obtain adequate firearms for his troops, and enlist the aid of
friendly natives. Most parts of the policy, with the notable exception of the
creation of the select militia, had proven effective in years passed.
In 1755, in the wake of Braddock's defeat, and the subsequent Amerindian
attacks all along the frontier, Virginia's legislature passed an act placing a bounty
on the scalps of the hostiles, in effect confirming the governor's earlier executive
Whereas, divers cruel and barbarous murders have been lately committed in the
upper parts of this colony, by Indians supposed to be in the interest of the French,
without any provocation from us, and contrary to the laws of nature and nations,
and they still continue in skulking parties to perpetrate their barbarous and savage
cruelties, in the most base and treacherous manner, surprising, torturing, killing and
scalping, not only our men, who live dispersedly in the frontiers, but also their
helpless wives and children, sparing neither age nor sex; for prevention of which
shocking inhumanities, and for repelling such malicious and detestable enemies,
be it enacted by the lieutenant-governor, council and burgesses of this present
General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that the
sum of ten pounds shall be paid by the treasurer of this colony, out of the public
money in his hands, to any person or persons, party or parties, either in the pay of
this colony, or other the inhabitants thereof, for every male Indian enemy, above
the age of twelve years, by him or them taken prisoner, killed or destroyed, within
the limits of this colony, at any time within the space of two years after the end of
this session of Assembly. [The act further provided that] the scalp of every Indian,
so to be killed or destroyed, as aforesaid, shall be produced to the governor or
On 14 July 1755 Dinwiddie commissioned William Preston captain of a
ranging company, to serve until 24 June 1756. Preston had to recruit his own men
and was nominally under the command of Colonel Patton. By the middle of
August he had recruited only thirty men, few of whom were from Virginia.
On 14 August Dinwiddie promoted Washington to colonel of the Virginia
Regiment and made him supreme commander of all provincial forces raised in
defense of the frontier. Dinwiddie promised him sixteen regiments of his
countrymen with command post to be established at Winchester and field offices
at Alexandria and Fredericksburg. The office in Alexandria would be used
primarily for recruitment. Meanwhile, Dinwiddie would obtain arms, ammunition,
clothing, and other supplies.
Upon his arrival at Winchester, Washington found the recruits to be in
"terrible bad order." No man followed orders unless the officers threatened
physical punishment. When he ordered them drilled, it became immediately
obvious that they had not been exercised in recent times. The distressed refugees
from the frontier cowered in fear of the drunken behavior of most of the recruits.
Recruiting officers had obviously given thought only to the collection of
bounties and not to the creation of a formidable fighting force. Provincial officers
assigned to recruiting duty showed no interest in carrying out their assignment and
returned after several weeks' work without signing a single man. Many recruits
were persistent idlers, some criminals, others escaped bondsmen, and still others
physically unsuited for service. Many men who had been drafted from militia units
chafed at the thought of discipline and complained of their bad luck in having been
selected. Few showed any aptitude for, or interest in, military life. Drill sergeants
complained about the "insolence" of almost all recruits. Recruits ignored
frontiersmen who attempted to explain some of the critical points of Indian
fighting. Officers leading men on forced marches often encountered settlers
fleeing from the frontier. These poor creatures detained the officers, telling them
their tales of woe and beseeching them to return and liberate their homesteads.(114)
George Washington had a prejudice of long standing against the militia.
That bias showed throughout the Revolution, but its origins were in the Seven
Years War. Writing to his friend and rival Adam Stephen, later a general in the
Revolutionary Army, on 18 November 1755, Washington observed that in the "life
of Military Discipline" required that "we enforce obedience and obedience will be
expected of us." He wished that militiamen be "be subject to death as in Military
Law." He urged that bounties be placed on those who desert from the militia as
was already the case for deserters from the army. But, he observed, "the Assembly
will make no Alteration in the Militia Law."(115) In reality, Washington made no
greater progress with the governor that he had with the legislature. Writing from
Fort Cumberland on 13 July 1756, he complained to Captain Thomas Waggener,
that the "Governor has ordered the Militia to be discharged as soon as harvest."(116)
On 4 August 1756 he expressed his disdain for the militia to Governor Dinwiddie.
Reporting on his experience in western Virginia he pointed put that when he was
ambushed "near Fort Ashby" he received little militia support. He wrote of the
"dastardly behavior of the Militia who ran off without half of them having
discharged their pieces."(117) He characterized the militia to Dinwiddie as "obstinate,
self-willed, perverse, of little or no service to the people and very burthensome to
Washington was much concerned about the sad condition of the Virginia
militia well before Braddock's defeat. He first wrote to Dinwiddie on 21 August
1754, urging greater training of the colonial militia.(119) Following Braddock's defeat
George Washington, on 2 August 1755, asked help from Colin Campbell to put the
militia "in proper order" to meet the expected onslaught on the frontier.(120) He began
correspondence in earnest with Governor Dinwiddie asking his assistance on the
same subject. On 8 October 1755, writing from Fredericksburg, Washington told
the governor that "I must again take the liberty of mentioning to your honor the
necessity of putting the militia under better regulation than they are at present." He
urged that Virginia revise its militia law.(121) That letter was followed in rapid
succession with another letter dated 11 October in which he threatened to resign
his commission "unless the Assembly will enact a law to enforce military law in all
its Parts."(122) He suggested to Dinwiddie that the militia law be so revised as to
force deserters who were apprehended to be "immediately draughted as Soldiers
into the Virginia Regiment."(123)
Washington's views were shared by others, including Governor
Dinwiddie, who thought that it lacked both organization and proper discipline. So
great was the governor's distrust of the county militias that only under the most dire
circumstances would he order it out, depending instead on ranging units.
Dinwiddie asked the legislature to take the necessary and proper steps to place
them in readiness. In the governor's mind, it was a simple problem requiring only
an equally simple remedy. The militia "had not been properly disciplined, or under
proper command" and those who neglected their duty were rarely, if ever,
punished. A new militia law, requiring service under a more severe set of
penalties, and mandating periodic training sessions, would do much to remedy the
problem. Had the settlers responded immediately by banding together, they would
never have had to leave their homes and crops and would have repelled the
invasions. The great body of trained militia could have saved themselves great
losses and misfortune.(124)
The legislature responded by passing a new militia law, mandating service
of all able-bodied men between ages 16 and sixty. Exemptions to this act included
most political officials, millers, farm and slave overseers, and those engaged in
mining and refining lead, brass and iron. Men were required to provide at their
own expense a "well fixed firelock" with a bayonet, cutting sword, and cartridge
box. Those who could afford to provide the appropriate equipment could join the
companies of horse. However, this service was necessarily restricted to the
wealthy and their sons because of the rather considerable equipment required: a
horse, good saddle, breast-plate, crupper, curb-bridle, carbine with boot, brace of
pistols with holsters, double cartridge box, and a sword. The law restricted use of
militia to the province and no more than five miles beyond habitation on the
On 23 February 1756 Dinwiddie reported to the Lords of Trade on his
progress with militia training. "On my arrival at my government [post] I found the
militia in bad order." Although there was an enrollment reported of more than
36,000 men, far fewer men were armed and most were undisciplined or trained in
militia tactics. "The militia are not above half-armed, and their small arms [are] of
different bores, making them very inconvenient in time of action." The exemptions
to the Militia Act were many. There were far too many classes which "are
exempted by Act of Assembly from appearing under arms." Those exempted
included judges, justices of the peace, plantation overseers, millers and most
politicians and public officers. Additionally, many tradesmen were exempted by
virtue of their trades. All together those exempted by law amounted, according to
Dinwiddie's estimates, to an additional 6000 men who might have been serving in
the militia. Dinwiddie then asked the legislature "to vote a general tax to purchase
arms of one bore for the militia," but lamented that "I have not yet prevailed with
them."(126) However, Dinwiddie, in an address to the legislature, referred most
favorably to the militia. "Our militia, under God, is our chief dependence for the
protection of our lives and fortunes."(127)
The select militia were specially trained citizen-soldiers who had little
frontier experience and whose service was to be primarily in urban areas. On 17
September 1755 Dinwiddie issued orders for the dress of the select militia. The
officers of the regular militia were to be dressed in a "suit of regimentals of good
blue cloath coat to be faced and faced with scarlet and trimmed with silver; a
scarlet waist-coat, with silver lace; blue breeches with silver-laced hat." The
officers sent into the woods were also to have one set "of common soldiers'
Governor Dinwiddie valued George Washington's advice and the militia
colonel convinced his superior that the enlistment of friendly Amerindians was
crucial to the defense of the frontier. Washington knew that the governor could
exploit the ancient tribal antagonisms. There were many advantages to be gained
at little cost or inconvenience. Obviously, those natives who assisted the colonists
would not be at war with them. Their contacts with other tribes would render many
vital scouting and intelligence services. They were experienced trackers and
woodsmen. Considerable numbers could be enlisted for trinkets worth only a few
hundred pounds. Their considerable presence might act as a shield against other,
more hostile, tribes.
Virginia Governor Dinwiddie joined the growing effort to take the
offensive against the French. Responding in large measure to Washington's several
letters,(129) he asked the House of Burgesses to appropriate money to support the
British effort against the French at Crown Point, and to supply and arm the militia
in the spring of 1756.(130) North Carolina Governor Arthur Dobbs offered aid and
militia supplies to Virginia.(131) The press throughout the American colonies
reported Governor Dinwiddie's several calls for increased military preparedness.(132)
In Williamsburg the House of Burgesses appropriated money for defense and ordered the militia to be trained and equipped.(133) New militia districts were drawn
and training was to be improved.(134)
Dinwiddie decided to take the offensive in February 1756. Major Lewis
was to assume command assisted by two "old woodsmen," Captains Woodson and
Smith. A supply of 150 small arms, along with gunpowder and lead, was
accompanied by a much-needed surgeon, Lieutenant William Fleming. The
Cherokees promised aid and Dinwiddie enthusiastically reported to Washington
that he hoped to have about 350 men in Lewis' command. The individual
companies marched through the Roanoke Valley and assembled at Dunkard's
Bottom on the New River at a post optimistically called Fort Frederick. A local
minister named Brown appeared to bless the troops, preach a military sermon, and
invoke God's protection. Almost immediately word arrived that a Shawnee raiding
party had caused mischief about a day's march to the west. Lewis had ordered a
man "switched" for swearing and the sight of such physical punishment disgusted
the Cherokees who deserted. Major Lewis and Captain Pearis followed them and
persuaded them to return, but valuable time had been lost.
Scouts picked up signs of the Shawnee war party along with their
prisoners, but the trail was difficult and food soon ran short. Lewis ordered the
men to go on half-rations. The New River at many points ran through steep
mountain passes with no level land to be found on either shore. The party had to
cross the river almost every mile. The men obtained canoes, but most capsized,
damaging and destroying supplies. Eight of Smith's men deserted and a part of
Preston's company was compelled to continue on the their mission only under the
threat of being shot. Unable to contain the spreading mutiny, Major Lewis
delivered an impassioned speech urging the men to perform their duty. Only about
thirty men and the officers agreed to continue, while the volunteers from the
companies led by Smith, Dunlap, Preston and Montgomery deserted.
The remaining party pursued the natives without being able to engage
them. Casualties were caused either by natural disaster or the ambush of deserters.
Disgusted and frustrated, Lewis returned and delivered his report. On 24 April,
Dinwiddie sent him to Cherokee country to construct a fort which was completed
at a cost of £2000. Captain Dunlap constructed another fort at the mouth of Craig's
Creek. Captain Preston continued to march his men through the woods along the
Catawba and Buffalo creeks, after which he commanded a portion of the Augusta
County militia that had been mustered to defend the frontier. Frontiersmen
circulated a petition, asking that a chain of new forts be constructed along the entire
frontier. Meanwhile, the House of Burgesses conducted an inquiry into the
conduct of the officers assigned to the Shawnee expedition, finding them all
Dinwiddie proposed to the Lords of Trade that they authorize the
construction of a string of forts along the Allegheny mountains, with emphasis on
the mountain passes. The legislature took up the call, demanding that forts be
erected from Great Capon in Hampshire County in the north and extending to the
south fork of the Mayo River in Halifax County. Many frontiersmen, upon hearing
of this policy consideration, supported it by sending memorials and petitions to
both the chief executive and the House of Burgesses.(136)
Washington entered the debate. His logic was impeccable. To have the
desired effect, each fort would have to have a garrison of approximately eighty to
one hundred men. At any time about forty to fifty men would have to be assigned
to patrols. The chain of forts would have to be built at intervals not greater than
one day's march. The state could not afford to maintain an adequate garrison at so
many places. If fewer forts were built, the Amerindians would soon learn how to
circumvent them. If fewer men were assigned, the natives would isolate and
destroy the smaller garrisons. If the men remained in the forts, they would serve
no good purpose. Dinwiddie appointed Washington to chair a conference on this
matter, to be held on 10 July 1756 at Fort Cumberland. The conferees expended
most of their energy arguing over the best locations for forts.
In April 1756 the Virginia militia skirmished with a party of Amerindians
led by French officers. Papers taken from a dead French officer revealed that his
party, and possibly others, were to harass Virginia settlements and isolated farms
along a broad line. They were to penetrate to within 50 miles of major towns and
cities.(137) By May 1756 the Amerindian incursions on the frontier had cut
communications among many of the frontier towns. Dinwiddie received reports
that "the French and indians to the amount of some thousands have invaded our
Back Settlements, committed the greatest Cruelties by murdering many of our
Subjects without the least regard to age or sex and burnt a great many Houses." He
found it difficult to draft men because few were willing to abandon their families
to the savages. He requested cannon and small arms from the home government.(138)
Dinwiddie sent Richard Pearis to the Cherokee nation on 21 April 1756,
with gifts and a letter asking them to come to the aid of the province. An Indian
trader claimed that the nation owed him 2586 pounds of deer hides for trade goods
delivered and that they must hunt until the debt was paid. Pearis, on his own
initiative, assigned the debt to Virginia and burned the books. He was then able to
recruit 82 warriors to accompany him. The House of Burgesses awarded Pearis
£100 for pay his expenses and to discharge the debt.(139)
In late June, Major Lewis gathered several units of rangers and added the
82 Cherokees and set out on another expedition against the Shawnees. The greatest
difficulty Lewis encountered was finding a sufficient number of arms to equip his
men. The Shawnee spotted the movement of Lewis' troops and on 25 June fell
upon the inhabitants in the Roanoke area, massacring many and destroying the only
fort in the area. A survivor, John Smith, sent a memorial to the House of Burgesses
in which he described the massacre and claimed that a party of eight hundred men
could "easily" destroy the Shawnees and burn their principal towns.(140)
On 5 May 1756 Dinwiddie issued instructions to the county lieutenants.
They were to make two drafts among the militia, one being for the little army that
was needed to fill the void left after the English had fled to the safety of the eastern
seaboard. This group would serve garrison duty at the various forts and comprise
an army to seek and destroy the enemy. The second draft was for a group of
minutemen who would be available to respond to Amerindian incursions on the
frontier.(141) On 24 May Dinwiddie wrote to Maryland Governor Sharpe that he was
saddened by the failure of the Pennsylvania legislature to adopt a proper militia law
and to offer sufficient support in arms, food and other materials of war. He was
heartened by the emergence of a strong militia among the propertied class. "We
have a volunteer Association of Gentlemen of this Province," he wrote, "to the
number of 200." Dinwiddie was optimistic that "it will be of service in animating
the lower Class of our people."(142)
But there was little good news elsewhere. Washington had reported that
on the "dastardly behavior" of the militia serving with him. Dinwiddie accepted
Washington's report on 27 May and apologized for inability of the militia officers
to control their men or instill in them the least sense of discipline. He ordered
some militia home and suggested that measures be taken to create an orderly
martial atmosphere.(143) Dinwiddie received a letter from Washington that he had
received an order from William Shirley to send what remained of his meager
supplies on the frontier, beginning with gunpowder stored at his most important
frontier post, Fort Cumberland, to New York to be used in campaigns Shirley
planned in the northeast. Dinwiddie wrote Major-General James Abercrombie, "I
hope the order will be countermanded, as there are many forts on the frontiers
depending on supplies."(144) On 22 July 1756 Dinwiddie expressed his disappointment in the provincial militia to ironmaster William Byrd, III. He lamented that "if
the militia would only, [even] in small numbers, appear with proper spirit, the
banditti of Indians would not face them."(145)
In preparation for a new campaign in July 1756 the General Assembly
passed a new militia act which differed but little from earlier laws. It required that
all able-bodied white males, except indentured servants, between ages 18 and 60
be enrolled in the county militia wherein they resided. Residents of Hampshire
County were also exempted from the provisions of the act, perhaps because they
represented the county closest the scene of the action. Doubtless, these people
were expected to act as levees en masse in defense of their homes. Free blacks,
Amerindians and slaves could serve as musicians and manual laborers, but could
not bear arms. Since indentured servants were not mentioned in any additional
provisions of the law, it may be assumed that no service of any kind was expected
of them.(146) This law was reenacted through July 1773.
Dinwiddie decided to build three forts in Halifax County and one in
Bedford County. He assigned various county militia units to guard duty, but there
were problems almost immediately when the Augusta County militia proved to be
ineffective and quite uncooperative. A settler named Stalnaker reported that the
Shawnee were gathering a force to attack as far east as Winchester. Dinwiddie
gave him £100 to build a fort at Draper's Meadows and told him to raise a company
of volunteer militia to defend it. In August Dinwiddie again met with Washington
who advised him to build three additional forts in the frontier counties of Augusta,
Bedford, and Hampshire. Manning these new forts, along with the existing ones,
would severely tax the militia.
Washington raised another issue. What was to be done about the ranging
companies, most of whose men had deserted? Washington was still unhappy about
the high desertion rate during the first Shawnee expedition. The forts, Washington
reminded Dinwiddie, were useless without militia to garrison them. The forts had
to gather information on the enemy Indians and send out period patrols. Rangers
were supposedly the most skilled and highly trained troops available for frontier
patrol duty and gathering intelligence. Dinwiddie suggested that his militia
commander-in-chief make an inspection tour of the frontier.
After attending briefly to some personal business, Washington set off on
his grand tour. Most militiamen had no idea how to build a fort and the officers
had no plans for fortifications and rarely issued comprehendible orders during the
construction phase. Washington was appalled that, following an Amerindian attack
on the headwaters of Catawba Creek, the fort's commander, Colonel Nash, could
not recruit a ranging company to track and pursue the Shawnees. A second call for
militia yielded only a few officers and eight men from Bedford County. Washington moved on to another fort being constructed in Augusta County being built by
Captain Hogg. Only eighteen men had shown up to assist, although supposedly
another thirty from Lunenburg County were on their way. Still, Colonel John
Buchanan assured Washington that, in an emergency, he could turn out 2000
militia on short notice. Washington concluded that about one man out of thirteen
had performed his duty. He reported to Dinwiddie, "The militia are under such bad
order and discipline, that they will go and come when and where they please,
without regarding time, their officers, or the safety of the inhabitants."(147) The tour
showed him clearly the terrible state of discipline among the militia, the poor
condition of the forts, and the dispirited defense of the garrison troops.
On 20 July 1756 the home government attempted to assess the true
situation by requesting that the colonial governors respond to certain questions.
One of the principal concerns in London was: what measures were the colonies
taking to provide for their own defense. The result was the Blair Report on the
military preparedness of the colonies. Dinwiddie submitted his report to the king,
but it largely repeated findings of which the king was already aware and which we
have already discussed.(148) In Virginia the militia consisted of about 36,000, but
was only half-armed. The guns in quality and usefulness varied enormously and
they certainly did not all fire the same ammunition, "which is inconvenient in time
of action." Almost any citizen could escape the Virginia militia service by paying
£10.(149) About 1760 there were theoretically 43,329 citizens liable for militia
service, but there were over 8,000 exceptions. Blacks, free and enslaved,
numbering 60,078, were entirely disarmed and thus were useless for militia duty.(150)
At the end of the summer things were looking up. Dinwiddie managed to
gather a reasonably effective militia force by early autumn 1756. He reported to
Loudoun on 28 October 1756 that he now had 400 effective rangers guarding the
frontier. Washington had sufficiently reenforced Fort Cumberland so that it
appeared to be sufficiently strong to "protect it from falling into the Enemy's hands.
He was making some headway in recruiting men for the Royal Americans. Still
landholders especially resisted long-term enlistment, especially for service outside
their home areas. For service in the Royal Americans Dinwiddie "applied for one-twentieth Part of our Militia, but to no effect. As they are mostly free-holders, they
insist on their Privileges and can't be persuaded voluntarily to join in Arms for the
Protection of their Lives, Liberties and Properties."(151)
In the late autumn Major Lewis returned from Cherokee Fort, having
completed his mission. On 15 November, Governor Dinwiddie called Lewis and
Colonel Buchanan into conference because he was greatly concerned about the
rising costs of maintaining the Augusta County militia. The six companies from
Augusta cost more than all the other militia units in the field. The military advisers
suggested reducing the active number of men to three companies of sixty men each
and sending the rest home. On 23 November Lewis issued orders to Captain
Preston to draft sixty men from the militia to relieve the Augusta militia at Miller's
Fort and other frontier posts. Those militiamen who had been drafted complained
bitterly about their misfortune, but remained on duty through January 1757.
In mid-winter, Dinwiddie proposed launching a second expedition against
the Shawnee. Captain Vause and Morris Griffith, who had been captured in the
Roanoke Valley and escaped, proposed enlisting 250 to 300 volunteers, to be
supplied with arms, ammunition and clothing, and to be given only ordinary militia
pay, plunder and £10 bounty for scalps. Captain Stalnaker would act as guide. The
three companies from Augusta, Dinwiddie thought, would be sufficient to guard
the frontier. Vause and Griffith thought that they would have no trouble enlisting
men if only because so many men were upset, and many had been personally
touched, by the earlier Amerindian massacres. Because the frontiersmen had
initiated the expedition, its supporters became known as the Associators.
Meanwhile, Dinwiddie attended a strategy meeting in Philadelphia, where
it was decided to enlarge the punitive force to six hundred men. Upon his return
he discovered a number of letters and petitions from frontiersmen advising against
the expedition. The principal complaints revolved around the election and
appointment of officers, state of equipment, and availability of commissary.
Colonel Clement Read, writing from Lunenburg County, offer his opinion. "I am
sorry the Expedition so well intended against the Shawnee is likely to be defeated,
and all our schemes for carrying it on rendered abortive by an ill-timed jealousy
and malicious insinuations."(152)
News reached Dinwiddie in April that atrocities and massacres had
occurred in Halifax County and the inhabitants were blaming the presumably allied
Cherokees. In May Captain Stalnaker reported the passage through Halifax of at
least four hundred Amerindians, including Catawbas, Tuscaroras and Cherokees.
Dinwiddie proposed the adoption of a three part plan. First, he called for the
creation of three new ranging companies under Colonel John Buchanan and
Captain Hogg. Second, he also ordered the drafting of one thousand militiamen
into the First Virginia Regiment with Washington as the commander-in-chief. The
number of men in the pay of the colony was now two thousand exclusive of
rangers, constituting a considerable financial burden on the colony. Third, he
ordered the creation of a series of block-houses and forts along the southern
The governor thought that conditions on the frontier had been pacified,
but decided to maintain a presence. He sent a new draft of sixty militiamen to
Miller's Fort to relieve Preston's first company. Under Preston's leadership, this
band built new fortifications at Bull's Pasture, Fort George, and Fort Prince
George. None of these outposts reported significant Amerindian activity and no
new tales of massacres were heard.
In June 1757 Dinwiddie received another bit of encouraging news. An
Amerindian friend of the Virginians, known as Old Hop, dispatched 30 warriors
to assist in repelling incursions of the French Indians near Winchester, and
promised to send at least three more similar bands. It was a mixed blessing because
Dinwiddie was asked to provide each warrior with a shirt, leggings, pants, a small
arm, powder, lead and blankets and they demanded match coats which Dinwiddie
could not supply. To keep their Amerindian allies loyal to the British side, the
legislature appropriated £5000 to reestablish the Indian trade.(154) A few days later
Dinwiddie reported to William Pitt that 220 Catawbas, Nottoways and Tuscaroras
had joined his militia at Winchester and had just brought the first scalps and a few
prisoners. Another party of 70 warriors, largely Cherokees, was working with the
militia toward Fort Duquesne. He was optimistic that he would soon have as many
as 1500 Amerindians fighting on the British side.(155)
In 1757 the Virginia legislature again revised the colony's basic militia law
because "the Militia of this Colony should be well regulated and disciplined." The
act required that, henceforth, all officers, superior or inferior, should be residents
of the county in which they command. It covered all able-bodied, free, white male
inhabitants, ages 16 to 60, except newly imported servants and members of council,
House of Burgesses and most colonial, county and local officials; professors and
students of the College of William and Mary; overseers of four or more slaves or
servants; millers and founders; persons employed in copper, tin or lead mines; and
priests and ministers of the Gospel. The county and local officials and a few others
exempted "shall provide Arms for the Use of the County, City or Borough, wherein
they shall respectively reside." Councilors were to provide "for complete sets of
Arms." The day following a general muster the county officers were to meet at the
court house "and to inquire of the Age and Abilities of all Persons enlisted, and to
exempt such as they shall adjudge incapable of Service." Free blacks, persons of
mixed racial heritage and Amerindians who chose to enlist were to be "employed
as Drummers, Trumpeters or Pioneers, or in other servile Labour."
Within twelve months of receiving their appointments county lieutenants,
colonels, lieutenant-colonels and majors had to provide themselves with suitable
swords. Captains and lieutenants had to have firelocks and swords; and corporals
and sergeants, swords and halberts. Every militiaman had to provide himself with
a well fixed firelock, bayonet and double cartridge box; and keep in his home a
pound of gunpowder and four pounds of musket balls fitted to his gun. Parents
were required to provide arms for their sons; and masters arms for their servants.
Those too poor to afford a musket were to certify the same to the county officers
and then the county would provide a musket branded with the county markings.
On the death or removal of a poor militiaman, or his attainment of age 60, the
musket was to be surrendered to the county lieutenant. An officer could "order all
Soldiers . . . to go armed to their respective Parish Churches."
"For the better training and exercising the Militia," the county commanders were to "muster, train and exercise his Company . . . in the Months of March
and April or September or October, yearly." Failure to appear at muster subjected
a militiaman to discipline, usually a fine. The officers were to "cause such
Offender to be tied Neck and Heels for any Time not exceeding five Minutes, or
inflict such corporal Punishment as he shall think fit, not exceeding 20 Lashes."
The law was quite specific as to the use of militia fines. The officers were to
"dispose of such Fines for buying Drums and Trophies for the Use of the Colony
and for supplying the Militia of said County with Arms." Officers were required
to take the following oath: " I --- do swear that I will do equal Right and Justice
to all Men, according to the Act of Assembly for the better regulating and
discipling the Militia."
Under the militia act, county lieutenants were required to appoint one
inferior officer and as many men as he though were needed to serve as slave
patrols. The law charged these patrols with visiting all "Negro Quarters and other
places suspected of entertaining unlawful Assemblies of Salves or other disorderly
Persons." Slaves absent from their own masters' plantations were "to receive any
Number of Lashes, not exceeding 20 on his or her bare back, well laid on.
Militiamen serving slave patrol received ten pounds of tobacco for each day's or
Militiamen in several cities were covered by separate acts. Citizens of
Williamsburg and Norfolk were mustered and trained according to laws passed in
1736 and 1739. Exempted by these acts were sailors and masters of ships. These
militias had the additional responsibility to stand seacoast watch. Cities had nightly
slave patrols, which were assigned duty within the city limits and one-half mile
beyond in all directions.
The legislature also passed an act for "making Provision against Invasions
and Insurrections" which gave the governor full authority over the militia in times
of emergency. He "shall have full Power and Authority to levy, raise, arm and
muster, such a Number of Forces out of the Militia of this Colony as shall be
thought needful for repelling the Invasion or suppressing the Insurrection, or other
Danger." Penalties for failure to muster were substantially increased, up to death
The colonial regiment might be sent to the aid of royal forces or incorporated as part of such troops whereas the ranging units had been developed for the
protection of the frontier and were not subject to royal draft. The legislature
appropriated £1500 for the support of the troops provided the rangers remain
always in the service of the colony. The royal authorities had no choice but to
accept the legislature's terms for the crown needed men to join General Forbes'
expedition against Fort DuQuesne. Major Lewis joined Washington at Winchester,
bring a significant portion of the volunteer regiment with him. This left Colonels
John Buchanan and William Byrd and Captains Preston, Dickinson, and Young to
guard the frontier. These men built a new fort on the James River named after
Francis Farquier who, in January 1758, succeeded Dinwiddie as the colony's
governor. With the best military men serving with the First Virginia Regiment,
poor leadership plagued the militia. In one major blunder, Captain Robert Wade
led a party of militiamen up the New River where they encountered a band of
friendly natives, fell upon them, and massacred many warriors. Colonel Byrd made
a similar mistake in the late autumn.(158)
Washington was still far from being pleased with progress the province
was making in discipling and training the militia. He complained to Governor
Francis Farquier of the sad state of the militia in early 1758. On 25 June 1758
Farquier replied to Washington's letter. "I am extremely sensible of all you say in
your letter of the nineteenth, instant, relative to the bad condition of the militia and
wish I knew how to redress it."(159)
Farquier decided to appoint William Byrd to serve as colonel of the
second Virginia regiment, although he was placed nominally under Washington's
orders. Byrd sent an Indian trader named George Turner to the Cherokee camp to
carry gifts to atone for Wade's and Byrd's earlier slaughter of their braves, and to
recruit them into Virginia service and the assistance of Forbes expedition against
Fort DuQuesne. The crown ordered, and the legislature concurred, that the
volunteers in both Virginia regiments should remain in royal service until January.
The volunteers complained that this extended their service several months beyond
their contractual time, but appeals to patriotism, revenge, and additional pay won
The Forbes expedition was a resounding success, highlighted by the
capture of Fort DuQuesne on 26 November 1758. Forbes suffered few casualties
beyond the needless loss of about four hundred men under Majors Grant and
Lewis. Washington resigned his commission and was succeeded by William Byrd
as provincial commander-in-chief. The French were now gone from the Ohio
territory so Virginia turned its attention to the former French allies, the Shawnee
and associated tribes, and against the troublesome part of the Cherokee nation.
Based largely on captured French records spies, and officers, Forbes estimated the
following numbers of hostile Amerindians: the Delawares between Ohio River and
Lake Erie, 500 warriors; the Shawnee on the Scioto and Muskingum rivers, 500
braves; the Mingoes on the Scioto River, 60 warriors; and the Wyandots on
Miami River, 300 men at arms. Additionally, the Cherokees in western North
Carolina and eastern Tennessee had 1500 to 2000 warriors.(160)
In January 1759 Governor Farquier convened a military council, including
his council and Colonel Byrd, to plan the Cherokee expedition. He ordered Byrd
to position his second regiment to its best advantage in anticipation of a move
south. Forbes demanded that a portion of the regiment be stationed at Pittsburgh
to guard against a return of the French. Since this fit well with the provincial desire
to hold the western Amerindian tribes at bay, council agreed. Farquier ordered that
the militia of the counties of Frederick, Hampshire and Augusta, and the rangers
in Bedford and Halifax counties, to be placed in readiness to assist in maintaining
the peace on the frontier. Two hundred artisans were to be recruited by offering
an enlistment bounty of £5 and then deployed in the strengthening fortifications.
The men of the proposed expedition remained in camp, adopting a
defensive, rather than offensive, posture. Three hundred of the militia and frontier
were enlisted "to secure and preserve the several forts and places . . . and protect
the frontiers from the threatened invasion of the Cherokees and other Indians." By
March 1760, additional rangers and militia were placed in readiness on the
southern frontier. In May, an additional seven hundred men were recruited by
offering a bounty of £10 and sent to the southwestern frontier and the relief of Fort
Loudoun. Major Lewis assumed command of the new recruits.
In the summer of 1761 Captain William Preston stationed rangers in
several fortifications on New River to protect the inhabitants from the Amerindians. He thought the situation to be sufficiently dangerous to muster the militia,
but Governor Farquier refused permission, telling him to solve the problems by
peaceful means. Provincial expenses were high enough without having to pay
more militiamen. Farquier wrote Preston, urging him to persuade the frontiersmen
to remain on their plantations. Preston was able to settle his problems with the
Cherokee by having a local surveyor, Thomas Lewis, draw a boundary between
their land and that of the colony. Andrew Lewis, brother of the surveyor, met the
Cherokees and made a treaty that obliged them to guard the southwestern frontier.
So successful was the peace treaty that surveying continued along the Roanoke
River in 1762 and 1763.(161)
The Cherokee expedition was finally ready to move on the enemy in April
1761. Colonel Byrd ordered the various component companies to assemble at
Captain James Campbell's plantation in Roanoke. By act of the legislature of 31
March 1761, Byrd was authorized to proceed with one thousand men. The money
was not forthcoming and Byrd was unable to offer cash for the bounties or
purchase supplies for his commissary under Thomas Walker. Byrd decided to
recall all available men from Pittsburgh and to proceed with the five hundred men
he could pay and supply. On 1 August the supplies had not arrived nor had more
men been recruited. Byrd ordered the old Cherokee Fort to be refitted, strengthened and garrison by sixty militia recruits. The Cherokees retreated from their
northern towns and Colonel Grant, commander of the advance forces, failed to
engage them. Enlistment of the volunteers were expiring and the legislature
authorized the extension of service through May 1762. Adam Stephen then
assumed command with orders from council to proceed against the Cherokees. He
moved his three hundred men to Great Island, built Fort Robinson thereon, and set
up camp there for the winter under Captain John McNeil. The Amerindians were
now some three hundred miles away from the inhabitants of the southern Virginia
frontier. Declaring the frontier to be safe, and the Cherokees driven south, council
disbanded the second regiment in February 1762, and then commended them on
In 1761 all British subjects "living on the western waters" were ordered
to vacate their homesteads since these lands were to be reserved to the Amerindians. A few cabins were burned, but English authority was never firmly
established on the frontier and the area was far too vast to police effectively. The
normally docile Shawnee especially resented the incursion on their lands and in
1761 effectively isolated the settlers in the Greenbrier area.
In July 1763 massacres again occurred along the southwestern frontier.
On 27 July, Colonel Preston reported, "Our situation at present is very different
from what it was. . . . All the valleys of Roanoke River and along the waters of the
Mississippi are depopulated." He sent the Bedford County militia out in pursuit of
a Shawnee raiding party. His report continued.
I have built a little fort in which are 87 persons, 20 of whom bear arms. We are in
a pretty good posture of defence, and with the aid of God are determined to make
a stand. In 5 or 6 other places in this part of the country they have fallen into the
same method and with the same resolution. How long we may keep them is
uncertain. No enemy have appeared here as yet. Their guns are frequently heard
and their footing observed, which makes us believe they will pay us a visit. . . . We
bear our misfortunes so far with fortitude and are in hopes of being relieved.(163)
Governor Farquier sent Preston a letter in which he promised to move
militia from other counties to assist in the relief of Roanoke. He promoted Andrew
Lewis to the rank of major, to serve under Preston who was the county lieutenant.
In October 1763 Captain William Christian led a party of Amherst County
militia to the New River where they engaged a band of about twenty Amerindians.
After an exchange of gunfire, and the massacre of a settler held captive, the
savages fled. Otherwise, the expedition was essentially unremarkable. Lieutenant
David Robinson, an officer in the Bedford County contingent of Captain Preston's
rangers, led his men in yet another fruitless tour of the New River area in February
1764. William Thompson and a Captain Sayers followed Robinson and they, too,
had no luck in engaging the natives. Still, isolated Shawnee raids decimated
isolated settlements and slaughtered their inhabitants. One unfortunate incident
followed the killing of members of a party of Shawnee who had murdered the
Cloyd family. The militiamen recovered the family's "fortune" of £137/18/0,
mostly in gold and silver coins, but fought over the distribution despite the fact that
the militiamen were the Cloyds' neighbors. The dispute ended only when the
county court decided to grant each man thirty shillings.(164)
By 1764 they had pushed into the Shenandoah Valley as far as Staunton.
The militia was ineffective in responding to these expeditions. In April,
Dr. William Fleming, then living in Staunton, wrote Governor Farquier, telling him
that the local militia was unequal to the task of defending the town. Farquier
dispatched 450 militia under Colonel Andrew Lewis to defend the town, but they
did not encounter any hostiles and, after three months of inactivity, were discharged. Lewis retained 130 rangers in service in the area until September.(165)
General Bouquet decided he must carry the war against the Shawnee into
the Ohio territory. Accompanying his army were two hundred Augusta County
militiamen under Captain John McClenachan. On 9 November 1764 Bouquet
concluded a peace treaty with the Shawnee at Muskingum. One part of the
agreement required that prisoners held in Shawnee camps be returned. Throughout
the winter and into the following spring, prisoners were delivered to Fort Pitt and
other posts and placed under the care of the Virginia militia. Bouquet's peace
lasted until 1774.
Still, sporadic raids occurred against isolated settlements in the southwestern frontier. In May 1765 a party of Shawnee camping at John Anderson's house
in the Greenbrier Valley was attacked by Augusta County militiamen in retribution
for various earlier raids. Colonel Lewis and Dr William Fleming intervened on
behalf of the Indians, saving at least some of their lives. Leaders of the "Augusta
boys" offered a reward of £1000 for Lewis' scalp and £500 for Fleming. Cooler
heads prevailed, the community came to its collective senses, and Lewis and
Fleming emerged as heroes.(166)
During Pontiac's uprising Virginia had kept over 1000 militiamen on duty
on the frontier and reduced casualties significantly. Still, the natives could strike
anywhere at almost anytime and no system of defense was foolproof. However,
Virginia's losses were negligible compared to those of Pennsylvania. George
Croghan, well known Indian trader and diplomat to the Pennsylvania and New
York tribes, estimated that Pennsylvania lost over 2000 inhabitants during that
short war, and Virginia nearly as many.(167) Governor Dinwiddie thought the militia
should have repelled the Amerindian incursion. General Jeffery Amherst called on
Virginia to furnish volunteers and militia to garrison Fort Pitt and to carry out the
reduction of the Shawnee towns in Ohio. If Virginia would supply the frontier
fighters Amherst would try to spare some regulars "to join the Virginians in
offensive operations against the Shawanese Towns on the Banks of the Ohio."(168)
In 1766 the Virginia legislature again revised the fundamental militia act.
The act renewed the list of those exempted from militia, adding physicians and
surgeons, Quakers and other religious dissenters, tobacco inspectors at public
warehouses, acting judges and justices of the peace. The provisions for the
purchase and maintenance of militia arms were reenacted, with the penalty
increased to £5. The act brought Williamsburg and Norfolk under the obligation
to muster and train in March or April, and to attend a regimental muster once a
year, although other provisions of the particular acts of 1736 and 1739 for these
boroughs remained in force. The authorities of James City and York were clearly
and legally separated from Norfolk and Williamsburg.(169) At this time the mounted
militia substituted trumpets for the traditional drums used by foot soldiers.(170)
In January 1774 John Murray, Earl of Dunmore (1732-1809), royal
governor of Virginia,(171) seized western Pennsylvania and set up a new government
in and near Pittsburgh under James Connolly. Simultaneously, he encouraged more
hunters, traders and settlers to enter that region of Virginia known as Kentucky.
Certain disaffected persons, at home and in England, used the colonial independence as an opportunity to forment trouble with the native Americans as much to
embarrass the Whigs as to advance their interests in western lands. Some believe
that British Indian agents urged the Shawnee, peaceful since the treaty ten years
earlier, to resist colonial encroachment on their lands by warring against the traders
in their lands. Massacres of some traders precipitated a response by Virginia.
Shawnee and Ottawa war leaders decided to end this encroachment upon
their lands, leading to what is known as Dunmore's War. Two columns of Virginia
militia and volunteers responded. Dunmore led an expedition down the Ohio River
while Colonel Andrew Lewis led a second militia column down the Great Kanawha
River. Dunmore's militiamen rode their horses into battle as mounted infantry, but
having overloaded the poor animals and chosen old and otherwise useless horses,
to avoid having good animals killed or wounded, the men were forced to rest the
animals frequently. The three columns traveled at different speeds and during rest
periods lost contact with one another. The Amerindians used that opportunity to
divide and conquer and so launched the attack during a rest period. What should
have been a resounding colonial victory turned into the indecisive Battle of Point
Pleasant on 10 October 1774.
The standard newspaper account exaggerated the size of the enemy force
and underestimated the size of the militia force by claiming that 600 Virginia
militia and volunteers had fought against 900 Amerindians at the mouth of
Kanawha River and won a "resounding victory."(172) Most objective accounts
conclude that neither side that gained an advantage. In reality, the colonial militia
outnumbered the Amerindians 1000 men to about 300. The war ended with the
Amerindians yielding hunting rights in Kentucky and guaranteeing free passage on
the Ohio River in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte.(173) Still, like Dinwiddie's war in
1754, Dunmore's war was a failure. Like Dinwiddie, Dunmore had antagonized the
House of Burgesses. Time was already past in 1754, let alone in 1774, when a
governor could order a major deployment of the militia without first receiving
legislative acquiescence. The legislature and some local officials, not the governor
controlled the militia. The wars were both very unpopular and the general
population was generally displeased with both the cost and the result.
On 24 December 1774 Governor Dunmore wrote to Lord Dartmouth,
"every county is now arming a company of men whom they call an independent
company."(174) Most counties had already formed, or were in the process of forming,
such independent companies. By the end of the year at least six companies were
fully formed, armed and prepared for action.(175) Patrick Henry(176) assumed political
leadership, realizing that a number of independent volunteer companies, formed in
and by various counties, could not provide the force necessary for a sustained war.
He saw these companies as barriers against the Amerindians and as a reservoir of
trained or semi-trained manpower from which an regular force might draw. He had
not yet considered the possibility of enlistment in a national regular army, but was
bound to the concept of a statewide militia under state command. Henry's position
at the end of 1774 may be summed up by the following resolution which he offered
at the First Virginia Convention.
Resolved, That a well regulated militia, Composed of gentlemen and yeomen, is the
natural strength and only security of a free government; that such a militia in this
colony would for ever render it unnecessary for the mother country to keep among
us, for the purpose of our defence, any standing army of mercenary soldiers always
subversive of the quiet, and dangerous to the liberties of time people, and would
obviate the pretext of taxing us for their support. That the establishment of such
a militia is, at this time, peculiarly necessary, by time state of our laws for the
protection and defence of the country, some of which have already expired, and
others will shortly be so; and that time known remissness of the government in
calling us together in legislative capacity, renders it too insecure, in this time of
danger and distress, to rely that opportunity will be given of renewing them, in
general assembly, or making any provision to secure our inestimable rights and
liberties, from those further violations with which they are threatened. Resolved,
therefore, That this colony be immediately put into a state of defence, and that there
be a committee to prepare a plan for embodying, arming, and discipling such a
number of men, as may be sufficient for that purpose.(177)
The Virginia militia filled a number of vital and important roles during the
Revolution, supporting the patriot cause in both the north and south. In March
1775 the Virginia Convention met in Old St. John's Church on a hill above the falls
of the James River in Richmond. The delegates were seeking privacy and distance
from royalist Governor Dunmore. Patrick Henry immediately moved that the
"Colony be immediately put in a state of defense," meaning that the militia be
formed, disciplined and armed. Opposed by even some of the patriots, Henry then
delivered his famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, which was more
than sufficient to carry the motion.(178) Henry's speech at the Convention was based
on the assumption that a simple militia would be insufficient because a prolonged
war was inevitable and that a real, substantial force, based on, but separate from,
the general militia, was to be absolutely necessary for the defense of Virginia.
Henry argued that a mere show of force in the form of a general and broad muster
of the militia would accomplish nothing because the British authorities would not
be intimidated. His purpose was to convince the assembly that they should
abandon all hopes of a peaceful reconciliation and prepare for a prolonged war.(179)
After considerable debate Henry introduced a second resolution which
called for placing the colony in a full state of military preparedness. The state was
to call into service a body of men sufficient to defend it from both the English
forces along the coast and the Amerindians whom the British might seduce into
making raids along the frontier. The men were to be completely trained in military
arts, fully armed and subjected to standard military discipline. This would become
the select militia of yeomen and gentlemen of which Henry had spoken earlier in
his first motion. Richard Henry Lee, who had spoken in favor of Henry's position,
seconded the motion. Thomas Jefferson also rose in support of Henry's plan, as did
the distinguished jurist, St. George Tucker and John Taylor of Caroline County.
Thomas Nelson, one of the wealthiest men in Virginia, declared that, should the
British land troops in his county, he would summon his militia to resist whether he
had authorization from the Convention or not. Other militia officers rose to second
Nelson's position. Washington, perhaps recalling his distaste for militia, said
The Williamsburg "gunpowder affair" became for Virginia what the
British attempts at confiscation of the same commodity at Lexington and Concord
was from the militia of Massachusetts. Patrick Henry had demanded that Dunmore
release the colony's supply of gunpowder at the Williamsburg Magazine for militia
use. Dunmore related the order of 19 October 1774 from Lord Dartmouth which
forbade the export of gunpowder and arms to the American colonies. The royal
governor interpreted the order as including the distribution of arms and powder
already in the colonies, stored in the royal armories and magazines. Henry argued
that the arms and gunpowder in question had been sent for militia use and the royal
authorities had simply neglected to distribute these to the county militias. Dunmore
sent 20 kegs of gunpowder from the public magazine on the night of 20 April 1775
and had it loaded aboard the schooner Magdalen. As word of this confiscation
circulated many Virginians talked open rebellion. Council, on Henry's recommendation, addressed a communication to Dunmore, pointing out that the powder had
been stored for the protection and security of the colony and that it must be restored
to it. Dunmore claimed that the mere presence of the gunpowder among the militia
constituted a call to arms and an open invitation to the more rebellious leaders of
the militia to actually rebel. He would release the powder immediately upon
hearing of any Amerindian incursion, but, for the time being, it would remain with
Captain Collins aboard the Magdalen.
Henry summoned the militia. A significant body of armed men gathered
at Fredericksburg. Volunteers arrived from Hanover and New Castle. With the
arrival of each new militia, the commanders sent messages to Williamsburg,
bragging on their gathering strength. By 26 April, the governor saw that his
position was untenable. Dunmore acquiesced to Henry's demand by pledging his
honor to return the powder, but he considered this the first act of rebellion in his
colony.(181) Honoring his pledge to return the confiscated gunpowder proved to be
Dunmore's last act as the generally recognized royal political authority in Virginia.
On 29 April the Virginia Gazette carried news of the events at Lexington and
Concord. Patrick Henry used this news as an occasion to spur the patriots onto
greater action. To him, after the "robbery" of the gunpowder, "the next step will
be to disarm them, and they will then be ready to arms to defend themselves."(182)
Even after the return of the powder, Dunmore had planned to remain in his
mansion. He took the precautionary step of ordering that it be fortified, even to the
point of bringing in artillery, but he was soon intimidated by the gathering militia
from the countryside. On the morning of 8 June 1775, Dunmore abandoned
Williamsburg, escaped to Yorktown and boarded the man of war Fowey.(183) There
he issued his final report on the gunpowder affair.
I have been informed, from undoubted authority, that a certain Patrick Henry, of
the county of Hanover, and a number of his deluded followers, have taken up arms
and styling themselves an Independent Company, have marched out of their
County, encamped, and put themselves in a posture for war, and have written and
dispatched letters to divers parts of the Country, exciting the people to join in these
outrageous and rebellious practices, to the great terror of all His Majesty's faithful
subjects, and in open defiance of law and government; and have committed other
acts of violence, particularly in extorting from His Majesty's Receiver-General the
sum of Three hundred and Thirty Pounds, under pretence of replacing the Powder
I thought proper to order from the Magazine; whence it undeniably appears that
there is no longer the least security for time life or property of any man: I have
thought proper, with the advice of His Majesty's Council, and in His Majesty's
name, to issue this my Proclamation . . . .
Reaction in Virginia to reports of the events of Lexington and Concord
were much the same as among the people of the other states. One American living
on the Rappahannock River wrote to a London newspaper that "It would really
surprise you to see the preparations [we are] making for our defence, all persons
arming themselves, and independent companies, from 100 to 150 men in every
county of Virginia, well equipped and daily endeavouring to instruct themselves
in the art of war." He claimed that "in a few days an army of at least 7 or 8
thousand well disciplined men" who were "well armed" would "be together for the
protection of this country." (184) Patrick Henry addressed the militia at New Castle,
claiming that the British Ministry had created a plan "to reduce the colonies to
subjugation, by robbing them of the means of defending their rights."(185) Another
correspondent from Virginia reported to a London newspaper,
We shall therefore in a few weeks have about 8000 volunteers (about 1500 of
which are horse) all completely equipped at their own expence, and you may
depend are as ready to face death in defence of their civil and religious liberty as
any men under heaven. These volunteers are but a small part of our militia; we
have in the whole about 100,000 men. The New England provinces have at this
day 50,000 of as well trained soldiers as any in Europe, ready to take the field at
a day's warning, it is as much as the more prudent and moderate among them can
do, to prevent the more violent from crushing General Gage's little army. But I still
hope there is justice and humanity, wisdom and sound policy, sufficient in the
British nation to prevent the fatal consequences that must inevitably follow the
attempting to force by violence the tyrannical acts of which we complain. It must
involve you in utter ruin, and us in great calamities, which I pray heaven to avert,
and that we may once more shake hands in cordial affection as we have hitherto
done, and as brethren ought ever to do. . . . Messrs. Hancock and Adams passed
through this city a few days ago . . . about 1000 of our inhabitants went out to meet
them, under arms . . . . By last accounts from Boston, there were before the town
15,000 or 20,000 brave fellows to defend their country, in high spirits . . . . Should
the King's troops attack, the inhabitants will be joined with 70,000 or 80,000 men
at very short notice. . . .(186)
In June 1775 Lord Dunmore abandoned his capitol, taking refuge aboard
a British man o' war, and went through the pretense of asserting royal authority.
The colonists thereafter were to charge that he conducted warfare by plundering
isolated plantations, abusing women, abducting children, stealing slaves, and
burning wharves. In October he was repulsed at Hampton and in December
defeated at Norfolk. The royal government was dissolved. On New Year's Day
1776, Dunmore made his last raid and then sailed away to England.(187)
A convention met at Richmond with the charge to reconstitute government. The interim government ordered the formation of two regiments of the
Northern Continental Line under the command of George Washington and two
bodies of militia: the regular militia and a body of special minutemen to be
organized along the lines of minutemen in New England. By November 1775
Accomack County reported that "almost to a man" the whole body of freemen of
that and surrounding counties were "ready to embody themselves as a militia."(188)
The new Virginia militia act, passed in July 1775, came as a legal reaction
to the spontaneous popular reaction to the massacre of the patriots in Massachusetts. The act created two classes of militia, the regular companies and special
companies of minute-men. The militia law was enacted providing that all free
males, between the ages of sixteen and fifty, with certain exceptions, should be
enrolled. These militia were organized into companies of from thirty two to sixty
eight men strong, and companies were organized into regiments. The Governor
appointed the regimental officers. All the militia in a county were under an officer
called the County Lieutenant, who held the rank of colonel, who, on taking the
field, ranked all colonels commanding regiments.(189) In the winter of 1775-76
Virginia organized Minute Men. The State was divided into districts, each
furnishing a battalion. Selected officers were appointed who secured their men
from the State militia. The were required to have extra drills and were better
clothed an armed than the militia. They were subject to call at any time.(190)
The militia act of July 1775 created a specially trained select militia, the
Minutemen. Regarding the minutemen, the Convention resolved,
That the minute-men in each respective district, so soon as they are enlisted and
approved . . . shall be embodied and formed into separate battalions, and shall be
kept in training under their adjutant for 20 successive days, at such convenient
place as shall be appointed by the committee of deputies in each district; and after
performing such battalion duty, the several companies of each battalion shall, in
their respective counties, be mustered, and to continue to exercise four successive
days in each month, except December, January and February . . . care being taken
that such appointments do not interfere with battalion duty. . . . and be it further
ordained, that, in order to render them the more skillful and expert in military
exercise and discipline, the several companies of minute-men shall twice in every
year, after the exercise of 20 days, be again embodied and formed into distinct
battalions within their districts, and shall at each meeting, continue in regular
service and training for 12 successive days . . . . And as well for the case of the
minute-men, as that they may be returned in regular rotation to the bodies of their
respective militias, be it further ordained, that after serving 12 months, 16 minute-men shall be discharged from each company . . . and the like number the end of
every year, beginning with those who stand first on the roll, and who first enlisted;
and if those who stand first should choose to continue in the service, taking the
next in succession being desirous of being discharged, and so from time to time
proceeding in regular progression. . . . The minute-men shall not be under the
command of the militia officers . . . (191)
The minutemen were a select militia which was assigned defense of the
state and especially the frontiers. The minutemen were separate in the chain of
command from the great militia, and one set of officers had authority over the other
organization only when they were expressly mustered in joint action.
The minute-men in each respective district, so soon as they are enlisted and
approved, as before directed, shall be embodied, and formed into separate
battalions, and shall be kept in training under their adjutant for 20 successive days,
as such convenient place as shall be appointed . . . and after performing such
battalion duty, the several companies of each battalion, shall in their respective
counties be mustered, and continue to exercise for successive days in each month,
except in December, January and February. . . . in order to render them more
skillful and expert in military exercise and discipline, the several companies of
minute-men shall twice in each year, after the exercise of 20 days, be again
embodied and formed again into distinct battalions within their districts, and shall
in each meeting continue in regular service and training. . . but the minute-men
shall be under the command of the militia officers, nor the militia under the
command of minute officers, unless drawn out upon duty together.(192)
The minutemen were to be rotated so that no individual was unduly burdened.
As well for the case of the minute-men, as that they may be returned in regular
rotation to the bodies of their respective militias, be it further ordained, after
serving 12 months, 16 minute-men shall be discharged from each company . . . and
the like number at the end of every year, beginning with those who stand first on
the roll, and who were first enlisted; and if those who stand first should choose to
continue in service, taking the next in succession desirous of being discharged, and
so from time to time proceeding in regular progression.(193)
Robert Carter Nicholas, one of Virginia's delegates to the Continental
Congress, warned the state legislature of the limitations of the militia. "Neither
militia nor Minute-men will do except for sudden and expeditious service."(194)
One of the first actions assigned to the minutemen was the capture of Lord
Dunmore, last royal governor of Virginia. Dunmore had recruited a band of
loyalists and escaped servants and slaves and had erected fortifications on Gwynn's
Island, Matthews County. Scotch merchant James Parker, writing from Norfolk,
Virginia, to a friend in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 12 June 1775, observed,
You will see the Governor [Lord Dunmore] and his family again. I do not think his
lady will return to Williamsburg. Tis said he will, provided the shirtmen are sent
away. These shirtmen of Virginia uniform are dressed with an Oznaburg shirt over
their clothes, a belt round them with a Tommyhawk or Scalping Knife. They look
like a band of assassins and it is my opinion, if they fight at all, it will be in that
Newly elected Governor Patrick Henry resolved to end this threat to the
security of the state. Dunmore referred to the minutemen as "shirtmen" on account
of their habit of wearing buckskin or homespun shirts instead of regular
uniforms.(196) Dunmore was aware of the deadly accuracy of the rifle-equipped
shirtmen, having seen them in action during Dunmore's War just two years earlier.
Moreover, at the Battle of Great Bridge, on 9 December 1775, the shirtmen killed
or mortally wounded 62 British troops with their deadly rifle fire, while losing no
men of their own. The British commander, Captain Fordyce, fell early in the
engagement, his body pierced by 14 rifle shots.(197) After warning his command that
the shirtmen would surely scalp all survivors alive, as well as all dead loyalists,
Dunmore fled, boarding a small man-of-war in the James River, leaving the New
World forever behind. The minutemen found Gwynn's Island deserted.(198)
An American correspondent wrote to a London newspaper in early spring
1776, reporting that "nothing has happened in Virginia since the entire destruction
of Norfolk." However, he optimistically reported that the state "by the month of
April will have 30,000 or 40,000 men to take the field." Many were common
militia, but "amongst these are a great number of riflemen."(199) One historian
claimed that, at the outbreak of the war, approximately 45,000 men were eligible
for service in Virginia and that, during the entire war, that number was never less
than 40,000. However, only about one-quarter of the number was ever engaged in
any significant service. When the war began, large numbers of militiamen were
still in Dunmore's service on the frontier. Later, others served in the expedition
against the Cherokee nation in the west, and still others had been sent to the aid of
North Carolina in its Cherokee War.(200)
On 14 August the Virginia Convention received news that Dunmore was
planning an attack upon Williamsburg, with the intention of capturing as many of
the rebel leaders as possible. The Convention requested the Committee of Safety
to enlist volunteers to protect the city, and to call out the militia. The legislature
acted quickly, calling out 8180 militiamen to be equipped as minutemen. And "the
balance of the militia were ordered to be armed, equipped and trained, so as to be
ready for service." The legislature also adopted a manual of arms and militia
training. It established an arsenal at Fredericksburg to manufacture muskets and
other small arms. To pay for the various expenses of defense, the legislature issued
£350,000 in paper money, along with an annual tax to redeem the issue.(201)
In December 1775 the Virginia Convention authorized the formation of
six additional regiments of the Continental Line, with each regiment consisting of
ten companies of 68 men each. Drafts from the militia rolls were instituted.
Having excluded blacks, whether free or slave, and indented servants from militia
service, the Virginia Convention, in the summer of 1776, enlisted two hundred
Amerindians in the state militia.(202) On 10 March 1776 Virginia dispatched two
regiments of 650 men each to assist North Carolina, primarily against Tarleton's
During the first three years of the war, England held no part of Virginia.
The best the English could do was to attempt to wreak havoc and hope that they
could lower provincial morale. The militia served three purposes in the early years.
First, the general militia was regarded as a reservoir upon which the Continental
Line could draw replacements. Second, along the seacoast the urban militia served
to protect cities in a case of an invasion. The tidewater militia was especially
trained for this service. Third, the militia from the Blue Ridge Mountains and
westward fought in major engagements with the native aborigine. Many were
enrolled in the frontier rangers. British agents and disgruntled adventurers had
stirred up the natives who were still resentful over their defeat at Point Pleasant,
supplied them with guns, and urged them to war by granting them gifts, money, and
As John Page advised Jefferson, "have the militia completely armed and
well trained as the time they can spare will admit of, and [then] . . . make draughts
of it when men are wanted."(203) All militiamen were required to take the following
I, ------, do swear that I will be faithful and true to the colony and dominion of
Virginia; and that I will serve the same to the utmost of my power, in defence of
the just rights of America, against all enemies whatsoever.
The Third Virginia Convention passed a new militia act. Because of the
"present danger, it is adjudged necessary" that all free, able-bodied males between
the ages of 18 and 50 be enrolled in the general militia. Companies of not less than
32, nor more than 68, members were to be formed in all counties of the state. The
militia law required that "every militia man should furnish himself with a good
rifle, or common firelock, tomahawk, bayonet or scalping knife, pouch or cartouch
box, and three charges of powder and ball." Drills were to be held semi-weekly,
along with two general county musters, to be held in April and October, with the
minutemen providing training. The act provided for the exemption of two groups
of religious dissenters, the Society of Friends and Mennonites. It also exempted
bound apprentices, indented servants and several classes of professions. Clergy of
the established church and those churches in communion with it were exempted.
Those engaged in various trades adjudged to be vital to the war effort were also
Shortages of manpower required that the legislature remove certain
exemptions. On 15 June 1776 the legislature passed an ordinance "to raise and
embody a sufficient force for the defense and protection of the Colony" so
overseers of plantations and millers on the eastern shore lost their immunity from
militia duty. On 5 July 1776 the revocation of the exemption of millers was
extended to the whole state.(205) On 24 June the Convention voted to "let the present
Militia officers be chosen annually . . . by joint vote of both houses of the
assembly." The governor was empowered to fill vacancies with the advice of his
privy council.(206) On 29 June the Convention voted to allow the governor to
"embody the Militia with the advice of Privy Council and when embodied shall
alone have the direction of the Militia."(207)
With Patrick Henry elected commander of the select Virginia militia, men
began to appear in increasingly large numbers. Two regiments, destined to become
continental regulars, soon formed. Henry described them appearing with various
garb, from ancient militia uniforms to buckskins, to recently sewn uniforms,
although most were dressed in "green hunting shirts." Many had the words,
"Liberty or Death" inscribed somewhere on their clothing. Hats or caps were
trimmed with buck-tails, and nearly all carried scalping knives or tomahawks.
Most carried their own fowling pieces, which fired the widest possible assortment
of round balls. Some carried flags or banners with the coiled rattlesnake motif and
the words, "Don't tread on me."(208) The militiamen were organized in units of 76
men with four officers with halberds, one fifer, one drummer and one color bearer.
The public treasury provided the fifes, drums, halberds and flags. By the time six
regiments had been raised the legislature authorized creation of a post of drum
major.(209) Philip Fithian described a militia muster in late 1775 or early 1776.
The Drums beats & the Inhabitants of this Village muster each Morning at 5
o'clock . . . . Mars, the great God of Battle is now honoured in every part of this
spacious Colony, but here every Presence is warlike, every sound is martial!
Drums beating, Fifes & Bag-Pipes playing & only sonorous & heroic Tunes --
Every Man has a Hunting Shirt, which is the Uniform of each Company.(210)
The select militia was given special training and organization. The state
was divided into sixteen military districts and each district was to recruit 500
minutemen, to be divided into ten companies of 50 men each. Only "expert
riflemen" need apply for membership in these select units, and the members were
ordered to muster and train for 20 days in the month following organization, and
then four days each month thereafter. Additionally, they would superintend
training of the great militia at annual spring and fall musters, each of which was to
last 12 days.(211)
The Baptists approached the Virginia legislature, asking that their clergy
be given the privilege of preaching among the troops. Many of its adherents had
already enlisted in the patriot cause. The Church of England was the established
denomination, but the legislature thought that since the Baptists had pledged loyalty
to the patriot cause, the privileged status of one church should not present an
obstacle, and thus granted permission. The privilege was then granted to all
Protestant sects willing to support the cause. The Baptist pulpit, in repayment,
became politicized in support of the cause of liberty.
Colonel William Woodford, a Virginia militia commander, and a close
friend of George Washington, had recently been commissioned and wrote to
Washington for advice on selecting a manual for discipline if his troops. On
November 10, 1775, Washington, writing from Cambridge, offered his opinion on
military discipline. Washington provided him with a list of five military books for
study: Sir Humphrey Bland's A Treatise of Military Discipline,(212) a book
Washington noted as "standing foremost." Next he named An Essay on the Art of
War which was the book written by Count Turpin de Crisse, and recommended to
Washington by Forbes.(213) Third was Instructions for Officers.(214) The last two
books were: The Partisan(215) and Young's Essays on the Command of Small
Detachments.(216) One cannot but be struck with the excellence of this selection.
They deal largely with infantry as he was writing to an infantry colonel. Two of
the books, Bland's and Turpin's, were respectively the best military books of the
period published in England and France. The Partisan covered the use and
deployment of light troops and partisans, today's guerrillas, and was thus especially
useful to militia commanders. Thomas Simes had published The Military Guide
for Young Officers in Philadelphia in 1776 but this book was merely a reprint from
an older English edition.(217) When Von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge he found
only two military books were used, those of Bland and Simes.(218) These books
constituted the substance of military knowledge upon which officers both of the
regular army and the militia in all the states drew during the Revolution.(219)
In the winter of 1775-76 Dunmore gathered a band of loyalists to
supplement his army of two companies of the Fourteenth Regiment and moved
through Norfolk and Princess Anne county. At the east branch of the Elizabeth
River at Kemp's Landing Dunmore defeated the Princess Anne militia under
Colonel Hutchings. Colonel Woodford gathered a few of the fledgling
Continentals and a number of militia and pursued Dunmore's force. At Great
Bridge on the Elizabeth River, on 9 December 1775, Woodford met and defeated
Dunmore's 200 regulars and 300 loyalists and escaped black slaves, inflicting
considerable losses on Dunmore while suffering only one man wounded.
Woodford reported that "the deadly rifles of Captain Green's Culpeper [militia]
men, every one of them a marksman, contributed greatly to this victory, as they had
at Hampton." Dunmore retreated to the safety of his ships at Norfolk, leaving the
slaves to make their own way out.(220) Patrick Henry ordered several companies of
minute-men to encamp around Williamsburg to protect the city and its officials.
The Committee of Safety ordered out several more companies of minute-men to
guard other points, such as Burwell's Ferry, Jamestown, Hampton and York-town,
where Dunmore might land his mixed force.
The Virginia Convention met on 1 December 1775 at Richmond and soon
adjourned to Williamsburg, where it remained in session until 20 January 1776.
In cooperation with the Committee of Safety, it created seven additional regiments
of regulars and called out a company of 500 riflemen. The latter were deployed in
the counties of Accomack and Northampton to protect them from Dunmore's force.
Colonel Woodford, as ranking military officer in the state,(221) pressed the
Convention to supply better arms of standard military caliber. As many of the men,
both regulars and militia, were armed with fowling pieces of various calibers, each
man had to mold his own bullets. Moreover, fowlers were wholly unsuited to the
use of bayonets. Woodford also complained of the poor quality of the arms
received from the former colonial stores. Had "better arms been furnished in time
for this detachment, they might have prevented much trouble and great expense to
this Colony. Most of those arms I received the other day from Williamsburg are
rather to be considered as lumber, than fit to be put in men's hands. . . ."(222)
The Convention considered a number of principles upon which the new
state should be based. The thirteenth point convened the militia. It declared that
"a trained militia is the proper defense of a free state, that standing armies in times
of peace are dangerous to liberty, and that the military must be in subordination to
the civil power." The Convention made reference to the provisions in the English
Bill of Rights that Protestants should be allowed to keep and bear arms and that
there should be no standing army in peacetime without the consent of Parliament.
The delegates agreed that these two sections were the natural conclusions of
historical experience and of a true democratic tradition.(223)
Amerindian problems beset the newly independent state almost immediately. Urged on by royal emissaries and white renegades the native aborigine
carried out raids against isolated settlements along the Holston and Ohio rivers and
in Kentucky. The Cherokees along the Holston were especially active so a large
militia force was created made up largely of frontiersmen who were experienced
in Indian fighting. The urban militia supplemented the backwoodsmen by
occupying the few towns and forts in the path of the marauders. The militias from
the counties of the Shenandoah Valley were able to sustain the Amerindian
incursions from the north.
The Virginia Bill of Rights of 1776 provided "that a well-regulated militia,
composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe
defence of a free State." It also rejected standing armies and ordered the
subordination of the military to civil authority.(224)
The Virginia Convention of 1776 put Thomas Jefferson to work on a draft
of a new constitution for the newly independent state. His first draft of the
fundamental document contained a provision for the militia and the right to bear
arms based in classical political thought which tied human freedom to the right to
keep and bear arms. The following shows Jefferson's original draft and changes
made by deletion.
No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
No souldier shall be capable of continuing in
there shall be no standing army but in the time of
peace actual war(225)
After the delegates considered and debated his initial draft, Jefferson made the
following changes in his second draft. Deletions are shown.
No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms
within his own lands or tenements
There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war(226)
His third draft of this provision read exactly as the second had read.(227) The
Constitution of 1776 also provided that the governor direct and command the
militia and recommend commissions to the legislature. Militia officers commissioned previously were to be continued in grade provided only that they take the
oath of loyalty.(228)
In the summer of 1776 the citizens of Kentucky met at Harrodsburg and
on 6 June 1776 appointed deputies to represent them at Williamsburg. They
wished to secure Virginia citizenship for themselves and to associate their frontier
militia with the state militia. The Harrordsburg gathering appointed Gabriel Jones
and George Rogers Clark (1752-1818) to represent their interests and sent them on
the 500 mile journey to Williamsburg.(229) By the time they reached Botetourt
County, they learned that the Convention had adjourned. Jones joined Colonel
Christian's expedition against the Cherokees while Clark continued on his journey.
He met with Patrick Henry at his home and received a cordial reception. Henry
recommended both the incorporation of the Kentucky militia and material support,
especially with 500 pounds of gunpowder. On 23 August the Convention provided
the gunpowder, sending it to Pittsburgh and then down the Ohio River.(230) This
secured the loyalty of Kentucky to Virginia and drew its militia into the state's
On 29 May 1776 the Virginia legislature decided to create three
companies of Minute Men, to be stationed on the frontier. The main problem
attending the deployment of these ranging units was securing rifles wherewith to
arm them.(231) Rangers were to be skilled marksmen and thus be armed with rifled
arms instead of muskets. Unlike muskets, rifles had not been standardized, but the
legislature deemed uniformity of caliber highly desirable. They also required a
greater effort and investment of time to manufacture. The law creating ranging
units was strengthened to provide "the better defence of the frontiers of this
Colony." Funds were appropriated for implementation of the Minute Men in June
On 20 June 1776 the legislature authorized the formation of a company
of rangers in Fincastle, Botetourt and Augusta counties. Ranging companies were
to be drawn from frontier companies because the men there were accustomed to the
Amerindian way of fighting. Urban militia were essentially useless in the
wilderness. Their special talents were wasted in urban settlements. Rangers were
ordered to assist the militia in other counties as needed; and in return they could
ask for assistance from other counties.(233) General Washington, writing from New
York, supported the formation of ranging companies on the frontiers, believing this
to be an effective use of frontiersmen. "With respect to [the use of] militia in the
management of Indian affairs, I am fully persuaded that the inhabitants of the
frontier counties in your colony are, from inclination as well as ability, particularly
adapted to that kind of warfare."(234)
In mid-June the Fifth Virginia Convention considered the revisions of the
militia law to make it better meet the needs of a wartime state.(235) The
Convention and the Governor then turned their attention to arming the militia. By
the time of the Revolution, arms were extremely scare among the population. One
of the primary problems confronting the militia was replenishment of supply of the
once legally mandated privately owned and supplied firearms. The state sent
impressment gangs through the countryside to confiscate (although they eventually
paid for) firearms wherewith to arm both the Virginia Continental Line and the
militia, although the former certainly had priority in the allocation of arms.
Impressment of arms from private citizens was a primary source of supply, and was
an extremely unpopular device. Moreover, they scrounging officers brought back
a mixed bag of old, obsolete, obsolescent, worn out and damaged arms more
frequently than they brought back current and useful arms. The guns were of many
calibers and fired a variety of projectiles. On 2 October 1776 Captain Nicholas
Cabell (1750-1803) delivered to Captain Samuel Higgenbotham the product of a
week of impressment. These arms, which were to be consigned for militia use,
included 22 rifles of 14 different calibres and 8 shotguns, a hunting weapon usually
not considered useful or suitable for military use.(236)
Arms shortages continued to plague Virginia throughout the Revolution.
So destitute was the militia of firearms that the Committee of Safety ordered to
issue muskets when available, but if none were available, to issue "speers or
cutlasses." Several companies were issued tomahawks.(237) On 14 June 1776
General Francis Johnson wrote from Long Island to General Anthony Wayne, "I
shall not continue 6 months longer in the Service without Arms," warning him that,
as things were, he would have to defend various fortifications "with our People
armed with Spears, or be compelled to leave the Camp. He also noted that "Howe
and his Redcoats will pay us a Visit immediately . . . [and] we for our parts have
nothing but damned Tomahawks."(238) Like other states, it had a need for arms
greater than it could fulfill through any sources of supply. The state authorities
were willing to accept whatever arms they could procure. On 13 September 1777
Edmund Pendleton wrote to William Woodford, "the length or form of Rifles or
other guns I am inclined to think will make no great difference so long as the old
sort of experienced hands use them."(239) To secure the arms from pilferage, the state
ordered that "all arms delivered out of Publick Stores or purchased by Officers for
use on the Continent, [are to be] branded without loss of time."(240) On 20 February
1781, John Bannister complained to Jefferson that Congress was remiss in
supplying the state. "I cannot help observing how unjust it is in Congress not to
assist us with arms when we have to contend singly with the greatest part of the
In the late summer 1776 Governor Henry sent Colonel William Christian
with a substantial company of militia to the relief of the frontier. He made his way
through the southern Ohio territory, down the Tennessee River, into the lands of
the Cherokees and Creeks. However, the enemy proved to be elusive because "the
men retreat faster than I could follow." He reported to Henry that, "I know, Sir,
that I could kill and take Hundreds of them, and starve hundreds by destroying their
Corn, but it would be mostly the women and children." Unlike General John
Sullivan later on, Christian refused to make war on the able-bodied men by starving
the very old, very young and the children. "I shewed pity to the distressed and
spared the supplicants, rather than that I should commit one act of Barbarity."
Nonetheless, Christian captured 40 to 50 thousand bushels of corn and 10 to 15
thousand bushels of potatoes, along with assorted quantities of horses, fowl, cattle
and hogs. The expedition also rescued a few white captives. Christian attempted
to negotiate with the leaders, sachems and chiefs, but had little initial success. It
is here that Christian first encountered a renegade chief he called Dragon Canoe,
on whom more later. He warned the leaders with whom he did meet that he could
easily command 2000 Virginia militia and that the Carolinas would supply another
400, all experienced Indian fighters. Eventually, some chiefs responded to his
overtures of peace. Time also allowed for the gathering of intelligence and he
learned that one Cameron, a British agent, had successfully seduced Dragon Canoe
and a few others, and that Cameron had promised to produce large quantities of
war materials at Mobile, to be given to such tribes as would ally with the English
against the colonists.(242) Christian warned Henry that there he apprehended far
greater from the English at Mobile than at Fort Detroit, and strongly recommended
an expedition be undertaken against the southern renegade Indians.(243)
A second militia detachment under General Rutherford attacked several
Indian towns and killed a number of warriors, captured several Frenchmen and
took prisoner several escaped slaves. The militia also captured a quantity of
gunpowder and lead and provisions valued at £2500. These supplies had been
destined for Mobile, to be used to attract Cherokees to the British cause. South
Carolina militia under Colonel Williamson, after suffering considerable losses
during an ambush, regrouped and routed the Cherokees, supposed to have been
under British and tory leadership. Williamson joined Rutherford "destroyed all the
Towns, the Corn and everything that might be of service" to the Cherokees in
several of their villages. Despite being opposed by a "considerable body" of
hostiles, Rutherford lost only three men.(244)
In 1776 Virginia had far fewer problems recruiting soldiers for the
Continental Line than it had in supplying them with arms and accoutrements.
Congress had ordered on 16 September 1776 that Virginia supply fifteen battalions
of the Line. So successful was the state in filling its initial quota that John Wood,
governor of Georgia, on 20 August 1776, asked for, and received, legislative
permission to recruit in Virginia in order to fill his own state's quota. In a letter to
Richard Henry Lee, Henry complained bitterly about this allowance. "I write to the
General [Washington] that our enlistments go on badly. Indeed, they are almost
stopped. The Georgia Service has hurt it much."(245)
Discipline was harsh and, at times, even bizarre. In 1776 Captain John
Pegg, a vestryman in his church and militia captain, was fined, broken in rank and
held up to public contempt for "drinking and making use of in his family the
detestable East Indian tea." Pegg responded that the inquiry into his habits,
practiced within the privacy of his own home constituted "an impertinent
interference in his family affairs" and that he would not be bound by such inquiries.
The state responded by listing him as "an enemy to the cause" in the Virginia
Washington on 4 October 1776 had observed that there is an enormous,
material difference between voting to raise companies of soldiers and actually
recruiting, equipping, arming and discipling them. Responding to Washington's
request for reasonable terms of service, on 16 November 1776 the legislature set
enlistment terms at three years and made provision for recruiting, even drafting if
necessary, men from the reservoir of trained militiamen.(247)
In December 1776 the Virginia legislature authorized the formation of
three additional battalions of regulars to serve under the command of the Congress,
but in the pay of the state. It also authorized the creation of additional minute-men
and volunteer companies in the exclusive service of the state. By December 1776,
the legislature had to ask assistance in recruiting from "justices, members of county
committees, and the other good people of this Commonwealth" in recruiting men
to serve at all levels, from regulars with three year enlistment obligations to militia
to minute-men to volunteer companies.(248) The question of the legality and
legitimacy of the deployment of militia outside the state had never been resolved,
dating from colonial days. Rather than resolving this problem, on 26 December
1776, Governor Henry issued a special call for volunteers "willing to engage in the
defence of this State, or march to the assistance of any other, should the exigency
of things demand it."(249) He described the volunteers to General Washington. "The
volunteers will consist chiefly from the upper parts of the country, who would
make the best of soldiers, could they continue so long in the service as to be
regularly disciplined. He thought they would be "as respectable as such a corps can
be expected, without training." They will find their own arms, clothes, and . . . be
commanded by captains . . . of their own choosing." They would differ from
militia in that "they will be subject to the Continental Articles of War."(250)
By February 1777 it was apparent that Henry's call interfered with the
enlistment of troops for long service in the Continental Line, so Henry suspended
his call for volunteers until the enlistment of regulars was completed.(251) In March
1777, Governor Henry reported that "the recruiting business of late goes on so
badly that there remains but little prospect of filling six new battalions from this
State, voted by the Assembly." He was disappointed at the failure of the militia to
serve, as hoped, as a reservoir of trained manpower for the army. "I believe you
can receive no assistance by drafts from the militia."(252) Nonetheless, the legislature
authorized a draft from the militia to complete enlistments in the Line.(253)
In March Henry was forced to send militia to the Virginia frontier. He
ordered militia from Botetourt and Montgomery counties to march to the relief of
the settlers in Kentucky, primarily to escort the more distant settlers to convenient
places of safety while the Indian menace loomed. Although he understood that
there was a vast territory to scour for settlers, Henry was forced to inform the
lieutenant of Montgomery County that his many commitments outweighed his
resources. "The great variety of War in which this State is engaged," Henry wrote,
"makes it impossible to spare such a number of men for this Expedition as I could
Henry was much concerned for the defense of the western frontier. In
March 1777 he asked Governor Thomas Johnson if Maryland was able to support
Virginia with militia to defend Fort Pitt and to join in an expedition down the Ohio
River to contain the hostile Cherokees.(255)
More bad news concerning the Amerindians trickled in from the western
frontier. Cornstalk had approached the Virginia garrison at Point Pleasant on the
Ohio River to report that Colonel Henry Hamilton, the notorious "hair buyer," had
achieved remarkable success among the northerly tribes. Cornstalk did not want
to become involved in the "white man's dispute," but he might have "move with the
stream." The commandant detained him along with his two companions.
Cornstalk's son, worried about his father's failure to return, then came to the fort.
Meanwhile, two men hunting for fresh meat not far from the fort were attacked and
one was killed by Cornstalk's men. A relative of the dead man, one Captain Hall,
advanced on Cornstalk and murdered him, his son and at least two other Shawnee.
Even a vital portion of Cornstalk's message was lost since, at the time of his
murder, he was performing a vital service to his friends, the Virginians, by drawing
a map that showed the disposition and location of the various tribes between his
own Shawnee villages and the Mississippi River.(256)
The wanton murder of one of the most popular Amerindian leaders was
the immediate cause of raids into the Greenbrier Valley. The militia and rangers
contained the attacks, but the deprivations continued throughout the war, tying up
many militiamen who might have served the patriot cause better by deployment
elsewhere. Garrison duty at the many forts maintained along the frontier during the
entire war proved to be the most unpopular duty assigned to the militia.
Many Virginians objected to the drafting of militia into the army. The
opposition was especially strong on the frontier where the loss of the male head of
household might prove disastrous to the farms. Samuel McDowell of Rockbridge
County, wrote to Governor Thomas Jefferson, complaining that the draft "must ruin
a number of those whose lot is to march . . . their families and stocks must suffer,
as they mostly have not any person behind them when they are gone from home to
work their small farms." McDowell advised Jefferson that his friends and
neighbors "would serve as militia but would not be drafted for 18 months as
regulars." McDowell's neighbor George Moffet emphasized just how much they
loathed the draft in his letter of 5 May 1781 to Jefferson. "Yet they would suffer
death before they would be drafted 18 months from their families and made regular
Since Virginia was neither occupied nor greatly molested during the war,
the state was able to function as a reservoir of troops for the Continental Line and
as a base of supplies for the patriots. There is scant evidence of deployment of the
militia in the north and only occasional use of it in the south during the first three
years of the war. Thus, other than frontier duty, the militia was used almost
exclusively as a source of semi-trained manpower for the army. In 1779 Clinton
sent a fleet to harass the Virginia coast, ending the first phase of the revolution for
the state. Urban militia were placed on coastal watch and a portion of them became
minutemen, ready to act in defense of the seacoast.
The basic militia law was re-enacted and slightly reconstituted by the
General Assembly on 5 May 1777, as "An Act for Regulating and Discipling the
Militia. All free white males between ages 16 and 50 were eligible for enlistment.
Hired servants and apprentices, but not free black or slaves, were included.
Excluded were the governor, members of the state council, members of Congress,
judges, state officers, such as attorney general and clerks, ministers, postmasters,
jail keepers, hospital personnel, millers, iron and lead workers and persons engaged
in firearms production for the state. Enlisted officers and men serving in the Continental Line and state navy were also exempted from registration for the militia.
Companies of not less than 32 nor more than 68 men were formed, with battalions
being made of not less than 500, nor more than 1000 men. Each company had a
captain, two lieutenants and an ensign; battalions had additionally a colonel, a
lieutenant-colonel and a major. (258)
With the continued scarcity of arms, Virginia could ill afford to lose arms
through pilferage. On 8 June 1777 the legislature ordered that "all arms delivered
out of the Public Stores, or purchased by officers for use on this Continent, to be
branded without loss of time." The standard brand employed was "VA" or "Va
By late winter 1777 Governor Henry had deployed 300 militia at Fort Pitt,
primarily to guard against tory and Amerindian activity.(260) To stem the Amerindian
menace, Henry conceived, and the legislature approved, an action against Pluggy's
Town, an Indian village beyond the Ohio River. Henry dispatched scouts and
emissaries to the Delaware and Shawnee, to ascertain if they had objections to
Virginia sending militia across their lands. Having determined that these neutral
tribes would not be drawn into combat were Virginia militia to enter their lands, on
12 March 1777, Henry began to lay specific plans for this militia action. On that
date, Henry wrote to George Morgan, superintendent of Indian Affairs, and
Colonel John Neville, commandant at Pittsburgh, laying out his scheme. Both men
responded on 1 April, cautioning strongly against the action. They expressed the
most grave concerns that a punitive action would be inconclusive and that it would
most likely provoke a general, long, barbarous and expensive Indian war.(261)
Despite the acute shortage of arms there was often considerable friction
between artificers and military contractors and other military authorities. Despite
the obvious and acute need for the arms, accoutrements, horseshoes and canteens
to be made and repaired, local governmental authorities, facing increased quotas
for replacements in the Continental Line, threatened to enlist the artificers in the
militia. At Peytonsville, Spotsylvania County, William McCraw, commander of
a small band of artificers, wrote the governor, reminding him that McCraw had
promised, he assumed on the authority, and with the consent, of the governor, that
his men would be exempt from other duties while performing their jobs at the
forges. "Unless this be stopped, I can not furnish the canteens so much wanted by
the Southern Army; the armourers will not be able to repair the damaged guns, nor
can I have horseshoes made, now so much needed." The General Assembly
therefore passed legislation which specifically exempted from the draft or militia
or other military service any artificer assigned to military posts or privately
employed by independent arms or military supply contractors.(262)
As the war progressed, many Virginians expressed confidence in their
state militia. Edmund Pendleton on 30 August 1777 wrote to Richard Henry Lee,
"I think it no unimportant part of our late success that [the] Militia had a principal
hand in it, for if they will stand six hours hard fighting with their officers and men
falling by their sides, we can never be subdued, our resources in that way are
In August 1777, while Governor Henry was in Hanover preparing for his
impending marriage, word was received that General Howe's army had appeared
with the British Navy off the Virginia coast. Henry authorized General Thomas
Nelson to muster and command 64 companies of militia for the defense of
Williamsburg. Among those responding was a militia company of students at the
College of William and Mary. Henry ordered Colonel Charles Harrison's regiment
of artillery to remain at York-town on the pretext that "militia must in this case be
chiefly depended on, and their skill in managing Cannon promises nothing
effectual." He also ordered the militia to detain persons suspected of disloyalty on
the pretext that they might aid the British.(264)
As it was, the British fleet did not land until it reached the Head of Elk,
and its mission on this occasion was to provide troops for the assault on Philadelphia, not for an attack on Virginia. To support Washington in this assault, Henry
ordered one-third of the militia of the counties of Prince William, Loudoun,
Fairfax, Culpeper, Fauquier, Berkeley, Shenandoah, and Frederick, to march
toward Philadelphia.(265) Washington thanked Henry for dispatching militia, but
noted again his disdain for the Virginia militia, offering a sharp contrast to the New
York and New England militias.
How different the case in the northern department! There the states of New York
and New England, resolving to crush Burgoyne, continued pouring in their militia,
till the surrender of that army, at which time not less than 14,000 militia . . . were
actually in General Gates's camp, and those composed, for the most part, of the best
yeomanry in the country, well armed, and, in many instances, supplied with
provisions of their own carrying. Had the same spirit pervaded the people of this
and the neighbouring States, we might, before this time, have had General Howe
nearly in the situation of General Burgoyne. . . .(266)
In May 1778, the legislature passed a series of acts designed to draft or
recruit 2000 men to assist General Washington. Those enlisted, whether as
volunteers or drafts from the militia, were to serve until 1 January 1779, or less
than two years. Additionally, minute-men were to be recruited for the defense of
the eastern shore from British raiders and on the west from Amerindian attacks.(267)
By mid-summer 1778, enlistments of many Virginia Continentals were expiring.
Their numbers had been diminished by desertion, casualties in battle and death and
incapacity from smallpox, dysentery and other diseases. Word of plagues of
smallpox and other contagion diminished whatever enthusiasm yet remained for the
patriot cause. While the legislature authorized the payment of bounties and another
draft from militia rolls, Henry found it nearly impossible to recruit even half of the
assigned quota. The state currency had become so depreciated that neither bounty
nor pay were meaningful. Looking forward, Henry could see that the enlistments
of the first nine regiments of the Virginia Line were due to expire early in 1778.
He wrote to Congress, expressing his deep concern, but without being able to offer
In May 1778 Governor Henry received a distressing report regarding the
Northampton County and Norfolk city militias. Captain John Wilson, the militia
commander, wrote, "I beg to observe that the militia of late, fail much in appearing
at musters, submitting to the trifling fine of five shillings, which, they argue, they
can afford to pay by earning more at home."(269) Immediately after reading this,
Henry conveyed a message to Benjamin Harrison, Speaker of the House of
Delegates, concerning the military. In a positive vein, he reported success in the
campaign against the Cherokees. Regarding the militia, he had a mixed report.
"Although the militia of this commonwealth are in general well affected, and no
doubt can be entertained of the general good disposition of the people," he wrote,
"I am sorry to say that several instances of refractory and disobedient conduct have,
which, for the sake of example, called loudly for punishment." But, probably with
Wilson's letter in mind, he also reported that "offenses against the Militia law are
Having established relations with the settlers in Kentucky, Virginia felt
somewhat obligated to undertake their protection. Henry also had men in that year
engaged in other frontier areas of the West. The policy of appeasement and peace
that Colonel Neville and George Morgan had recommended was evidently a failure.
After a series of Amerindian outrages, the Supreme Executive Council ordered
Colonel John Todd to enlist 250 militiamen to provide some relief.(271)
Congress also thought to act on behalf of the western settlements and in
the spring of 1777 ordered General Hand to enroll a large body of militia to move
against the Amerindians in Ohio from a base at Pittsburgh. Hand called into serve
the militias of the Virginia counties of Frederick, Yohogania, Ohio, Hampshire,
Monongalia, Botetourt, Augusta and Shenandoah. Henry was still uncertain if he
could deploy the militia beyond the state's boundaries, so he decided to call for
volunteers. Colonel Skillern raised five volunteer companies in the counties of
Greenbrier, Augusta and Botetourt and marched to Point Pleasant, where a fort had
been created, to join Hand.
Captain Arbuckle commanded Fort Randolph at Point Pleasant and he had
engaged several important Amerindian leaders in negotiations, among them Red
Hawk and Cornstalk. The latter, desiring to honor the treaty he made after
Dunmore's War, had attempted to dissuade his tribesmen from entertaining the
British representatives. Cornstalk was unsuccessful in his attempts to maintain
neutrality, so he came to Fort Randolph to inform the Americans of the British
entreaties. Arbuckle detained all the Amerindians who came to the fort to act as
hostages to prevent a large scale Indian war. After a militiaman from Rockbridge
County was killed, allegedly by one of Cornstalk's men, the militiamen of Captain
Hall's company murdered the hostages, including Cornstalk, his son and Red
Hawk. Hand arrived two days after the murder, having failed to recruit any militia
volunteers in Pennsylvania.(272) Neither did Hand bring provisions, and there being
none at the forest, the volunteers abandoned their mission and returned home.
The murder of one of the great Shawnee leaders precipitated an Indian war
as the whole Shawnee confederation sought to avenge Cornstalk's death.
Concerned citizens of Greenbrier County sent an elaborate memorial to the state
authorities, demanding help.(273) On 27 May 1778, Henry ordered a post to be set
up at Kelly's in Greenbrier County, manned by militia from Botetourt County, to
guarantee the communication and supply route between Williamsburg and Fort
Randolph. He also dispatched militia from several counties to support Fort
Randolph. And he offered a substantial reward for the capture and punishment of
those responsible for the murder of Cornstalk and the others. Finally, he appointed
Andrew Lewis and John Walker to serve as special ambassadors to the Delaware
and Shawnee nations at a conference scheduled at Fort Pitt on 23 July 1778. The
murderers, Captains Hall and Galbraith and others, were brought to trial in
Rockbridge County, but immediately acquitted as no man was willing to execute
a white man for an Indian's murder.(274) Disgruntled, more than 200 of the Shawnees
laid siege to Fort Randolph in May 1778. Failing to capture the fort, the marauding
band wreaked havoc throughout Greenbrier County until repulsed by Colonel
Samuel Lewis and Captain John Stuart and the militias of several counties.
Congress replaced Hand with an experienced Indian fighter from Georgia,
General McIntosh, who was given command of a joint force of militia, volunteers
and the Thirteenth Virginia Continental Line. McIntosh was to carry the war to
Detroit where Henry Hamilton, known as the "hair buyer" for his purchases of
white scalps, was headquartered. Congress ordered Governor Henry to provide
2000 men, whether militia or volunteers. Henry estimated the following items
would be among the bare minimum supplies needed to carry out the orders of
Congress: 30,000 pounds of lead; 1000 horse belts; 400 felling axes and 3000
hatchets; 100 kettles, tents, haversacks and suits of clothing; 500 horses; and a
large supply of arms and gunpowder and money. Additionally, there would be the
problems of "recruiting, arming, accoutring & discipling" of such a large body of
militia. In a long letter to Congress, dated 8 July 1778, Henry begged off. There
was no way, he said, could Virginia afford or supply all that Congress demanded.
Congress, he wrote, seemed to have no idea of "the exhausted state of this
Country," but seemed think the state's resources were unlimited. He certainly
supported the scheme, and the elimination of Hamilton's scalp purchasing was
certainly a worthy objective. Congress reluctantly accepted Henry's explanation
and simply ordered McIntosh to what he could with what he had and to operate
from Pittsburgh.(275) The expedition proved to be fruitless. In 1778 McIntosh set up
a garrison of 150 militia at Fort Laurens on the Tuscarawas River in the Ohio
territory, but abandoned it the next year.
Where Hand and Mcintosh had failed, George Rogers Clark was destined
to succeed. He had journeyed to Williamsburg in the autumn of 1777, carrying a
petition from Kentucky which asked for relief from the Amerindian raids. Having
failed to find other ways to relieve the pressures on the frontier, the legislature
offered some token support and £1200, not a great sum in the depreciated Virginia
currency.(276) It commissioned Clark a lieutenant-colonel and charged him with
capturing Fort Detroit. It ordered "that the Governor be empowered . . . to order
such part of the militia of this Commonwealth as may be most convenient . . . to act
with any troops on an expedition that may be taken against any of our western
enemies."(277) Clark had convinced Council that Kaskasia "was at the present held
by a very weak garrison" and could be taken without great effort or cost.
Moreover, "there are many pieces of cannon & military stores to a considerable
amount." This proved to be an irresistible bait and Council ordered him "to
procure the artillery and stores" to supply the army. Council suggested Clark raise
"seven companies of 50 men each" who were "to receive the pay and allowance of
the militia & to act under the laws and regulations of this State, now in force, as
militia." Despite Hamilton's policy of buying scalps and the brutality of the attacks
on the frontier, Council ordered him "to show humanity to such British Subjects,
and other persons, as fall into your hands."(278)
With the consent of Governor Henry, Clark offered 300 acres of land to
any who would volunteer to serve on his mission. Henry had long harbored the
dream of extending Virginia's boundaries west to the Mississippi River and Clark's
mission, if successful, on behalf of the state would go a long way to establish that
boundary.(279) Moreover, by claiming the Mississippi as the boundary, Henry was
on safe legal grounds in deploying state militia on that frontier. Captain Leonard
Helm of Farquier County, and Captain Joseph Bowman of Frederick County, each
offered to raise a militia company to support Clark. They planned to meet at
Redstone Old Fort [Brownsville, Pennsylvania]. He encountered great difficulties
because many potential recruits in Western Pennsylvania regarded Clark's
expedition as a way to promote Virginia over Pennsylvania interests. Few were
willing to support the defense of Kentucky. The county commissioners of Farquier
and Frederick questioned the legality of deploying their militiamen in the western
Eventually, in May 1778 Clark raised a small force and, with 175
volunteers and militia, moved down the Ohio almost to its juncture with the
Mississippi River and then moved northwestward. On 4 July 1778 he captured
Kaskasia and, with the support of French inhabitants, brought the surrounding area
under control. On 17 December Hamilton, with a force of about 500, of which
about one-half were Amerindians, took Vincennes, but on 6 February 1779, Clark
recaptured it. By 25 February, after a super-human effort to cross flooded plains,
he forced Hamilton's surrender and took the "hair buyer" prisoner. Patrick Henry,
under whose orders Clark's militia had fought, reported with unconcealed delight
to Richard Henry Lee.
Governor Hamilton of Detroit is a prisoner with the judge of that country, several
captains, lieutenants, and all the British who accompanied Hamilton in his conquest
of the Wabash. Our brave Colonel Clark, sent out from our militia, with 100
Virginians, besieged the Governor in a strong fort with several hundreds, and with
small arms alone fairly took the whole corps prisoners and sent them into our
interior country. This is a most gallant action and I trust will secure our frontiers
in great measure. The goods taken by Clark are said to be of immense amount, and
I hope will influence the Indians to espouse our interests. . . .(280)
By resolution of Congress of 25 July 1778, the planned combined national
and state attack on Fort Detroit and other western British outposts was postponed.
Instead, Congress adopted Governor Patrick Henry's suggested plan of attack on
hostile Amerindian towns in the Ohio territory, especially several Shawnee towns
along the Ohio River. Henry, after meeting with the Council of Safety, decided to
deploy the frontier county militias of Washington, Montgomery, Botetourt,
Augusta, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Greenbrier, Shenandoah, Frederick, Berkeley,
Hampshire, Monongalia, Yohogania and Ohio. These counties, Henry argued
should supply all the men that General McIntosh could use, and all should be
experienced Indian fighters.(281)
Before McIntosh could move, Henry learned that, while the eastern
seaboard action had come to a standstill, a mixed British force of regular troops,
Amerindian allies and tories, was moving against the small forts in Kentucky.
British Colonel Henry Hamilton had decided that this move might preclude an
American move against Fort Detroit. Governor Henry order the colonel of the
Washington County militia, Arthur Campbell, to choose 150 select frontier rangers
from the counties noted above to move to the relief of the settlers in Kentucky.(282)
Perhaps because the George Rogers Clark expedition pressed the British, the
expected attack on Kentucky never materialized.
Meanwhile, the British forces in the south were pressing hard in South
Carolina. Governor Henry expressed great admiration for "the brilliant John
Rutledge [who] was Governor of the State. Clothed with dictatorial powers, he
called out the reserve militia and threw himself into [the defense of] the City."(283)
Henry decided to respond to Rutledge's call for aid by dispatching 1000 Virginia
militia to relief of the Carolinas. His primary problems were with the commissary,
which could not round up enough "tents, kettles, blankets & Waggons" to supply
this force.(284) The British captured Savannah in December 1778, crushing the 1000
man militia force under General Robert Howe (1732-1786). By the spring of 1779,
the British had crushed General Benjamin Lincoln's force at Stonoe Ferry, and the
southern campaign seemed to be going well for the enemy. Patrick Henry thought
Lincoln had done well, although he lost 300 men while inflicting only 130
casualties on the enemy.
The British successes in the south created another danger. The enemy
immediately sent emissaries to the Cherokee and other potentially war-like tribes,
promising them weapons and other aid should they join the British cause. Henry
moved to break up the alliance before it became a real, effective coalition that
could over-run the frontier. He had learned that the most war-like of all the
southern tribes had gathered in an area from the mouth of the Cickamauga River
south some fifty miles down the Tennessee River. Led by a chief named Dragging
Canoe (or Dragon Canoe), whom we have met before, these were the outcasts from
many tribes and villages. They had welcomed into their towns various tories,
bandits, escaped criminals, murderers, cut-throats, fugitives from justice and
escaped slaves, bringing a grand total number of armed men of perhaps 1000.
Dragging Canoe and his band of loosely associated allies had refused overtures of
peace from Virginia sent via Colonel Christian.
On 13 March 1779, Henry informed Washington that he had drawn on the
select militias of the same counties he had called into a state of readiness, to be
commanded by Colonel Evan Shelby. Shelby had served as quartermaster for the
Virginia militia, so he was able to command all the supplies and arms that had
eluded the militia had earlier planned to send to South Carolina. Henry reported
to Washington that, "About 500 militia are ordered down the Tennessee River to
chastise the settlements of the renegade Cherokees that infest our southwestern
frontier and prevent our navigation on that river, from which we hope for great
advantages." Soon after, North Carolina added 500 of its militia to Shelby's force.
As it was, many of the North Carolina militia turned out to be displaced Virginians
or men recruited into the North Carolina militia from Virginia.(285)
Shelby's mission was an overwhelming success. His militia force, which
actually consisted of 600 men, assembled near Rogersville, Tennessee, at the mouth
of Big Creek. They enlisted the help of Colonel Montgomery's 150 men who had
been on their way to aid George Rogers Clark. On 10 April 1779, the force began
its journey by canoe, reaching Dragging Canoe's town by 13 April. Having
captured an Indian, they forced him to guide them to the enemy's campsite. Shelby
took the camp by surprise, killed 40 warriors, burned their supplies and captured
British war materials valued at £20,000 sterling. The British dream of uniting the
southern tribes with Colonel Hamilton's forces came to an abrupt end. In a single
stroke, the power of the Chickamauga tribes was broken, and the Cherokees, seeing
the power of Shelby's militia, soon withdrew from further negotiations with the
English. Henry's two major deployments of militia on the far frontiers, under
Shelby in Tennessee, and under George Rogers Clark in the west, had saved the
frontier and precluded the necessity of Washington's having to divert regular troops
from the eastern seaboard to fight on the frontier.
Meanwhile, Virginia militia on the northwestern frontier came under
pressures from British, tory and Amerindian troops. Ebenezer Zane (1747-1812)
recruited his neighbors and formed a militia. His volunteers resisted attacks on
Fort Henry at Wheeling, [West] Virginia, in 1777 and 1782.(286)
No colony ever had sufficient regular forces to guard its seacoast from
invasion. One primary responsibility of the militia remained standing coastal
watch. In May 1779, as Shelby's army was mopping up in Tennessee, British
troops landed in Portsmouth, embarking from a reported 35 ships, including
Raisonable, Rainbow and Otter. This expedition, which had sailed from New York
on 5 May 1779, consisted of 2500 men under Major-general Edward Matthew,
conveyed on ships commanded by Commodore Sir George Collier, acting on the
home government's explicit orders to Sir Henry Clinton. This force was to destroy
American ships, especially privateers, disrupt the economy and prevent supplies
reaching the southern states during the campaign being waged from Savannah,
Georgia. The hundred regulars stationed in Portsmouth offered little resistance.
These troops, like others assigned to similar coastal watch duty, might have been
better deployed in the field. Having occupied Portsmouth so easily, the British
army followed up quickly, marching on Suffolk. There they captured 1200 barrels
of pork and looted and burned the town. They also destroyed ordnance and
gunpowder, tobacco and various naval materials of war. Governor Henry called
out the militia, which assembled too late to save Suffolk, but with 2000 to 3000
militiamen under arms marching Suffolk, the British withdrew. The British, before
withdrawing completely, also burned and looted Portsmouth and Norfolk.(287)
On the east coast of Virginia, the French came into contact with the
Virginia militia for the first time in 1778. About this same time Virginia sent
militia to assist South Carolina in its struggle against the British invasion.
Whether prejudiced by Washington's views or on their own account, the
French held a dim view of the Virginia militia. Of their value in the New Jersey
campaign, Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, attached to the staff General Rochambeau, thought them cowardly in battle unless they had a clear advantage in numbers
and position. They preferred having a clear avenue of retreat even when they had
the upper hand. A competent commander could inspire them to perform brave
deeds, but only for a short while. As de Verger wrote, "the persuasive eloquence
of their commander aroused in them an enthusiastic ardor of which immediate
advantage must be taken or lost."(288)
Jefferson did not share this skepticism of the militia. He was quite proud
of his state's militia, and especially its prowess with the rifle. He wrote to Marquis
de Lafayette,(289) "the militia of Washington, Montgomery, Botetourt, Rockbridge,
Augusta and Rockingham are our best Rifle counties."(290) Nonetheless, Jefferson
was to hear more criticism of the citizen-soldiers in the months to come.
Baron von Steuben wrote Jefferson on 2 January 1780, that "in case of the
calling out a Body of Militia it will be highly necessary to adopt some measures to
prevent numerous abuses and terrible destruction of the Country."(291)
In 1780 the militia was mustered in large numbers both to assist its sister
colonies to the south to repel Cornwallis' invasion and to contain the Amerindian
incursions along the frontier. The Virginia militia's contribution to the Whig
victory at King's Mountain on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina was
significant. On 18 August 1780 the notorious tory Banastre Tarleton had defeated
an American force at Fishing Creek, South Carolina, opening the way for the
invasion of North Carolina. Sorely in need of a victory, Colonels Isaac Shelby
(1750-1826) and William Campbell (1745-1781) recruited a force of backwoodsmen, mostly expert riflemen from the Carolinas, Kentucky and Virginia, and on 7
October, trapped and decisively defeated Major Patrick Ferguson's force atop
King's Mountain. Ferguson himself was killed and nearly his entire command was
killed or captured. Ferguson had served as Corwallis' screening force on his left
flank and this loss was a serious one, forcing the British commander to retreat and
establish winter camp at Winnsborough.
General Nathaniel Greene was more optimistic than General Washington
about the effectiveness and use of the militia. Perhaps this was because he had
little choice in the matter since virtually no trained troops were available to him.
Virginians had been sent to serve in the Continental Line both north and south.
General Mathew's Virginia regiment had been mauled at Germantown, Pennsylvania, and most survivors were taken captive. General Buford's Virginians had been
massacred by Tarleton's tories. More Virginia soldiers were held captive as a result
of General Benjamin Lincoln's surrender at Charleston, South Carolina. Still,
Greene held out considerable hope of success with the men he had at his disposal.
Writing to Jefferson on 20 November 1780 from Richmond, soon after his
appointment as commander of the Southern Army, Greene complimented the
militia's devotion to duty, provided only that they be used properly.
It Affords me great Satisfaction to see the Enterprize and Spirit with which the
Militia have turn'd out lately in all Quarters to Oppose the Enemy; and this Great
Bulwark of Civil Liberty promises Security and Independence to this Country, if
they are not depended upon as a principal but employed as an Auxiliary but if you
depend upon them as a principal the very nature of the War must become so
ruinous to the Country that tho numbers for a time may give security yet the
difficulty of keeping this order of Men long in the field and the Accumulated
expences attending it must soon put it out of your Power to make further
Opposition and the Enemy will have only to delay their Operations for a few
months to give Success to their measures. It must be the extreme of folly to hazard
our liberties upon such a precarious tenure when we have it so much in our power
to fix them upon a more solid basis.(292)
Writing from Hillsborough, North Carolina, on 30 August 1780, Edward
Stevens complained to Governor Thomas Jefferson of the behavior of the Virginia
militia who had come to his aid. First, they were poorly armed because political
authorities had not permitted them to "Carry a single Muskett out of the State" so
they had to be rearmed from Philadelphia. That may not have been the fault of the
men, but they had deserted in great numbers in the face of the enemy in the action
against Lord Cornwallis' army near Camden on 16 August. Stevens thought that
a large measure of the blame from General Gates' army was due to the cowardice
of the militia.(293)
Shortages of arms and other materials of war continued to plague the
Virginia militia. On 21 October 1780 Thomas Nelson, writing to Governor
Jefferson from Hall's Mills, lamented "the Enemy will undoubtedly secure all the
passes, there be no possibility of preventing it with the Militia . . . who are not
armed at all."(294) On 22 October 1780 Jefferson was forced to inform General
Horatio Gates that he had mustered the militia south of the James River and the
volunteers from these units were "in readiness" and would join him "as soon as
Arms can be procured." Likewise, volunteers from other counties would follow
within the next eight months if they could find arms wherewith to equip them.(295)
As autumn approached, the governor received intelligence that tories from
the Carolinas under Major Ferguson were planning to raid the Greenbrier Valley
and wreak havoc in southwestern parts of the state. The lead mines in Wythe
County supplied a significant part of the patriots' needs for bullets and thus
provided an attractive target for marauders. There were many tories in southwestern Virginia who might become politically and militarily active given some
encouragement, but the death of Ferguson at King's Mountain ended the preparations.
Meanwhile, Washington had dispatched General Muhlenberg from
Pennsylvania to assist in the defense of Portsmouth against a major British landing
party. With the help of local militia, the Continentals defeated British General
Leslie and liberated the town. Benedict Arnold, now a British officer, appeared
with a superior force of regulars and drove Muhlenberg's militia from Richmond.
As the militias from additional counties swelled Muhlenberg's army, Arnold fell
back to Portsmouth, burning and looting all the way. Muhlenberg's militia stood
in his path and Washington dispatched Lafayette with 1200 of the Continental Line
to capture the traitor and defeat his army. The British landed Colonel Phillips and
his regiment at Portsmouth. Phillips seized Petersburg, but died almost immediately of some fever and his men joined Arnold's command. Steuben's and
Lafayette's timely arrival prevented a second capture of Richmond and Arnold beat
a quick retreat to Portsmouth and the British fleet.
George Washington at his headquarters near Passaic, on 18 October 1780,
prepared a Circular sent to Jefferson and the other state governors, the Continental
Congress and others.
In obedience to the Orders of Congress, I have the honor to transmit Your
Excellency the present state of the Troops of your line, by which you will perceive
how few men you will have left after the first of January next. When I inform you
also that the Troops of the other Lines will be in general as much reduced as Yours,
you will be able to judge how exceedingly weak the Army will be at that period;
and how essential it is the States should make vigorous exertions to replace the
discharged men as early as possible. Congress's new plan for a military establishment will soon be sent to the states with requisitions for their respective quotas.
New levies should be for the war, as I am religiously persuaded that the duration
of the war, and the greatest part of the Misfortunes, and perplexities we have
hitherto experienced, are chiefly to be attributed to temporary inlistments. . . . A
moderate, compact force, on a permanent establishment capable of acquiring the
discipline essential to military operations, would have been able to make head
against the Enemy, without comparison better than the throngs of Militia, which
have been at certain periods not in the field, but on their way to, and from the field:
for from that want of perseverance which characterises all Militia, and of that
coercion which cannot be exercised upon them, it has always been found
impracticable to detain the greatest part of them in service even for the term, for
which they have been called out; and this has been commonly so short, that we
have had a great proportion of the time, two sets of men to feed and pay, one
coming to the Army, and the other going from it. Instances cited of the disasters
and near-disasters caused by the constant fluctuations in the number of troops in
the field. Besides, It is impossible the people can endure the excessive burthen of
bounties for annual Drafts and Substitutes, increasing at every new experiment:
whatever it might cost them once for all to procure men for the War, would be a
cheap bargain. Not without reason, the enemy themselves look forward to our
eventually sinking under a system, which increases our expence beyond calculation, enfeebles all our measures, . . . and wearies and disgusts the people. This had
doubtless had great influence in preventing their coming to terms. Through
infatuation with an error which the experience of all mankind has exploded, and
which our own experience has dearly taught us to reject . . . America has been
almost amused out of her Liberties. Those who favor militia forces are those
whose credulity swallows every vague story, in support of a vague hypothesis. I
solemnly declare I never was witness to a single instance, that can countenance an
opinion of Militia or raw Troops being fit for the real business of fighting, I have
found them useful as light Parties to skirmish in the woods, but incapable of
making or sustaining a serious attack . . . . The late battle of Camden is a
melancholy comment upon this doctrine. The Militia fled at the first fire, and left
the Continental Troops surrounded on every side, and over-powered by numbers
to combat for safety instead of victory. The Enemy themselves have witnessed to
their Valour. Let the states, then, in providing new levies abandon temporary
expedients, and substitute something durable, systematic, and substantial. . . . The
present crisis of our affairs appears to me so serious as to call upon me as a good
Citizen, to offer my sentiments freely for the safety of the Republic. I hope the
motive will excuse the liberty I have taken.
Washington added a postscript to Jefferson because the Virginia militia
was in large responsible, in Washington's opinion as it had been in Stevens', for the
disaster at the Battle of Camden. "The foregoing is circular to the several States.
The circumstances of Your Line put it out of my power to transmit a Return."(296)
In December 1780 Edmund Pendleton reported to James Madison that he
was having great problems raising some of the militia units for duty. The Caroline
County militia, in particular, became war weary very quickly after they had been
mustered to resist a British invasion at Portsmouth in October. Pendleton told
Madison that many "will rather die than stir again." The militia had been placed
under the command of Major Charles McGill, aide-de-camp to General Horatio
Gates, and a brutal disciplinarian. The men had become "very sickly and many
died below, on their way back" because McGill had marched them through
avoidable water hazards, had not allowed them to dry out their clothes afterward,
failed to feed and rest them properly and committed all sorts of other atrocities.
Many had died of "laxes and Pleurisies."(297)
Sixteen hundred Virginia militia did march to General Greene's assistance.
Daniel Morgan led these men to victory at Cowpens on 17 January 1781. There
he was assisted by Colonel William Washington (1752-1810) and his mounted
militia in one of the rare engagements involving these forces. Morgan's especially
skillful disposition of his one thousand militiamen at that battle carried the day
against the hated tory, Colonel Banastre Tarleton, inflicting 329 casualties on the
enemy and capturing about 600 of his force. All available militiamen were
marched to augment American forces at the Battle of Guilford Court House on 15
March. While this battle left Cornwallis in command of the field, his losses in men
and material were so great as to seriously impede his future actions.
Roving bands of militia under Francis Marion (1732-1795), Thomas
Sumter (1734-1832) and Henry Lee (1756-1818) proved to be effective in delaying
and diverting Cornwallis' planned march. Virginia militia assisted in these actions
and in capturing a number of small, rural British outposts. So effective was these
forces that Cornwallis did not arrive in Virginia until mid-June, by which time the
small forces of Steuben and Lafayette had been reinforced by Anthony Wayne.
The British authorities had become convinced that the lower southern
colonies could not be pacified as long as Virginia remained a training ground for
patriot warriors. So Charles Cornwallis led his 1500 men into Virginia, starting out
from Wilmington, North Carolina, on 25 April 1781. The North Carolina and
Virginia frontier militias remained important factors by harassing the British supply
and communication lines. By the time Lord Cornwallis reached Petersburg,
Virginia, he had added 4000 men to his depleted command of 2000 men capable
of performing their duty. General William Phipps and turncoat Benedict Arnold
added their troops, bringing his total strength to about 7500 men. The British
troops not only outnumbered the Continental Line under von Steuben and
Lafayette, but they were better trained, disciplined and equipped than their
The British army pursued Lafayette's inferior force to the Rapidan River
which the Americans crossed at Ely's Ford. Cornwallis sent a raiding party under
Colonel Simcoe to harass the Whigs, and it succeeded in destroying American
gunpowder and other supplies at the mouth of the Rivanna River. Another raiding
party under Tarleton proved to be such a formidable force that on 4 June it almost
captured the state legislature and Governor Thomas Jefferson. It was repulsed as
it turned south toward Staunton by local militia who turned out to control the
Lafayette recrossed the Rapidan River at Raccoon Ford and secured a
strong position behind Meechums River where he was soon joined by General
Wayne's army and other forces from the north. Cornwallis, under orders from
Clinton, then turned toward the sea, leading to his eventual entrapment, defeat and,
on 18 October, capitulation of this British army. The militia played little, if any,
role in the final reduction of Cornwallis' army. With Cornwallis' surrender British
plans for reestablishing its colonial rule over America ended.(298)
By war's end, Virginia had furnished more troops and militia to the patriot
cause than any other colony, save Massachusetts. This was not surprising to
General Washington, who, in a letter to Governor Henry, written early in the
Revolution, had commended the martial spirit of the men of his home state. "I am
satisfied that the military spirit runs so high in your colony, and the number of
applicants will be so considerable, that a very proper selection may be made."(299)
In 1776, in response to the call from Congress, Virginia furnished 6181 men; in
1777, Congress assigned a quota of 10,200, of which number, 5744 enrolled in the
continental line and the state retained 5269 militia. In 1778 Congress assigned a
quota of 7830, which Virginia filled as follows: 5230 continentals; 600 guards for
prisoners at Saratoga; and 2000 state militia. In 1779 the state had a quota of
5742, of which 3973 were continentals; 600 served as guards for enemy prisoners;
and 4000 served in the militia.(300)
In order to secure the blessings of liberty which only a well-regulated
militia could provide the Virginia Constitution provided,
That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms,
is the proper, natural and safe defense of a Free State; that standing armies, in time
of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the
military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil
Richard Henry Lee lauded the state for its passage of a new militia law in
1785. His comments are noteworthy for his statement on the proper place for the
militia in a state.
I am told our Assembly have passed a new Militia Law, of a mor [torn] nature than
former - I have not seen it, but am of Opinion that [torn] the meetings for exercise
are made more frequent, it will pro [duce] mischief rather than good, as I never
discovered other fruits from those meetings, than calling the Industrious from their
Labour to their great disgust and the Injury of the community, and affording the
idle an opportunity of dissipation. I rather think that in time of peace, to keep them
enrolled and oblige them to meet once a year to shew their Arms and Ammunition -
to provide Magazines of those, and in case of a War to throw the Militia into an Ar-
rangement like our minute Plan, for defence until a regular Army can be raised, is
the most Eligible System, leaving the people at liberty to pursue their labour in
peace, and acquire wealth, of great service in War.(302)
The Virginia convention, called to consider the ratification of the
proposed U. S. Constitution, considered the role of the militia in the new republic.
Rather naturally, the debate quickly focused on the role the militia had performed,
and how it had, or had not, fulfilled it obligations in the War for Independence. On
9 June 1788 Henry Lee rose to offer his opinion on the subject in response to
comments made by Edmund Randolph.
Here, sir, I conceive that implication might operate against himself. He tells us that
he is a staunch republican, and adores liberty. I believe him, and when I do I
wonder that he should say that a kingly government is superior to that system which
we admire. He tells you that it cherishes a standing army, and that militia alone
ought to be depended upon for the defence of every free country. There is not a
gentlemen in this house -- there is no man without these walls -- not even the
gentleman himself, who admires the militia more than I do. Without vanity I may
say that I have had different experience of their service from that of the honorable
gentleman. It was my fortune to be a soldier of my country. In the discharge of my
duty I knew the worth of militia. I have seen them perform feats that would do
honor to the first veterans, and submitting to what would daunt German soldiers.
I saw what the honorable gentleman did not see our men fighting with the troops
of that king which he so much admires. I have seen proofs of the wisdom of that
paper on your table. I have seen incontrovertible evidence that militia cannot
always be relied on. I could enumerate many instances, but one will suffice. Let
the gentle. man recollect the action of Guilford. The American troops behaved
there with gallant intrepidity. What did the militia do? The greatest numbers of
them fled. The abandonment of the regulars occasioned the loss of the field. Had
the line been supported that day, Cornwallis, instead of surrendering at York,
would have laid down his arms at Guilford.(303)
In replying to the argument of Patrick Henry, that the states would be left without
arms, Lee said he could not understand the implication that, because Congress may
arm the militia, the States could not do it. The States are, by no part of the plan
before you, precluded from arming and disciplining the militia should Congress
neglect it. He rebuked Henry for his seemingly exclusive attachment to Virginia,
and uttered the following sentiment:
In the course of Saturday, and in previous harangues, from the terms in which some
of the Northern States were spoken of, one would have thought that the love of an
American was in some degree criminal, as being incompatible with a proper degree
of affection for a Virginian. The people of America, sir, are one people. I love the
people of the North, not because they have adopted the Constitution, but because
I fought with them as my countrymen, and because I consider them as such. Does
it follow from hence that I have forgotten my attachment to my native State? In all
local matters I shall be a Virginian. In those of a general nature I shall never forget
that I am an American.(304)
The Reverend Mr Clay, priest in the established church, on 13 June, led
the objections to granting power to the national government to call out the state
militias under the Militia Clause. James Madison responded, using much the same
argument he developed in his contributions to the Federalist Papers. Madison was
followed by Mason, who denounced it as not sufficiently guarded, in an able
harangue, which called forth an elaborate reply from Madison. Clay was not
satisfied with the explanations of Madison. "Our militia," he said, "might be
dragged from their homes and marched to the Mississippi. He feared that the
execution of the laws by other than the civil authority would lead ultimately to the
establishment of a purely military system. Madison rejoined, and was followed by
Henry, who exhorted the opponents of the new scheme to make a firm stand. "We
have parted," he said, "with the purse, and now we are required to part with the
sword." Henry spoke for an hour, and was followed by Nicholas and Madison in
long and impassioned, but reasoned, speeches. Henry replied, and was followed
by Madison and Randolph. George Mason rejoined at length, and was followed
by Lee, who threw with great oratorical skill several pointed remarks at Henry.
Clay rose, evidently motivated by great passion. He said that, as it was insinuated
by Randolph, he was not under the influence of common sense in making his
objection to the clause in debate, his error might result from his deficiency in that
respect; but that gentleman was as much deficient in common decency as he was
in common sense. He proceeded to state the grounds of his objection. and showed
that in his estimation the remarks of the gentleman were far from satisfactory.
Madison rejoined Clay, and passing to the arguments of Henry, spoke with great
vigor, refuting them. Clay asked Madison to point out an instance in which
opposition to the laws of the land did not come within the idea of an insurrection.
Madison replied that a riot did not come within the legal definition of an
insurrection. After a long and animated session the House adjourned.(305) The
debate then turned in other directions and Virginia eventually ratified the new
frame of government without demanding that changes be made to the militia system
The Virginia revolutionary militia had one more duty to perform. On 17
July 1794, President George Washington mustered the Virginia Militia, calling it
into federal service to suppress the Whiskey Rebels in western Virginia and
The President of the United States, having required a second detachment of Militia
from this Commonwealth, amounting to 3000 infantry and 300 cavalry, inclusive
of commissioned officers, to be prepared for immediate service, the commander in
chief accordingly directs the same to be forthwith appointed.(306)
The Virginia militia was of great importance in the seventeenth century,
so much so that one might easily conclude that without it, the Amerindians might
easily have destroyed the colony at almost any early stage of its development. As
either the most populous or second most populous, colony everything that
happened in Virginia was of consequence to the other colonies. Since its nearest
rival, Massachusetts, was severely circumscribed in territory for growth, Virginia
would continue to be a colonial leader. It was a truly southern colony which
nonetheless had some very cosmopolitan characteristics. It boasted no cities to
compete with New York, Philadelphia or Boston, yet it established the first major
gun manufactory in the nation and produced many of its outstanding military and
political leaders and political philosophers.
As we have seen, the Virginia militia fell on hard times largely because
it was heavily populated by poorer farmers and tradesmen spread out over vast
areas. Once the frontier advanced to and beyond the Shenandoah Valley, the
inhospitable terrain and sparse population made it very difficult for a militia to
assemble or function. Still, it performed very well when pressed by the French and
their Amerindian allies. It was the mainstay of Braddock's auxiliaries and may
have saved what could be salvaged from his ill-fated expedition. It also protected
much of the frontier after the remnants of Braddock's army fled to the protection
of the eastern seaboard. And it contained parts of Pontiac's conspiracy.
In the American War for Independence, it successfully kept the native
aborigine and Tories at bay, and bore the main share of defense of the colony. That
the British army did not choose to operate much in the state may be credited in
large to the Virginia militia. And it performed well as a reservoir to fill the
The North Carolina Militia
In 1629 Sir Robert Heath was granted a patent to settle the area between
31 and 36 degrees north under the name of New Carolina. The following year
Heath conveyed this land to Samuel Vassal and others who explored it and made
an ineffectual attempt to settle the area. By 1632 Henry Lord Maltravers claimed
the area as the Province of Carolana under an alleged grant from Heath and by the
Harvey Patent issued by the governor of Virginia, John Harvey. The Harvey Patent
established Maltravers' claim to the area south of the James River known as
Norfolk County. No effective settlement was established. The Albemarle
settlement was the first permanent caucasian habitat and was created about 1653
by Virginians moving through the Nansemond Valley and Dismal Swamp into the
area of Albemarle Sound and Chowan River. Shortly after, a group of London
merchants and disaffected New Englanders established a settlement at Cape Fear,
but it was abandoned about 1663.
In 1644, the Proprietors of the Carolinas ordered the Governor of North
Carolina to "constitute Trayne bands and Companys with the Number of Soldiers
[necessary] for the Safety, Strength and defence of the Counteys and Province."
The Proprietors agreed to "fortifie and furnish . . . ordnance, powder, shott, armour,
and all other weapons and Habillaments of war, both offensively and
defensively."(307) Every newly arrived "freeman and freewoman . . . shall arrive in
ye said countrie armed." The "master or Mistress of every able-bodied servant he
or she hath brought or sent . . . each of them [is to be] armed with a good firelocke
or Matchlocke."(308) To whom these orders applied is unclear, based upon the
settlement timetable noted above. Perhaps the orders were only theoretical,
promulgated in the case an actual settlement was established.
Sir John Colleton, a wealthy planter from Barbados, and William
Berkeley, former governor of Virginia, in conjunction with a colonial promoter,
Anthony Ashley Cooper(309), approached Charles II about developing the Carolina
colony. On 3 April 1665, the king granted a new charter to eight proprietors,
including the above captioned promoters, Earl of Clarendon, Duke of Albemarle,
William Berkeley's brother John Lord Berkeley, Earl of Craven and Sir George
Carteret. Maltraver's heirs, the Duke of Norfolk and Samuel Vassal all filed
counter-claims on 10 June, and on 6 August the Cape Fear Company added its
name to those contesting title. On 22 August 1665 the Privy Council confirmed
Charles II's more recent grant and declared all previous grants to be null and void.
In October 1664 William Berkeley, authorized to name the first governor of the
Province of Albemarle (as North Carolian was then called) nominated William
Drummond. Berkeley head a board to draw up the Concessions and Agreements
of 1665, granting basic rights, including liberty of conscience and creating a
representative assembly of freeholders.
The Charter of Carolina of 1663 required that the proprietors build
whatever fortifications were necessary for the protection of the settlers and to
furnish them with "ordnance, powder, shot, armory and other weapons, ammunition
[and] habilements of war, both offensive and defensive, as shall be thought fit and
convenient for the safety and welfare of said province." The proprietors were to
create a militia and appoint civil and military officers. Because "in so remote a
country and scituate among so many barbarous nations," to say nothing of pirates
and Amerindians, the crown ordered the proprietors "to levy, muster and train all
sorts of men . . . to make war and pursue the enemies."(310) The eight Lord Proprietors of Carolina in 1663 ordered that the governor "levy, muster and train all sorts
of men" as a militia.(311) The second charter, issued just two years later, contained
many of the same instructions.(312) The proprietors ordered that a militia be formed
and allowed it to march out from the colony to assist other colonies in times of
crisis. They ordered that there be a constable's court, consisting of one proprietor
and six others, who assumed command of the militia. This body was to provide
arms, ammunition and supplies and to build and garrison forts. Twelve assistants
were to be lieutenant-generals of the militia. In war the constable was to act as
In 1667 the governor ordered the officers of the counties to train the
colonists in the art of war.(314) The Fundamental Constitutions of North Carolina of
1669 required "all [male] inhabitants and freemen" between the ages of 17 and 60
to bear arms in service to the colony.(315) The governor was to "levy, muster and
train up all sorts of men of what conditions soever." The language was much the
same as the two earlier Carolina charters including a provision that the militia
might be deployed "without the limits of the said province." With a properly
ordered militia the colony might "take and vanquish" its enemies, even "to put them
to death by law of war, and to save them at their pleasure."(316)
Tradition has ascribed the Fundamental Constitutions to John Locke, the
noted and influential political theorist, in collaboration with Anthony Ashley
Cooper. It was an unusual blending of aristocratic conservatism with the liberalism
of the Enlightenment. While permitting freedom of conscience and religion and
creating a citizens' militia, it also established a hierarchical aristocratic rule with
classes based on land ownership. For example, a lord of a manor must own no less
than 3000 acres whereas landgraves owned no less than 12,000 acres, and
freeholders were recognized only if they owned a minimum of 50 acres. The eight
proprietors constituted the Palatine Court which had the power of disallowance of
laws and appointment of governors. The provincial council seated all landed
hereditary nobility and popularly elected members who must own at least 300
In 1675 the total population of North Carolina was less than 5000; and it
had increased to less than 6000 by 1700.(317) It was not only inconvenient and
impractical to muster and train the militia in the first century, but even dangerous.(318)
Thus, the militia could hardly have been a formidable force in the seventeenth
By 1680 Moravian and other Calvinist religious dissenters had begun to
move into the Carolinas. They were as opposed to military service as their Quaker
brethren in Pennsylvania, and in 1681, decided they had sufficient strength and
support to oppose reenactment of the North Carolina militia law. As a period
history of the colony said, they "chose members [of the legislature] to oppose
whatsoever the Governor requested, insomuch as they would not settle the Militia
Act" even though "their own security in a natural way depended upon it."(319)
Another contemporary history confirmed that the dissenters were "now so strong
among the common people that they chose members to oppose . . . whatsoever the
Governor proposed [especially] the Militia Law."(320) Many non-dissenters simply
opposed the militia law because they wished to not serve in the militia; or because
they were naturally opposed to the governor, government and British rule. The
result, of course, was to emasculate the militia and destroy most of the colony's
ability to defend itself.
By 1693 the legislature had become bicameral. The larger baronies
initially recognized never were established and in fact no seignory of more than
12,000 acres was ever created. Eventually, the governor's council became the
Grand Council. The proprietors revised the Fundamental Constitutions on 12
January 1682, but the revisions were voided the next year, and revised again in
1698, but never accepted by the assembly. Although religious toleration had
included non-establishment, the Church of England became the established church
in 1670. No changes were made in the fundamental militia system, probably
because the proprietors had no interest in bearing (or raising by taxation) the cost
of a standing army.
On 2 October 1701 Governor Nicholson of North Carolina reported to the
Lords of Trade in London that the citizens under his charge "do not put themselves
in a state of defence by having any regular Militia, arms or ammunition."(321) That
neglect cost the colony dearly during the Tuscarora Indian War of 1711-12. The
Tuscarora surprised the colonists in large because they were able to create a war
confederation with four neighboring tribes with whom they had never before
cooperated, and they kept the negotiations completely secret from the whites. The
unsuspecting colonists had not prepared and after the first attack Governor Edward
Hyde could find only 160 militiamen ready to muster. The best that he could do
was to order these men to herd the surviving settlers into fortified positions and
protect them while begging for help from South Carolina.(322)
Militia training paid occasional dividends. When installed as governor,
Alexander Spotswood committed to a strong militia. In 1711 when the Tuscarora
were menacing the frontier, Governor Spotswood decided to impress on them the
power of the colonists using his best trained militia from three counties. As he
reported to Lord Dartmouth, "I brought into discipline the body of Militia . . .
upwards of 1600 men. So great an appearance of armed Men in such good order
very much surprised them" and aided in avoiding a great Indian war.(323) Had
Spotswood not paraded the militia before the Tuscarora the damage might have
been more intense.
Indian trouble in the South was not ended. Irritated by dishonest and self-seeking traders and the establishment of a new colony of Swiss at New Bern, the
Tuscaroras had risen against the northern Carolinians in September, 1711, and
killed about 130 inhabitants. On 22 September an Amerindian force estimated at
1200 Tuscarora warriors, with some additional support from other tribes,
massacred settlers along the Chowan and Roanoke Rivers. Only the timely arrival
of militia forces from South Carolina saved the colony from annihilation. A
wealthy Irish planter, Colonel John Barnwell, with thirty-three militia and five
hundred Yamasees and Catawbas, struck back at the Tuscaroras and defeated them.
Returning the favor, the Tuscarora in January 1712 fortified their village very
effectively. The stockade had a trench, portholes, a rough abatis and four round
bastions. Barnwell learned that a runaway slave had taught the Tuscarora the art
of fortification.(324) They kept a sullen peace for two years and then were fighting
again. Colonel James Moore, Jr., of South Carolina moved against them in March
1713, with about 100 militia and eight hundred Cherokees, Catawbas and Creeks.
He killed 800 warriors, while suffering only 58 killed and 84 wounded. This action
so overwhelmed the Tuscaroras that they began moving up to New York in waves,
seeking protection among their ancient brethren. The Oneidas adopted and
domiciled them, but the Iroquois never quite granted them equal status. As
members of the Iroquois Confederation they were never to become significant
actors in the drama on the New York-Canada frontier.
On 20 September 1712 Lord Carteret reported to the Lord Proprietors in
London that "we obtained a law that every person between sixteen and sixty years
of age able to carry armes" is to be enlisted in the militia.(325) With the assistance
of the South Carolina militia on 28 January 1812 the colonial forces defeated the
Tuscarora and killed about 300 of the Amerindians along the banks of the Neuse
River. So destitute was the North Carolina for muskets that it was forced in 1712
to borrow some from the South Carolina militia.(326) The legislature reported to Lord
Carteret in London that as a result of that embarrassment, "we obtained a law that
every person between 16 and 60 years of age able to carry arms" be armed at his
Hyde demanded that the militia be upgraded and better organized. The
legislature considered Hyde's requests and then debated the militia and discussed
its importance. On 15 October 1712 Colonel A. S. Spotswood reported to the
Lords of Trade that a militia was indispensable because it had three vitally
important functions: first, it was the first line of defense against the Amerindians;
second, it protected the colony against the ravages and outrages of pirates and
smugglers, as posse comitatus; and, third, it defended the colonists against slave
insurrections.(328) On 15 October 1712 Alexander Spotswood reported to the Lords
of Trade that the colonial legislature had agreed to maintain the militia for three
purposes. It would maintain the peace with the Amerindians. It would assist in
repressing piracy and smuggling. And it would be on guard against slave insurrections.(329)
By 1713 the war was over and the once proud Tuscarora left their
southern home forever, went north and joined the Iroquois Confederation,
becoming the sixth nation in that political entity, thereafter known as the Six
Nations. The lesson of the Tuscarora War was clear enough. A better armed and
regulated militia was imperative to secure the peace.
In 1715 the legislature enacted the militia law that remained in effect for
the duration of the colonial period. The governor was the principal officer of the
militia and he was authorized to appoint other officers to order, drill, discipline and
inspect the militia. All freemen between 16 and 60 years of age were enlisted and
enrolled. Any captain who failed to maintain his militia list was subject to a fine
of £5. Each citizen-soldier had to supply at his own expense a "good gun, well
fixed," a sword, powder, bullets and accoutrements.(330) The act provided
exemptions for the physically disabled, Church of England clergy and a host of
local and colonial public officials. However, all men had to provide arms and
ammunition and the exemption was voided in times of grave emergency.(331)
Militiamen who were killed or wounded while doing militia duty were to be cared
for at the public expense. A permanently disabled man, and the family of a dead
militiaman, received a "Negro man-slave" as compensation to assist in various
household and farming duties.(332)
Within fifteen years the militia law was forgotten. The colony was at
peace and no one cared much about enforcing an unnecessary, burdensome and
[W]e learn from Experience that in a free Country it [the militia] is of little use. The
people in the Plantations are so few in proportion to the lands they possess, that
servants being scarce, and slaves so excessively dear, the men are generally under
a necessity there to work hard themselves . . . so that they cannot spare a day's time
without great loss to their interest. . . . [A] militia there would become . . .
burthensome to the poor people . . . . Besides, it may be questioned how far it
would consist with good Policy to accustom all the able Men in the Colonies to be
well exercised in Arms.(333)
The situation had changed little over the next decade. Governor George
Burrington (served 1731-1734) had little use or respect for the militia and did
nothing to train, equip or muster it. However, when Gabriel Johnson was
appointed governor in 1734 he reassessed the militia and in 1735 introduced
legislation to "put the militia on better footing."(334) In 1740 a new and only slightly
modified version of the 1715 act was passed. A new piece of legislation,
the Militia Act of 1746, placed servants as well as freemen on the militia rolls.
Millers and ferrymen were added to the exemption list. There were to be at least
two types of militia musters. The regiment was to muster annually and the
companies were to muster four times a year. One drew militiamen to their local
companies, while the second muster was general. The law allowed the militia to
act in concert with the militias of Virginia and South Carolina, but no other
province. The new law also made provision for mounted troops. The act also
allowed the governor to call out the militia to march to the assistance of either
Virginia or South Carolina, provided that these colonies should bear the costs of
such assistance. Many militiamen resisted this provision, arguing that it was, or at
least should be, unlawful to deploy the militia outside the colony.(335)
In 1749 the militia law was again changed since the 1746 act was given
only a three year life. Company musters were reduced in number to two per year.
The death penalty was no longer permitted in court martial cases.(336) In 1754 the
French and Indian War began and the colony returned to more frequent militia
company musters.(337) On 17 July 1754 Governor Sharpe approved a loan of some
militia muskets to the province of North Carolina.(338) The legislature established
greater control over the militia budget and demanded a greater role in the
appointment of militia officers. Militia lists from the French and Indian War show
that several blacks and mulattoes were members of militia companies. Since only
race and not status was noted it may be assumed that these were freemen and that
slaves were not armed.(339)
Meanwhile, the political situation had not improved. Unanswered raids
by the Amerindians, adjunct to the French and Indian War, proved that the colony's
militia was unprepared. On 15 March 1756 Arthur Dobbs, then Governor of North
Carolina, reported that the militia law had failed in the colony in his charge. He
reported that "not half of the Militia are armed as no supply of Arms can be got
although they would willingly purchase them . . . ."(340)
During the French and Indian War the North Carolina militia became a
reservoir on which the British command drew for enlistments for the Canadian
campaign. In November 1756 Loudoun reported to Cumberland that "I had great
hopes of the North Carolina Regiments . . . [but] the Carolina Troops would not
Submit to be turned over [to English command] without force; which I thought
better avoided . . . [recently] I have got a good many of them enlisted in [the Royal]
Americans."(341) In 1756 British assigned a quota of 1000 men to be raised in North
Carolina as a part of 30,000 man force the English hoped to raise in the colonies
to join with the British troops in an invasion of Canada.(342)
In 1759 the war with the Cherokee Indian nation spilled over into the
colony. The militia, sensing danger at home, refused to march outside the colony's
borders, arguing that the North Carolina militia was suitable only for home defense.
Governor Arthur Dobbs reported that 420 of 500 militiamen sent against the
Cherokee had deserted. Many militiamen and officers interpreted the law as being
permissive, but not compelling. They chose to not leave the province.(343) The
Militia Act of 1759(344) increased fines for desertion and insubordination and
allowed the Governor, with the consent of the legislature, to send the militia to the
aid of South Carolina and Virginia to fight against the Cherokees.
In 1760 the legislature passed an act which provided that it would pay
bounties on Indian scalps in order to encourage enlistment and participation in the
And for the greater encouragement of persons as shall enlist voluntarily to serve in
the said companies, and other inhabitants of this province who shall undertake any
expedition against the Cherokees and other Indians in alliance with the French, be
it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that each of the said Indians who shall he
taken a captive, during the present war, by any person as aforesaid, shall and is
hereby declared to be a slave, and the absolute right and property of who shall be
the captor of such Indian, and shall and may be possessed, pass, go and remain to
such captor, his executors, administrators and assigns, as a chattel personal; and if
any person or persons, inhabitant or inhabitants of this province, not in actual pay,
shall kill an enemy Indian or Indians, he or they shall have and receive ten pounds
for each and every Indian he or they shall so kill; and any person or persons who
shall be in the actual pay of this province shall have and receive five pounds' for
every enemy Indian or Indians he or they shall so kill, to be paid out of the treasury,
any law, usage or custom to the contrary notwithstanding. Provided, always, that
any person claiming the said reward, before he be allowed or paid the same, shall
produce to the Assembly the scalp of every Indian so killed, and make oath or
otherwise prove that he was the person who killed, or was present at the killing the
Indian whose scalp shall be so produced, and that he hath not before had or
received any allowance from the public for the same; and as a further encouragement, shall also have and keep to his or their own use or uses all plunder taken out
of the possession of any enemy Indian or Indians, or within twenty miles of any of
the Cherokee towns, or any Indian town at war with any of his majesty's subjects.(345)
The experience of the province in the French and Indian War prompted
yet another series of changes in the provincial militia law. This time most of the
benefits were given to the citizenry. The legislature sought to entice, rather than
to force, compliance with the law. No militiaman could be arrested on his way to
muster. Militiamen paid no tolls on bridges, highways or ferries while on their way
to muster. The number of musters was reduced from five to four annually, and
later to one annual muster. Officers in the various units had to come from the same
county as the enlisted militiamen.(346) The legislature, seeking novel ways to assist
the militia and increase its enthusiasm if not efficiency, passed a law placing a
bounty on Indian scalps and to allow for the enslavement of hostile Amerindians.(347)
By 1762 the exemption list had grown. Presbyterian and Anglican clergy
were wholly exempted from any service, although they might choose to serve as
chaplains. By 1774 the law covered all Protestant ministers. Overseers of slaves
were indispensable to the maintenance of order on the plantations and indeed were
fined if they did attend militia muster. Schoolmasters who had ten or more students
were charged to remain in their classrooms except in dire emergencies. Pilots and
road supervisors and overseers were also exempted. By the time of the Revolution
probably half of the able-bodied freemen in North Carolina were exempted.(348)
On 3 November 1766 the provincial legislature passed a new militia act.
All freemen and servants between sixteen and sixty years of age were obligated to
serve, with no exemptions noted, but no mention of any kind was made of slaves.(349)
In 1768, with the French menace permanently removed, the policy of
arming blacks was clarified, and slaves were specifically excluded. Overseers
and/or owners of slaves were subject to fines if they allowed slaves to appear at
militia musters.(350) North Carolina passed legislation that was designed to prevent
slaves from using guns even to hunt unless accompanied by a caucasian.(351)
North Carolina approached the American Revolution under this basic
militia law. The only significant change was in the creation of ranging units.
These select units were authorized to "range and reconnoiter the frontiers of this
Province as volunteers" at no cost to the public. The rangers provided an outlet for
militiamen who lived too far distant from urban areas to be able to muster with
standard militia units. Most rangers were experienced woodsmen and Indian
fighters. They were delighted with their orders to kill any Amerindian they
encountered since most had experienced , or at least seen, some Indian atrocity
committed against the settlers.(352) During the various Indian wars, ranging units
frequently made a substantial profit in Indian scalps at rates as high as £30 per
scalp. The rangers were authorized to take the scalps of any "enemy Indian," and
it is obvious that a public official could not determine, in paying the bounty, which
scalps were of hostiles and which were of friendly or allied Indians.(353)
At the same time the legislature moved to relieve some burdens from the
poor. Initially a fine was imposed on any militiaman who failed to provide
appropriate weapons and accoutrements. A company's officers could now certify
that a man was too poor to provide his own equipment and a gun would then be
provided through a company's militia fines.(354)
In 1771 the militia was tested against insurrectionary forces. The
Regulators resisted British authority. By 1768 the Regulators had formed a militia
under the leadership of Herman Husbands (1724-1795). They protested a failure
of the legislature to grant full representation to the Piedmont, charging the
more eastern section with "extortion and oppression." The Johnston Bill ("Bloody
Act"), passed on 15 January 1771, was specifically designed to repress the
Regulators. On 16 May 1771 some 1200 militia under Governor William Tryon
(1729-1788) defeated them at the Battle of Alamance near Hillsboro. Although
there were about 2000 Regulators present, many had no arms. Husbands fled,
James Few was executed on the spot on 17 May, 12 others were condemned to
death and six men were actually executed. Tyron forced some 6500 inhabitants of
the Piedmont to sign an oath of loyalty to the crown.(355)
Silas Deane, writing to James Hogg, on 2 November 1775, observed,
"Precarious must be the possession of the finest country in the world if the
inhabitants have not the means and skill of defending it. A Militia regulation must,
therefore, in all prudent policy, be one of the first" preparations made by the
colonists in North Carolina.(356)
The North Carolina Constitution of 1776 provided "That the people have
a right to bear arms for the defence of the State . . . ." It also denounced the
practice of maintaining armies in time of peace and of allowing the military to
subordinate the civil authority. The provisional government enacted a temporary
militia law, which was followed by a permanent law enacted by the state
legislature.(357) Until 1868 each North Carolina county was divided into one or more
militia districts, with each unit being commanded by a captain, who was usually a
county official, such as deputy sheriff or justice of the peace. They were required
to enroll all able-bodied males between 18 and 60, with attendance at quarterly
musters being mandatory. Free blacks were also required to attend militia musters,
although they were rarely accorded the right to keep and bear arms.(358) The
Committee of Safety ordered that the local authorities confiscate the arms
belonging to the tories and issue these to militia or members of the army.(359) The
militia officers who were willing to swear allegiance to the new nation were
retained in rank.(360)
In April 1776 the North Carolina Provincial Congress set standards for
muskets to be made for militia use. The Congress wished to purchase
good and sufficient Muskets and Bayonets of the following description, to wit:
Each Firelock to be made of three-fourths of an inch bore, and of good substance
at the breech, the barrel to be three feet, eight inches in length, a good lock, the
bayonet to be eighteen inches in the blade, with a steel ramrod, the upper end of the
upper loop to be trumpet mouthed; and for that purpose they collect from the
different parts of their respective districts all Gunsmiths, and other mechanicks,
who have been accustomed to make, or assist in making Muskets. . . .(361)
The Congress also resolved on 17 April that,
No Recruiting Officer shall be allowed to inlist into the service and Servant
whatsoever; except Apprentices bound under the laws of this Colony; nor any such
Apprentices, unless the Consent of his Master be first had in writing; neither any
man unless he be five feet four inches high, healthy, strong made and well-limbed,
not deaf or subject to fits, or ulcers on their legs.(362)
The legislature created an arms manufactory at Halifax known as the
North Carolina Gun Works, under the superintendency of James Ransom. On 24
April 1776 the legislature ordered Ransom, Joseph John Williams and Christopher
Dudley to bring all of the state's energies to bear in the manufacture of muskets in
conformity with the direction of Congress and state law, that is, to be made with
44 inch barrels and 18 inch bayonets. They were to recruit ""gunsmiths and other
mechanicks who have been accustomed to make, or assist in making, muskets." An
unknown, but presumably small, number of arms was produced at the manufactory
before the legislature closed it in early 1778. North Carolina found, as did its sister
colonies, that it was cheaper and more expeditions to contract with gunsmiths for
arms that the state needed than to run its own manufactory. When the manufactory
closed, and tools and machinery ordered sold at public vendue, there were 36
muskets nearing completion. These were issued to the Halifax militia.(363)
Between 3 and 27 February 1776 in a campaign in the area of Fayetteville,
the North Carolina militia of about 1000 men engaged English and Tory forces of
1500 to 3000 men. The militia carried the field and captured military equipment
sufficient to equip the militia for months to come.(364) Among the treasures that
greatly aided the depleted patriot commissary were: 1500 rifles, all of them
excellent pieces; 350 guns and shotbags; 150 swords and dirks; £15,00 sterling; 13
sets of wagons and horses; and two medicine chests, one with medicine and
surgeon's tools valued at £300. After the completion of the campaign the militia
swelled to 6000 men. By year's end there were 9400 men enlisted in the North
From 3 to 27 February 1776 North Carolina militia engaged British
regulars supplemented by Tories from Fayetteville to New Bern, and on the 27th
about 1000 patriots defeated an enemy force variously estimated at from 1500 to
3000 strong at Moore's Creek Bridge near Wilmington. This victory caused
General Henry Clinton to abandon his planned incursion into the Carolinas with
a combined force of his own regulars supplemented with local Tories.(366) The spoils
of war were nearly as valuable to the arms-hungry patriots as the victory itself.
1500 Rifles, all of them excellent pieces, 350 guns and shotbags, 150 swords and
dirks, two medicine chests immediately from England, one valued at £300 sterling,
13 sets of wagons with complete sets of horses, a box of Johannes and English
guineas, amounting to £15,000 sterling, and [the arms and accoutrements of] 850
common soldiers, were among the trophies of the field.(367)
On 19 March 1778 North Carolina created a new constitution which made
the governor the commander of all military forces. The legislature appointed
officers above the rank of captain. The military power was subordinated to the
After Charleston, South Carolina, fell to British forces on 12 May 1780
Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805)(369) decided to move his force across the Carolinas,
retaining the city as his base of supplies, occupied by a largely tory militia force.
The minutemen of North Carolina were soon to demonstrate the same prowess with
their rifled arms that the British observed with other colonial militias and units of
the Continental Line which had been recruited from among backwoods militias.
Lord Cornwallis' greatest victory was the patriot's most humiliating defeat.
It occurred on 16 August 1780 near Camden, South Carolina. Horatio Gates, who
commanded at least 1400 regulars and 2752 militia, advanced against Cornwallis
with 2239 veterans, including such tory units as Banastre Tarleton's Legion;
Volunteers of Ireland, consisting entirely of ethnic Irish deserters from the
American army; and the Royal North Carolina Regiment. Gates had only 3052
men fit for duty and most militia had never faced (or used) a bayonet. Gates had
no battle plan, issued no comprehensible orders and quickly joined the routed
militia in wild retreat. For his part, Cornwallis proved to be a superior leader who
took advantage of the weakness and inexperience of Gates' army. Johann DeKalb,
commanding the Continental Line, fought bravely until mortally wounded and
captured. The remaining militia fled into North Carolina, and Gates had no viable
With no apparent patriot army to slow his advance, Cornwallis sent his
agents into North Carolina to prepare for its return to the fold, which had been his
objective in moving north. But Cornwallis found few recruits for a tory supporting
force. That he blamed on the tyranny of the whig government. He hanged several
men who had cross-enlisted as examples to turncoats, but this did nothing to
increase his popular support.(371) Cornwallis did little to take advantage of the
situation. He did not resume his march into North Carolina until 8 September, and
he paused at Waxhaw for another two weeks.
As Cornwallis moved toward Charlotte, militia rose to harass, if not to
directly face, his army. Militia from Rowan and Mecklenberg counties moved out
under the command of Colonel William L. Davidson and Major William Davie.
Primarily, the militia reported on the movement of Cornwallis' troops and
interrupted communications and captured stragglers and deserters. Gates drafted
orders to avoid direct military confrontation for his force was too small and too
weak to accept full battle. Davie's militia, 100 strong, struck the left flank, slowing
the enemy advance. On 20 September they captured a Tory outpost near Waxhaws.
Davie's riflemen, acting as sharpshooters, so harassed Cornwallis' army that he was
unable to occupy Charlotte until 25 September.(372)
Few loyalists enlisted in his adjunct militia, and he found few willing to
sell him badly needed food and supplies. He paused again to await a supply
convoy from the south. Colonel John Cruger at Ninety-Six and Major Patrick
Ferguson at Gilbert Town had the same experiences. Meanwhile, Cornwallis
learned that patriot forces were on the verge of liberating Georgia, destroying one
of his principal achievements.
During September 1780, a formidable force of backwoods militia gathered
in North Carolina to oppose Cornwallis's army of the south. Colonel Campbell
(1745-1781) of Washington County, Virginia, brought 400 militiamen. Colonel
Isaac Shelby (1750-1826) recruited 240 militia from Sullivan County, North
Carolina. From Washington County, North Carolina, Colonel John Sevier brought
the same number of militiamen. Burke and Rutherford counties, North Carolina,
sent 160 militiamen under Colonel Charles McDowell. By the end of the month,
Colonel Benjamin Cleveland and Major Joseph Winston brought 350 militia from
Wilkes and Surrey Counties, North Carolina. One author described this militia
force vividly. "The little army was mostly well armed with the deadly Deckard
rifle, in the use of which every man was an expert."(373) By early October, the band
of militia companies was joined by 270 militia under Colonel Lacy; and by another
group of 160 volunteer backwoodsmen. On the eve of the major confrontation
with Major Patrick Ferguson's British army, they numbered at least 1840 militia
and volunteers. The men, in truly democratic fashion, selected William Campbell
as their commander. This force initially had in mind more harassing Cornwallis's
British army than confronting its strong left wing.
Cornwallis withdrew to Winnsboro between Ninety-Six and Camden.
British intelligence, which at this point seemed to be good and reliable, reported a
major gathering of American forces to the west. Ferguson dismissed them as mere
untrained and undisciplined militia and looked forward to meeting and defeating
them. Reportedly, Ferguson had released a captured American so that he could
carry a message to the backwoodsmen. If they did not desist from their treason, he
warned, "I will march my army over their mountains, hang their leaders and lay
their country waste with fire and sword."(374) Whether the message emanated from
Ferguson or not, it was accepted as true by Campbell's force. Americans hurried
toward Ferguson at Gilbert Town, while Ferguson took up position on King's
Mountain, waiting to slaughter the country bumpkins. The Battle of King's
Mountain of 7 October 1780 pitted Tory and patriot militias against one another in
a fight among relatives and neighbors. The Tory force of 1100, led by Major
Patrick Ferguson, encountered a patriot force of frontier militia, then numbering
about 910.(375) The long hunters, armed with at least 600 rifles, decimated the tories'
lines with deadly and accurate rifle fire.
Ferguson represented Cornwallis' left wing, and it was destroyed by the
American militia. Campbell did not await the arrival of the remainder of his van.
He encircled Ferguson's troops and his skilled riflemen rained deadly rifle fire upon
the British lines. After Ferguson was morally wounded, his army was thoroughly
disheartened. The Americans lost 28 killed and 62 wounded while killing or
capturing nearly the entire opposing force, 1105 in all. As the principal historian
of that battle wrote,
The fatality of the sharpshooters at Kings Mountain almost surpassed belief.
Rifleman took off rifleman with such exactness that they killed each other when
taking sight, so instantaneous that their eyes remained, after they were dead, one
shut and the other open, in the usual manner of marksmen when leveling at their
object. . . . Two brothers, expert riflemen, were seen to present at each other, to fire
and fall at the same instant . . . . At least four brothers, Preston Goforth on the
Whig side, and John Goforth and two others in the Tory ranks, all participated in
the battle and all were killed.(376)
This action may have turned the tide of the war in the south. It certainly
purchased precious time for the American regular army to regroup and plan its
campaign. Cornwallis, who had advanced beyond Charlotte, on the road to
Salisbury, after King's Mountain, decided to retreat back into South Carolina and
set up for winter at Winnsborough. His army was racked by disease and fatigue
and was in no condition to confront a major American force. Most of all,
Cornwallis had become discouraged that so few tories had come to his aid and had
come to doubt that truth of the fundamental assumption that American loyalists
were waiting in large numbers for their liberation. He thought then to continue to
march northward and receive any loyalist support that might come his way. Sir
Henry Clinton had sent Major-General Alexander Leslie with 3000 men to
Portsmouth, Virginia, with orders to move south and join with Cornwallis as he
marched northward. Cornwallis asked Leslie to attempt to move south and create
a diversion that might free his army to move northward to join Leslie.
Events in South Carolina changed Cornwallis' mind. The patriot militia
rose everywhere, harassed his communication and supply lines, captured isolated
patrols and quieted the loyalists. These disruptions, combined with the defeat of
Ferguson's force at King's Mountain, compelled Clinton to order Leslie to embark
on ships and move to Charleston, South Carolina, to re-enforce Cornwallis.
On 14 October 1780, Congress appointed the very capable General
Nathaneal Greene (1742-1786)(377) to relieve Horatio Gates (1727-1806)(378) as
American commander in the south. He headed a force of about 2000 men, over
half of which were militia. Additionally, there were the various partisans, irregular
volunteers and militia and guerrillas, operating largely outside his direct command.
They served to harass the enemy, slow his progress, disrupt his supply lines and
deplete his ranks. They forced Cornwallis to divert many men to guard his supplies
and lines of communication. In December 1780, General Greene, too weak to
confront Cornwallis' army directly, moved from North Carolina to Cheraw, South
Carolina. As Greene wrote to Thomas Jefferson, "Our force is so far inferior, that
every exertion in the State of Virginia is necessary. I have taken the liberty to write
to Mr. [Patrick] Henry to collect 1400 or 1500 militia to aid us."(379)
Working hard to create a substantial force, Greene made an unorthodox
command decision: he divided his already outnumbered force into two commands.
One division was commanded by Brigadier-general Daniel Morgan (1736-1802)(380)
with 600 regulars of the Continental Line and General William Davidson's North
Carolina militia, moved against the left flank of the British army. Realizing the
shock value of partisan warfare, Greene ordered Daniel Morgan and his 800
riflemen to move west and join with Henry Lee to harass the British as guerilla
forces. Retaining command of the second force, Greene moved against the right
flank. Cornwallis responded by sending Tarleton's loyalists against Morgan.
On 17 January 1781 Morgan's militia confronted a loyalist force of about
1100 men ordered out by Cornwallis and commanded by Colonel Banastre
Tarleton.(381) Morgan's force had grown to about 1000, with the addition of
mountain militiamen, volunteers and frontier sharpshooters. Morgan positioned his
men well and invited Tarleton to attack. Morgan's riflemen defeated the Tory
militia and regulars at the Battle of Cowpens, inflicting over many casualties by
using his skilled riflemen to great advantage.(382)
Morgan successfully combined militia and regulars at Cowpens.(383) His
great contribution lay in utilizing the militia properly, in open field combat against
regulars. He positioned them so that they complemented, not substituted for, the
Continental Line. Morgan placed a line of hand selected men across the whole
American front. The sharpshooting frontiersmen were ordered to advance 100
yards ahead of the main line. When the British force was about 50 yards away they
were to fire and then retreat back to the main line. Approximately halfway between
the skirmish line and the main American line Morgan placed 250 riflemen, mostly
raw recruits from the Carolinas and Georgia. Morgan expected them to fire twice
and then retire to the main line. A small but significant feature of Morgan's
strategy was his order given to the main line of the Second Maryland Continental
Line. He assured them that they must not misinterpret the planned withdrawal for
a retreat which might cause general panic among the men.(384) Tarleton escaped, but
his much diminished force was never again a major factor.(385) Morgan lost only 75
men, while Tarleton lost 329 men and 600 more were captured.
Angered by this loss to undisciplined and unwashed militiamen,
Cornwallis himself set out after Greene and Morgan who had combined forces after
Cowpens. The patriots retreated across the Dan River into Virginia before
Cornwallis could catch them and force another major battle. Cornwallis had hoped
to force one all-out battle with Greene and to defeat him as he had defeated Gates
at Camden. He failed to confront Greene before he crossed the river and because
he had no boats, and his supplies were running very low, Cornwallis had to
abandon the chase. Cornwallis attempted one last ruse. On 20 February 1781, he
moved his army south, from just below the Virginia border, to Hillsborough,
announcing that the mission had been successful and that North Carolina was
officially liberated. Just three days after Cornwallis issued his proclamation North
Carolina and other militia destroyed Colonel John Pyle's 200 loyalists.
Greene took advantage of the situation to replenish his army by adding
more volunteers and militia, bringing his total strength to about 4400 men. On 15
March 1781, Nathaneal Greene's force confronted Cornwallis with his mixed force
of militia and regulars at Guilford Court House. The militia and a Continental Line
of fresh militia recruits broke and Greene's army seemed to be on the verge of ruin.
At that critical juncture, with the first two lines breached and with the fate of the
Southern Department in jeopardy, the Maryland and detached Delaware regulars
plugged the gap and held the line. Cornwallis ordered his artillery to fire
indiscriminately on the mixed mass of troops, but still both forces stood ground.
Greene then withdrew the American army to fight again another day. Cornwallis
lost one-fourth of his army in winning the day, but still had not defeated the
southern rebel army. Following this battle, Greene's force was now superior in
numbers to that of Corwallis. It was to be the last major confrontation between
Cornwallis and Greene.(386)
The militia could not, or at least would not, stand against artillery fire and
bayonet charges of seasoned British regulars. Greene had to find another role for
his militia. Weakened by the loss of 100 killed and 400 wounded, Cornwallis had
retreated to Wilmington. He then decided to move into Virginia to join the British
force of the Chesapeake commanded by General William Phipps. Greene gave
battle at Hobkirk's Hill, but lost, on 19 April; originated a siege at Ninety-Six from
22 May to 19 June; and lost again to Cornwallis on 8 September at Eutaw Springs.
No British victory was decisive for Greene knew when to withdraw, and these
actions bled the dwindling British army. Throughout this final campaign in North
Carolina, Greene used his militia most effectively.
Militia and regular troops commanded by Francis Marion (1732-1795),(387)
Andrew Pickens (1739-1817) and Thomas Sumter (1734-1832) managed to capture
a number of seemingly minor British outposts. Marion's ranging militia units tied
up numerous British patrols with his elusive tactics, diverting British troops so that
the patriots had time to regroup after the Battle of Camden. His militia also
ambushed a train of British regulars and tories at Horse Creek and killed 22 British
troops and captured several Tory militiamen. More important his command
rescued 150 regulars of the First Maryland Continental Line who had been
captured at Guilford.(388) Again, it was the cumulative effect of massive militia
action that served to wear down the British army.
At the outbreak of the war, Marion had initially served in the South
Carolina Provincial Congress, but decided he could better serve patriot cause by
accepting militia command. Known widely as the "Swamp Fox," Marion and his
volunteer irregulars almost single-handedly kept the patriot cause alive in the South
in 1780-81. With many loyalists active in the area,(389) Marion roamed the coastal
marshes, attacking isolated British and Tory commands and patrols and disrupting
communications and supplies. In 1781 he commanded the militia at the Battle of
Eutaw Springs. After the war he returned to politics, serving on the state
constitutional convention and in the state legislature.(390)
Corwallis turned south after making one final call for the loyalists to rise
up to his aid on 18 March. As was to be expected, no tory militia came to his aid
so Cornwallis left North Carolina, having accomplished nothing. By the fall
British control dwindled to the immediate Charleston area. Fundamental British
strategy underwent change as it was obvious that the countryside was far more
hostile than hospitable to the interlopers. Corwallis' proclamation of 18 March was
the last attempt the British command made to rally the tories. As he left North
Carolina, Cornwallis found South Carolinians no more helpful than their brethren
to the north, and his army suffered as he received neither aid nor comfort in his
Nineteenth century historian Francis Vinton Greene(392) argued that had
General Nathaneal Greene had failed to crush the British forces under General
Cornwallis because the militia would not fight in the campaign in Virginia and the
Carolinas, 1780-81. He argued that had Nathaneal Greene had several regiments
of regular troops such as Colonel Henry Lee's Legion or the First Maryland
Continentals he would have crushed the British in one great all-out battle. A more
recent author has argued that "under the leadership of Nathaneal Greene and Daniel
Morgan, the service of militia was essential to the success of the campaign against
Cornwallis, a campaign which could easily have resulted in disaster but for the
action of these irregular troops." The value of militiaman must be understood
against in his proper function, and not in cases where commanders insisted on
setting him "to military tasks for which he was not trained, equipped or psychologically prepared." One clear case of misuse involved placing him before bayonet
charges, which, he argued, makes no more sense than Braddock's insistence that his
army maintain proper firing positions twenty years earlier at the Battle of the
Wilderness. The militia accomplished one main mission, and that was to divert the
British from their bases in South Carolina, altering their course northward into
North Carolina, where they were able to harass them almost at will. The militia
cowed the loyalists who were undecided on what course to pursue. They struck at
Cornwallis' foragers and scouts.(393)
Two recent historians have blamed much of the failure of Cornwallis's
mission on his decision to abandon the Carolinas and move northward into
Virginia. They argued that had he remained among the numerous tories in the
Carolinas, he might have met far greater success.(394) This may be unfair to
Cornwallis, for he certainly tried, but failed, to attract loyalist support during his
occupation of the Carolinas. After resting at Wilmington for two weeks,
Cornwallis suddenly made his last fateful decision to gather the remnants of his
army about him, abandon the Carolinas completely and, without any orders or
authority to do so, to move boldly into Virginia. There was no loyal regime
established, for which enormous credit must be given to the activities of the
southern militia. Their constant harassment of the British and loyalist forces and
omni-presence in the hinterland precluded real recruitment and placement of British
The North Carolina militia performed its functions with great efficiency
and success. It was generally among the best in the nation and was especially
effective in the early Amerindian wars and during the American Revolution. North
Carolina's borders were among the msot secure in the nation and much credit for
that can go to the militia. It served relatively well as a reservoir to supply troops
to the Continental Line.
The South Carolina Militia
Settlement in South Carolina centered on Charles Town, which was
foundewd in April 1670 by a party of English settlers under the leadership of
Joseph West who settled at Albemarle Point. Some 140 settlers arrived at
Albemarle Point and there threw up an earthen and log structure to serve as a fort
and mounted it with a dozen cannon imported from England. As soon as their
supply ships departed to bring additional settlers and fresh supplies, the Spanish
from St. Augustine appeared offshore. Simultaneously, some Amerindians,
Spanish allies, appeared in the nearby woods, but the test-firing of the cannon
frightened them away. The little fort managed to hold out against the Spanish ships
until their own ships reappeared.(395)
In 1680 the settlers moved to the junction of the Ashley and Cooper
Rivers, leaving Old Charles Town behind. The colony soon gathered 5000 whites
and a much larger number of Amerindians and slaves. Few settlers made inroads
into the interior in the first decades of settlement for fear of the Spanish to the
south and Amerindians to the west. Spanish priests were especially active among
the Amerindians and the Spanish until 1670 claimed territory as far north as
Virginia. Consequently, social cohesiveness within the ruling strata was greater in
this colony than others because of common interest bonds formed between planters
of large estates and merchants of the town.
Between 1671 and 1674 several additional groups of colonists arrived,
including those led by Sir John Yeamans from Barbados and another sizable band
from New York. The first governor, William Sayle, died on 4 March 1671, and
was succeeded by Joseph West. Among West's achievements was the summoning
of the first session of the legislature on 25 August 1671. Yeamans claimed that
because he owned considerably more land than West, indeed was the only
cacique.(396) Yeamans' commission arrived in April 1672, but West replaced him in
Soon after South Carolina's first settlers stepped ashore, they organized
a militia for their defense. Their action was unavoidable: unfriendly Spanish
outposts lay close to their settlement, and Indians surrounded it. At first, the militia
simply protected the settlers from invasion and Indians, but in 1721, it was charged
with the administration of the slave patrol as well. Between its inception and the
beginning of Reconstruction in 1868, the militia changed little. Its numbers
swelled, and its organization became more elaborate, but it remained what it had
always been~an institution requiring the registration of all able bodied male
citizens; an institution that administered limited universal military training; and
an institution that controlled insurrectionists, outlaws, and the slave and Indian
populations. Its men were neither equipped nor trained to wage full-scale war and
the militia behaved poorly when it was misused in that way. The militiamen were
paid only if the government called them for duty. The governors commonly
mustered them to suppress insurrection, fight Amerindians and to defend against
invasion. They could be called out only for fixed periods of time, and usually only
for service within the colony. During the colonial period the government paid
volunteers -- men on temporary leave from the militia, men recruited from the other
colonies, and transients -- to fight its wars.
Just as Massachusetts bore the brunt of French attacks in the north, so
South Carolina was the buffer against Amerindian, Spanish and, to a degree,
French, ambitions from the south.(397) During the first phase of South Carolina
history, that is, during the Proprietary period, and extending a few years into the
Royal period, the South Carolina militia was the sole protection in the south of the
English North American colonies. The militia proved to be a most effective
defense force. Its importance declined significantly with the establishment of
Georgia early in the Royal period. By 1740 the British government took the heat
off the South Carolina militia by placing a company of regular troops in Georgia
to contain the Spanish ambitions and buttressed them with some white Georgia
militiamen. In 1763 the Peace of Paris yielded Florida into English hands. After
that cession the South Carolina militia as guardian of the southern gate ended
The Charter of Carolina of 1663 required that the proprietors build
whatever fortifications were necessary for the protection of the settlers and to
furnish them with "ordnance, powder, shot, armory and other weapons, ammunition
[and] habilements of war, both offensive and defensive, as shall be thought fit and
convenient for the safety and welfare of said province." The proprietors were to
create a militia and appoint civil and military officers. Because "in so remote a
country and scituate among so many barbarous nations," to say nothing of pirates
and Amerindians, the crown ordered the proprietors "to levy, muster and train all
sorts of men, of whatever condition, or wheresoever born, to make war and pursue
the enemies."(399) The second charter, issued just two years later, contained much
the same instructions.(400)
The first law in South Carolina dealing with the subject of the militia was
incorporated into the Fundamental Constitutions of the colony. That law placed
control of the militia in the hands of a Constable's Court, which was comprised of
one of the proprietors, six councilors called marshals, and twelve lieutenant-generals. It was intended to direct all martial exercises. As it was, the laws drawn
in England proved to be a practical impossibility after the first settlers arrived in
South Carolina. The first actual control of the militia was vested in the Governor
and Grand Council. The first order of this body was to enroll and enumerate all
caucasian inhabitants, free or servants, between the ages of sixteen and sixty years.
The colony was divided and two militia companies were established.(401)
In 1671 South Carolina enacted a new militia law. It reaffirmed the
enrollment of all able-bodied males between ages 16 and 60. All such persons,
excepting only members of the Grand Council, were to exercise under arms on a
regular basis. Those who failed to attend muster were to be punished at the
discretion of the Grand Council, which usually translated to a fine of about five
shillings. Poor men who could not pay the fine, usually newly arrived settlers and
indented servants, could be subjected to physical punishment. Physical punishment
consisted of running the gauntlet or riding the wooden horse. Militiamen were
required to furnish their own guns, although the government might provide arms
to poor men. Masters supplied arms to their indented servants. Arms varied
considerably in quality, ranging from imported muskets to common fowling pieces.
In addition to the basic arm, men were to provide a cover for the gunlock, a
cartridge box with 12 rounds of ammunition, a powder horn and utility pouch, a
priming wire, and a sword, bayonet or hatchet. Most men wore a belt over the left
shoulder to support his belt with cartridge box. The first law said nothing of blacks
or slaves. A system of providing notification in the case of attack was established,
following surprise attacks by Westoe and Kussoe Indians.(402)
The first of several wars with the native aborigine occurred in 1671, when
authorities at Charles Town accused the local tribe, known as the Kusso, of
conspiring with the Spanish. There is little documentary evidence extant that sheds
light on this little war. The tribe was evidently quickly subdued since the war did
not extend beyond 1671. Those natives who did not perish in the war were
enslaved marking the beginning of the experiment in using the Amerindians as
involuntary servants. Additional natives were added in 1680 as a result of the
abortive Westo revolt. Dr Henry Woodward had been appointed agent to trade
with the Westo tribe for hides, peltries and slaves, and the chiefs had objected to
the inequitable terms of that trade and attacked the traders. Following a few
engagements in April 1680, the South Carolina militia was successful in subduing
all tribes along the Savannah River [now in Georgia].
Thereafter, political authorities put forth considerable effort to maintain
friendly relations with the neighboring Amerindian tribes. European encroachment
on tribal lands was a principal cause of inter-racial friction so in June 1682 the
Lords Proprietors issued an order to "forbid any person to take up land within two
miles, on the same side of a river, of an Indian settlement." Those who did take up
lands near Indian settlements were to help the Indians "fence their corn that no
damage be done by the hogs and cattle of the English."(403) The Lords Proprietors
considered the Anglo-Indian society as a whole, but by 1690 real political authority
in the colony had passed from the old guard and into the hands of a group of
merchants who were primarily interested in commercial profits to be earned in the
fur trade. Thus, in regard to the question of Amerindian relations cordiality became of paramount importance and the occasions for friction greatly decreased the
profitability of the Indian trade.
South Carolina vacillated on the creation of its militia organization. After
creating two companies initially, it had formed six companies by 1672. In 1675 the
number of companies was reduced to three. There were militia laws passed in 1675
and 1685 but copies of the texts are no longer available.(404) In 1710 there were two
militia regiments of foot, divided into sixteen companies of about fifty men each,
which enrolled a total of 950 whites. The governor's own guard enrolled forty
select militiamen. There was an equal number of blacks, primarily slaves, since
each company captain was to enlist and train one black man for each white
militiaman. Few blacks were given firearms, but most were trained to use the lance
The scarcity of arms in the colony and the economy of the proprietors
caused the colony to take radical steps in times of emergency. The legislature
allowed the impressment of arms, military supplies, gunpowder and other military
necessities to meet the Spanish threat in 1685.(406) It also created a public magazine
wherein to store the colony's supply of gunpowder.(407)
The law required that all free inhabitants between ages 16 and sixty were
to be enumerated and their names recorded on the militia enrollment lists. The
governor served as commander-in-chief of all the provincial armed forces. He
signed officers' commissions, issued warrants for failures to perform militia
service, created courts martial, authorized the collection of fines, and impressed
food and supplies in times of emergency. With the consent of the council he could
proclaim martial law. He appointed regimental colonels and company captains and
announced the dates of regimental musters. Company captains appointed sergeants
who made arrests for violations of the militia law and inspected the men to make
certain they had the proper arms and equipment.(408)
In 1677 South Carolina's time of troubles occurred. A group of citizens
claimed that Governor John Jenkins had become a dictator and acted against the
best interests of the people and prorpietors. Calling itself the proprietary faction,
and headed by Thomas Miller, the new party combined the offices of governor and
customs collector. The so-called anti-proprietary faction captured Miller, using
militia loyal to the governor, and imprisoned him on a charge of high treason.
Miller escaped to England and laid his case before the Privy Council. Earl of
Shaftsbury defended Miller and sought to mediate the matter. Miller and co-leader
John Culpeper were acquitted and the Privy Council ruled that both Miller and
Jenkins had exceeded their respective legal authority.
In 1685 the Grand Council received several petitions from some newly
arrived settlers in which they complained that they had been compelled to serve in
the militia before their farms had been cleared and made ready for planting. Their
land was "fallen" and hard to work and required their full attention until the first
crops were harvested. The proprietors in England agreed suggesting to the council
that settler should be exempted from militia duty "for the first year or two."(409)
The Spanish attacked the southern border of the colony in 1686. Said to
number about 153, the marauders consisted of persons of mixed racial heritage,
Spanish regulars, and some allied Amerindians. They destroyed the Scottish
settlement at Port Royal and plundered outlying plantations along the North Edisto
River. The settlers appealed to the Grand Council which, in turn, appealed to the
proprietors in England. Council resolved to attack the Spanish in Florida by
appropriating £500 for an expedition. The proprietors thought it unwise to provoke
the Spanish and offered the opinion that perhaps the raiders were pirates operating
illegally under Spanish colors. The proprietors reminded the council that the
colony's charter did not permit it to attack enemies outside its borders except in hot
pursuit of raiders. They suggested that Governor Joseph Morton inquire of the
Spanish at Havana and St. Augustine if they had authorized the raid. Were South
Carolina to attack the Spanish in Florida, retaliation would certainly follow and
England was not in a position to enter into war at that time. After the council
decided to accept the will of the proprietors, they informed the colony that, had it
gone ahead with the planned invasion of Florida, Governor Morton would have
been held responsible and may have forfeited his life.(410)
Slave patrols were increased dramatically following several slave revolts.
Militia slave patrols had been established, under law separate from the other militia
acts, as early as 1690.(411) Each militia captain, under the act of 1690, was to create
and, when needed, deploy, a slave control and runaway slave hunting unit which
would be ready to act promptly upon notification from proper authorities.(412)
The General Assembly passed the second important militia law in 1696.
It provided for the creation of officers at all grades and for the enumeration of all
male inhabitants between the established ages. Each man was required to provide
his own firelock and this additional equipment: a gunlock cover, a cartridge box
holding a minimum of 20 rounds of ammunition, a gun belt, a worm for removal
of a ball, a wire for cleaning the touch-hole, and either a sword, bayonet or
tomahawk. A freeman who could not furnish this equipment could be indentured
for six months to another person who would buy his equipment. Freemen who
owned indented servants had to buy the same equipment for their servants. The act
also provided for the creation of cavalry, with the "gentlemen" who could provide
their own horses, tack and appropriate equipment qualifying for such service.(413)
Failure to attend muster could result in a fine of £0/2/6 for each unexcused
absence. Failure to pay a fine could result in the seizure of one's property and/or
confinement in a debtor's prison. Those who owned servants were responsible for
the appearance of their charges under the same penalty. A man who moved muster
either continue to attend muster with his usual unit or obtain a certificate of
removal, showing that he had signed up with the proper unit of his new area. Local
companies were to drill once in a two month period, "and no oftener." A general
regimental muster was held annually, and failure to appear at that time would result
in a fine of 20 shillings. Local fines were used to offset expenses of local
companies and fines paid for absences at a regimental muster went into the colonial
treasury. The act also created the interesting principle that no militiaman could be
arrested while going to, attending, or returning from a militia muster. The
protection extended for a full day after a militiaman returned to his home. Civil
officers who violated that principle could be fined £5 and any civil papers or
warrants served in violation of this principle were nullified. Members of the
Society of Friends were exempted only if they paid the militia fines for non-attendance.(414) In 1690 the legislature also created a militia watch system on
In 1698 the legislature created an Act for Settling a Watch in Charles
Town and for Preventing of Fires. It required that town officials make a list of the
names of all men over 16 and under 60 to use as a basis of militia, slave patrol and
watch duty. The constables of the town were to summon six men at a time "well
equipped with arms and ammunition as the Act of Militia directs, to keep watch"
from 8 P.M. to 6 A.M. in the winter and 9 P.M. to 4 A.M. in the summer. The
patrols were also to detain and arrest slave and free blacks "who pilfer, steal and
South Carolina's first elected Indian agent, Thomas Nairn, wrote a
description of the colony in 1710 in which he gave provided an insight into the
colonial militia. In England, Nairn wrote, tradesmen thought that militia service
was beneath their status and that they should not be bothered with such mundane
intrusions on their time. But in South Carolina every man from the governor down
to the poorest indented servant thought it his duty to prepare himself as fully as
possible for militia duty. British troops excelled at coordinated movements, but the
militiamen were much better at making aimed shots, especially when equipped with
rifles. He attributed this skill to their habit of hunting game in the forest. Even
trusted slaves were commonly enrolled, and, despite provisions of the law to the
contrary, occasionally trusted slaves were armed.
In his work as Indian Commissioner Nairn observed British officers
working with and equipping allied Amerindians. If the colony was invaded the
British officers would "draw the warriors down to the Sea Coast upon the first
news of an Alarm." The colony liked to use their Amerindian allies because they
cost little. He described the natives under his care as "hardy, active, and good
Marksmen, excellent at an Ambushcade."(417)
During the entire colonial period South Carolina used friendly Amerindians as auxiliaries to the militia. They proved to be especially well adapted to
tracking down runaway slaves and indentured servants, reporting enemy activity,
and scouts for militia operating in the backwoods. The natives liked fancy clothing
so, as the bulk of their pay, they received scarlet and bright green waistcoats,
ruffled shirts, and bright white breeches. The more costly and dangerous gifts were
swords and cutlasses, guns, gunpowder, lead and bullets.(418)
The administrations of Governors Archdale and Blake were generally
peaceful and prosperous. Their ambitious successor, James Moore, who came to
office in 1700, adopted an aggressive policy toward both the Spaniards and the
Indians. The rupture of relations between England and Spain on the continent led
to a Carolina invasion of Florida. The invasion was a disaster. Nevertheless,
Moore followed the ill-fated invasion with a somewhat more successful campaign
against the Indians. Between 1712 and 1717 Moore undertook two major Indian
campaigns, against the Tuscaroras and against the Yamassees. While the outcome
of the battles were usually favorable to the colonists, the continued presence of the
Spanish on the southern border presented a constant danger. Four hundred blacks,
mostly slaves, fought in the Yamassee Indian War with whites so most slave
owners supported the law which mustered and trained men "of what condition or
wheresoever born."(419) The latter measure was to prove to be unwise later.
On 30 August 1720 the king sent instructions to Francis Nicholson,
governor of South Carolina, regarding the militia. "You shall take care that all
planters and Christian servants be well and fitly provided with arms," the monarch
wrote, and "that they be listed under good officers." The militia was to be mustered
and trained "whereby they may be in a better readiness for the defence of our said
province." He warned that the frequency and intensity of the militia training must
not constitute "an unnecessary impediment to the affairs of the inhabitants."(420)
By 1703 the colony had enrolled 950 militiamen and a cavalry troop of 40
men. In 1703 the South Carolina legislature enacted a comprehensive militia law
because "the defense of any people, under God, consists in their knowledge of
military discipline." There were very few changes made in the subsequent militia
laws. All free, able-bodied white men between ages 16 and 60 were liable to
militia service. This age requirement was not changed until 1782. Exemptions to
service were made for members of the council, legislature, clerks thereof, various
other colonial officers, sheriffs, justices of the peace, school-masters, coroners,
river pilots and their assistants, transients and those who had not yet resided in the
colony for two months. In case of an alarm even those otherwise exempted might
be required to serve in the militia, in which case they also had to provide their own
The law allowed the formation of mounted units, with subsequent
exemption from regular militia duty for those so serving. Cavalry men had to
supply their own horses, arms and equipment. This law was inspecific as to the
description of the horses, arms and equipment, although later laws gave more
detailed descriptions of what was required.
The legislature had authorized the enlistment of slaves before 1703 for the
militia law of that date assumes that slaves were to be enrolled as in the past.
Beginning in 1703, it was lawful for the owner of slaves, when faced by actual
invasion, "to arme and equip any slave or slaves, with such armes and ammunition
as any other person" was issued. No corps was to have more slaves than one-third
of its number. A slave who fought bravely was to be rewarded. A slave who killed
or captured an enemy while in actual service was to be given his freedom, with the
public treasury compensating the owner.
Whereas, it is necessary for the safety of this Colony in case of actual invasions,
to have the assistance of our trusty slaved to assist us against our enemies, and it
being reasonable that the said slaves should be rewarded for the good service that
they may do us, Be it therefore enacted . . . That if any slave shall, in actual
invasion, kill or take one or more of our enemies, and the same shall prove by any
white person to be done by him, shall for his reward, at the charge of the publick,
have and enjoy his freedom for such his taking or killing as afore said; and the
master or owner of such slave shall be paid and satisfied by the publick, at such
rates and prices as three freeholders of the neighborhood who well know the said
slave, being nominated and appointed by the Right Honourable Governor, shall
award, on their oaths; and if any of the said slaves happen to be killed in actual
service of this Province by the Enemy, then the master or owner shall be paid and
satisfied for him in such matter and forme as is before appointed to owners whose
negroes are sett free.(421)
Each man had to provide his own arms, which, in this act specifically
meant, "a good sufficient gun, well fixed, a good cover for their lock, with at least
20 cartridges of good powder and ball, one good belt or girdle, one ball of wax
sticking at the end of the cartridge box, to defend the arms in the rain, one worm,
one wire [priming wire], and 4 good spare flints, also a sword, bayonet or hatchet."
These specifications changed very little over the decades because the initial law
well covered the equipment of the times and few improvements were made over the
next eighty years. South Carolina was the only colony to require the lock cover,
commonly called a cow's knee because that was the source of the material for the
cover, and the ball of wax. The militia units had to muster and train once every two
months, with regimental musters being held from time to time. Officers had to
supply themselves with a half-pike "and have always, upon the right or left flank,
when on duty or in service, a negro or Indian, or a white boy, not exceeding 16
years of age, who shall, for his master's service, carry such arms and accoutrements
as other persons are appointed to appear with."
Masters had to provide the same arms, ammunition and accoutrements for
all servants who were eligible for militia duty, although these remained the property
of the master. When a servant had completed his term of indenture he had to
provide the same arms, accoutrements and ammunition within a space of one year.
Those who had just moved into the colony also were granted twelve months to
acquire the requisite arms and supplies. The grace period was granted on the
assumption that newly freed servants and some immigrants would be too poor to
provide their own arms immediately. Failures of masters and servants to provide
the required equipment was penalized by a fine of ten shillings. Unlike some
colonies which allowed arming poor citizens from the public treasury, usually in
exchange for performance of some civic duties, South Carolina merely set the
requirement and assumed that even its poorest citizens would comply with the law
in some way or another.
In times of emergency, the law allowed the impressment of supplies,
vessels, wagons, provisions, supplies of war, ammunition and gunpowder and such
other items as the militia might require. If ships of any description were required,
their pilots and sailors could be impressed. When the militia was called into
service those who sold liquor were especially enjoined against serving intoxicants
to militiamen. Men might be drafted out of their militia units to serve on seawatch
duty, although those assigned to this responsibility were paid.(422)
The enlistment of slaves in the militia was, to say the least, a very
controversial matter. Nonetheless, the legislature thought that it was imperative to
swell the ranks of militia available for emergencies. The legislature enacted the
law of 23 December 1703 which applied only to the City of Charleston and allowed
slaves who, in war, killed or captured an enemy were to be freed and the master
compensated from the public treasury.(423)
In 1704 the legislature authorized the enlistment of "negroes, slaves,
mulattoes and Indian slaves" into the militia. Militia officers were to ascertain
which of the foregoing were trustworthy and those should be enumerated, trained,
mustered, marched and disciplined along with free whites and indentured servants.
Any master who thought that one or more of his slaves should be exempted could
appear before the militia officers to explain his opinion. The master was required
to arm his best slaves with lance, sword, gun or tomahawk at his expense. Failure
to comply with the law could result in a fine of £5 for each offense.(424) Later, those
slaves entrusted with arms were given their weapons at public expense, some of
which came from militia fines.(425)
The slave containment act was strengthened in 1704 when militia units
were ordered to patrol the boundaries of their district on a regular basis, with
special attention to be given to the apprehension of runaway slaves. Indeed, all
slaves found to be away from their owners' plantations were subject to militia
arrest. Each militia patrolman had to furnish his own horse and equipment.
Officers of the slave patrol received £50 per annum and enlisted men were paid
£25 a year.
Militia units were only very rarely deployed as full units, except in cases
of grave emergency, and in any event not as full units outside their own counties.
Volunteers and the usual specially trained Rangers were drawn from all militia
companies, using the militia as a reservoir for recruitment. During Queen Anne's
War [or War of Spanish Succession, 1702-1713], South Carolina Governor James
Moore decided to order the militia to leave the colony and attack the Spanish at St.
Augustine, Florida. He first tried to recruit rangers and they refused to leave the
colony. He issued a call for volunteers from among the militia and there was only
minimal response. He then ordered the regular militia to march, but it too refused
to go, arguing that it was not required to leave its county of origin except in case
of grave emergency or when martial law was in force. Moore called the legislature
into session, but it refused to concur in Moore's judgment and pass the enabling
legislation he sought. Thereafter there was no question that it was universally held
that it was unlawful to march the militia out of the colony. Any militia so deployed
had to be volunteers selected from among the reservoir the militia offered.(426)
During Queen Anne's War faced with the threat of invasion and Indian
war in 1703 South Carolina authorized the arming of specially selected slaves and
free blacks. They would be used only as a last resort and only if the regular militia
proved to be insufficient to handle the emergency.(427) In 1704 the legislature
ordered masters to draw up a list of "reliable" slaves and provide it to local militia
officials who would then summon such slaves as might be needed. If a slave was
used, wounded or killed his master would be compensated out of the public
treasury. A master who refused to allow, or make certain that, his "trusty" slaves
muster could be fined £5.(428) In 1708 the legislature again considered emergency
measures and allowed that trusted slaves in times of grave emergency might be
armed from the public stores with a lance or hatchet, and, if absolutely necessary,
with a gun. A slave who killed or captured an enemy soldier would be freed. A
slave rendered incapable of work after being wounded in battle would be
maintained at public expense.(429)
In the later years of the seventeenth century and the earliest years of the
eighteenth century, South Carolina thought itself threatened by an incursion of wild
beasts. Initially, bounties applied only to citizens, but that proved to be insufficient
to contain the vicious beasts of prey. So the legislature authorized slaves,
Amerindians and militia were to kill any "wolfe, tyger or beare" which marauded
around settlements. The legislature offered bounties of up to ten shillings for each
large animal killed.(430)
As Queen Anne's War dragged on the British home and colonial
authorities decided to put some pressure on the Spanish enemy in Florida as they
had on the French in Canada. In October, 1702, Governor James Moore of
Carolina, a planter and adventurer, gathered 500 militia and 300 Amerindian allies,
mostly Yamasees, and sailed southward from Port Royal. Their goal was to take
Fort San Marcos at St. Augustine before it could be strengthened with French
forces. As an inducement to volunteer, the militiamen were promised plunder. The
squadron turned in at St. Johns River, and the force captured several outposts on
the approach to St. Augustine. It ransacked deserted towns, burning many houses,
but the moated stone fort containing the garrison and 1400 inhabitants was more
than the Carolinians bargained for. Moore sent to Jamaica for cannon, but they
failed to arrive. Governor Zuñiga withstood a siege of seven weeks, and when two
Spanish warships appeared on Christmas day, Moore decided to retreat to his relief
ships at St. Johns River. The expedition cost £8500 for which Carolina issued
A year later, having lost the governorship, Colonel Moore proposed a
second expedition, against the Apalachee settlements west of St. Augustine. The
Assembly gave reluctant approval but specified that the force must pay its own
way. Moore could enlist only fifty militia, but he raised about a thousand Indians
and after a long march won a pitched battle. Although he did not attack Fort San
Luis [Tallahassee], he broke up thirteen dependent missions, which were never
restored, and carried off nearly a thousand mission Indians as slaves. Another
1300 were resettled along the Savanna River as a buffer. Moore lost only four
whites and fifteen Indians, and the expedition more than paid for itself in booty and
slaves. Florida's jealousy of the nearby French changed to alliance against a
common enemy, the English. France in turn saw Florida as Louisiana's bastion.
There would be a day of reckoning with Carolina.
In the summer of 1706 the war came to life again in the South. Iberville
had left Mobile for the West Indies and already captured the islands of Nevis and
St. Kitts in April. Before he could extend his conquests he died of fever. Spain
and France Were devising measures to revenge themselves for the attacks on St.
Augustine and Apalachee. Five French privateers were engaged to carry Spanish
troops from Havana and St. Augustine to attack Charleston, South Carolina.
Anticipating such a raid, Charleston had called out militia and built stronger
fortifications. Even so, the town might have been sacked by a more determined
enemy under a better commanded. The Spaniards were poorly led, their landing
parties were repulsed, and two hundred and thirty of them were taken prisoner.
Then Colonel William Rhett, with an improvised squadron, drove off the French
ships. Only with eventual help from North Carolina and Virginia did the South
Carolina militia under Governor Nathaniel Johnson repulse the Spanish filibustering expedition in 1706.(431)
Aroused and encouraged, the Carolinians decided on an offensive against
the centers of Spanish and French power. The colony raised several hundred
Talapoosas from Alabama to join with militia volunteers to attack Pensacola in the
summer of 1707. The attackers killed eleven Spaniards and captured fifteen, but
failed to take Fort San Carlos. In November Pensacola was hit again and siege
begun. It did not prosper, and the invaders were ready to give up when Bienville
brought relief from Mobile to the garrison and hastened their decision. South
Carolina also had its martial eye on Mobile, but was unable to rouse the neighboring Indians or unify its own leaders of the enterprise. On both sides the southern
In 1707 the legislature renewed the militia act of 1703 with few changes
to its substance. For those who were too poor to provide their own arms as the law
had required, a new tact was taken. The officers could "put out" persons who
failed to supply their own arms "as servants, not exceeding six months, unto some
fitting person (himself not finding one to work with), for so long a time as they
shall think he may [require to] earn one sufficient gun, ammunition and accoutrements, as directed." While a servant, such a poor person would use his master's
equipment, and the law seems to have allowed the master to pay the servant by
exchanging arms for services. In times of actual service, the militia law also
allowed for corporal punishment, with forfeiture of life or limb only excepted, for
disobedience to officers, failure to show for duty, cowardice before the enemy,
rebellion or insurrection. General officers had the responsibility for discipline and
for administering punishment. The right of appeal from company discipline to the
regimental commander were guaranteed by the law.(432)
As in other colonies, especially in the early colonial years, the South
Carolina militia was widely dispersed, following patterns of settlement. Only
Charles Town [Charleston] could truly be said to have possessed an urban militia.
This urban militia was small and, on several occasions, nearly collapsed before the
scattered rural militia was able to muster. By 1712 South Carolina had created a
substantial militia, consisting of all able-bodied men between the ages of sixteen
and sixty years. The militia was to be used, on orders of the London Board of
Trade and Lord Proprietors, to suppress piracy and smuggling, restrain the slaves
and guard against slave revolts as well as to contain the Spanish.(433)
Governor James Moore was much disposed to allow slaves to be armed,
thus augmenting the very meager white militia of the colony, for Moore believed
that the French and Spanish and the Amerindian allies were a far greater threat to
the colony than the slaves. In 1708 and again in 1719 the legislature again ordered
the principal militia officers to "form and compleat a list of such negroes,
mulattoes, mustees and Indian slaves, as they, or any two of them, shall judge
serviceable for the purpose. . . ." All three acts required that upon receiving an
alarm the slave militiamen were report immediately to the rendez-vous as with free
militia, there to be armed with "a good lance, hatchett or gun" from the public
stores. Masters might supply the slaves with arms, and if such privately owned
arms were lost, captured or damaged, the public was to replace the arm or bear the
cost. Masters and overseers who failed to supply slaves in a timely manner were
to be fined £20. Officers who refused to enlist any slaves were to be fined £5. The
public treasury would pay a fair market value to the owners of slaves killed in
militia service or wounded so that they could not again serve their masters.(434)
The neglect of the militia in neighboring North Carolina cost that colony
dearly during the Tuscarora Indian War of 1711-12. Only the timely arrival of
militia forces from South Carolina and Virginia saved the colony from annihilation.
South Carolina sent Captain John Barnwell with several militia companies and a
large number of Amerindian allies from Cape Fear. Barnwell knew that he had to
depend on the Indians to swell his numbers, and he knew well how to play on the
ancient tribal animosities, but he was dismayed at the savage behavior of these
allies. He complained to the legislature that he had to give "them ammunition &
pay them . . . for every scalp, otherwise they will not kill many of the enemy."(435)
The colony provided protection against slave insurrections was in three
ways. First, it legislated limitations and restrictions which were especially designed
to prevent slaves from congregating and thus planning and executing revolution.
Second, by importing indentured servants it provided a higher proportion of white
men to black slaves than would have been otherwise possible. Larger numbers of
able-bodied militiamen translated to a trained and ready force sufficient to defeat
slave conspiracies or seditions. As a remedy, in 1711 Governor Gibbes suggested
the importation of whites at the public charge. Bills "for the better security of the
Inhabitants of this Province against the insurrections and other wicked attempts of
negroes and other Slaves" (436) as well as those "for the better securing this Province
from Negro insurrections & encouraging of poor people by employing them in
Plantations"(437) were regularly proposed by both the governor and the legislature.
Third, the government attempted to limit the number of slaves imported into the
province. In 1711 Governor Gibbes asked the House of Assembly to "consider the
legal quantities of negroes that are daily brought into this Governt., and the small
number of whites that comes amongst us, and how many are lately dead, or gone
off. How insolent and mischievous the negroes are become, and to consider the
Negro Act doth not reach up to some of the crimes they have lately been guilty
of."(438) No person after the ratification of the 1712 act "Shall Settle or manage any
Plantation, Cowpen or Stock that Shall be Six Miles distant from his usual Place
of abode and where in Six Negroes or Slaves Shall be Imployed without One or
more White Person Liveing and Resideing upon the Same Plantation, upon Penalty
or Forfeiture of Forty Shillings for each Month so Offending."(439)
In 1712 South Carolina created a comprehensive code covering all aspects
of slave life. One provision of this act was that masters every fortnight were to
search all slave quarters, and all other dwellings on their premises occupied by
persons of color, for weapons of all sorts, including guns, knives, swords and any
other "mischievous" weapons.(440)
An act of 7 June 1712, was designed to increase the importation of
indentured servants either directly or indirectly through the full support of the
colonial government. The first article of the act empowered the "publick Receiver
for the time being . . . dureing the Term of Four Years, after the Ratification of this
Act, [to] pay out of the publick Treasury of this Province, the Sum of Fourteen
Pounds Current Money to the Owners or Importers of each healthy Male British
Servant, betwixt the Age of Twelve and Thirty Years, as soon as the Said Servant
or Servants are assigned over into his Hands by him or them to whom they belong."
The second article authorized the Public Receiver to dispose of these servants to
the inhabitants of the Province "as much to the publick Advantage as he can, either
for Money paid in Hand, or for Bonds payable in Four Months," and drawing
interest at ten per cent thereafter. Article four provided that "in Case it so happen
that there remains on any Occasions some Servants, whom the Receiver can neither
dispose of in any reasonable time, nor employ to the Benefit of the Publick, he
shall with the Approbation of Mr. William Gibbon, Mr. Andrew Allen and Mr.
Benjamin Godin, or any two of them, sett these Servants Free, taking their own
Bonds, or as good Security as he can get, for the Payment of the Sum or Sums of
Money, as the Publick has expended in their behalf. The sixth article prohibited
the importation of any who "were ever in any Prison or Gaol, or publickly
stigmatized for any Matter criminal by the Laws of Great Britain."(441)
The political authorities felt that those who had had experience fighting
in the various European wars would make good militiamen for the American
frontier. It did not make any difference which side they had fought on in Europe,
for they expected that in America all Europeans would stand side by side against
the Amerindians. The most exposed colonies were therefore constituted the most
suitable place to settle the disbanded soldiery of Europe.(442)
In May 1715, upon the recommendation of Governor Charles Craven and
John Lord Cartaret, the legislature passed an arms confiscation act.(443) It allowed
the government to "impress and take up for the publick service" ships, arms,
ammunition, gunpowder, military stores and any other item "they shall think to
employ and make use of for the safety and preservation of this Province." The
Indian War had severely taxed the resources of the province and the government
was desperate for arms, ships and supplies. Impressment seemed to be the only
alternative to "standing naked against the Indian Enemy and their Confederates."
The public treasury was required to make restitution, and officers were required to
give receipts for the reasonable value of confiscated materials. The act also
allowed the militia officers to "seize and take up such quantities of medicines,
spices, sugars, linen and all other necessaries" required by both the poor and
wounded militiamen. The governor planned to send a ship "northward" to trade
peltries for arms and ammunition and, since it was expected that Craven would
have to bargain for arms and supplies, he was authorized to seize furs with a value
not to exceed £2500, giving receipt for such seizures.
The militia also rose to the challenge during the Yamassee Indian War in
1715, although these aborigine were ill armed and poorly organized and in large
defeated themselves through ineptitude. There was essentially no defense against
surprise attacks except constant vigilance and the Yamassee and their allies worked
surprise attacks very effectively. The colony found that forts were too far apart to
support one another so the colony built additional forts to complete a strong chain
across Yamassee territory. The forts never were quite large enough to shelter all
who sought refuge during Indian attacks.(444) Nonetheless Governor Robert Johnson
declared that the militiamen had acted bravely and said that in terms of competence
in the art of war they compared favorably with the very best professional soldiers
from Europe.(445) More responsible citizens, realizing the true state of affairs, and
seeing that the population would suffer significantly from major losses of
tradesmen and farmers in militia service, appealed over Johnson's head, asking that
London dispatch regular troops. After much correspondence the parties compromised and formed a primary defensive unit comprised of British troops and
volunteer colonial rangers, all paid by the colony.(446) During the Yamassee War,
Governor Charles Craven ordered "about two hundred stout negro men" to serve
in the militia. Since there were less than 1500 able-bodied whites in the colony,
Craven felt justified in enlisting the slaves.(447)
In 1717 the South Carolina militia consisted of 700 white men able to bear
arms.(448) The legislature decided in that year to renew and revise slightly the
colony's basic militia law. No substantial changes in the law were noted.(449) The
Assembly reaffirmed the use of slaves in the militia in 1719, requiring that slaves
serve in the militia if ordered to do so. It diminished the reward for slaves who
captured or killed enemies in action, offering only £10 instead of freedom. All
slave owners had to submit a list of able-bodied slaves between ages 16 and 60,
who might be drawn upon in case of serious emergency.(450) The act also provided
for the deployment of great guns in Charleston, the care and maintenance of the
cannon and for the training of an artillery company within the militia.(451)
South Carolina organized its militia units on a territorial basis. These
geographic areas were commonly called beats. The colony supported two types of
companies: the ordinary line companies and the elite volunteer companies, known
variously as minutemen and frontier rangers. Mounted troops and cavalry were
also considered elite volunteers. The law required all non-exempt male citizens to
serve in a line company but gave them the option of serving in a volunteer company
instead. Since only males with means could afford to serve in the mounted
volunteer companies, most males served in the line, regular, or ordinary companies.
Within each beat, every resident, service-age male who was not in a volunteer company belonged to a line company. The line companies were infantry units,
literally the people in arms. The law required free white males to provide their own
muskets and accoutrements. Free black males and slaves acted as fatigue men
(laborers) and musicians. Membership of each line company varied over the years,
but the maximum complement was sixty-four men and officers and the minimum
was thirty. Companies could maintain full membership only if the number of males
living within a beat remained level. Since such stability of population was rare,
beat boundaries were redrawn whenever the numbers in a beat exceeded, or fell
below, the reasonable limits provided by law. The line companies were the focal
point for registration and training. Each company elected its own beat captain, and
inductees registered with him when they turned eighteen. The beat captains used
their rolls to organize the slave patrol and to see to it that all members attended
training musters. The militia held musters for one full day every two months; four
of those musters were company musters, one was a battalion muster, and one a
regimental muster. During these musters, the inductees drilled, marched, and
practised musketry, although with mixed results.
The line companies were the building blocks of the militia structure. Line
companies combined to form battalions, battalions combined to form regiments,
regiments combined to form brigades, and brigades combined to form divisions.
Companies, battalions, and regiments assembled for musters. Units larger than
regiments, that is, divisions and brigades, seldom assembled. Instead, division and
brigade staff members adjusted beat boundaries and inspected training musters at
periodic intervals. These superior officers were appointed by the governor with the
nominal approval of council and the legislature.
Before the American Revolution, the militia had organized its line companies loosely into a number of regiments. These regiments covered vaguely
defined areas, and the governor acted as the nominal commander-in-chief. Two
regiments had formed in 1721, in which year the militia took on the administration
of the slave patrol. The Southern Regiment was made up of the line companies in
Granville and Colleton counties. The North West Regiment was comprised of the
line companies in Berkeley and Craven counties. As the population of the colony
increased, seven regiments had been formed by 1758, and twelve had been formed
by the time of the American War for Independence. After the American
Revolution, the state passed several pieces of legislation that organized militia
companies into a more complex structure and placed regiments, brigades, and
divisions within judicial districts. By 1787, twenty-three regiments had combined
to form four line brigades.(452)
After the suppression of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 the British
decided to send some of the rebels to America. South Carolina had a policy of long
standing that encouraged the importation of white convict and indentured servants
to increase the number of whites in order to contain, indeed overwhelm, the black
slaves. It is not surprising that the Lords Proprietors, Board of Trade and governor
all wanted to receive as many of these condemned rebels as possible. On May 10,
1716, the Lords Proprietors advised Governor Craven,
We having received two Letters from Mr. Secretary Stanhope signifying his Majtys
pleasure in relation to such of the Rebels who were taken at Preston and are to be
transported to his plantations in America that as soon as any of the Rebels shall
land in any port of our province of Carolina you shall appoint a sufficient Guard
for securing them till they are dispos'd of according to the Terms of the Indentures
they have enter'd into here and such of the Rebels who have not enter'd into
Indentures here you are to offer to them that they enter into the like Indentures with
the others, Vizt. to serve for the space of seven years and in case of their refusal to
enter into such Indentures you are to give proper certificates to those that purchase
them that it is his Majesty's pleasure that they shall continue servants to them &
their assigns for the term of seven Years, which certificates you are to cause to be
recorded for the satisfaction of those who purchase them, lest they should attempt
to make their Escape not being bound. We do hereby strictly require & command
you to Obey these orders in every particular. . . ."(453)
The government itself purchased some of these rebels. On 1 August 1716, Deputy
Governor Robert Daniell sent a message to the Commons House of Assembly,
explaining that the danger from Indian attacks was so imminent that he had taken
it upon himself to purchase "thirty of the Highland Scots rebels at thirty Pounds per
head to be paid for in fifteen days." He added that he, "would have contracted for
the whole number, but that I could not persuade the commissioners that they had
powers enough."(454) On the fourth an "act to Impower the Commissioners appointed to Stamp Fifteen Thousand Pounds in Bills of Credit to Pay for Thirty Two
White Servants Purchased by the Honourable the Governor" was ratified.(455)
In 1718 the legislature authorized the use of militia against the enemies
of the Cherokees because "the safety of this Province does, under God, depend on
the friendship to this government, which is in daily danger of being lost to us by the
war now carried on against them by divers nations of Indians supported by the
French."(456) To recruit Amerindians to the assistance of the provincial militia the
South Carolina legislature placed a bounty on enemy Amerindian scalps. The law
provided that "every Indian who shall take or kill an Indian man of the enemy shall
have a gun given him for the reward."(457) In 1719 more specific legislation in this
area was directed at the Tuscarora tribe. "Any Tuscarora Indian who shall . . . take
captive of any of our Indian enemies, shall have given up to him, in the room
thereof, one Tuscarora Indian Slave."(458) Slaves received similar rewards under a
laws of 1706 and 1719.(459)
If any slave shall, in actual invasion, kill or take one or more of our enemies and
the same shall prove by any white person to be done by him, [he] shall receive for
his reward, at the charge of the public, have £10 paid him by the public receiver for
such his taking or killing every one of our enemies, as aforesaid, besides what
slaves or other plunder he shall take from the enemy.(460)
In the same year the king sent a substantial quantity of arms for the militia,
so the legislature passed a substantial act which provided for a public magazine, a
public armourer, care and maintenance of the arms, and penalties for private
conversion of such arms. The arms were to remain in the magazine and were to be
issued only upon authorization by the governor and in case of emergency.
In 1719 the colony had 6400 white inhabitants, suggesting a militia
potential of at least 500 men; in 1720 the governor reported 9000 white inhabitants, probably expanding the militia to 1000. In 1721 the report showed the same
number of white inhabitants and 12,000 blacks.(461) On 12 January 1719 Colonel
Johnson, on behalf of the governor, reported Amerindian population at the same
period to the Lords of Trade.(462)
Charles Town Name Villages Men Total
90-S.W. Yamasses 10 413 1,215
130-S.W. Apalatchicolas 2 64 214
140-W. Apalachees 4 275 638
150-W. by N. Savanas 3 67 283
180-W.N.W. Euchees 2 130 400
250-W. by N. Creeks 10 731 2,406
440-W. Abikaws 15 502 1,773
430-S.W. by W. Albamas 4 214 770
390-W.S.W. Tallibooses 13 636 2,343
200-N.N.W. Catapaws 7 570 1,470
170-N. Sarows 1 140 510
100-N.E. Waccomassus 4 210 610
200-N.E. Cape Fears 5 76 206
70-N. Santees 2 43 125
100-N. Congarees 1 22
80-N.E. Wensawa 1 36 106
60-N.E. Seawees 1 57 W & Ch 57
Mixt. wth ye English: Itwans 1 80 240
Settlement. Corsaboys 5 95 295The Cherokees
450-N.W. upper settlement 19 900
390-N.W. middle settlement 30 2,5000 11,530
320-N.W. lower Settlement 11 600 1,900
640-W. Chikesaws 6 700
In 1720 the Assembly reported to the Board of Trade that it possessed
2000 "bold, active, good woodsmen" who were "excellent marksmen." The
principal obstacle to the development of a good militia was the sparseness of the
population outside the few urban areas such as Charleston. By 1721 the militia
rolls showed over 2000 men in two infantry regiments and one troop of cavalry.
This militia was spread out through the colony, with lines of communication as
long as 150 miles.(463)
Following a major slave revolt in Charleston, the legislature passed the
Militia and Slave Patrol Act of 1721,(464) which expanded the militia patrol system.(465)
The principal result of the act was the creation of additional patrols with more men.
Following the Yamassee War, the colony successfully moved away from
proprietary government. Democratic sentiments for democratic government and
choice of their own government propelled this largely peaceful revolution. In 1719
and 1720 the Speaker of the Assembly, along with eight other legislators, assumed
political control of the colony. The assembly elected one of its own, James Moore,
to serve as governor. Although the colony was in a deep economic depression
following destruction of crops and frontier enterprises in the war, the leaders never
allowed popular discontent to disrupt the main functions of government or to allow
change to become radicalized. Moore immediately sent a letter of explanation of
grievances to the crown. The colony had suffered from the Yammassee and
Tuscarora wars and also from the repeated threats from the Spanish and the pirates
to whom they had given protection.
Sir Francis Nicholson arrived in May 1721 to become the new governor,
captain-general and commander-in-chief. He carried several instructions relating
to the military situation in the colony. The crown assured the colonists that it
would supply ample arms, gunpowder and flints to enable the "Planters, Inhabitants, and Christian Servants" to defend themselves. The crown issued specific
orders that the training of the militia was never to interfere with the ordinary
business of the citizenry. Nicholson was charged with providing good officers for
the militia. Under the cooperative leadership of Nicholson and the Assembly the
colony once again prospered. One of the main objects of executive and legislative
attention was the rebuilding of the militia to respond to the "constant alarms" from
French, Spanish and Amerindian attack.(466)
There were essentially four types of armed bands available to the colony.
The great militia had provided most of the colony defense during the early years.
As we have seen, Amerindian allies provided a low cost alternative to the militia.
Provincial regiments had aspects of both a standing army and a select militia. The
King's Independent Companies were recruited and trained in England.
In 1721 the legislature again reenacted the basic militia law, making few
changes, as had been the case with the last two militia acts. Because the lack of
coordination among militia units had been a problem, the law required the three
militia units closest to one another to muster annually and practice as a single unit.
Ministers were added to the exemption list. Retired militia officers were exempted
from militia musters, but had to serve in case of an alarm. Company captains could
choose their own sergeants, clerks and corporals. The law now allowed seizure and
forfeiture of personal property and goods to satisfy unpaid militia fines. The law
also expanded the powers of impressment of goods and services in times of
emergency or alarm. The 1721 militia act made more specific provision for
armament of mounted troops who were now required to supply a good horse, a
brace of pistols, carbine, sword, and proper saddle and mountings. Mounted troops
could no longer be impressed into infantry. With reference to acts of 1712 and
other years, the militia was charged with containment of slaves and white
indentured servants. Militiamen could search the dwellings of slaves and
confiscate any offensive weapons located therein. The grace period for former
servants and other poor men to be armed and accoutred was reduced from twelve
to six months. Militiamen could drafted into slave patrols as well as seacoast
watch duty. Militiamen could hold, even imprison, slaves or indentured servants
absent from their masters' plantations without a pass or sufficient cause. Penalties
for neglect of duty and failure to appear at musters were increased.(467)
After 1725 the professional military organizations of the provincial and
independent companies assumed the primary defense of the colony and the militia
was reduced to controlling the slaves and defending against surprise Indian attacks.
The king's companies, having been comprised of professional soldiers from an
urban environment, were essentially useless on the frontier. They especially
resented being divided into smaller units, such as companies, for assignments.
A judicious Indian policy then eliminated the necessity of using the South
Carolina militia in Indian wars.(468) Thereafter it became increasingly difficult to
convince militiamen to muster and, in turn, political leaders expressed less
confidence in the usefulness and discipline of the militia. The county militia units
were uniform only in their resistance to disciple and order. A few select militia
units, notably the Charleston artillery, were well practiced. Neglect of militia
discipline reduced many urban units to the position of being mere social clubs.
In the year 1727 South Carolina had grave reason to prepare, arm and
reorganize its militia. English attention was diverted to the War of the League of
Hanover with Spain. Spanish attention was focused the Carolinas. The colony
expected a Spanish attack to be launched from their foothold in St. Augustine. The
restless Amerindian tribes also expected Spanish help and the authorities in South
Carolina worried that a Spanish attack would herald a general Indian uprising.
Perhaps the Spanish would also be prepared to precipitate a slave revolt to assist
in achieving their design. One interesting act passed in anticipation of invasion
required that all slave holders retain no less than one servant, often a purchased
indentured immigrant, for each ten slaves. The price of indentured servants rose
and male servants were included in the militia.(469)
One important reason for importing indentured servants into the southern
colonies was self-protection. The Spanish in Florida had long looked upon the
constant southerly extension of English settlements in the late seventeenth century
with as jealous an eye as they had viewed the French attempts of a century earlier.
While actual hostilities did not break out until the opening of the eighteenth
century, the loss of runaway servants and Negroes, rivalry in the Indian trade, and
the unsettled state of affairs in their respective home nations all contributed to the
suspicion with which the Carolina and Florida settlements regarded one other.
Moreover, danger was always to be apprehended from the Indians, whether incited
by Spanish intrigue or going to war for their own reasons. The colony was so
desirous of having settlers on the frontier that it even went into the business of
recruiting and importing servants. When the colony imported servants it demanded
immediate placement so that the services of the new militiamen could be utilized.
Moreover, the government wished to be reimbursed for the expenses involved in
Importation of white servants and convicts remained an important concern
in South Carolina. The servants were really more important as a defense against
possible slave insurrections than as a defense against the Amerindians or Spanish.
As the culture of rice increased, the demand for slaves grew. More and more they
furnished the vast majority of the colony's agricultural labor. The growth in
number of slaves created a new demand for servants. In 1726 a committee of the
Assembly reported that it was their opinion that "it will greatly reduce the charge
for manning the said Forts if five servants be purchased for each and in order to
procure the same we propose that Captain Stewart or some other person be treated
with to transport such a number which we believe maybe agreed for at £40 or £50
per head indented for four years."(471) In January 1741, Lieutenant Governor Bull
suggested the plan of purchasing sufficient single men to man the forts.(472) South
Carolina purchased and hired servants as they were needed, for, as privately owned
servants were liable to service in the militia and patrols.
At this same time the reorganized militia had to be used to maintain
internal orders. The South Carolina economy had become heavily dependent on
the export of tar and pitch, vital commodities used by the British navy. Initially,
the home government paid bounties, but in 1726, dissatisfied with what it
considered inferior shipments of these pine tree extracts, it discontinued the
subsidies. Extraction of tar and pitch were labor intensive, and required large
stands of pine and some buildings and equipment. All of these were taxable items.
As long as the economy was strong there had been few complaints about the taxes.
The economy declined, and exports dropped to half their previous value, but taxes
and expenses of keeping slaves and facilities did not decline. The arrest of
plantation owner and tax protestor Thomas Smith, Jr., in April 1727 brought the
situation to a head. A private militia, more like a mob, assembled and Smith was
released. The legislature mobilized the militia. The tax protestors called a meeting
at Smith's plantation. The legislature ordered the arrest of Smith's father on the
charge of treason. With the leader gone, a strong and loyal militia in place, and the
threat from the Spanish and their potential, if not real, Amerindian allies, still a
reality, the revolt ended.(473)
In April 1728 in a clash with the Yamassee, the South Carolina militia
killed 32 of the enemy. The Yamassee retreated to Florida and took refuge in a
Spanish castle. The militia demanded the surrender of the Yamassee, but the
Spanish retorted that these Amerindians were subjects of the king of Spain. The
militia retreated, unable to take the fortress because they lacked siege equipment
and cannon. They did take fifteen Yamassee prisoner. The force consisted of a
hundred Amerindians and one hundred militiamen.(474)
In the fall of 1739, the
Negroes made an insurrection which began first at Stonoe (midway betwixt Charles
Town and Port Royal) where they had forced a large Store, furnished them Selves
with Arms and Ammunition, killed all the family on that Plantation and divers
other White People, burning and destroying all that came their way.
The militia engaged one armed band of liberated slaves which consisted of no less
than 90 armed men. In this engagement the militia killed 10 and captured four.
They offered a reward of £50 for each insurrectionary captured alive, and £25 for
each killed. The South Carolinians were certain that the Spanish played a role in
seducing the slaves into revolt, "promising Liberty and Protection to all Slaves that
should desert thither from any Part of the English Colonies, but more especially
from this." Previously, "a Number of Slaves did from Time to Time by Land and
water desert to St. Augustine."(475) The governor reported,
In September 1739, our Slaves made an Insurrection at Stono in the heart of our
Settlements not twenty miles from Charles Town, in which they massacred twenty-three Whites after the most cruel and barbarous Manner to be conceived and having
got Arms and Ammunition out of a Store they bent their Course to the southward
burning all the Houses on the Road. But they marched so slow, in full Confidence
of their own Strength from the first Success, that they gave Time to a Party of our
Militia to come up with them. The Number was in a Manner equal on both Sides
and an Engagement ensued such as may be supposed in such a Case wherein one
fought for Liberty and Life, the other for their Country and every Thing that was
dear to them. But by the Blessing of God, the Negroes were defeated, the greatest
Part being killed on the Spot or taken, and those that then escaped were so closely
pursued and hunted Day after Day that in the End all but two or three were [killed
or] taken and executed. That the Negroes would not have made this Insurrection
had they not depended on St. Augustine for a Place of Reception afterwards was
very certain; and that the Spaniards had a Hand in prompting them to this particular
Action there was but little Room to doubt, for in July preceding Don Piedro,
Captain of the Horse at St. Augustine, came to Charles Town in a Launch with
twenty or thirty Men . . . .(476)
The Georgia militia restrained the slaves who attempted to cross that
province to gain freedom in Spanish Florida. Caught in a pincer between South
Carolina and Georgia militias, the slave revolt was crushed and the leaders
executed and other slaves mutilated or deported.(477) Afraid of the consequences of
another slave revolt, the slave owning militiamen thought of the containment of the
blacks as their first obligation. No militiaman who owned slaves was willing to
leave his plantation to go off hunting down Indians when his slaves might rise up
and massacre his family. Since there were three able-bodied blacks for every able-bodied white man in the colony, it made a great deal of sense to use the militia to
contain the slave menace. Slavery had become "a source of weakness in times of
danger and . . . a constant source of care and anxiety."(478) After the slave revolts
those blacks who were mustered were less well armed than had been the case
heretofore and were deployed primarily to scout and forage.
In 1733 a conspiracy had been formed between slaves and Amerindians
who were already ravaging the frontier. It was betrayed accidentally by an Indian
woman who bragged of the impending alliance and expected resulting insurrection.
The Assembly investigated and interrogated the woman who claimed that all the
Indian nations were about to unite in one final, great, all-out battle to drive the
whites from their shores, and that they would be aided by the slaves. The
Assembly then considered what would happen if the French should aid the
Amerindians while simultaneously infiltrating the slave population. It concluded
that there were "many intestine dangers from the great number of Negroes" and that
"insurrections against us have often been attempted and would at any time prover
very fatal if the French should instigate them by artfully giving them an Expectation of Freedom." Finally, on 10 November 1739, the colonial legislature enacted
a law which required,
that every person owning or intitled to, any Slaves in the Province, for every 10
males slaves above the age of 12, shall be obliged to find or provide one able-bodied white male for the militia of this Province, and do all the duties required by
the Militia Laws of this Province . . . that every owner of land and slaves . . . who
shall be deficient herein, his sons and apprentices above the age of 60 years, to be
accounted for and taken as so many of such white persons to serve in the Militia.(479)
By 1730 there were "above 3000 white families" in South Carolina,
suggesting a militia potential of 2500 or more men.(480) By 1736 the number of
white men in South Carolina exceeded 15,000.(481) In 1731 the legislature attempted
to reduce the Amerindian potential for war by limiting the amount of gunpowder
available to them. No trader was to trust any Indian with more than one pound of
gunpowder or four pounds of bullets at one time.(482) In 1730 less than half, perhaps
40%, of the slaves in the province had lived there for more than ten years, or had
been born there. By 1740 the slave population of the colony was 39,000, of whom
20,000 had been imported over the past decade. In the five years preceding the
Stoenoe insurrection more than 1000 slaves had been imported into St. Paul's
Parish, nearly all from Angola or the Congo. There was a certain cohesiveness
among this group which had been living together only five years earlier. They
generally spoke the same language, which was incomprehensible to whites and
most, if not all, slaves who had lived there for some time past. Those responsible
for the maintenance of the slave system were concerned with new conspiracies and
had given little or no thought heretofore about the possibility of past associations
leading to insurrection. Contemporary accounts suggest that the uprising was
primarily an Angolan event.
In 1734 the legislature passed a new act for regulating militia slave patrols
in South Carolina.(483) The county militia officers were to appoint one captain and
four militiamen in each county to serve as slave patrols. "Every person so enlisted
shall provide for himself and always keep, a good horse, one pistol, and a carbine
or other gun, a cutlass [and] a cartridge box with at least 12 cartridges in it."
Patrols were to survey all estates and roads within their counties at least once a
month for the purpose of arresting any slaves found beyond their masters' lands
without a permit. Should a patrol locate a band of slaves too large to contain it was
to send word to the officer in charge of the county militia who would then assemble
whatever force was necessary to contain the slaves. "It shall be lawful for any one
or more of the said patrol to pursue and take the said slave or slaves, but if they do
resist with a stick or any other instrument or weapon, it shall be lawful for the
patrol to beat, maim or even to skill such slave or slaves." Masters hiding runaway
slaves could be taken also by the militia patrol, with a minimum penalty of £5.
Penalty for refusal or failure to serve was £5.
In 1734 several important acts passed the South Carolina legislature.
First, the legislature reenacted the basic militia act which continued to provide for
the enrollment of all able-bodied, free, white males between ages 16 and 50 was
enacted.(484) Next, the legislature created legislation for setting patrols which would
look for Indian activities and runaway slaves and indentured servants.(485) In early
1735 the legislature ratified legislation providing for better regulation of slaves,
which included responsibility for the militia to assist in containing "evil designs"
of slaves.(486) In 1737 the Assembly debated a law allowing slave patrols to "kill any
resisting or saucy slave."
In 1737 the legislature appropriated £35,000 for the defense of the colony,
including the arming and equipping of the militia.(487) The legislature also
authorized the creation of several forts as buffers against the Amerindians. The
militia volunteers assigned to guard duty were to be paid out of public funds.(488) In
1739 the militia was organized into companies, regiments and battalions, with
battalions being formed when any three or more companies could be formed within
three miles of one another. In 1738 the act relating to slaves keeping guns was
amended to bring it into conformity with the Negro Act.(489)
With the Spanish threatening invasion and Indian problems on the frontier
the militia was already overextended and could not provide adequate slave patrols.
The colony was also beset by the ravages of an outbreak of smallpox. When the
plotters realized that it could not provide for all its responsibilities they decided that
the time was ripe to move against the white masters. As early as 8 February 1739
the provincial secretary of Georgia heard from slaves who had escaped from South
Carolina that "a Conspiracy was formed by Negroes in Carolina to rise and forcibly
make their Way out of the Province." The Stoenoe insurrection occurred in
September 1739 when slaves killed about 25 whites and destroyed considerable
property. Before the revolt ended the slaves had killed about sixty persons of all
races. The South Carolina Militia engaged 90 slaves in a single body. They killed
all but four. The militia commander then posted a reward of 50 livres for each
insurrectionary taken alive and 25 livres for each taken dead. Those not taken
where believed to be headed for Georgia, as the earlier report had suggested they
would. The militia commander blamed the Spanish for inciting the revolt by
offering freedom to all slaves who sought asylum in Florida. On 13 September
1739 an eyewitness described the insurrection at Stoenoe.
Negroes had made an insurrection which began at Stoenoe, midway betwixt
Charles Town and Port Royal, where they had forced a large store, furnished
themselves with Arms and Ammunition, killed all the family on that Plantation and
divers other White People, burning and destroying all that came in their way.(490)
The legislature of South Carolina posted a reward for those insurrectionist slaves
who escaped to Georgia. Men were valued at £40, women at £25 and children
under 12 brought £10, if brought in alive. If killed adult scalps with two ears
brought £20. One party of four slaves and a Catholic Irish servant killed a man as
they headed for anticipated asylum in Spanish Florida and were pursued by militia
acting as posse comitatus. Amerindians killed one slave and received the £20
reward, but the others reached St. Augustine where they were warmly received.
Two runaway slaves were displayed publicly. One who apparently had no hand in
the insurrection, but had merely used the confusion to try to escape, was publicly
whipped. The other, branded an insurrectionist, was induced to make a confession
of his errors and crimes before a large group of slaves. Contrition did him no good
for he "was executed at the usual Place, and afterwards hung in Chains at
Hangman's Point, opposite to this Town, in sight of all Negroes passing and
repassing by Water." Slaves remained at large as late as November 1739, when
rumors spread that the remaining insurgents were planning another revolt. The
Assembly requested that the governor muster the militia. In December the militia
captured several slaves. In March the Assembly arranged for the interrogation of
several others captured by militiamen acting as posse comitatus whom the
militiamen suspected of plotting insurrection. In June 1740 the slave patrols in
neighboring St. John's Parish, Berkeley County, arrested a large group, perhaps as
many as 200 slaves, who were charged with conspiracy to foment insurrection. In
Charleston in 1741 a slave insurrection was suspected in a series of arson fires and
the militia was mustered. In 1742 the militia also investigated an alleged slave
conspiracy being planned in St. Helena Parish.(491)
The Stoenoe insurrection prompted the legislature on 11 April 1739 to
rewrite the slave patrol code. All caucasian males between ages 16 and 60, and all
women who owned 10 or more slaves, were liable for containment of the slaves,
who comprised a significant portion of the colony's population. Since the primary
protection of the colony had, since 1725, been entrusted to a standing army and
ranging companies, slave patrol had become the primary militia obligation. No less
than one-fourth of the militia was to be retained in all situations to control the
slaves. All citizens, whether slave holders or not, were subject to service in the
militia slave patrol. County militia captains were required to establish regular
patrol beats. Militiamen in actual slave patrol service were enlisted for two months
at a time. The law permitted hiring substitutes provided that the individual paid the
substitute 30 shillings per night and outfitted him. The militia officers chose the
patrol officers.(492) This law remained in effect until 1819.
Between 1737 and 1748 South Carolina, like its sister colonies, was
embroiled, first, in the War of Jenkins' Ear (1739-1744), and, second, King
George's War (1744-1748). During the January 1739 term of the South Carolina
House of Commons the legislators debated two major amendments to the basic
militia law. First, it decided that no man need carry arms to church on Sundays if
he chose to go disarmed; and that the owners of slaves who did not wish to carry
arms need not bear arms if they chose to go unarmed.(493) The legislature's
explanatory act for "better regulating the militia of this Province" emphasized more
integrated regional militia training. Training at the company level was set at six
musters a year, "but not oftener." Greater provision was made for company and
regimental implementation of discipline and for appeal from courts martial.(494) In
1740 the governor and legislature approved a new manual for military discipline
"calculated for the use and very proper and perusal not only of the officers, but of
all Gentlemen of the Militia of South Carolina . . . according to the improvement
made for Northern Troops."(495) It was an abridgement of General Humphrey
Bland's book first published in London in 1727.(496)
The financial burden of war fell heavily on the colony for it was forced
to pay for militia and volunteers to guard the southern border and to contain the
Amerindians on the frontier. The legislature summoned large numbers of militia.
Legislative-executive cooperation was good, thanks largely to the able administration of governors William Bull (served 1737-44) and James Glen (served 1744-56).
Still, it was the legislative committee system that had assumed control of the militia
following the revolution against proprietary leadership in 1719 and 1720. It
planned expeditions, approved appointment of officers, levied taxes and paid
military expenses. It even decided to deploy the militia when the colony was
engaged in military action in Florida.(497)
The South Carolina Assembly intended to cooperate fully with Georgia's
Governor James E. Oglethorpe who commanded the joint Georgia-South Carolina
expedition against the Spanish in Florida in 1739. The Assembly estimated that its
share of Oglethorpe's planned expedition would be £100,00 South Carolina
currency. Speaker Charles Pinckney argued that such a sum was beyond the ability
of the colony to bear. Rice prices had fallen on the international market, the
treasury had nowhere near that amount and increased taxation would fall heavily
on everyone. With the war underway, Pinckney argued, the colony already was
heavily committed to military expenses. It would have to increase the watch,
especially in the area of Charleston, inspect various fortified sites and public and
private arms, repair and garrison forts along the frontier, buy arms and supplies, set
up magazines and repair the colony's arms which were reportedly in bad shape.
The real shock came when the Assembly received Oglethorpe's estimate of costs,
which he placed at £209,492. The Assembly was unprepared to appropriate more
than £120,000, with £40,000 being taken from the treasury and the remainder
funded by a bond issue. The estimate included many categories of projected costs:
pay to slave owners for the use of slave labor, gifts for various chiefs and supplies
for 1000 Amerindians, munitions, militia pay, transportation from Charleston to St.
Augustine, medical supplies and surgeons, provisions and food for the men.(498)
Additionally, gubernatorial Indian policy had been founded upon good
diplomacy, regulation of the Indian trade, sending agents among the various tribes
and the offering of relatively expensive gifts to key Amerindian leaders. With the
coming of war, Governor Bull informed the legislature on 13 February 1740 that
more gifts and more agents would be required among all the tribes. Continuation
of the policies that had worked, Bull argued, would save the lives of numerous
militiamen in a pointless Indian war.(499)
The South Carolina Assembly ordered that masters prepare a list of trusted
slaves who might be enlisted in the militia. In case of a general alarm these
selected slaves would be provided with a gun, hatchet or sword, powder horn, shot
pouch with bullets, 20 rounds of ammunition and six spare flints. Once again the
legislature held out the promise of manumission for such slaves as might kill or
capture an enemy. Slaves who fought well might be rewarded with gifts of
clothing, such as "a livery coat and pair of breeches made of good red Negro cloth
turned up with blue, and a pair of new shoes." They might also be rewarded with
being granted annually for life a holiday on such a day as they had performed
While the legislature entered debate concerning the colony's participation
in the expedition to destroy St. Augustine, Oglethorpe suggested that 1000 slaves
be enlisted as volunteers in the militia. About two hundred were to be armed while
the other 800 would act as porters and servants. Masters were to be paid £10 per
slave per month of service, masters assuming all risks except death. If a slave were
killed his master would be compensated for his actual value, not to exceed £250.(501)
The idea went untested because in late 1739 a major slave insurrection occurred at
Stoenoe, followed by a second insurrection nine months later in Charleston.(502) The
legislature, having discovered that slaves had secreted a rather substantial supply
of weapons, ordered that no slaves be armed for any reason whatsoever.(503)
Oglethorpe protested that four months had passed without action and that
the Spanish were undoubtedly preparing for a possible expedition against their
Florida stronghold. Word then reached him that the Assembly of his ally had cut
£100,000 from his request. Oglethorpe protested and Bull took a full month to
deliver his message to the Assembly, which for its part responded by setting up yet
another committee of inquiry. On 15 April the Assembly passed the military
appropriation bill and appointed one of its own and a member of the military
appropriations committee, Colonel Alexander Vander Dussen to command its
militia. There was additional significance attached to the Assembly's passage of
the military appropriations bill, for with it the lower house asserted its right to pass
in final form all appropriations and denied the power of the upper house to make
any changes to such money bills.(504)
Oglethorpe's mixed force of British regulars, Amerindians and militia
landed in Florida on 20 May 1740. It enjoyed a few initial successes, burning the
town of St. Augustine. Fort San Marcos withstood the siege. South Carolina
found Oglethorpe's leadership lacking in most areas of command. Specifically, he
alienated both the South Carolina militia and the Amerindians. Whether
Oglethorpe's fault or not, the men suffered grievously from heat, disease and
excessive rainfall. Well protected inside the fort the Spanish waited for the
appearance of a relief force. Dissensions remained and indeed grew in intensity as
the siege showed no progress. On 19 July Isaac Mazyck, a leader of the Assembly
from Charleston, delivered a preliminary military committee report to the
legislature. The expedition, he said, was a "lost cause" and South Carolina should
withdraw its militia as soon as possible.(505) By August Oglethorpe agreed and
ordered the expedition with withdraw to the north.
In South Carolina the Assembly was shocked and then reacted by seeking
a scapegoat. The new speaker, William Bull, II,(506) son of the lieutenant-governor,
appointed a committee to "inquire into the Causes of the Disappointment of success
in the Expedition against St. Augustine." The upper house followed suit. The
lower house also created a committee to seek assistance from the home government. Bull appointed the most important legislative leaders to serve of these
committees, excusing them from all other duties until the work of the committees
be finished.(507) A thorough report of more than 150 pages, the final document
contained no less than 139 appendices with extracts from various journals, reports
and letters from those who had served with the South Carolina contingent. Not
surprisingly, by 1741 the house had issued a final report which was highly critical
of Oglethorpe and the expensive mission because they had failed to achieve any
important part of the mission.(508) The second committee used the report to justify
its requests for money and troops from England. Despite its size and documentation the report failed to take into account the long delays in mounting the
expedition caused by legislative wrangling, the failure to surprise the Spanish in
Florida and the inadequate supplies. Simply put, the legislature had not supplied
materials for a full siege and the militia had not been trained or equipped for that
type of warfare.
The fundamental militia law which had been reenacted on 11 March 1736
was again extended on 22 January 1742.(509) On 7 July 1742 the legislature enacted
a law which was designed the enroll in the militia frontiersmen, especially Indian
traders, who were unenumerated on tax lists. The purpose of the law was to
provide a first defense line of frontiersmen who were familiar with the terrain and
with local Amerindian customs. As the legislature wrote, the war was designed to
"secure the assistance of people who are unsettled that they may be encouraged .
. . [to] enlist in the service of this Province before any draughts are made of the
[urban] militia."(510) In 1742 the legislature ordered the recruitment of militia
volunteers and militia rangers to "repel his Majesty's enemies and to contribute the
utmost of our Power to the defence of the Colony of Georgia and this Province."
Governor William Bull asked for and received legislative authorization to issue
£63,000 in paper currency to pay for the expedition to defend Georgia.(511)
In 1743 the South Carolina legislature passed an act which required that
citizens to go armed to church and other public places.
Whereas, it is necessary to make some further provisions for securing the
inhabitants of this province against the insurrections and other wicked attempts of
negroes and other slaves within the same, we therefore humbly pray his most
sacred majesty that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by the Hon. William Bull,
Esq., lieutenant-governor and commander-in-chief in and over his majesty's
province of South Carolina, by and with the advice and consent of his majesty's
honorable Council, and the Commons House of Assembly of this province, and by
the authority of the same, that within three months from the time of passing this act
every white male inhabitant of this province (except travelers and such persons as
shall be above sixty years of age) who, by the laws of this province, is or shall be
liable to bear arms in the militia of this province, either in times of alarm or at
common musters, who shall, on any Sunday or Christmas day in the year, go and
resort to any church or any other place of divine worship within this province, and
shall not carry with him a gun or a pair of horse-pistols, in good order and fit for
service, with at least six charges of gunpowder and ball, and shall not carry the
same into the church or other place of divine worship as aforesaid, every such
person shall forfeit and pay the sum of twenty shillings, current money, for every
neglect of the same, the one-half thereof to the church-wardens of the respective
parish in which the offense shall be committed, for the use of the poor of the said
parish, and the other half to him or them who will inform for the same, to be recovered on oath before any of his majesty's justices of the peace within this
province in the same way and manner that debts under twenty pounds are directed
to be recovered by the act for the trial of small and mean causes.(512)
As late as 1765, a grand jury at Charleston, South Carolina, presented "as a
grievance the want of a law to oblige the inhabitants of Charleston to carry arms
to church on Sundays, or other places of worship."(513)
In 1744 Governor James Glen requested that the legislature provide new
taxes to strengthen the militia and build and repair magazines and fortifications.
He was greatly concerned that the war with Spain would invite privateers, pirates
and Spanish forces from Florida to invade the Carolinas. He wished also to protect
the lucrative trade that Spain coveted.(514) By this time full power over fiscal matters
had passed to the Assembly, the beginning of a long process which, by 1760, had
eliminated Council and the upper house of virtually all their powers over the purse.
The legislature moved to consider Glen's requests at snail's pace. As we have seen
regarding Oglethorpe's expedition against St. Augustine, this was simply the price
for the increasing democratization of the decision making process. The legislature
referred gubernatorial requests to committees which held hearings, considered their
constituents' viewpoints and wrote reports. Executive requests in the vital areas of
Indian affairs, military appropriations and provincial defense were delayed by the
workings of the emerging democratic process. Control of the militia through
legislation and appropriations was among the most important applications of the
popular legislative power.(515)
Meanwhile, the home government demanded an accounting of the colony's
business and an enumeration of its population. In 1745 the governor reported that
number of whites in South Carolina exceeded 10,000 with more than 40,000
blacks, primarily slaves. In 1749 the number of whites reported by the governor
had grown to 25,000 while the black population had declined slightly to 39,000.
The militia could count at least 2000 men, with a few trusted armed slaves and
others enlisted as porters and musicians.(516)
In 1747 the legislature modified the basic militia law, noting that "the
safety ad defence of this Province, next to the blessings of Almighty God, and the
defence of our most gracious Sovereign, depends on the knowledge and use of
arms and good discipline." Where three or more militia companies co-existed
within a distance of six or fewer miles, a regiment was to be formed and periodically jointly exercised. Ideally, each county would form a regiment comprised of
its various militia companies. Each company was to muster at least six times a
year. Other than a reduction in the minimum required number of cartridges from
20 to 12, the that aspect of the law dealing with arms and accoutrements was
unchanged. It chose to ratify what had long been considered, by custom and
tradition, to be a primary power of the governor, that of appointing all commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the militia. No one could refuse to accept
a gubernatorial militia appointment.
The law continued to authorize a troop of cavalry, but limited its number
to 200 men. The law authorized formation of an artillery militia, with these men
being exempted from additional duties. In cases of insurrection the governor,
lieutenant-governor or president of council was required to command the militia in
person. All citizens between ages 16 and 60 were to be enrolled, excepting only
strangers residing in South Carolina for less than three months and a small list of
others. Those exempted from militia duty remained the same as in earlier laws,
although the law reduced substantially the number of those exempted in various
professions such as millers, ferry operators and sailors. The law also required that
those exempted be required to muster in case of emergency. The law now required
masters to arm apprentices in the same way that it had required masters to arm
indentured servants. Those apprentices who had served their terms were granted
six months to supply their own arms. Those citizens who had moved from their
homes were to be carried on muster rolls, and expected to continue to serve in the
militias, of their old homesteads until they joined another militia unit at their new
homes. When raising militias to repel invasions or suppress insurrections, the
governor's power to call out companies and regiments was essentially unlimited.
Still, the law charged the governor with retaining in each county and city sufficient
militia to control slaves.
Fines for failure to muster were increased, with £50 being the minimum
penalty for those who refused to muster in time of alarm. Superior officers could
levy fines up to £500, and impose corporal punishment less than loss of life or
limb, for various offenses under the act. The act increased the size and frequency
of slave patrols. Superior officers could muster militias through the regimental
level provided they received reports of insurrection, invasion or Indian attack from
reliable witnesses or informers.
Masters were to provide a list of reliable slaves who might be marched
with the militia. These slaves could be armed with "one sufficient gun, one
hatchet, powder horn and shot pouch" and ammunition and accouterments,
although they could not possess the arms until they were marched with the militia.
If a slave served on militia duty the province paid his owner for his time. If the
slave was killed the state paid his master for his market value; and if he was
disabled, the colony compensated his master for the loss of his services in
proportion to his disability. Slaves who showed conspicuous acts of bravery under
fire, or who killed or captured an enemy, were to be rewarded with clothing
annually for life. If the slave was freed as reward for his bravery, his master
received public compensation. Slaves serving in the militia who failed or neglected
their duty were subject to corporal punishment.
If a poor man or servant was injured while serving in the militia, he was
to be paid an annual stipend according to his loss. If a poor man or servant was
killed, his family was to receive public support at a rate of £12 a year. The
province supported the dead man's children only through age 12 and the widow
only so long as she remained single. Indentured servants who acted bravely in
combat or who killed or captured an enemy was to be freed, with his master
receiving public compensation for loss of his services.(517) The act of 13 June 1747
was continued by an act of 1753 for two years, revived and reenacted in 1759 for
a period of five years.
From 1749 through at least 1764 there were constant conflicts between the
lower house of the legislature over military and other appropriations and taxation,
with each of the several governors trying to reestablish executive prerogatives and
the legislature resisting. Likewise, the upper house attempted to interject its
authority only to receive similar resistance. The lower house gradually gained
control over political patronage, local administration, finance, and the militia. In
times of war or threatened conflict the legislature would demur until the governors
agreed to the erosion of their power as the price they must pay to accede to
pressures from the home government to make war or prepare for war. For example,
when Glen wanted to build and garrison Fort Loudoun in what is now Tennessee
the lower house agreed only upon condition that the governor was willing to
recognize the power of the assembly over the budget. The interests of at least the
militia officers were well protected because many of the elected assemblymen
during this period were simultaneously officers in the militia. George Gabriel
Powell, for example, held an assembly seat for over 20 years while serving as a
colonel in the militia. He frequently chaired committees on military appropriations
and militia affairs.(518)
The only area concerned with the militia directed by the executive was
Indian affairs. Ably assisted by Edmund Aiken, Governor Glen and other
governors conducted a model of colonial Indian policy. Glen enjoyed considerable
legislative support, especially from the committee on Indian affairs in the lower
house of the Assembly. By keeping the various tribes either pro-British or at least
neutral the administrations reduced the burden upon the militia.(519) Glen's policies
worked well, preventing any Indian war. When Glen's successors William Henry
Lyttleton and Thomas Boone chose to ignore the Assembly, the legislature was
vocal in its disagreement. These clashes the with Indian affairs committee over the
direction of Indian policies resulted in the bloody war with the Cherokees.
The Cherokee War was the greatest challenge mounted on South
Carolina's soil since the Yamassee War of 1716-17. The causes of the war were
many, including failures of gubernatorial Indian policy, the duplicity of the Indian
traders, aggressive expansion into Indian lands and the successful intrigues of the
French. In early 1759 the Cherokees overran Fort Loudoun and burned many
isolated farms and frontier settlements. By early 1760 they threatened Prince
George and Ninety-six. The governor mustered the militia, but a smallpox
epidemic struck hard at those gathered at Charleston. Low country planters
withheld their militia after threats of a slave insurrection spread. Those militia
initially deployed suffered several defeats, primarily from well executed ambuscades. Lyttleton, perhaps using his political influence to secure the post, received
a promotion from the Board of Trade to become governor of Jamaica.
William Bull II assumed the high executive post and immediately took
certain bold steps. He asked for and received legislative support to increase the
number, training and supplying of additional ranging companies. He recruited his
rangers heavily along the frontier, offering various bonuses, an opportunity for
revenge and appeals to patriotism. The men he chose, after proper training and
outfitting, proved to be the correct force for the job. As all colonial politicians
discovered, urban militia were essentially useless in the deep forests and were not
even especially suited for garrison duty in isolated areas. Some British regulars
assumed responsibility for garrison duty in some forts. The Amerindians of course
had made no real provision for a war of some length by laying in food and supplies.
The provincial rangers simply ground them down in a series of small clashes, none
of which was especially noteworthy; and by destroying their homes and crops and
dispersing their families.
The Assembly had to raise money to pay the militia and to offer assistance
to the frontiersmen who suffered from the ravages of Amerindian attacks. Only
slowly did the Assembly realize the full extent of the depravations suffered on the
frontier. The Assembly then set up a committee to investigate the causes of the war
and the reasons why damages were so great. The committee report found fault with
Bull's handling of the situation and criticized him for moving too slowly.(520)
The Assembly had to deal with a second problem. Indian defeats were
inevitably accompanied by cession of lands to the provincials and the Cherokee
War was no exception. While new settlers arrived in large numbers to take up
homesteads on the cession, there were other undesirable elements who followed.
Some militiamen had deserted as their companies returned home, returning to the
abandoned homes to loot. Others turned bandits and stole the supplies sent to the
relief of the frontier families. These men were soon joined by escaped slaves and
indentured and criminal servants, Indian traders and criminals. Since the new land
had essentially no constables or sheriffs, the Assembly once again had to muster
the militia to bring law and order to the frontier. The task of the militia was
complicated by the emergence of kangaroo courts and vigilantes. A circuit-riding
minister, Charles Woodmason, is credited with having drawn up a petition to the
Assembly, signed by over 1000 backwoodsmen, asking for greater law enforcement
and true justice. Rumor followed that regulators were planning to march on
Charleston. The legislature passed legislation designed to bring a permanent peace,
law and order to the frontier, culminating in the Circuit Court Act of 1768.(521)
Between 1748 and 1764 the Assembly worked on legislation designed to
prevent slave insurrections. Enforcement of these regulatory acts fell heavily on
local governmental units led by committees dominated by planters. Committee
members had to supply their own arms, and go armed everywhere, and were
authorized to arrest (or kill) any slave suspected of illegal or ever "suspicious"
activity.(522) In 1751 the Negro Act(523) made provision for the militia patrols to
apprehend, confine and punish or maintain, or deport any slave involved in
insurrection or "that may become lunatic."(524) The legislature ordered the militia to
pursue at the expense of the owners any runaway slaves who were likely to ferment
insurrection. When slaves ran away and when three or more of the runaways
gathered, the slaves were considered to be forming a conspiracy. The law required
the militia to collect them and return them to their owners and if the slaves refused
to submit, the law mandated that the militia kill them. Owners were required to pay
into the militia fund £5 for each of their slaves captured or killed. Slaves were
forbidden to "carry a gun or any other firearm, with ammunition, to hunt, or for any
other purpose" upon penalty "of being whipt, not exceeding 20 stripes." No "free
negro, mulatto or mestizo" was permitted to loan or give a firearm to any slave,
upon penalty of fine, physical punishment or imprisonment.
In 1756 the home government appointed a new governor, William Henry
Lyttleton, who served until 1761. In his first year in office Lyttleton reported to his
superiors that the militia of the province included 5000 to 6000 men, ages 16 to 60,
enrolled according to the muster rolls.(525) In 1756 British assigned a quota of 2000
men to be raised in South Carolina as a part of 30,000 man force the English hoped
to raise in the colonies to join with the British troops in an invasion of Canada.(526)
The quota was reduced in order to deploy the militia to defend the colony. Lord
Loudoun complained to Cumberland that "the great Number of Troops that are
employed in Nova Scotia and South Carolina . . . robs the main body" of his force
mustered to invade Canada. In "South Carolina I think there is more Force there
than [is] necessary." He asked that the quota be reinstated and that South Carolina
be ordered to send the men to his army.(527)
The governor sent a mission to Indian territory in the autumn of 1756 to
discover how the Amerindians were receiving firearms wherewith to conduct their
raids on the outlying settlements. Daniel Pepper reported that a minor chief named
the Gun Merchant had, in the past, procured arms from the French agents who were
urging the tribes to rise up and drive out the English. Since the French had
withdrawn Gun Merchant was procuring arms from the various Indian traders
working their territory. Pepper warned that since the French had sold rifled guns
instead of trade muskets the Indians wanted no other arms and that they had
become exceedingly proficient in the use of rifles, regularly hitting targets at 200
Having decided to put an end to hostilities with unfriendly Amerindian
tribes, and to give an incentive to its provincial militia, the South Carolina
legislature decided to follow the pattern set by other provinces and place a bounty
on Amerindian scalps. By 1757, in response to the emergency of the French and
Indian War, the militia had seven infantry regiments and three cavalry troops with
over 6500 men.(529)
In 1760 the legislature passed an act to specifically authorize the
formation of an artillery militia in Charleston. Noting that the men had "taken great
pains in learning the exercise of artillery" it thought this authorization was long
overdue. Those serving in the company were exempted from other militia duties.
They had the same power of impressment of supplies and portage as other militias.
The company, like the mounted militia, was obviously a highly select band,
comprised of the sons of wealthy merchants, planters and tradesmen and placement
was difficult.(530) On 31 July 1760 the legislature appropriated £3500 to pay for
Cherokee "and other hostile" Amerindian scalps.(531) In 1761 the colony received
its new governor, Thomas Bone, who served until 1764.
In 1770 Charleston had 5030 white and 5830 black inhabitants. The total
number of white inhabitants in the colony was not provided, but there were 75,178
blacks, mostly slaves, in South Carolina just a few years before the beginning of
the War for Independence.(532) On the eve of the American Revolution there were
over 12,000 men in a dozen infantry units and a cavalry regiment.(533)
News of the clash between the patriots and the British army at Lexington
and Concord reached Charleston, South Carolina, within ten days, via courier
dispatched by the Massachusetts Committee of Safety. A gentleman from
Charleston wrote to a friend in London of the militia preparations in Charleston.
"Our companies of artillery, grenadiers, light infantry, light horse, militia and watch
are daily improving themselves in the military art. We were pretty expert before,
but are now almost equal to any soldiers the King has." Men in the rural areas
were ready also and the colony planned to raise a "company of Slit-Shirts
In February 1776 the South Carolina Provincial Congress considered the
military needs of the state. It began with the premise that "it is absolutely necessary
that a considerable body of Regular Forces be kept up for the service and defence
of the Colony in this time of imminent danger." The Congress decided that the
"Regiment of Rangers be continued" and that the number of men be increased. The
rangers "shall be composed of expert riflemen who shall act on horseback or on
foot, as the service may require." It also ordered that there be created another
"Regiment of expert Riflemen, to take rank as the Fifth Regiment." All riflemen
were to provide themselves at their own expense with "a good Rifle, Shotpouch
and Powderhorn, together with a Tomahawk or Hatchet." The public would supply
them with "a uniform Hunting-shirt and Hat or Cap and Blanket." All riflemen
would be tested for their skills by the commanding officer.(535) The Congress sought
to contract for arms for the militia.
The Commissioners for purchasing Rifles . . . are hereby authorized and empowered to agree with any person to make a Rifle of a new and different construction
. . . . to contract for the making, or purchasing already made, any number . . . of
good Rifles with good bridle locks and proper furniture, not exceeding the price of
£30 each; the barrels of the rifles to be made not to weigh less than 7 1/2 pounds
or to be less than three feet, eight inches in length; and carrying balls of about half
an ounce weight; and those new ones already made not to be less than three feet
four inches long in the barrel. Also for the making or purchasing already made .
. . good smoothbored Muskets, carrying an ounce ball, with good bridle locks and
furniture, iron rods and bayonets . . . the Muskets to be made three feet six inches
long in the barrel and bayonet seventeen inches long. . . .(536)
In 1776 the British command laid its first plans to invade South Carolina
and hold Charleston. In light of the discovery of the plan, South Carolina
mobilized its militia.(537) In the autumn of 1776 the South Carolina legislature sent
Colonel Williamson into the backwoods, to fight the Cherokee nation, which was
then under British influence. In September the force under Colonel Wiliamson
crossed the Catawba River in North Carolina, in pursuit of the enemy. They sought
to join with North carolina militia under General Rutherford and Virginia militia
under Colonel William Christian. Initially ambushed, Williamson fought back and
turned the engagement into a victory over the hostiles, who then fled. After joining
with Rutherford and Christian, the force laid waste to most of the Cherokees'
principal towns and villages and took British supplies valued at £2500. They also
recaptured several runaway slaves and several British agents.(538)
In 1776 the state adopted a new constitution. That document first noted
that Britain had forced a defensive war upon the colony in part because of its
military policies. It empowered the legislature to create a militia and to commission
all military officers.(539) Military occurrences in the colony were few until 1780, and
thus the militia remained generally inactive. The militia served primarily as a
reservoir of trained manpower to furnish troops for South Carolina's share of the
The provincial militia act remained in force until 1778 when the
legislature decided to rewrite the law to reflect the change from dependency to
sovereign state. The law specifically disallowed private militias such as had been
formed as vehicles to achieve independence, and ordered that any such private
armed forces then existing be disbanded. Every able-bodied man between ages 16
and 60 was required to serve or pay a fine of £200. Those exempted from militia
duty included all state executive, judicial and legislative personnel and their clerks;
past-masters and post-riders; river and harbor pilots and their crews; one white
man in each grist mill and ferry; and firemen in Charleston. Each man was obliged
to provide "one good musket and bayonet, or a good substantial smooth bore gun
and bayonet, a cross belt and cartouch box, capable of containing 36 rounds, . . .
a cover for the lock of said musket or gun, or one good rifle-gun and tomahawk or
cutlass, one ball of wax [and] one worm or picker." The militiaman had his choice
of providing lead balls or buck-shot, as well as gunpowder and spare flints.
The militia was to be divided into three brigades, each commanded by a
brigadier-general; and regiments of from 600 to 1200 men commanded by a full
colonel; and companies of not more than 60 men commanded by captains. Each
captain was to muster and train his company at least once a month, except in
Charleston where companies were to train each fort-night. Regiments were to train
each six months. Courts martial were authorized at each organizational level, with
the superior organizations having power of appeal and the power to impose greater
The act authorized the draft of men into the Continental Line from the
militias. When a draft was made the law required that a sufficient militia force be
retained to quell insurrections or slave uprisings. Some militiamen were also to
drafted to maintain slave patrols and seacoast watches. Penalty for failure to serve
on patrols and watches was a fine of £100. Superior militia officers could call an
emergency alarm upon the what he considered to be a reliable report.
Masters had to provide arms and equipment for apprentices and
indentured servants. When discharged from a master's service a former apprentice
or servant had to provide himself with his own arms and equipment within six
months. Poor men and indentured servants who were maimed were to receive
public support as would the families of such men killed in service. Indentured
servants who acted bravely in battle could be freed, with public compensation
given to the master for loss of his services.
Masters had to provide the company officers with lists of reliable slaves,
ages 16 to 60, who might be impressed into service in an emergency. Each militia
company could enlist slaves up to one-third of its number. Lists of other slaves
who might be impressed to do manual labor were also to be submitted, to be used
as hatchet-men or pioneers. The government was obliged to pay the owners for
slaves killed or maimed in battle.(540)
Excepting a few Amerindian raids, there was little action in the South
during the early years of the war, but things were to change following the
catastrophic defeat of General John Burgoyne at Saratoga. On 29 December 1778
Clinton, who had succeeded Sir William Howe as the British commander, landed
a force of 3500 regulars near Savannah, Georgia. General Robert Howe, then
commander of the Southern Department, had a mixed force of about 1000, militia
and regulars, and could not withstand the assault. Howe was shortly thereafter
replaced by Major-General Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810), a distinguished veteran
of actions near New York City and at Saratoga. In February 1780 Clinton decided
that could now capture Charleston, and that, if he were successful, loyalists would
soon appear and swell the ranks of his force. That would bring the Carolinas and
Georgia once again under royal control. He assailed Charleston with 8000 troops
and the mixed force of regulars between 11 February and 12 May 1780. Neither
the continental line nor the militia available to the Southern Department could not
hold out. When General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered on 12 May 1780, he lost
860 men of the North Carolina Continental Line. About all that was left of the
North Carolina regular forces were those men who had been on leave, ill or
attached to other duties or companies. Clinton captured 5400 Americans, the
heaviest patriot loss of the war. It was a general of the regular army who had
surrendered 5000 militiamen with his command.(541) On 5 June, Clinton left
Cornwallis in charge and sailed back to New York, confident that South Carolina,
and perhaps all the South, were about to fall to the crown.(542)
Charleston fell on 12 May 1780.(543) Patrick Henry, who attempted to raise
two to three thousand militia to march to the defense of Charleston, expressed great
admiration for its governor. "The brilliant John Rutledge was Governor of the
State. Clothed with dictatorial powers, he called out the reserve militia and threw
himself into [the defense of] the city."(544) Disaster struck again on 16 August 1780
at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina. General Horatio Gates blundered into an
engagement which neither he nor Lord Cornwallis wanted. Cornwallis commanded
a force of 2400 regulars; in addition there were Banastre Tarleton's dragoons.
Gates deployed his mixed force of regulars and militia badly. His line was a
meager 200 yards from the British and in the line of musket fire. American troops
broke when Tarleton's dragoons attacked the rear. A bayonet charge finished off
the militia, most of whom were armed with Kentucky rifles which did not mount
bayonets. It made no sense for militia to stand against raw steel, and responsibility
for defeat at Camden rests more with Gates than with the militia. American losses
included 800-900 killed and nearly 1000 captured.(545) Gates retreated to Hillsboro,
North Carolina, 160 miles north. Revisionist critics of the militia have chosen to
blame it rather than Gates' flawed leadership and poor skills as a field
commander.(546) On 18 August Tarleton defeated an American militia force at
Fishing Creek, South Carolina. General William Moultrie commented that the
southern "militia are brave men and will fight if you let them come to action in their
We have discussed at length the patriot's great victory at King's Mountain
on 7 October 1780, along the border of North Carolina and South Carolina, in the
preceding chapter. It was placed there because the North Carolina and other state
and territorial militia had more of a role in the defeat of Cornwallis' left flank, and
the death of Major Patrick Ferguson, than had the men from South Carolina.
In January 1781 Cornwallis moved his force into the interior of North
Carolina with the avowed purpose of destroying the small patriot army led by
Nathaneal Greene, commander of the Southern Department. Cornwallis moved to
Hillsboro where he thought he could recruit a considerable force of tories, but was
disappointed.(548) Greene, meanwhile avoided confrontation, but gathered
considerable strength along the way from militiamen. General Daniel Morgan
advised Greene on how to deploy his militia supplements. "Put the militia in the
center with some picked troops in their rear with orders to shoot down the first man
that runs."(549) Finally, on 15 March 1781 the two forces met at the Battle of
Guilford Court House. Cornwallis held the field and Greene withdrew, but
Greene's army remained intact and his militiamen gained battlefield experience.
Cornwallis' force was decimated. Greene wrote to General Sumter on 16 March
1781 that if the North Carolina Militia had behaved bravely he could have
completely defeated Cornwallis. He rued the day that he had placed his dependence on the militia whose primary contributions had been the consumption of
resources at a rate three times that of the regular army and which was best known
for ravaging the countryside.(550) Edward Stevens, an inspirational patriot leader of
plebeian origins, writing to Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson agreed with
Greene. "If the Salvation of the Country had depended on their staying Ten or
Fifteen days, I dont believe they would have done it. Their greatest Study is to Rub
through their Tower [tour] of Duty with whole Bones. . . . These men under me are
so exceeding anxceous to get home it is all most impossible to Keep Them
together."(551) Henry Lee raised this same point in defense of the federal Constitution in the Virginia Ratifying Convention in June 1787.
Let the Gentlemen recollect the action of Guilford. The American regular troops
behaved there with the most gallant intrepidity. What did the militia do? The
greatest numbers of them fled. Their abandonment of the regulars occasioned the
loss of the field. Had the line been supported that day, Cornwallis, instead of
surrendering at York, would have laid down his arms at Guilford.(552)
Cornwallis retreated to Wilmington, North Carolina. An advance force
under Major James Craig took the town and disarmed the populace. On 7 April
Cornwallis arrived with the tattered remnants of his army. The cowered townspeople were cooperative, but he found no large reserve of loyalists to join his force.
Only about 200 Tory militiamen joined his cause. After resting and supplying his
army with foodstuff and transportation, Cornwallis moved north to join with
General William Phipps in Virginia.(553)
Despite the increasing danger from the British army in 1779 and 1780 the
southern colonies resisted any idea of arming blacks, whether freemen or slaves.
John Laurens of South Carolina, and son of a member of Congress, and Alexander
Hamilton proposed a plan to enlist 3000 blacks under white officers. Their plan
was to liberate Georgia, which had effectively been under British control for some
time. Laurens offered to lead one regiment. State authorities refused to enroll any
blacks in the militia, save as unarmed laborers, out of fear of a slave revolt. Once
trained, blacks constituted a greater, long range danger than the British army.
Laurens argued that with so many planters absent from their plantations, the
enlistment of "more aggressive blacks" would actually be of advantage. As early
as March 1779 Laurens and Hamilton advanced their plan in Congress. Laurens'
father opposed the idea in Congress. In mid-March Laurens trued to convince
General Washington to by-pass the states and directly authorize the enlistment of
blacks in the Continental Army. Washington demurred, dismissing the idea as
fantastic, injurious of his relations with southern states, and beyond his authority.
Laurens wrote to the President of Congress, John Jay, later Chief Justice of the
United States. Congress accepted Laurens' plan, urging South Carolina to raise
3000 black men at arms. The South Carolina Council of Safety would not change
its stand. Laurens, frustrated at the successive rebuffs from his state and his own
father, joined a regiment and shortly after was killed in action. With his death any
further idea of a black militia or army unit died.(554)
In 1782 South Carolina reconsidered its fundamental militia act, because
"the laws now in force for the regulation of the militia of this State are found
inadequate to the beneficial purposes intended thereby for the defense of the State
in the present time." Nonetheless, the changes to earlier acts were few. The upper
age limit for service was lowered from 60 to 50. Militia captains were required to
submit lists of eligibles every second month. One-quarter of the militia was to
serve on garrison or field duty at any given time, with the men to be rotated every
month or two. Should a man fail to appear for his assigned duty, his time was
doubled. Up to one-third of the militia could be sent to assist another state. In any
event, no county could yield so many of its militia as to render slave patrol and
containment ineffective. Any man adjudged guilty of sedition, rebellion or
dereliction of duty was required to serve on active duty for twelve months. The list
of those exempt remained unchanged, with the exception that teachers who were
to be relieved of militia duty had to have enrolled under their care no less than
Before the Revolution the South Carolina militia was perhaps the most
efficient and most accomplished south of New England. It had to perform the same
duties that were required of other militias, while also serving on slave patrols.
While on slave patrol it can be said to have acted as posse comitatus. It saved
North Carolina in at least one Amerindian War. During the War for Independence
it acted most efficiently when transformed into guerrilla bands and led by daring
and innovative leaders such as Francis Marion. Without the southern militias, the
American cause in the south might have been lost and Cornwallis' schemes
The Georgia Militia
South Carolina had been the guardian of the southern gate of the British
colonies against Amerindian, Spanish and, to a degree, French, ambitions in the
south until the establishment of Georgia early in the Royal period. Indeed, one of
the principal reasons that the colony was established was to act as a buffer against
the French in Louisiana and the Spanish in Florida. Led by James Edward
Oglethorpe and Lord John Percival, first Earl of Egmont, a Board of Trustees
received a charter in 1732 to govern the colony for 21 years. The first colonists
arrived in 1733 and founded Savannah. Spain reacted immediately, and the war
lasted from 1739 until 1744. By 1740 the British government took the pressure off
the Georgia militia by placing a company of regular troops in Georgia to contain
the Spanish ambitions and buttressed them with some Georgia militiamen.(555) James Oglethorpe was the first southern authority to actively oppose the
peculiar institution of slavery. So great was his opposition to slavery, and his trust
in the good character of the slave that in 1740, when the South Carolina legislature
was debating forming an expedition to destroy St. Augustine, James Oglethorpe
suggested that 1000 slaves be enlisted. About two hundred would be armed while
the other 800 would act as porters and servants. Masters were to be paid £10 per
slave per month of service, masters assuming all risks except death. If a slave were
killed his master would be compensated for his actual value, not to exceed £250.(556)
The Georgia Charter of 1732 provided for a militia. The charter noted that
because the "provinces in North America have been frequently ravaged by Indian
enemies" the embodiment of a militia was a matter of absolute necessity. It related
that "the neighboring savages" had recently "laid waste by fire and sword" the
province of South Carolina and that substantial numbers of English settlers had
been "miserably massacred" so the militia must be armed, trained and disciplined
at as early a date as possible. The colony was to supply "armor, shot, powder,
ordnance [and] munitions." The governor, with consent of council, could levy war
with the militia against all enemies of the crown.(557)
In 1739 the provincial legislature of Georgia passed legislation regarding
the arming of blacks that was remarkably similar to the measure passed only
slightly earlier in South Carolina. A slave could be armed only upon the recommendation of his master. One who acted bravely in battle could be given various
material rewards and excused from menial labor on the anniversary of an act of
heroism.(558) Almost immediately after the passage of the act a slave revolt occurred
in St. Andrew's Parish and an overseer was killed. That ended the idea of arming
slaves in Georgia.(559)
The Georgia militia had a role in restraining the slaves who revolted at
Stoenoe, South Carolina, in 1739. The South Carolina militia crushed the slave
revolt and executed the leaders. Some of the other slaves who took part in the
revolt were mutilated or deported. Some of the slaves escaped and attempted to
cross Georgia in hope of gaining freedom in Spanish Florida. They were caught
in a pincer between South Carolina and Georgia militias, acting as posse comitatus,
and killed or captured.(560)
The colony did not prosper under the Board of Trustees and Oglethorpe's
administration. His attempt to outlaw both rum and slaves was generally
unsuccessful. Oglethorpe did devolve a satisfactory policy with the Amerindians
and no major Indian war occurred during the entire history of the colony. In 1760
the Crown assumed control and sent Sir James Wright to assume the office of
provincial governor. In 1763 the Peace of Paris yielded Florida into English hands.
After that cession the role of the Georgia militia as guardian of the southern gate
In 1738 Governor William Bull of South Carolina observed that the
people of both his own colony and Georgia were "excellent marksmen" and "as
brave as any People whatsoever." The problem was that, outside a urban areas,
such as Savannah and Charleston, the people were settled far too sparsely to be of
much use in the militia. Most frontiersmen were heavily engaged in agriculture,
whether on their own or by supervising slaves, and had neither the time nor the
ability to contain either the French or the Spanish forces. Indeed, they were barely
able to resist the few Amerindian incursions on the frontier. Bull concluded that
"Military Discipline is Inconsistent with a Domestick or Country Life."(562)
In 1739 James Oglethorpe decided, with urging from both the home
government and the legislature of South Carolina, to attack and reduce St.
Augustine. Since St. Augustine was the center of power there was nothing new
about this strategy. Twice before the South Carolina militia had attacked, damaged
the fortress of San Marcos, but had been unable to destroy it. Oglethorpe relied
upon his own militia, British sea power, the element of surprise and a substantial
number of volunteers and militia from South Carolina. He was also able to recruit
over a thousand Amerindian warriors as auxiliaries. The expedition failed. The
South Carolina legislature issued a long and involved technical report. Three main
conclusions pointed to failures in Oglethorpe's command: he misused the South
Carolina volunteers; treated the Amerindians badly; and deployed his troops
poorly. Whether it was his fault or not, he failed to achieve the surprise his mission
On 6 August 1754 the king sent instructions to John Reynolds, governor
of Georgia regarding the militia. "You shall take care that all planters and
Christian servants be well and fitly provided with arms," the monarch wrote, and
"that they be listed under good officers." The militia was to be mustered and
trained "whereby they may be in a better readiness for the defence of our said
province." He warned that the frequency and intensity of the militia training must
not constitute "an unnecessary impediment to the affairs of the inhabitants."(564)
In 1770 Georgia passed an "act for the better security of the inhabitants
by obliging all white male persons to carry fire arms to all places of public
In 1774 Georgia, in an attempt to escape the various Indian wars which
had plagued its neighbors, passed legislation designed to protect the natives from
massacre. Knowing that it was virtually impossible to distinguish between a hostile
and a friendly Amerindian, and being well aware of the bounty paid for scalps in
the Carolinas and Virginia, Georgia passed an act which provided for the purchase
of scalps only of hostiles.
Arms for the colony were largely imported, but a few gunsmiths appeared
in the colony. Jeremiah Slitterman was among the earliest men to make muskets
for the provincial militia. He also served as colonial armourer, with a verified term
from 1766 to 1775.(565)
Georgia was the last of the thirteen colonies to be established and was also
the last to join the patriot cause. Agitation for independence did not set well for
several reasons. First, the colonists feared attack by the English from Florida and
their Amerindian allies, the Creeks and Cherokees. Second, they expressed a
measure of appreciation to the home government for the large amounts of money
it had expended in setting up and maintaining the colony. It was unrepresented at
both the Stamp Act Congress and the First Continental Congress. The loyalists
were well represented in Georgia and had a most active militia system. Many
loyalist militiamen volunteered to serve with the British army when it finally landed
News of the events at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, reached
Savannah on 10 May, about three weeks after the actual events occurred. Citizens
exhibited considerable excitement and that night an unknown group, presumably
of the local militia, forced their war into the public gunpowder magazine and
removed its contents. Royalist governor Wright offered a £50 reward for
apprehension of the thieves. No one came forward to report the criminals. There
is some belief that the gunpowder was distributed among the local committees of
safety in Georgia and South Carolina. Throughout the summer, and against
Wright's specific orders, the patriots continued to remove arms and supplies from
the public domain. On 10 July militiamen from Georgia and South Carolina
stopped a royal vessel carrying gunpowder for the Amerindian trade and removed
the cargo of about six tons, before allowing the ship to continue.
On 2 June, upon hearing that the colony's cannon were to fire a salute on
the king's birthday, patriots spiked them and threw them down the embankment.
Royalists recovered several and had them repaired in time to fire the salute on
George III's birthday on 4 June. The patriots erected a liberty pole the next day,
assembled the militia, and drank toasts to "no taxation without representation."
Governor Wright reported these incidents to London, but had no power to do more.
He asked to be relieved, reporting that sentiment was overwhelming for the cause
Whig militiamen gathered food, arms, 63 barrels of rice, £123 in specie,
gunpowder and other supplies to send to the relief of Boston. It is unclear whether
militia volunteers in any significant numbers marched to Massachusetts. On 14
July 1775 the provincial legislature began to consider the creation of a wartime
militia. There were many schemes advanced to reorganize it. Georgia realized that
it must contribute to the general war effort by drafting a number of men from the
militias to form a regiment of the Continental Line. As one delegate observed on
14 July 1775, "The militia was thoroughly organized and drilled and active
military operations prefatory to resistance to the continuance of British aggression
were seen on every hand."(568)
Initially, Georgia was reluctant to join the rebellion and sign a declaration
of independence. The other colonies responded by ordering an embargo of all
goods, but especially of arms and gunpowder, against Georgia. Once the
legislature acted, the Continental Congress removed the embargo. Georgia applied
to Congress for permission to export its indigo harvest and to import trade goods
to pacify the Amerindians. Most of the 1775 legislative calendar was occupied
with matters of governmental transition from the Crown to the Whigs. Wright,
who had not received permission to withdraw and return to England, was powerless
to stem the flow of power to the Whigs. Popular democracy took over, with three
state congresses being elected in 1775 and a fourth in January 1776.
The area of greatest governmental activity was with the Committee of
Safety. The provincial congresses had created and supervised the state committee
of safety which, in turn, loosely supervised local committees. Most of the work of
these committees was devoted to the reconstitution of the militia, appointment of
officers, confirmation of commissions to existing officers, administration of loyalty
oaths, contracting for arms and supplies, and securing of existing military supplies.
It ordered that muskets be purchased "as nearly [as possible] to the size recommended by the Continental Congress." It created a Committee of Safety which was
authorized to place an initial order for 400 stands of arms with bayonets for the
The militiamen insisted on electing their own officers, most of whom were
refused confirmation by Governor Wright. Confirmation was then undertaken by
the Committee of Safety. The Committee had to negotiate an equitable settlement
of a dispute between a company of rangers stationed on the frontier and backwoodsmen who, for unknown reasons, who dis-trusted and had disarmed them.
The committee required that the rangers take an oath of loyalty to the state and to
renounce their presumed loyalty to the governor. This done, the committee ordered
that they be rearmed and returned to duty.
The Committee of Safety also recommended making certain changes in
the basic militia act, but none of the first four congresses undertook to make the
requested revisions. Legislative effort was directed at finding funding for the
enormous expenses that the move to independence was requiring. It also wished
to direct agents to work at retaining the loyalty, or at least neutrality, of the
indigenous aboriginal population. The British had agents hard at work among the
Amerindians and the legislature knew it had to act boldly to prevent a major Indian
On 2 August a band of militiamen left Georgia and entered South Carolina
and there took captive one Thomas Brown, reputed the natural son of Lord North
who it was thought had been sent to America to recruit a Tory militia. Taken to
Augusta, Brown was tarred and feathered and forced to swear allegiance to the new
nation. Released, he did then attempt to recruit a Tory militia to avenge his
maltreatment. The Son of Liberty gathered a counter-force of perhaps 700 men.
Brown had perhaps 150 men and Governor Wright refused to test the loyalty of
what remained of his local troops and refused to act on Brown's behalf. Brown
retired to South Carolina and eventually moved to St. Augustine, Florida.(570)
The enrolled militia of Georgia in 1775 numbered 1000 men under the
command of brigade generals Lachlan McIntosh and Samuel Elbert. This number
remained constant despite the desertion of some men to the tories in 1776, 1777
and 1778. In the early years of the Revolution about 750 men had been drafted
into, or had volunteered for service in, the Continental Line. In July 1778 the state
could count 2000 men serving six months enlistment in the Line. In that year the
state also had 750 men enrolled as minute men. By 1779 British presence had
reduced the number of men in the Line to about 750 while the state militia counted
about the same number. In 1781 General Nathaneal Greene enrolled from the
militia a special brigade to serve with him known as the Georgia Legion and
commanded by General James Jackson.(571)
In January 1776 South Carolina sent an urgent message, reporting that
some British ships of war had arrived at Charleston to secure military supplies and
were now headed for Savannah. The Committee of Safety ordered the militia to
a state of readiness and called the militia units from other areas to assemble in
Savannah. Fearing a British-inspired slave revolt, it ordered some militia to join
with overseers to search the plantations near the seacoast, especially along the
Savannah River, for weapons and ammunition. Militiamen were ordered to stand
coastal watch for British activity. Four British men of war arrived by 18 January.
Governor Wright attempted to persuade the Committee of Safety that all
the British wanted was to purchase rice and other supplies. While such sales were
in technical violation of the Continental Congress' embargo, selling them what they
wanted was far better than suffering occupation, Wright argued. The Whig leaders
responded by arresting the royal council, Wright and other suspected of being
Tories. After a few days, the Committee accepted their paroles that they would not
communicate with the British ships' captains. Emboldened by the arrival of several
more ships with 200 regular soldiers on board, Wright fled to their protection,
made a final appeal to forget about independence, and embarked for England.
Hoping to escape blame for entering into armed conflict with the Whigs in the
south, neither Wright nor the naval commander, Captain Barclay were prepared to
force this issue just yet. Barclay continued to attempt to purchase the supplies he
Meanwhile, on 12 January 1776 the provisional legislature enacted a
militia law which made all able-bodied men in all parishes, towns and counties
subject to enrollment in the militia. Colonel Drayton was empowered to issue
orders for the precise terms of enlistment and training.(572) The legislature decided
against enlisting indentured servants, but allowed apprentices to serve.(573) The
militia continued to gather in Savannah, with perhaps as many as 700 men on hand.
The legislature sent to South Carolina for assistance.
Meanwhile, Governor Wright, now safely on board the man of war
Scarborough requested that Sir Henry Clinton dispatch 500 to 1000 British
regulars to reestablish royal government in Georgia. If these troops arrived soon,
Wright argued, the vast majority of the citizens of Georgia would resume their
allegiance to the Crown. If the royal government abandoned Georgia, it would be
very costly to return and reestablish governance since the Whigs would be very
active in firming up loyalties and suppressing Tories. Most citizens, he thought,
had been panicked and intimidated by the few active Whigs in the colony. Wright
thought that the patriot militia would retreat at the first show of force. Captain
Barkley agreed with this assessment, but was unwilling to land the troops under his
command without Clinton's specific orders, and his orders in hand required him to
return to Boston.
On 20 June the legislature, on recommendation of the militia officers,
"ordered that every man liable to bear arms do Militia Duty in the Parish or District
where he resides." There was no age limits noted in the decree, and exemptions
were made only for those "who shall be enrolled in some Volunteer Company."
The Georgia Provincial Congress appointed Colonel Lachlan McIntosh to
command the state militia, assisted by Samuel Elbert and Joseph Habersham. By
28 April McIntosh had recruited 286 men, and with a few more weeks the active
militia numbered at least 600. Estimates of 4000 men able to bear arms may have
been optimistic, although technically the enrolled militia numbered that many. No
more than one-half that number could be mustered at any given time if the colony
was to survive economically.(574)
The militia was organized into brigades under a brigade general and a
major who served as brigade inspector, a quartermaster and a captain who served
the general; regiments commanded by colonels or lieutenant-colonels, which
consisted of surgeons, quartermasters, pay-masters and adjutants; and companies
under captains, a first and a second lieutenant, ensign, four sergeants and 64
enlisted men. Additionally, there were drummers, fifers, color bearers and various
One novel feature of the organization of the Georgia militia was its
division into three parts in ordinary times and into two divisions in times of
emergency. The practice had begun in July 1775, even before the militia had been
fully organized and was renewed on 8 January 1777.(575) One-third,(576) or under state
of emergency, one-half, of the militia were actually on active duty at one time, with
the remainder being allowed to remain at home.(577) Active duty was for a
"fortnight," after which the militia was rotated with those who had not serve
earlier.(578) In time of grave emergency the governor could order "that a draft be
made of one-half [of the militia] and that they hold themselves in readiness to
march at a moment's notice.(579) On 24 October 1781 the legislature resolved that
"his honor the Governor be requested and empowered to order immediately the
whole of the Militia of this State to join camp as soon as they can possibly be
Because so many militiamen from the frontier owned their own riding
horses, some of the militia were enlisted as mounted infantry.(581) Some militia were
ordered to serve as scouts, primarily on the frontier, or against the British, as the
While the patriots were establishing their control over the state government, many Tories fled to British protection in Florida, from which they raided into
Georgia. Just as the colonists in the north had delusions of grandeur, thinking of
conquering Canada, so the patriots in the south thought of conquering Florida. The
latest intelligence showed that in the autumn of 1775 only about 150 British
regulars occupied St. Augustine. On 1 January 1776, the Continental Congress
offered to underwrite the cost of capturing the British garrison. Through well-placed Tory spies, the British knew as much as the patriots about the planned
expedition. As an idea, there was much merit in the plan for a successful invasion
of Florida would sever the Amerindians from the British agents and end the cattle
raids and pillaging of farms that tied down most militiamen.
Lee estimated that he would need about 1000 men, of which Georgia was
to supply 600 of its Continental Line and militia. It was September before the
expedition got under way, by which time the British army had substantially
strengthened its garrison in St. Augustine and also recruited many Amerindian
warriors. Some of the troops reached St. John where they laid waste the Tories'
fields and farms. Few got farther south than Sunbury and none saw St. Augustine.
Inclement weather, lack of transportation, and illness were the major impediments,
although many militiamen were concerned about the increased pressures of
Amerindian raids on their unprotected families on the frontier.
The failure of the expedition did little to bolster the flagging spirits of the
patriots. What it did do was to invite additional Tory raids on the outlying farms.
By January 1777 intelligence reports indicated that the defenses at St. Augustine
had been strengthened. British naval vessels controlled the port of Savannah. And
on 18 February Captain Richard Winn surrendered his garrison of fifty men at Fort
McIntosh on the Satilla River to British regulars and Tory militia.
On 27 February 1776, the Continental Congress created the Southern
Military District, comprised of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and
Georgia, under the command of Major-general Charles Lee. South Carolina and
Georgia came under the command of Lee's assistant, Brigadier-general John
Armstrong. Lee ordered Armstrong to raise 2000 men, a wholly unrealistic
number. McIntosh's militia was inducted into national service and placed under
Lee's command as a part of the Continental Line. When Lee arrived in Charleston,
South Carolina, in the summer of 1776, McIntosh reported that raising six
battalions in Georgia was quite impossible, although he did turn over command of
four troops of cavalry.
McIntosh pleaded Georgia's case to Lee. Warriors of the Creek Nation
outnumbered the Georgia militia and were on very friendly terms with the British
Indian agents. Raiders from Florida were already stealing cattle and other supplies
and despoiling the backwoods. The British had a substantial military presence in
St. Augustine from whence they supplied the natives and rewarded the raiders. As
mounted and foot militia were drafted into national service and deployed where Lee
best thought to use them, the frontiers, even Augusta and Savannah, lay open for
attack. McIntosh hoped to use the mounted men to patrol the state's borders.
Among his first priorities was cutting off contact between British agents and the
Lee decided to inspect conditions in Georgia personally. When he arrived
in August, McIntosh was able to turn out 2500 militia in addition to his command,
now in Continental service. Lee suggested exchanging the Georgia Continental
Line with men from another area, perhaps South Carolina, since most had Tory
friends either locally or in Florida. Lee thought the militia to be unreliable for the
same reason. In a letter to General Armstrong dated 27 August 1776, Lee was even
more critical of the Georgia militia.
The people here are if possible more harum scarum than their sister colony [i. e.,
South Carolina]. They will propose anything, and after they have proposed it,
discover they are incapable of performing the least. They have proposed securing
their Frontiers by constant patrols of horse Rangers, when the scheme is approved
of they scratch their heads for some days, and at length inform you that there is a
small difficulty in the way; that of the impossibility to procure a single horse -- . .
. . Upon the whole I should not be surprised if they were to propose mounting a
body of Mermaids on Alligators. . . .(583)
As with most states, the lines of authority between state and national
control over soldiers of the Continental Line were unclear and ill-defined. Most
states absolutely denied any national control over their militias. Lee was concerned
for security, especially about plans laid for punitive expeditions against Florida.
As it was, his concerns were well-founded, although it is impossible to say whether
the Line or the militia were the greater offenders. Probably, information leaked to
Tories in Florida from the one merely buttressed information received from the
other. Lee's recommendations for rotation of Georgia's troops in the Line with
those from other states angered local authorities who resented any intimation that
there were secret Tories among their men. Congress decided to augment the local
troops by dispatching a battalion of riflemen and another of mounted troops to
Georgia. Upon receipt of that information, Lee decided to move troops from
Virginia and North Carolina to Georgia, angering the authorities in North Carolina.
When no resolution was forthcoming, North Carolina withdrew its troops from
The Continental Congress in November 1776 ordered the states to create
magazines for gunpowder and storage facilities for other supplies the army would
require along with similar supplies for the state militias. Georgia was able to
supply its own needs, along with those of other states, for rice and salted meat.
The Georgia Constitution of 1777 provided for a militia. All counties
having 250 or more militiamen under arms was permitted to form one or more
battalions. The governor acted as commander-in-chief of all militia and other
armed forces of the state. As such, the governor could appoint superior militia
There were a few religious dissenters in Georgia, mainly Mennonites, who
had been welcomed and granted haven under Oglethorpe's governance, but Georgia
made no provision for their exemption. Some religious dissenters decided to leave
the province when they were not granted military exemptions. Other "persons in
the backwoods settlements" decided that they could not withstand an attack from
the native aborigine if they were "seduced by British aims" and began to abandon
their farms and homesteads. "The commanding officers of the Militia [are] to be
directed to stop and secure the property of such persons as are about to depart the
The legislature decided to create and maintain a show of force in
Savannah and so on 16 January it ordered to "order forthwith a draft of at least one-third of the militia within . . . [the] parishes and have them immediately marched
to Savannah together with every other person who may choose to come down as
a volunteer." Those mustering and undergoing training in Savannah were to be
paid £0/1/6 per day.(586) On 8 June 1776 the legislature ordered the militia to "hire
a number of negroes to finish in a more proper manner the intrenchments about
[Fort] Sunbury."(587) The legislature guessed correctly that any British invasion of
Georgia would originate in Florida and move against Sunbury. In June 1776 it
began to draft militia to staff the fort, rotating the militia every fortnight. Rotation
helped to prevent the boredom that accompanies garrison duty; and it allowed the
militiamen to keep in touch with their families and businesses and farms.
When "it appears that the frontiers of this State, from Information, is in
danger of being distressed by the Indians" the legislature moved to create a band
of specially trained militia, the frontier rangers, or ranging companies.(588) For
frontier rangers, who were to respond to a call on a moment's notice, the division
was by halves rather than thirds, largely because there were so few able-bodied
men to defend the state.(589)
On 29 May 1776 the legislature authorized the formation of "three
companies of Minutemen as soon as they can be furnished with arms, to be
stationed where they may protect the Inhabitants from Indians.(590) "The Amerindians, having received presents and arms from the British in Florida, went on the
warpath for the first time in Georgia. So severe were the depravations that on 24
September 1778 Colonel Williamson recruited 546 militiamen, virtually all the
experienced frontiersmen in the state militia, to repel the Creeks and Cherokees.(591)
The patriot militia of Georgia elected its own officers during the
Revolution.(592) The pay of militiamen was wholly tied to the pay South Carolina
granted to its militiamen. On 14 August 1779 the legislature ordered that pay "shall
in every respect [be put] on the same footing that the South Carolina militia at
present are."(593) The practice of using South Carolina's rate of pay for militia
service antedated the Revolution, dating back to the time "when it was called out
to suppress [slave] insurgents in South Carolina."(594)
General Robert Howe, the new southern commander of the Continental
Line, visited Savannah in March 1777, trying to recruit additional men. The
Georgia light horse refused induction into federal service, leaving only the 400 men
of the First Georgia Battalion in national service. Button Gwinnett called out the
militia, hoping to assemble enough troops to mount another attack on British
Florida and relieve pressures on the frontier. Howe, having been angered at his
poor reception in Georgia, refused to detach any troops under his command in
Charleston to assist.
The British authorities having received the information about the planned
expedition, roused the Creeks and some other Amerindians to ravage the frontier.
By 1 May two groups embarked from Georgia, McIntosh's Continental Line
making the voyage by water, and Colonel John Baker's mounted militia making the
trip overland. The militia arrived at St John first and were immediately dispersed
by the British regulars who were lying in ambush. McIntosh continued to
experience difficulties in transit and abandoned the expedition on 26 May. The
only tangible result was the confiscation of about a thousand head of cattle.
Once again the Tories responded by raiding into Georgia in parties rarely
exceeding 150 men. They sacked Augusta and came within five miles of
Savannah. The militia seemed to be ineffective in dealing with the marauders. The
legislature authorized the commissioning of bands of fifteen or more men to enter
Florida and wreak what havoc they could.
On 10 October 1777, Congress sent McIntosh, now a general, north to
assume a new command and appointed Colonel Samuel Elbert to replace him in
command of the Georgia Continental Line. He inherited a command in which the
troops had not received regular pay for some months and in which morale was low
and desertions were high. The militia ignored the Line and refused induction into
Early in 1778 there was again discussion about making the now annual
expedition against St. Augustine. Elbert thought that he would need 1500 men to
stand any chance of capturing St. Augustine, which meant he required both a
substantial infusion of regular troops and a significant number of Georgia
militiamen. Word reached Savannah that British Governor Tonyn had sent German
immigrants into Georgia to recruit German speaking settlers and Loyalist Florida
Rangers were again raiding cattle along the frontier. Intelligence reported that
some 400 to 700 disaffected South Carolina Tories were migrating through Georgia
on their way to the British settlement in Florida. Governor Houstoun sent the
militia to intercept them, but no contact was ever made.
By mid-April some 2000 troops were in readiness to invade Florida.
Robert Howe commanded members of the Continental Line from South Carolina
and Georgia; Colonel Andrew Williamson commanded the attached South Carolina
militia; and Governor Houstoun took personal command of the Georgia militia,
probably because most of those men mustered in response to his direct appeal. The
Whigs had a genuine opportunity to capture St. Augustine for they outnumbered
the British forces by about two to one and were probably better equipped in
superior physical condition.
The problems in this third expedition were at the command level. The
headstrong Houstoun, barely 30 years of age and with no military experience,
thought himself the senior officer and refused to accept orders from Howe.
Following this example, Williamson announced that he would not accept orders
from either Howe or Houstoun because his militia were independent of both
national and Georgia state command. Although the Florida Rangers and their Tory
and Amerindian allies retreated at the approach of the patriot force, Howe asked
for and received permission to withdraw his men because of the problems of
Congress decided that if another expedition were mounted against Florida,
it would have to be undertaken with trained regulars. The Georgians, militia or
soldiers of the Line, leaked too much information to the British. Militia had proven
themselves unreliable and undisciplined in the three previous expeditions and
would be left behind to defend the frontier from Tory and Amerindian attacks.
Civilian Whig authorities had assumed throughout the early years that
with some effort they could defeat the English and capture Florida. Military
opinion on both sides generally agreed that neither side was strong enough to
conquer the other. But if one side did win, it would not be able to hold on to the
prize. Both sides then had been reduced to raiding the cattle, food and other
supplies of the other. The Whigs' punitive expeditions had done little more than
cause the British to bribe the Amerindians to undertake massacres along the
unprotected frontier. Because the militia was small, hesitant to leave its home areas
undefended, and ill organized and poorly led, it failed to perform its primary
function of protecting the home folks. If anyone can be said to have come out
ahead in this bloody game of attrition, it was probably Tonyn's Tories, Amerindians
and Florida Rangers. The Rangers were loathed by the regulars because they were
essentially the dregs of humanity who had been given a license to plunder, but
proved to be a better force because of superior organization, better administration
and superior weapons and supplies. Their destruction of homes, crops and
supplies, combined with the stealing of livestock, caused a great deal of hardship
among the patriots.
The Georgia militiamen were poorly supplied, many being without
blankets, canteens, knapsacks, shoes or firearms. They were paid in state currency
which had little value, and indeed was generally not accepted outside the colony.
The well-supplied and equipped enemy received British currency, still accepted
anywhere at face value. Most refused induction into the Continental Line and some
were reluctant to report to militia musters, fearing that they might be conscripted
by recruiting agents for the Line. Poor leadership also contributed to poor morale,
although the militiamen had to share a portion of the blame for that failure since
they elected most of the officers.
Georgia's Amerindian policy was generally a failure, although the Whigs
did make attempts to pacify the natives by the usual methods of meeting with them,
distributing gifts, pledging that their lands would be protected and guaranteeing
their borders. The first Cherokee War began in the summer of 1776, although most
of the fighting occurred in the Carolinas. Eventually, the combined efforts of the
militias of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia defeated them.
It was perhaps most important that the Creeks generally decided against allying
with the Cherokees. After the Cherokees acknowledged defeat and signed the
Treaty of DeWitt's Corner on 20 May 1777, there were few major problems with
the natives. However, sporadic raids, largely incited by British agents, kept the
frontier militia in a constant state of readiness.
Georgia had been spared any direct military action in the Revolution until
1778 when the British moved against Savannah. When Sir Henry Clinton
succeeded Sir William Howe as the British commander, he was determined to carry
the war into the south. The British had planned to return ever since James Wright
had been forced to flee the colony. Clinton's staff thought that it would require
5000 troops to capture Charleston, but only 2000 to take Savannah.
Georgia thus became the logical place to begin the reduction of the
southern colonies. On 27 November 1778, the British command sent Lieutenant-colonel Archibald Campbell of the 71st Scottish Regiment with 3000 British and
Hessian regulars and four battalions of loyalists to accomplish the reduction of
Georgia. General Robert Howe, then commander of the Southern Department, had
a mixed force of about 1000, militia and regulars, and could not withstand the
assault. On 23 December Campbell arrived at Tybee Island near Savannah and was
unopposed. The patriot army crossed into South Carolina. Meanwhile, General
Augustine Prevost, marching northward from Florida, captured the remaining
patriot militia and army at Fort Sunbury on 10 January 1779. Having eliminated
both regular army units and patriot militia as a factor in Georgia, Campbell was
uncertain what to do next. The home office had wished to test its theory that the
tories of the southern states were just waiting to show their loyalty, and would do
so in considerable numbers. So Campbell decided to spread his command and seek
out loyalist supporters.(595)
Howe was shortly thereafter replaced by Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810).
Howe delayed his departure to assist the Georgia militia who were being pressed
by British-induced Amerindian raids all along the frontier. The native American
force was not large, but was extremely mobile, largely massacring isolated
settlements and striking from ambush.
On 6 January 1779 General Augustine Prevost, marching north from
Florida, secured the surrender of Fort Sunbury. By 29 January Prevost's army had
occupied Savannah. The British, assisted by loyalists, occupied the most populous
parts of the state within a few months. Heartily encouraged, Campbell made
additional sorties into the back country of Georgia, but these proved to be as
fruitless as the first action was successful. Under the protection of the British
army, James Wright returned to occupy the governor's office. There were only a
few military actions of note. John Moultrie, with Georgia and Carolina militia,
successfully defended Port Royal, South Carolina, in early February.
The patriot militia under Colonel Andrew Pickens won a small battle over
loyalist militia at Kettle Creek, South Carolina, on 14 February 1779. A certain
Colonel Boyd had recruited about 700 loyalist militia and marched south to join
Campbell's regulars in Georgia. Colonel Andrew Pickens gathered some 4000
militia and surprised the tories at Kettle Creek, killed Boyd and about forty of his
men, wounded and captured another 150, and scattered the remainder. Pickens
took his prisoners back to South Carolina where five leaders were hanged as
traitors, another 65 condemned but pardoned, and others forced to take an oath of
loyalty to the republic.(596) The patriots lost an engagement at Brier Creek, on 3
March. At Brier Creek, General John Ashe (1720-1781) led the patriot militia,
which lost 350 men while inflicting only twenty casualties on the mixed British and
Leaving Campbell in command at Savannah, Prevost moved northward
into South Carolina. Meanwhile, Major-general Benjamin Lincoln rallied the
patriot army and moved to Purysburg, about fifteen miles from Savannah. The
swamps surrounding Lincoln's army inhibited Prevost's movements, and not
wanting to become entrapped in such hostile territory, Prevost sent Major Gardiner
to Port Royal Island. Lincoln sent General William Moultrie who led the Georgia
militia against Gardiner who withdrew and returned to Savannah.
Emboldened by French support, patriots made a desperate assault on
Savannah, but were repulsed. Washington detached a corps of the Continental
Line under General Benjamin Lincoln to support the militia in an assault on
Augusta on 23 April. Prevost had moved his army northward along the coast
toward Charleston, South Carolina. He had hoped loyalists could retain control in
Georgia. Upon learning of Lincoln's arrival, he moved south. Lincoln's army met
Prevost at Stono Ferry on 19 June. Lincoln suffered 300 casualties against 130
inflicted on the British, thus allowing Prevost to retain Savannah. Still, the British
controlled only the area immediately surrounding Savannah, and the tories had
been disheartened. The British finally withdrew from Savannah in 1782 as a result
of patriot pressures to the north. The Georgia loyalist militia could not withstand
patriot pressure and quickly disbanded and fled.
The Georgia militia probably failed to achieve the universally accepted
goals of colonial militia units to a greater extent than did the militias of other states.
It was highly ineffective in stopping the constant raids from Florida, did not fill the
ranks of the Continental Line, and did very little to contain the native Americans.
In the latter function, it is fortunate that other militias were successful in breaking
the power of the Cherokees.Notes
1. Edward W. James, ed., The Lower Norfolk County, Virginia, Antiquary. 5 vols. New York:
Peter Smith, 1951, 1: 104.
2. Williams v. State, 490 S.W. 117 at 121.
3. Don Higginbotham, Daniel Morgan. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961, 132-33; Hugh F. Rankin, Francis Marion. New York: Capricorn, 1973; John R. Alden., The South
in the Revolution, 1763-1789. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1957, 267; Robert
Pugh, "The Revolutionary Militia in the Southern Campaign, 1780-81," William and Mary Quarterly
3d series, 19 : 154-75.
4. William L. Shea. The Virginia Militia in the Seventeenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1983, 136-40.
5. Virginia Charter of 1606 in Benjamin P. Poore, ed. The Federal and state Constitutions, Colonial
Charters and Other Organic Laws of the United States. 2 vols. Washington: U. S. Government
Printing Office, 1877, 2: 1891.
6. Virginia Charter of 1612, in Ibid., 2: 1906.
7. Travels and Works of Captain John Smith. Edward Arber and A. G. Bradley, eds. 2 vols.
Edinburgh: Grant, 1910, 2: 433-34.
8. Records of the Virginia Company of London. S. K. Kingsbury, ed. 4 vols. Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Government, 1906-35, 3: 21-22, 27, 220.
9. R. Hamor, A True Discourse on the Present State of Virginia . Richmond, Va.: Virginia
State Library, 1957, 5-16; D. B. Rutman, "The Virginia Company and its Military Regime," in D.
Rutman, ed. The Old Dominion. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1964, 1-20.
10. Quoted in Congressional Record, Executive Document 95, 48th Congress, Second Session.
11. Quoted in Congressional Record, Executive Document 95, 48th Congress, Second Session.
12. William Shea, "The First American Militia," Military Affairs, : 15-18; Records of the
Virginia Company, 3: 164-73.
13. Statutes at Large, Being a Collection of All Laws of Virginia. W. W. Hening, ed. 13 vols.
Richmond: State of Virginia, 1818-23, 1: 114.
14. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 121-29.
15. R. A. Brock, ed. Virginia Company of London, 1619-1624. 2 vols. Richmond: Virginia
Historical Society, 1889, 2: 7, 9.
16. Act XXII of 25 September 1622, Hening, Statutes at Large, 4: 127-29.
17. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 122-23.
18. Records of the Virginia Company, 4: 580-84; Minutes of the Council and General Court of
Colonial Virginia, 1622-1632. Richmond, Va.: State of Virginia, 1924, 18.
19. Journals of the House of Burgesses, 1619-1777. 30 volumes. Richmond: State of Virginia, 1905-15, 1: 52-53.
20. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 140-41, 153.
21. In Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 2: 22-23.
22. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 167, 174, 176, 219.
23. Lower Norfolk Country Minute Book, 1637-1646. manuscript, Virginia State Library, 35, 39,
24. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 224, 226.
25. Raoul F. Camus. Military Music of the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1976, 40.
26. "Instructions to Sir William Berkeley," 1642, in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography,
2: , 281-88.
27. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 219, 285.
28. S. M. Ames, ed. County Court Records of Accomack--Northampton Counties, Virginia, 1640--1645. Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1973, 268.
29. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 263.
30. See William L. Shea, "Virginia at War, 1644-46," Military Affairs, : 142-47.
31. General Court Session of 23 May 1677.
32. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 292-93.
33. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 293, 315-19.
34. See Northumberland County, Virginia, Order Book 2. Manuscript, Virginia Historical Society,
35. Wesley Frank Craven, "Indian Policy in Early Virginia," William and Mary Quarterly, third
series, 1: 73-76; Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 140-41, 292-93, 323-26, 355.
36. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 393-96.
37. Northumberland County, Virginia, Order Book 2, 8.
38. Act XXIV of 1658-59, Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 525.
39. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 515; 2: 34-39.
40. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 15.
41. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 185, 193.
42. Thomas Ludwell, "Description of Virginia," 17 September 1666, a report to the Lords of Trade,
in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 5 : 54-59.
43. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 237, 336.
44. Thomas J. Wertenbaker. Virginia Under the Stuarts, 1607-1688. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1914, 99-100.
45. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 326-36, 341-50; Wilcomb E. Washburn. The Governor and the
Rebel: A History of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
46. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 341.
47. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 326-36; 341-50.
48. Camus, Military Music of the American Revolution, 41.
49. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 336, 410, 439, 491-92.
50. Nathaniel Bacon, quoted in Thomas J. Wertenbaker. Torchbearer of the Revolution: The Story
of Bacon's Rebellion and its Leader. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1940, p. 135.
51. Bacon's rebellion was widely held a generation ago to have been a political event, an early
revolution undertaken to ensure the rights of Englishmen, and so on. It was brought on by the
despotic conduct of a tyrannical governor who had illegally and unjustly raised taxes without the
consent of the governed. See, for example, Thornton Anderson, "Virginia: The Beginnings" in his
Development of American Political Thought. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1961, 1-18. It
is now viewed quite differently. Berkeley was the just defender of the peaceful Amerindians who
wanted to prevent a mad, bloodthirsty and covetous bigot from exterminating a whole race. Berkeley
wanted only to punish the wrong doers on the Indian side while protecting the vast majority who were
peace loving brothers. See, for example, "Bacon's Rebellion," in Thomas C. Cochran and Wayne
Andrews, Concise Dictionary of American History. New York: Scribner's, 1962, 79.
52. Quoted in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1 [1893-94]: 2.
53. "Causes of Discontent in Virginia, Isle of Wright," numbers 7 and 8, 1676, Virginia Magazine
of History and Biography, 2: 381-92. See also the statement on the same subject by the inhabitants
of Surry County, in Ibid., 2: 170-73.
54. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 513.
55. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 233-45.
56. Hening, Statutes at Large, 2: 481.
57. Hening, Statutes at Large, 3: 335-36, 459.
58. An Act for the better supply of the country with armes and ammunition, Hening, Statutes at large,
3: 13-14; 36 Charles II act iv, April 1684.
59. Quoted in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 2: 263-64.
60. Camus, Military Music, 41.
61. Hening, Statutes at Large, 1: 526. See also "The Randolph Manuscript," Virginia Magazine of
History and Biography, 20 : 117.
62. Shea, Virginia Militia, 122-35, 140.
63. Hening, Statutes at Large, 3: 69; Pallas v Hill , Hening and Mumford Reports, 2: 149.
64. Great Britain. Public Records Office Records: Colonial, 4: 1306.
65. Beverly Fleet, ed. Virginia Colonial Abstracts. Richmond, Va.: Fleet, n.d., 6: 14.
66. "Charges Against Governor Nicholson," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 3: 373-82.
67. John Shy. Toward Lexington. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965, 11; R. A. Brock,
ed. Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood. 2 vols. Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1: 131-33, 194, 197, 204-07.
68. "Journal of John Barnwell," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 6 : 50.
69. Virginia State Papers, 1: 152.
70. Hening, Statutes at Large, 3: 335-42.
71. Alexander Spotswood, "Letter to the Lords, Commissioners of Trade," The Official Letters of
Alexander Spotswood. R. A. Brock, ed. 3 vols. Richmond, Va.: State of Virginia, 1882-85, 2: 37,
72. Letter to the Lords, Commissioners of Trade, Spotswood Letters, 2: 37, 194-212.
73. Virginia Gazette, 14 December 1737.
74. Spotswood Letters, 1: 163.
75. Spotswood Letters, 2: 140.
76. Spotswood Letters, 2: 209-10.
77. Journal of the House Burgesses, 1629-1677. 30 vols. Richmond: State of Virginia, 1905-15,
August 9, 1715.
78. Spotswood Letters, 1: 210-13.
79. Spotswood, Letters, 1: 121, 130-35, 141-45, 166-67; Hening, Statutes at Large, 4: 10.
80. Spotswood, Letters, 1: 130.
81. Hening, Statutes at Large, 3: 343, 464-69; Spotswood, Letters, 1: 167.
82. Spotswood, Letters, 1: 169-72, 2: 19-25.
83. See Spotswood to Lords of Trade, especially letter of 9 May 1716, Spotswood, Letters, 2: 25,
84. Hening, Statutes at Large, 4: 103, 405, 461.
85. Spotswood, Letters, 2: 227.
86. Hening, Statutes at Large, 4: 118-19, 130-31.
87. Hening, Statutes at Large, 4: 119.
88. Hugh Jones. Present State of Virginia. London, 1724; see also College Catalogue of William
and Mary, 1855, 5-10.
89. Virginia Gazette, 7 November 1754, supplement.
90. Original documents reported in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 3 : 119.
91. Minute Book, King and Queen County, 5: 47.
92. William Byrd's History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina. edited by
William K. Boyd. Raleigh, N. C., 1929, 116.
93. Hening, Statutes at Large, 5: 16-17; 6: 533; 7: 95.
94. Pennsylvania Archives. J. H. Linn and W. H. Egle, eds. 119 vols in 9 series. Harrisburg:
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1852-1935. [Hereinafter, Pa. Arch, with series first, then vol.
number, followed by page number). 1 Pa. Arch. 1: 581-83, 616-19; Archives of Maryland. W. H.
Browne et al., eds. 72 vols. Annapolis: state of Maryland, 1883-. [Hereinafter Md. Arch.]. 28: 193-99, 224; Pennsylvania Colonial Records. 16 vols. Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
1852-60. [Hereinafter Pa. Col. Rec.], 4: 455-56.
95. William A. Foote, "The Pennsylvania Men of the American Regiment," Pennsylvania Magazine
of History and Biography, 88 : 31-38; New York Weekly Journal, 17 January 1743.
96. Great Britain. Public Records Office, Colonial Office. Roll 5: 1325, 235, 237-39.
97. Boston News Letter, 18 December 1746; Maryland Gazette, 21 October 1746.
98. Boston News Leader, 9 August 1753 and 28 March 1754; Virginia Gazette, 23 February 1754;
Pennsylvania Gazette, 12 March 1754; Maryland Gazette, 14 March 1754.
99. Boston News Letter, 21 and 28 March 1754.
100. See, for example, Pennsylvania Gazette, 10 May 1753.
101. Robert Dinwiddie served as governor of Virginia from 20 November 1751 until January 1758.
His earliest appointment seems to have dated from 1727 when he was appointed collector of customs
for Bermuda. He was promoted to surveyor of customs for all American colonies. Worn out by the
performance of his duties in the Seven Years' War, he returned to England in 1758 and died in July
1770. Official Records of Governor Robert Dinwiddie. R. A. Brock, ed. 2 vols. Richmond: State
of Virginia, 1883-84.
102. Hening, Statutes at Large, 6: 530-33.
103. Virginia Gazette, 19 July 1754.
104. "A Proclamation for Encouraging Men to Enlist in his Majesty's Service for the Defence and
Security of this Colony." Hening, Statutes at Large, 7.
105. Hening, Statutes at Large, 6: 438.
106. Brock, Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 344. See also Dinwiddie to Colonel Jefferson, 5 May 1756, in
Ibid., 1: 405.
107. Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 515.
108. Dinwiddie to Charles Carter, 18 July 1755 in Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 101.
109. Edward Braddock to Robert Napier, 17 March 1755, in Stanley Pargellis, editor. Military
Affairs in North America, 1748-1765. Hampden, Ct.: Anchor, 1969, 78.
110. Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 67, 93.
111. Waddell, Annals of Augusta County, 112.
112. Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 100-200.
113. Hening, Statutes at Large, 6: 550-51.
114. Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 207-10.
115. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. edited
by Jacob E. Cooke and John C. Fitzpatrick. 39 volumes. Washington: Washington Bicentennial
Commission, 1931-44, 1: 235.
116. Writings of Washington, 1: 399-400.
117. Writings of Washington, 1: 416.
118. Washington to Dinwiddie, 9 November 1756, Writings of Washington, 1: 493.
119. Writings of Washington, 1: 99.
120. Writings of Washington, 1: 158-59.
121. Writings of George Washington, 1: 188.
122. Writings of Washington, 1: 202.
123. Washington to Dinwiddie, 15 May 1756, Writings of Washington, 1: 371.
124. Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 197-200.
125. Hening, Statutes at Large, 6: 631-48.
126. Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 344-45.
127. Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 41.
128. Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1: 287.
129. Dinwiddie to Washington, 8 May 1756, in Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 406-08.
130. Pennsylvania Gazette, 15 April 1756.
131. Maryland Gazette, 30 January 1755.
132. Maryland Gazette, 12 September 1754.
133. Boston News Letter, 3 January 1754.
134. Boston News Letter, 6 September and 6 December 1753 and 3 January 1754.
135. Journals of the House of Burgesses, 1756-1758, 346, 356-61; Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 390;
Preston Papers, 1QQ: 131-36.
136. Hening, Statutes at Large, 7: 17.
137. Boston News Letter, 13 May 1756.
138. Dinwiddie to Henry Fox, 10 May 1756, in Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 408-10.
139. Journal of the House of Burgesses, 1758-1761, 379-81.
140. Preston Papers, 1QQ: 131-33; Journal of the House of Burgesses, 1756-58, 499.
141. Dinwiddie to County Lieutenants, 5 May 1756, in Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 404.
142. Dinwiddie to Sharpe, 24 May 1756, in Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 426-28.
143. Dinwiddie to Washington, 27 May 1756, in Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 422-24.
144. Dinwiddie to Abercrombie, 28 May 1756, in Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 424-26.
145. Marion Tinling, ed. Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover, Virginia. 2 vols.
Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1977, 2: 616.
146. Hening, Statutes at Large, 7: 93-95.
147. Writings of Washington, 1: 354-59.
148. See Dinwiddie to Thomas Jefferson, 5 May 1756, in Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 405.
149. in Louis K. Koontz. The Virginia Frontier. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1925,
150. Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 476.
151. Dinwiddie to Loudoun, 28 October 1756, Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 532-34.
152. Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 581-92; Military Grants, French and Indian War, in Virginia Land Office;
Preston Papers, 13, 18, 26.
153. Dinwiddie Papers, 2: 620-23.
154. Dinwiddie to James Atkin, 16 June 1757, Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 640.
155. Dinwiddie to Pitt, 18 June 1757, Dinwiddie Papers, 1: 641-42.
156. The Act of the Assembly, Now in Force in the Colony of Virginia. Williamsburg: Rind, Purdie
and Dixon, 1769, 334-42.
157. An Act for Reducing the Several Acts for Making Provision against Invasions and Insurrections
into One Act, Acts of the Assembly, 342-44.
158. Hening, Statutes at Large, 7: 172-73; "Memorial to the House of Burgesses, 3 April 1758,"
in Legislative Journal, 3: 1183.
159. George Reese, ed. Official Papers of Francis Fauquier, 1758--1768. 3 vols. Richmond:
Virginia Historical Society, 1980, 2: 168.
160. Koontz, Virginia Frontier, 293.
161. Preston Papers, 54.
162. Journal of the House of Burgesses, 1758-1761, appendices; Hening, Statutes at Large, 7: 492-93.
163. Preston Papers, 55.
164. Draper mss, 2QQ44; Withers, Border Warfare, 99; Koontz, Virginia Frontier, 288; Waddell,
Annals of Augusta County, 198-99.
165. Ibid., 263, 289.
166. Idib., 292-93.
167. Howard H. Peckham. Pontiac and the Indian Uprising. Princeton: Princeton University Press,
168. Amherst to Lt.-gov. Fauquier, 29 August 1763, Collections of the Michigan Pioneer and
Historical Society, 19 : 228-29.
169. Hening, Statutes at Large, 7: 93-106; 274-75; 8: 241-45, 503; The Acts of the Assembly nowe
in Force in the Colony of Virginia. Williamsburg: Rind, Purdie and Dixon, 1769, 474-76.
170. Virginia Gazette, 13 November 1766.
171. Dunmore was the last royal governor of Virginia. He opened up the Ohio Territory by defeating
the Shawnee in Dunmore's War of 1774. He fought constantly with the House of Burgesses and
finally had to flee to a British man of war. He returned to England in July 1776 and later served as
governor of the Bahamas, 1787 to 1796.
172. For example, in Rivington's New York Gazette, 17 November 1774.
173. Virgil A. Lewis. History of the Battle of Point Pleasant. Charleston, W. Va., 1909; E. O.
Randall, "Lord Dunmore's War," Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications, 11 : 167-97; R. G. Thwaites and Louise P. Kellogg, eds. Documentary History of Dunmore's War.
Madison: Wisconsin State Historical Society, 1905.
174. William Wirt Henry, ed. Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches. 3 vols. New
York: Scribner's, 1891, 1: 252.
175. American Archives. Peter Force, ed. 9 vols. in series 4 and 5. Washington: U. S.
Government, 1837-53. 4 Amer. Arch. 2: 1211-15.
176. Robert Douthat Meade. Patrick Henry. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1957-62; Moses
Tyler C. Patrick Henry. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915; Richard R. Beeman. Patrick Henry.
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974; Norine Dickson Campbell. Patrick Henry, Patriot and Statesman.
New York: Devin-Adair, 1969.
177. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 257-58.
178. R. A. Brock, "Eminent Virginians," in Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia. New York:
Hardesty, 1884, 348.
179. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 258.
180. Edmund Randolph, ms. in Virginia Historical Society.
181. 4 Amer. Arch. 1: 881.
182. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 279.
183. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 156.
184. Letter from Virginia, 1 July 1775, Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 21 August 1775.
185. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 280.
186. Letter from Virginia, dated 16 April 1775, London Chronicle, 1 June 1775.
187. J. T. McAllister, The Virginia Militia in the Revolutionary War. Hot Springs, Va.: McAllister,
n. d., 7.
188. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. Brent Tarter, ed. 8 vols. Charlottesville:
University of Virginia Press, 1983, 7: 515.
189. Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 22 : 57.
190. 5 Amer. Arch. 3: 52.
191. Ordinances of the Convention, July 1775, 1: ch. 1: 33, 34, 35.
192. Ordinances of the Convention, July 1775, 33.
193. Ibid., 34.
194. Julian P. Boyd, ed. Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-,
195. "Letters from Virginia, 1774-1781," Virginia Magazine of History 3: 159.
196. Each man enlisted was to be equipped with a hunting shirt, a pair of leggings and a proper arm
at the public expense. If the men provided their own weapon they were to receive an additional
allowance of 20 shillings per years. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 18.
197. Lenora H. Sweeny. Amherst County, Virginia, in the Revolution. Lynchburg, Va.: Bell, 1951,
198. Benson J. Lossing. Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution. 2 vols. New York: Harper, 1851-52,
199. Letter from Philadelphia, 12 March 1776, London Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 16 May
200. McAllister, Virginia Militia, 5.
201. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 317.
202. Letter of Jasper Yates to James Wilson, 30 July 1776, "You may recollect that sometime ago
the Convention of Virginia resolved that 200 Indians should be inlisted by John Gibson in the service
of that Colony." in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 39 : 359.
203. John Page to Jefferson, 24 November 1775, Jefferson Papers, 1: 266.
204. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 30ff.
205. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 28-29, 139-41; Revolutionary Virginia, 7: 505.
206. Revolutionary Virginia, 7: 597.
207. Revolutionary Virginia, 7: 633.
208. Virginia Gazette, 23 September 1775; Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 319.
209. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 9-10; Virginia Gazette, 1 April 1775.
210. Robert G. Albion and Leonidas Dodson, eds. Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian,
1773-1774. Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1943, 24.
211. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 267-68.
212. Humphrey Bland. A Plan of Military Discipline. Several editions were published. Washington
specified the London edition of 1762.
213. Turpin de Crisse (1715-1792). An Essay on the Art of War. London, 1755. The count was
among the most distinguished scholars of military history of his day. He had translated and
interpreted many of the more important works of antiquity. He served in Belgium, Holland and
France under Marshal Saxe.
214. Roger Stevenson. Military Instructions for Officers, "lately published in Philadelphia"
[Philadelphia, 1775]. Washington had a copy of this work in his library at Mount Vernon Library.
215. M. de Jeney. The Partisan. London, 1760.
216. William Young. Essays on the Command of Small Detachments. 2 vols. London, 1771.
217. Thomas Simes. The Military Guide for Young Officers. Philadelphia, 1776. This work was
published in two volumes, the second a military dictionary; the first a military scrap book containing
many quotations from other works, such as Bland and Saxe.
218. Friedrich Kapp. The Life of Major-General Frederick William von Steuben. New York: Mason,
219. John W. Wright. Some Notes on the Continental Army. Vails Gate, N. Y.: National Temple
Hill Assn., 1963, 2-4.
220. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 327, 337.
221. Technically, Patrick Henry carried a commission which read, "colonel of the first regiment of
regulars, and commander in chief of all forces raised for the protection of this colony" in fact Henry
was too heavily involved in the politics of the Convention and political organization of the state to
command any force. There was an apparent contradiction between Woodford's and Henry's
commissions, but there was little opportunity for clash because each man was too busy at his own
task. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 338-39.
222. William Woodford to Convention, 7 December 1775, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 335-37.
223. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 429.
224. Virginia Bill of Rights, 1776, in Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1909.
225. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Julian P. Boyd and others, eds. 20 vols. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1950-, 1: 344-45.
226. Jefferson Papers, 1: 353.
227. Jefferson Papers, 1: 363.
228. Virginia Constitution of 1776, in Poore, ed. Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters,
and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories and Colonies, Now and Heretofore Forming the
United States of America. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1909, 2: 1911.
229. Clark was born near Charlottesville, Virginia, on 19 November 1752, and in 1775 moved to the
Kentucky territory, where he organized militiamen to defend their homes. After the war, Clark
returned to Louisville, where he lived until his death on 13 February 1818.
230. Journal of the Virginia Council, 23 August 1776.
231. Revolutionary Virginia, 7: 306.
232. Revolutionary Virginia, 7: 552.
233. Edmund Pendleton to James Madison, 11 December 1780, in D. J. Mays, ed. The Letters and
Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734-1802. 2 vols. Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1967, 1:
234. Henry, Patrick Henry, 3: 13-15.
235. Revolutionary Virginia, 7: 548-49.
236. Alexander Brown. The Cabells and Their Kin. Richmond: privately printed, 1896, 124.
237. Revolutionary Virginia, 7: 625, 695.
238. "Two Letters of Colonel Francis Johnson," this one dated 14 June 1776, in Pennsylvania
Magazine of History and Biography, 39 : 302.
239. D. J. Mays, ed. Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734-1803. 2 vols. Richmond:
Virginia Historical Society, 1967, 2: 223.
240. Proceedings of the Virginia Historical Society, New Series, 11 : 346.
241. Jefferson Papers, 4: 664.
242. According to Sabine, American Loyalists, II, 146-47, William Panton of Georgia was the
principal agent for British arms sent the Cherokee, telling them that "these guns were to kill
Americans and that he would rather have them applied to that use than to the shooting of deer."
243. William Christian to Patrick Henry, 23 October 1776, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 3: 25-29.
244. Willie Jones, President of the North Carolina Council, Halifax, to Patrick Henry, 25 October
1776, Ibid., 3: 29-30.
245. Patrick Henry to Richard Henry Lee, 28 March 1777, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 515.
246. Maud Carter Clement, History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Lynchburg, Virginia: Bell,
247. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 483.
248. Resolution of Legislature, 21 December 1776, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 502-04.
249. 5 Amer. Arch. 3: 1425.
250. Patrick Henry to George Washington, 29 March 1777, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 516-17.
251. Virginia Gazette, 21 February 1777.
252. Patrick Henry to George Washington, 29 March 1777, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 516-17.
253. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 275.
254. Patrick Henry to the Lieutenant of Montgomery County, 10 March 1777, in Henry, Patrick
Henry, 3: 44.
255. Patrick Henry to Thomas Johnson, 31 March 1777, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 3: 51-53.
256. Stuart, "Memoir of the Indian Wars," Collection of the Virginia Historical and Philosophical
Society, 1: 1.
257. McDowell to Jefferson, 20 April 1781; Moffet to Jefferson, 5 May 1781, Jefferson Papers, 5:
258. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 267-68.
259. Proceedings of the Virginia Historical Society. . New Series, 11: 346.
260. Patrick Henry to Richard Henry Lee, 20 March 1777, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 514.
261. Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 518-19.
262. Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 2: 301, 398 144, 173, 260, 234 & 232; M. C. Clement,
History of Pittsylvania County, 170-87.
263. D. J., Mays, ed. Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734--1803. 2 vols. Richmond:
Virginia Historical Society, 1967, 1: 221.
264. Executive Journal, 18 August 1777, Virginia Historical Society 61; Patrick Henry to George
Washington, 29 October 1777, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 541-42.
265. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 373.
266. George Washington to Patrick Henry, 13 November 1777, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 542-44.
267. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 445.
268. Patrick Henry to Congress, 18 June 1777, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 3: 177.
269. John Wilson to Patrick Henry, 20 May 1778, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 3: 169-70.
270. Patrick Henry to Benjamin Harrison, 21 May 1778, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 3: 167-69.
271. Journal of the Executive Council, 28 June 1777, 30, Virginia Historical Society.
272. 1 Pa. Arch. 6: 18.
273. Journal of the Executive Council, 19 February 1778, Virginia Historical Society.
274. Executive Journal, 1778, 227, 273; Annals of Augusta County, 164, 18 April and 5 May 1778.
275. Patrick Henry to Congress, 8 July 1778; Congress to Henry, 6 August 1778, in Henry, Patrick
Henry, 1: 578-79; 3: 189.
276. John Bakeless. Background to Glory. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1957; James A. James The
Life of George Rogers Clark. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1928.
277. Hening, Statutes at Large, 9: 374-75.
278. Executive Journal, 2 January 1778.
279. Patrick Henry to George Rogers Clark, 2 January 1778, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 1: 588.
280. Patrick Henry to Richard Henry Lee, 19 May 1779, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 2: 30-31.
281. Executive Journal, 303.
282. Executive Journal, 305.
283. Henry, Patrick Henry, 2: 7.
284. Henry to Henry Laurens, 28 November 1778, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 2: 21-23.
285. Patrick Henry to George Washington, 13 March 1779; Arthur Campbell to Patrick Henry, 15
March 1779, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 2: 23; 3: 231. Isaac Shelby was born in Washington County,
Maryland, on 11 December 1750. He became a leader of patriot militia in the Carolinas. About
1783 he moved to Kentucky and became its first governor when it was admitted to statehood. In the
War of 1812 he organized band of militia and volunteers some 4000 strong and defeated the British
army at the Battle of the Thames on 15 October 1813. He died on 18 July 1826. Sylvia Wrobel and
George Grider. Isaac Shelby: Kentucky's First Governor and Hero of Three Wars. Danville, Ky.:
Cumberland Press, 1974.
286. John G. Patterson, "Ebenezer Zane, Frontiersman," West Virginia History, 12 .
287. Patrick Henry to Richard Henry Lee, 19 May 1779, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 2: 30-31; Sir
George Collier to Sir Henry Clinton, 16 May 1779, in Henry Clinton. The American Rebellion. Sir
Henry Clinton's Narratives of His Campaigns, 1775-1782. William B. Willcox, ed. New Haven,
Ct.: Yale University Press, 1954, 406.
288. "Journal of Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger," in Howard C. Rice, ed. The American Campaign
of Rochambeau's Army. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957, 152.
289. In 1785 Patrick Henry, serving again as governor of Virginia, hired Lafayette to advise him on
militia training and discipline. Lafayette wrote Henry on 7 June 1785, "I have been honored with
your Excellency's commands . . . and find myself happy to be employed in the service of the Virginia
Militia . . . . Indeed, Sir, the Virginia militia deserves to be well armed and properly attended."
Henry, Patrick Henry, 3: 298-99.
290. Jefferson Papers, 6: 36.
291. Jefferson Papers, 4: 298-99.
292. Jefferson Papers, 4: 130-31.
293. Jefferson Papers, 3: 576-77.
294. Jefferson Papers, 4: 54.
295. Jefferson Papers, 4: 57.
296. Writings of Washington, 20: 45-46.
297. Edmund Pendleton to James Madison, 11 December 1780, in D. J. Mays, ed. The Letters and
Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734-1802. 2 vols. Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1967, 1:
298. Benjamin F. Stevens, ed. The Campaign in Virginia, 1781: An Exact Reprint of Six Rare
Pamphlets on the Clinton-Cornwallis Controversy. 2 vols. London, 1888; Randolph G. Adams, "
A View of Cornwallis's Surrender at Yorktown," American Historical Review, 37 : 25-49;
William B. Willcox, "The British Road to Yorktown: A Study in Divided Command," American
Historical Review, 52 : 1-35.
299. George Washington to Patrick Henry, 5 October 1776, in Henry, Patrick Henry, 3: 12-15.
300. American State Papers: Military Affairs. 7 vols. Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1832-61, 1:
301. Sources of Our Liberties. R. Perry and J. Cooper, eds. Washington: American Bar
Association, 1959, 312.
302. Richard Henry Lee in the Pendleton Papers, 473, dated 21 February 1785.
303. Quoted in Hugh B. Grigsby, History of the Virginia Convention of 1788. R. A. Brock, ed. 2
vols. Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 1890, 1: 158-59.
304. Quoted in Grigsby, op. cit., 1: 161.
305. Grigsby, op. cit., 1: 258.
306. Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 7: 218.
307. Colonial Records of North Carolina. William L. Saunders, ed. 10 vols. Raleigh, State of North
Carolina, 1886-1890, 1: 83-87. Hereinafter cited as N. C. Col. Rec. North Carolina State Records.
ed. Walter Clark and William L. Saunders. (Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 1886-1905).
Hereinafter cited as N. C. State Rec.
308. N. C. Col. Rec., 1: 87.
309. In 1672 Cooper was named Earl of Shaftsbury.
310. Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1388.
311. N. C. Col. Rec. 1: 31.
312. Ibid., 2: 1395-96.
313. N. C. Col. Rec., 1: 112; Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1401-02.
314. William S. Powell, ed. Ye Countie of Albemarle in Carolina. Raleigh: North Carolina
Department of Archives and History, 1958, 23-24.
315. N. C. Col. Rec. 1: 239, 361, 389.
316. Fundamental Constitutions of North Carolina of 1669, in Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1396.
317. H. T. Lefler and A. R. Newsome. North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1954, 600.
318. E. M. Wheeler, "Development and Organization of the North Carolina Militia," North
Carolina Historical Review, 41 : 307-43.
319. John Archdale, "A New Description of that Fertile and Pleasant Province of Carolina," 
in A. S. Salley, Jr., ed. Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650-1708. New York: Scribner's, 1911, 277--313.
320. John Oldmixon, "History of the British Empire in America: Carolina" , in Ibid., 313-74.
321. N. C. Col. Rec., 1: 541.
322. Walter Clark, "Indian Massacre and the Tuscarora War," North Carolina Booklet, 2 :
323. Spotswood Letters, 1: 123.
324. "Journal of John Barnwell," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 5 : 391-402;
also in South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 9 : 28-54.
325. N. C. Col. Rec., 1: 877.
326. Ibid., 1: 871-75.
327. Ibid., 1: 877.
328. Ibid., 1: 886.
329. Ibid., 1: 886.
330. N. C. State Rec., 13: 29-31.
331. Ibid., 13: 23-31.
332. Ibid., 13: 30.
333. "A Short Discourse on the Present State of the Colonies in America with Respect to the Interest
of Great Britain," in N. C. Col. Rec., 2: 632-33.
334. Ibid., 4: 78.
335. N. C. State Rec., 13: 244-47.
336. N. C. State Rec., 13: 330.
337. N. C. State Rec., 15: 334-37.
338. Md. Arch. 50: 534.
339. N. C. State Rec., 22: 370-72.
340. Koontz, Virginia Frontier, 169.
341. Loudoun to Cumberland, November 1756, in Pargellis, Military Affairs, 267.
342. "Some Hints for the Operations in North America for 1757," in ibid., 314.
343. N. C. Col. Rec., 4: 220-21.
344. N. C. Col Rec., 4: 119.
345. Laws of the State of North Carolina. 2 vols. Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 1821, 1: 135.
346. N. C. State Rec., 13: 518-22.
347. Laws of North Carolina, 1: 135.
348. N. C. State Rec., 23: 787-88, 941.
349. North Carolina Statutes, 1715-1775, 434-35.
350. Luther L. Gobbel, "The Militia in North Carolina in Colonial and Revolutionary Times,"
Historical Papers of the Trinity College Historical Society, 12 : 42.
351. Laws of North Carolina, 1: 125.
352. N. C. State Rec., 23: 601.
353. Wheeler, "Carolina Militia," 317-18; N. C. Col. Rec., 5: xli.
354. N. C. State Rec., 23: 597.
355. Wheeler, "Carolina MIlitia," 318.
356. N. C. Col. Rec., 10: 302; 4 Amer. Arch. 4: 556.
357. North Carolina Constitution of 1776, in Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1410.
358. In 1868 townships were created in the counties and these served, among their many functions,
as permanent militia districts. Clarence W. Griffin, History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties.
Asheville, NC: Miller, 1937, 139, 141-43.
359. 4 Amer. Arch. 5: 1330.
360. Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1409.
361. 4 Amer. Arch. 5: 1337-38.
362. 4 Amer. Arch. 5: 1326.
363. Robert Gardner. Small Arms Makers. New York: Crown, 1963, 141-41, 212.
364. Eric Robson, "The Expedition to the Southern Colonies, 1775-1776," English Historical
Review, 116 : 535-60.
365. N. C. State Rec., 10: xiii.
366. Hugh F. Rankin, "The Moore's Creek Bridge Campaign," North Carolina Historical Review,
30 : 23-60.
367. N. C. State Rec., 10: xiii.
368. North Carolina Constitution of 1778, in Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1623-27.
369. Marquis Charles Cornwallis, eldest son of the First Earl Cornwallis, inherited his father's title
in 1762. He was a graduate of Eton, an officer in the Seven Years War, and an active Whig in the
House of Lords, where he opposed the Declaratory Act of 1766. He was second in command in
America to Sir Henry Clinton and served with distinction. He subdued New Jersey in 1776 and
defeated the patriots at Brandywine, occupying Philadelphia in 1777. He urged aggressive action in
the southern states early in the war, but his pan received no support until 1780. After the Revolution,
in 1786, was transferred to India where he laid the foundations for the British administrative system.
He checked the uprising of Tippu Sultan, reformed the land and revenue systems and introduced a
humane legal code and reformed court system. In 1792 he was made a marquess, returned to
England in 1793, and made a member of the cabinet in 1795. He worked to pass the Act of Union,
unifying the Irish and English parliaments. After George III objected to emancipation of Roman
Catholics, he resigned from the cabinet in protest. Appointed Governor-general of Indian in 1805,
he died on 5 October of that year. Frank and Mary Wickwire. Cornwallis: The American Adventure.
2 vols. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1970-80; Mary and F. B. Wickwire. Cornwallis and the War of
Independence. London: Faber and Faber, 1971.
370. Ward, War of the Revolution, 2: 722-30.
371. Smith, Loyalists and Redcoats, 145-47.
372. N. C. Rec., 14: 614-15, 647, 655, 774, 786; 19: 958.
373. Henry, Patrick Henry, 2: 65. The reference to Deckard rifles is interesting. Jacob Dickert
(1740-1822) was born in Germany, emigrated to America in 1748, and settled in Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania, after living briefly in Berks County, Pa. He operated a large gunshop in Lancaster,
where he was an important figure in the development of the uniquely American product, the
Pennsylvania long rifle, also commonly called the "Kentucky rifle." Stacy B. C. Wood, Jr. and
James B. Whisker. Arms Makers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. (Bedford, PA: Old Bedford
Village Press, 1991, 14-15. We find another, later reference to Dickert's products by name in an
advertisement of merchant Robert Barr for "Dechard rifle guns." Kentucky Gazette, 1 September
374. Quoted in Henry, Patrick Henry, 2: 64.
375. North Callahan. Royal Raiders: The Tories of the American Revolution. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963, ch. 10.
376. Lyman C. Draper. King's Mountain. Cincinnati: Thompson, 1881, 314.
377. Nathaneal Greene was born in Rhode Island, served as a deputy in the Rhode Island Assembly
(1770-72, 1775), and was appointed a brigadier-general in May 1775 to lead three Rhode Island
regiments. After serving at the siege of Boston and as commander of the American occupation army,
he was promoted on 9 August 1776 to major-general. He supported George Washington at Trenton
in December 1776 and Germantown and spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. He served as
quartermaster-general and was present at the battles of Monmouth and Newport. In 1780 he chaired
the court martial which condemned Major André in the Benedict Arnold plot. After relieving Horatio
Gates, he led the southern army to a string of effective delaying actions and victories and many credit
the ultimate defeat of Lord Cornwallis' army to his leadership. He died on 19 June 1786 near
Savannah, Georgia. Papers of Greene.
378. Horatio Gates received much credit for the American victory over General John Burgoyne's
army at Saratoga, although he spent most of his time at the critical juncture in the battle debating the
merits of the American Revolution with a captured British officer while Benedict Arnold led the men
to victory. He was born in England, served in the Seven Years War and retired on half-pay and in
1772 purchased an estate in Virginia. In 1775 Congress appointed him adjutant-general and in 1776
promoted him to major-general. In 1777 he was president of the board of war. The Conway Cabal,
led in Congress by Thomas Conway, sought to replace George Washington with Gates, but failed.
In 1780, following his disastrous loss to Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Camden, Congress replaced
him and Gates retired to his plantation. Activated in 1782 at Newburgh, New York, he retired again
in 1783. He moved to Manhattan where he died on 10 April 1806. Max M. Mintz, Generals of
Saratoga: John Burgoyne and Horatio Gates. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990; Paul D.
Nelson. Horatio Gates. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1976.
379. Nathaneal Greene to Thomas Jefferson, 10 February 1781, Calendar of [Virginia] State Papers,
380. Don Higginbotham. Daniel Morgan: Revolutionary Rifleman. New York, 1961. Morgan was
later part of Washington's force that put down the Whiskey Rebellion. He also served in the U. S.
House of Representatives, 1797-99.
381. See Banastre Tarleton. A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces
of North America. London: Cadell, 1787.
382. Hugh F. Rankin, "Cowpens: Prelude to Yorktown," North Carolina Historical Review, 31
383. Ward, War of the Revolution, 2: 755-62.
384. Robert C. Pugh, "The Revolutionary Militia in the Southern Campaign, 1780-81," William and
Mary Quarterly, 3d series, 14 : 164-65; Hugh F. Rankin, "Cowpens: Prelude to Yorktown,"
North Carolina Historical Review, 31 : 336-69.
385. Tarleton did raid into Virginia and on 4 June 1781 nearly captured Thomas Jefferson, then
governor of Virginia, and some members of the state legislature.
386. Ward, War of the Revolution, 2: 783-96.
387. Hugh F. Rankin. Francis Marion: The Swamp Fox. New York: Crowell, 1973.
388. William G. Simms. The Life of Francis Marion. New York: Appleton, 1845, 126ff.
389. Robert O. Demond. The Loyalists in North Carolina During the Revolution. Durham: North
Carolina State University Press, 1940.
390. Rankin, Francis Marion.
391. Paul H. Smith. Loyalists and Redcoats. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1964,
392. Francis Vinton Greene. General Greene. New York: Scribner's, 1914.
393. Robert C. Pugh, "The Revolutionary Militia in the Southern Campaign, 1780-81," William and
Mary Quarterly, 3d series, 14 : 160.
394. George W. Kyte, "Strategic Blunder: Lord Cornwallis Abandons the Carolinas, 1781," The
Historian, 22 : 129-44; William B. Willcox, "The British Road to Yorktown: A Study in
Divided Command," American Historical Review, 52 : 1-35. See also Willcox's "British
Strategy in America," Journal of Modern History, 19 : 97-121.
395. John Tate Lanning, ed. The St. Augustine Expedition of 1740. Columbia: State of South
Carolina, 1954, 4; A. S. Salley, Jr., ed. Journal of the Grand Council of South Carolina, August
25, 1671, to June 24, 1680. Columbia: State of South Carolina, 1907, 21.
396. Cacique is Spanish for Amerindian chief and was a term applied to land barons in the Carolinas
who owned 24,000 or more acres of land. Alongf with landgraves and lords of the manor, caciques
constituted the medieval style landed seignory in these colonies.
397. Osgood, American Colonies, 2: 373.
398. David Cole, "A Brief Outline of the South Carolina Colonial Militia System," Proceedings,
South Carolina Historical Association, 24 : 14-23.
399. Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1388.
400. Ibid., 2: 1395-96.
401. The Statutes at Large of South Carolina. Thomas Cooper and David McCord, eds. Columbia,
S.C.: State of South Carolina, 1836-41, 1: 48-49.
402. Journal of the Grand Council of South Carolina, 1671-1680. A. S. Salley, ed. Columbia, S.C.:
State of South Carolina, 1907, 10-11, 42.
403. Calendar of State Papers: Colonial America and West Indies. 11: 540. hereinafter cited as
404. Cole, "Brief Outline," 16.
405. Edward McCrady. The History of South Carolina under the Proprietary Government. New
York, 1897, 477.
406. Act . . . for the Defence of the Government, No. 30 of 15 October 1686, Statutes at Large, 1:
407. Act 33 of 22 January 1686; Act 52, 1690, Statutes at Large, 2: 20-21, 42-43.
408. Act 162 of 8 October 1698, Statutes at Large, 1: 7-12.
409. A. S. Salley, Jr., ed. Records in the British Public Record Office Relating to South Carolina,
1685 to 1690. Atlanta: State of South Carolina, 1929, 87.
410. Lanning, St. Augustine Expedition, 9; Statutes at Large, 2: 15.
411. The primary source of information on militia slave patrols comes from H. M. Henry, Police
Control of the Slave in South Carolina. Lynchburg, Va.: Emory, 1914. Professor Henry gave the
date of 1686 as the year of the first deployment of militia slave patrols, but this is strongly disputed
in Cole, "Brief Outline," 21.
412. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 7: 346.
413. Act 49 of 1690.
414. Laws of Governor Archdale, 1-8, in Statutes at Large of South Carolina.
415. An Act for . . . Maintaining of a Watch on Sullivan's Island, No. 51 of 22 December 1690,
Statutes at Large, 2: 40-42.
416. An Act for Settling a Watch in Charlestown and for Preventing Fires, 1698, in Kavenagh,
Colonial America, 3: 2389-90.
417. Thomas Nairn. A Letter from South Carolina, Giving an Account of the Soil, Air, Products,
Trade, Government, Laws, Religion, People, Military Strength . . . of that Province. London, 1718,
418. Journals of the Commons House of Assembly of the Province of South Carolina. hereinafter J.
C. H. A., 3: 35.
419. Statutes at Large of South Carolina, 1: 29.
420. Instructions to Francis Nicholson, Royal Governor of South Carolina, 30 August 1720, in
Kavenagh, Colonial America, 3: 1975.
421. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 7: 33.
422. David J. McCord. The Statutes at Large of South Carolina. 10 vols. Columbia, S. C.: State
of South Carolina, 1836-41, 8: 617-24.
423. Statutes at Large, 2: 33.
424. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 7: 347-49.
425. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 3: 108-11.
426. Colonial Records of South Carolina: Journal of the Common House of Assembly. edited by J.
H. Easterby and others. Columbia, S.C.: State of South Carolina, 1951--. 11 vols to date. Volumes
in this series are still coming out. I: 228, dated 20 August 1702.
427. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 7: 33.
428. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 7: 347-49.
429. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 7: 349-51.
430. An Act for the Encouragement and Killing and Destroying Beasts of Prey, No. 128 of 16 March
1696; No. 211 of 8 May 1703, South Carolina Statutes at Large, 2: 108-10, 215-16.
431. "The settlers who held Charleston against the allied forces of France and Spain were partners
in the glory of Stanhope and Marlborough, heirs to the glory of Drake and Raleigh." John H. Doyle,
English Colonies in America. 5 volumes. New York: Holt, 1822, 1: 369.
432. Statutes at Large, 8: 625-31.
433. Orders of Lords Proprietors to Governors of the Carolinas in N. C. Col. Rec., 1: 877, 886.
434. Acts 237 of 1704 and 418 and 419 of 1719, Statutes at Large, 2: 347-49; 3: 108-11.
435. Joseph P. Barnwell, "Second Tuscarora Expedition" in 10 South Carolina Historical and
Genealogical Magazine : 33-48.
436. J. C. H. A., 11: 5-27.
437. J. C. H. A., 7: 456.
438. J. C. H. A., 3: 552.
439. Trott, Laws of South Carolina, 480.
440. Statutes at Large of South Carolina, 7: 353.
441. Trott, Laws of South Carolina, 217-18.
442. C. S. P., 15: 1407, 1412; 16: 5.
443. An Act to Impower . . . Council to Carry on and Prosecute the War Against our Indian Enemies
and their Confederates, Act No. 351 of 10 May 1715, South Carolina Statutes at Large, I2: 624-26.
444. Verner W. Crane. The Southern Frontier, 1670-1732. University of North Carolina Press, 1929,
445. British Public Records Office, Records Relating to South Carolina. London: H.M. Stationary
Office, 1889--, 8: 67.
446. Cole, "Brief Outline," 19.
447. N. C. Col. Rec., 2: 178.
448. London Transcripts in Public Records of South Carolina, 7: 7.
449. Statutes at Large, 8: 631.
450. Cooper, South Carolina Statutes, 3: 108-10.
451. Act 408 of 12 February 1719, South Carolina Statutes at Large, 2: 100-02.
452. David A. Cole, "The Organization and administration of the South Carolina Militia, 1670-1783," Ph. D. dissertation, University of South Carolina, 1953; David Cole. "A Brief Outline of
the South Carolina Militia System," Proceedings, South Carolina Historical Association, 24 :
14-23; Michael Stauffer. South Carolina's Antebellum Militia. Columbia, S. C.: South Carolina
Department of Archives and History, 1991; Jean Martin Flynn. The Militia in Antebellum South
Carolina Society. Spartanburg, S. C.: Reprint Company, 1991; Journal of the Grand Council of
South Carolina, 1671-1680. edited by A. S. Salley. Columbia, S. C.: State of South Carolina,
1907; Benjamin Elliott. The Militia System of South Carolina. Charleston: Miller, 1835; Fitzhugh
McMaster. Soldiers and Uniforms: South Carolina Military Affairs, 1670-1775. Columbia, S. C.:
University of South Carolina Press, 1972.
453. Quoted in Warren B. Smith. White Servitude in Colonial South Carolina. Columbia: University
of South Carolina Press, 1961, 29.
454. J. C. H. A., 5: 153.
455. J. C. H. A., 5: 158, 457.
456. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 3: 39.
457. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 2: 324.
458. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 2: 636-37.
459. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 2: 347-53; 3: 33.
460. Statutes of South Carolina, 3: 109-10.
461. Colonial Records of South Carolina, James H. Easterby, ed, Columbia: State of South Carolina,
1951-, 7: 225, 233-34, 238-39; 8: 66; 9: 67-68.
462. Colonial Records of S. C., 7: 233-9.
463. Shy, Toward Lexington, 11; Calendar of State Papers: America and West Indies, 29 January
1720, no. 531.
464. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 9: 254-55.
465. Bills for salve patrols were considered through 1740. S. C. Col. Rec. 1: 202, 334, 351-53, 392,
398, 424, 427, 507-08, 509, 511-12, 515, 552, 562. Two bills were considered relative to the slave
patrols. Bill number 22 was passed on 25 March 1738 and bill number 64 was enacted on 3 April
466. George Edward Frakes. Laboratory for Liberty: The South Carolina Legislative System, 1719-1776. Lexington, Ky.: University of Kentucky Press, 1970, 43-46; William James Rivers. A
Chapter in the Early History of South Carolina. Charleston, 1874, 477.
467. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 8: 631-41.
468. N. C. Col. Rec. 2: 256.
469. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 3: 272-73.
470. J. C. H. A., 1: 233.
471. J. C. H .A., 7: 376.
472. J. C. H. A., 14: 166.
473. Lawrence Lee. The Lower Cape Fear in Colonial Days. Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 96-99.
474. Charleston Gazette, 25 April 1728.
475. S. C. Col. Rec. 3: 83.
476. S. C. Col. Rec. 3: 83.
477. A Journal of the Proceedings in Georgia, Beginning October 20, 1737. William Stephens'
diary. London: Meadows, 1742, 2: 128ff.
478. Edward McCrady, History of South Carolina Under the Proprietary Government, 1670-1719.
New York: Macmillan, 1897, 151.
479. Colonial Records of South Carolina, Series 1, 2: 25.
480. Colonial Records of S. C., 14: 243.
481. Colonial Records of S. C., 18: 89.
482. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 3: 330.
483. Act 574 of 9 April 1734, South Carolina Statutes at Large, 3: 395-99.
484. South Carolina Gazette, 15 June 1734; South Carolina Statutes at Large, 8: 641.
485. South Carolina Gazette, 22 June 1734.
486. South Carolina Gazette, 19 April 1735.
487. Boston News Letter, 13 January 1737.
488. An Act for Regulating the Guard at Johnson's Fort and for Keeping Good Order in the Several
Forts and Garrisons, Act 621 of 5 March 1737, South Carolina Statutes at Large, 2: 465-67.
489. Colonial Records of S. C., 1: 429.
490. Proceedings in Georgia, 2: 128.
491. The account of the Stoenoe [or Stono] Revolution follows Peter H. Wood, "Black Resistance:
The Stono Uprising and Its Consequences," in James K. Martin. Interpreting Colonial America.
New York: 2d ed.; Harper and Row, 1978, 162-75.
492. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 3: 568-73.
493. Colonial Records of S. C., 1: 674.
494. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 8: 641-44.
495. South Carolina Gazette, 8 January 1741.
496. Humphrey Bland. Treatise of Military Discipline. London: Millar, 1727. Bland's book, in the
unabridged London edition, was not advertised in the South Carolina Gazette until 12 February 1756.
497. Colonial Records of South Carolina: Journal of the Common House of Assembly. edited by J.
H. Easterby and others. Columbia, S.C.: State of South Carolina, 1951-. 11 volumes to date, 2:
227-28, 237-38, 240-47, 250-52, 257, 302-06, 397, 402.
498. Journals of the House of the Assembly, 2: 179, 190.
499. Journals of the House of the Assembly, 2: 164-65, 172-73.
500. Acts of the South Carolina Legislature, 1733-1739, unpaged manuscript.
501. Colonial Records of South Carolina, 2: 175-78, 195, 309.
502. Benjamin Quarles, "Colonial Militia and Negro Manpower," Mississippi Valley Historical
Review, 45 [1958-59]: 643-52.
503. Act of 11 December 1740, S. C. Col. Rec., 2: 420.
504. Journal of the House of the Assembly, 2: 265, 273-75, 278-79, 288-90, 294-95, 302, 309-10.
505. Journal of the House of the Assembly, 2: 357.
506. William Bull II served as lieutenant-governor from 1760 to 1761 and again 1764 to 1768.
507. Journal of the House of the Assembly, 2: 364-67, 369, 381.
508. Ibid., 2: 161; 3: 78-247.
509. Colonial Records of S. C., 1: 321, 333; Acts of the Legislature, nos 48 and 50.
510. Colonial Records of S. C., 3: 572.
511. Act for the Immediate Relief of the Colony of Georgia, Act 695 of 10 July 1742, South Carolina
Statutes at Large, 3: 595-97.
512. Act of May 7, 1743, South Carolina Statutes at Large, 7: 417.
513. South Carolina Statutes of South Carolina, 2: 755.
514. Pennsylvania Gazette, 5 April 1744.
515. William Roy Smith. South Carolina as a Royal Province, 89; Frakes, op. cit., 78.
516. Colonial Records of S. C., 22: 115; 27: 369-70.
517. South Carolina Gazette, 28 September 1747; South Carolina Statutes at Large, 9: 645-63.
518. Oliver Morton Dickerson. American Colonial Government, 1696-1765, 361-62; Frakes, op.
519. Edmund Atkin. Indians of the Southern Frontier, xxvii-xxviii, 4; Frakes, op. cit., 87-90.
520. Peckham, The Colonial Wars, 1689-1762, 201-04; Frakes, 94-97.
521. McCrady, Royal Government, 623, 635-52.
522. William A. Schaper, "Sectionalism and Representation in South Carolina," Report of the
American Historical Society, 1 : 333.
523. An Act for the Better Ordering and Governing Negroes and other Slaves in this Province, Act
790 of 17 May 1751, South Carolina Statutes at Large, 3: 420.
524. Precisely what constituted lunacy was hard to define and the legislature made little provision
for defining it beyond including such anti-social behavior as acts of gross insubordination, theft,
arson, running away, conspiracy and poisoning masters or other slaves. Poorer masters could be
compensated for the loss of slaves incarcerated by slave patrols or law enforcement officers, and the
colony was charged with the costs of deporting, executing or confining lunatic slaves. There was no
thought of rehabilitation or counseling. The act also covered at length the prevention of poisoning
of masters and the teaching of slaves the art of administering poison.
525. Public Records of S. C., 27: 192, 369-70.
526. "Some Hints for the Operations in North America for 1757," in Pargellis, Military Affairs, 314.
527. Loudoun to Cumberland, 17 October 1757, in Pargellis, Military Affairs, 407.
528. Daniel Pepper to Governor Lyttleton, 30 November 1756, William McDowell, ed. Colonial
Records of South Carolina: Documents Relating to Indian Affairs, 1754-1765. Columbia, S. C.:
Department of Archives and History, 1970, 295-97.
529. Cole, "Brief Outline," 18-19.
530. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 8: 664-66.
531. South Carolina Statutes of South Carolina, 4: 128.
532. Colonial Records of S. C., 32: 388, 395.
533. Cole, "Brief Outline," 18-19.
534. Letter of a gentleman from Charles-Town, South Carolina, to his friend in London, 10 May
1775, London Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 5 July 1775. Split-shirts was a term that was
interchangeable with Shirtmen, backwoods militia usually armed with rifles and expert in their use.
535. 4 Amer. Arch. 5: 578.
536. 4 Amer. Arch. 5: 581.
537. Frances R. Kepner, ed. "A British View of the Siege of Charleston, 1776," Journal of
Southern History, 11 : 93-103.
538. Willie Jones, president of the North Carolina Council, to Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, in
Henry, William Henry, 3: 30-31.
539. South Carolina Constitution of 1776, in Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1616-19.
540. South Carolina Statutes at Large, 8: 666-82.
541. N. C. Col. Rec. 14: xi. Lincoln was later exchanged and served as Secretary of War. He also
commanded the Massachusetts militia force that suppressed Shays' Rebellion in 1787. See also, Ella
P. Levett, "Loyalism in Charleston, 1761-1784," Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical
Association, : 3-17.
542. George W. Kyte, "The British Invasion of South Carolina in 1780," The Historian, 14 :
543. William T. Bulger. "The British Expedition to Charleston, 1779-1780" Ph. D. dissertation,
University of Michigan, 1957.
544. Henry, Patrick Henry, 2: 7, 21-23.
545. Howard Lee Landers. The Battle of Camden, South Carolina. Washington, 1929.
546. One of the principal apologists for Gates, and harshest critics of the militia, is Samuel White
Patterson. Horatio Gates, Defender of American Liberties. New York, 1941. See especially pages
320-21 in which Patterson blames the loss at Camden wholly on the cowardice of the militia.
547. William Moultrie. Memoirs of the American Revolution. 2 vols. New York, 1802, 2: 245.
548. Henry Lee. The Campaign of 1781 in the Carolinas. Chicago: Quadrangle, 1824; Henry Lee.
Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States. New York: University
549. Daniel Morgan quoted in James Graham. Life of Daniel Morgan of the Virginia Line of the
Army of the United States. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856, 370.
550. Greene to Sumter, 18 March 1781. See also Greene to John Mathews, 16 March 1781. in
Greene Papers, Clements Library.
551. Edward Stevens to Thomas Jefferson, dated 8 February 1781, Jefferson Papers, 4: 561-64.
552. Henry Lee's Reply to Patrick Henry, June 1778, in Bernard Bailyn, ed. The Debate on the
Constitution. 2 vols. New York: Library of America, 1993, 2: 638.
553. N. C. State Rec., 15: 451-52, 543.
554. Leslie H. Fishel. The Negro American: A Documentary History. Chicago: Scott, Foresman,
1967, 49-52; David D. Wallace. Life of Henry Laurens, with a Sketch of the Life of Lieutenant
Colonel John Laurens. New York, 1915, 259-450.
555. Osgood, American Colonies, 2: 373.
556. Colonial Records of South Carolina, 2: 175-78, 195, 309.
557. Poore, Constitutions, 1: 371-77.
558. Allen D. Candler, ed. Colonial Records of the State of Georgia. 26 vols. (Atlanta: State of
Georgia, 1904-16), 19: part 1, 324-29.
559. Quarles, "Colonial Militia and Negro Manpower," 651.
560. Journal of the Proceedings in Georgia, 2: 128ff.
561. David Cole, "A Brief Outline of the South Carolina Colonial Militia System," Proceedings,
South Carolina Historical Association, 24 : 14-23.
562. Calendar of State Papers: Colonial, 1719-20, No. 531, 29 January 1720; to the Board of Trade,
Public Records Office 30/47, Egremont mss, 25 May 1738, 14: 55-56.
563. Colonial Records of S. C., 2: 353, 357, 364-67, 369, 381; 3: 78-247.
564. Instructions to John Reynolds, 6 August 1754, Kavenagh, Colonial America, 3: 2053.
565. Robert Gardner. Small Arms Makers. New York: Crown, 1963, 178.
566. Kenneth Coleman, The American Revolution in Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia Press,
1958; Wilbur W. Abbott, The Royal Governors of Georgia, 1754-1775. Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1959.
567. Smith, Loyalists and Redcoats, 192-96; Kenneth Coleman. The American Revolution in
Georgia, 1763-1789. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1958, 51-53.
568. Revolutionary Records of Georgia, 1: 273.
569. Ibid., 1: 85.
570. Collections of Georgia Historical Society, 8:20-21; Coleman, Revolution in Georgia, 65-66.
571. George White. Statistics of the State of Georgia. Savannah: Williams, 1849, 63-64.
572. Revolutionary Records of Georgia 1: 97.
573. Ibid., 1: 82-83.
574. Ibid., 1: 141.
575. Ibid., 2: 206, 221.
576. Ibid., 2: 291.
577. Ibid., 2: 291.
578. Ibid., 2: 103.
579. Ibid., 2: 254.
580. Ibid., 2: 277.
581. Ibid., 2: 293.
582. Ibid., 2: 103.
583. Collections of the New York Historical Society, : 246.
584. Georgia Constitution of 1777 in Poore, Constitutions, 1: 381-82.
585. Ibid., 1: 184.
586. Ibid., 1: 100.
587. Ibid., 1: 136-37.
588. Ibid., 2: 317.
589. Ibid., 2: 312.
590. Ibid., 1: 306.
591. Ibid., 2: 104-05.
592. Revolutionary Records of Georgia, 2: 87. 25 August 1778, "all vacancies of officers in the
Militia of the state shall be forthwith be filled up by new elections and that from time to time as fast
as elections happen a report [is] to be made out to the Governor."
593. Ibid., 1: 97.
594. Ibid., 2: 154.
595. Charles Stedman, The History of the Origin, Progress and Termination of the American War.
2 vols. London: printed for the author, 1794, 2: 103-20; David Ramsay, The History of the
American Revolution. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Aitkin, 1789, 2: 420-31; Kenneth Coleman, The
American Revolution in Georgia, 1763-1789. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1958.
596. Charles Olmstead, "The Battles of Kettle Creek and Brier Creek," Georgia Historical
Quarterly, 10 : 85-125.