Fighting for a New Nation

As we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our nation, I want to take a moment to recognize my ancestors who fought for (or supported the fight for) our freedom and independence.  I have seventeen ancestors and relatives who were involved in the American Revolution.  To see the complete list, click here.  Many thanks to all of them for their service and sacrifice.  I’m in constant awe of their courage.

As I wrote last week, I’m working on my DAR application, which must include a description of the Patriot’s service.  I’m applying through Captain Thomas Hemphill, my 4x-, 5x-, and 6x-great-grandfather.  He supported the cause monetarily and as a soldier and officer.

In 1776, he furnished wagons to be used in the Cross Creek Expedition. This campaign against the Tory elements of Central and Southeastern N. Carolina culminated in the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge on Feb. 27, 1776, where the Patriots won a decisive battle against the Loyalists.  Those of you who read Diana Gabaldon will remember this battle from the latter part of A Breath of Snow and Ashes.  Moore’s Creek Bridge was a pivotal battle in the Southern Campaign;  Tory activity in North Carolina decreased and sentiment for the revolution rose, leading to increased recruitment of soldiers into the Patriot forces.  Two months later, North Carolina became the first state to grant its congressional delegates the authority to vote in favor of independence.

In January 1780, Hemphill enlisted as a lieutenant in a mounted rifle company commanded by Captain Robert Patton (my 6x-great-uncle).  In early April, the company began a march toward Charleston, S. C., then under partial siege by the British. They arrived at Monck’s Corner, South Carolina, coming under the combined command of Gen. Isaac Huger.  (Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion “The Swamp Fox” was from the Monck’s Corner area, so it is possible that Hemphill and Patton both knew and fought with him.)  The day after they arrived, on April 14, 1780, in a pre-dawn attack, the British completely routed and dispersed the Americans.   Patton, Hemphill, and the remnants of their command later joined in with the the mounted troops of Col. William Washington, remained at Camden for a while, and then marched to Cross Creek. At Cross Creek, they came under the command of Col. Charles McDowell. Col. McDowell and his troops marched back toward Charlotte and eventually to Lincoln County.

Hemphill and his men, being mounted, advanced quickly into Burke County.  He, in the meantime, had received a Captain’s Commission, and began to organize a company at Burke Court House.  He then led his company in the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill.  In this battle of neighbors against neighbors, the Patriots won despite being outnumbered 1300 to 400.  It was the first Patriot victory after the devastating defeat of the Continental Army at Camden.

Afterwards, Hemphill and his men accompanied the McDowells in the S. C. skirmishes in the summer of 1780.  On October 7, they fought in the Battle of King’s Mountain, widely considered the turning point of the war.

After the war, Thomas Hemphill lived a long and prosperous life in Burke County, North Carolina.

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