The SAR Magazine

Spring 2019

The SAR MAGAZINE is the official quarterly publication of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution published quarterly.

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12 SAR MAGAZINE By Joanne Cullom Moore A fter the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, Gen. Henry Clinton was ordered to open another theater in the South, believing there was a good chance of success due to the large number of Loyalists in the region, who would be eager to fight for the king. Clinton captured Savannah in December 1778, and Charleston surrendered in May 1780, along with 5,500 Patriot troops and their supplies. With Charleston as a base, which could receive supplies from England by sea, the British next proceeded to take South Carolina; then, the plan was to advance to North Carolina. Lord Cornwallis, who replaced Clinton, arrived in Camden, South Carolina, on Aug. 13, 1780. The Battle of Camden on the 16th was disastrous for Gen. Horatio Gates and his Patriot army. Gates fled the battlefield and left his troops, who were annihilated. By September 1780, the British reached Wahab's Plantation, 10 miles south of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Mecklenburg County stood out for its resistance to British rule and resentment of the Crown's excesses. Royal Governor Arthur Dobbs wrote King George III and called the settlers on Sugar and Reedy creeks lawless people, who had "damned the King" and wounded some of the sheriff's men. Boundary disputes, taxes and issues about property rights led to armed conflict with the Crown's representatives in 1765, known as The War of Sugar Creek. Men from Mecklenburg County, aggrieved by officials' corruption and excessive taxation, participated in the Regulator movement, resulting in the Battle of Alamance in 1771. By 1775, when leaders of the Committee of Public Safety in Mecklenburg County heard about the events at Lexington and Concord, they decided to call a convention to discuss how Mecklenburg County should react. The convention members who gathered in Charlotte adopted resolutions, one of which stated the citizens of Mecklenburg to be free and independent people. Then, the delegates resolved that the resolutions be carried to Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress was meeting. Zaccheus Wilson was one of the 27 signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775, and he signed as the representative of the entire Wilson family. The Mecklenburg Declaration preceded the nation's Declaration by about a year. Being accustomed to victories over the Patriots, the British were not expecting major setbacks, but other forces at Wahab's Plantation were defeated on Sept. 21, 1780, by Patriot troops commanded by Col. William Richardson Davie. After the battle, he went to Charlotte, where he learned of the main British army's approach. Davie stationed his 20-30 troops around the 1767 court house, where on Sept. 26, 1780, his men's gallant fight against the British advance guard caused the British to retreat back to their main army. Davie, being outnumbered, withdrew from Charlotte, but he was pursued by British cavalry. The pursuit ended when Davie attacked the British, and defeated them at Sugar Creek Church. When Lord Cornwallis arrived in Charlotte on Sept. 26, 1780, he encountered a hostile, inhospitable situation. Referring to the skirmish at the Charlotte Court House, he commented about the "stinging" reception his troops received there. He said the town was "the Hornet's Nest of America," which how the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association got its name. Almost half of his army was needed just to protect their foraging parties, and forage itself was scarce. Banastre Tarleton mentioned traveling through Steele Creek and having difficulty finding flour and cattle. The British slaughtered and ate 100 cattle a day. The Patriot forces engaged in guerrilla warfare, to which the British were unaccustomed. Their sentinels were shot down at their posts. Tarleton in his History of the 1780-81 Campaign wrote, "The town [Charlotte] and environs abounded with inveterate enemies ... It was evident and had been mentioned frequently to the King's officers, that the counties of Mecklenburg and Rohan [sic] were more hostile to England than any others in America." No British commander could obtain any information which would facilitate his designs, or guide his future conduct. Foraging parties were fired on from covert places. Tarleton further reported that, "Small patrols and individual British soldiers were in such peril that few, out of many messengers, could reach Charlotte in October 1780 with information about Ferguson's situation." Tarleton was referring to Patrick Ferguson's defeat and death at Kings Mountain. The Mecklenburg County militia, including Robert, Zaccheus, and Joseph Wilson, was at Kings Mountain. Cornwallis stayed in Charlotte for 18 days, from Sept. 26- Oct. 14, 1780, when he began his march toward Winnsboro, S.C. During this time Cornwallis and Tarleton most likely made their uninvited visit to Robin and Eleanor Wilson's home in the Sugar Creek area. This episode is recorded in two North Carolina histories, Mrs. Ellet's Women of the Revolution, vol. III, and C.L. Hunter's Sketches of Western North Carolina. At the time Cornwallis and Tarleton called at the Wilsons', their troops had already captured Eleanor's husband, Robin, and their son, John, who were couriers and spies for the Patriots. The two Wilsons were apprehended on their way to Fishing Creek with supplies for Gen. Sumter. They were imprisoned with about 100 others at Camden. Mrs. Ellet states, "Eleanor was a woman of singular energy of mind and devoted to the American cause. From the first to the last, Mrs. Wilson espoused the cause of liberty, exulting whenever its defenders gained any triumph." Eleanor provided supplies for the Cause for which she was paid after the war. Her sons, Robert Jr. and Joseph, were captured when Charleston fell, but they were paroled to go home. When Cornwallis withdrew the paroles and required all Mecklenburg men to join the British army, Robert Jr. and Joseph joined Gen. Sumter's forces. Robert Jr. was with Gen. McDowell at the Battle of Hanging Rock, where the general was so impressed with Robert's bravery, he consented for his daughter, Jane, to marry him. Eleanor's son, James, served in the Continental Line and received a pension after the war for his service. Samuel, Eleanor's young son, fought with Gen. Nathanael Greene in all his campaigns. Her son, Aaron, was an officer in the Continental Line and fought at the Battle of Stono. When he died, childless, in Bedford/Marshall County, Tennessee, his land was divided among his eight brothers. Robin's elder brother, Major David Wilson, was an officer in 20 SAR MAGAZINE The final resting place of Eleanor Wilson The Hornet's Nest and Eleanor Wilson

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