The Defense of Wilmington, 1813

Transcribed and annotated by John A. McGeachy from “Cape Fear Sketches” by Col. John D. Jones (ca 1789-1854) of Wilmington.  McGeachy was recently retired from NCSU after 25 years of service.  He plans to publish an annotated edition of Jones’ “Sketches,” which comprise the collected works of a forgotten North Carolina author.

In June 1813 a British fleet commanded by Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn established a blockade of the Chesapeake Bay region.  Soldiers came ashore at various times and places to seize goods and harass residents.  They grew bolder in their excursions, sacking the  Maryland towns of Havre de Grace, Georgetown and Frederickstown, and occupying Hampton 25-27 June 1813.  Cockburn sent a squadron south to Ocracoke Inlet, where the British occupied Portsmouth, south of the inlet, for four days, 13-16 July.  Alarm spread throughout eastern North Carolina, and Governor William Hawkins called up local militia to rendezvous at New Bern, Edenton, South Washington, and Wilmington.[1]

In Wilmington the New Hanover Troop of Horse, a volunteer organization under the command of Colonel Nathaniel Hill, mustered with the militia.  In the troop’s ranks was John D. Jones (ca 1789-1854), who would later command the brigade (1821-1832).  Colonel Jones became a lawyer, a planter, a Customs official, a legislator in the state’s House of Commons; then president, and later a director, of the Bank of Cape Fear.  Though “reared to the practice of the Law, he abandoned it for the more congenial pursuits of Agriculture, and Literature.”[2]

In 1852 Jones penned the following account of the July 1813 militia muster in Wilmington.

Recollections of Wilmington – Battle of Greenfield …[3]

At one period of the last war with Great Britain, it assumed a sanguinary and devastating aspect.  The British government had given orders to their fleet on our coast to lay waste with fire and sword every assailable point of our country.  Admiral Cockburn[4], who commanded, and had never distinguished himself in any other service than that of robbing hen roosts, was well-fitted to execute the barbarous mandate. – Witness his infamous outrage upon the inhabitants of Hampton[5], with numerous other excesses of a kindred character.

While this state of things existed, in the summer of 1813 intelligence reached Wilmington that an attack was meditated by the enemy upon the town.   They had landed at Ocracock & captured the Collector, to whom they imparted their design.  That officer while in custody found means to slip into the hands of a pilot, who was permitted to land, a billet addressed to the magistrate of police warning our citizens to be on their guard.[6]  Well do I recollect the excitement it caused – the dense crowd gathered about the post office – the hurried steps of the citizens to communicate to their families the astounding news!  There is one incident connected with this subject which it would be almost high treason to omit.  A very respectable old gentleman, remarkable for his nervous & excitable temperament, hastened home as soon as he received the intelligence; & tho’ “in the sere and yellow leaf,” and autumnal stage of life, he was fat & pursy[7]– the weather hot – the sand deep – and his home situated some distance from the post office.  He arrived within fifty yards of his dwelling completely used up with exhaustion, and at the top of his voice called out to his family, “Pack up!  Pack up!  The British are coming, and we shall all be in h-ll by this time tomorrow.  Send me a glass of brandy & water!”  The family in much haste and perturbation obeyed the order, packed up his furniture (many others did the same) which was transported up Smiths Creek, where, from exposure to the weather, it was seriously injured, if not entirely ruined.[8] Dear old gentleman!  He now rests from his labours, and has passed away; he was my friend & I cherish his memory with much affection; he had his peculiarities; yet a kinder and more benevolent heart never beat in the bosom of man.  He had injured no man – was a foe to none.  So he passed down to the tomb without having a personal enemy – Requiescat in pace.

The adjacent counties were applied to for a quota of men & ammunition to defend the town.  Fayetteville sent a volunteer company of light infantry, commanded by that distinguished gentleman, the late Hon. William Barry Grove.  Sampson furnished a company of light horse.  Richmond did the same, & numerous companies of infantry poured in.  The county of New Hanover, with all its men at arms, rushed to the rescue.[9]

They were, with the exception of the cavalry & light infantry, companies of the towns, badly armed & equipped; and as the sickly season commenced, the quartan & remittent fevers made dreadful havoc.[10] Some of the companies presenting the aspect of a recent resurrection from the graveyard, so cachexical[11] in appearance that the flesh seemed to shake upon their bones.  So soft and spongy you could well-nigh dip it with a spoon; yet they seemed to carry themselves soldier-like, with a firm and ambitious tread.

There was one company, but whether from Drowning Creek in the county of Robeson, as asserted by some, or from Holly Shelter, or Burgaw, or Jumping Run, as others said,[12] I know not, as all these places have since denied the paternity.  The Captain was a little bony man, I say bony for flesh was a scarce article in the whole company, and if the concern had been fed upon bay-roots could not have looked more unequivocally yellow.[13]  He, the gallant Captain, held in his hand a little rusty sword about two feet in mensuration by gunter’s scale[14]; which ever and anon he would flourish spitefully, as he gave the word of command.  A peacock’s feather adorned his cocked hat, a homespun coat died blue with white facings of the same material completed his military costume.  (I must here correct myself.)  It must not be supposed he was destitute of pantaloons!  His company, which a puff of wind would have scattered abroad, were armed, some with shotguns guiltless of a lock, some with rusty bayonets fastened to the end of poles, some with sticks which were pressed to the shoulder in an upright position; and some have asserted (but I mention it here as apochryphal authority) that divers & sundry cornstocks supplied the place of fire-arms among them.  Nor were they unaccompanied by the spirit-stirring drum & ear-piercing fife.  O no! these martial instruments were there.  The drum consisted of a hollow gum[15], with leather stretched over each end.  Some say it was tanned coonskins, but being no judge myself [I] can’t say positively.  The fife was a bit of pewter moulded into form, and perforated with holes to give vent to the concealed music.  On they came & all marching and beating time to the soul-rending tune of

“Two little pigs
Two little pigs
Two little pigs
And a bobtail sow.”

Need I speak of the sensation produced as they passed by the old court-house which was crowded with spectators?[16] One man, with his arms folded, eyes intently fixed upon them, exclaimed with much solemnity, “Well, well.  If the dominions of Pluto were raked with a small tooth comb, you could not find such another set!”  And indeed “take them for all in all, we shall not look upon their like again!”[17] Or if we do, it’s

“when they next turn out to march, may you be there to see.”

The British did not come and luckily for them; they must have been badly whipped.  I am told their marines, or land forces, consisted mostly of Scotch  Highlanders, remarkable for their superstition about warlocks, wraiths, & hobgoblins.  If this company had been placed in advance – and a skillful general ought to know at once it was their proper place – the sight would have appalled the Highlanders, who had doubtless thrown down their arms & fled like quicksilver.

Wilmington at that time was the theatre of much stir and bustle.  The town itself had for its protection, and sported an excellent company of cavalry commanded by Col. Nathaniel Hill[18] & Capt. Thomas Cowan[19], both first-rate officers.  Col. Hill was the best horseman I ever knew & the most graceful figure on horseback.  There were 80 of us in the company[20]; and often did we dash at full speed thro’ the town, the horses’ hoofs thundering along the streets, the clattering of steel sabre-sheaths, & the yelling of the boys, as if to say “the devil take the hindmost.”[21] O!  it was glorious fun!  The old Colonel himself being extremely fond of the sport.

The troops, as they flocked in from the country, were billeted mostly on the town, one regiment excepted, which was stationed at Greenfield[22], a mile below, in little log huts run up speedily for the occasion.  These latter soon became dissatisfied with their location; they could not even with bayonets, if they had them, drive off the invading army of mosquitoes and gallanippers[23] that assaulted them by day, as well as by night.  News was brought to our commanding general that they were in a state of mutiny.  About day-break next morning the town division of the army were aroused from their slumbers by the drums and fifes, and the cavalry summoned by the loud blasts of the bugle, issuing from the wind-pipe of Philip, the mulatto trumpeter.[24] Soon we found ourselves marching in the direction of Greenfield, with loaded guns and pistols primed, bristling bayonets and drawn scimitars glittering in the rising sun beams.

“Foot, horse and cannon, how fair arrayed.
They file from out the scruboak shade
And sweep so gallant by!
With all their banners bravely spread,
And all their armour flashing high;
A saint might waken from the dead
To see the beauteous standards fly.”[25]

The tents of the Greenfield regiment were surrounded, and their officers ordered to appear before this martial array.  Our commander advanced and addressed them, telling them he understood they were in a state of mutiny and had threatened to go home, even if they had to march thro’ blood and over the prostrate bodies of the troops in Wilmington; and asked what they had to say for themselves?  A gaunt hoosier-looking[26] Captain replied that the mosquitoes were sucking all their blood, and that they had not even a [negro] to bring them water from the spring when they were sick; that they were not used to such hardships & he’d be darned if they could put up with it any longer.  Howsomdeavour if they were to be baggonetted [bayoneted] to death he supposed they must submit.  He didn’t like it nohow; but as it was he, the general, who requested it, he supposed they moust stay a leetle longer.  The general spoke soothingly to them; talked about patriotism, love of country, and all that sort of thing.  The officers of the two parties met, shook hands, took an antifogmatic[27] together which some provident souls had secured in portable flasks, and brought along to keep off the chill.  The word was given “to right about face,” and we found ourselves retracing our steps towards Wilmington; the whole population of which, of all colors, orders, ages, sexes and conditions, had apparently followed to see the fight & fun, or to gratify curiosity.

“Not hosts more num’rous to Abacra came,
Paynim & Christian, with helmets plumed,
And glittering blades & neighing steeds, to woo
And win Angelica the fair.”[28]

And altho’ North Carolina’s latest & greatest historian[29] has failed to record the mighty deed, long will the battle of Greenfield be imprinted on the memory of the people of Wilmington.[30]

The earth has performed many revolutions on its axis since that day, and but few of the veterans are left of that bloodless strife; but three in the town of Wilmington who were members of the troop of cavalry.  One of the these well-stricken in years, I am sorry to say, is now afflicted with neuralgia.  I saw yesterday another, past his grand climacteric[31], limping along, his frame shattered with a chronical complaint.  And the third, tho portly & hale, yet his snowy locks & white whiskers indicate the winter of time has been at work upon him.[32]

I had almost forgot to mention there is another, residing less than one hundred miles from Wilmington, who sometimes whispers to his friends confidentially that he does not feel quite so young as in former days; nor can he so nimbly & gracefully mount his steed.  Enjoining the strictest secrecy whenever the confession is made; for being in a state of single blessedness, it might come to the ears of those who still look lovely in his sight; and who fame says are easily prejudiced by such reports.  Some churlish philosopher having unjustly charged them with being as uncertain, fleeting and transient, “as the shadow of the cloud, which passeth over the field & is seen no more.”   Tell me not that republics are ungrateful!  For whenever one of those veterans with snowy locks is seen abroad, “posterity points as they pass & exclaim, ‘There goes one! who was in the battle of Greenfield!’”

[1] Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, Frustrated Patriots:  North Carolina and the War of 1812 (Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press, 1973), 120-137; Lemmon, North Carolina and the War of 1812 (Raleigh: State Dept. of Archives and History, 1971), 33-42.

[2] Tri-Weekly Commercial (Wilmington, N.C.), 27 June 1854.

[3] Columella, “For the Herald.  Recollections of Wilmington – Battle of Greenfield – Rockingham Spring – Rock-Rest – Tuscarora John, &c.”  Wilmington Herald, 29 May, 5 June 1852; [John D. Jones], “Cape Fear Sketches,” III:27-33, Benjamin F. Perry Papers, Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, Montgomery; a hard copy from microfilm is in Folder 29, in the Benjamin F. Perry Papers, #588, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

[4] Admiral Cockburn:  George Cockburn (1772-1853), a British rear-admiral, attacked Chesapeake Bay economic and military targets in 1813.  His troops sacked the Virginia towns of Havre de Grace, Georgetown and Frederickstown,  In August 1814 he was a senior officer in the force that briefly occupied Washington, D.C.  Between January and March 1815 his command harassed the coast of Georgia.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2004), XII:335-337.

[5] Hampton:  Cockburn’s marines occupied Hampton, Va., on the north shore of Hampton Roads, 25-27 June 1813.  They engaged in “a rampage of burning, looting, pillaging, and raping.”  Commanders blamed the excesses on French Canadian troops, the Chasseurs Britanniques, and withdrew them from the theater.  Robert S. Quimby, The U.S. Army in the War of 1812:  An Operational and Command Study (East Lansing:  Michigan State University Press, 1997), 648-650; David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, Encyclopedia of the War of 1812 (Santa Barbara, Ca.:  ABC‑CLIO, 1997), 225-226.

[6] Ocracock occupation:  Cockburn’s fleet arrived off Ocracoke Inlet the evening of 12 July.  The next morning they captured several anchored vessels and occupied Portsmouth, the town south of the inlet.  The revenue cutter, Mercury, Capt. David Wallace, escaped and carried news of the attack to New Bern.  Cockburn imprisoned Portsmouth’s collector, Thomas S. Singleton, for two days aboard the Septre, releasing him and four Spaniards in a small boat as the British force withdrew on 16 July.  Singleton reported “the most wanton, cruel, and savage-like destruction of property I have ever witnessed.”  Lemmon, Frustrated Patriots, 131-133; Singleton to Governor William Hawkins, New Bern, 24 July 1813, Governor’s Letter Book 19:338-341, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Raleigh (hereinafter North Carolina Archives). News of the Ocracoke attack reached Wilmington on 14 July with “Joshua Balance of the Schooner John Wallace from Elizabeth City,” wrote Robert Cochran, Wilmington’s collector, to the governor.  Singleton’s report to Hawkins said nothing of his spiriting a warning letter off Portsmouth Island as recorded here.  Jones may have recalled an earlier Ocracoke incident.  In May 1813 a British vessel, falsely flying American colors, lured four pilots aboard.  After an aborted attempt to land, the British released the pilots vowing to return “better prepared to execute their design.”  Cochran to Hawkins, Wilmington, 14 July 1813, Hawkins Letter Book 19:304; Lemmon, Frustrated Patriots, 130.

[7] sere and yellow leaf … fat & pursy:  Sere is dry or withered.  Pursy means fat or corpulent, but also short-winded, asthmatic, puffy.  Oxford English Dictionary (OED).  The quotation is from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, act 5, scene 3, line 23:I have lived long enough: my way of life, Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf…

[8] Smiths Creek, furniture ruined:  Smiths Creek “rises in n New Hanover County and flows sw into [Northeast] Cape Fear River.”   It is the last tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear and joins that river a short distance above Wilmington.  William S. Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer (Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 459. Maurice Moore, a fourth generation Cape Fear planter, observed partly in jest that “great preparations are indeed making; not for fight, but for flight, safe creeks and swamps, are diligently inquired after, as the assylum of security.”  This Maurice Moore was probably the son of Alfred B. Moore (1755-1810) and the great-grandson of Captain Maurice Moore, who settled in the Cape Fear region after the Tuscarora War.  Maurice Moore served as a Brunswick County representative in the House of Commons in 1804, 1812 and 1813.  Moore to Hawkins, Brunswick County, 17 July 1813, Hawkins Letter Book 19:311-212; John Kenneth Davis, Patriarch of the Lower Cape Fear:  Governor James Moore & Descendants (Wilmington:  New Hanover County Public Library, 2006), 35-36; North Carolina Government, 1585‑1974:  A Narrative and Statistical History.  Edited by John L. Cheney, Jr.  (Raleigh: Secretary of State, 1975), 248, 262, 264.

[9] militia movements, William Barry Grove:  On 17 July Governor Hawkins ordered North Carolina’s detached militia units to assemble at New Bern, Edenton, South Washington, and Wilmington.  The units from the counties of Moore, Montgomery, Anson, Richmond, Cumberland, Robeson, Sampson and Bladen were to gather at Wilmington.  The danger to Wilmington seemed real:  Hawkins advised Major General Thomas Brown that if the British had not already attacked the town, “they doubtless will do so.”  General William Watts Jones, commanding the militia in Wilmington, felt an attack there unlikely, but reported “the general opinion that we are in immediate danger.”  Hawkins to Brown, and Hawkins to Adjutant General Robert Williams, Raleigh, 17 July 1813, Hawkins Letter Book 19:300-301; Jones to Hawkins, Wilmington, 16 July 1813, ibid., 307-308. William Barry Grove (1764-1818), Federalist, was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons in 1786, 1788 and 1789.  He represented the Fayetteville district in Congress between 1791 and 1803.  The University of North Carolina chose Grove as one of its original trustees in 1789.  Grove was forty-nine when he rode to Wilmington’s aid in 1813.  Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, edited by William S. Powell.  6 vols.  (Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press, 1979‑1996), II:381.

[10] quartan & remittent fevers:  A fever reoccurring every four days.  Robley Dunglison, Medical Lexicon:  A Dictionary of Medical Science.  12th ed., rev.  (Philadelphia:  Blanchard and Lea, 1855), 736, 747.

[11] cachexical:  Cachex’ia – “A condition in which the body is evidently depraved.  A bad habit of body, chiefly the result of scorbutic, cancerous, or venereal diseases when in their last stage.”  Dunglison, Medical Lexicon, 154.

[12] Drowning Creek, Robeson, Jumping Run, Holly Shelter, Burgaw:  Drowning Creek and Naked Creek meet on the Moore-Richmond County line to form the Lumber River.  The Lumber then flows southeast along the Hoke-Scotland County and Robeson-Scotland County lines before turning east and south through the mid-section of Robeson.  Griffith J. McRee encountered a similar 1781 reference to “Drowning Creek, Robeson County,” and noted that it is “[n]ow known as Lumber River, the main branch of the little Pedee.”  Pierce Butler to Iredell, Philadelphia, 16 Nov. 1781, Life and Correspondence of James Iredell, edited by Griffith J. McRee.  2 vols. in 1.  (New York:  Appleton, 1857‑58; New York:  Peter Smith, 1949), I:561, note.  Jumping Run has been a popular stream name.  The North Carolina Gazetteer contains fourteen Jumping Run entries, two near Wilmington.  One “rises in s New Hanover County and flows w into Greenfield Lake” – perhaps too close to the scene of action.  The second Jumping Run “rises in e Pender County and flows w into Northeast Cape Fear River.”  Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer, 259, 303.  Holly Shelter Bay was “a pocosin … bounded on the ne by Shaken Creek, on the w by Northeast Cape Fear River, and on the s by Trumpeter Swamp.  It is about 10 mi. long and 7 mi. wide.  Appears as Holly Shelter Pocosin … on the Price map, 1808.”  Holly Shelter was in the part of New Hanover that became Pender county.  Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer, 233.

Burgaw Plantation first appeared in records from 1764.  Burgaw Creek rises in what is now central Pender County northeast of the town of Burgaw and flows southeast into the Northeast Cape Fear River.  Collet’s 1770 map labeled it Bargaw Creek.  Burgaw, Pender’s county seat, received its present name in 1879.  Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer, 75.

[13] fed upon bay roots … yellow:  Perhaps a reference to swamp bay trees (Persea palustris) of the class Magnoliophyta.  A reduction of “sassafras, swamp bay and butterfly root” produced a yellow dye reported a Civil War era newspaper.  Columbus (Ga.) Enquirer, 1 Dec. 1863; transcribed by Vicki Betts and available at

[14] two feet in mensuration by gunter’s scale:  Two feet long as measured with a ruler invented by Rev. Edmund Gunter (1581-1626).  A Gunter’s scale was marked on one side with scales of equal parts, or chords, sines, tangents, etc., and on the other side with scales of the logarithms of those parts.  OED; Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913.

[15] hollow gum:  A hollowed-out log, often from the gum tree.  OED, s.v. “gum.”

[16] old court-house:  The second New Hanover County courthouse, situated in the center of the Front and Market Street intersection; built 1797 and burned 1840.  Crockette W. Hewlett and Leora H. McEachern, Attorneys of New Hanover County, 1724‑1978 (Wilmington: n.p., 1979), 178.  Senex described the courthouse’s appearance on New Year’s Day 1840.  It was made of bright yellow-painted brick with white trim and inside was white throughout.  Its length along Front Street was about 50 feet, and some 75 to 80 feet along Market.  A stairway in the southwest corner led to rooms on the upper floor.  The brick pavement flooring stood about a foot above the street, and arches perforated the ground floor walls at intervals.  Some arches provided access to the building, but in others benches filled the archways.  “The boys of that day found delight in playing in and around this part of the courthouse, and the older ones met there in the hot summer afternoons to discuss politics and save the county.”  James G. Burr (Senex), “Wilmington in the Forties,” Wilmington Messenger, 9 April 1895; also in James Sprunt, Chronicles of the Cape Fear, 1660-1916.  2d ed.  (Raleigh:  Edwards & Broughton, 1916), 186-191. William Watts Jones advised Governor Hawkins that a parade would be held on 17 July to inspect arms.  The Raleigh Minerva reported a summary of the activities in Wilmington, and stated that troops participated in general reviews on 29 and 31 July.  On the 29th Jones discharged the New Hanover companies of captains Filyaw, Bordeaux, Ramsey and Moore.  By the 31st Wilmington hosted two infantry companies from Sampson and one from Robeson; troops of cavalry from Fayetteville and Duplin; six companies of infantry and two of riflemen from Anson, Richmond and Montgomery counties.  After the review on the 31st the troops were to march to the Episcopal Church for divine services.  Jones to Hawkins, 16 July 1913, ibid; Raleigh Minerva, 6 Aug. 1813.

[17]Take them for all in all, we shall not look upon their like again!”:  This sentence appeared in John Bowle’s annotated edition of Don Quijote de la Mancha.  There the editor lamented the deaths of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedea and William Shakespeare, who both died 23 April 1615.  Bowle’s essay was reprinted as “A Letter to Dr. Percy,” Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 21 (2001), 95-140 at 123.

[18] Nathaniel Hill:  Hill (1768-1842) was one of four sons of William Hill (1736-1783) and Margaret Moore, daughter of Nathaniel Moore.  His second wife was Sarah Julia Jones, daughter of Maurice Jones of Rocky Run plantation; they wed on 28 July 1803.  Dr. Hill received his education at the medical college of Edinburgh, and was a well-respected Wilmington physician.  To this vocation “he was not only well qualified by his acquirements, but admirably adapted to the powers of his intellect, clear, sound, penetrating and energetic.”  His eulogist further described Dr. Hill as “frank, cordial and courteous” with a character “based on a rigid probity and an active benevolence.”  “Full of energy and earnestness, with remarkable sagacity and decision, he very soon acquired the confidence of the community,” wrote James Sprunt.  After practicing for twenty-five years, Dr. Hill retired to Rocky Run “where he enjoyed his friends and his deer hunts.”  Wilmington Gazette, 9 Aug. 1803; Wilmington Chronicle, 9 Feb., 2 March 1842, the latter date reprinting North Carolina Standard (Raleigh), 23 Feb. 1842; Ida Brooks Kellam, “Marriage and Death Notices in Newspapers Published in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1797‑1842; Marriage Contracts of New Hanover County Citizens, 1728‑1855.”  (Wilmington?:  mimeographed, 1959), 1, 74; Crockette W. Hewlett, Between the Creeks:  A History of Masonboro Sound, 1735‑1970 (Wilmington:  Wilmington Printing Co., 1971), 29-30, 247-248; Sprunt, Chronicles of the Cape Fear, 72-73.

[19] Capt. Thomas Cowan:  Cowan (1761-1835) rose to become Colonel of Cavalry of the 3d Brigade, 6th Division, North Carolina Militia and resigned that post during the 1817 session of the legislature.  John D. Jones later served as that unit’s Colonel, until his resignation in 1831.  Elizabeth Francenia McKoy, “Inscriptions Copied from Stones in St. James Graveyard, Wilmington, N.C. during March & April, 1939.”  (Unpaginated typescript held by New Hanover County Public Library, State Library of North Carolina, and North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); Timothy Kearney, Abstracts of Letters of Resignation of Militia Officers in North Carolina, 1779‑1840 (Raleigh:  North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1992), 40, 69. Thomas Cowan married first Elizabeth Sage who died in 1796, and then Sarah Sage (1774-1866).  At his death Cowan was a very wealthy Cape Fear planter.  The census schedules for 1830, the first year to report slave ownership, recorded that he owned 147 slaves in Brunswick and New Hanover Counties.  McKoy, “Inscriptions”; United States. 1830 Federal Census, microfilm M19, roll 118, p. 333 (Brunswick) and roll 123, p. 146 (New Hanover).

[20] 80 of us in the company:  A majority of the members of the New Hanover Troop of Horse saw active service as Cowan’s Company in the summer of 1813.  John D. Jones received thirty dollars for active duty in July and August.  The editor identified fifty-five members of the Company using the Index to Compiled Service Records, including Philip Bazadier, trumpeter; Samuel Bloodworth; Thomas Cowan, Captain; Daniel A. Flemming; John D. Jones; Robert Nixon; Lewis Paget, farrier; Thomas C. Reston; and Samuel Swann.  N.C. Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s Papers, Military Papers, War of 1812, Vouchers, Box 81, North Carolina Archives; U.S. NARA, Index to Compiled Service Records … War of 1812, microfilm 250, series F.6.4P thru F.6.8P, North Carolina Archives.

[21] the devil take the hindmost:  “Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost,” an early 16th century proverb.  Whiting referenced American occurrences between 1742 and 1834.

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, edited by Elizabeth Knowles.  6th ed.  (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2004), 619:15; Bartlett Jere Whiting, Early American Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases (Cambridge, Mass.:  Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977), D130.

[22] Greenfield:  Greenfield Plantation was one of several New Hanover properties originally owned by Dr. Samuel Green (1707-1771), whose gravestone in St. James Episcopal Church records that he “practiced Physick and Surgery 30 years with good success.”  Greenfield Gardens now occupies this Wilmington site.  Wilmington Town Book, 1743‑1778, edited by Donald R. Lennon and Ida Brooks Kellam (Raleigh:  Division of Archives and History, 1973), 3, note 7.

[23] gallanippers:  Gallinippers are large mosquitoes.  OED.

[24] Philip, the mulatto trumpeter:  Philip Bazadier (ca. 1778-1848) was a native of Guadalupe.  He was “a barber by profession, and, although a Creole by birth, was held highly in the esteem of the citizens.”  Bazadier had been a slave of Captain Thomas N. Gautier (1764-1848), the commander of U.S. Navy gunboats assigned to protect North Carolina waters during the War of 1812.  Gautier petitioned the county court for Bazadier’s emancipation in December 1804.  In turn, three years later Bazadier presented the court with his petition for Susan’s freedom; she was to be known as Susan Bazadier (ca. 1786-1844).  In 1811 the county court ordered that John Lord could emancipate Sally who was to bear the name Sally Bazidier.  Commercial (Tri-weekly), 10 June 1848; Wilmington Journal, 16 June 1848; New Hanover Pleas and Quarter Session Minutes, series C.R.070.301., North Carolina Archives, 17 Dec. 1804, (orig. 6, p. 290) (Butler 163), 19 May 1807 (orig. 5, p. 184) (Sammons 48), 17 May 1811 (orig. 5, p. 372); Wilmington Chronicle, 1 Jan. 1845.Philip Bazadier provided martial music in Wilmington for more than thirty years.  In addition to his duties with the New Hanover Troop of Horse described here, Howell wrote that “old Philip Bassadier, a noted colored trumpeter of the town, sounded his horn” to assemble a militia muster during which men volunteered for service in the Mexican War.  This likely occurred in spring 1847 during recruitment of Company G, Twelfth Regiment U.S. Infantry, composed of North Carolinians.  Waddell, another New Hanover historian, recalled that Bazadier’s “bugle blasts as he dashed about the streets sounding the ‘Assembly,’ brought out every boy in the town.”  Andrew J. Howell, The Book of Wilmington (Wilmington?:  n.p., 1930), 96-97; Roster of North Carolina Troops in the War with Mexico (Raleigh:  Josephus Daniels, 1887), 41; Alfred Moore Waddell, History of New Hanover County and the Lower Cape Fear Region, 1723‑1800 (Wilmington?:  n.p., 1909), 222.

[25] “Foot, horse and cannon, how fair arrayed …”:  This was paraphrased from  Marmion: a Tale of Flodden Field (canto 6, XXI, lines 626-635) by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832):

Foot, horse, and cannon: — hap what hap,
My basnet to a ‘prentice cap,
Lord Surrey’s o’er the Till! —
Yet more! yet more! — how fair arrayed
They file from out the hawthorn shade,
And sweep so gallant by!
With all their banners bravely spread,
And all their armor flashing high,
Saint George might waken from the dead,
To see fair England’s standards fly. —

Editions of Marmion appeared in both Edinburgh and Boston in 1808.

[26] hoosier-looking:  Inexperienced, awkward or unsophisticated.  OED.

[27] antifogmatic:  An alcoholic liquor taken to counteract the effects of damp or wet.  OED.

[28] “Not hosts more num’rous to Abacra came …”:  The subject matter was that of Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando Inamoratto (1482 or 1483) and the siege of Albracca.  Similar quotes alluding to an overwhelming armed force are found in Milton’s Paradise Regained (3:338-341) and Cervantes’ prose Don Quixote (1, book 2, chap. 2 (or 1, chap. 10)).  This quote is from neither of those sources; perhaps the author composed it.

[29] North Carolina’s latest & greatest historian:  John Hill Wheeler (1806-1882), author of Historical Sketches of North Carolina, from 1584 to 1851 (Philadelphia:  Lippincott, Grambo, 1851).  Despite defects, Wheeler’s Historical Sketches was “the first publication to utilize a substantial body of original source materials from both home and abroad.”  Wilmingtonians could purchase Wheeler’s Historical Sketches in December 1851 for $2.00 subscribers, others $2.50.  Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI:167-168; “History of North Carolina,” Tri-Weekly Commercial, 6 Dec. 1851.

[30] memory of the people of Wilmington:  “A Patriot” penned the poem, “On Reading ‘Recollections of Wilmington, Battle of Greenfield, &c, by Columella,’” a week after the Herald published Jones’ story.  A Patriot’s paean appeared in the 12 June 1852 Tri-Weekly Commercial.

We’ve sung of the heroes of red Waterloo,
Of the deeds that were done on that field.
While we’ve tuned not a note to the true and the brave,
Who contested the plain of Greenfield.
Shame for the historians of our brave State,
To have left unrecorded its glory,
To slumber in darkness should not be its fate,
But to shine on the pages of story.
For true were the patriots engaged in that strife,
To valor, to freedom, their country —
Though they drew not a sword nor a glittering knife,
They were crowned with the laurels of victory.
Long, long has it been since the dark cloud of war,
Insultingly threatened our town,
Yet the renowned plain of Greenfield still beams from afar,
With the lustre of its glorious renown.

[31] grand climacteric:  The veteran had passed his sixty-third birthday.  Encyclopedia Britannica (1911 ed.), s.v. “Climacteric.”

[32] portly & hale, … snowy locks & white whiskers:  This appears to be Jones’ description of himself.


About nc1812

Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 in North Carolina
This entry was posted in History, News. Bookmark the permalink.