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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Memoir by Hugh McDonald [Extract]
McDonald, Hugh
December 1853
Volume 11, Pages 828-837

[From the Universitv Magazine.]

Messrs. Editors:

As there is a deep and increasing interest now felt especially by the educated and literary portion of the community, in collecting or reading the incidents of the Revolutionary War, it is presumed that any thing relating to that trying and eventful period of our history, however unimportant in itself, will be acceptable to your readers. I have in my possession an old manuscript, written somewhat in the form of a journal, by Hugh McDonald, a soldier of the Revolution; and from this I now send you a short extract, which is at your service, and you may give it an insertion in your Magazine, or not, as you think proper. When in his fourteenth year his father took him along with him to the battle of Moore's Creek, where he was taken prisoner, but, like most of the privates who were made prisoners on that occasion, he and his father were set at liberty and sent home. On their return home they engaged again in their farming operations, but in June, before he had completed his fourteenth year, and before independence was declared, he enlisted in the American army and continued to the end of the war. Having entered the military service of his country at such an early age, and having continued in the camp until he had arrived to maturity, he was, of course, no scholar and had to employ another hand some years afterwards, to write down what he related; but as he required the amanuensis to write his precise words, it is not fit for the press in its present form. I have, therefore, taken the liberty of correcting the orthography, syntax and

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punctuation, or at least the most glaring aberrations from the rules of grammar in these particulars; but I have made as little alteration in his language as possible. His account of the tory army and the battle of Moore's Creek, though containing no facts of any importance that have not been already published, is reserved for another purpose; and I begin with the account of his return home, his enlistment, &c., not because this is the most interesting part of the narrative, but because I may possibly, at some future time, send you another extract, provided this shall meet with favor from the Editors and readers of your Magazine, which seem to be assuming much more of a literary character, and promises to become a credit to the State.

“Notwithstanding this scouring,” at Moore's Creek, “and the just contempt of our fellow citizens, we remained in heart as still tories as ever. This expedition took place in the month of February, 1776, from which we returned and began to repair our fences for a crop the ensuing summer. About the first of June, a report was circulated that a company of lighthorse were coming into the settlement; and, as a guilty conscience needs no accuser, every one thought they were after him. The report was that Col. Alston had sent out four or five men to cite us all to muster at Henry Eagle's, on Bear Creek, upon which our poor deluded people took refuge in the swamps. On a certain day, when we were ploughing in the field, news came to my father that the light horse were in the settlement and a request that he would conceal himself. He went to the house of his brother-in-law to give him notice, and ordered me to take the horse out of the plough, turn him loose, and follow him as fast as I could. I went to the horse, but never having ploughed any in my life, I was trying how I could plough, when five men on horseback appeared at the fence, one of whom, Dan'l Buie, knew me and asked me what I was doing here. I answered that my father lived here; and he said he was not aware of that. ‘Come,’ he says, you must go with us to pilot us through the settlement; for we have a boy here with us who has come far enough. He is six miles from home and is tired enough.—' His name was Thomas Graham, and he lived near the head of McLennon's creek. I told Mr. Buie that I dare not go, for, if I did, my father would kill me. He then alighted from his horse, and walked into the field, ungeared the horse and took him outside the fence.

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He then put up the fence again; and, leading me by the hand, put me on behind one of the company, whose name was Gaster, and discharged the other boy. We then went to Daniel Shaw's, thence to John Morrison's (shoemaker), thence to Alexander McLeod's, father of merchant John McLeod, who died in Fayetteville, thence to Alexander Shaw's, (blacksmith), thence to old Hugh McSwan's, who gave half a crown for a small gourd when we landed in America. Here I was ordered to go home, but I refused, and went with them to the muster at Eagle's. Next day Col. Phillip Alston appeared at the muster, when these men told him that they had taken a boy to pilot them a little way through the settlement and that they could not get clear of him. The Colonel personally insisted on my going back to my father; but I told them I would not; for I had told them the consequence of my going with them before they took me. Seeing he could not prevail with me, he got a man by the name of Daniel McQueen, a noted bard, to take me home to my father, but I told him that I was determined to hang to them. Col. Alston then took me with him and treated me kindly. Mrs. Alston desired me to go to school with her children until she could send my father word to come after me, and she would make peace between us; but her friendly offers were also rejected.

“On the following Tuesday I went with the same company of horsemen to Fayetteville, where I met a gentleman by the name of Dan'l. Porterfield, a Lieutenant in Capt. Authur Council's company, who asked me if I did not wish to enlist. I told him, not with him; but I wanted to see a Mr. Hilton who, I understood, was in the army, and wherever he was I wished to be. He told me that he and Hilton were of one company, and if Hilton did not tell me so, he would take back the money and let me go with Hilton. I then took the money and was received into the service of the U. S. June 10th, 1776, and in the fourteenth year of my age.

“After my enlistment, we continued in Cross Creek until the middle of July, when we went on board Mrs. Blanctret's boat and floated down to Wilmington, where the brigade was made up, which was commanded by Gen. Frank Nash, and consisted of six regiments. Of the first regiment, Thomas Clarke was Colonel and John Mebane Lieutenant Colonel; of the second, Alexander Martin, from Hillsboro', was Colonel and John Patton Lieutenant

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Colonel; of the third, Jethro Sumner was Colonel and William Davidson, Lieutenant Colonel; of the fourth, Thos. Polk was Colonel and J. Paxton, Lieutenant Colonel; of the fifth, ———— Buncombe was Colonel and ———— Eden, Lieutenant Colonel; of the sixth, Lilington had the command, but being unable, from old age, to go on parade, when the regiment was made up at Wilmington, he was forced to resign, and Lieutenant Colonel Lamb, from Edenton, took command of the regiment. Our Major died at Wilmington, and Capt. Arch'd Lyttle, from Hillsboro', who had been educated for a preacher of the gospel, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Captain Griffin McRee, of Elizabethown, was appointed Major, and of this regiment I was a private soldier.

“Not more than three weeks after the brigade was embodied, my Captain, Arthur Council, a young man who had been raised near Cross Creek, and whose father's house is yet known by the name of Council Hall, died. This young gentleman was distinguished in the regiment for modesty, gentility and morality. Shortly after the death of Council, his first lieutenant who was known by the name of Philadelphia Thomas White, became our Captain, and he was as immoral as Council was moral. As sickness was prevailing in the regiment, we moved out of town about eight miles, to a place called Jumping Gully, where we encamped untill about the middle of October and were drilled twice a day. In this camp I was taken sick, and continued ignorant of everything that passed for five weeks. One evening, the brigade being on parade, I felt a great desire for home, and thought I saw everything at my father's house before my eyes. I got out of my tent and went away some distance to a fresh running branch. The water, from falling over a large poplar root, had made a deep hole below, and, getting into the hole, I laid my head on the root, which I believe was the sweetest bed I ever lay in. The water was so cool to my parched body that I lay there until ten o'clock next day before they found me, George Dudley, Sergeant of our company, having crossed within two feet of my head without seeing me. William Carrol, who was in company with Dudley, discovered me, and exclaimed, “By G–d., here he is, turned to be an otter. He is under the water.” Dudley, having passed me, turned back, took me out of the water and carried me to camp. When the doctor came to see me, he said that the water had cooled my fever and that I would recover,

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though he had given me out before. I did recover and recruited very fast every day after my immersion. In addition to the advantages of my immersion, my good friend Hilton, the fife player, hired a gig in Wilmington and took me out of camp, to the house of one Blufort, who had a bridge across the North East River, about ten miles above Wilmington, where, from their kind attention and good water and the salubrity of the air, I soon recovered my former strength and joined the brigade sooner than could be expected.

I shall now give the readers some account of the Captains of my regiment, which was the sixth; but I shall omit the subaltern officers' list; in attempting to recall so many names and characters, I should make a mistake, which I do not wish to do. When the brigade was made up each regiment consisted of eight captains, and of the 6th regiment Arch'd Lyttle was first captain, and Griffin McRee, second, who had very undeservedly enlisted most of his men for six months and returned them for three years or during the war. This deception, on the part of Captain McRee, occasioned many desertions in his company, when six months, the term of their enlistment, had expired. Captain Lyttle was from Orange, Captain McRee, from Bladen. The 3d captain was George Doherty, who lived on the North East River, in Hanover county, and about 25 miles above Wilmington. He was a full blooded Irishman, about seventy-five years of age, much of a gentleman and a brave soldier. The fourth captain was Philip Taylor, from Orange, a raw Buckskin, destitute of grace, mercy or knowledge as to that which is spiritual, and filled with pride and arrogance. The fifth, was Tilman Dickson, from Edgcombe, a dirty Buckskin, who would rather sit on his hams all day and play cards with his meanest private soldier, in his homespun dress, than wash or uniform himself and keep company with his fellow officers as a captain ought to do. The sixth captain, was Jemimah Pigue, from Onslow, who was a smart officer, a middle aged man, and a guardian of his soldiers. The seventh captain was Daniel Williams, from Duplin, a Buckskin, a gentleman and the friend and protector of his soldiers. The eighth was Benjamin Sharp, who was from Halifax county, and was a very smart officer.”


When the brigade embodied at Wilmington, it consisted of nine thousand and four hundred, rank and file: twelve Colonels

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(including Lt Colonels), six Majors, forty-eight Captains, ninetysix Lieutenants, forty-eight Ensigns; two Drummers and two Fifers to every Captain's Company; one hundred and eighty-two Sergeants, eight Quarter Master Sergeants, and Sergeants Major to each regiment, one Drum Major, who was an old gentleman from Elizabeth, by the name of Alex. Harvey; one Fife Major an Englishman, by the name of Robt. Williams, a master of all kinds of music and genteelly bred, who had been transported from England before the war, for cursing the royal family; eight Doctors, eight Adjutants and one Brigade Major, a hatter from Hillsborough, besides Sutlers and Paymasters.

On the 1st of November, we received orders to march to the North and join the grand camp, commanded by Washington. About the 15th of November, we marched from Wilmington, under the command of Gen. Frank Nash, and proceeded to the Roanoke river and encamped about a mile and a half from the town of Halifax, in Col. Long's old fields, who was Commissary General of the North Carolina troops. There we remained about three weeks, when we received orders to turn back and go and meet the British at Augustine and prevent them from getting into the State of Georgia, and proceeded by way of Wilmington. On our march, we lay on the South side of Contentney creek, where there were living an old man and woman who had a number of geese about the house; and next morning about twenty of their geese were missing. They came to the encampment inquiring about them; but getting no information among the tents, they went to the General, who said he could do nothing unless they could produce the guilty. On his giving them ten dollars, however, they went away satisfied; and I am very sure that I got some of them to eat. Being a sleepy headed boy, I always went to sleep as soon as the fires were made; and, having done so now, about midnight, a Mr. John Turner, a messmate of mine, tried to awaken me, which he found difficult to do, but, being a strong man, he lifted me up and began sticking pins in my rump until I was fully awake, when he said, “D–;n you, go to the kettle and see what you will find there.” I went and found it was fowl flesh and very fat. I did not understand it that night; but knew what it was next morning when the old people came to camp inquiring for their geese. The General, after paying them ten dollars, gave the men strict orders

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to be honest or he would punish the least offence of that kind with severity.

We proceeded thence to Wilmington where we stayed two days, and thence by Lockwood's Folly to Georgetown. When we got to the boundary house we encamped for a short time to rest, and Col. Alston, a wealthy gentleman of the neighborhood, came to see Gen. Nash, and told him he could show him a better camping ground, which was an elevated neck of land covered with hickory and other good firewood. The trees were covered with long moss from the top to the ground; and of this we made excellent beds. There we stayed about a month waiting for further orders, where we cut and cleared about a hundred acres of land. During our continuance here, those who had been enlisted by our Major McRee and returned during the war, applied to their Captain for this discharge; but he was not aware that any in the camp had been enlisted for six months. They then applied to their old Captain, who had been promoted to the rank of Major, but he told them, in reply to their just request, that he would have them put under guard and punished accordingly to the martial laws. This rebuff they were forced to bear and remain in silence; but concerted a plan for their own relief; for in the morning it was found that nine had deserted, some of whom were never taken, nothwithstanding the claims resting upon them. Arch. Bone acted as pilot to these deserters—the rest were late deserters from Scotland, viz: John Currie and Arch. Crawford. Three were colored people, Gears, Billy, George and Jack.– The other three were McDonalds, George, Thomas, and Zack.

From this pleasant place we marched for Charleston, S. C., and crossed the Pee Dee at a place called Winyaw, about halfway between Georgetown and the inlet. Thence to Charleston, and there we had orders not to go any further towards Augustine. We then marched back across Cooper river to Hadrell's Point, opposite to Fort Sullivan, where we lay the remaining part of the winter and spring until March 1777, and where we were fed on fresh pork and rice as our constant diet. About the 15th of March, we received orders to march to the North and join Washington's grand army. We marched to Wilmington, N. C., and thence to Halifax, where we crossed the Roanoke river. After leaving the ferry and marching up the river about two miles, we came a fishery; and

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the commanding officer having desired leave for his men to draw the seine, which was readily granted, by drawing it once, we drew so many that you would hardly miss from the pile what we took for our breakfast.

We then marched on, and crossed the Méherrin, at Hick's ford. Next morning my friend Hilton asked me if I would not like to see old Janus and I told him I would. “Well, I can show you his shape,” as he was going that morning to see his wife and children. I told him that I did not know that he had a wife. He said he had and I should go with him to see them. On our way we went by the stables where old Janus stood, or rather his skin newly cased with crystals for eyes, but he looked so firm that you would scarcely venture up to the stall where he stood. We went on to Mrs. Hilton's who lived with her mother and two sons, where we stayed two days. Mr. Hilton then took a couple of horses and a negro to bring them back, which we rode until we overtook the Brigade. As we passed through the State of Virginia, we could scarcely march two miles at a time without being stopped by gentlemen and ladies who were coming to the road purposely to see us. We stopped two days at Williamsburg and rested. We then marched on and crossed the James river at the town of Richmond, where there were fishers; and having gotten leave there also to draw the siene, every man took as many fish as he wanted. While passing through the town a shoemaker stood in his door and cried, “Hurrah for King George,” of which no one took any notice; but after halting in a wood, a little distance beyond, where we cooked and ate our fish, the shoemaker came to us and began again to hurrah for King George. When the General and his aids mounted and started, he still followed them, hurrahing for King George. Upon which the General ordered him to be taken back to the river and ducked. We brought a long rope, which we tied about the middle, round his middle, and sesawed him backwards and forwards until we had him nearly drowned, but every time he got his head above water he would cry for King George. The General having then ordered him to be tarred and feathered, a feather bed was taken from his own house, where were his wife and four likely daughters crying and beseeching their father to hold his tongue, but still he would not. We tore the bed open and knocked the top out of a tar barrel, into which we plunged him headlong. He

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was then drawn out by the heels and rolled in the feathers until he was a sight but still he would hurra for King George. The General now ordered him to be drummed out of the West end of town, and told him expressly that if he plagued him any more in that way he would have him shot. So we saw no more of the shoemaker.

We then marched on until we came to the Potomac river; but, early in the morning, we were halted and all the doctors called upon to inoculate the men with the small pox, which took them until two o'clock. We then crossed the river at Georgetown, about 8 miles above Alexandria, near the place where Washington city now stands. There we got houses and stayed until we were well of the smallpox. I having had the pox before, attended on the officers of my company until they got well, but what is very strange, in the whole Brigade, there was not one man lost by pox, except one by the name of Griffin, who, after he had got able to go about, I thought he was well, imprudently went to swim in the Potomac, and next morning was found dead. About the last of June we left Georgetown for Philadelphia. About twelve miles from Baltimore, I was taken sick and helpless in the road, Lieutenant Dudley, Sergeant Dudley and some others stayed to bury me, when it was thought that I would die but, seeing that I was not dying nor coming to my senses they took me on their back, turn about, until they came up with a wagon. The doctors saw me, but would not venture to give me anything, as they did not understand my complaint. I lay so until about midnight, when our sutler, who had been gone four days after a load of whiskey, came into camp. Lieutenant Hadley got some spirit, about a spoonful, down my throat which he thought helped me. He then gave me about a wine glassful, and in about fifteen or twenty minutes I came to my speech. Finding that the whiskey helped me, he gave it to me until daylight, at which time my complaint was discovered to be measles. I was then put into a wagon and carefully nursed by Lieut. Hadley, until I got well. Going on our march, about two miles above Susquehanna river, I saw an old woman with her son and daughter about twelve years old, and on hearing her speak to them in my mother tongue, I asked her how she came here. She thanked her Maker, that she had met with one who could talk with her, and told me that her son had been

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transported for a frivolous crime, committed in his own country, that he had been sentenced to be sold for seven years servitude in the State of Maryland, and that having no other son, and not willing to have a separation from him for ever, she had followed him here with her little daughter. I told him if he would enlist with us, he would finish his servitude at once. He said, if he thought so, he would do it. I told him that no man dare take him out of the service and I would ensure him. Upon which I gave him two dollars and told him he should have the rest of his bounty. Before night the old woman said she would go also, and when I urged her not to do it, she was determined, and going for her baggage, she returned to camp that night.