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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Declaration by William Armstrong concerning his military service in the Revolutionary War [Extract]
Armstrong, William
May 20, 1833
Volume 22, Pages 107-110

(Extract from the declaration for pension of William Armstrong made in Caldwell Co., Ky., May 20, 1833.)

That he entered the service of the United States and served as herein stated; to-wit:

During the Revolutionary War I lived in Lincoln County, State of North Carolina, and was a militia Captain of a company in said County when I first entered the service of the United States, which was in the month of July in the year 1780, and the following are the circumstances:

Just after the appointment of Gates to the command of the Southern army, orders were received by the militia officers to hold a draft for men to serve in that army for three months. Accordingly the draft was made and six were drafted out of my own company, as well as I remember. I was commissioned the Captain of the Company from Lincoln and commanded as such during the expedition. We rendezvoused near Charlotte and my company was placed in Col. Alexander’s regiment, and in the Brigade commanded by Gen’l Griffith Rutherford; one Wm. Rankin was Lieutenant in my company.

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From Charlotte we marched down the Yadkin river and thence across Black River to Ridgeley’s Mills and there encamped for the night. But at about 12 at night we received orders to hasten our march and join the main army as soon as possible. The line of march was immediately formed and we proceeded towards Camden. During the night our advance guards had some skirmishing with the enemy’s guards, and sometime in the night we joined the main army.

About the dawn of day the battle of Camden commenced and soon ended in the defeat of our army. Having joined the main army so short a time before the battle commenced I am not able to describe the order in which Gates formed his men, but in regard to Rutherford’s Brigade, I distinctly remember it was divided into platoons and on that day I had the command of a platoon instead of my company. By whose fault this battle was lost I know not, but one thing I do know, it was not mine, for I know I done my duty. The blame was attributed to Gates, but whether he was obnoxious to the charge I will not venture to say. At any rate the loss was great and the fall of DeKalb at the head of the Continentals was an irreparable loss.

The bravery of this officer and those under him, and the undaunted courage shown by them when there was none to support them, created a universal sympathy for their sufferings and no doubt served to increase the blame against Gates. As soon as our terms of service were out we were discharged, which I think was in the month of October following, having fully served out the three months for which we were drafted. The success of the enemy at Camden gave the Tories more confidence and they became more bold, more daring, and more numerous. Assisted by detached parties of the British they marched through the country almost with impunity, committing every sort of crime. They established posts in various places and for a while seemed to have subjugated the country. Yet there was a few who kept the field, and if it is not boasting to say so, I was one. About this time I was re-commissioned by the Governor of N. Carolina and appointed again a Captain in the militia of the State. Under this commission I returned to Lincoln county to raise a volunteer company and to join Col. Dixon who had the command of a regiment of volunteer militia. But on my return to my old company I found but eight men who were good and true, the rest had joined the Tories. Such was the disaffection in that country at that time. With this eight I took the field about the first of November, 1780,

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and immediately joined Col. Dixon as a Captain of a volunteer company of militia. After joining him my company was augmented and increased by adding to it such as were from Lincoln County and who had volunteered and joined Col. Dixon. This made my company more respectable. Col. Dixon was stationed in Lincoln at the time I joined him where we remained for some time for the purpose of restraining detached parties of the British and protecting the inhabitants from them, for at this time Cornwallis was marching his army through Lincoln County, Northward. We were all mounted men and for a while our duties were very severe. Cornwallis lay at Ramsour’s and then crossed the Catawba at Beaty’s ford and at Cowan’s where Gen. Davidson was killed in defending the pass. Our regiment kept on the flanks of the enemy as much as possible and obstructed their march. We pursued them in this manner as far as Salisbury. Near this place I was detached at the head of eight men to Sarvis’ Mill (Rowan County), for the purpose of discovery, and on arriving there we came suddenly on 42 footmen and 15 dragoons of the enemy. They had reached there before us and discovering our approach lay in ambush and fired on us as we entered the Creek, but luckily killed none. We turned to fire but at the moment discovered the dragoons advancing on us from their ambuscade. We retreated across a contiguous old field with considerable haste. On arriving on the opposite side we halted and, strange as it may seem, we were not only not pursued, but the enemy were retreating themselves in haste, having thrown out their forage (for they were foraging party). I ordered a pursuit in turn and dispatched a messenger to Col. Dixon for aid, but none came in time to do any good and they escaped—we were too few in number to effect anything ourselves. On the next day we returned. This was sometime about the 1st February, 1781. Cornwallis was at this time in the pursuit of Gen. Morgan and Green. Morgan having defeated Tarlton at the Cowpens in January previous and taken a good many prisoners, was endeavoring to escape Northward with his prisoners, and Green, being at the head of the other Division of his army, endeavored to form a junction with Morgan, as Cornwallis was endeavoring to intercept Morgan. However, by good fortune and great exertion, both escaped, and Green proceeded on to Guilford where he made a stand and determined to fight. Dixon’s regiment stopped at Salisbury and returned again to Lincoln to oppose the Tories who had
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embodied in considerable numbers while the British army was marching through the country. On our return into that section of the State we found the Tories in such numbers that we were obliged to cross over the Catawba into Mecklenburg County, for we were too weak to oppose them. However, we again returned in a short time and moved from place to place as most needed our protection. Thus matters continued until the Fall of that year (1781). For after the capture of Cornwallis at York in October of that year, the Tories in that quarter seemed disheartened and it was not longer necessary for us to keep constantly in the field. Consequently Col. Dixon came to the conclusion to disband his forces, at any rate for the present and until they were wanted, and according discharged his troops sometime in the latter part of October, 1781, (I do not now remember the precise day—it is impossible).

During my service under Col. Dixon, we were engaged in many enterprises and many circumstances took place which I have not related, and indeed my memory does not enable me to describe particularly all the circumstances that happened. On my return from Camden I found Col. Dixon engaged in raising a Regiment of volunteers for the defence of the country and I immediately joined him as before stated and went into my old company to raise my quota of men—indeed get all I possibly could, and having been commissioned by the Governor of North Carolina Captain of the company from Lincoln in the expedition to Camden, and having been previously commissioned Captain of a company in Lincoln, as such officer I used every exertion to raise men for the defence of the country. I entered into this last service under Col. Dixon sometime in the month of November, 1780, about the first of that month, and continued in that service without a days intermission until about the last day of October following. I remember distinctly we were not discharged until a short time after the battle at Yorktown and surrender of Cornwallis. I will mention that during the year 1781, while I was out on service, the Tories came upon my plantation in Lincoln County and destroyed nearly all my property and among the rest they took five horses from me. ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗