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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Declaration by Joseph Graham concerning his military service in the Revolutionary War
Graham, Joseph, 1759-1836
Volume 22, Pages 121-126


In October, 1832, he was residing in Lincoln County, N. C., aged 73 years and stated that he enlisted in May, 1778, under Capt. Gooden in the Fourth North Carolina Regiment commanded by Col. Archibald Lyttle, a part of the time was orderly sergeant and the balance Quarter Master Sergeant, the term of his service to be 9 months after arriving at the place of rendezvous at Bladensburg in Maryland. They assembled at Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, N. C., where he then lived, from thence marched to near Virginia, receiving recruits from the other Counties. The field officers on this march were Colonel Wm. L. Davidson, Major William Polk and Henry Dickson. Capt. Smith Harris and others were all assembled in Caswell County at a place called Moore’s Creek. At this place received the news of the battle at Monmouth, N. J., (June 28th, 1778) and that the British had gone to New York City, and as their services were not wanted at the North, the men became uneasy that the time of their service had not commenced and it was uncertain when it would. A meeting took place which with some difficulty was suppressed. Some officers broke their swords and some soldiers were crippled. “It was afterwards proposed to such of the soldiers as would accept, to take furloughs of which Graham was one,” and he went home to Mecklenburg some time in August. On the 5th November following he was called into the service under General Rutherford (Brigade of Militia) for 5 months, in Col. Lyttle’s Regiment. At the “10-mile

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house” they received their arms and camp equipage, from thence to Purysburg on Savannah River where General Lincoln commanded, and N. C. Regulars were organized in two regiments, under Colonels Lytle and Armstrong, and the Brigade under Brigadier General Sumner. Graham was in the Company of Capt. Gooden, who with Capt. W. Goodman were shortly after transferred to a regiment of Light Infantry that was increased by some Companies of Militia after Gen. Ashe’s defeat at Brier Creek (March 3rd, 1779,) and placed under the command of Colonel Malmedy, a Frenchman, and Major John Nelson of the N. C. Line. From the time the regiment was formed Graham acted as Quarter Master Sergeant to the end of the campaign. Lt. Witton (of the Regulars) who was appointed Quarter Master, being in bad health, died about the last of the year, Graham discharged the whole duty the most of the time. During this service he was in a skirmish with McGist (or McGirt) who commanded the British Cavalry before Tarleton arrived. The regiment of Light Infantry was twice detached under Count Pulaski, in one of which a Lieutenant, Chevalier DeVallier, (a Frenchman) in a rencountre with a British piquet, received a mortal wound. Graham was in the battle of Stono, June 20th, 1779, and discharged in August, 1779, at which time he was ill with bilious fever, from which he had not fully recovered at the end of two months. The fever together with the recollection of the hardships in a southern campaign along the sea coast, had so depressed his spirits that Graham did not re-enter the service until May, when the defeat of Colonel Buford (of Virginia by Col. Tarleton May 29, 1760) was announced, with a report that the enemy were advancing. The militia were ordered out en masseand he joined them. From his experience in military duties, he was appointed Adjutant of the Mecklenburg County Militia. The County being on the frontier, with no other force to protect it, a part of that regiment, and sometimes the whole, was retained most of the summer. The foot under General Wm. L. Davidson south-east of Charlotte, the Horse under Colonel Davie, in detachments, patrolled the country as far as Waco and adjoining Counties in the west that were disaffected. On the 25th of September it was reported that the British Army were on the March from Camden, which caused General Davidson to immediately march with his command towards Salisbury and ordering Graham to join Colonel Davie at Charlotte, where he should take command of such inhabitants as the alarm should bring together,
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which were over 50. In the arrangements by Colonel Davie to oppose the entrance of the enemy into the village, Graham was placed in command of the reserve, which covered the retreat of the Americans by molesting the advance of the British for four miles. This advance consisted of all their cavalry and a battalion of infantry, and when Colonel Davie was put in a supporting distance, a charge was made in which Graham received nine wounds and was taken from the field to the hospital, remaining two months before his injuries were healed, but the “term” of service of the militia had expired and the enemy reported to be in Winnsborough, S. C.

As General Greenne was soon expecting the British to advance in force, arrangements were adopted to raise men to oppose them, and Graham engaged upwards of 50 in two or three weeks, but the principal difficulty was to procure arms, though generally they had rifles and nearly half the swords for the cavalry were made by Blacksmiths and suspended higher up on the body than the later practice, in order to avoid entangling with the limbs when acting as foot soldiers.

After Tarleton’s defeat January 17th, 1781, (At Cowpens, S. C.) the enemy in pursuit of General Morgan came to Cowan’s Ford on the Catawba River, February 1st, 1781, and in the conflict there two of Graham’s Company were killed (As well as General Davidson) and it was the only Company that left the battle ground in order and covered the retreat at the same time. On the 7th of February his Company while hanging on the rear of the British, had a conflict with them, on their march from Shallow Ford, on the Yadkin to Salem, in which they were routed. His Company lost one killed and took five prisoners. After this the N. C. Militia were placed under the command of General Andrew Pickenns of S. C., and Graham’s Company, with others, under Colonel Joseph Dickson, crossed Haw River, were detached by General Pickens in the evening with part of his Company and forty-five riflemen from Rowan and marched in the night of the 17th and at light the next morning, surprised, killed and took prisoners, a guard of an officer, with his 26 men, at Hart’s Mill 1 and 1-2 miles from Hillsboro, where the British army was in camp. The evening of the same day formed a junction with Col. Lee’s Legion and a day or two after this Tarleton with his legion set out over Haw River to join Colonel or Dr. Piles with Pickens and Lee after him, including Graham’s Company, and all the militia, equipped as dragoons, were placed under Lee in rear of his dragoons.

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On falling in with Piles and the Tories, instead of Tarleton passing along in front of their line drawn up, none of Lee’s men knew their character, but Lee, as his men having so recently come to the south, did not know the distinguished mark of the Tories, but when the militia came near and discovered the red strip of cloth in their hats, they made the first attack on them. Some of the blacksmith swords broke, others bent, &c. Tarleton, who was in the vicinity, as soon as informed of the result started for Hillsboro, the Americans pursued about half way and without overtaking him turned to the left up the country. The next day, with reinforcements, he attacked our piquet guard in the night in which engagement Major Micajah Lewis, a Continental officer, was killed, and the Americans compelled to retire; this was followed by various movements, which brought both armies to the south of Haw River near Alamance Creek. On the 2nd of March a detachment of 800 men, all militia, except Lee’s Legion, advanced in three columns, under his command, Graham and Company in front of the left with orders to support the left flank. After passing through a farm near Clapp’s Mills entering a coppice of woods encountered a large party of the enemy drawn up in position, a smart firing commenced, and after three or four rounds our line gave way, the ground was so hampered with thick underbrush, and the course of the Tories on the left flank, it was done with difficulty, retreated about one mile to the ford on big Alamance, where Col. Otho Williams with the regulars under his command and Washington’s Cavalry, were drawn up to support; the enemy did not pursue more than 500 yards. In the affair two were killed, 3 wounded and 2 taken prisoners of Graham’s Company, in all 7. On the first of March the time and service for which the men had engaged was up and about one-third of them would go home, the others were persuaded to stay longer, being daily in expectation of a general action.

The day after the battle Graham was directed by Lee to take 25 men to ascertain if the enemy were occupying the field and, if they had left, to follow the trail until he actually saw them which he did, on the Salisbury road within half a mile of their headquarters. He dispatched a sergeant with six men to inform Lee, and Graham with the rest of his party moved after dark through the woods in an unsuccessful effort to capture two sentinels who fired at them, but as Graham and his party proceeded a 1-2 mile up the main road met a patrol of cavalry, whom they hailed, then discharged a volley in their faces,

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causing them to retreat, leaving their officer a prisoner. Upwards of 100 cavalry were, as was afterwards learned from a deserter, hastily dispatched from the British camp in pursuit of Graham the same night, who met a company of Tories on the march to join them and were mistaken for Graham’s party. A charge was made with considerable slaughter before discovering they were friends. This small affair greatly discouraged the Tories in the South. A few days before they had been severely cut up by Lee’s men and the militia whom, at the time, they had supposed was their friend Tarleton. It is not known that the Tories attempted to join the British afterwards. Subsequently Graham with his Company was in the action at Whitsell’s Mills on Reedy Fork under Colonel Washington, when Col. Webster with the elite of the British army for 12 miles passed so closely as to compel Colonel Otho Williams, the commander, to fight long in expectation of a general action. Being disappointed with only heavy skirmishing, in which they had acted a prominent part, his men determined to return home. General Greene directed Graham to go with them in order to keep them in a compact body until they got through the disaffected settlement on the east side of the Yadkin River, which they passed on the 14th of March, 1781, and on the 17th most of the company arrived home. Owing to the early death of General Davidson under whose orders he acted, he received no written commission, but Colonel Dickson gave him a written discharge. During this service he was in 8 battles or skirmishes and lost four men killed, three wounded and two prisoners.

After the battle at Guilford (March 15th, 1781) the enemy having marched to Wilmington and left a garrison there, no militia service was called for in the west until the month of August, 1781, although the Tories under the protection of the British, had possession of the country south of the Cape Fear, until above Fayetteville, Colonel Fanning of the Tories, surprised Hillsboro, taking Governor Burke prisoner. General Rutherford, who was captured at Gates’ defeat, having been exchanged, returned about this time, sent Graham orders to raise a troop of Dragoons in Mecklenburgh and many of those who served the winter before joined the troop. There were but four married men in the troop and he was commissioned as Major in the command of Colonel Robert Smith, who had been a Captain in the N. C. line. The organization consisted of three troops of Dragoons, about 96 men and 200 mounted infantry. Two days thereafter

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the General having received information of the embodying of Tories on Raft Swamp, who were about to retreat to Wilmington, detached Graham with the Dragoons and forty mounted infantry with orders to hold them at bay or impede their march so that he might follow and overtake them. When he did overtake them, charged with Dragoons, entirely defeating them, 20 or 30 being killed and wounded, entirely with the sabre.

Graham who was detached by Colonel Smith with one troop of Dragoons and two companies of mounted men, surprised at Alfred Moore’s plantation, a mile below the ferry at Wilmington, and defeated 100 Tories, killed and wounded 12. The next day was in an unsuccessful attack on a British garrison in a brick house that covered the Ferry opposite Wilmington, with one killed.

Graham was afterwards detached by General Rutherford with three Companies, one of which was Dragoons, by Brunswick, over Lockwood’s Folly and Wacamo Rivers, to a place called Seven Oaks, near S. C. line, and was attacked about midnight by the noted Gainey of S. C., who was then under a truce with General Marion, but appears he did not consider it binding in North Carolina. The Cavalry charged defeating them and killed one. Graham had one killed, 2 wounded and four horses killed. This service lasted over three months and was in four battles. He recapitulated his service as follows:

From May, 1776, to August when Furloughed—3 months.
From November 5th, 1778 to August, 1779—9 months.
From about June 1st, 1780, to March 17th, 1781—9 1-2 months.
From about August 20th, 1781, to 1st December—to Wilmington—3 1-4 months.

He was born in Chester County, Penn., October 13th, 1759. Removed to Mecklenburg County, N. C., when about ten years old and was present in Charlotte on the 20th of May, 1775, when the Committee of the County of Mecklenburg made the celebrated Declaration of Independence of the British Crown. Since 1792 he has resided in Lincoln County, N. C. He died November 12th, 1836.