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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Declaration by James Martin concerning his military service in the Revolutionary War
Martin, James, 1742-1834
October 17, 1832
Volume 22, Pages 145-150


In May, 1774, I moved from the State of New Jersey to Guilford County on Dan River and on the 22nd day of April, 1774, I was appointed Colonel Commandant of the Guilford Regiment of Militia by Samuel Johnson, President in Congress, then setting, and afterwards made Governor of this State, and soon after, in the year 1775, there was an insurrection of the Scotch Tories in and about Fayetteville. I was ordered by my brother, Alexander Martin, who was appointed Colonel of the Second regular Regiment, to raise the Guilford Militia and, as ordered by Congress then setting, march them to Fayette in order to suppress them. I accordingly marched to Fayette where said Colonel A. Martin was placed having been made Colonel of the Second Regiment in the regular service of the United States; but previous to my having marched there the Scotch Tories had embodied and had started to march to Wilmington, but were met by an armed force of Militia commanded by Colonel Caswell and a battle ensued at a place called Moore’s Bridge. He killed their commander as he attempted

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to cross said bridge and the rest took to flight and said Colonel Martin and myself took most of their head men and imprisoned them and then I was ordered home with my regiment. The time that I spent in raising the men until I returned home was about two months as near as I can recollect for I kept no written journal.

About the middle of June, 1776, soon after the above campaign, I was called upon and commanded by General Rutherford of Rowan to raise as many of the Guilford Militia as I could muster and to march them to join him at the Catawba river and to march thence to the Cherokee towns of the Indians in order to destroy them. Accordingly I marched with about 400 Militiamen and joined the General as he ordered. Lieut. Colonel John Paisley assisted me to raise the men and marched with us and thence we marched to the Turkey Cove at the foot of the Blue Ridge and then crossed over it to Swananoa, thence to Pigeon river, thence to French Road river and thence to Tennessee river where we came to some of their towns which we burned and cut down their corn moving from one town as we destroyed it and marched to another. Our commissary had about 3,000 beeves and about as many pack horses loaded with sacks of flour and where we encamped one night the beeves and pack horses destroyed the whole of it to the very stumps and destroyed the grass to the bare ground.

General Rutherford took the pick of the better half of the army and went to the over hills towns as they were called and left me with the remainder of the troops to guard the provisions until he came back. He was gone about two or three weeks before he returned but had no skirmishes with the Indians and I believe saw none and destroyed some of their towns as he reported. While he was gone the Southern Army of Militia, on the same intentions we had, marched through our camp and fell into an ambuscade the Indians had made about a mile and a half from our camp and had a smart skirmish with them. I heard their guns firing very plain and their commander sent to me for assistance and in the meantime I sent a Colonel Cleveland with about 150 men for his assistance, but before Cleveland got to them they had routed the Indians and killed about ten or twelve of them and they lost about as many of their militiamen. I had sent out scouts every day to reconnoitre the country but they never happened to fall into their ambuscade. After destroying all their towns and corn we took our march for home by orders from our General. A few of the

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Indians had skulked about our camp and a few of our men when they caught them out single they killed but we had no battle with them.

And from the time I received the orders to raise the Militia until we returned home—the orders to raise the militia came to me about the middle of June, 1776, and we did not return until about the last of October or first of November, 1776, being about four months in service in all.

After our return we had some little relaxation until express was sent me from our court house that the tories in the south end of the County, now called Randolph County, were in a state of insurrection with one William Fields as their head Colonel and wished to go to the British at Wilmington. I repaired to the Court House directly and ordered out Daniel Gilaspie our Captain of Light Horse company and took Fields their leader and brother and three or four more of their leaders and brought them prisoners to the Court House and our gaol not being sufficient I sent them in waggons to Hillsborough gaol and previously I had ordered all their guns to be taken from them and all they could find among the disaffected and bring them to the Court House and I gave them to the honest Whig party that had none. The time I spent at the Court House to order the suppression of the Tories in our County could not be less than six weeks off and on and I returned home to Dan river, where I then lived. This is from recollection as I said before as I kept no written journal.

In 1781, about the first of January or the last of December, 1780, I was ordered and commanded by General Greene to raise and call upon the Guilford Militia en masse and to equip themselves as the military laws directed and for me to come and join in his camp under the regular service and not depart without leave; but guns were wanting by a number of the men and I had to have recourse to impress and borrow as many as I could get and I could only raise about 200 to go with me to camp and they, hearing that the British were marching towards us in Guilford, it struck such a terror on them that some of that number deserted before the battle at old Martinsville. However I marched and joined General Greene with what I had and we retreated before the British until we came to Roanoke and crossed the river at Boyd’s Ferry and came to Halifax Court H. in Virginia and encamped. Two or three weeks the British had followed us in sight of the river and sometimes their front on our rears but no skirmishes took place at that time and they returned again to Guilford County

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where they harrassed and plundered the inhabitants as they pleased. General Greene having encamped in Halifax, Virginia, perhaps more than three weeks recrossed the Roanoke river and marched back in Caswell County and thence to part of Guilford, maneuvering about until he could collect all the militia of the different counties of the State and also from Virginia to meet the enemy for battle. I came and marched with General Greene to the high Rock Ford on Haw river and encamp there on the east side of it. The British were maneuvering on the west side of the county and General Greene after halting there about three weeks thought he had collected all the forces from Virginia and the lower counties of the State and resolved to move towards the British to give them battle as he did. He came to Guilford old Court House where he made a halt and hearing that the British were moving towards him he drew up his men in three lines about 100 yards behind each other and waited the advance of the British. I was posted in the front line with scarce a complete Captain’s company commanded by Captain Forbis, a brave undaunted fellow. We were posted behind a fence and I told the men to sit down until the British who were advancing came near enough to shoot. When they came in about 200 yards I saw a British officer with a drawn sword driving up his men. I asked Capt. Forbis if he could take him down. He said he could for he had a good rifle and asked me if he should shoot then. I told him to let him in 50 yards and then take him down which he did. It was a Captain of the British army and at that instant General Greene sent his Aid-de-camp for me to go to him and I went and asked him his commands. He told me as the battle had begun and as I had not a complete regiment he wished me to go with Major Hunter to the Court House in case of a defeat to rally the men which we did and collected about 500 and was marching them to the battle ground when I met General Stephens of Virginia Corps retreating.

I asked if the retreat was by General Greene’s orders and he told me it was. I then retreated with him and ordered the men to repair to Troublesome iron works to refit as General Greene had ordered me, which we obeyed. The British then took possession of the Court House and after a few days they moved up towards Wilmington. General Greene hearing of their movements started aftr them but the militia of our County being so disheartened I could not bring any

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to join him again. This was in 1781. The time I spent then from the time I received orders was about two months.

In 1778 or 1779, I forget which, a party of Tories commanded by their leader one Bryan on the Yadkin river rose in a body in Surry County and started to join the British at Wilmington and being informed of it by express I ordered out Captain Gilaspie with his light horse company and I went with them got on their track, pursued them as far as Uwharrie Creek and found they had got out of our reach, returned back again. The time we spent then until we returned home was about six weeks, that is one month and fifteen days.

We had then some relaxation till the year 1781 of better than two months when about the first of July I was ordered by General Rutherford of Rowan County to raise a part of my regiment and to join him on his way to Wilmington to try to dislodge a British Major Craig stationed there. I raised about 200 militia men and marched and joined him at the Raft swamp and hearing a number of Tories had taken refuge in it General Rutherford took about one-half of the army and myself the other and he entered the north end of it and I the south end. We made our way with much difficulty through bogs and morasses and some of the men and horsemen got mired but got out again. But we found no Tories or any body else save several camps which we supposed had been made by them. Thence we proceeded towards Wilmington but halted at a small stockade Fort Foster (?) about 20 miles from Wilmington off the South East branch of Cape Fear river near Frederick Jones’s on the south side of the river near a bridge over it and our army encamped on the north side and while we contemplated to storm the said Fort we were saved the trouble and danger without fighting by their vacating it which we supposed was ordered by their Major Craig posted at Wilmington. At this time we heard of the capture of the British General Cornwallis being taken prisoner by General Washington at Yorktown near the mouth of James river. We marched then to the town of Wilmington which we found was vacated by the British Major Craig and supposed it was by the orders of his British General (I think his name was Clinton) to leave the State and come to him and we thought it very good luck that by their vacating the town we were released from the danger of fighting. So we were ordered home again and the time we spent on this campaign was from about the first of July until we got home again the 25th of November of the same year, 1781, about four months.

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The whole time that I was in actual service was 16 months and 11 days—this from my best recollection of memory for I kept no written journal.


This 17th day of Oct., 1832.
Sworn to and subscribed in open court the year and day aforesaid.

Died 31st Oct., 1834.