Fayetteville Observer, Monday August 17, 1857
RECOLLECTIONS OF CROSS CREEK
The Highlanders of Scotland, after their defeat at Culloden in 1746, migrated to North Carolina, under
the advice of Neill McNeill. They found a resting-place on the banks of Cape Fear, at what has remained
the head of navigation on that river to the present time.
As early as 1762 Cross Creek and Campbellton (now Fayetteville) began to assume importance in a commercial
point of view, the fame whereof attracted many from abroad, and amongst others James Porterfield, an Irishman
by birth, but who for some years had been a resident of Pennsylvania. Mr. Porterfield had five children-Eleanor,
who intermarried with Col. Thomas Owen, the father of Gen. James and the late Gov. John Owen; one son who died
in early life; John and James, who for many yeas were merchants in Fayetteville, and Denny, who is the subject
of this brief sketch.
On the breaking out of the Revolutionary war, the whole family of Porterfields espoused the Whig cause. In the
death of James Porterfield, Sen. the Whigs lost an able and influential friend. But his widow, animated by the
same ardent temperament, made her mansion headquarters for the Whigs of Cross Creek. She was celebrated as an
expert cartridge-maker, and frequently spent nights in preparing bullets to be used by the Americans. At that
time she lived in the house that has for many years been known as the residence of John McLeran, dec'd, and now
of his son William.
Under such a father and mother, and in such times, Denny Porterfield grew to manhood. He became a soldier, served
with distinction in the American army, and attained the rank of Major. It is not our object to give a detailed
account of the exploits of D. Porterfield, but will simply endeavor to record his daring bravery as exhibited in
his last battle.
It is a well known fact that while Cornwallis retreated from Guilford Court House via Fayetteville and Wilmington
to Yorktown, where he was compelled to surrender to the prowess of Washington, Gen. Greene, instead of pursuing him,
determined to relieve North and South Carolina from the persecutions of Lord Rawdon, and so pressed upon him, that
in July 1781 he took post at the Eutaw Springs, where the Americans attacked him and drove him from his entrenchments.
Foremost in this intrepid charge was the high-souled and valorous Denny Porterfield, who seemed to have a charmed life,
as he exposed him-self upon his mettled charger, with epauletts and red and buff vest on, to the murderous fire of the
enemy. Lieut. Col. Campbell received a mortal wound while leading the successful charge. Porterfield and his brave
companions rushed on to avenge his death, and took upwards of five hundred prisoners.
In their retreat the British took post in a strong brick house and picqueted garden, and from this advantageous position,
under cover, commenced firing.
At this crisis in the battle Gen. Greene desired to bring forward re-inforcements to storm the house. To save time it
became important, that some one should ride within range of the British cannon. It was in reality a forlorn hope. The
American General would detail no one for the enterprise, but asked if any would volunteer. Instantly Denny Porterfield
mounted his charger and rode into his presence. Gen Greene inquired if he was aware of the peril, if he knew that his
path lay between converging fires, and in full sight of the British army. Porterfield modestly replied, that when he
entered the American army he had subjected his powers of mind and body to the glorious cause, and if needs be he prepared
to die in its behalf.
Greene communicated the command, which was to order into service a reserved corps that lay in ambuscade, ready to advance
upon receiving the signal agreed on.
With a brave and undaunted bearing Major Porterfield dashed off upon his fleet courser, and so sudden and unexpected was
his appearance among the British, and so heroic the deed, that they paused to admire his bravery, and omitted to fire
until he was beyond the reach of their guns; but on his return, they fired, the shot took effect in his breast, and the
brave Denny Porterfield fell, and sealed his devotion to the cause with his blood on the plains of Eutaw. His horse escaped
unhurt, galloped into the American ranks, and never halted till he reached his accustomed place in the ranks.
Gen Greene, who witnessed the instincts of the animal, shed tears, and ordered David Twigs, father of Miss Winny Twiggs
now of Fayetteville, to take charge of the horse and carry him to Mrs. Porterfield at Cross Creek. And upon a Sunday afternoon
the mother of the distinguished gentleman who communicated some of the facts detailed, remembered to have met David Twiggs
coming into Cross Creek, who in one breath announced the gall of his beloved Major and the success of the American arms at Eutaw.
He brought with him the red buff vest that Major Porterfield wore, and Gen. James Owen has informed me that he remembers to have
seen it and that there was a rent or tear on one side and slightly blood-stained. On the retreat of Lord Rawdon, Gen Greene
retained possession of the field, and there the body of Denny Porterfield found an honorable grave. His horse lived for several
years, a pensioner, roaming at pleasure on the banks of Cross Creek---known and beloved by all who venerated the valor and
chivalry of Denny Porterfield.
Return to Military Index
Back to Cumberland County Home Page