Stories of our Revolutionary War Ancestors

Interesting accounts of our ancestors lives, the happenings of the times, how they lived, how each survived or didn't survive during this, our country's birth.

Burgess Clark

Captain Benjamin Merrill

Cynthia Smith


Captain Benjamin Merrill
The British were taxing them pretty badly, so the home folks got fed up and organized the "Regulators". Benjamin Merrill was a Captain in the "Regulators" and was involved in the Battle of Alamance. As I understand the story, he had about 300-400 men in his command. Captain Merrill and his command were enroute to the battle, but happened across a British Regiment, and captured them. I don't think he ever made it to the battle. In any event Governor Tryon was there, in command of his troops. The Americans sent a representative to talk to the British, but Tryon himself killed the man, and told his troops to start firing on the Americans. They were reluctant to do so, and he then told them "to either fire on me, or fire on them".

So the battle commenced - which the Americans (who were not trained troops, but rather citizens in the militia), lost the battle and disbanded. Tryon then issued a proclamation that those that would lay down their arms, and swear alligence to the British Crown, would be forgiven - except Captain Benjamin Merrill and I believe 5 or 6 others. The governor declared them "outlaws", and stated that when they were caught, they would be hanged, drawn and quartered, which they all were.

When the Chief Justice passed sentence, he concluded in the following manner: "I must now close my afficing Duty, by pronouncing upon you the awful sentence of the law; which is that you, Benjamin Merrill, be carried to the place whence you came, you be drawn from thence to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive, that your bowels be taken out and burnt before our face, that your head be cut off, your Body divided in Four Quarters, and this be at his majestys Disposal; and the Lord have Mercy on your Soul".

Captain Benjamin Merrill was hanged by the British on 19 June 1771 at Hillsboro, N.C. by then Governor Tryon. [there were a total of 6 men hanged that day.]

As far as I know, nobody knows their place of burial, but probably a mass grave somewhere around Hillsboro where the atrocities took place. At least thats what some folks THINK - which doesn't prove anything. For information purposes, there is a statue around there somewhere commemorating the event. My next door neighbor used to live there, and has told me about it, but it is of a minute man figure. From what I've heard, it is in bad disrepair.

Anyway, if you get around a bunch of Merrill genealogists, they figure that ALAMANCE was the FIRST Battle of the American Revolution. However, there MAY have been many, many such occurrences, that happened in several places. Who knows?

I am kinda doubly connected with Capt. Benjamin since his daughter Penelope Merrill married her first cousin (yep, another Benjamin Merrill).

Capt. Benjamin's brother, William Merrill III was carried off by the Tories, and was probably murdered inasmuch as he was never heard from again.

While William III's wife, Mary Cornell Merrill, had her tongue split by the British. William Merrill III had 3 sons (Benjamin, Daniel and John) who all fought in the American Revolution.
Submitted by BOBBY R MERRILL

Historic Marker honoring the 6 men who were hanged.

For further information see "Captain Benjamin Merrill and the Merrill Family of North Carolina", written by William Ernest Merrill, M.S. It was reprinted in 1986 and 1994 by Selby Publishing, 3405 Zartman Road, Kokomo, IN. 46902. Size...about 121 pages. This is a short passage from the book:" On the morning of the 15th of May they (the Regulators) sent a message to Tryon once more asking him to regard their rights. He promised them an answer by noon the next day. Early the next morning Tryon marched his army within half mile of where the Regulators were encamped, and drew his men up in line of battle. He then sent a paper which was read to the Regulators declaring they must lay down their arms, go home, and obey the King. The Regulators refused to do these things. Both parties advanced. As they drew near to each other, Robert Thompson, who had been sent by the Regulators to intreat with the Governor, turned to join the ranks of the Patriots, the irritated Tryon snatched a gun from the hands of a militiaman, and shot Thompson dead."

The book goes on and tells about his widow, his farm, childen, etc. Even though this is about the Merrill family, the book would be extremely informative of our ancestors and what really was happening to cause them to enter into conflict for their liberty. Until you have lived in this type of situation, you cannnot begin to understand....William Ernest Merrill, M.S., has given us a glimpse into that world.

Cynthia Smith
According to family tradition, Cynthia SMITH at age 12, in 1780 confronted General Cornwalllis at his encampment near her home in Camden. Family tradition states that British troops took Cynthia's cow after destroying the family plantation, store, grist mill and cotton gin which was located in the Camden area. Cynthia, incensed, pursed the troops and confronted Cornwallis. Cornwallis declared "you are a sturdy little rebel" and returned her cow and gave her a pair of silver knee buckles as a present.
Cynthia SMITH married Thomas CARTER c1795 in Camden, South Carolina. They removed to North Carolina a few years later. After her husband Thomas died in North Carolina, Cynthia and children removed to Pennsylvania, then to New Harmony, Indiana and finally to Jefferson Co, Illinois.
Cynthia was my G-g-g-grandmother. Here is the genealogy:
1-Cynthia SMITH b c1768 Camden, SC, d New Harmony, IN sp: Thomas CARTER b SC, d NC, m c1795 Camden, SC
2-Sarah CARTER b c1801 SC, d 1871 IL
sp :Frederick HARTER (aka HART) d IN, m 2/18/1823 Posey Co, IN
3-Sabra HARTER b c1825 IN , d 5/11/1905 Jefferson Co, IL
sp: James D LOYD b c1826 TN, d 1872 IL, m 1853 Hamilton Co, IL
Amanda E LOYD b 7/26/1861 Jefferson Co, IL, d 3/26/1954 Jackson Co, OR
sp: William B FOSTER b 10/23/1857 Jefferson Co, IL, d 1/1952 Jefferson Co, IL
4-Clarance R FOSTER b 4/14/1893 Jefferson Co, IL, d 10/27/1975 Bethany, OK sp: Nellie M ANDERSON b 1897 Ravendon, AR, d 1951 Jackson Co, OR

This story was published in 1929 by Dr John W Wayland, PhD, in "History Stories for Primary Grades".

Submitted by Gini Crosslin September 14, 1998

BURGESS CLARK  -  Abstract of Application for Pension and Bounty Land


for Revoluntionary War Service  -  (W2758  /  BLWt 34972-160-55)

Burgess CLARK made application on Oct.12, 1832 and stated that he was 69
or 70 years old. He was living in Chatham County, N.C. in 1777 when his
older brother, William CLARK, was drafted into a Company commanded by
Lieutenant James HEARNE and Lieutenant _____ GRIFFITH.  He [Burgess]
wanted to go with his brother even though he was then only about 14
years old and not subject of the draft.  So he became a subsitute for
Morgan MINTER for a tour of three months.  [If you had money enough and
didn't want to serve in the army, you could pay someone else to
subsitute for you.]  Burgess stated that his papers [for his service?]
were destroyed by fire when his house burnt more than 30 years before
when he lived in York District, S.C.  He served in a Regiment commanded
by Colonel MAYBURN from Orange County, N.C.  After he served his tour he
returned home and then enlisted for a second tour from Chatham County,
serving in the Company of Captain JOHNSON and the Regiment of Colonel
COLLIER.  He participated in a battle called "Gates Defeat". [Camden,
South Carolina, where General GATES fled the battlefield and didn't stop
until he got back to Virginia.]  


Burgess CLARK stated that he was born in 1763 in Goochland County,
Virginia and that his family Bible was taken by Tories when they
plundered his father's house in Chatham Co., N.C.  After the Revolution,
he moved to Richmond Co., N.C. where on Oct. 14, 1799 he was married to
Rhoda (Rhody) MORRIS by Curby SWINNEY, Esq.   They moved back to Chatham
Co., N.C., then to York District, S.C.,  to Lincoln Co., N.C. and
finally to White County, Tennessee.  He resided there for more than 30
years until his death on Oct. 22, 1851.  

Those who testified as to their belief as to his service as a soldier in
the Revolutionary War were:  [part of page missing]  (Wi)lliam KNOWLES,
Esq.,  (S)amuel A. MOORE, Esq., (Th)omas ROBERTSON, Col. David A.
(MIT)CHELL, Rev. Ozias DENTON, *Rev. Abel HUTSON, Henry (_____)TON,
Joseph CLARK, Sr. [Son] & (Der)ius (?) CLARK, Sr. [Son] give information
relating to the marriage of Burgess & Rhoda CLARK.  

Rhoda CLARK, Widow, applied for a Bounty Land Warrant on the Act of
March 3, 1855 (?).  Bounty Land granted to Rhoda CLARK, 160 acres, but
she had died, on June 27, 1856, before it was granted.  Letter from  J.
P. ROSCOE, Sparta, dated June, 1859, relating to 160 acres.  Mentions
that  no minor heirs were known, and that Samuel & Sally CLARK were the
only heirs at law (incorrect) and they have removed from White County to
Marcello Co. (?), Iowa since the death of their Mother.


[ * Abel HUTSON was originally from Hyde Co., NC, being one of a number
of families from that county which migrated to White Co., TN in the
early 1800's.  Others Hyde County families who moved to White County
SWINDELL and others. ]


This information was received by me several years ago from Mary Hudgens
of Sparta, TN and is hand written and very dim.  I have transcribed it
as best I can.   John B. McGowan   10/22/96






While serving in the Continental Army during the American Revolution,
during one particular battle, Burgess suffered a serious head wound by a
British sword which would end his fighting days.  As there were no
hospitals for treatment, injured soldiers were only administered basic
first aid and then sent home.  Often, a family member or neighbor
assisted the injured man home and both men would be released from the
army for the trip home.  Such a neighbor agreed to help Burgess travel
home, and the two departed on horseback.  

Only two days into the long trip home, Burgess' companion decided that
he no longer wished to provide assistance to him, thinking the sorely
wounded Burgess would die in the night.  The neighbor decided that
should Burgess awaken the next morning, he would just leave him. 
Burgess did awaken only to find the man staring down at him.  Cursing at
him, he said, "You have openned your old eyes for the last time.  I'm
going to leave you, so you're on your own now."  And with that he left,
taking the horse with him.  On his own now and his head wounds needing
attention,  he was able to get to his feet and start walking for home. 
He had not walked far before coming upon a footpath leading off to a
farmhouse in the distance.  He could see smoke coming from the chimney
and knew someone was there.  Starting down the footpath, he came to the
farmhouse.  The people living there took him right in and tended his
wounds, feeding and clothing him as needed.  The man of the house, a
continental army officer himself, was interested in the circumstances of
Burgess' situation.  After hearing what had happened, he sat right down
and wrote a letter back to the army to tell them of this occurance. 
Burgess stayed on with the family for a few days, resting , before he
regained enough strength to continue on with his journey.  

Not having any form of transportation, Burgess was grateful for the
kindness of these people, and even more so when they offered him an old
mule to help him on his journey.   Burgess had not gone far before he
met a group of soldiers heading in the opposite direction.  He was
surprised to find that the man who deserted him was now shackled and the
soldiers were taking him back to the army.  As was tradition,  such an
offence was punishable by the placing of the offender in the "hottest"
battle action.  Burgess never heard from his neighbor again.

Amos always  remembered his grandfather's hair sticking out in all
directions because Burgess could never get it to "part" correctly due to
the scars of the head wounds he had suffered.


Note:  Burgess Clark (1763-1851) was father of Rebecca (Clark) McGowan
(1815-c1897), father-in-law of his father, Bryant McGowan (1815-1899),
and grandfather of Amos McGowan's (1840-1929).   (Bryant McGowan, s/o
Joseph McGowan, Jr. (c.69-c1850's), was born in Hyde Co., NC, raised and
married in White Co., TN and settled in Caldwell Co., KY after the Civil


This is one of several family stories handed down from Amos McGowan to
his son Robert R. McGowan, and by him to his granddaughter Pamela
(McGowan) Tippy and grandson Perry McGowan and by them to me. John B.


Submitted by John B. McGowan Oct, 1998


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