Some extensive military operations were mounted at various times after Guilford Courthouse in an attempt to stop the depredations of the British Loyalist troops commanded by Colonel David Fanning. Although little documentary evidence exists concerning the details of the battles with the Tories, it appears that one of the major skirmishes took place in July 1781 at the mouth of Sandy Creek, where several roads crossed at a ford across Deep River. The only record of this battle survives in three applications for federal pensions made by elderly veterans more than fifty years afterwards. Randolph County historian Barbara Newsome Grigg discovered them in the National Archives in the mid-1980s. I’m transcribing these pension applications and publishing each separately, and I’ll write about the battle later.
EDWARD BEESON (Pension #Revolutionary Pension Roll, in Vol. xiv, Sen. Doc. 514, 23rd Cong., lst sess., 1833-34)
(Born circa 1757 in the part of Rowan County, NC, that later became Guilford County, and was then further divided into Randolph County. He died in Marshall County, Alabama in 1844. He was married three times: (1) Selena Lamb; (2) Ann Pennington; (3) Dicy Mullins. His parents, Benjamin and Elizabeth Beeson, moved to North Carolina from Hopewell, VA, in 1751)
State of Alabama
St. Clair County
On this 7th day of November 1832, personally appeared in open court before the Honorable Andrew Crenshaw, Judge of the Circuit Court of St. Clair County now sitting, Edward Beeson, a resident of said St. Clair County and State aforesaid, aged between seventy and eighty years, and as he supposes about seventy-six, who being first duly sworn, according to law, do on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June the seventh, eighteen hundred and thirty-two; that he entered the service of the United States under the following officers and served as herein stated.
He entered as a volunteer from the state of North Carolina, Guilford County. It was in the spring of the year seventeen hundred and seventy eight as he believes. David Brower was his Captain; James Woods, Lieutenant;; this deponent, Ensign; William Brown, Sargent; Robert McCanna was their major; Thomas Dugan, Colonel; and Butler, General.
Their objective was the destruction of the Tories. Next day, after they left Johnstonville, their place of rendezvous, their Captain and three men were killed by the Tories who waylaid them. The Tories were commanded by Major Rainey, and fired on them from a steep hill on the side of Brush [Sandy?] Creek. After Brower was killed, Woods became Captain and this deponent became Lieutenant. They pursued the Tories about forty miles to Fork Creek and there besieged them in a house belonging to one John Needham. In the morning before they got to Needham’s, their Colonel (Dougan) joined them.
This deponent was ordered with half of his company to attack the back of the house under the concealment of an orchard, while the rest were to attack in front. This deponent’s company were the first who took possession of the same, those in front having feigned a retreat to draw out the Tories, which accordingly succeeded. Twenty-one were killed, seven at the house, and fourteen at the place where they kept the horses, the Tories having fled there, to where they were concealed on the bank of a Deep River, where Colonel Dougan had himself gone with a detachment, to surprise them if they should be driven from the house.
They then marched down to Cape Fear (or Fairtown) and from there to the Brown Marsh near Wilmington, where they again had a battle with the Tories on open ground. They there again defeated them, who being reinforced by the British from their shipping at Fort Johnson, returned and defeated us in return. From thence they (the Americans) returned by Cape Fear to Guilford. At this time we were out three months and were discharged.
Soon thereafter, the Tories gathered and took Hillsborough when this deponent and his company were again ordered out, this deponent having been elected, on the very day after his return home from his first service, to Captain, one Woods being his competitor for the same. John Jones was his Lieutenant and William Brown was his sergeant.
They then marched down to Hillsborough and joined with the Orange and Wake men and some from Chatham, for the purpose of attacking the Tories, and rescuing Governor Burke. This deponent believes this was in the fall of the year but is not certain. They marched to Cane Creek and there attacked the Tories, at which time John Litteral, who acted as Colonel, was killed and numbers of our own men. We were defeated and returned after a short time to Guilford. The Tory General Hector McNeill was killed in this skirmish, and there Colonel Fanning had his back broken. This deponent’s company had permission to return home for a return home for a short time. This term of service was some less than four, though more than three months.
His next term of service was again a volunteer. This, he believes was the next year. This time they were aroused by the Tories who came and burned Colonel Dougan’s house, Colonel Belford’s (Balfour’s) house, at the same time killing Colonel Belfour. They also killed John Brown and burned his home. Also Millican’s and Collyer’s houses were burned. They pursued them under the command of Colonel Bletcher (or Bleecher), this deponent still Captain and remained so until the cost of the war. The same Ensign and Lieutenant were with him on his last term of service.
This deponent previous to his last service mentioned, had been on another tour which, through mistake, was not put down previous to the other as it ought to have been. He went out from the same district and State. Reed was their Colonel; Bletcher, their Major; and Lillenton, their General, after which they arrived at Charleston, South Carolina. They arrived there at the time the British were lying at St. John’s Island. This deponent was with his company at the time Charleston was taken, at the place and in the town. The regulars being intrenched down on the wharf were taken but his company escaped at this time. He was out in this service four months and was discharged by General Lillenton.
He received a written discharge, which was lost or destroyed. This deponent served several other times for short space not mentioned, and the particulars of which he cannot either recollect or describe. This deponent’s memory is so impaired by age that almost common occurrences are forgotten by him. This deponent has no documentary evidence and knows no person whose testimony he can procure who can testify to this service, except his Commission as Captain. His first Commission was given him by Colonel Dougan which he lost during the war. The Colonel to supply its place afterwards upon proper evidence, had it supplied by the Governor of the State. This was done that he might receive his pay for his services.
He hereby relinquishes every claim whatever to the pension or annuity except the present one and declares that his name is not on the pension roll or the Agency of North Carolina from which he has never asked nor received anything.
Sworn to and subscribed the day and year aforesaid in open court.
Signed: Edward Beeson
To: Edward Beeson
We reposing special trust and confidence in your patriotism, valour, conduct and abilities, do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you Captain of a Company of Foot in the Randolph Regiment of militia commanded by General Butler.
You are, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of Captain, by exercising and well disciplining the officers and soldiers under your command, and by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And we do strictly charge and require all officers and soldiers under your command to be obedient to your orders, as Captain, and you are to observe and follow such order from time to time, as you shall receive from your superior officers, according to the directions of military discipline and the laws of the State.
Witness, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Esquire, our Governor, Captain-General and Commander-in-Chief, under his hand and seal, which he has caused to be hereto affixed, at ______, the 24th day of April 1778.
Signed, Richard Dobbs
By his Excellency’s command
Frank hawks, sec’y