This gentleman was originally a surveyor in the southwestern portion of North Carolina, his education not acquired within the classic walls of a college, but practically obtained at intervals, from his occupations in the hills, vallies and forests of the Province. He thus became universally known and respected. No man possessed more influence in that part of North Carolina. He was uniformly a member of their Legislature, and was elected Colonel of the militia of Mecklenburg county; Adam Alexander was the lieutenant-colonel, John Phifer the 1st Major, and John Davidson the 2d major.
In consultation with his neighbors, the Alexanders, and Dr. Brevard, it was thought necessary to express their opinions of the political relations of America with Great Britain, particularly of the Boston port bill, and the late arrival of numerous British troops in Boston. It was agreed that he, as the military head, should issue a notice to officers of each company in his regiment, convening them, on the 19th of May, to consult on civil and military concerns. The officers met at the time appointed, not knowing of any political excitement, but it happened providentially that on the same day the express arrived from Boston with printed statements of the attack on Concord by the British troeps, and the battle of Lexington, which ensued. There was no longer conjecture or apprehension of what might be done by the soldiers to the citizens. Here was an outrage, attended by hostilities; the war had commenced, and they resolved to meet the exigency by the measures which have been detailed.
The first opportunity for proving his zeal, afforded to Col. Polk, was in South Carolina, in the winter of 1775. The tories in the northwestern part of the State had embodied themselves under Fletchal, Cunningham and others, with the inducements held out to them by Sir William Campbell, the last of the royal Governors. They had attacked the Whigs, under General Williamson, besieged him in Cambridge, Ninety-Six, and forced him to capitulate. The Council of Safety ordered out General Richard
When North Carolina raised four regiments of continentals, the Legislature elected Colonel Thomas Polk to the command of the 4th regiment. We have not heard of his adventures during the exciting scenes of General Gates' advance and disastrous flight through that part of North Carolina, but cannot doubt of his untiring energy and resistance to the British army under Lord Cornwallis, when we know that he called Mecklenburg “the hornet's nest.” This gentleman was the uncle of the late President James K. Polk.
When General Greene succeeded to the command of the Southern army, we find the following letter recorded:
Camp Charlotte, December 15th, 1780.
To Col. Polk.
I find it will be impossible to leave camp as early as I intended, as Colonel Kosciusko has made no report yet respecting a position on Pedee. I must, therefore, beg you to continue the daily supplies of the army, and keep in readiness the three days' provisions beforehand. I have just received some intelligence from Governor Nash and from Congress which makes me wish to see you.I am, &c.,NATHANIEL GREENE.
This letter bears strong evidence of Greene's confidence in the energy, punctuality and patriotism of Colonel Polk, who at that time owned mills in the neighborhood of Charlotte and kept a store in the village.