Declaration by John Taylor concerning his military service in the Revolutionary War
Volume 22, Pages 154-158
JOHN TAYLOR, SENIOR.
In December 1832 he was residing in Granville County, N. C., and states that he was 76 years old on the 4th inst., and that he was born in Virginia; removed at the age of two years with his parents to Mecklenburg, in the same State, then in 1777 he settled in Granville County, N. C., where since living.
In 1778 a Company was raised in Granville County to aid in the defence of S. C. and Georgia and was told that his brother Richard Taylor was the Captain thereof, but he has no recollection of the fact. The wife of his brother Richard had received no intelligence of her husband in some time and expressed uneasiness in John’s presence, to which he replied that as he had no family, he would go,
-------------------- page 155
and if permitted, serve out his time as a substitute. Accordingly he started with two young men, Solomon Walker and Solomon Mitchell, to join the American army, which was stationed on the north side of Savannah river, opposite Augusta, then occupied by the British. There he learned that his brother Richard had returned home, for what cause and under what circumstances he has no recollection, but has recently been informed and believes that by reason of his disappointment in not being raised to the grade of Major, he had resigned his commission and left the service. He was received into the service and a considerable time in the early part of his tour, he was in the family and marquee of Colonel Lyttle. A detachment under the command of General Ashe were ordered across the river to take their station at the point where Brier Creek empties into the Savannah River. At this time he belonged to the Company of which Lt. Pleasant Henderson had in part the command. A few days before the attack on his detachment, which proved so fatal to it, General Ashe sent Lt. Henderson with dispatches to General Lincoln at Purysburg and Taylor was selected to accompany him. Lt. Henderson, observing when starting, that Taylor did not have his saddle bags, insisted on his return for them, but as Taylor hesitated, repeated his request, and he got them. On the road Henderson remarked he had particular reasons for insisting on his securing his saddle bags “for you nor I will see this place again as there will be a battle here before we return.” They remained three or four days at Purysburg before commencing their return to their station and soon met the stragglers of their troops flying from the battle ground at Brier Creek (March 3rd, 1779) to whom he gave all the clothing in his saddle bags. He thinks they returned back to Purysburg, of which he has no recollection, nor when or where discharged. He thinks his service was about 5 months.
In August 1780 he was mustered at Oxford in a regiment of Volunteers under Colonel Phil Taylor, which marched through Hillsboro, Salisbury, and Charlotte, to the Catawba River. At Salisbury the command was changed and assumed by Colonel Davie. Taylor appears to act as commissary at times for he mentions the purchasing of a large quantity of flour, on one occasion, for the use of the army. The regiment being aware of the liability to be attacked laid down to sleep on their arms. In course of the night they changed, with as little noise as possible, to another place. A short time after leaving
-------------------- page 156
the ground, it was covered by Tarleton’s Cavalry. At the Waxhaw he was in company with General Davie, when the latter pointed out the meeting house with the remark that he was educated by his uncle to succeed him as the pastor at that house. Absent about four months.
A regiment of mounted Volunteers was raised and placed under the command of Colonel Malmedy and Major Pleasant Henderson. A company was raised in Taylor’s neighborhood, which elected him as Captain. Among the members were James Lyne, James Lewis, Joseph P. Davis, John Farrar, James Minge Benton, two of his brothers, Lewis and Edmund Taylor—one older and the other younger than him—and Robert Goodloe Harper, who afterwards became distinguished in the public councils of his country. The Company met at Oxford to elect their Captain. After joining Colonel Malmedy and within seven miles of Guilford C. H., while at breakfast, they heard the report of the artillery in the battle, which started them to reach the battle ground by a short cut through the woods, but the route was so rocky and uneven, they abandoned it and returned to the more circuitous road, meeting hundreds flying from the conflict, from whom no information could be obtained as to the location or the issue of the engagement. Colonel Malmedy reached the battle ground and found it in the possession of the enemy, with their guns stacked around their fires. A council was held by the officers as to the “propriety” of attacking the camp, and Taylor thinks it was only opposed by Colonel Malmedy. The regiment was ordered to pursue after Cornwallis, who had left Guilford. In course of this pursuit, Capt. Taylor with as many men as he was pleased to take, was ordered to ascertain the position of the British Army. He selected seven, one of whom was Richard Goodloe Harper, and after two or three days search the required information was obtained of the situation of the main body, and on another road the enemy were driving 300 beeves and would be compelled to march 15 miles before intersecting the main body. Soon after this discovery and while in the immediate neighborhood of the enemy, so much did the Company and horses need refreshments, that they were tempted to halt at a cabin and turn the horses into a wheat lot near the house. While the woman was preparing their breakfast of fried hominy, Capt. Taylor, with all but one of his men, went to the eastern side of the cabin to bask in the sun,—the morning being cool,—leaving their arms within the house. Capt. Taylor turned round to see the front surrounded
-------------------- page 157
by seven or eight armed men on horseback. Whispering to his party to follow him he walked to the cabin, but the others not knowing whether they were friends or enemies, or perhaps from pure cowardice, did not resist their progress. Seizing his sword and the men their guns, presented himself at the door with the inquiry who they were; and observing a motion as if to retreat, ordered his men to fire, but this in so hurried manner, was without much effect, although the enemy had to pass through a small gate in front in single file. One man put his hand to his back and dropped his hat from his head. It was afterwards said that a Capt. Drake of the British Army had died of a wound received at that time and place. The wound was well understood to have been inflicted by Robert Harper. Capt. Taylor was so much alarmed by the occurrence, and the danger they were in, that the party mounted their horses and set out for their regiment, which was not in the place that had been designated for that day. Soon afterwards he learned it was while Cornwallis was at Ramsay’s Mills, Colonel Malmedy ordered an attack on Tarleton’s Cavalry in order to draw them out in pursuit, so that Major Pleasant Henderson, with a detachment placed in ambush, might attack them. The Command of this attack, Taylor was recently informed, was given to De Globack, a Frenchman, though he (Taylor) had always believed the Frenchman was subordinate to him. After the necessary preparation, the young Frenchman and himself set out at the head of the Company of about forty men ordered for the attack. Riding side by side DeGloback remarked to Taylor that one or the other of them, would in all probability, be killed; to which he replied that if the enemy kept double pickets, perhaps both would be killed. Shortly after, seeing two pickets, and getting within about forty yards of them, received their fire, then pushed on at full speed until they joined, in a short distance, some 20 or more, who were sentries to the main body and all ran in the direction of the army, which was probably within 200 or 300 yards further on, but were overthrown and three captured. While thus engaged with the guard, and before they were aware of the movement, about four hundred Hessians had nearly surrounded them, intercepting their return the same way from which the advance had been made for the attack. The party, escaped in another direction and notwithstanding the shower of bullets from the enemy, brought off the prisoners without receiving an injury. It was estimated by Major Henderson that there were three thousand bullets
-------------------- page 158
sent after them. It was subsequently reported that Tarleton refused to pursue the attacking party suspecting that it was a decoy by General Greene. De Globack ordered the execution of the prisoners on the pretence that the enemy would pursue, but this order was countermanded by Capt. Taylor. James Lyne, one of the nearest neighbors to Capt. Taylor brought off a Hessian Rifle which he carried home. When Cornwallis left Ramsay’s Mills (latter part of March, 1781) for Wilmington, N. C., Col. Malmedy was ordered to pursue in order to protect the inhabitants and intermediate country from ravages. Absent two months, but rated three months on account of the men furnishing horses. Capt. Taylor states that he was employed by General Davie as assistant in his commissary department, but the service may have been rendered after his last military campaign. The first occasion he was called on to act was to go to the lower counties of the State to receive from the Sheriffs or Collectors of public monies such sums as they may have collected, and to pay the same over to General Davie. He thinks he has two months on this duty.
On one occasion he was ordered to follow the track of the American Army to find the situation, and in whose possession were cow hides belonging to the public for the supply of the public tanneries. This duty took him to the S. C line and was employed in it three months. At another time he was out to engage beef to be delivered at different points for the use of the army, and was thus employed by General Davie from 12 to 18 months.