Jethro Sumner, Guilford Courthouse
This monument is a square-shaped stone structure, about 4 feet tall and bearing two inscriptions. The entire monument had been placed circa 1823 over Sumner’s original burial site in Warren County. It had replaced a headstone placed at his death in 1785. When the body was moved the second (and longer) inscription was added.
In March 2012, the monument was nearly destroyed when a driver attempting to avoid hitting a deer struck Sumner's monument. The monument was restored by May 2012 and Sumner reburied in a public ceremony.
Images (courtesy of Natasha Smith): East face | South face | South side view
South face (original Inscription):
To the memory /
of General /
JETHRO SUMNER /
one of the Heroes /
East face (added inscription): BRIG. GEN. JETHRO SUMNER / BORN IN THE YEAR 1733 / DIED MARCH 18, 1785 / COLONEL OF THE THIRD NORTH CAROLINA / CONTINENTAL TROOPS / APRIL 15, 1776 / CHARLESTON, JUNE 28, 1776 / BRANDYWINE, SEPT. 11, 1776 / GERMANTOWN, OCT. 4, 1777 / MONMOUTHH, JUNE 28, 1778 / STONO FERRY, JUNE 20, 1779 / EUTAW SPRINGS, SEPT. 8, 1781 / Spotless in character, pure in patriotism / the most eminent soldier among / the North Carolina troops. / Presented by J.H. Neese
Guilford Courthouse National Military Battlefield
1823. Rededication: July 4th, 1891
36.131840 , -79.846940 View in Geobrowse
"A Monument to Sumner," The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), January 21, 1891 Link
"Brig. Gen. Jethro Sumner," The Historical Marker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed February 28, 2018) Link
A Memorial Volume of the Guilford Battle Ground Company, (Greensboro, NC: Guilford Battleground Company, 1893), 1-27, (accessed February 8, 2012) Link
Baker, Thomas E. and Michael H. White. The Monuments at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, North Carolina, (Greensboro, NC: Guilford Courthouse NMP, 1991)
Battle, Kemp. Address by Kemp P. Battle, LL.D. on the Life and Services of Brigadier General Jethro Sumner at the Battle Ground of Guilford Court House July 4th 1891, (Greensboro NC: Guilford Battle Ground Company, 1891), (accessed February 6, 2012) Link
Folder 16 in David Schenck Papers, #652, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, see scans 6-8, 10-15, 26-28, 91-100 Link
Grimes, J. Bryan. "Why North Carolina Should Erect and Preserve Memorials and Mark Historic Places: Address Before the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, Raleigh, N.C., November 4, 1909," ([Raleigh, NC: The News and Observer, 1909]), (accessed May 18, 2012) Link
Guilford Battle Ground Company. "Invitations and Programs for Fourth of July Celebrations at the Site of the Battle of Guilford Court House," (various, 1888-1906), (accessed May 29, 2012) Link
Guilford Battle Ground Company. Extracts from the Memorial Volume of the Guilford Battle Ground Company, Greensborough, NC, 1894, (Greensboro, NC: Guilford Battle Ground Company, 1894), (accessed May 15, 2012) Link
National Park Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. North Carolina National Register of Historic Places. "Inventory Form - Guilford Courthouse National Military Park," (accessed November 6, 2019) Link
National Park Service. “State of the Park Report for Guilford Courthouse National Military Park: Resource Brief – Re-interment of Brigadier General Jethro Sumner,” 2015, p. 22, (accessed November 1, 2019) Link
Rankin, Hugh F. 1994. “Sumner, Jethro,” NCPedia.org, (accessed November 1, 2017) Link
[Monument relocated] Reidsville Review (Reidsville, NC), June 3, 1891
“A Glorious Fourth,” Greensboro North State (Greensboro, NC) July 8, 1891
“Gen. Jethro Sumner,” Henderson Gold Leaf (Henderson, NC), May 28, 1891
“Removal of the Remains of General Sumner,” News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), May 21, 1891
The original monument sponsor was Sumner's daughter, Mary Sumner Blount who set aside money in her will. J.P Neese sponsored the monument after it was moved to Guilford Battleground. The state of North Carolina made an appropriation for moving Sumner’s body to Guilford Courthouse from Warren County.
The 1891 July 4th celebration included music by the Newton Band, refreshment booths and a reunion of Confederate veterans. It was estimated that 15,000 persons attended with 8,000 arriving by rail car. Orator for the day was Kemp B. Battle who spoke on the life of General Jethro Sumner whose body had recently been reburied at the battleground. After Battle’s speech an oil portrait of David Schenck was presented to the Guilford Battle Ground Company with a presentation speech by E.D. Steele. Governor Thomas M. Holt spoke as did Judge Kope Elias.
Sumner was born in Isle of Wight County in Virginia in 1733. He was a brigadier-general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and fought under George Washington and Nathanael Greene. After the war, he is credited with creating North Carolina's chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati. He died March 18, 1785 in Warren County, North Carolina.
In 1891, the monument has been relocated and a new inscription added. For several memorials at the Guilford Courthouse Battleground there was no formal unveiling. That appears to be the case with this memorial although on July 4th at the annual celebration held at the battleground one of the featured speeches was given by Kemp P. Battle on the life of Jethro Sumner. The body of Sumner had been re-interred in a ceremony on May 23.
The monument design was outlined in the will of Sumner’s daughter Mary Sumner Blount who died in 1822. It was said to copy a design of memorials for members of Congress buried in Washington.
[Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: This person enslaved and owned other people. Many Black and African people, their descendants, and some others were enslaved in the United States until the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865. It was common for wealthy landowners, entrepreneurs, politicians, institutions, and others to enslave people and use enslaved labor during this period. To read more about the enslavement and transportation of African people to North Carolina, visit https://aahc.nc.gov/programs/africa-carolina-0. To read more about slavery and its history in North Carolina, visit https://www.ncpedia.org/slavery. - Government and Heritage Library, 2023.]
The grave is located in Guilford Courthouse National Military Park on the Monument Row walking trail, just north of the Visitor Center in Greensboro, NC..
The memorial is behind an iron fence, surrounded by mature trees of the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.
The monument and Sumner’s body were moved from the original burial site in Warren County on May 19, 1891 and the body re-interred on May 23, 1891.