New Marker for African Americans who fought at the Battle of King’s Mountain

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Last weekend, I went camping at King’s Mountain National Park with my son and lots of cousins.  It was a beautiful two days and we hiked on the gorgeous trail around the Revolutionary War battlefield.  While hiking, I noticed a new marker, placed there just a few days before, memorializing three African Americans who fought at the battle: Esaias Bowman, John Broddy and Andrew Ferguson.  When I got home I looked into these three soldiers and found some interesting information, but I found the most interesting one was Andrew Ferguson (1765-1855).

There are two applications that I examined on Fold3, one for a pension and one for bounty land.From his pension/ bounty applications Ferguson  acknowledges that he is colored and born of a free father and free mother.  Andrew states that he and his father, Andrew Perley, were from Dinwiddie County, Virginia and were captured by the British who whipped them with a “cat o’ nine tails”.  They both escaped and joined Nathanael Greene’s regiment, who were in the county at the time. Father and son participated in a good portion of the battles of the southern theater.  Andrew Ferguson relates that he was wounded at Camden in the leg but was able to fight at Ninety-Six, Kings Mountain, Pacolet River, Musgrove’s Mill, Eutaw Springs, Cowpens and  Guilford Courthouse.  It was at Guilford Courthouse where he was seriously wounded in the head and Doctor John Sidney placed a silver plate in the fracture.  Andrew was discharged shortly after Cornwallis’ defeat at Yorktown.

The bounty letter also mentions that he was in the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania and in the pension application there is a reference to the notorious Tory, Bill Cunningham, also known as bloody Bill Cunningham (for  the massacres of patriot militia he perpetrated in South Carolina).  He shot and killed an American near Andrew, then escaped.

Andrew Ferguson was given a small pension and would move to Monroe County, Indiana sometime after 1820. Both he and his wife were very poor and the first pension letter was in 1838 when he was 73.  The bounty letter was in 1851.  Then he wrote another one in 1855 when he was supposedly 90 years old!  He finally received his bounty for 160 acres in 1856, but by then he and his wife had already died without heirs.

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Andrew Ferguson’s pension letter in 1838.

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Andrew Ferguson’s first bounty letter in 1851

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Andrew received 20 dollars a year.

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Unfortunately his land bounty of 160 acres came too late.

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1915 South Carolina Birth Certificates are now Online

Nell Welsh BC

This is my grandmother’s sister’s birth certificate. I guess her parents had not thought up a name for her yet. Some copies, like this one are a bit light. I can’t even read her mother’s name, which should be Alice Hilton.

Nell Welsh

Here is where she added her name to the the blank birth certificate in 1966.

This is awesome- South Carolina birth certificates for the year 1915, the first year they were issued, are now online at South Carolina Electronic Records Archive.

South Carolina had cut the funding for their Department of Archives and History so much in the past decade that they could hardly staff the place, and I knew several people who had lost their jobs.  Well they must have somebody over there because last month they released this digital bombshell.

Thanks to the Dead Librarian at the Richland Library in Columbia, SC, for the heads up.

Book Bonanza

books! books!!

Just put on the shelf some great new genealogical titles that were generously donated from the Wilson County Genealogical Society. In case you can’t read the pics, here’s their titles:

  1. Marriages of Some Virginia Residents, 1607-1800, Vols. A-Z
  2. Without Indentures: Index to White Slave Children in Colonial Records
  3. Jamestowne Ancestors, 1607-1699
  4. Surry County, VA Tithables, 1668-1703
  5. Surry County, VA Wills and Administrations
  6. Early Virginia Families Along the James River, vol. III
  7. Indexes to Irish Wills
  8. Spotsylvania, VA Records, 1722-1838
  9. Marriages and Death Notices from Camden, SC Newspapers, 1816-1865
  10. Deeds of Gates County, NC 1819-1828
  11. Deeds of Gates County, NC 1828-1833
  12. The Register of Albemarle County, Surry and Sussex Counties, VA, 1739-1778
  13. Virginia Tithables from Burned Record Counties
  14. Some Marriages in the Burned Record Counties of Virginia
  15. Virginia Revolutionary War State Pensions
  16. Emigration from Southside Virginia

North Carolina’s Rich Dialect Diversity

talkin tarheel

My father used to tell me, “I swanny Will if you don’t stop scaring your sister with that Admiral Akbar mask, I am going to tear it half in two!”   Well the mask (I had won it in a Return of the Jedi coloring contest at the mall) was eventually torn half in two.  And according to the book I just finished reading , Talking Tarheel (2014) by Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser, the word swanny is a word found in the rural Piedmont dialect of North Carolina (it doesn’t say anything about half in two though).

The book concerns North Carolina’s regional dialects and I found it to be informative and engaging but also quite innovative in its addition of QR codes that allows you to access video and audio examples of dialects all over North Carolina (check out the audio-visual links here).  The authors, professors of English at NC State, separated the state into 6 major dialect areas: Appalachian, NC Piedmont, Coastal Plain, Tidewater and Outer Banks.  But there are also other dialects and languages within those areas, including: African American, Lumbee, Cherokee and Latino.

Their detailed research has revealed some new revelations in the mosaic of dialects that we are fortunate to have in our state.  One interesting finding is how varied African American Dialects are in NC, which are sometimes viewed as a monolith in “white” America.  But there are some surprising speechways from the rural to the urban and from the Outer Banks to the Appalachians, and many are far removed from the urban dialect portrayed in popular culture.

The authors also try to dispel the myth that the Appalachian and Outer Banks vernacular is some sort of Elizabethan English time bubble.  It turns out that their English is as living and mutable as any dialect, their isolation has just allowed a few words and grammatical structures to survive where in other, more connected, areas it has died out.  If you read my review of John McWhorter’s book  Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, you will have already read about some antediluvian grammar that still lives on in NC, ie. “Mary is a singing.”  Also, one of my favorite examples of how the Outer Banks vernacular has been evolving is their use of the word “dingbatters” for tourists.  They picked up that word from watching Archie Bunker on the TV sitcom All in the Family. However, I do have a beef, I have read a hantle (a lot) of literature about the Scots Irish dialect of the Carolinas (esp. From Ulster to America by Michael Montgomery, who is probably the leading expert in Scots Irish speech ways and Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fisher),  and as an armchair linguist who took one undergraduate linguistics class, I don’t think the authors emphasized the impact Scots Irish had on the Piedmont and Appalachian dialect regions enough.  There are hundreds of words that came out of their distinct dialect that has examples in writings from Ulster (also lowland Scotland and the English border) and their diaspora in America. Examples of Scots Irish words that have occurred in Ulster and America:  jouk- dodge, fornest-next to,  lowp-jump,  hantle- a lot.  But in their defense the researchers for the most part adhered to the results of their own research.

But the part I found most interesting is the chapter on the legacy of American Indian Languages.  Unfortunately, the only language remaining out of the six American Indian Language families that were historically found in NC is Cherokee, and presently there are only 200 to 300 fluent speakers of the language left in North Carolina.  But there is another American Indian tribe living in NC that is the ninth largest tribe in the United States and is the largest non-reservation tribe in the US and they are the Lumbee tribe of Robeson County.  This enigmatic tribe lost their language (or languages) sometime in the 1700’s but they speak a dialect of English that is as singular as the one found in the Appalachians or the Outer Banks and I am going to cover them in depth in another blog post.

The authors end the book covering the great Latino migration into North Carolina and the cultural and language ways that they are adding to our mostly monolingual state.  Drawn to our manufacturing and agricultural job opportunities, North Carolina is now third in it the nation for numbers of rural Latinos and number one in monolingual Spanish speakers.  Also, ten percent of Mexican immigrants speak an indigenous language and some of them do not speak Spanish as their first language but Otomi, Mixtec, Nahuas, Purhepechas,  or Triques.  However,  only half of the Latinos in NC are from Mexico, the other half are from El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala or any other Central or even South American nation (my sister-in-law is Peruvian and lives in NC).  The term most commonly used for Spanish speakers by Anglos in NC is Hispanic which is also the most used term on the East coast, but in the West they use the term Latino.  Hispanic was found to be the most disliked phrase among Latinos because it was wholly created by the US Census and is considered a “white person’s” word.  Lastly, the researchers have found that many bilingual children of Latino immigrants speak with a rural southern accent but with a distinctly Latino rhythm adding a beautiful new dialect to the already diverse speechways of our state.

Wolfram and Reaser view North Carolina’s richly diverse language quilt as one our most important resources.  Although dialects change and die-out, the authors believe that there will not come a time when all Americans or North Carolinians speak alike.  They seek to document the language and history of North Carolinians from the ones who were here at the founding to the more recent arrivals.

Also investigate this article: What linguists say about Kevin Spacey’s bizarre Southern accent on House of Cards

In the show House of Cards, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is from Gaffney, SC, a town that has a very similar culture and accent to my hometown of Gastonia, NC by virtue of them both sitting on the I-85 textile corridor about 30 miles apart.  I can tell you that I never met anybody that dropped their “r’s” there like the Frank Underwood character does, if anything they added more “r’s”. Well that is not exactly true my best friend’s mother and father dropped their “r’s” but they were from the Lowcountry of South Carolina and they stood out.  One of our favorite pastimes was to imitate his mother, “Da-vid, don’t you duhty up my kitchin.”

 

John Laurens and the American Revolution

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John Laurens by Charles Willson Peale

John Laurens met an ignominious end on August 17, 1882 in a minor skirmish against British forces who were foraging for rice outside of Charleston, South Carolina. The Revolution was all but over, and only six months before John Laurens had the honor of representing the American forces when he accepted Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. But his death, caused by foolhardily charging a much larger force, was one that was not a surprise to those who knew him. General Nathaniel Greene, his commanding officer in South Carolina, summed up his death with, “The love of military glory made him seek it upon occasions unworthy his rank.”

I was very eager to read Gregory D. Massey’s biography of Colonel John Laurens, John Laurens and the American Revolution, when I learned that Barton College carried it in their collection. Luckily for us, the Wilson County Public Library has a partnership with Barton that allows holders of Wilson County library cards to check out books at their library. I was always interested in what life events and philosophic influences created this scion of South Carolina who found contradictions in the revolutionary cause he championed in that it was for the rights of humanity yet allowed slavery to exist. And what caused him to repeatedly seek his own death in battle through reckless behavior. Massey’s book was a succinct but erudite account of the life and the creation of the sometimes overlooked Revolutionary War hero and strong opponent of slavery.

The French Huguenot Laurens family settled in Charleston in 1715 and by the time John was born in 1754 the family was very wealthy. John’s father, Henry, was a rice planter, a successful merchant and had married Eleanor Ball, who was of a prestigious low-country dynasty. John and his siblings were tutored at home and when he came of age he travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to study medicine and then to London to study law. While in London, Laurens married Martha Manning (he had gotten her pregnant), a daughter of a business associate of his father’s. But the war intervened and without seeking permission from his father (nor for his marriage) he returned to America, leaving his new wife and unborn daughter in order to join the war effort. He would never see his wife again and showed very little concern for her or his daughter in his correspondence with his father. When Laurens returned from Europe he became one of General Washington’s aid-de-camps alongside Alexander Hamilton. They both became fast friends and some scholars have even suggested it was a homosexual relationship and Laurens’ reckless behavior was a result of unobtainable happiness. Some of the passages in their letters are very suggestive “I wish my dear Laurens…to convince you that I love you.” But the author dismisses that notion saying “In an age of sensibility, men typically expressed themselves with affection and effusiveness.” Modeling their bearing after figures from the classical world they valued their male relationships far above their ones with the fairer sex and this was certainly manifest in Laurens lack of communication with his wife and daughter.

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Henry Laurens, a strict republican and president of the Continental Congress whose belief in the ultimate abolition and immorality of slavery influenced his son.

As Washington’s aid-de-camp he first expressed his want to lead a regiment of his father’s slaves, which he viewed as his inheritance, against the British. There was a real need for manpower and Laurens felt that getting slaves under arms and fighting for America’s freedom would be the first step toward their own freedom and eventually the abolishment of slavery.  In Europe John was exposed to the anti-slavery ideas of the Enlightenment, which complemented his grandfather and father’s beliefs that slavery was ultimately immoral and was destined to be abolished. This is where the seeds were planted for his later ideas of forming an African regiment.  There was precedence in South Carolina for arming slaves such as during the Yamassee War in 1715 where slave militias were created to fight the uprising tribes of the Carolinas.   However, his father was at most luke-warm about the prospect at first saying that “It is certainly a great task effectually to persuade Rich Men to part willingly with the very source of their wealth, &, as they suppose, tranquility.” But he later tried vigorously to convince his colleagues to allow his son to raise a regiment. But no matter how hard both Laurens fought to raise the African levies, the South Carolina coalition of slave owners, who thought the vision of armed slaves was their worst nightmare, fought it to a standstill.

Although on the face of it, Laurens creates the impression of being genuinely concerned about the inhumanity of the institution of slavery and expresses the desire for any slave that fights for the Americans and any slave owned by the Laurens family would be freed. Many saw his fight for a regiment as merely a selfish want of a field command where he could pursue is obsession with glory.  And this was probably partly true but Massey writes that it does not diminish the importance of his humanistic beliefs in a time when slave-owners found many spurious arguments to justify their right to owning slaves. Nonetheless, Laurens was possessed with inherent contradictions in his public face of a Lockean liberal that believed in incompatibility of slavery with the Revolution’s belief in the rights of humanity and in his insensitive treatment of his personal slave, John Shrewsbury. During the infamous winter in Valley Forge of 1778 John sent frequent requests to his father for posh officer clothing but when Henry sent a checked shirt and hunting shirt for Shrewsbury, John’s response was “if there be any difficulty in getting him Winter Cloths, I believe he can do without.” John certainly believed in his idealism in theory but in day to day reality he had internalized the culture of the slave society elite of South Carolina.

The more Lauren’s ideas for a slave regiment was thwarted by the congress, the more reckless in battle he becomes, a recklessness that was also fueled by the romantic idealism of the age, especially in regards to the ideas of honor and of a glorious death being a noble gesture. European youth at the time lionized a character from Goethe’s The Sufferings of Young Werther, an unappreciated, talented poet who took poison when he could not make a living from his writings.  The fact that John Laurens was routinely reckless on the battlefield to the point of being suicidal could be evidence of the effect that the

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At the Battle of Brandywine, John Laurens distinguished himself with his reckless bravery in battle.

idealism of the age had on him.   At the Battle of Brandywine the wounded Marquis de Lafayette was quoted as saying, “It was not his fault that he was not killed or wounded, he did everything to procure one or t’other.” After a failed assault on Savannah Alexander Hamilton stated that Laurens stood facing the British fire “with his arms wide extended,” as if inviting death. And when he was criticized for his behavior he replied, “My honor does not permit me to survive the disgrace of this day.” But it could also be a consequence of held over guilt from the death of his young brother, Jemmy, who died from a fall in London while John was acting as guardian. This death was the last in a string of deaths of Laurens sibling’s and of John’s mother, Eleanor that certainly had a strong effect upon his psyche.

But whatever the reason behind his blasé attitude toward his personal safety it eventually led to his death, while finally leading men in the field as a lieutenant colonel and replacement for Henry ‘Lighthorse’ Lee in a war where any ‘glory’ that could be obtained had already passed.  Massey has written a detailed, concise, well-balanced biography that really captures the life and times of an important and almost forgotten figure of the American Revolution. A man that I wish more of his South Carolina and Southern contemporaries and heirs had emulated in his desire for the abolition of slavery instead of continuing with their pathological institution, that although brought the elite wealth and tranquility, the fallout from its deleterious effect on the culture and economic structure of the region is still being felt almost two and a half centuries later.

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After the fall of Charleston to the British, John Laurens was captured but was soon paroled.

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John Laurens’ minimalist, republican tombstone at Mepkin Plantation, now an abbey for Trappist monks.