A Choate Ancestor in Colonial America - 1776-1780
John Melton Choate and Cora Zaid Gibbs family has an ancestor who grew up on
the western boundary of Colonial America in the years leading up to the
American Revolution. His name was Josiah
H Brandon (1761-1842), a Great-Great-Great Grandfather of Cora Zaid.
young man, he served in the local militia companies in western North Carolina protecting the frontier settlers from Indian attacks, and wound up fighting in
one of the Revolutionary War’s most pivotal battles.
Setting the Stage – 1775
1763 and 1774, the British Parliament passed 13 acts imposing taxes and duties,
and tightening British control over the Colonies. The First Continental Congress (Sep 1774) authorized
formation of Committees for Observation and Safety throughout the colonies,
whose functions were to take over the activities of local government, to resist
Loyalist activities, and to link with the wider American
community. They were empowered to call up
an armed militia.
to British threats to seize weapons from the militia in Concord, the Massachusetts
Provincial Congress authorized creation of special militia units to be ready at
a moment’s notice – known as Minutemen.
The first military engagements of the Revolutionary War were fought on
April 19, 1775 in Lexington and Concord. They marked the outbreak of open armed
conflict between Britain and the 13 colonies - "the Shot Heard 'Round the
15, 1775, the Second Continental Congress elected George Washington as
Commander-in-Chief of all Continental Forces – he and others began forming an
army of the United States, to a large extent composed of militias from the
with the Indians: 1760s – 1770s
The British Royal Proclamation of 1763 treaty with the Cherokee Nation
prohibited settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains – see Proclamation Line
on map. Settlers were prepared to completely disregard any treaty made by
the King and his agents, and so they continued moving further west. Thus,
conflicts between Indians and settlers were violent throughout the region.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary
War (1775), both sides solicited support from the Indian people. The
Indians sided with the British, and fought for some of the same reasons the
Patriots did: political independence, cultural integrity, and the
protection of their land and property.
Josiah Brandon Born on the
Frontier – 1761
In the early to mid 1760’s several
families settled on land in what is now McDowell County, North Carolina at the
eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
H Brandon was born in that area of North Carolina on June 26, 1761.
The Local Military Force – the
Since 1665, “militia” has taken
the meaning "a military force raised from the civilian population of a
country or region, especially to supplement a regular army in an
emergency." Militia members are not
paid soldiers, but serve as volunteers on an ad hoc basis to protect the freedom
of their home and country.
In colonial America, the militia
was the only defense against hostile Indians when regular British forces were
not available. They were the only
protective force for most Colonial communities.
Every male between the ages of 16 and 60 was expected to serve an annual
3-month tour of duty in the local militia.
Frontier Forts – 1770s
The summer of 1776 saw an
increase in Cherokee violence against settlers in present McDowell and Burke
Counties, NC. In response to these attacks, Davidson’s Fort was built
during this time by militia volunteers. It was once the western-most
outpost in Colonial America.
Davidson’s Fort was not unique
in western NC. It was one of dozens of
forts built along the frontiers of VA, NC, SC, and GA. Some were built by settlers threatened by
Indian attacks. Others, like Davidson’s
Fort, were built by companies of militia and served as militia outposts, to which
soldiers were assigned to protect the western settlements from the Cherokee
It appears that a militia
company, amounting to about 20 men, was always stationed at the fort, the
soldiers changing as men completed their normal 3-month tours of duty and
returned to their homes. The fort also
appears to have had a captain who remained at the fort while militia companies
came and went.
Brandon – a militia volunteer
1776, at age 15, Josiah BRANDON entered service under Capt. Samuel DAVIDSON at
Davidson's Fort for a 3-month tour of service.
In his pension application, he states: “We were marched to the frontiers
and built a Fort for the protection of that part of North Carolina.”
In the early part of the spring of 1777, and continuing
until the spring of 1779, he served under Capt. DAVIDSON for three more tours
of 3-months each.
Fall of 1779, he enlisted again, under Capt. George CUNNINGHAM, who had
replaced Capt. DAVIDSON that Spring.
forces formed scouting parties and left Upper Fort in pursuit of the
Indians. “From that place we were
immediately marched in pursuit of the Indians. We crossed over the Blue Ridge
and down the Swannanoa [River] to French Broad [River] and back to Old Fort. On
this expedition, we had no general engagement with the Indians.”
Chasing the British – Winter
writes, “In the winter of 1779, I joined Captain BOYKIN's light horse company
for the purpose of pursuing Capt. William "Bloody Bill" CUNNINGHAM, who commanded a company
of British and Tories in the edge of South Carolina. We took up the line of
march from Brown's station, Burke County for South Carolina where we were
joined on the Tyger River by the command of Captains Roebuck & Casey's
made immediate march for CUNNINGHAM and drove him into the British garrison at Ninety
Six [SC], where a large British force then lay. We remained in that section of
the country until our term of service expired, were then discharged, and
returned to our homes in Burke County, North Carolina.”
Serving under Major McDowell – Spring
March 1780, BRANDON joined Major McDOWELL’s Militia Corps to move against the
Cherokees, who had been terrorizing the North Carolina mountain frontier.
Serving as a light horse force, McDOWELL's volunteers destroyed several Indian
was discharged at the end of twenty or thirty days after the Indians had been
driven back from the settled areas.
The British invade the South –
During the first three years of
the American Revolutionary War, the primary military encounters were in the
north. After 1778, when the French
entered the war against Britain, the British shifted their attention to the
southern colonies. In 1779 and 1780, British
forces seized Charleston, the South's biggest city and seaport, and captured a large force from the
southern Continental Army.
The remnants of the southern
Continental Army began to withdraw to North and South Carolina. Major defeats at Waxhaws and Camden caused organized
American military activity in the region to collapse. Georgia and South Carolina were under British
control, which set the stage for Cornwallis to invade North Carolina.
Josiah conscripted into the
British army – Sep 1780
father, Capt. Thomas BRANDON, had been commissioned an officer before the
Revolution, and in 1780, he was still an officer "under the claim of
England," as a Captain in the Loyalist Militia. Young BRANDON was still
under the age of 21 years.
summer of 1780, his father brought his company into Burke County and compelled
his son “partly by persuasion and partly by menace” to join his father’s
company and support British Major Patrick FERGUSON, who commanded a small body
of British regulars and a larger Loyalist force. Josiah, conscripted into his father’s
company, joined with FERGUSON about seven days before the Battle of Kings
British camp at Kings Mountain –
6 Oct 1780
October, after a tiring march, Major FERGUSON with a force of about 1,000 men
camped near the North Carolina line on "Little Kings Mountain,” in South
Carolina, a spur of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which rose some 60 feet above the
"insulting" presence had already stirred the patriotic frontiersmen
in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, and some 900 expert marksmen,
carrying their own rations and rifles, were in active pursuit.
frontiersmen arrived at the base of Kings Mountain about noon of 7 October, and
proceeded to surround it on the northeastern hump where FERGUSON's forces had
moved to concentrate their firepower.
The Battle of Kings Mountain – 7
American patriot attack began in the afternoon as the frontiersmen stormed up
the slope under the protection of a heavy growth of trees. The Americans
apparently surprised the British and opened an irregular fire on FERGUSON's
bayonet charges by the British failed to find the Americans waiting for them,
and as soon as the British withdrew to regroup and make another charge, the
Americans returned to their vacated positions and once more directed accurate
fire against the British camp.
engagement only lasted one hour.
The Silver Whistle went silent
little silver whistle by which he directed the British efforts soon went
silent, when FERGUSON was killed with one foot still caught in a stirrup.
Eventually the Loyalists threw down their arms, raised a white flag, and the
to avenge Tarleton’s alleged massacre of the militiamen at the Battle of
Waxhaws, the Patriots gave “no clemency or mercy” until the rebel officers
re-established control over their men.
King’s Mountain: A Pivotal
The battle at King’s Mountain was
a pivotal moment in the Southern campaign. The surprising victory over the British
Loyalist forces came after a string of rebel defeats at the hands of Lord
Cornwallis, and greatly raised the Patriots' morale.
With Ferguson dead and his
Loyalist forces defeated, Cornwallis was forced to abandon his plan to invade
North Carolina and retreated into South Carolina. Deciding he could not hold the Carolinas, he
moved his army north to Yorktown on the Chesapeake Bay, where General
Washington and Rochambeau defeated his army.
When the British forces
surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781, the Americans won their
independence. The British surrender
would not have taken place without the brave North Carolina Militia.
Josiah taken prisoner – Oct 1780
their defeat at King’s Mountain, some 700 surviving Loyalists surrendered, with
320 of the British force being casualties. The Americans suffered some 90
casualties. Thomas BRANDON, Josiah’s father was fatally wounded.
Josiah was taken prisoner and marched to Quaker Meadows
in Burke County. On about the sixth day after the battle, Josiah became
"afflicted in his ankles" and could march no further.
Major McDOWELL knew the Brandon family well, since
Josiah had served under him on several earlier excursions against the
Indians. He recognized and pardoned the
unfortunate youth who had been active in the patriot cause for 3 years, and
then had been coerced to fighting for the Loyalists by his father.
Went home – one last battle -
was released into the custody of his widowed mother and quickly recovered from
his affliction. A few weeks later, Indians made another attack near the Upper
Fort, and among the numbers who fell victim were John DAVIDSON and his family,
who were butchered in a “most brutal and savage manner.”
resist this new onslaught, Capt. SUMPTER enlisted the help of able-bodied men
to assemble at the Upper Fort. There, under the command of a Capt. WALKER, BRANDON
joined these frontiersmen who served for three months as spies and rangers,
venturing forth in small detachments to protect the fort and the frontier.
Moving on – 1780-1842
completion of this last tour of duty, Josiah BRANDON returned home and married
Rachel Brown, a childhood friend and neighbor, the daughter of Thomas Brown, a
noted Quaker in western North Carolina. She was fifteen when they married and lived
to eighty years of age after giving birth to some fifteen children.
1784, their daughter Margaret was born; she grew up to marry Johnathon Bird. Their descendants lead to Cora Zaid Gibbs, and ultimately to YOU!
became an active and well-respected Methodist minister. In about 1805, he moved
to Lincoln County, Tennessee, where he lived until his death on 5 November
close acquaintances knew about his patriot and Loyalist experiences, but to him,
the stigma of serving as a Tory with his father followed him throughout his