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Good Article on Graham St. Namesake

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Graham deserves to be better known in modern day Charlotte, at least for those who have an interest in local history. He is probably the one historical figure that could rival, maybe even surpass Captain Jack for dramatic effect. At 15 years old, Graham witnessed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence as a spectator in the crowd and in later years gave one of the most important eyewitness testimonials. Just a few years later, he almost died and endured an unimaginable ordeal defending that same ground. As the article mentions, Graham was brutally butchered and carried the visible scars of the ordeal for the rest of his life. The part about the young woman, Susan Alexander, finding him and saving his life is another thing that makes it a great story. Amazingly enough, just two months later, Graham was fighting Cornwallis again in the other local Revolutionary War battle: The Battle of Cowans Ford. He lived an remarkable life and, fortunately, he was a very prolific writer who wrote extensively about the people and events of the day, many of which he witnessed in person.

For those who have more than just a casual interest, I would highly recommend this link from Google Books.

"Charlotte Journal Dec. 2, 1836


Died, at his residence in Lincoln County, on the 12th ult., MAJOR GENERAL

JOSEPH GRAHAM, aged 77 years.

GEN. GRAHAM was born in Pennyslvania, October 13th, 1759. His mother, being

left a widow with five small children and slender means to support them,

removed to North Carolina when he was about seven years of age and settled in

the vicinity of Charlotte. He received the principal part of his education at

an academy then taught in Charlotte, and was distinguished among his fellow

students for talents, industry, and the most manly and conciliating

deportment. His thirst for knowledge led him, at an early period, to become

well acquainted with all those interesting events which preceded and prepared

him for our Revolution Struggle.

He was present in Charlotte on the 20th of May, 1775, when the first

Declaration of Independence was formally and publically made. The deep

impression made upon his mind by the solemn and illustrious decisions of that

day, gave good evidence that he was then preparing for the noble stand which

he took during the war.

He enlisted in the Army of the United States in the month of May, 1778, at

the age of 19 years. He served in the Fourth Regiment of North Carolina under

COL. ARCHIBALD LYTLE and acted as an officer in CAPT. GOODEN'S Company. The

troops to which he was attached were ordered to rendezvous at Bladensburg in

Maryland. Having proceded as far as Caswell County, they received intelligence

of the battle of Monmouth, and that the British having gone to New York, their

services would not be needed. He returned home on furlough.

He was again called into service on the 5th of Nov., 1778, and marched

under the command of GENERAL RUTHERFORD of Purrysburg, on the Savannah river,

soon after the defeat of GENERAL ASHE at Brier Creek. He was with the troops

under GENERAL LINCOLN in the trying and painful struggles agains GENERAL

PROVOST, and fought in the Battle of Stono on the 28th of June, 1778, which

lasted an hour and 20 minutes.

During nearly the whole campaign, he acted as Quarter Master. In July,

1779, he was taken with fever, and after two months severe illness was

discharged near Dorchester and returned home.j

After recovering from the affects of sickness and privation, he aided his

mother in the support of her family and was ploughing in her field when he

received intelligence of the surrender of Charleston, and that the British had

defeated COL. BUFORD of the Waxhaw, and were within 40 miles of Charlotte.

Instead of being deterred by the sufferings of the previous campaign, or the

perils of that alarming moment, he removed at once to leave the plough, and

enter the Army.

He was immediately appointed Adjutant of the Mecklenburg Regiment, and

spent the summer with them in opposing and assailling the troops of LORD

ROWDON. When it was understood that the British were marching to Charlotte, he

was commanded by GEN. DAVIDSON to repair to that place and take command of

such force as should collect there, and to join COL. DAVIS. The British Army

entered Charlotte the 26th of Sept. 1780. GEN. GRAHAM was assigned the command

of his troops which sustained the retreat of GEN. DAVIS, and opposed

TARLETON'S Cavalry and a Regiment of Infantry for four miles on the road

leading to Salisbury.

After a long and well directed fire upon the British from the Courthouse to

the Gum Tree, GEN. GRAHAM retreated with the men under his command and formed

on the plantation now owned by JOSEPH McCONNAUGHEY, ESQ. and again attacked

their advancing column of infantry. There his life was providentially

preserved from the bursting of a gun fired by the soldier who stood at his

side, and whose arm was wounded. After again retreating, he formed on the hill

where Sugar Creek Church now stands. There owing to the impudent, but honest,

zeal of a MAJOR WHITE, they were detained too long, for by the time they

reached the Cross Roads, a party of British Dragoons were coming up the road,

heading from CAPT. KENNEDY'S, and after close pursuit for nearly two miles

overtook them. COL. FRANCIS LOCKE of Rowan County, an intelligent and brave

officer, was killed upon the margin of a small pond, now to been at the end of

MR. ALEX. KENNEDY'S LANE. Between the spotand where MR. JAMES A. HOUSTON

livesm, GEN. GRAHAM was cut down and severely wounded. He received nine

wounds, six with the sabre and three with lead. His life was again narrowly

and mercifully preserved by a large stock buckle, which broke the violence of

the stroke, which to human view, must otherwise have proved fatal. He received

four deep gashes of the sabre over his head and one in his side and three

balls were afterwards removed from his body.

After being much exhausted by loss of blood, he reached the home of MRS.

SUSANNAH ALEXANDER, who yet lives near the same place, where he was kindly

nursed and watched during the night, and his wounds dressed as well as

circumstances would permit. The next day, he reached his Mother's, where MAJOR

BOSTWICK now lives. From that, he was taken to the hospital, and was two

months recovering.

Thus, at the tender age of 21 year, we see this gallant officer leading a

band of brave men as ever faced a foe, to guard the ground consecrated by the

Declaration of American Independence, and when the foot of tyranny was

treading on it, and assistance proved unsuccessful, leaving his blood as the

best memorial of a righteous cause, and of true heroism in its defence.

While the whole country was in distress, its property pillaged, its houses

forsaken, and its defenseless inhabitants flying from the shock of arms, a few

noble sons of Mecklenburg compelled LORD CORNWALLIS to designante Charlotte as

the "Hornet's Nest" of America.

As soon as he recovered from his wounds, he again entered the service of

his country. GEN. WILLIAM L. DAVIDSON, who had command of all the militia in

the Western counties of North Carolina, applied to him such rank as the number

of men raised would justify. It proved not only his energy of purpose, but

great influence, that, at that difficult and hazardous period, he could raise

a company of 55 men in two weeks. They were mounted riflemen, armed also with

swords, and some with pistols. They suppllied themselves with horses, procured

their own equipments and entered the field, without commissary or

quartermaster, and with every prospect of hard fighting and little


After TARLETON'S signal defeat at the Cowpens, CORWALLIS resolved to pursue

GEN. MORGAN. At that time GENERAL GREENE had received the command of the

Southern Army and had stationed himself at Hick's Creek, on the North side of

the Peedee, near to Cheraw. After MORGAN'S victory and successful retreat,

GEN. GREENE left his main army with GEN. HUGER, and rode 150 miles to join

MORGAN'S detachment. The plan of opposing LORD CORNWALLIS in crossing the

Catawba River was arranged by GEN. GREENE,and his execution assigned to GEN.

DAVIDSON. Feints of passing were made at different places, but the real

attempt was made at Cowan's Ford.

Soon after the action commenced, GEN. WM. L. DAVIDSON was killed, greatly

lamented by all who knew him as a talented, brave and generous officer. The

company commanded by GEN. GRAHAM was the first to commence the attack on the

British, as they advanced through the river, which was resolutely continued

until they reached the bank, loaded their arms, and commenced a heavy fire

upon his men, two of whom were killed. It was supposed that GEN DAVIDSON was

killed by a Tory, who was pilot to the British in crossing the river, as he

was shot with a small rifle ball. COL. WM. POLK and REV. MR. McCALL were near

to him when he fell. His body was found that night and buried in the present

graveyard of Hopewell Church.

The North Carolina Militia was then placed under the command of GEN.

PICKENS of South Carolina, and continued to pursue the British as they

advanced toward Virginia. GEN GRAHAM with his company and some troops from

Rowan County, surprised and captured a guard at Hart's Mill, one and a half

miles from Hillsboro, where the British Army then lay, and the same day were

united to COL. LEE'S forces. On the next day, he was in action under COL.

PICKENS with COL PYLES, who commanded 350 Tories on their way to join

TARLETON. These Tories supposed the Whigs to be a Company of British Troops

sent for their protection and commenced crying, "God Save the King." TARLETON

was about a mile from that place, and retreated to Hillsboro'. Shortly

afterward, GEN. GRAHAM was in an engagement at Clapp's Mill, on the Alamance

and had two of his company killed, three woounded and two taken prisoners. A

few days afterwards, he was in action at Whitsell's Mill under the command of


As the time for which his men had engaged expired, and the country annoyed

by Tories, GEN. GREENE directed him to return with his company and keep them

in a compact body until they crossed the Yadkin, which they did March 14,

1781. After the battle at Guilford, the British retired to Wilmington and but

little military service was performed in North Carolina during the summer of

1781. After the first of November, COL. FANNING surprised Hillsboro' and took

GEN. BURKE prisoner. GEN. RUTHERFORD, who had been taken prison at GATES'

defeat and with many other distinguised citizens had been confined in custody,

was dischared and returned home about his time. -- He immediately gave orders

to GEN. GRAHAM, in whose military prowess and general influence he had the

utmost confidence, to raise a troop of calvary in Mecklenburg. Three troops of

Dragoons and about 200 mounted Infantry were raised and formed into a Legion,

of which ROBERT SMITH ESQ., who had been a Captain in the North Carolina Line

was appointed Colonel, and GEN. GRAHAM was appointed Major. They forthwith

commenced their march towards Wilmington -- South of Fayetteville, with 96

Dragoons and 40 mounted infantry, GEN. GRAHAM made a gallant and successful

attack upon a body of Tories, commanded by the noted Tory COLONELS McNEIL ,

RAY, GRAHAM, and McDOUGAL. This action took place near McFall's mill, on the

Raft Swamp, in which the Tories were signally defeated, their leaders

dispersed in dismay and their cause greatly injured. That 136 Whigs should

attack and triumphantly defeat 600 Tories, headed by four Colonels, reflects

great honor upon the bravery and intelligence of their youthful leader.

A short time afterwards, he commanded one Troop of Dragoons and two of

mounted infantry, in surprising and defeating a band of Tories on MR. ALFRED

MOORE'S plantation, opposite to Wilmington. On the next day, he led the Troops

in person, which made a resolute attack on the British garrison near the same

place. Shortly afterwards, he commanded three companies in defeating the

celebrated COL. GAYNY, near Waccomaw lake. Shortly afterr this, the war was

terminated in the South by the surrender of LORD CONWALLIS at Yorktown in


This campaign closed COL. GRAHAM'S services in the Revolutionary War,

having commanded in 15 engagements with a dgree of courage, wisdom, calmness

and success, surpassed, perhaps, by no officer of the same rank. Hundreds who

served under under him have delighted in testifying to the upright, faithful,

prudent, and undaunted manner in which he discharged the duties of his trying

and responsible station.

After the close of the War, he was elected first Sheriff of Mecklenburg

County, and gave great satisfaction by the faithful and exemplary performance

of the duties of that office. He was afterwards, for a number of years, a

prominent member of the General Assembly from the same County. About the year

1787, he was married to the second daughter of MAJ. JOHN DAVIDSON. By this

marriage he had 12 children, seven of whom have survived him. Not long after

his marriage, he removed to Lincoln County and engaged in the manufacture of

Iron, and for more than 40 years before his death, conducted a large

establishment with great energy and prudence.

In the year 1814, when the war with the Creek Indians was raging with

violence, and GENERALS JACKSON, COFFEE and CARROLL, were repelling with signal

bravery, their ruthless aggressions, North Carolina determined to send 1000

men to aid the volunteers from Tennessee and Georgia in the confllict with

those savages. GEN. GRAHAM'S renown as an officer, and his worth as a man,

commended him as leader of the troops from this State. He received the

commission of General, and was strongly solicited by the Governor of the State

to accept the appointment. Although the circumstances of his family rendered

his absence one of great loss and self-denial, he promptly obeyed the call of

his country and marched at the head of a fine Regiment of Volunteers to the

scene to the conflict. They arrived about the time the last stroke of

punishment was inflicted upon the Creeks by GEN. JACKSON, at the battle of

Horse Shoe; and in time to receive the submission of those they expected to

conquer. Several hundred of the lower Creeks surrender to them. For many years

after the last war, he was Major General of the 5th Division of the Militia of

North Carolina.

By the life of temperance and regular exercise, with the blessing of God,

he enjoyed remarkable health and vigor of constitution. On the 13th of

October, 1836, he made the following minute in his Day Book, "This day I am 77

years of age and in good health, Dei Gratis."

As the disease which terminated his life was apoplexy, its paralyzing

stroke was sudden and unexpected. He rode from Lincolnton on the 10th of

November, and on the evening of the 12th, closed his eyes upon the cares and

trials of a long and useful life."

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I meant to mention earlier that the author of the Graham article, Scott Syfert, is one of the members of the May 20th Society that has done such a good job promoting Charlotte's history including projects like the Trail of History and the Charlotte Liberty Walk. Speaking of the Liberty Walk, they've recently added a new monument honoring Mec Dec and the Resolves at the uptown Square(pictured below). The fact that so many have never heard of General Graham is a good indication that there is a need for what they do. I'm a lifetime Charlottean, but I had never heard of Graham until about 10 years ago. I also wasn't aware until recently that Charlotte founder, Thomas Polk, played an instrumental role in saving the Liberty Bell.

Speaking of Joseph Graham, his brother George Graham was another of the heroic figures from that period in Charlotte history. He was involved in the Battle of Mcintyres Farm that helped Charlotte get its nickname as the Hornets Nest. George Graham is buried uptown in Old Settlers's Cemetery.






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