Captain Peter Gaillard
Notes from the Black Oak Agriculture
| Peter Gaillard was born at the
residence of his father, at Wambaw, St. James' Parish, Santee, in the year
1757, being the youngest of a family of five sons and three daughters.
He and David were full brothers, his father having a second time married
after the birth of the first six children. The parents were among the Huguenot
emigrants from France the year following the Edict of Nantes. Peter grew
up to the age of ten before he was placed at school, and I have heard him
say he believed the rapid progress he made was mainly owing to the shame
and mortification he was subjected to by finding boys much his juniors
in age his superiors in learning; he soon took a high stand in the school.
When this school was discontinued, as there was a good one near Milford,
my grandfather's residence in St. Stephen's Parish, he, together with Peter
Robert, John Ball, and Francis Peyre, all cousins, were sent to that school
under the charge of their uncle, Isaac Dubose, who had five children attending
the school at the time, viz: Isaac, David, Samuel, Catharine, and Joanna.
After finishing their academic course here, Peter Gaillard and Samuel Dubose
were sent to Charleston as clerks in the store of Theodore Gaillard, Peter's
elder brother. Here they continued until the war broke out. In consequence
of the death of both David and his wife Joanna Dubose, Peter became owner
of the White Plains plantation, to which he removed and lived with Samuel
Dubose for some time as planters of indigo in the swamp. In the progress
of events the two friends separated. Samuel Dubose taking side zealously
with the Whigs, and the other remaining neutral. Most of the friends of
Peter Gaillard warmly espoused the cause of the British government; and
the violence and uncompromising character of his father probably influenced
the son. Things remained so until the country got in the possession of
the enemy. The British general, Cornwallis, called into the field most
of those who had taken protection under his proclamation, and when a force
was organized to hunt out Marion and his men on the Santee, Peter Gaillard
was appointed second in command. General Marion, having ascertained the
embodying and object of the party, suddenly fell upon them at Black Mingo
and dispersed them; this was the only occasion where an active part was
taken by Peter Gaillard against his countrymen. His friends had long known
that he was lukewarm towards the cause he had espoused.
| After his father's death Mr.
Gaillard wrote a letter to my father, to the effect that his future services
should be rendered for his country's success, and that if he could adopt
means to have him introduced to Marion and his brigade, he would hold himself
ready for any arrangement he could make, provided it involved no mortifying
or humiliating feelings. An interview was forthwith had with General Marion,
the subject opened, and the letter placed in his hands.
| The General expressed heartfelt
satisfaction at the announcement. He passed very warm encomiums upon Peter
Gaillard's conduct at the battle of Black Mingo, stating that owing to
circumstances the command devolved upon Peter Gaillard, who had gallantly
sustained himself, and that if he had met with support from his brother
officers the day would have been lost; Marion's force was the weakest,
and he had hoped for a surprise, which he failed to effect. The horses'
feet on the bridge a mile off apprised the sentinel of his approach, and
allowed time for the enemy to prepare for the battle. General Marion instructed
my father to return his congratulations, and to say that at and hour fixed
upon he would advance with his staff in front of his brigade, meet Mr.
Gaillard as a friend, and escort him into camp. Policy dictated this,
because Peter Gaillard had in the camp many bitter foes. The day after
being fixed upon, my father, who was deputy brigade-major under Major Keating
Simons, left the camp, and returned with his friend at the point designated.
As soon as he was in sight, Marion advanced with his staff, met and cordially
greeted him, as did each of his family. The manner and the precautions
taken thoroughly quashed every symptom of discontent. Peter Gaillard solicited
and received posts of peril and honor in quick succession. When Col.
Cotes fired Biggin Church and the large amount of stores contained in it,
and attempted to reach Charleston by Bonneau's Ferry, Peter Gaillard
was given a command to check him at Watboo and at Huger's bridges and at
Bonneau's Ferry ; this duty was gallantly performed, and the advance of
the enemy stopped at "Brabant," the plantation of Bishop Smith. The
Americans here came up, and Sumter, the senior officer, contrary to the
earnest advice of Marion, rushed into a battle which proved disastrous
to the Americans.
| Mr. Gaillard was afterwards
under the command of General Moultrie, and in many of the engagements south
of Charleston. He also served under Col. John Laurens, was one of an advanced
party to arrest the British in their retreat to Charleston, and witnessed
the fall of Col. Laurens by one of the last balls discharged in that war.
| After the war was over,
Capt. Gaillard married Elizabeth Porcher, daughter of Peter, of Peru, a
lady to whom he had long been attached. Some unpleasant and annoying occurrences
he was fated to endure from a very few Whigs, who wanted magnanimity to
cast a veil over his first and youthful error. His subsequent course appeared
to produce no effect upon them. Death, however, in a few years, quieted
everything. And no man in any community, ever commanded in a greater degree
the confidence and esteem of his acquaintances, friends, and neighbors
than did Capt. Gaillard.
| I will add in corroboration,
that in 1794, when the militia laws of the State were remodeled and the
whole system changed, all commissions were vacated and new elections
made. The parish unanimously elected him captain, and this at a time when
commissions were more highly estimated than at present.
| The disastrous ten years which
preceded the introduction of cotton as a market crop involved him, as it
did others, in debt and distress. His record book, kept with minute accuracy,
states the fact, that in one of those years the entire crop saved from
one of those freshets was a few baskets of unmatured corn, which required
drying in the sun before it was fit for use. A family, and upwards of one
hundred slaves, had to be sustained
without money; credit had to be obtained from the more
fortunate who planted on the Wateree or Congaree.
| Capt. Gaillard purchased the
Rocks in 1794, without funds, looking for nothing more than to make bread
for his dependents. Cotton had not been attempted as a crop, and indigo
did not pay for its cultivation. He settled the plantation in 1795, and
made provisions. In the following year he attempted cotton, I believe over
one hundred acres, with unlooked-for success. On my return from school
in Camden, late in December, 1796, I called in to dine with his overseer,
a friend of mine, and saw, for the first time, the process of ginning and
specking cotton. A brilliant prospect now opened to the eyes of the desponding
planters, fully to be realized. The crop of 1799 or 1800 extricated him
from debt. About twenty-two years after, Capt. Gaillard divided his lands
and negroes among eight children, and retired in a green old age to enjoy
as much of the world's happiness as is the lot of man, and lived ten years
| I never knew a better, a neater,
or a more successful planter than Capt. Gaillard. There was a completeness
and finish, a compactness and uniformity about every thing, that was pleasant
to the eye. In a ride one day to "Lifeland," my grandfather, Peter Sinkler,
became the subject of conversation, and the captain thus expressed himself
about him as a planter. " If you will make him, Mr. Sinkler, the standard
of a planter, I have never known any other." I adopt and apply this opinion
to him upon the maturest consideration. There was a generosity that belonged
to him that few possessed, and the knowledge of which would be gratifying
to his descendants. When a rapid accumulation of funds in his factor's
hands took place, his nephew and factor, Theodore Gaillard, Jr., borrowed
of him a large sum of money, and mortgaged for its safety the plantation
now owned by Thos. Ashby Esq., and a number of negroes. After the
bankruptcy of Mr. Gaillard, the mortgage foreclosed, the property sold
for very little to Captain Gaillard, owing to a great blunder of one of
the banks, which held a younger mortgage. When the Captain found
that half the purchase could pay him the bona-fide debt, and leave thirty
negroes, he generously made it over to Theodore's children. When he married
his second wife, he became entitled to her property, but he never used
one cent of it, but gave it all to her children, returning even what she
had used as his wife. In the twenty-three or twenty-four years after Capt.
Gaillard had paid his last debt, he paid for real property $118,000; retaining
for his own use upwards of $13,000 in stock, and dividing among his children
upwards of five hundred negroes.