Memories of Col. Hezekiah Maham
by Frederick A. Porcher, Esq.
(Historical and Social Sketch of Craven County)
 
     The most eminent military character which the revolution produced, in this parish, was Col. Hezekiah Maham. Like the respected names of Gendron and Peyre, this, too, has become extinct. Maham was a colonel of cavalry in the revolutionary war, and was distinguished not only for his gallantry, but also for a certain skill in the art of reducing' fortified places. It was at his suggestion that the expedient was first adopted (similar, by tinway, to the method practiced in the middle ages) of constructing against such places a tower of logs so high as to command them. This was first practiced at Fort Watson, and the description of Weems, which I give, is all that can be wished. "Finding that the fort mounted no artillery, Marion resolved to make his approaches in a way that should give his riflemen a fair chance against the musqueteers. For this purpose large quantities of pintlogs were cut, and, as soon as dark came on, were carried in perfect silence within point-blank shot of the fort, and run up in the shape of large pens or chimney stacks considerably higher than the enemy's parapets. Great, no doubt, was the consternation of the garrison next morning, to see themselves thus suddenly overlooked by this strange kind of steeple, pouring down upon them from its blazing tops incessant showers of rifle bullets. . . . Our riflemen lying above them, and firing through loopholes, were seldom hurt; while the British, obliged every time they fired, to show their heads, were frequently killed." Weems, who does not once mention Maham's name in his book, ascribes the invention solely to Marion. Lee, on the contrary, gives Maham credit both for the design and the execution ; and he frequently, afterwards, speaks of the Maham tower, as an efficient and decisive means of reducing- the simple forts of the interior.
     Not the least evil attendant upon civil war is, that notions of right and wrong become so confounded in our minds, that we are more disposed to reconcile morality with practice, than practice morality. They who sec acts of aggression and violence practiced with applause, are apt to forget that they are commendable only under the severe law of necessity, and that under other circumstances they are rightly considered as crimes. Men, whose opinions are entitled to respect, have not hesitated to ascribe the public crimes, which not long since afflicted England, to the violences which the circumstances of civil war justified or excused; so that many a marauder and highwayman only continued as a crime that course of life which he had been encouraged to commence as a duty.
     These consecutive evils of civil war were felt in Carolina. After the revolution, the highways were unsafe.   Many now living recollect that persons rarely ventured to travel the Goose Creek road without arms ; and the public execution of a man and his wife, in Charleston, for highway robbery, as late as 1820, bear fearful testimony to the insecurity of life and property, even in the neighborhood of the metropolis.
     Besides highway robbery, horse-stealing was a common crime. Many engaged in it ; but two individuals, by name Roberts and Brown, organized it and conducted it as a matter of business. One, or both, of these men was hanged in Charleston, in 1789. They had their agents and depots arranged and organized ; and from the Santee to the wilds of Florida, they and their confederates were at once the nuisance and the terror of the country. 
     Mr. Thomas Palmer lived on his plantation on Fair Forest Swamp. Like other planters of the times, he possessed a large and valuable collection of horses, one of which, called Fantail, was an especial favorite. Early one morning he discovered that his stables had been opened in the night, and his best horses stolen. The alarm was quickly spread, and in a few hours a party of gentlemen set off, under the lead of Col. Maham, in pursuit of the stolen property. It was difficult to track the fugitives, but as suspicion naturally rested on Roberts and his gang, they directed their course towards Orangeburg, which was one of his head-quarters. 
After travelling a few miles, they met Mr. Rene Ravenel, who, being informed of the object of their search, informed them that, having been out early that morning, he had seen a horse, about a quarter of a mile off, crossing the road ; that a momentary glance at the hinder part of the animal, which was all that he saw, convinced him that it was Mr. Palmer's horse.   The circumstance would have passed from his memory but for this meeting. He conducted the party to the spot ; numerous tracks were found, and the party, now confirmed in their suspicions, continued with renewed alacrity, determined to make a certain house in Dean Swamp the first object of their visit.
     A short time before nightfall they approached the house, and determined to remain concealed until the night should be well advanced. A horse was heard to neigh; several answered, and Mr. Palmer, turning to Col. Maham, said: "Uncle Maham, I 'll pledge my life that that is the voice of Fantail." A countryman happening to pass was detained as a prisoner. He acknowledged that he was bound to the house which the party intended to visit, and acquainted them that a large gathering of men and women was expected there that night for a frolic.  With this information they were sure of their game; and, having divided themselves into a convenient number of parties, they separated, appointing to approach the house on a certain signal, which would be given by Col. Maham. Every thing succeeded. When the noise within indicated that the frolic was going on fast and furious, the signal was given; the parties simultaneously entered the house, and the marauders found themselves suddenly affronted by armed guests, whose presence boded them no good. They fled. The women, on the contrary, fought boldly ; and Col. Maham declared that if they had been seconded by their gallants the pursuing party would have been defeated. Aided by the courageous defence of the ladies, most of the marauders escaped ; the captured were summarily disposed of; each was tied to a tree and flogged. The party then, recovering their stolen horses, returned homewards, leaving their prisoners, each at his tree, to be relieved when their friends should have sufficient courage to go to their assistance.
     Whatever may have been Col. Maham's reputation as a soldier, it appears that he had rather crude notions of the duties of a citizen. He became indebted, and his creditor was importunate. Recourse was had to legal process, and a sheriff's officer proceeded to serve him with a writ.
     One morning, just as the colonel was about to sit down to his breakfast, a stranger was announced. He went out to give him a hospitable greeting, and was instantly served with a writ. The old Whig surveyed the document with feelings of astonishment and indignation. That he, who had perilled his life and fortune in defence of his country's liberties, should be thus bearded in his own castle, and threatened with the loss of his own, was a thought not to be borne, and he instantly determined to make the unfortunate instrument of his creditor the victim. He returned the parchment to the officer with an order (and the colonel never gave a vain order) that he should instantly swallow it, and when the dry meal was fairly engulphed, he brought the man into the house and gave him good liquor to wash it down.
     But the colonel discovered, like too many others who had borne the burden and heat of the day, that 
the civil power was in the ascendant, and that writs are not to be served up as a morning's meal. He fled the country, and remained an exile until the difficulty was removed by the intervention of his friends. He died as he had lived, on his plantation on Santee Swamp, and was buried there. His house was destroyed by fire many years since; but we remember to have seen its chimneys standing.  Within a few years a massive marble monument, visible from the road, has been erected over his grave by his descendant, Lieut. Gov. Ward.