The Gamecock General

Thomas Sumter

Thomas Sumter, Gamecock General of theAmerican Revolution, "was born on July 14, 1734, in the Preddy'sCreek settlement of Lousia County, Virginia. His parents were Williamand Patience Sumter." He lived in a cabin with his parents, his twobrothers, and two sisters. When he was old enough, Thomas worked withhis father in their gristmill. When his father died, his mother senthim to work as a plow boy. It is said that Thomas Sumter was a wildboy. He gambled, went to cockfights, and horse races. When theIndians started causing problems, he joined the militia. "He servedwith under Braddock in the war against the French." Washington Hefit right in and before long was promoted to sergeant. After a warwith the Cherokees, Sumter had the chance to travel to London,England as an escort for three Cherokee chiefs. They returned by wayof Charleston and Sumter traveled with the chiefs back through SouthCarolina. Sumter really liked the people who lived in what was thenthe Carolina frontier. He especially liked an area near Eutaw Creek.He saw a place near Nelson's Ferry that he thought would be good fora store. Before long he returned and set up his store, only a fewmiles from the Santee River where he prospered.

In 1767, Thomas Sumter married the widow,Mary Jameson, and they lived on her plantation. On August 30, 1768,their son, Thomas Sumter, Junior was born. As he became moreprosperous, Sumter built a larger store, a sawmill, and a gristmillon Jack's Creek, which is in present day, Clarendon County. He beganto obtain more and more land. He became a Provincial Congressman. Sumter was encouraged to form a company of local militia, to which hewas elected captain. On February 29, 1776, he was elected lieutenantcolonel of the Second Regiment of Riflemen. The day after, he left"on a recruiting expedition among the settlers on theWateree-Cawtaba."

Sumter and his regiment were in Charleston onSeptember 20, 1776 as part of a defensive force when the city wasattacked. By March of 1777 they were in Savannah "ready to repeal thethreatened invasion of Georgia."5 By December, he was back inCharleston and the records refer to him as "Colonel Sumter."

Tarleton, the head of the British cavalry,almost destroyed the American cavalry at Monck's Corner and by May12, 1780, Charles Town was surrendered and with in almost the entireContinental army in South Carolina. The 350 Continentals who wereleft were in retreat towards North Carolina and Tarleton followed.This took him through Stateburg in what would become in 1800, SumterCounty, where Thomas Sumter had a summer cottage. Tarleton sent aCaptain Charles Campbell to capture Sumter. His home was burned andSumter had to make an escape. As he rode north, he made a plan torecruit men and form guerrilla bands. The men elected him as theirleader and appointed him Brigadier General.

It is said that Cornwallis called ThomasSumter "the Gamecock, recognizing in him the qualities of a greatfighter, who though worsted, would renew the combat the instant herecovered from the blow." Others say that he was given the name bythe Gillespie family who were famous for their cockfights. Herecruited them from their home in North Carolina to fight the Britishwith him.

After the war was over, Thomas Sumterresigned his commission as brigadier general and returned home torestore his plantation. The British had not burned his house nearNelson's Ferry, but everything had been left in ruin. He lost hisseat in the General Assembly in 1782, but in 1783, he was elected tothe Continental Congress. Eventually, he resigned his public officesand retired to his home. Then in 1785, it was thought that thecapital of South Carolina should be moved from Charleston, on thecoast, to a more central location in the state. Since Stateburg wasnear the center of the state, Thomas Sumter tried to have it selected as the site for the new capital. Another site was chosen onthe Congaree River, and named Columbia.

Sumter was elected as a United States senatorand took his place in the Senate on December 19, 1802. He servedfor almost two decades. At one point, he and his family had movedfrom their Nelson's Ferry home to the High Hills of the Santee atBradford Springs, near Stateburg. His wife, Mary, died at the age ofninety-four on October 24, 1817. He lived there alone, until his sonretired from diplomatic service and came to live there with himfamily. "Almost half of Thomas Sumter's ninety-eight years werespent in the picturesque High Hills of the Santee located in thedistrict, and then county, that bears his name. When he died on June1, 1832, Thomas Sumter was the last surviving officer of the AmericanRevolution."

References

"General Thomas Sumter, Gamecock of theRevolution" The SundayNews, Charleston, S.C. February 25,1912

Gamecock by Robert D. Bass

Thomas Sumter byAnne King Gregorie


Thanks for this information on Thomas Sumter, the Gamecock, go tothe web master's son, Sean Sutton. As a student at Sumter HighSchool, he was given an assignment in his U.S. History class whichinvolved writing an essay on a Revolutionary War figure. What betterchoice could have been made than that of the Gamecock General, withwhom a number of our ancestors fought and served with during theAmerican Revolution.


 

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February 21, 1999