In Ancient Albemarle
by Catherine Albertson
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Governor Berkeley, of Virginia, looked with covetous eye upon this fair strip of land, and with a view to planting settlements there in order to establish Virginia's claim to the territory, he had offered in the name of King Charles extensive grants in this region to planters who would bring a certain number of people into Albemarle. In 1663 Berkeley granted to John Harvey 600 acres of land "lying in a small creek called Curratuck (probably Indian Creek to-day), falling into the River Kecoughtancke (now North River), which falls in the Carolina River (known to-day as Albemarle Sound). The land was given Mr. Harvey for bringing into the colony twelve new settlers."

Many other settlers in this region had acquired their lands by patents from Virginia; but after the King's gift to his friends, Berkeley, himself one of the Lords Proprietors, was no longer desirous to consider the Albemarle region a part of the Virginia Colony; and henceforth the grants of land were all issued in the name of the Lords Proprietors. For several years, however, the Albemarle counties were really separate, and to all practical purposes, independent territory. The proprietors had no legal claim to the region, and there was nothing in Virginia's charter to show that she could rightfully lay claim to it. Nevertheless the proprietors did claim it, and authorized Berkeley to appoint a governor for that region. Berkeley therefore journeyed into the settlement, organized a government, and appointed Drummond Governor of Albemarle.

In 1665 the Lords, realizing the confusion that would arise unless their claim to the land was made good, induced the King to include Albemarle in their grant.

But Virginia was by no means ready to relinquish her claim to this promising settlement, and after Berkeley's day a long struggle began between the Royal Governors of that colony over the question as to who should collect the rents and taxes from the inhabitants of this disputed tract. As late as 1689 the quarrel was still going on, and the Governor and Council of Virginia appealed to William and Mary to restrain the Governor of North Carolina from collecting taxes in Currituck County; and the question of the boundary line between Virginia and Carolina still being uncertain, the sovereigns were asked to have the bounds surveyed and settled.

Not for many years was this request regarded, though in 1711 commissioners from Virginia went to Currituck to meet those from Carolina for the purpose of surveying the land and establishing the boundary between the two colonies. For some reason the Carolina commissioners failed to appear, and not till 1728 did the work of settling the disputed boundaries really begin. In March of that year commissioners from the two colonies met on the north shore of Currituck Inlet, and a cedar post on the seashore was fixed as the beginning of the line. The result of the survey was that many thousand acres and several hundred people whom Virginia had claimed were found to be in the Albemarle District.

This was naturally a great disappointment to Virginia, and equally a matter of rejoicing to Carolina, not only on account of the extra territory and inhabitants she now could lawfully claim, but because Currituck Inlet, the only entrance from the sea north of Roanoke Island, was thereafter indisputably thrown within her borders. This inlet, now closed by the shifting sands that form the long sand bars on the Carolina coast, was of great importance in the early days of the colony, forming an entrance from the sea to the sound through which the trading vessels could slip. So necessary was this inlet to the commerce of the colony that in 1726 the General Assembly ordered that the powder money accruing to the government by vessels coming into Currituck Inlet should be appropriated for beaconing and staking out the channel at that entrance. But by 1731, the steady beating of the waves on the coast had deposited a bank of sand at the inlet. Governor Burrington wrote to the Board of Trade that it was no longer possible for large vessels to enter there, nor at Roanoke Inlet, which had also become so dangerous that no one cared to use it, but that the vessels now were obliged to go around by Ocracoke Inlet to make their exit and entrance from and into Albemarle Sound. The closing of the inlet was such a serious misfortune to the State that time and again efforts were made to reopen it, and the Assembly of 1761 appropriated money for that purpose. But "man's control stops with the sea"; the waves continued to drop their burden of sand at the entrance to the inlet, and finally the attempt was abandoned. The great Atlantic had made the entrance, and the same force had closed it, seemingly, forever, though small sloops still slipped in and out over the bar until 1821, when it was entirely closed. So necessary was an outlet to the sea to the people of the Albemarle region, that the Assembly of 1786 passed an act providing for the digging of a canal from Currituck Sound to the head of North River; from thence vessels could go up North River and into Elizabeth River, and on to Norfolk, and so to the sea. This proposed plan was not carried out until many years later; for it was not until almost 1858 that the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, following closely the route proposed in 1786, was dug, though long before that date the Dismal Swamp Canal had been opened, and a flourishing traffic was carried on between Virginia and Carolina waters.

A traveler in eastern Carolina, writing for Harper's Magazine in 1858, an account of his journeyings in the Albemarle region, gives a most interesting description of his trip on the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. The Calypso was the first steamer to go through the canal, and on her maiden journey from Norfolk to Currituck County in 1858, she was the observed of all observers. Furthermore, continues Mr. Bruce, the writer of the article, who stopped at Currituck Courthouse for several days, "We must say that for average culture, intelligence and physical vigor, the people of this 'kingdom by the sea' will hold their own with most other communities, North or South."

Currituck being the sea frontier of Albemarle, her waterways were naturally of prime importance to the State; but other matters of as great importance are found in reading the annals of this wind-blown, wave-washed county. In religious affairs we find that she early begins to make history. In 1708 Governor Glover wrote to the Bishop of London: "Pasquotank and Currituck are now under the care of Rev. James Adams, to their general satisfaction, to whom they have presented the small provision of 30 pounds a year." In 1710 Rev. James Adams informed the S.P.G.A. that he had been living for over a year in the home of a Mr. Richard Saunderson, a former member of the Governor's Council, who had made a will in which, after his own and his wife's death, he had left considerable legacy for the encouragement of a minister in Currituck Parish, where he lived, namely: "A good plantation with all the houses and furniture, slaves, and their increase, and stock of cows, sheep and horses and hogs, with their increase forever." This was later declared void by the courts on account of Sanderson's incapacity.

So acceptable did Mr. Adams prove to the parish, that in 1710 the vestry wrote a letter of thanks to Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, thanking him for sending this godly clergyman of the Church of England to the parish. In 1712, on the death of Mr. Adams, the Rev. Mr. Rainsford was sent to take his place. He wrote back to England that on reaching Currituck he found a small chapel at Indian Town, and there in June of that year he "preached to vast crowds" that came to hear him.

In 1715 a legally appointed vestry was organized for the parish of Currituck, among the most prominent of whose members were Richard Saunderson, Colonel William Reed, Foster Jarvis, William Swann, and William Williams. The services of the Church of England were conducted in the county during those early days with as much regularity as the scattered congregations and the lack of facilities for traveling in that water-bound region permitted. In 1774 the General Assembly passed an act to establish St. Martin's chapel at Belleville, and Isaac Gregory, Peter Dauge and a Mr. Ferebee were appointed to take this matter in charge. In educational matters Currituck was wonderfully alert in colonial days for a county so inaccessible from the rest of the State. Probably the most noted of her schools was the Indian Town Academy built in 1761 by William Ferebee, one of the most prominent men in North Carolina, on his plantation, called by the Indians "Culong," and by the whites, "Indian Town." Many of the students at this academy were in later days to be counted among the State's most famous and useful men. William Ferebee's family alone furnished six members of the Legislature, three Revolutionary officers, and one Colonel in the Confederacy in the War of Secession. For a hundred years this famous old school kept up its career of usefulness, but in the so-called "negro raid" of 1863 it met the fate that befell so many of the South's cherished institutions during the dark days of 1861-1865, and was reduced to ashes by the incendiary's torch.

Another well known school in Indian Town, the most prominent settlement in Currituck in colonial days, was the Currituck Seminary of Learning, which was built in 1789, and which numbered among its trustees Isaac Gregory, Peter Dauge, and William Ferebee. This building served the triple purpose of school, church and Masons' Hall, the upper story being used for holding church service, and by the Masons for their meetings, and the lower for the school. The principal of this school was called the provost, a high-sounding title which must have made even the most insignificant of pedagogues feel proud and important. Among the teachers employed at this institution during the later years of its existence was Ezekiel Gilman, of Massachusetts, a graduate of Harvard, who came to Currituck in 1840 and who taught in Currituck and Camden fifty consecutive years. Mr. Gilman is still well and affectionately remembered by citizens of these counties, who as lads were fortunate enough to be his pupils. Though somewhat eccentric in manner and dress, he was a man of deep learning, whose kindness of heart was proverbial throughout the counties which were the scene of his labors.

When the storm of the Revolutionary War broke over the American Colonies, the men of Currituck came gallantly to the front, and with comrade soldiers from the other colonies doggedly and persistently fought the foe till the last British trooper was driven from the land, and independence was not only declared, but won. Few counties in the State gave more freely of her sons than did this county by the sea. Few can show a longer list of brave and gallant officers. Among the most noted of these were the three sons of William Ferebee, of Culong Plantation, Joseph, William and Samuel. Joseph was a Lieutenant in Colonel Jarvis' Tenth North Carolina Militia, and was at Valley Forge during the terrible winter of 1777-'78. There is a family tradition that he killed General Fordyce, of the British Army, at the Battle of Great Bridge, near Norfolk. William was appointed Captain in the Seventh Regiment of Continentals from North Carolina, and was later a member of the Convention of 1789, which ratified the Federal Constitution. Samuel Ferebee served as sergeant and ensign in the companies of Captain William Russell and Colonel Samuel Jarvis. He volunteered in Captain Joseph Ferebee's company, was ensign under Captain James Phillips, and was commissioned lieutenant, and collected troops by order of General Gregory for Baron Von Steuben. Samuel Ferebee was also the last surviving member of the Fayetteville Convention, which ratified the Federal Constitution. He was married three times, and as the family chronicle quaintly puts it, "was always married on Sunday and on the fourteenth day of the month."

Among the prominent families of Currituck during the colonial and Revolutionary days, as well as in our own times, was the Jarvis family, whose members have been men of note in the State since her history began.

At the two conventions, called at New Bern by John Harvey, in 1774-'75, Samuel Jarvis represented his county, and he also figured prominently in the Halifax Convention that framed our State Constitution. In 1775 he was appointed Colonel of the Minute Men from Currituck, in 1777 he was the recruiting officer from his county, and in 1779 he received his commission as Colonel of the militia, by the advice of the Governor's Council, in place of Colonel Perkins, who had recently died. During this year Jarvis wrote to Governor Ashe, asking that he would grant the petition of the men living on the "Banks," who had asked to be excused from enlisting. The dwellers on the coast were exposed to attacks from the enemy, and should the husbands and fathers of that section of the county be forced to the field, their homes would be defenceless. How great the danger was had been realized a few days before Jarvis wrote this letter, for a British ship had entered the inlet, burned two vessels belonging to the patriots, and killed the cattle in the nearby marshes. The Governor granted the petition, and seeing the peril to which the dwellers on the "Banks" were exposed, he ordered ammunition and food to be sent to Jarvis for their use and protection.

The names of Thomas Jarvis, Judge of the Admiralty Court of Currituck, and later Lieutenant Colonel in Samuel Jarvis' regiment, and of John Jarvis, First Lieutenant in an independent company stationed between Currituck and Roanoke inlets for the safeguard of the coast section, are also familiar to students of the Revolutionary history of our State; while in recent times ex-Governor Thomas Jarvis, in his services to the South during the War between the States, his educational campaign while Governor of North Carolina, his distinguished career as Minister to Brazil and as one of the most prominent members of the State Bar, has added further distinction to the honored name he bears.

Throughout the Revolution, from the Battle of Great Bridge, where her men fought gallantly in repelling Lord Dunmore's invasion, through the siege of Charleston, in the long and dreary winter at Valley Forge, on the fatal field of Camden, and in many other important crises of the war, the soldiers of Currituck were found in the front ranks of the American army, lustily shouting the "battle-cry of freedom." And not until the last British trooper had left our shores did they lay down their arms and return to their long neglected and deserted fields and farms.

But though the county gave freely of her sons to the American ranks, there were some within her borders who deserted the cause, and either openly or secretly sympathized with the enemy. The most noted of these Tories was Thomas McKnight, who showed his colors early in the struggle. McKnight was a prominent citizen of Indian Town. This colonial settlement was built on land reserved by the Lords Proprietors in 1704 to Yeopim Indians, whose chief town was called by them "Culong." In 1774 these Indians, with permission of the General Assembly, sold their lands, and with their king, John Durant, left the State. The lands were bought by Thomas McKnight, Gideon Lamb, Peter Dauge, Major Taylor Jones, John Humphries, William Ferebee, and Thomas Pool Williams, all Revolutionary soldiers or members of the legislative bodies before or after the war.

A white settlement grew up on the site of ancient "Culong," and the name of the red man's village was changed to Indian Town, in memory of its former inhabitants.

McKnight represented Currituck at the New Bern Convention of 1775, and there refusing to sign the document approving the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, and withdrawing from the Convention, he was accused of being a Tory by the House and denounced as a traitor to his country.

Though in an open letter to Joseph Jones, of Pasquotank, McKnight indignantly denied the charges against his loyalty to America, the Halifax Convention of 1770 ordered his estate to be confiscated and rented out for benefit of the State, by Isaac Gregory, William Ferebee, and Abram Harrison. An amusing story is told of how McKnight acquired one of his plantations in Currituck. John Durant, the Chief of the Yeopims, had very astutely made it known to his own braves, as well as to his white neighbors, that the visions that visited him in his somnolent hours must somehow, somewhere, if within the range of possibility, materialize into visible, tangible realities, and that those who could, and did not help in their materialization, would incur the anger of the great chief. Now it was the habit of the wily red man, whenever he greatly desired to acquire a new possession, to dream that the owner of the coveted article had presented it to him. Having dwelt near the paleface for a number of years, the old chief adopted the white man's mode of dress to a certain extent. Needing, or coveting, a new coat, he very conveniently dreamed that McKnight, who had kept a trading store on Indian Ridge, gave him a bolt of bright cloth which appealed strongly to his innate love of bright colors. Presenting himself at the trader's store, he related his dream to the owner of the cloth; and McKnight not daring to incur the enmity of the Indian by refusing to let him have the coveted article, presented it to him forthwith; but McKnight, equally as shrewd as the chief, soon did some dreaming on his own account, and in his vision he saw himself the owner of some four hundred acres of land in Indian Ridge, the property of John Durant. So with due ceremony he approached the chief and solemnly related his dream; and the old Indian, realizing that in the Anglo-Saxon he had met his match—nay, his superior in cunning—made over to McKnight the land.

This plantation was afterwards bought by Doctor Marchant, a prominent citizen of Currituck, the friend and patron of Colonel Henry Shaw, whose gallant, though unsuccessful defense of Roanoke Island during the War between the States, brought honor and distinction to his native county.

Currituck in the past has played well her part in making the history of the Old North State, and that a bright and prosperous future awaits her may easily be seen by all who can read the signs of the times. Though nature on the one hand has placed many obstacles in the way of her progress by barring her coast to incoming vessels, and by surrounding her with barren shores and impenetrable marshes, on the other hand she has been abundantly generous to the ancient district. Where her marshes are drained, as in the region around Moyock, the richest corn land in the world is found. Her vast forests supply the great lumber mills of the Albemarle region; her sound and reedy shores provide her children with an abundance of fish and game, and with the completion of the Inland Waterway, which in Carolina follows the course of the old Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, Currituck will be placed in closer touch with the great world from which she has so long been in a measure isolated. Material prosperity, far in excess of the homely comforts which her people have always enjoyed, will inevitably be the heritage of her children.



From the day when the war cloud of the Revolution first began to gather upon the American horizon, until the storm was spent and peace descended upon the land, the little coast town of Edenton played a conspicuous and heroic part in the struggle which for seven weary years wrought ruin and desolation throughout the thirteen Colonies.

As early as 1765, when the oppressive rule of England reached its culmination in the iniquitous Stamp Act, Edenton joined with the other Carolina towns in adopting resolutions expressing the strong indignation of her citizens at this act of tyranny on the part of George III and his Parliament. In 1773 three of her prominent citizens, Joseph Hewes, Samuel Johnston and Edward Vail, were appointed on the Carolina Committee of Correspondence which wrote to the other colonies that North Carolina was ready to join them against the King and Parliament. When England put into operation the famous Boston Port Bill and that sturdy little New England City was on the verge of starvation, Joseph Hewes, a merchant of Edenton, who was later to play a prominent part in Revolutionary events in North Carolina, joined with John Harvey, of Perquimans, in collecting supplies and provisions from the patriotic people of Albemarle, which they sent in the sloop Penelope to their distressed compatriots in far away Boston. Gratefully was the donation received by the inhabitants of that city, and a letter of thanks from the Boston committee amply repaid the donors for their generosity.

One of the earliest, and certainly one of the most interesting events in the Revolutionary annals of Edenton, was the far-famed Edenton Tea Party, held at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King, on October 25, 1774. This famous gathering of the Edenton women was convened for the purpose of protesting against the tax on tea, which England had lately begun to extort from the colonies, and also for heartily endorsing the work of the first people's Convention, which, at the call of John Harvey, had met at New Bern in August, 1774.

Before the meeting adjourned these brave and patriotic women had drawn up resolutions firmly declaring their intention to drink no more of the taxed tea, and to uphold and encourage in every possible way the men of the colony in their struggle to gain all the rights due them as British subjects.

The news of this bold stand of the Edenton women spread far and wide, and was commented upon by the newspapers of the day, both in America and England. Arthur Iredell, of London, brother of James Iredell, of Edenton, who married the sister of Samuel Johnston, on hearing of the event which seemed to have caused considerable stir in London, as well as throughout the thirteen Colonies, wrote to his brother from his home in London the following letter anent the affair:

"I see by the papers the Edenton ladies have signalized themselves by their protest against tea-drinking. The name of Johnston I see among them. Are any of my sister's relatives patriotic? I hope not, for we English are afraid of the male Congress; but if the ladies should attack us, the most fatal consequences are to be dreaded. So dextrous in the handling of a dart, each wound they give is mortal, while we, so unhappily formed by nature, the more we strive to conquer them, the more we are conquered.

"The Edenton ladies, conscious of this superiority on their side by former experiences, are willing to crush us into atoms by their omnipotency. The only security on our side, to prevent impending ruin is the probability that there are few places in America which possess so much female artillery as Edenton. Pray let me know all the particulars when you favor us with a letter."

The old house under whose roof this historic Tea Party was held has only of recent years been destroyed. Age and decay undermined its walls, and it was found necessary to tear it down, but a handsome bronze tea-pot on an iron pedestal now marks the site of the ancient building; and within the halls of the State Capitol the Daughters of the Revolution have placed a bronze tablet in commemoration of this spirited act of the women of Edenton.

When John Harvey, of Perquimans, "The Father of the Revolution" in North Carolina died, his mantle fell upon Samuel Johnston, of Edenton, whose residence at "Hayes" now became the headquarters of the Whig party in North Carolina, and his office the rendezvous of the leaders of the patriots in the State, among whom Hewes, Iredell and Johnston, all of Edenton, stood foremost. So active were these three men in arousing and spreading the spirit of patriotism among their fellow-countrymen that McCree, in his "Iredell Letters," declares that "Much of the triumph at Moore's Creek must be ascribed to those three men, who at one time held frequent consultations in Johnston's office."

By the close of 1774, and the beginning of 1775, the flames of the Revolution, which had been slowly kindling, now burst into open conflagration, and Edenton began to experience something of the consequences of war.

Her militia had for some time been drilling, in preparation for the inevitable struggle; and Mrs. Iredell, in a letter to her husband, written in the spring of 1775, thus expresses the general anxiety and the apprehensive state of mind of the Edenton people: "The drum which is now beating while our soldiers exercise, drives every cheerful thought from my mind, and leaves it oppressed with melancholy reflections on the horrors of war."

In November of that year emissaries sent by Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia, were discovered near the town, endeavoring to incite the slaves of that section to rise against their masters, murder them, and join the Tory army. But General Robert Howe, at the head of a detachment from his regiment, quickly drove these agents away, and thwarted the dastardly attempt; then marching on with six hundred North Carolina militia, into Virginia, the gallant General reached Norfolk two days after the victory of the patriots at Great Bridge, helped to expel Dunmore from Norfolk, and to take possession of the city for the Americans.

In April, 1776, the Halifax Convention authorized the delegates from North Carolina to the Continental Congress of that year, "to concur with the delegates of the other Colonies in declaring independence," and upon Joseph Hewes, of Edenton, fell the honor of presenting the Halifax Resolution of 1776 to the Congress at Philadelphia. To the instructions of the State he represented, Hewes added his own urgent plea for immediate action, and cast his State's vote squarely against postponing the declaration of independence. When the Continental Congress finally agreed to secede from the English Government, Hewes, with John Penn and William Hooper, of North Carolina, affixed his name to that famous document in which the thirteen Colonies foreswore their allegiance to King George.

Some two months after the Halifax Convention, and two weeks before the Continental Congress had formally declared independence, the vestry of Old St. Paul's Church in Edenton met in solemn conclave, and impelled by the wave of intense patriotism now sweeping over the land, drew up the so-called "Declaration of Independence of St. Paul's Parish," the context of which is as follows:

"We, the Subscribers, professing our Allegiance to the King, and acknowledging the Constitutional executive power of Government, do solemnly profess, testify and declare, that we do absolutely believe that neither the Parliament of Great Britain nor any member nor any Constituent Branch thereof, have a right to impose taxes upon these Colonies or to regulate the internal policy thereof; and that all attempts by fraud or force to establish and exercise such claims and powers are violation of the peace and security of the people, and ought to be resisted to the utmost, and the people of this Province singly and collectively are bound by the acts and resolutions of the Continental and Provincial Congresses, because in both they are freely represented by persons chosen by themselves, and we do solemnly and sincerely promise and engage under the sanction of virtue, honor, and the Sacred love of liberty and our country to maintain and support all and every acts, resolutions and regulations of the said Continental and Provincial Congresses to the utmost of our power and ability. In testimony whereof we have set our hands this 19th day of June, 1776."

During the winter of 1777 and 1778 nine battalions of soldiers from North Carolina were sharing with their comrades from the other colonies the hardships of those terrible months at Valley Forge. Half naked and starving, the soldiers would doubtless have given up the struggle to live through the awful winter, had not Governor Caswell, of North Carolina, energetically set about securing the needed supplies for the army. Joseph Hewes, responding generously to the call for help, sent his own ships to the West Indies to obtain necessaries for the army, had them brought to Edenton, and from there sent by wagon to Valley Forge.

After the American victory at Saratoga, France, who had been until then hesitating as to what course she should pursue in regard to helping the Americans against the ancient foe of the French, now yielded at last to Franklin's persuasions, and promised to send a large fleet and four thousand troops to aid the Colonies.

A party of French gentlemen, sympathizing with the Americans, and anxious to aid in the cause, came over to the States in advance of the army sent by the government, and landing in Edenton, were so agreeably impressed with the social life of the hospitable town, that they spent several weeks in the little metropolis. Three of these foreigners, Messieurs Pinchieu, Noirmont de la Neuville, and La Tours, seem to have made many friends in the town, and to have been the recipients of much hospitality on the part of the gentlefolk of Edenton.

Judge Iredell, who spoke French fluently, made a strong impression upon the strangers; and M. Pinchieu became one of his warm friends. The visit of the French officers to Edenton was made the occasion of many social functions, and before the foreigners departed from the town, they gave a grand ball to the Edenton ladies, who had made their stay so pleasant. The modest colonial maidens of old Edenton, though dazzled and charmed by the airs and graces of the gay and debonair strangers, at times found the manners of their foreign guests a little too free for their comfort. Miss Nellie Blair, in a letter to her uncle, Judge Iredell, declares most emphatically her displeasure at the decidedly French behavior of one of her too attentive foreign admirers.

On leaving Edenton, the Frenchmen proceeded to New Bern, where they tendered their swords to the General Assembly, and offered their services in the American cause; but for reasons not stated their offer was declined.

The many acts of open rebellion on the part of prominent citizens of Edenton had by this time made the town a marked spot in the eyes of the enemy; and the fact that she was the most important port in the Albemarle region, and that her destruction would be a heavy blow to the entire State, also singled her out as an important point of attack.

So in 1779, when Sir George Collier entered Hampton Roads, gutted Norfolk, took possession of Portsmouth, and burned Suffolk, the citizens of Edenton were thoroughly alarmed. The Dismal Swamp was on fire, and the crackling of the burning reed resembling the reports of musket shot, caused many to think that a battle was going on near the town. Many of the inhabitants began to pack up their household goods, ready to leave when the British should enter the town.

But for some unknown reason the enemy, though so near, failed to descend upon the town; and as days and weeks passed by, the cloud of apprehension began to disperse, and life in the village to resume its normal course.

Events, however, were to prove that the danger of invasion was averted for a time only. In the fall of 1780, just after the disastrous defeat of the Americans at Camden, and prior to Cornwallis' march into North Carolina, General Leslie, of the British army, was sent from New York to Virginia to keep the Americans in southeastern Virginia and Albemarle from joining Greene's army in the effort to repel the invasion of Cornwallis.

Edenton was again in danger. The enemy, two thousand strong, were camped at Portsmouth, and one thousand were reported to have set out from Virginia on their way to attack the town. To add to the terror of the inhabitants, two British galleys, with sixty men each, had slipped through Roanoke Inlet, and were making for the little port. A letter from Mrs. Blair to James Iredell, written during those anxious days, gives a graphic description of conditions in Edenton at this juncture. "Vessels cannot get in," she writes; "two row galleys are between us and the bar, and are daily expected in Edenton. If they come, I do not know what we shall do. We are unable to run away, and I have hardly a negro well enough to dress us a little of anything to eat. We hear that there is an English fleet in Virginia, landing men at Kempe's."

Governor Nash, realizing that the town was in imminent danger, now ordered General Benbury, of Edenton, to join General Isaac Gregory at Great Swamp, near the Virginia border, and aid him in preventing General Leslie from entering Albemarle. At this post a battle was fought between Leslie's men and the militia under Benbury and Gregory, in which the latter were victorious. A little later Gregory wrote Governor Nash that Leslie's army had withdrawn from Virginia, but that he had not been able to ascertain the destination of the enemy. However, it soon became known that Leslie was hurrying to Camden, South Carolina, to join Cornwallis in his attempt to sweep through North Carolina and conquer that State, as he had conquered her sister State on the south.

With Leslie's army removed from the vicinity, Edenton remained for a few months free from the fear of invasion; but not for long did her citizens enjoy a respite from anxiety, for in January, 1781, the traitor, Benedict Arnold, was sent by the British to occupy the posts in Virginia lately deserted by Leslie. From Portsmouth Arnold wrote to General Sir Henry Clinton, K.C.B., that he was planning to send boats carrying five hundred men through Currituck Inlet, sweep the sound as high as Edenton, destroy that town and its shipping, and then proceed to New Bern, which he hoped to serve in like manner. Then he expected to post armed vessels outside Currituck Inlet, distress the people of the coast country, and thus keep the people of eastern Carolina so busy defending their own homes that they would not be able to send men to interfere with the plans of Cornwallis.

Arnold asked Clinton for 100 ship carpenters to build the vessels necessary for the execution of his plans, but the traitor was not able to carry out his designs against the eastern towns, for on arriving in Virginia he found himself so hated and shunned by the British officers over whom he was placed that he soon resigned his command of the Virginia posts to General Phillips, of the British army, and instead of proceeding against Edenton, he undertook another expedition up the James River.

General Phillips, who now assumed command of the British in southeastern Virginia, immediately began to plan to join Cornwallis, who in the meantime had won the doubtful victory of Guilford Courthouse and had retreated to Wilmington.

The situation in Edenton was now alarming in the extreme. Leslie had 3,500 men in Virginia, 2,500 of whom, General Gregory wrote Iredell, had embarked at Kempe's Landing, supposedly for Edenton. Rumor had it that there were seven British boats at North Landing, and some at Knott's Island. Cornwallis' Army was marching northward from Wilmington, and reports from nearby counties that lay in his path, told of the atrocious crimes committed by his men against women and children, of devastated fields and homes burned and ruined. Hundreds of negroes were foraging for the British army, and the Tories everywhere were wreaking vengeance upon their Whig neighbors.

The long dreaded day at last arrived. Edenton was raided, and the vessels in her harbor burned and carried off. Eden House, some ten miles from the town, the home of Robert Smith, a prominent merchant of Edenton, was plundered, and valuable papers destroyed. Many of the beautiful homes of the planters in the neighborhood were destroyed, and a schooner belonging to Robert Smith, and one, the property of a Mr. Littlejohn, were captured by the enemy and carried off down the sound.

The danger was so real that many families fled from the town and sought refuge in Windsor, and the homes of that hospitable little village were crowded with women and children. But in spite of the discomfort that host and guest alike must have suffered from the overflow of visitors, the letters of the refugees to their husbands and fathers in Edenton speak in warm praise of the cheerfulness and good humor that prevailed in the little town during those trying and anxious days, and of the merry social gatherings held in honor of the guests.

Though panic-stricken at first when confronted by the long apprehended danger, the citizens soon rallied and bravely resisted the foe. Charles Johnson, writing to James Iredell, says: "The inhabitants in general and the sailors, have and do turn out unanimously. I never saw nor could I hope to see so much public spirit, personal courage and intrepid resolution." Robert Smith's schooner was retaken from the enemy, and later the Row Galley that had invaded Edenton and captured the schooners was taken, and her commander, Captain Quinn, lodged in Edenton jail.

In the meantime the refugees at Windsor were beginning to doubt their wisdom in leaving their homes for the Bertie town. Many of them were afraid that they had only jumped from the frying-pan into the fire. Cornwallis was only thirty miles away, in Halifax, and the Windsor people were in daily terror that foraging parties from his army would descend upon their homes. To add to the danger of their situation, the hated and dreaded Arnold, whose expedition up the James had been attended by the perpetration of many dastardly cruelties, was marching south to join Cornwallis in Carolina. Six hundred negroes, sent by Cornwallis, were near Edenton, and other bands of foragers, two thousand in all, were pillaging and plundering in the wake of the British army.

Fortunately for Edenton and the adjacent towns, Anthony Wayne was stationed at Roanoke with his troops. Hearing of the ravages committed by Cornwallis' men, he marched in pursuit of the enemy, who now left North Carolina, entered Virginia, burned South Quays, and then proceeded on their way to Yorktown.

In June, 1781, Samuel Johnston, of Edenton, was elected delegate to the Continental Congress, the first that had assembled since the adoption of the Articles of Confederation. His high ability and acknowledged statesmanship won for him in that body the distinguished honor of being elected to the office of President of Congress. But the critical situation in Edenton, and his anxiety concerning his family, decided him to decline the office and return home to share the fortunes of his townsmen and to render what aid he could to his own people.

In August, 1781, Charles Johnson wrote Governor Burke that a French fleet had appeared off the Virginia Capes, and had driven back General Leslie; and General Gregory, who had been stationed at Edmund's Hill in Nansemond County, Virginia, to hold Leslie in check, reported at the same time that the enemy had evacuated Portsmouth, and that it was useless to keep his soldiers there any longer.

The British army had by this time reached Yorktown, where, on the 19th of October the famous surrender took place, and the long, weary struggle for independence was over; but it was nearly a month later before the joyful news of Washington's victory over Cornwallis reached Carolina. On November 18th the British troops in the State embarked from Wilmington, and North Carolina was troubled by the red-coats no more.

But though the surrender at Yorktown had convinced the British that she had lost her hold upon the American Colonies, it was not until September, 1782, that the King acknowledged the independence of his former American subjects; and still another year passed before the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally acknowledging the United States a separate and independent power.

During these two years North Carolina was torn and harrassed by bands of Tories; and in South Carolina the armies of Greene and Leslie were still engaged in fierce skirmishes. Leslie was at last hemmed in at Charleston by Greene's troops, and both his men and Greene's soldiers were in great distress for want of food and clothing.

In the summer of 1782 Greene warned the people of North Carolina that the British in Charleston were preparing to send four vessels to raid Edenton, New Bern and Wilmington; and once more the inhabitants of these towns were plunged into a state of alarm.

Governor Burke immediately ordered General Gregory to have 500 men ready to march at a moment's notice to Edenton to repel the expected invasion, and also ordered him to ask the merchants of Edenton how many vessels they thought necessary to protect the town. The Governor furthermore gave Gregory instructions to purchase cannon and to draft men to man the boats, guaranteeing, himself, full pay for men and supplies.

But the fleet of which Greene had written did not arrive, though during the summer of 1782, Tory galleys appeared in the bay and kept the town in constant terror of another raid. The fall passed without bringing the expected invasion, and finally the joyful news came that on December 14th the British had evacuated Charleston, and that their fleet had sailed for the North.

With the departure of the British fleet and army from the South, all fear of further invasion was over, and the little town of Edenton settled down to long years of peace and happiness.


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