COL. THOMAS POLK OF CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA.
[From Johnson’s Traditions of the Revolution, 1776, Pages 82 & 83.]
This gentleman was originally a surveyor in the southwestern portion of North Carolina, his education not acquired within the classic walls of a college, but practically obtained at intervals, from his occupations in the hills, vallies and forests of the Province. He thus became universally known and respected. No man possessed more influence in that part of North Carolina. He was uniformly a member of their Legislature, and was elected Colonel of the militia of Mecklenburg county; Adam Alexander was the lieutenant-colonel, John Phifer the 1st Major, and John Davidson the 2d major…
…The first opportunity for proving his zeal, afforded to Col. Polk, was in South Carolina, in the winter of 1775. The tories in the northwestern part of the State had embodied themselves under Fletchal, Cunningham and others, with the inducements held out to them by Sir William Campbell, the last of the royal Governors. They had attacked the Whigs, under General Williamson, besieged him in Cambridge, Ninety-Six, and forced him to capitulate. The Council of Safety ordered out General Richard.
Richardson’s brigade of militia, supported by Colonel William Thomson’s new regiment of rangers, and called on the Whigs of North Carolina to aid in crushing the royalists. They did not hesitate or delay, but marched into the upper districts, under Colonels Polk, Rutherford, and Martin and Graham, with about nine hundred men. Col. Polk took with him his oldest son, Charles, who was wounded in a skirmish with the enemy. The royalists were completely vanquished, and did not again give any trouble until the fall of 1780, nearly five years.
When North Carolina raised four regiments of continentals, the Legislature elected Colonel Thomas Polk to the command of the 4th regiment. We have not heard of his adventures during the exciting scenes of General Gates’ advance and disastrous flight through that part of North Carolina, but cannot doubt of his untiring energy and resistance to the British army under Lord Cornwallis, when we know that he called Mecklenburg “the hornet’s nest.” This gentleman was the uncle of the late President James K. Polk.
When General Greene succeeded to the command of the Southern army, we find the following letter recorded:
Camp Charlotte, December 15th, 1780.
To Col. Polk.
I find it will be impossible to leave camp as early as I intended, as Colonel Kosciusko has made no report yet respecting a position on Pedee. I must, therefore, beg you to continue the daily supplies of the army, and keep in readiness the three days’ provisions beforehand. I have just received some intelligence from Governor Nash and from Congress which makes me wish to see you.
I am, &c.,
This letter bears strong evidence of Greene’s confidence in the energy, punctuality and patriotism of Colonel Polk, who at that time owned mills in the neighborhood of Charlotte and kept a store in the village.
Citation: Johnson, Joseph. Biographical sketch of Thomas Polk, 1776-1862, 1851, Volume 15, pp. 178-179. https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.html/document/csr15-0129. Accessed 21 August 2023.
- According to this source, to what significant Revolutionary events was Thomas Polk connected?
- How is Thomas Polk portrayed in this source?
- Is the narrator of this source reliable? Why or why not? What questions does this source raise for you?
Intervals: spaces between different times
Legislature: lawmaking branch of government
Lieutenant-colonel/Major: military ranks
Zeal: great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or a goal
Tories/royalists: colonists still loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution
Embodied: collected or organized into
Inducements: things that persuade or influence someone to do something
Whigs: colonists who wanted to be independent from Great Britain
Capitulate: cease to resist an opponent or an unwelcome demand; surrender
Brigade: military unit having its own headquarters and consisting of two or more groups
Regiment: unit of military ground forces
Skirmish: episode of irregular or unplanned fighting, especially between small armies or fleets
Continentals: soldiers fighting for the independence of the colonies from Britain