General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

John Clayton

John Clayton, a great SC militia fighter, was born in 1734 in Greenville SC. In 1775, at the age of 21, Clayton enlisted in the mounted infantry under Col. Benjamin Roebuck in the Sc militia. Roebuck, even though his name doesn’t appear in the SC history books is considered one of the greatest military strategists in the Sc militia.

  On December 22, 1775, Clayton participated in the battle of Great Cane break located in present day Simpsonville, located just south of Greenville Sc. Here in 15 inches of snow, Clayton helped defeat a band of Tories, and help capture 130 Tory prisoners and much needed supplies.

 For the next 3 years, Clayton fought Tories and. Indians.

 On January 30, 1779, Clayton participated in a failed attempt to capture the Fortifications of Augusta GA. Out of 1500 men, the patriots lost over 1200 men killed or wounded. It was one of the worst American defeats in the early Southern campaign.

 On June 20, 1779, Clayton fought in the battle of Stono Ferry. The British technically won this battle because Benjamin Lincoln was the first to withdraw from the field. However after this battle the British were forced to with draw from SC and unable to capture Charleston in this first attempt. The British had made 3 errors in trying to capture Charleston the first time. The three mistakes were 1) British landed on Isle of Palms instead of Fort Sullivan where Fort Moultrie was located.2) tried to capture Fort Moultrie using only a naval bombardment,3) the British underestimated the will of the citizens of Charleston to fight back.   These mistakes would not happen again.

 On February 10, 1780, The British landed again in Charleston. The first major engagement in the siege of Charleston was at the battle of Biggin Bridge SC, on April 14, 1780 in which Clayton would also participate. At 3am, Tarleton, a British commander caught the Americans a sleep and surprised them. 14 Americans were killed, 15 wounded, and 100 men including Clayton fled for their lives. Benjamin Lincoln, commander of the American forces at Charleston, is often criticized here for not having more men here to protect the bridge since it was the only escape route out of Charleston the Americans could use if they chose to retreat. American General Isaac Huger, Commander of the Americans at the bridge is often criticized for allowing his men to be asleep and for not placing any sentries to guard against attack. On May 9, 1780, The Americans surrendered. Luckily for the Americans, the 5000 American prisoners were paroled and sent home.

 On June 20, 1780, Clayton participated in the battle of Ramsours Mill.  The Tory defeat here ended the Tory support for the British Crown in Southern North Carolina. It also kept the Tories from participating in the upcoming battle of Kings Mountain.

 On August 1, 1780, Clayton, under the command of Sumter participated in the battle of Rocky Mount SC. Although Sumter was unable to capture the British Fortification, he was able to inflict more casualties on the British than they did him.

 On August 6, 1780, Clayton participated in the second battle of Hanging Rock Sc. During this battle all the British officers were killed along with an entire regiment, the Prince of Wales regiment consisting of over 200 men were killed. The British had a chance to win this battle when the Americans found the liquor stores in the British camp, and most became inebriated.  The British regrouped and attacked the Americans. Luckily enough Americans remained sober long enough to defeat the British.

 On August 18, 1780, Clayton participated and helps defeat the British at the battle of Musgrove mill SC. At Musgrove mill, a cousin of Isaac Shelby is captured and returns to Watauga with a threatening message from Patrick Ferguson, promising to burn their houses down, rape their women and piss on their graves if they ever came back to South Carolina again. This would lead to the battle of Kings Mountain.

 On October 7, 1780, at the battle of Kings Mountain SC, Clayton is part of a 20 man company under the command of Roebuck and Sc militia leader Col. Thomas Brandon sent there to attack Ferguson, British Commander at Kings Mountain. Clayton and the rest of Roebuck’s Mounted Infantry rode to the top of the Northern base of Kings Mountain. At the start of the battle, Clayton and the rest of his company began to “whoop and holler” and fight the best way they could. At the end of the Battle, Ferguson was dead and the Tories defeated.

 On December 30, 1780, Clayton participated in the battle of Hammond’s Store SC under the command of Col. Washington. The British defeat here forces Cornwallis to send Tarleton to Ninety six.

 On January 17, 1781, Clayton participates in the battle of Cowpens. During the battle, Clayton watches in horror, as his commanding officer Col. Benjamin Roebuck beheads several Tory fighters under the command of Tarleton. Cowpens is the first battle where the Americans have the defeated the British regular troops in the Southern campaign...

 On March 2, 1781, Clayton helps defeat the British at Mud lick creek SC. The British defeat here broke up the British stronghold in Central SC and stopped the Tory attacks in Newberry SC.

 In April 1781, Clayton fights some Tories along the Edisto River near Orangeburg SC. The Edisto River is the longest non dammed Backwater River in North America flowing some 206 miles.

In May 1781, Clayton barely escaped with his life when Roebuck and several of his men were captured by the British in the Ninety six district of SC. Roebuck was sent to Fort Ninety six until May 22, 1781 and was moved to a prison ship off the coast of Charleston after Nathaniel Greene began his siege of Ninety six. Roebuck was released in August 1781. This would be Clayton’s last battle.

 Clayton moved back to Greenville SC where he met and married Hannah Kyle in 1789. From this union they had 8 children.

 In 1800, Clayton moved to Hawkins County TN. In 1809, Clayton lost his cabin to a severe Flood in Hawkins County and was forced to move to Grainger County TN. In 1825, Clayton moved to Monroe county TN where he died on November 15, 1828. Today most of the Clayton descendents live in the Grainger and Knox county TN region.


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