General Joseph Martin Chapter
Cumberland Gap, TN
Cumberland Gap Patriot
A Thomas Ely, Revolutionary war soldier, and Survivor
of the Waxhaw
massacre, was born in 1725 on the Isle of Ely near Cambridgeshire
England. Sometime between 1740-149, Ely came to America, and landed in
Virginia. In 1750, Ely married Elizabeth Jane Smith in Bedford county
Virginia in 1750, and had 12 children from this union.
At the start of the Revolution, Ely joined the Virginia line under the
command of Josiah Parker in February 1776. By December 1776, Ely was at
Thompson mills PA, the winter encampment for the Continental army. On
December 26, 1776, Ely participated in the battle of Trenton. The
command of Josiah Parker were the first Continental soldiers to engage
the Hessian Grenadiers. After the battle was over, Josiah Parker was
given the surrender sword of Col. Johann Rall.
At the battle of Princeton NJ, (January3,1777), Ely fought along with
Parker as they help defeat the British at Princeton. At the battle of
Brandywine PA, ( Sept11. 1777), Ely fought valiantly at Birmingham House,
and played a role in helping Washington escape after his defeat at this
battle.. Ely was at Valley Forge between December 1777-February
1778) when he was discharged from the Continental Army.
Ely's most famous battle was the battle of the Waxhaws Sc fought on May
29, 1780 near Lancaster Sc, when Banistre Tarleton defeated the Virginia
3rd Regiment under Col. Abraham Buford. Tarleton had been chasing Buford
for over a week hoping to capture Governor Rutledge of SC, who had been
under escort of Buford. However by the time Tarleton caught up with
Buford, Rutledge had left the escort and was headed for North Carolina.
Buford made 2 critical mistakes that led to his defeat during the
battle, (1) Buford sent his supply wagons on to North Carolina. Buford
could and should have used the wagons to build some type of defense
against Tarleton,(2) Buford didn't give the order for his men to fire
until the British were with in 10 yards of their line, which didnt give
them time to reload and fire again.
Soon the Patriots surrendered. Buford sent Ensign Cruit carrying a
surrender flag to Tarleton, but before he got there, one of the patriots
shot Tarleton's horse in the head, killing it and causing it to fall on
top of Tarleton. Apparently the men of the Virginia 3rd hadn't heard of
the bad reputation of Tarleton's men. In April 1780, Tarleton's men
killed 14 patriots at the battle of Moncks Corner Sc in Charleston Sc
after the battle was over. Two of Tarleton's men went into Charleston,
got drunk and raped two women that same night.
When Tarleton's men saw Tarleton buried under his horse, they thought he
was dead and began to massacre the Virginia 3rd line. After the British
quit firing, they then went and bayoneted the soldiers for another 15
minutes. Ely was laying on the ground wounded, when a British soldier
came to him and asked him 'Why do you fight against the King". Ely
replied "I was married here, My children were born here, and I have the
right to fight for my country". After this statement, The British
soldier bayoneted Ely in the side. At the end of the battle, out of 350
Patriots, 113 Killed,150 wounded, 203 captured After this battle, Ely
went back to Richmond Virginia to live. In July 1781, while Ely was at
home recuperating, Cornwallis landed in Virginia at Isle of Man County
VA. Josiah Parker and his men tried to Keep Cornwallis from landing but
failed in their attempt.
Ely would die from his wounds in 1782, and was buried in Richmond.
By 1796, Jane and members of her family moved to Lee county Virginia.
Today there are thousands of Ely descendents in the Lee county Va
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