Salathiel Martin, nicknamed the Terror
of the Tories, was responsible for helping capture more Tories in
western North Carolina than any other soldier during the
Revolutionary war. Martin fought in over One hundred skirmishes with
Tories in western NC and help preserve Western North Carolina from
British and Tory ascendancy. Martin would also help defeat the
Tories at Kings Mountain, preserving Upper South Carolina from
British and Tory ascendancy as well.
Martin was born on New South Wales
Plantation in Amherst county VA in 1753. By 1778, Martin had moved
to Surry county NC. Martin grew to be a tall man, over seven feet
tall. Some accounts say that he was over Seven feet and two inches
tall. In 1778, Martin joined the NC Militia under the command of
Col. Martin Armstrong with the rank of Captain. Martin spent the
next nine months fighting Tories in Surry and Wilkes county NC.
In 1779, Martin joined the command
of Col. Benjamin Cleveland. Cleveland had been fighting Tories since
1775. The Tory activity in Wilkes County NC was the worst in western
NC. The Tories stole horses, burned farms, and killed local patriots
loyal to the Revolutionary cause.
The year 1779 was a busy year for
Martin and Cleveland. Between 1779-1780, Martin would participate in
over 100 skirmishes with Tories. On one occasion, Martin watched
Cleveland hang two Tories with a clothesline that the Tories had
used to steal his neighbors horses. During the New River Campaign of
1780, Martin is credited with helping Cleveland capture the largest
amount of Tories ever captured in NC.
In June 1780, Martin almost
participated in the battle of Ramsours Mill NC, but arrived too late
to participate. the battle of Ramsours Mill was an American victory
and help eradicate Tory activity in Lincoln County NC.
At the end of September 1780, Martin
and Cleveland and 350 other men joined the Overmountain campaign
against Ferguson, the British commander of Upper South Carolina.
After the battle of Musgrove Mill SC, Ferguson had threatened to
burn the Watauga settlement to the ground. This made the second time
Cleveland had came to the aid of the Watauga settlement. In August
1776, after the July attack on Fort Watauga, Cleveland rode into the
Watauga region and defeated Dragging canoe in a battle, which led to
a temporary peace in the region. Cleveland and Martin caught up with
the Overmountain men at Quaker meadows at the home of Col. McDowell
in early October. On October 7, 1780, they found Ferguson at Kings
Mountain SC, and a battle soon ensued.
Before the battle of Kings Mountain,
Cleveland gave a speech that is considered one of the greatest
motivational speeches of the Revolution.
Cleveland's speech is as follows:
" My brave fellows! We have beat the
Tories before, and can beat them again. They are all cowardly. If
they had the spirit of men they would have joined your fellow
citizens in supporting the Independence of this Country. When
engaged, you are not to wait for the word of command from me. I will
show you how by my example on how to fight. I can undertake no
more. Everyman must consider himself an officer, and act on their
own judgment. Fire as quick as you can, and stand as long as you can
without tiring. When you can do no better, get behind a tree or
retreat . I beg of you not to run away, but if you do make it a
point to return to battle as quickly as possible, and renew the
Cleveland was ordered to the left side
of King's mountain. On the way there they ran into a Tory picket
line, and the battle soon ensued Cleveland defeated the Tories and
made his way to the left side of the mountain. On the left side of
the mountain, Cleveland's flank faced one bayonet charge. While
fighting his way up the mountain, Cleveland's line faced two more
bayonet charges for a total of 3 bayonet charges.
Bayonet charges were usually effective
in dispersing an enemy line, but not the Overmountain men. They had
been through too much and couldn't live with the consequences of
defeat. After fighting for one hour, Ferguson was dead and the
Tories defeated. Cleveland had lost his horse during the battle and
was awarded Ferguson's horse as a gift for his participation in the
On October 14, 1780, Martin watched
Cleveland hang nine Tories. Cleveland referred to them as cowardly
horse thieves and had them hanged. Martin continued with Cleveland
until early 1781.
In March 1781, Martin participated
in the battle of Guilford courthouse as part of the North Carolina
line under the command of Nathaniel Greene against the British army
of Lord Cornwallis. During the battle, the NC line was dispersed
during a bayonet charge after firing two shots. Martin always felt
if the Overmountain men could face a bayonet charge, the Nc line
should have been able to do so as well. Like the NC line, the
Overmountain men men had never faced a bayonet charge, but they
didn't flee at the first sign of adversity.. Greene lost this
battle, because he was the first to leave the field, but not before
destroying one- third of the British army. Historians say that if
Greene had performed other maneuvers during the battle such as
throwing Col. Washington and Harry Lee against the disorganized Col.
Webster, while charging British Commanders, Ohara and Leslie with
his Continental line, Greene would have destroyed Cornwallis's
army.. This would be the last battle Martin would participate in.
Martin moved back to Surry County
NC. In 1782, Martin married Mary Cook, and had 10 children from this
Union. By 1800, Martin had moved to Claiborne county near Speedwell
TN. becoming one of Claiborne county's first citizens. Martin died
on May 6, 1827 and was buried in Speedwell TN.
His wife Mary would apply for a
Widow's pension in 1847, based on Salathiel's Revolutionary war
record. Martin lived an extraordinary life. He had prevented the
British and Tories from taking over Western NC, and help the
Overmountain men win the battle of Kings Mountain, making it a
turning point in the Southern campaign of the Revolutionary war.