General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

James Chitwood

James Chitwood was born in 1751 in Powhatan County Va.  In 1775, Chitwood married Martha White and had four children from this Union. By 1780, Chitwood had moved to Rutherford North Carolina
 In May 1781, Chitwood joined the NC militia. His first tour of duty was along the Congaree River in South Carolina. Here in South Carolina, Chitwood was placed in charge of guarding the 150 British prisoners taken at the battle of Fort Motte on May 6 1781.
Fort Motte was the home of Jacob Motte, Provincial Treasurer before the British seized it and made it the headquarters and supply depot for the region. Fort Motte was the principal depot of British Convoys destined for Fort Granby and Ninety six. On May 6, 1781, Col. Francis Marion, one of the leaders of the Sc militia attacked Lt. McPherson, commander of Fort Motte.
 Marion attacked Fort Motte at first with cannon fire, but the cannon balls just bounced off the house with little effect. Rebecca Motte, wife of Jacob Motte gave the patriots’ permission to burn the house down since the British had seized it.  The militia then started shooting arrows dipped in pitch onto the roof. The smoke and flames forced the British out of the house. The British were soon captured and taken prisoner.
 In June 1781, Chitwood was part of Sumter’s militia. While in Sumter’s camp one day in June, Chitwood saw Emily Geiger ride into camp with a message from General Greene. Emily Geiger, a young 16 year old girl volunteered to take a message from Gen. Greene, Continental Commander to  Sumter  about meeting and combining their forces so they could attack Gen. Rawdon, British Commander at Orangeburg Sc.  The ride of Emily Geiger is one of the greatest stories of bravery and courage during the revolutionary war. In June 1781 after the battle of Ninety six, Greene developed a plan to attack General Rawdon at Orangeburg. Rawdon had caused Greene a defeat at Ninety six when he arrived with a relief column 2000 troops from Ireland. Now it was payback time for Greene. Greene needed the help of General Sumter camped on the banks of the Wateree River.
 Greene tried unsuccessfully for days to find a messenger to go to Sumter. All the men were afraid of being captured and hung as spies if captured. Greene was amazed at the courage of this young girl when she offered her services to carry the message to Sumter. Emily rode off with the message and was soon captured by the British. While in the British camp; Emily ate the message before being searched. Since the British couldn’t find anything on her they let her go. Emily soon rode into Sumter’s camp and gave him the message.  Chitwood along with Sumter’s militia were soon on their way to meet Greene.
 By the time Sumter arrived, Greene heard reports of Washington advancing toward Yorktown. Greene changed his plan to go after Lt. Col Alexander Stewart in order to keep his army from combining with Rawdon and to keep the British tied up in Sc so they wouldn’t advance towards Yorktown to help Cornwallis in the upcoming battle of Yorktown. The two armies would meet at Eutaw Springs on September 8, 1781.
 By the time Chitwood arrived at Eutaw Springs, he had the mumps. Mumps were a major epidemic problem for the patriots during the Revolutionary war. Most of the young patriots lived on isolated farms and had not been exposed to the mumps as a child. Due to the unsanitary conditions in most revolutionary war camps, mumps spread like wildfire exposing hundreds of soldiers to this dreadful disease.
 In November 1781, Chitwood participated in the recapture of Orangeburg. In May 1781, the Sc militia ran the British out of Orangeburg only to have it recaptured by the British in July 1781 by General Rawdon. On Nov 5, 1781, Sumter attacked the British at Orangeburg to keep the Tories in the region from sending supplies to the British at Charleston. On Nov 23, 1781, Sumter wrote Greene a letter saying all of Orangeburg was now under the control of the militia. This would be the only and last battle Chitwood would participate in.
 After the war Chitwood moved back to Rutherford county NC. By 1830, Chitwood and moved to Campbell county TN. In 1832, Chitwood applied for his pension while living in Campbell County. In 1838, Chitwood moved to Winfield TN located in Scott County. In 1839, at the age of 88, Chitwood died and was buried near his home place. Today most of Chitwood’s descendents live in Campbell and Scott County TN.  



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