General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

James McDonald

James McDonald was born on August 21, 1758 in Cumberland County North Carolina. In June 1776, Cherokee Indians living along the Catawba River began their attacking settlements along the Catawba River. The first settlement they attacked was the Lyles creek settlement killing four families. In August 1776, the Governor of North Carolina   called up the militia in the response to the attacks. Over 2300 men volunteer including McDonald were sent to Fort Davidson located about 10 miles from Asheville NC near Black mountain. McDonald was picked as part of a 600 an expeditionary force to attack the Cherokee towns along the Tuskegee and Occonaluftee Rivers located in Western North Carolina. Between the months of August and October 1776, McDonald and the militia attacked Cherokees along these two rivers. They also fought Cherokees at Hominy Creek NC and the Indian Town of Naquassee located near present day Franklin NC.  In October1776, the militia returned to Fort Davidson.  For the next 3 months McDonald was sent on reconnaissance missions along the Pigeon River located on the NC and TN Border.
    In January 1777, McDonald went back to Cumberland County NC. In January 1779, McDonald joined the command of Evan Shelby. During the next 6 months they attacked and burnt Cherokee towns along the Tennessee River.
 On June 20, 1779 McDonald participated in the battle of Stono Ferry SC located on the Stono River, just west of Charleston SC. This was the second attempt the British made in attacking Charleston, the first being the attack on Fort Moultrie in 1776. The British were entrenched along the Stono River. General Benjamin Lincoln, American Commander along with 1500 troops attacked the 500 British troops under the command of Col. John Maitland.
 The Americans ran into trouble from the start. Because of all the heavy equipment they were carrying on their backs, they got bogged down in the marsh surrounding the banks of the Stono River. They became like sitting ducks in a pond. The British began firing. The firing became heavy lasting for over an hour. At the end of the battle both sides lost over 150 men each. Because Lincoln was the first to withdraw his men, the British technically won. The British were so weakened from the battle they withdrew from the Stono River failing to achieve their goal of capturing Charleston. Charleston would finally fall to the British in May 1780. After this battle McDonald would go back to Cumberland County NC until April 1780.
     On April 14, 1780, McDonald participated in the battle of Biggin Bridge SC also known as the battle of Monks Corner. At Monks corner, SC, the Americans were keeping a supply line open to the SC militia fighting the British at Charleston. General Clinton, British Commander sent Lt. Col. James Webster and Col. Banastre Tarleton to attack the Americans at Biggin Bridge. McDonald was serving under the command of General Isaac Huger, American Commander at Monks Corner. At 3 am. The British attacked. The American losses were huge. Huger lost over 100 men, 400 horses and 50 wagon loads of supplies... The British remained in control of Monks corner and Biggin Bridge for the next year. In July 1781, the British were using Biggin Church located close by as a supply depot. When Gen. Sumter, an American commander moved against the church, the British torched the church. The British remained in the area after the battle of Quinby Bridge on July 17, 1781.  In 1863 Stono Ferry was part of a Confederate Battery used to defend Charleston from attack of Union gunboats. Today it is part of a Plantation manor resort and golf course.
      On June 20, 1780, McDonald participated in the battle of Ramsours Mill NC near Lincolnton NC. McDonald was part of Col. Francis Locke Rowan county Militia. Col. Locke found Col. John Moore; a local British Tory Commander camped on a hill at Ramsours Mill. Col. Locke divided his 475 men into 3 lines and did a frontal assault up the hill against Col. Moore’s 1300 Tory army. After being hit by 3 sides simultaneously, Moore’s Tories defenses collapsed and they fled into the hills. The Tories lost 35 killed including 4 Tory Captains, 50 Tories captured. The rest of the Tories fled the field.
 The Americans lost 35 militia including 5 captains. The battle of Ramsours Mill destroyed the Tory influence in the area. Had Col. Patrick Ferguson, commander of the British left wing had arrived in the area earlier, the British would have won the battle and had an additional 2000 Tory troops at Kings mountain.
 On August 16, 1780, McDonald participated in the battle of Camden. In June 1780, General Horatio Gates became commander of the Southern Armies of the American Continental Army.  Gates decided to attack the British outpost at Camden. Gate’s army was made up of mostly militia numbering over 3200 and the Maryland & Delaware Continentals under the command of Baron De Kalb.
  On the night of August 15, 1780, the militia and Continentals had a supper of under cooked meat and bread. The British first attacked at 2 am on the August 16.  By dawn most of the militia continentals had developed food poisoning. They began vomiting and developed a severe case of diarrhea. Even in this condition the militia was ordered to fix bayonets. They had no idea how to do this due to lack of training. The British fired into the ranks. The militia dropped their weapons and fled. Over 2800 militia men fled the field. Only the NC militia that McDonald was in stayed on the battle. The Americans were now outnumbered 3-1. Gen Gates an incompetent leader fled with the militia. At the end of the battle, over 900 Americans lost their lives. Out of the 900 men, over 832 Maryland Continentals were killed including their commander, Baron De Kalb.
 The British losses were 68 killed, 245 wounded including 20 British officers. Most of the British losses occurred in the Irish 33rd regiment where they lost 18 men, 81 wounded.
 This was the worst defeat in American Revolutionary war for the Continentals during the Southern Campaign.  In 1782, a Congressional Inquiry cleared Gates of any wrong doing in the Battle.  Most military analysts think that regardless of the commander it was impossible for the Americans to defeat the British considering their sickened condition due to food poisoning.
On November20, 1780, McDonald participated in the battle of Black stock Ford Sc.  The Americans won this battle killing over 92 British.
     On January 17, 1781 McDonald was part of the 120 NC and GA sharpshooters located on the first line of defense at the battle of Cowpens. The Sharpshooters killed 15 British dragoons in the first volley. The Americans won this battle killing 110 British and capturing over 700 British Troops.
   From May 22 1781 until June 19, 1781, McDonald participated in the siege of Ninety Six. The Americans were forced to withdraw when a British relief column showed up there. This was the last battle McDonald would participate in. McDonald would move back to Cumberland County after this battle.
     On July 1797, McDonald married Sarah Cox and had 10 children from this union after moving to Randolph County NC. In 1815, McDonald moved to Anderson county TN. During the years of 1830-1840, McDonald moved to Campbell, Morgan and Scott Counties. While living in Campbell County in 1832, McDonald applied for a pension TN. On January 12, 1848 at the age of 89, McDonald died and was buried in Winona cemetery. In 1855, his wife Sarah applied for a widow pension while living in Scott County. Today most of his descendents live in the Campbell, Morgan and Scott county Region of East TN.

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