General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

William Patterson


William Patterson, Whitley county revolutionary war hero was born in 1745 in Augusta county Virginia. In March 1775, Patterson joined the Virginia Ninth Regiment under the command of George Matthews.

 His first battle was the battle of Brandywine, the largest battle during the Northern campaign fought on September 11, 1777. Patterson and the Virginia line made a heroic stance on Battle hill near the Birmingham Meeting Place. The Virginians fought back over five bayonet charges by the British and were only forced to retreat after running out of ammunition.

Brandywine was a British Victory with 750 Continentals wounded and 250 killed during the battle. British Commander Howe’s procrastination in attacking the right flank of the American line prevented the annihilation of the Continental forces. Howe also failed to chase after the Americans letting them to escape to fight another day. Howe was asked why he didn’t pursue the Americans after the battle. He stated in a letter to Germain, Britain’s Secretary of Foreign affairs that the majority of his horses were sea sick from the voyage from Long Island to Philadelphia. The rest of his horses were too tired from battle. Had Howe had more cavalry troops during this operation, he could have annihilated the continental forces at Brandywine and ended the war.

 Patterson’s next battle was the battle of Germantown fought on October 4, 1777. Patterson was captured along with 400 other troops at the beginning of the battle by Hessian soldiers. The Americans were winning the battle until American General Stephens appeared riding into town in a drunken stupor. He ordered his men to fire into the fog after hearing cannon fire nearby. The American troops began to fire upon their own troops. 150 American soldiers were killed during the battle of Germantown mostly by friendly fire.

Patterson was kept in a prison in Philadelphia for nine months. The only complaint was it was too cold. Patterson was then sent to New York for one month and then To Elizabethtown Point New jersey where he was released.

Patterson’s prison life fared better than most American Prisoners during the Revolutionary war. Britain didn’t even consider the American Prisoners, Prisoners of war until March 15, 1782 when they were finally designated as such by Parliament. Britain considered them traitors and criminals. American Prisoners were not granted the same privileges and rights given to European Prisoners of War. Because of this attitude they were not treated as such.

 American prisoners were horribly treated by the British. On September 14, 1775, Twenty American prisoners were executed by a British firing squad in Boston. Two thirds of the Americans taken prisoner during the New York Campaigns of Long Island died before being released. Over 13000 American Troops died on British prison ships, Over 11000 on just one ship alone, the Jersey. In New York City Over 2000 troops would die inside make shift prisons from mostly churches. At the end of the war Britain refused to release any Prisoners because Washington was insisting on payment of over 200000 pounds (about three hundred thousand dollars) for the upkeep of British Prisoners during the War.  Britain never did pay for the upkeep of their prisoners and finally released all American prisoners in 1783.

 After the war, Patterson married Martha Cummins and had 3 children from this union. By 1818 Patterson moved to Knox county Kentucky. In 1825 Patterson applied for his Revolutionary war Pension. He died there in 1835. The area where Patterson was living later became Whitley County.

 During the civil war, a descendent of Patterson’s a James Patterson fought for the Union army in the Kentucky 13th. Patterson fought at the battles of Corinth, Kennesaw and Atlanta. The Union Victory at Atlanta helped ensure Lincoln a second term in the White house in the election of 1864. Had Lincoln lost his reelection, the Northern Democrats would have sued for peace with the Confederacy and we would have probably had two separate nations, one Confederate States of America and one United States of America.

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