General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

Salathiel Martin

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 fight"
  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 battle.
  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. 

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