General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

Michael Treece


Michael Treece, revolutionary war hero at Brandywine was born in 1759 in Northampton County Pennsylvania.  His family was part of the German Immigrants who came to America. Before the American Revolution, German Immigrants made up 10% of the total population in the American colonies.

At the age of 18, Treece participated in his first battle of the Revolutionary war at the Battle of Brandywine PA on September 26, 1777.

Treece was part of the Pennsylvania militia in Ritter Company. The major disadvantage that the Pennsylvania militia had was the lack of guns. France had supplied some weapons and ammunition, but it still wasn’t enough for the battle ahead.

 Sir William Howe, British commander of the North American Forces was able to defeat the Americans by executing a successful flanking maneuver by Charles Cornwallis, while at the same time using a feinting maneuver against the American Center by the Hessian army under the command of Knyphausen. British losses were 90 killed and 480 wounded. American losses are estimated to be 300 killed, 600 wounded including Treece, and 400 taken prisoner.

 Washington was criticized more over the results over the battle of Brandywine more than any other battle he had previously fought during the revolution or would fight again. Even though criticized and chastised for his tactical decisions, Washington’s Command decisions actually kept the American army from being destroyed at Brandywine. Washington’s command decisions which sent Sullivan with three divisions to Birmingham meeting house actually blunted Howe’s flanking maneuver, and leaving Mad Anthony Wayne to fight Knyphausen alone while Nathaniel Greene formed his brigades into a rescue reserve  allowed the Americans to escape and fight another day was a brilliant maneuver.

 Howe allowed the Americans to escape the battlefield without chasing them down. When asked why this occurred, Howe blamed the lack of a cavalry and lack of adequate horses for the pursuit. Most of the horses under Howe’s command were either sea sick from the voyage from New York to Philadelphia or were suffering from colic from eating too much grain upon arrival in Pennsylvania.

 On October 3, 1777, Treece participated in the battle of Germantown PA. In attacking the British at Germantown, Washington placed his stronger Continental Army in the center and his weaker militia which Treece was apart of on the critical wings of the right and left flanks. Both the Continental soldiers and militia were made up of mostly raw recruits with no battle experience. Washing hope to pull off a coordinated assault on the British army by four separate columns The troops were led by amateur Officers which marched them 16 miles over 4 different routes through broken terrain without any communication, and then  expected them to defeat an army which ws better trained and in a better defensive position. If one of these four columns failed, the whole operation would fail. In the face of such difficulties, the most amazing part of this story is Washington almost pulled it off.

 The Americans forced the British to retreat to the Chew House, a large gray mansion on Skippack Road. The Americans were about to force the British to surrender when General Adam Stephens arrived on the scene.

 Due to a thick fog and smoke from cannon fire it was impossible see what was going on at the battle. Stephens in a drunken stupor thought the Americans were being fired upon by the British when it was actually the other way around. Stephens ordered his men to fire into the fog. The Continentals after realizing they wee being fired upon panicked and soon retreated.  The first reported deaths of friendly fire in the Revolutionary war were first reported at Germantown. 152 Americans were killed mostly due to friendly fire.

 The British had a chance to destroy the American army at Germantown. British Major General James Agnew joined forces with British commanders Grey and Grant to destroy the Americans. Only the fighting skill of the American troops and a sniper who killed Agnew allowed the American army to escape. Treece left the army after this battle.

 In 1790, Treece moved to Rowan county NC. In 1791, Treece married a young lady named Mahala. They would have 6 children from this Union. In 1810, Treece moved to Surry county NC. In 1820, Treece moved to Claiborne County TN. In 1832, Treece moved to Grainger County TN where he filed for his revolutionary war pension. In 1840, Treece moved to Jefferson county TN where he died in 1841. In 1853, Mahala applied for a widow’s pension.

 During the Civil war, there were 56 Treece family members listed fighting for both the Union and Confederate Armies.

One of the most interesting stories concerning Treece family members during the civil war was about three Treece brothers who moved to Arkansas and joined the Jayhawkers guerilla movement. Jayhawkers were guerillas who supported the Anti slavery movement. They would attack Plantations and kill any one who supported slavery. Arkansas became a Jayhawker battleground as Kansas was in the 1850s.  The Treece brothers were captured by the confederates and forced to join the Confederate army or be hanged. Their new confederate regiment fought at Bowling Green KY in 1862. Today there are several Treece families who live in the Claiborne county TN and Bell County KY area.

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