Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Col. Joseph "P.G." McDowell, per Wheeler

From Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians, by John H. Wheeler, Columbus Printing Works, Columbus, Ohio, 1884, pp.84-85:

    ...Colonel Joseph McDowell was born on 25th February, 1758, at Pleasant Gardens, in Burke County. He was always called "Colonel Joe of the Pleasant Gardens," to distinguish him from "General Joe of Quaker Meadows."
    He was a soldier and a statesman, and the most distinguished of the name.
    He early entered the profession of arms. At the age of 18 he joined General Rutherford in an expedition, in 1776, against the Cherokee Indians, in which he displayed much gallantry and desperate courage. It is known that in a hand-to-hand fight he killed an Indian chief with his sword.
    He was active in repressing the Tories, and took part in the battle at Ramsour's Mills, on 20th June, 1780, near Lincolnton, as mentioned by General Graham in eulogistic terms, for his conduct on that occasion, and materially aided in achieving a complete victory over a superior force.
    At Cane Creek, in Rutherford County, with General Charles McDowell, he led the militia, chiefly of Burke County, and had a severe skirmish with a strong detachment of Ferguson's army, then stationed at Gilbert Town, and drove them back.
    Immediately afterward he aided in measures which culminated in the glorious victory of King's Mountain.
    This was the darkest period of the dubious conflict. Gates was defeated at Camden; Savannah and Charleston surrendered to the British; Sumter, at Fishing Creek, (18th August, 1780;) Cornwallis, in "all the pride and circumstance" of a conqueror, held the undisputed possession of Charlotte and its vicinity.
    Ferguson, with strong force, was winning the attachment of the people from liberty to loyalty; while the Tories ravaged the whole country with vindictive fury.
    There was not a regular soldier south of Virginia, and every organized force was scattered or disbanded. The time had come, and these brave men felt that they must "do or die."
    Amid all these disastrous circumstances, the patriotic spirits of Cleaveland, Campbell, Sevier, and McDowell did not despair. They determined to attack the forces of Ferguson. They were all of equal rank, and as the troops were in the district of Charles McDowell, he was entitled to the command.
    From a manuscript letter of Shelby, in my possession, he says:
      "Colonel [Charles] McDowell was the commanding officer of the district we were in, and had commanded the armies of the militia all the summer before, against the same enemy. He was brave and patriotic, but we considered him too far advanced in life and too inactive to command the enterprise.
      "It was decided to send to headquarters for some general officer to command the expedition.
      "Colonel McDowell, who had the good of his country more at heart than any title of command, submitted, and stated that he would be the messenger to go to headquarters. He accordingly started immediately, leaving his men under his brother, Major Joseph McDowell."
    The next day Shelby urged that time was precious and delays dangerous. The advance was made. Colonel Joseph McDowell, the subject of our present sketch, led the boys of Burke and Rutherford Counties to battle and to victory, (7th October, 1780,) and his command was on the right wing of the attacking forces, and aided greatly in insuring victory. Ferguson fell bravely fighting and his army completely routed.
    The next important battle in which Colonel Joseph McDowell was engaged was the Cowpens, fought by Morgan and Tarleton on 17th January, 1781, in which he led the North Carolina militia, which terminated in a glorious victory of Morgan, whose name is preserved in gratitude for his services by the county town of Burke.
    This ended the military career of our patriotic soldier.
    His civil services were equally brilliant; from his elevated character, his acknowledged abilities, and popular address, he was always a favorite with the people. His name is preserved by calling a county for him erected in 1842. He was a member of the House of Commons in 1787 and 1788; also a member of the Convention that met at Hillsboro, 1788, to consider the Constitution of the United States, of which he was the decided opponent, and which was rejected by a majority of 100 votes. He was again elected to the Legislature in 1791 and 1792; in 1793 he was elected to represent this district in the Congress of of the United States.
    Of the influence and the popularity of the McDowells there can be no more ample proof than that in 1787, 1788 and 1792 the Senator and both of the members of the House were of this family.
    His presence was tall and commanding, of great dignity of demeanor, and of impressive eloquence. Scrupulous in his statements and faithful in all business transactions.
    He married Mary, the daughter of George Moffett of Augusta County, Virginia. He died in April, 1795, leaving two sons, John and James, and one daughter, Annie, who married Captain Charles McDowell, of "Quaker Meadows."
    His widow became the second wife of Colonel John Carson, whose first wife was Rachel, daughter of "Hunting John," of Pleasant Gardens, a sketch of whom we shall present when the McDowells are finished.