|Date Born: August 3, 1729||
Date Died: November 10, 1789
|Place Born: Harford County, MD||
Place Buried: Kinston, NC
|Residence: Dobbs County, NC||
Occupation: Surveyor, Lawyer
Richard Caswell was born on August 3, 1729 in Joppa, Harford County, Maryland, one of the eleven children of Richard Caswell and Christian Dallam Caswell. The younger Richard Caswell departed Maryland for the New Bern area of North Carolina in 1746. Consequently, even though he was a "Jr." he was not known in North Carolina as Richard Caswell, Jr - one of his sons earned that moniker.
Richard Caswell was trained to become a surveyor, and in 1746, he moved to what later became Kinston, NC, and what was then part of the newly-created Johnston County. Within a few years after establishing his residency, Caswell earned a reputation as a reliable surveyor and commanding leader. In 1750, he was appointed to serve as deputy surveyor of the colony.
From 1752-1754, Richard Caswell clerked for the court of Orange County, while simultaneously studying law. In 1754 he was admitted to the North Carolina bar and immediately set up a law practice in Hillsborough, NC.
Richard Caswell first married Mary McIlwean (also spelled McIlwaine) on April 21, 1752, and they had one stillborn daughter, and one son, William Caswell. Mary McIlwean Caswell died in 1757. Richard Caswell married a second time, to Sarah Herritage, daughter of William Herritage and Susannah Moore, on June 20, 1758. They had eight known children.
In 1754, Richard Caswell was first elected to represent Johnston
County in the House of Burrgesses of the:
In 1758, Dobbs County was created by the House of Burgesses, therefore Richard Caswell now lived in Dobbs County.
In 1760, Richard Caswell was first elected to represent Dobbs
County in the House of Burgesses of the:
While a member of the North Carolina House of Burgesses, he introduced a bill in 1762 establishing the town of Kingston, now Kinston, NC. Richard Caswell had a great influence on the layout and street names of the new town, where he soon made his home.
In 1769, Richard Caswell was first elected to represent the
town of New Bern in the House of Burgesses of the:
As an officer in the local militia, Richard Caswell fought against the Regulators in the Battle of Alamance in 1771 during the War of the Regulation (1767-1771). According to some sources, he commanded the right wing of Governor William Tryon's forces at Alamance as a militia colonel.
In 1773, Richard Caswell was again elected to represent Dobbs
County in the House of Burgesses of the:
Also in 1774, Richard Caswell was first elected to represent
Dobbs County in the:
Following the passage of the Coercive Acts by the British Parliament in 1774, the American Colonies decided to call a Continental Congress to ensure that all provinces responded together in a unified manner. Each province sent several delegates to the First Continental Congress, which convened in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774. North Carolina sent three: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, and Richard Caswell.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, in September of 1775, Richard Dobbs was commissioned as a Colonel to lead the New Bern District Minutemen, a post he held for six months. He led the Patriot troops at the famous battle of Moore's Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. In May of 1776, he was commissioned as Brigadier General over the New Bern District Brigade of Militia, which he retained until he was sworn in as Governor in January of 1777.
On January 16, 1777, Richard Caswell was sworn in as North Carolina's first state governor at Tryon Palace in New Bern. Under the new State Constitution, the General Assembly re-elected him as Governor in 1778 and 1779. He stepped down in 1780, as the Constitution allowed only three consecutive one-year terms.
Soon commissioned a Major General, he then assumed command of all of North Carolina's Militia, which he led under Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates at the patriot defeat at the battle of Camden, SC on August 16, 1780. With the humiliation of that defeat, Caswell soon went home to Kinston to recuperate. While at home, the recently appointed Board of War named Maryland Maj. Gen. William Smallwood to take over command of all North Carolina Militia, a decision that did not sit well with Richard Caswell. However, when Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene arrived in North Carolina to take over command of the Southern Department, he quickly realized the stupidity of Smallwood leading North Carolina troops, so he sent Smallwood home and convinced the North Carolina civilian government to re-instate Richard Caswell with his recent rank of Major General over all North Carolina Militia.
In 1780, Richard Caswell was elected to represent Dobbs County
in the NC Senate of the:
In 1782, Richard Caswell was appointed as the state Comptroller.
In 1785, Richard Caswell was once again elected as Governor of North Carolina, and again he served three consecutive terms. During his second term as Governor, North Carolina was fraught with difficulties; both the state and young nation struggled. Governor Caswell was forced to navigate his way through the struggle between the constitutional relationship with the federal government and his state.
In 1787, Caswell was chosen to serve as one of North Carolinas delegates to the United States Constitutional Convention, but he was not able to attend, due to his failing health.
In 1788, Richard Caswell was again elected to represent Dobbs
County in the NC Senate of the:
On November 8, 1789, Richard Caswell suffered a fatal stroke while speaking to the NC Senate in Fayetteville and died a two days later on November 10, at the age of sixty. He was buried in Kinston next to his first wife. Since he was a Mason, he was buried with full Masonic honors, however, there is no headstone for his grave.
Richard Caswell became the first governor of the state of North Carolina. As a governor of an independent state during the Revolutionary War, he was busy organizing and equipping forces to fight guerrilla warfare in the west and to join the Continental force in the east. His inauguration as the first governor of the state occurred in New Bern to the sound of bells ringing and gunfire from the fort and harbor vessels.
After serving three years, he became comptroller for three years before being elected governor for a second term from 1785 to 1787. In 1787, he was one of North Carolina's delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, but he did not attend due to poor health.
Richard Caswell was born in Baltimore County, Maryland on August 3, 1729. His early education was attained in the common schools of his native state. He went on to study law, and eventually established his legal career in Hillsborough, NC. Caswell first entered politics in 1754, serving as a member of the North Carolina Colonial House of Delegates, a position he held seventeen years. He also served as speaker of the house from 1770 to 1771; was a member of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1775; and served as a delegate and president of the 1776 state constitutional convention. Caswell, who was a strong supporter of independence, fought in the Revolutionary War. He fought as a North Carolina militia officer at Moore's Creek Bridge in February 1776, and led the North Carolina militia as a Major General at the battle of Camden in August 1780. Caswell first won election to the governorship in 1776, and went on to win re-election annually until 1779. He won re-election to another gubernatorial term in 1785. During his tenure, the state dealt with war related issues, such as raising troops, arms, and provisions. Between his gubernatorial terms, he served as state comptroller in 1782, as well as serving as a member and president of the North Carolina State Senate from 1782 to 1784. In 1787, he secured an appointment to serve as a North Carolina delegate to the convention that framed the U.S. Constitution, however he did not attend. Two years later, he participated in the North Carolina convention that sanctioned the federal constitution. In his last political office, he served as a member and Speaker of the North Carolina Senate, a position he held in 1789. Governor Richard Caswell passed away on November 10, 1789, and was buried in the family cemetery on his estate near Kinston, North Carolina.
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