The American Revolution in North Carolina

Benjamin Cleveland

Lieutenant in the Surry County Regiment of Militia - 1775-1776
Captain in the Surry County Regiment of Militia - 1776-1777
Captain in the 2nd Battalion of Volunteers - 1776-1777
Colonel over the Wilkes County Regiment of Militia - 1777-1782

On 9/1/1775, Benjamin Cleveland was commissioned as an Ensign in the 2nd NC Regiment, but he declined to serve. He wanted to remain close to home and chose instead to serve in the local Militia.

On 9/9/1775, Benjamin Cleveland was commissioned as a Lieutenant under Capt. Jesse Walton and Col. Martin Armstrong in the Surry County Regiment of Militia. In late 1775, this unit was assigned to Col. Thomas Polk in the newly-created 2nd Salisbury District Minutemen. In early 1776, Capt. Jesse Walton and his company marched eastward, but they were too late for the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge (2/27/1776) - they stopped at Cross Creek, learned of the Patriot victory, probably stayed a day or two, then returned home.

Sometime in early 1776, but after the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge (2/27/1776), Benjamin Cleveland was commissioned as a Captain under Col. Martin Armstrong in the Surry County Regiment of Militia. Capt. Benjamin Cleveland and his company marched with Col. Martin Armstrong and Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford on the Cherokee Expedition, which lasted from August to November of 1776, then returned home.

On 11/25/1776, Capt. Benjamin Cleveland was appointed by the NC General Assembly to serve under Col. Francis Locke in the newly-created 2nd Battalion of Volunteers Regiment, which was a special regiment hastily created in anticipation of an imminent invasion of NC or SC by the British, an invasion that never materialized. This unit mostly "drilled" in and around Camden, SC, then was disbanded on 4/10/1777. Capt. Benjamin Cleveland returned to his Militia duty in the Surry County Regiment of Militia for most of the remainder of 1777. During much of this time, he was assigned to "fort duty" - some say at Fort Watauga (aka Fort Caswell), while others say he was at Carter's Station (possibly at both) - both in what was then Washington County, North Carolina (now in Tennessee).

On 12/9/1777, the NC General Assembly established Wilkes County and soon thereafter commissioned Benjamin Cleveland as the Colonel/Commandant over the Wilkes County Regiment of Militia. He retained this position until he resigned in April of 1782.

Col. Benjamin Cleveland served with distinction at the battle of Kings Mountain, SC on 10/7/1780. On 4/15/1781, Col. Benjamin Cleveland was captured by Loyalist Capt. William Riddle at "Big Glades" (aka Wolf's Den, aka Riddle's Knob), but he was rescued soon thereafter. Click Here for an account of this capture.

Benjamin Cleveland was born May 16, 1738. Before leaving Virginia he married, in Orange County, Mary Graves, daughter of a gentleman of some fortune, who later came with his own family and that of his son-in-law to North Carolina.

In 1772, he set out with a party of four companions, five men in all, to Kentucky. These men were set upon by a large band of Cherokee Indians, who robbed them of all their belongings, guns included, and ordered them to return to the place from whence they came. After a painful journey the half-famished hunters finally succeeded in reaching the settlement of the white race once more. Cleveland later returned to the Cherokee country for the purpose of recovering his horse, and accomplished that objective with the help of some friendly Indians furnished to him by Big Bear, a chief of the Cherokee nation.

Wilkes County, North Carolina was formed in December of 1777, chiefly through the instrumentality of Benjamin Cleveland, and he was made Colonel of the Militia forces of the new county soon thereafter. In 1778, Benjamin Cleveland represented Wilkes County in the North Carolina House of Commons, and was State Senator therefrom in 1779. In this county, he was also Presiding Justice of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.

"Old Round About," as Cleveland was familiarly known (taking that sobriquet from his plantation of the same name), probably had a hand in hanging more Loyalists than any other man in America. Though this may be an unenviable distinction, he had to deal with about as unscrupulous a set of ruffians as ever infested any land - men who murdered peaceable inhabitants, burnt dwellings, stole horses, and committed about every other act in the catalogue of crime.

The battle in which Col. Benjamin Cleveland gained his greatest renown was that fought at Kings Mountain, SC, on the 7th of October 1780. The rendezvous preparatory to this ever-memorable engagement was at Quaker Meadows, a plantation owned by the McDowell family in Burke County, near the present town of Morganton. The battle of Kings Mountain was fortunately a great and overwhelming victory for the Americans; and among all the desperate fighters there engaged not one showed more personal courage than Col. Benjamin Cleveland.

After the victory at Kings Mountain, more than thirty Loyalists were condemned to death, and nine were executed - the others being reprieved. The executions here alluded to were punishments for past crimes - house-burnings, outrages against women, desertions and betrayals, and assassinations of non-combatants. These measures were also in retaliation for past British cruelties - a few days before this eleven Americans having been hanged at Ninety-Six in South Carolina. The Battle of Kings Mountain restored comparative order to western North Carolina, yet there was more fighting to be done, and Col. Benjamin Cleveland as usual bore more than his share, serving much of the time under Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford.

In 1784, Benjamin Cleveland moved to Oconee County, South Carolina, where he died on 10/15/1806.

By Chapter 9 of the Laws of 1840-41, a county was formed out of Lincoln and Rutherford and named for Col. Benjamin Cleveland. Cleveland County, North Carolina continues to this day.

Click Here for short biography of Benjamin Cleveland provided by

Click Here for another, longer biography of Benjamin Cleveland by Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland.

Click Here for the official NC Highway Marker about Benjamin Cleveland.

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