Tarheel Founding Fathers: John Williams

Williams began his revolutionary career as a Lieutenant Colonel of Orange County Minutemen:

British Colonel Donald McLeod began marching 1,600 Loyalists from Cross Creek, North Carolina, toward the coast, where they were supposed to rendezvous with other Loyalists and Redcoats at Brunswick, North Carolina. When Commander Richard Caswell (1729-89) and some 1,000 Patriots arrived at Moores Creek Bridge, near present-day Wilmington, ahead of the British Loyalists, Caswell positioned his troops in the woods on either side of the bridge, awaiting the British with cannons and muskets at the ready.

The British learned of the Patriot troops at Moores Creek in advance, but, expecting only a small force, decided to advance across the bridge to attack. The British Loyalists shouted, “King George and Broadswords!” as they moved across the bridge; they were swiftly cut down by a barrage of Patriot musket and cannon fire.

This was a critical victory, which effectively broke the Crown's control and influence in North Carolina. It also sent a strong message to those still "undecided" about which side to fight on. But even though the various district Minutemen thrashed the loyalists (including the much-feared Scots), they were deemed too expensive and disbanded in favor of local militias. Shortly thereafter Williams was commissioned as a full Colonel and commanded the 9th North Carolina Regiment in the Continental Army. They fought and froze through the Winter of 1777 in Valley Forge, and were disbanded in 1778. Later that year, as he was serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress, he wrote this letter to Robert Burton:

Our Assembly being called in July last was what I fully Expected as soon as I heard that congress had Not complied with Governor Caswills Requisition of 500000 Dollars and that they would proceed to strike Money for paying of the new Raised levies, I as Much Expected which Occationed with me a very considerable Imbarressment but with the approbation of My Coliegues lade the Matter again before congress who had I believe no Substantial Reason for not granting it at first but that North Carolina hapned at that time to be unrepresented in congress-but upon Reconsideration granted the other 400000 Dollars which in short time will be Sent on to North Carolina.

I Suppose there will be an Expedition carried on this Winter against the two Floradies & that North Carolina will be called upon to furnish Men.(1) I doubt Not but that those of the New Raised Troops of Carolina Not Sent forward to head quarters will be Solicited, I am Not so Clear that them Troops under their former Inlistment can be compelled to go to Floradi, I shall oppose their going there but by their own Consent, as it was Not the Design for which they were Raised tho' if they choose to go all will be well.

I assure you Sir tho' the allowance of the assembly of North Carolina to their Delegates is as Genteel as any in the union yet to Such a hight of Extravagance has Every thing got here, that the greatest Acconomist will not be able to do More than Make his Salery bear his Expences, if that. The late appointment has [. . .] My plan & put it Out of My power to Return before My place is Supplied by one of the Gentlemen last Chosen to whom I have wrote desiring them to [come] here if possable by the first of Debr. [so] that I may Certainly get home by Christm[as].

Yes, there were two Floridas back then, East and West. And both colonies refused to join the original 13 states in rebelling against the British Crown. They played hell in the Southern part of Georgia, but were not really considered a huge threat to the rest of the states. Which is probably why Williams was so cranky about it at the time. As to that Christmas visit, it appears he wanted to give his wife a slave to ease her burdens:

I shall Immedeately set out for North Carolina, I assure you I am already perfectly wearied of this place, if it should so happen that Mrs. Williams should want money on any occation before I return please furnish her with what she wants which shall be replaced on my return-I spoke to you before I left home to buy Mrs. Williams a negro girl if one should fall in your way which you thought would suit her, I wish you may have been lucky Enough to have met with one if you have not please attend to that object, I have little more to add my race will come on shortly. Capt. Mitchell & yourself will conduct it as you think best.

Yeah, I've decided not to try to find a picture of him. Just imagine a stiff white dude with an overly-large nose and a wig...

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