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Sketches of Virginia
Chapter X. - Rev. Messrs. James Mitchel and Samuel Houston


At the meetings of the Virginia Synod, for about the first forty years of the nineteenth century, might have been seen a wrinkled, white-haired man of low stature, with head and shoulders large enough for a taller frame; his manners simple, his dress approaching the antique, always neat and becoming; whom all called father Mitchel; and no one could tell when he was not so called. To him the members of Synod were especially kind and attentive and respectful, beyond what age from its own gravity might demand. A stranger might inquire — Is he the accredited head of the Seminary '— a leading Theologian? — a debater? — a principal man in some of the great enterprises of benevolence? — a pleader of the cause of humanity in some interesting department? — no none of these. He pleads a cause, and has pleaded but one all his active life; pleads it in simplicity and earnestness and with success; pleads it in his daily life, and from the "pulpit. That cause is the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ, the message of mercy to sinful man; that he pleads always, and every where, with a warm heart and trumpet voice. Boasting no great stores of learning of any sort, he preached the gospel from the year 1781 in his 84th year, till the year 1841 in his 95th year. All the men that grew old with Rev. Archibald Alexander knew Mr. Mitchel as a man of God, whose congregations had been visited many a time from on high, and to many of them he had been a chosen physician of their souls. He loved his God, and loved his fellow-men, and loved to preach the gospel; and in his “quietness and confidence was his strength.” A laborious old man, he accomplished all through life more than his youth, or his abilities, or his acquirements, or physical strength, ever promised. John B. Smith, President of Hampden Sidney, said that Mr. Graham, on his visit, preached the greatest sermon he had ever heard, except one, and that was preached by this powerful and weak, gentle and strong old man, James Mitchel. As pastor of the Church in Bedford he saw rise, within the shadow of the Peaks of Otter, great and good men, before whose intellect and acquirements he bowed in sincerity and respect. Simple-hearted as a child, God chose him to cherish the childhood of gigantic men. A pastor, God chose him to be one of those laborious missionaries that sowed, over south-west Virginia, seed now springing up under other laborers, into churches of the living God. Few men have been more useful, and yet no one act of his life attracted the attention of the Church and the world. A succession of every-day duties of a minister of the gospel filled up his life.

If ever he kept a diary, or a journal, the manuscript has perished, or gone into seclusion beyond the keenness of present research. Long before his death, no one could be found that knew his childhood, and but few recollected his early manhood. His narratives of former days are remembered by many. He trusted his memory as a faithful servant, and she gave forth her treasures at his command. No written memorial from his hand, testifies to those that come after him the faithfulness of God to his soul. His acts remain in their influence, and here and there a tradition, and some sentences in the record of ecclesiastical courts; all else is passed from earth, and remains written in the book of God for the high purposes of another day. The Rev. Jacob D. Mitchell says, under date — “Lynchburg, Nov. 1st 1854: Brother Foote — I am now able to reply to your enquiries concerning the Rev. James Mitchel (he preferred this orthography) and I believe the statements may be relied on as authentic. James Mitchel was born at Pequa, Pennsylvania, Jan. 29th 1747. His father Robert Mitchel, was born in the north of Ireland, but emigrated to America while yet a youth. He is reputed to have been a man of vigorous intellect and devoted piety, well instructed in religion, and a devoted and thorough Presbyterian. His wife, whose maiden name was Mary Enos, was, it seems, of Welsh extraction. She, like her husband, was an eminently pious Presbyterian. This excellent pair resided in Bedford County, for many years, and were members, the husband being ruling elder, of the Church, of which their son was pastor. They both lived to a good old age. He lived to be 85; of her age I am not informed. They had 13 children, of whom not one died less than 70 years old. The Mitchel family seems to have been remarkable in former times for piety and longevity. Robert Mitchel it seems was converted while yet a boy. The immediate means of his awakening was the fact of overhearing his great-grandmother, at her secret devotions, praying for him. She was then more than 100 years old; she lived to the age of 112.” We may add — that this Robert Mitchel, tradition says, was very fond of music, and did much to promote singing in the congregation. He talked much of Derry and the affairs of that noted town, and the sufferings of the Mitchel family in that famous siege. The peculiar dialect of his countrymen was marked in his speech. As an elder he was worthy of double honor.

“The Rev. James Mitchel,” the letter resumes, “made a public profession of religion and became a communicant in the Church, in his 17th year, though his mind underwent a saving change considerably earlier. He was licensed to preach the gospel in 1781, (October) for I have often heard him say, that while the Presbytery was in session taking measures for his licensure, a courier came by the Church and made proclamation of the surrender of Cornwallis.” His preparations for the ministry were commenced after his youth had passed. About his Christian exercises and desires for the ministry, little is known; one circumstance is remembered. At a sacramental meeting at Cub Creek old meeting house, he was in attendance as a preacher. After a prayer-meeting in the Church, first one and then another wTas attracted by the voice of earnest prayer, in the woods. The loud tones precluded the idea of secrecy. Father Mitchel was found on his knees, with his arms around the body of a small decaying old persimmon tree dead at the top, the tears rolling down his cheeks. When he arose, a little surprised to find any one near, he remarked, “ there, under that tree I found peace in believing in the Lord Jesus; and I can’t visit this Church without coming to that tree.” It is probable that his experience of the love of Christ, was under the preaching of Mr. Henry, who was at that } time the pastor. Of the circumstances of his classical education, little is known; and as little of his studies in preparation for the . ministry, except for a time he was tutor in Hampden Sidney Col-’lege. During the war he made a short tour of military duty. 'Though a man of courage, the two months’ service satisfied him of the undesirableness of camp life, unless under the greatest necessity. At a meeting of the Presbytery at Tinkling Spring, April 27th, 1780, immediately after Mr. John Montgomery had been ordained evangelist to meet the exigencies of the vacancies, Mr. Mitchel was proposed as candidate; and after the usual enquiries, “and having had a specimen of his ability in composition,” he was received for further trials for licensure. An infantes illorum qui negligunt institutiones Christi vulgo baptizantur — was given him for an exegesis; and 1st John 4. 13, for a sermon “to be delivered at our next.” At Falling Spring, in October, the sermon met the approbation of the Presbytery; and the exegesis was put over ; and a lecture on Heb. 6. 1 — 9, appointed for the next meeting. The records of “that next meeting” in the spring of 1781, are lost. At Concord, in October 1781, his trial sermons from Colossians 1.

14, delivered at the opening of Presbytery, gave entire satisfaction. His examinations were all sustained, and he together with Samuel Shannon was licensed to preach the gospel. Messrs. Moses Hoge, Adam Rankin, and John M’Cue exhibited parts of trial at the same meeting; all of whom finally entered the ministry; also a day of thanksgiving for the surrender of Cornwallis was appointed.

Mr. Mitchel was advised by Presbytery to take a tour to the Western territories. At New Providence, October 23d, 1782, a supplication, from the united congregations of Concord and Little Fallings, for Mr. Mitchel’s services, was considered; and Messrs. J. B. Smith and David Rice were appointed to inquire into the provision made for Mr. Mitchel’s support; and an appointment for a year was made dependent upon its being satisfactory. "This year,” continues the letter from Rev. J. D. Mitchel, “ he was married to Francis, daughter of Rev. David Rice, her mother Mary Rice, originally Mary Blair, was daughter of that distinguished scholar and man of God, the Rev. Samuel Blair, of Fogg’s Manor, the theological teacher of Samuel Davies and John Rodgers. After marriage, Mr. Mitchel removed to Kentucky, where he preached the gospel and supported his family by teaching school.” His stay in Kentucky was short, for in October, 1783, supplications coming up to Presbytery for supplies from the Peaks, in Bedford, from which Mr. Rice had been dismissed, in the spring, to remove to Kentucky, and from Hat Creek and Cub Creek, the Presbytery agreed to send Mr. Mitchel to the latter churches, and appointed a day in the succeeding February for his ordination at Cub Creek. On account of inclement weather, this appointment failed. The Presbytery then fixed upon the 1st Tuesday of August, 1784, and Hampden Sidney as the place for the ordination. On the day appointed, only two members of Presbytery assembled, Messrs. Smith and Irvin; tnese adjourned to meet the next day at Buffalo, to accommodate Mr. Sankey, who, on account of infirmities, could not go far from home. The services were performed on the 4th of August. Mr. Mkchel continued to preach to the congregations of Cub Creek and Hat Creek about these years. By appointment of Presbytery, he met Messrs. David Rice and Adam Rankin at Cane River, in Kentucky, November, 1785. The object of their meeting was not accomplished. However, a conference of churches was held which led to the formation of Transylvania Presbytery. In March, 1786, the congregation of the Peaks put in a call for Mr. Mitchel; and the Presbytery gave him leave to supply the congregation for the summer, and keep the call under consideration. In the May succeeding, the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, in preparation for forming a General Assembly of the Church, divided the Presbytery of Hanover, constituting the Blue Ridge the dividing line. That portion east of the Ridge, retained the name of Hanover; that on the western side was named Lexington. At the first meeting of Hanover as thus constituted, Mr. Mitchel is set down as pastor of the Peaks. By mistake his acceptance of the call is not recorded till April 27th, 1787. There is no record of installation services. In the spring of 1787, Hampden Sidney College conferred on him the degree of A. B. Why so long out of course, is not known. With the congregation covering an indefinite space of country around the Peaks, he passed his long ministerial life. Sometimes he had a colleague, and sometimes he labored alone. Old age, with its weaknesses, at last compelled him to resign the oversight of the people, with whom he yet remained, and labored on according to his strength, till he had passed fifty-five years in their midst. A length of time unparalleled in the history of Virginia churches.

Soon after the removal of Mr. Mitchel to Bedford, that great awakening to the realities of gospel truth commenced in Charlotte, making its first appearance among the Baptists, and in a few years by the agency of Smith, Pattillo, Lacy, and Mitchel, spreading over a large portion of Hanover Presbytery, and a part of Orange in North Carolina. Then, by the aid of additional laborers, that came into the field, fruits of the revival, and Graham from the Liberty Hall Academy, the blessed influences were extended over the greater part of the Valley of the Shenandoah and the mountains; around and beyond the head waters of the James. The young men gathered in from this revival, Alexander, Calhoon, Hill, Grigsby, Marshall, Stewart, Houston, Baxter, and Turner, the Lyles and others fixed the standard of orthodoxy, and the tone of piety in the Synod of Virginia, and throughout much of the West, for generations. The usual sacramental meeting was held at the Peaks, embracing the Friday and Saturday previous to the communion Sabbath, and the Monday preceding — and when necessary the following days—all occupied m acts of worship in connection with the Lord’s Supper. Mr. Lacy attended one of those meetings. James Turner, the leader of the Beefsteak Club, came out openly on the Lord’s side; and many others followed the example. It was in the congregation of Mr. Mitchel, the protracted meeting was held by Mr. Graham, on his return from Prince Edward, assisted by J. B. Smith and young Legrand, of which Dr. Alexander speaks — when he says he had some private conversation with the pastor, which was of great importance to him. And from that meeting the young company went home rejoicing in the Lord, and singing praises in the mountains, carrying along with them, in the mercy of God, a happy influence to Ruckbridge. It was in this congregation, the meeting was held by the ministers of different denominations, as related by .Lacy, to find out the common bond of Christians, and the common ground of fellowship. To this congregation Baxter came to he refreshed, when the reviving influences were felt in the beginning of the 19th century. Mr. Mitchel was connected, in the minds of all the active clergymen and laymen of the last quarter of the 18th, and first quarter of the 19th century, with revivals of religion ; and considered as skilful in cases of conscience and of Christian experience. In Bedford was held the first meeting of the Commission of the Virginia Synod, April 2d, 1790; an organization blessed with great success in sending effective missionaries to new settlements, and to the Indians on the frontiers. Mr. Mitchell was a member.

As the Baptists were the first agents in the revival in Charlotte, in 1787, and onwards, and were co-laborers there and every where else east of the Ridge, during its whole influence, the manner and subjects of Baptism were, sooner or later, everywhere, discussed. Mr. Mitchel gave many hours of reflection to these subjects, and wrote out his thoughts, and prepared a treatise for the press. The ministers acquainted with its contents pronounced it admirably well fitted for the times. This treatise never saw the light. The author’s means were narrow, and Boards of Publication unknown. It cannot now be found. Mr. Mitchel was heard to say about it, that he had revised it and put it into the hands of a friend to read, and to dispose of as he thought best, believing him fully competent to decide, and of pecuniary ability to publish. The name of this friend lie did not give. As the workings of the mind of a simple-hearted man, on a subject involving matters of conscience and his communion with God, the production would be interesting at least as a part of his mental and spiritual history.

When past his fiftieth year he suffered from nervous derangement and mental spiritual depression. He was not confined to his house, for he said on his deatfi-bed he had been sick but half a day in his life; but his depression rendered him unhappy. He began to think himself unfit to preach the gospel of Christ. He somewhat reluctantly set out with some young friends to attend the Synod at Winchester. Stopping to spend the night in New Market, Shenandoah County, he was with much urgency prevailed on to preach in the evening, at short notice. He took for his text the Words addressed to our sinning father — “Adam, where art thou?” His heads of discourse were — 1st. All men had a place like Adam in which they ought to be ; 2nd. All men like Adam were found out of their place and where they ought not to be; 3d. All men, unless they took warning, would soon find themselves in a place they would not wTant to be. As he proceeded he became greatly excited in feeling, and vehement in delivery. The effect was great. He went on his way the next day rejoicing. Many years afterwards, at an ecclesiastical meeting, a gentleman approached Mr. Mitchel with expressions of gladness—Do you remember preaching in New Market of a night, years ago, On the words — Adam, where art thou? — I do very well replied the old gentleman. Well sir, that sermon found me a poor ungodly sinner, and by the blessing of God effectually aroused me; I had no peace till I found it in Christ the Lord.” The speaker was an elder in the Church and a member of the judicatory. Tradition also says, an old man whose Christian name was Adam, an unbeliever, had gone into the meeting. His attention was aroused, and as Mr. Mitchel often cried out, “Adam, where art thou now?” the old man felt as if the strange preacher was after him, hunting him up in all his hiding-places. He was out of his place he knew; and, alas, would soon be in that dreadful fire from which he could not escape. He could not rest till he bowed to the Lord Christ.

Mr. Mitchel was fond of missionary excursions, of weeks and months at a time, in the south-western counties of Virginia. For these he was admirably prepared. Active, cheerful, vehement in his public addresses, and perfectly fearless, he commanded the attention and impressed the hearts of the somewhat scattered population of those mountains. His rides to Presbytery and Synod, and to assist his brethren in communion seasons, were made by him opportunities of preaching the gospel in families and neighborhoods, often greatly blessed to the hearers. He was a preacher always, and every where, endeavoring to do his Master’s will to the best of his abilities. His sermons were rich in experience, and often overflowing from the treasury of God. Never dull, in his pulpit services, often lifting up his voice like a trumpet, with most energetic gestures; never assuming, he maintained his self-respect and the respect of others. Strictly orthodox, and equally kind, he was jealous of all innovations in the practices, as well as the doctrines, of the Church; for he believed that modes and forms had much to do with the purity of doctrine. When the members of Hanover Presbytery began to omit the use of tokens at the Lord’s table, he was alarmed. He thought the practice of giving to each communicant, a day or two, or the morning, before the Lord’s Supper, a printed card, or a small medal, to be delivered to the elders at the table, had a happy efiect, as it prevented persons coming to communion without the approbation of the officers of the Church; and also gave the opportunity of speaking to each communicant particularly; and should there be any kind of necessity, of making enquiries or administering counsel, and warning, which, in scattered congregations, is of importance. When he discovered that the leading members of Presbytery were laying them aside as unnecessary and cumbersome, and that the omission was likely to become general, he appeared before his brethren in Synod and administered a grave rebuke with the authority of a father. The Rices, Speece, Baxter, Calhoon, Hill and others, listened with the reverence becoming the place and the old man. To avoid every thing that might wound his feelings in a debate, the subject was put over for consideration, and in the progress of business was not called up in time for discussion before 'adjournment. No other man could have administered a reproof of equal severity to the Virginia Synod, and have escaped a suitable reply, from the readiness of Calhoon, the humor of Speece, the gravity of Rice and Baxter, and the spirit of Hill.

Mr. Mitchel was the father of thirteen children, two sons and eleven daughters. Of these, one son and four daughters died before him, all giving decided evidence of preparation for the kingdom of heaven. His widow, twenty years his junior, confined by bodily weakness, to her bed — “the most devoted and happiest of Christians,” still lives possessing mental vigor and a retentive memory.

The Rev. J. G. Shepperson, who was with him the last days of his life, thus wrote: — “Few men ever understood more thoroughly than he, the system of doctrine contained in our excellent Confession of Faith and Catechisms, or loved it more cordially, or knew better the evidence by which its varied parts are sustained. While firm and decided in his own views, he was no bigot. The writer has never known a man who gave stronger evidence of love to the Redeemer’s image wherever found. His deep sense of his own depravity, helplessness and guilt as a sinner, his adoring views of the grace, power, faithfulness, and suitableness of the Lord Jesus as a Saviour from sin and condemnation, his simple obedience to whatever he believed God had commanded, his unwavering confidence in his heavenly father, and joyful submission to his will, when prospects seemed darkest, and when his affections were most severe, could escape the attention of none who knew him; and proved beyond all doubt that he was a man who walked with God; and had made extraordinary attainments in meetness to dwell with him in his upper sanctuary. He was dead to the world; for things seen and temporal, it was manifest he cared little or nothing except as connected with things unseen and eternal. It was impossible to be with him five minutes, without being convinced that his affections were set on things above, and his speech eminently fit to minister grace to the hearers. The writer enjoyed the high privilege of being with this eminent servant of God almost the whole of the last three weeks of his earthly pilgrimage. And what he witnessed, it is alike impossible for him ever to forget, or adequately to describe. Though the aged Christian was now in his first sickness, as well as his last, not a word, not a look betrayed any emotion incompatible with entire patience, full contentment, and joyful submission to his heavenly father’s will. When a hope was expressed that he should recover, his reply was, “I am in the hands of God, that is just where I want to be.” Frequently he would speak of his friends who had gone before, especially his children, who had died in the Lord, and express his joyful hope of meeting them in heaven ; and his early associates in the ministry, especially Drury Lacy, and Dr. Moses Hoge. One morning a little more than a week before his death, at the close of a conversation on some of the topics already mentioned, he remained silent for some minutes. Then looking around on the members of his family, who were present, he spoke as nearly as can now be remembered — “I do now affectionately commit to my covenant God, my wife, my children, my grand-children, and all connected with me, and all my descendants to the latest generation;” after which he appeared to resume the exercise of silent prayer in which he was previously engaged. To the last moment of his life, the placid expression of his countenance, and the few words he was able occasionally to utter evinced that his joy was uninterrupted and increasing. One of the last sentences he was heard to speak was — “I want to live just so long, as my living will be for the glory of God, but no longer.” On waking from a gentle slumber, on the afternoon of his dying day, his breath grew shorter, his countenance was lighted up with a more joyful expression. In a few moments he calmly folded his arms, closed his eyes and resigned his spirit into the hands of his beloved Lord. Thus went to his rest James Mitchel, on Saturday, Feb. 27th, 1841, aged ninety-four years and one month.

His last sermon was preached at the house of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Margaret Mitchel, on the last Sabbath of December, 1840, from the same text taken by his venerable colleague for his last sermon nearly thirteen years before, Luke’s Gospel 2d: 13, 14, And suddenly there was with the angel a multitute of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Three of his sons-in-law, and one grand-son are Presbyterian ministers.

Rev. Samuel Houston.

Mr. Houston was born on Hay’s Creek, in the congregation of New Providence. In his letter to Mr. Morrison, he gives a few pleasant facts respecting his ancestry. His parents’ names were John Houston and Sally Todd. His father was for many years an elder in New Providence. In his old age he removed to Tennessee, and died at about fourscore years. While an infant, Mr. Samuel Houston was exceedingly feeble; on more than one occasion he was laid down supposed to be dying. As he increased in years he became vigorous; and through a long life enjoyed almost uninterrupted health. In his manhood he was tall, erect, square shouldered, spare and active; particular in his dress, and dignified in his deportment. After he became a minister, he seemed never to forget that he was a minister of the Lord Jesus, and that all parts of his office were honorable. All duties devolving on him by custom, or by the voice of his brethren, he cheerfully performed to the utmost of his ability. From his deference to those of greater acquirements, or more ample endowments of mind, or more maturity of age, and his unobtrusiveness upon the public, strangers might have concluded that he was a timid man. And when called to act, and his line of duty led him to face opposition, in whatever form it might come, his imperturbability might, by a casual observer, have been considered want of feeling. But his kindness and benevolence in the relations of life demonstrated the depth of feeling in his heart; and his acquaintances knew him to be pure in his principles, warm in his affections, and unflinching in his bravery. A man was sure of a firm friend, if he could convince Samuel Houston it was his duty to stand by him. His whole appearance and bearing were those of an honest man.

His classical education was completed during the troubles and confusions of the American Revolution, and about the time of the removal of Liberty Hall Academy to the neighborhood of Lexington. In 1781 a call came for militia to assist Greene against Cornwallis. The memorable battle of the Cowpens had been fought, and Morgan, under protection .of Greene’s retreating army, had escaped with the prisoners to Virginia. Cornwallis had encamped at Hillsborough, and Greene was waiting near the Virginia line for reinforcements to drive his pursuer, Cornwallis, back to South Carolina, or overcome him in battle. Samuel Houston was called to go as a private from the congregation of New Providence, in his 23d year. Arrested in his studies preparatory to the ministry, he went cheerfully, with others, to try the labors and exposures of the camp. After his death there was found among his papers a manuscript of foolscap, folded down to sixteen leaves a sheet, on which were memoranda of his campaign, covering about the one half of a sheet of the large size, then in use. He notices all that appeared to him worthy of special mention, and as remembrancers of all that occurred. No better description of a militia force in its weakness and efficiency has been left us from the experience of the Revolution. The beginning is abrupt; no mention being made of the draft, or the officers in command, or the object of the expedition.

February 26, ’81.

Monday, Feb. 26th. — We marched from Lexington to Grigsby’s, and encamped.

Tuesday, 27th. — Marched fifteen miles, and encamped at Purgatory. I saw the cave.

Wednesday, 28th. — Marched from Purgatory to Lunies’ Creek, twelve miles.

Thursday, March lsú, — Marched from Lunies’ Creek to a mile beyond Howard’s; total seventeen miles. Drew liquor in the morning. I paid fifteen dollars for beer to Mrs. Brackinridge.

Friday, 2d. — Marched from near Howard’s past Rag Hall, governed by President Slovenly; three or four of our men got drunk in the evening. Our march continued fifteen miles; encamped at Little Otter, Bedford.

Saturday, 3d. — Marched from Little Otter to within two miles of New London ; nineteen miles.

Sabbath, 4th. — Marched two miles beyond New London to Mr. Ward’s; in which march we pressed a hog, which was served without scraping. On this day I kept guard No. 16. The day’s march was twenty miles.

Monday, 5th. —Marched from Major Ward’s ; crossed Staunton river into Pittsylvania. I was on the fatigue to drive steers, but happly they had broken out of the pasture. Our march was eight miles, and encamped.

Tuesday, 5th.— Marched from Ward’s about fourteen miles. We were searched, and Mr. Ward’s goods found with James Berry and John Harris, who were whipped. The same were condemned to ten lashes for disobeying the officer of the day on Monday.

Wednesday, 9th.—Marched from near Shelton’s to Col. Williams’ mill, about twelve miles; crossed Bannister, into which James McElroy fell; John Harris deserted, and James Berry was taken and sent to prison.

Thursday, 8th. — Marched from Col. Williams’ to near three miles from Dan river. Some of the boys set the woods on lire, which the Major put out. Our day’s journey nineteen miles.

Friday, 9th. — Marched from beyond Dan to the borders of N. C., six miles ; we crossed Dan, where Gilmore’s wagon had nearly sunk by the chain of the flat breaking. At this river some mean cowards threatened to return. This morning, Lyle, Hays and Lusk went to Gen. Green and returned. The same day deserted at Dan, Geo. Culwell.

Saturday, 10th. — Marched from near three miles of Dan to head quarters, which we entered at twelve o’clock at night. In the evening we encamped six miles from H. Q. Soon after we decamped. Thirty miles.

Sabbath, 11th.—Lay in camp. In the evening we were ordered to prepare for a march ; after we were ordered to stay ; after our orders for the future were read out, we cooked two days’ provisions.

Monday, 12th. — Marched first S. W. to the end of camp, then turned directly back, and stood some hours ; at last we left camp at the High Rock, and marched near six miles. Again we turn back about a mile, and encamp near Haw river.

Tuesday, 13. — We paraded several times, and at last fired in platoons and battalions ; in doing which one of the North Carolina militia was shot through the head ; a bullet glancing from a tree, struck Geo. Moore on the head — of our battalion. In the evening we marched from Haw river about three miles, and encamped.

Wednesday, 14th. — Decamped at Reedy Creek, and marched to Guilford Court House, ten miles.

Thursday, 15th. — Was rainy in the morning. We often paraded, and about ten o’clock, lying about our fires, we heard our light infantry and cavalry, who were down near the English lines, begin firing with the enemy. Then we immediately fell into our ranks, and our brigades marched out, at which time the firing was ceased. Col. McDowell’s battalion of Gen. Stephens’ brigade was ordered on the left wing. When we marched near the ground we charged our guns. Presently our brigade major came, ordering to take trees as we pleased. The men run to choose their trees, but with difficulty, many crowding to one, and some far behind others. But we moved by order of our officers, and stood in suspense. Presently the Augusta men, and some of Col. Campbell’s fell in at right angles to us. Our whole line was composed of Stephens’ brigade on the left, Lawson’s in the centre, and Butler’s, of N. C., on the right. Some distance behind were formed the regulars. Col. Washington’s light horse were to flank on the right, and Lee on the left. Standing in readiness, we heard the pickets fire; shortly the English fired a cannon, which was answered ; and so on alternately, till the small armed troops came nigh; and then close firing began near the centre, but rather towards the right, and soon spread along the line. Our brigade major, Mr. Williams, fled. Presently came two men to us and informed us the British fled. Soon the enemy appeared to us; we fired on their flank, and that brought down many of them ; at which time Capt. Tedford was killed. We pursued them about forty poles, to the top of a hill, where they stood, and we retreated from them back to where we formed. Here we repulsed them again; and they a second time made us retreat back to our first ground, where we were deceived by a reinforcement of Hessians, whom we took for our own, and cried to them to see if they were our friends, and shouted Liberty ! Liberty ! and advanced up till they let off some guns ; then we fired sharply on them, and made them retreat a little. But presently the light horse came on us, and not being defended by our own light horse, nor reinforced, —though firing was long ceased in all other parts, we were obliged to run, and many were sore chased, and some cut down. We lost our major and one captain then, the battle lasting two hours and twenty-five minutes. We all scattered, and some of our party and Campbell’s and Moffitt’s collected together, and with Capt. Moffitt and Major Pope, we marched for headquarters, and marched across till we, about dark, came to the road we marched up from Reedy Creek to Guilford the day before, and crossing the creek we marched near four miles, and our wounded, Lusk, Allison, and in particular Jas. Mather, who was bad cut, were so sick we stopped, and all being almost wearied out, we marched half a mile, and encamped, where, through darkness and rain, and want of provisions we were in distress. Some parched a little corn. We stretched blankets to shelter some of us from the rain. Our retreat was fourteen miles.

Friday, 16th.— As soon as day appeared, (being wet) we decamped, and marched through the rain till we arrived at Speedwell furnace, where Green had retreated from Guilfordtown, where the battle was fought, sixteen miles distant; there we met many of our company with great joy, in particular Colonel M’Dowell; where we heard that we lost four pieces of cannon after having retaken them, also the regiment we had captured. After visiting the tents, we eat and hung about in the tents and rain, when frequently we were rejoiced by men coming in we had given out for lost. In the evening we struck tents and encamped on the left, when the orders were read to draw provisions and ammunition, to be in readiness, which order struck a panic on the minds of many. Our march five miles.

Saturday, 11th.— On account of the want of some of our blankets, and some other clothing, many proposed returning home, which was talked of in general in M’Dowell’s battalion, till at last they agreed, and many went off; a few were remaining when General Lawson came and raged very much; and about ten o’clock all but M’Dowell came off. We marched twelve miles to the old Surry towns on Dan where we encamped.

Sabbath, 18th. — Crossed Dan, in our march touched on Smith’s River on our left, at which place we received a little bacon and a bushel of meal. A little afterward, many went to a tavern where some got drunk and quarrelled. We marched through the lower end of Henry County, and encamped on the borders of Pittsylvania, which evening I opened the clothes in possession of Jo Weir. That same night Robert Wardlaw burned the butt of his gun. Our march was fifteen miles.

Monday, 19th. — Marched into Pittsylvania, and encamped with a Dutchman, where we got some meat. Our mess bought ten quarts of flour and some hoe-cake. The day’s journey twenty-two miles. Our sick were lodged in the house, and Dr. Brown took care of them.

Tuesday, 20th. — In the morning Dr. Brown and Captain Alexander disputed about the wagons. Near the middle of the day we left the wagons, and took off the great road under the direction of a pilot, whom some fearing he was leading us into a snare, they charged their guns. We crossed Stanton River, and dined, fifteen of us, at Captain Chiles, from which we marched two miles and encamped. In all fifteen miles.

Wednesday, 21st.— We paid Murphy one dollar a man, for horses to carry us over Goose Creek. Had breakfast with Mr. Butler, and three pints of brandy. In the evening I was sick; came to Mr. Rountrees, where we lodged. I got a little milk and peach-dumpling, the rest a dinner of meat and so on. I lay in a bed with Jas. Blair, and the rest on the floor. Our day’s march was twenty-one miles.

Thursday, 22th. — My brother and I hired Mr. Rountrees’ horses, and his son came with us to Mr. Lambert’s, where, after he received forty-three dollars, he returned. We eat with Mr. Lambert, and paid him ten dollars each. I bought five books from him, and paid him four hundred and twelve dollars and a half. We crossed the mountain, and in the valley saw the wonderful mill without wheels, doors, or floors. In that same valley Jos. Boagle met us with brother’s horses, and he with one of them went back for Robert McCormic. We proceeded to Greenlee’s, got dinner, and when they came up crossed the river and came to Boagle’s, where we lodged. Our day’s march was thirty-two miles.

Friday, 23d.—Left Boagle’s and came to brother William’s. Here I conclude my journal of the expedition under Colonel M’Dowell against Cornwallis, the British General in North Carolina. Rock-, bridge County, Virginia, in the year 1781, March 23d.

Samuel Houston,

Occasionally in speaking of this battle among his friends he related two circumstances respecting himself; one was that on the morning of the battle, he got an opportunity for private prayer in an old tree top, and with unusual freedom committed himself to the wise and protecting providence of God; the other was that in that battle of two hours and twenty minutes, he discharged his rifle fourteen times, that is once in about ten minutes from the time he heard the first fire of the approaching enemy, till his company joined the retreat of Greene. Others in the battle said — that Mr. Houston was the first in his line to answer the command “fire,” and that he was quite in advance when he discharged his rifle. It is easy to find the position of the Rockbridge militia in the battle from the diagrams and statements in the life of General Greene. Greene with the regulars were at the Court House; some distance in front, crossing at right angles the great Salisbury road, on which the British forces were advancing, were stationed the Virginia militia; some distance in front, and across the same road lay the North Carolina militia. The Virginia line was in the forest; the Carolina partly in the forest and partly on the skirts of the forest, and partly behind a fence inclosing the open space across which the British force was advancing with extended front. According to orders the Carolina line, when the enemy were very near, gave their fire, which on the left of the British line was deadly, and having repeated it retreated; some remained to give a third fire, and some made such haste in retreat as to bring reproach upon themselves as deficient in bravery, while their neighbors behaved like heroes. The right wing of the Virginia line was soon turned by the British regulars pressing on to the position of Greene, and like the Carolina line gave vivid examples both of timidity and heroic courage; the left wing, in which Houston was, maintained its position till Greene retreated, almost constantly engaged, but not pressed so hard as they might have been by the regulars occupied with the main body of the American army.

The greatest loss of the Rockbridge and Augusta forces, was experienced after they commenced their retreat. Lee’s light-horse were not ready to cover them, and their retreat became a flight, exposed to the sabres of the British light-horse. Mr. Samuel Steele, that died an old man, near Waynesborough, in that retreat shot one horseman that followed him. Two others came upon him before he reloaded, and he surrendered himself a prisoner — “Give us your gun.” “Oh, no,” said he, “I can’t think of that.” “I say, give us your gun!” “Oh, no, I can’t think of that.” Bursting into a laugh at his simplicity — “Well,-carry it along, then,” motioning him to follow in the rear. He went along some distance, when suddenly springing into the thick top of a fallen tree he commenced loading his gun. The horsemen unable to get at him with their swords, put spurs and rode out of reach of his shot. He took advantage of their disappearance, and was soon out of danger. David Steele, of Medway, where Waddell addressed the militia before their march, was cut down in the retreat, and left for dead. The scar of a deep wound over one of his eyes, was frightful to strangers, through his long life. Judge Stuart, of Staunton, was in the battle, a messmate of Houston, and retained a friendship for him till his death ; excelling in talents, he could not, in the opinion of the soldiers, surpass him in the cool facing of danger. Captain James Tate, of Bethel, was killed in the early part of the battle. Captain Andrew Wallace, from near Lexington, was in the regular service, and had always shown himself a brave man. That morning he expressed a mournful presage that he would fall that day. In the course of the action, he sheltered himself behind a tree with some indications of alarm. Being reproached, he immediately left the shelter, and in a moment received his death wound. A brother of his, Captain Adam Wallace, was with Buford at the terrible massacre on the Waxhaw; after killing many of the enemy with his espontoon, he died bravely fighting. A third brother, Captain Hugh Wallace, in the regular army, died in Philadelphia, of smallpox. Major Alexander Stuart, of whom Mr. Houston says — u We lost our Major,”—was mounted on a beautiful mare. A shot was fatal to her, on the hasty retreat. As she fell, the Major was seized, and surrendered. Hi3 captors plundered him, and left him standing in his cocked-hat, shirt, and shoes. He was unwounded. Cornwallis took him and other prisoners with him in his retreat to Wilmington. For a time Greene greatly harassed Cornwallis in his daily marches. Mr. Stuart said, the prisoners suffered severely, particularly from thirst. So great was the haste of flight, and the unkindness of the guard, that the prisoners were not suffered to intermit their speed even to drink in crossing the runs ; those that attempted to drink were warned by the bayonet point to go on. He dipped water with his cocked-hat; and others with their shoes. Archibald Stuart was commissary, but at Guilford he took his musket and entered the ranks as a common soldier. Major Stuart said, that Greene afterwards told him, that there was a tnrn in the battle in which, if he could have reckoned upon the firm stand of the left wing of Virginia militia, he could have annihilated the army of Cornwallis. He knew they were good for a short fight, but was not prepared to see them stand it out as regulars. The defect of the militia system, was apparent. The second day after the battle — when they must either march further from home in pursuit of Cornwallis— ‘‘to offer the British force more cannon and another regiment of recaptured prisoners, on the same terms as on the 10th” — or return home ; they all, the very men who called those that flinched at the Dan, “cowards;” all, in face of their Colonel, and the displeasure, “the fury” of the General of Brigade, all marched off home. Some, both of the Carolina and the Virginia militia, fled from the battle-ground on the 15th, and never rested till they reached their homes. Some of the Virginia men that fled thus, in the fear lest they should be called to account for their flight retreated into the western ridges of the Allegheny — and even to old age dreaded the approach of a stranger, as perhaps an officer for their arrest for desertion. The American Generals soon learned to object to short terms of service, and at the same time had full confidence in the courage of their countrymen.

At a meeting of Hanover Presbytery at the Stone meeting house Augusta County, November 1781, Messrs. Samuel Houston, Andrew M’Clure, Samuel Carrick and Adam Rankin, were on examination received as candidates for the ministry. In May 1782, at Timber Ridge, on the 22nd, Mr. Houston read a lecture on Colossians 3d, from the 1st to the 8th verse; and also a presbyterial discourse on 1 Tim. 1. 5, which were sustained as parts of trial. Messrs. Rankin, Carrick and M’Clure, exhibited parts of their trials for licensure. At this Presbytery Mr. John M’Cue was licensed, and on parts of his examination Messrs. Houston and Rankin were associated. October 22d, 1782 at New Providence, the Presbytery was opened with a sermon by Adam Rankin, from 2 Cor. 5. 14, and Samuel Houston John 17. 3; both candidates for licensure. These were sustained. Messrs. Andrew M’Clure and Samuel Carrick, also produced their pieces of trial. And the four candidates having passed acceptably all their trials, were licensed to preach the gospel. At Hall’s meeting house May 20th, 1783, Mr. Houston accepted a call from the Providence congregation in Washington County. The third Wednesday of August was fixed for the ordination ; Mr. Houston to preach from Col. 3. 4 ; the ordination services to be performed by Messrs. Cummings, Balch and Doak, the second to preach the ordination sermon, the third to preside, the first to give the charge. In August 1785, the Presbytery of Abingdon was formed, and Mr. Houston made a constituent part. In May 1786, he took his seat in the Synod as the first in attendance from the Presbytery. In the events of a few succeeding years Mr. Houston in common with his fellow citizens, took an active part. He advocated the formation of a new State to be called Franklin. After some years of commotion, the State of Tennessee was formed and made one of the Union. Unfortunately the Presbyterian ministers were divided in their opinions in the course of the procedure, and suffered, many of them, much uneasiness on a subject the particulars of which it is not necessary to record, except in a history of Tennessee in its settlement and progress. For various reasons Mr. Houston determined to return to Virginia, and on the 24th. of October, 1789, he was admitted a member of Lexington Presbytery.

In September 1791, at Augusta Church on the 20th, when A. Alexander opened Presbytery with his trial sermon, he accepted a call from Falling Spring for two-thirds of his time. At this place and High Bridge he performed the duties of a minister of the gospel, faithfully and diligently, till the infirmities of age made it necessary for him to throw the labor on younger men. For many years he taught a classical school with success, mingling firmness and kindness in his discipline. He took great delight in meeting his brethren in the judicatories of the Church. His last attendance on the Virginia Synod was at Lexington, October 1837. Bent with age, almost blind, his long gray locks falling upon his shoulders, he sedulously attended the sessions and listened to the debates, and finally gave his vote to sustain the action of the Assembly of ’37. None that saw him could forget his appearance. Cheerful through life, he was glad when his end came. His works remain. He was one that cherished Washington College in the days of its greatest weakness and depression. When his infirmities came upon him, he resigned his pastoral charges, and employed himself in going out into the highways and hedges.

About two miles from the Natural Bridge, and sixteen from Lexington on the road to Fincastle, is a brick church on a hill, surrounded by a grave-yard. At the western end of the church, is a marble slab inscribed

SACRED
to the memory of the
REV. SAMUEL HOUSTON, who in early life was a soldier of the Revolution, and for 55 years a faithful minister of the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

He died on the 20th day of January 1839, aged 81 years, in the mature and blessed hope of a glorious resurrection and of immortal life, in the kingdom of his Father and his God.


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