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Historical Documents pertaining to the Swift Militia Company

Received by e-mail from Grady Loy with comments by the same…

Here are the letters by and about Flower Swift during the Revolution. They are from the publication of the Preston Papers in the Virginia Historical Magazine. I do not have the dates and volume (I will see if I can find these through a periodical index and post it later) but the Breckenridge letter was on pp 157-58 and the Flower Swift letters and the Clinch river petition were on pp 32-33. I seem to remember the publication was in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s and I was researching in spring 1979.

First is a reference to (Flower) Swift (He was the only Captain Swift in the Militia in the New River area under Preston) by J. Breckenridge to his Uncle Colonel William Preston, Swift’s commander. The Mines referred to are doubtless the lead mines. I have preserved the original spelling and punctuation:

J Breckenridge to Colonel William Preston, Fort Chiswell June 25th 1780

Dr Uncle:

Yesterday an Express was Sent you informing you that the Tories were about to rise up New River & that they had killed some persons: the same accounts have since been brought to the Mines & confirmed, so that I believe there is no disputing the certainty of it. Yesterday there was one Husk came to the Mines who Capt Quirk supposed to be a Spie & detained him he informed them of a Body that is gathered up the New River near the Glades; and also that the Chief of His friends are with them & of nine Light horsemen that was killed who attempted to take a parcel of Tories in Carolina.

There was also a captain of Militia taken by them of the name of Swift who brings the same accounts, adding that there was a good many British officers among them but could not ascertain the number. All these accounts seem to alarm the people very much and are chiefly believed. I make no doubt but some of your neighbors will be very active upon this occasion. I am doubtful there is something astir among them now, as Sam’l Ingram has been up in this Quarter and has just returned.

The Express who was sent you is a relation of James Bain and I suppose will give them news before he reaches you.

I am your very affectionate Newphew (sic)

J. Breckenridge June 25th 1780

[Addressed] Col’o William Preston

To the care of Capt. Byon

[Endorsed] J. Breckenridge to Col. Preston

J. Breckenridge June 25th 1780

Richmond July 3, 1780


I have received advice from Colonel Preston of a dangerous Insurrection on New River. He thinks the insurgents will attempt to destroy the Works at the Lead Mines and has called on the Militia of Washington and Botetourt to oppose them. As this is an object requiring more immediate attention than the one which you were lately appointed, I am to desire you will a second time take in hand these ??? and if they have proceeded as we have heard, to actual murder, to take such Effectual Measures of Punishment as may secure the future safety of that Quarter. The Militia of Washington, Montgomery and Botetourt are already called out by Colonel Preston and you will therefore put yourself at their head and apply to this Object the Means and Powers ???? made for the Indian Expedition.

I am YT Thomas Jefferson

Here is a letter from Captain Flower Swift to Colonel Preston (Date unknown – Swift did not apparently care for dates but is is included among a series of letters from late Spring of 1783. Hostlities were over but I am not sure word had reached American forces of the Peace Agreement. In any case the real difficulty lay in relations with the Cherokee)


Sir–After my best Compty Compliments to you I have to inform you that I should have made a better return to you of these but I was Disappointed by a your man that I ordered to Carrey the money down But I hope your Onner will Excuse me this time I also have to inform you that there Seven names in the Lists that is not liveing in the distrits I also shall give you A exact list of the Dilinkquents you will be pleased to furnish me with warrants agreable to this list and Sind them to Mr. Sams McGaffacks and from there I can get them Ameditely

Swifts Company–Dr–

Sir there is Some few names on the lists that is not liveing in this distrits–

John Lashley 0-1-6
Munl. Whitmor 0-3-0
Joseph Walter 0-2-0
William Sugs 0-2-0
Nemiah Daniel 0-1-6
Daid Bohanin 0-4-0
Mashak Laws 0-1-6
William Harmon 0-1-6
William Allen 0-2-6
Isac Loser 0-1-3
These are the Delinkquents of the Company–
William Johns 0-1-6
Nathan Shelley 0-2-0
Absolm Burton 0-2-0
William Morgin 0-2-6
Morgin morgin 0-2-0
Samuel Muheren 0-2-6
Jacob Cock 0-1-3
Valentine Vanhooser 0-1-3
Thomas Williams 0-2-0
Richard Sharkley 1-3-3
James Johnes 0-1-6
Joseph Davis 0-2-6
Isac Edwards 0-2-6
John Knight 0-1-6
Sam Cox 0-3-0
Jeremiah Cloushemer 0-3-0

Sir–this list of names to the best of my knowledge was not in the distret when I received my orders first–

These from your Friend and umble Sart–

Flower Swift, Capt.

(Another letter from Swift to Preston about the same time or a continuation of the first – it is not clear GEL)

To Col William Preston

Also agreable to your orders I appoint James Cock to Collect the quakers distrect and he has colect part of the destrit of every one that willing to pay S(ai)d Cock desire that your Onner would grant him Warrents for the other part of the distrect agreable his list


Thomas Davis 0-3-6
Thomas Davis 0-1-6
Thos. Carr 0-2-6
David Rease 0-3-0
Calop Rease 0-2-0
Thos. Pearson 0-1-9
Samuel Pearson 0-1-6
Israel Ellet 0-2-0
Henry Pendrye 0-1-6
Richard Cox 0-12-6
William Rankin 0-1-9

[Address] To Colonel William Preston

[Endorsement] Capt. Swifts Letter abt Districts

(Certain of the idiosyncratic spellings of names like “Calop” for Caleb and “Ellet” for “Elliot” suggest to me that Lyman Draper’s “Tory list” may have been written in Swift’s own hand. Since the Preston papers preserve Swifts original handwriting and no doubt the so-called Tory list is preserved in Draper’s materials at Wisconsin it is an experiment which ought to be possible to try)

From Johnny Long – Reference to the Swift Militia Company’s Muster Ground on Cramberry Creek:

“May 18, 1785: Daniel Carlen, assignee of Patrick Henry, on warrant of 1,000 acres, 1781, enters 50 acres on west side of John Fanning’s line; 100 acres on Cramberry Glade beginning at a white oak marked DC and running up and down Cramberry Creek at CAPTAIN SWIFT’s muster ground: 50 acres on military warrant, 1780, “the first entry is made by virtue of this military warrant and the second by ye land office treasury warrant. It is a mistake in making the entry, Preson SMC (Surveyor of Montgomery County).”

After the Battle of King’s Mountain General Horatio Gates suggested that the Tory prisoners be taken to Fort Chiswell under Col. William Campbell’s command. Colonel Preston responded, “I am sorry to inform you that we have more Tories in the County than any other place I know of in Virginia the suppressing of whom has cost the officers and the well affected militia much time and Trouble and put the state to a considerable expense. Add to this the vicinity of that Place to Surry and the other disaffected Counties in North Carolina as also the savages and the safe retreat that Deserters from the prisoners might have through the mountains to their friends in Carolina.”