Of Cumberland, Moore and Robeson County, NC
Massacre At The Piney Bottom
The following is taken from The Old North in 1776, Revolutionary Incidents and Sketches of Character Chiefly in the "Old North State," by The Rev. Eli W. Caruthers. The two-volume work, published in 1854 and 1856, is a compilation of stories Caruthers collected from veterans and participants in the events from across the state.
While not directly relating to Monroe genealogy, the massacre took place in the heart of "Monroe Country" and involved "Old Daniel" Monroe, and his son, Malcolm. The article was submitted by Robert B. Evans a 4th-great-grandson of Daniel.
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The following facts were furnished by an intelligent and highly esteemed friend, In that region, who has taken much pains to have them substantially correct; and they are given here as illustrative of the vindictive spirit, which then reigned In both parties, and of the deeds of reckless cruelty, which were then committed, every where over the country. As he only furnished the facts, I have not copied his language; but have not exaggerated or altered the statements.
Capt. Neill McCranie, who belonged to Colonel Armstrongs command, was stationed west of Fayetteville, near little Rockfish; and kept the Tories, for some time, tolerably quiet; and so did Colonel Mathews, who was stationed on Cranes creek, in the lower edge of Moore county; but the Tories ultimately got possession of the whole country, between the Cape Fear and Pedee rivers. Gates was defeated at Camden, and the British overran South Carolina. Many fled for safety from South Carolina and the Pedee country, into North Carolina and a number went on to the Whig region, on Neuse river. Among these, were Captain Culp, of South Carolina, Colonel Wade, of Anson county, and Archd. Mckizie, of Ashpole, in Robeson county, whose son was taken prisoner, as above related, at McPhersons Mill creek, aid whose property was all destroyed before his return.
After Cornwallis had gone north, and General Green into South Carolina, Colonel Wade and Captain Culp concluded that they would return home; and before setting out, they loaded their waggons with salt and such other articles, as were needed most In the Pedee country. They crossed the Cape Fear, at Sproals, now McNeills ferry, In the afternoon, and after going a few miles, took up camp for the night. That night or next morning, some of their men or hands, went off the road, and stole a piece of coarse cloth from Marren McDaniel, a poor servant girl, who had hired herself to a man by the name of John McDaniel. She had been unable to pay the weaver; for the cloth was so coarse that he would take no part of it for pay, and he was about to retain the whole, until payment was made, much to the grief of the poor girl; but old Daniel Munroe, being present, and seeing her troubles, paid the weaver, and let her take the cloth home. In the course of that night, John McNeill, son of Archd. and Jennet (Bann,) McNeill, then living on Andersons creek, having learned where this company of Whigs were, started out his runners to collect the Tories, many of whom were lying out in the swamps and other places, with directions from them to rendezvous the next night, at Long street, and pursue Wade. Next morning John McNeill went over to Colonel Folsones (Whig) and remained until sundown. He then mounted a very fleet horse, joined the Tories at or a little beyond Long street, and about an hour before day, came up with Wade and company, encamped on Piney Bottom, a branch of the Rockfish, and apparently all asleep except the sentinel. They consulted and made their arrangements, got into order and marched up. The sentinel hailed them but received no answer. He hailed them again, but received no answer. Duncan McCallum cocked his gun, and determined to shoot at the flash of the sentinels gun. the sentinel fired, and McCallurn shot at the flash. One of Wades men had his arm broke by a ball, and Duncan McCallum claimed the honor of breaking it. Then they rushed up on the sleeping company, Just as they were roused by the fire of the sentinels gun, and shot down five or six of them but the rest escaped, leaving every thing behind them. A motherless boy, who had been taken by Colonel Wade as a protege, was asleep in one of the waggons, and being roused by the firing of the guns, and before he was fully awake, cried out, Parole me! parole me!" Duncan Ferguson, a renegade deserter from the American army, told him to come out and he would parole him. He came out and dropped upon his knees, begging for his life; but on seeing Ferguson approaching him in a threatening manner, he jumped up and ran, Ferguson took after him and Colonel McDougal after Ferguson, threatening him that If he touched the boy he would cut him down, Ferguson still ran on, however, until he overtook the bay, and then with his broad sword, split his head wide open, so that one half of it fell on one shoulder and the other half on the other shoulder. The waggons were then plundered, the officers taking the money and the men whatever else they could carry away. There were two or three hundred of the Tories. All the McNeills (Bans) were there except Malcom. Wade and Culp had only a few men to guard their families, while they were returning home in a peaceable manner; and the fact that many of their guns were found without flints and unloaded, proves that they apprehended no danger.
After plundering the waggons of everything, they burned them and carried away the iron traces. In a day or two, when the wood-work of the waggons was all consumed, some of the Tories returned and carried away the tires and other irons. They pretended to bury the dead, but did it so slightly that when Malcom Munro, Allen Cameron, Neill Smith and Philip Hodges, who had been sent out by Captain McCranie as a scout, came to the place, a few days after, they found three of then more or less exposed, having been scratched up by the wolves, and an arm of one of them was entirely out of the ground. This looked like extending their cruelty even to the dead, or, perhaps, they became suddenly alarmed for their own safety and fled; but the Whig scout had them buried more decently, and covered the grave with logs, so as to protect it from beasts of prey.
On his way home from the scene of his nocturnal slaughter and depredation, John McNeill called on his friend and neighbor, John McDaniel, and told him about an exploit they had performed, how much plunder, money and other things they found, and showed him a large piece of new cloth which he had got, and which he seemed to regard as a valuable prize. Poor Marren McDaniel, being present, siezed the cloth and claimed it as hers. She said she could prove It by the weaver and by old Daniel Munroe, who had paid the weaver for her. So the poor girl had her plundered web of cloth most unexpectedly returned to her, and this was perhaps, the only good which resulted from that tragical affair.
About sunrise next morning, after this murder and robbery, Captain Culp came to the house of old Mr. McLean, who lived at the ford on Rockfish. "Heigh!" said Culp, How came you here?" "Where else should I be but at my own house?" was the reply. Culp said, "I thought you were at Piney Bottom last night." "Why, what happened at Piney Bottom?" enquired McLean; and Culp told him, Culp was riding a horse bare-backed and asked McLean for a saddle to ride home which was readily granted.
As soon as Wade and Culp reached home, they collected about one hundred dragoons, or mounted men, under Captain Bogan; and they all came down swearing never to return until they had avenged the death of that murdered boy, who seems to have been a favorite with Colonel Wade and, in fact, with all that knew him.
On Thursday evening they encamped on the premises of Daniel Patterson, the Piper, who lived on Drowning creek, but on the west side and, of course, in Richmond county. They caught the old man and whipped him until he gave up the names of all who were at Piney Bottom, so far as he knew. Early on Friday, they crossed the creek and entered Moore county. They came first to old Kenneth Clarkes, now Duncan Blues, and caught Alexander McLeod, who had come there on business and without any apprehension of danger. Having tied him securely and pinioned his arms behind his back, they put his little brother, John McLeod, a boy about eleven years of age, under guard and, leaving the guard there, they galloped down to John Clarkes, son of old Kenneth Clarkes. but finding no men at the house, they rode down to a small field, not far distant, where they found John Clarke, Daniel McMillan, Duncan Currie, Allen McSweene and an Irishman who was a British deserter and wore a red coat, all of whom were helping John Clarke to make potato hills. Daniel McMillan and Duncan Currie had been at Piney Bottom, and accomplices In the massacre and plunder of Colonel Wades party. John Clarke and Daniel McMillan had married sisters of Duncan Currie.
All these were carried up, confined and pinioned, to old Kenneth Clarkes, where they had left Alexander McLeod and his little brother, John McLeod, and there they were all kept under guard through The day while the rest were going and coming, apparently in search of others. They tortured the old man Black, very much, by beating him or slapping him with their swords, and screwing his thumb in a gun-lock, but they could get nothing out of him,
In the evening, a little before sunset, Captain Bogan, and some more of his men, came over the creek, and might have been a little intoxicated. At all events, he appeared to be in a great rage, and ordered the prisoners out from the side of the house to be put to death; and as that much lamented boy at the Piney Bottom had been killed with the sword, It was determined that these prisoners should be put to death, by having their heads split open in the same way. Alexander McLeod was first taken out, and some one or more of the men, sitting on their horses and rising in their stirrups, struck him two or three times over the head with their swords; but by throwing up his arms, by having on a thick wool hat, and by dodging his head, he prevented a death blow. On seeing this, the other prisoners jumped up and started to run, when the men on horseback shot McLeod, putting three musket balls into him, and he fell dead on the spot. They then commenced running after, and shooting the others, who were trying to make their escape,. John Clarke, after having been shot, ran into the house and died inmnediately. Duncan Currie, in an effort to escape, had just got over a high fence, which was joined to a corner of the house, but was shot down on the outside. Daniel McMillan came into the house begging for his life, with the blood streaming from his side, his hunting shirt on fire, where he had been shot in the shoulder, his wrist cut and broken by a sword, his arm shattered and torn by a musket ball, two or three balls having passed through his body; but revenge was not yet satisfied, and another ball through his breast near the left shoulder, soon put an end to his sufferings. Allan McSweene, was sitting on the lid of a pot in the chimney corner, and his wife with a child in her arms, was standing before him, in the vain hope of being able to conceal him from his enemies; but as he was not perfectly concealed, the boy, John McLeod went up and stood close by her side. On seeing this, one of the men jerked him away, and cocked his gun at him; but another, more considerate, interceded for him, and saved his life. Some one also jerked the wife away prostrate on the floor, but gave no further harsh treatment.
A man will make any effort in his power, however desperate, to save his life; and so he ought, for it is a law or instinct of nature. McSweene then jumped up and ran, first to one door, and then out at the other, with his enemies in pursuit. His hands were tied before, and his arms were pinioned behind; but, even when thus confined, and with a last desperate and almost preternatural effort to save his life, he leaped a pretty high staked and ridered fence which was round the house. Two guns were fired at him as he made the leap, still he ran about a quarter of a mile before they overtook him, and shot him down, putting several balls into his body, and then, having fallen on his face, they split his head open to the nose. Then charging old Mr. Clarke to have every corpse buried by the next evening, or they would come back and put him to death, they went away, and took the deserter with them, riding bare-backed with his hands tied, his arms pinioned, and his feet tied under the horse. After going two or three miles to the eastward, they encamped on a little creek, and remained there until Sabbath morning. The deserter was never heard of again; but as some guns were heard on that morning, and as some bones were found years afterwards, at or near the place of their encampment, no doubt could be entertained, that he was there put to death.
Early on Sabbath morning, they left their campground, and came down to David Buchans, where they found some trace chains, which had been taken from the Piney Bottom; but not finding him at home, they set fire to the house, and then came on to old Kenneth Blacks. He lived where Laughlin McKlnnon now lives, but in the old field east of the creek. They surrounded the premises, but he and his son were lying out in a place of concealment, a quarter of a mile or more from the house. Culp and some of his men found them, and took them to the house. Both doors being open, the men rode into the house until it was full of horses, and the family were crowded up into the chimney. Having done so, they rode out, alighted, and commenced splitting some "light wood" to burn the house, but concluded that they would first search it, which they did. On going up stairs, they found and broke open two large chests, belonging to the families of Captains Verdy, Nicholson and McRae, who were In the British army, and who had left their families under the care of Mr. Black, as their houses were not far apart. One chest was filled with China ware, which they broke; and the other was full of books, which they strewed over the floor, having first cut open their backs, and rendered them useless.
At this time, the far-famed Flora McDonald lived four miles north of the scene which we have been describing, upon a plantation belonging to Mr. Black, on Little River, and the one on which his son, Malcom Black, now lives. Mr. Blacks family having had the small pox, two daughters of Flora came over to see their friends and his family; but, to their utter surprise, they found the Whigs there, who took the gold rings from their fingers and the silk handkerchiefs from their necks: then putting their swords into their bosom, split down their silk dresses and, taking them out into the yard, stripped them of all their outer clothing.
During all these transactions, one man was observed sitting near Colonel Wade, who, as well as the Colonel, seemed to pay no attention to what was doing, but looked serious and even melancholy. Mrs. Black asked him why he was not gathering up something to take away as well as the rest, to which he replied that he did not come there to plunder; for she had nothing that he wanted"But, my son! my son!" was his abrupt and pathic exclamation, by which the impression made on her mind was that he was the father of that motherless little boy who was such a favorite of Colonel Wade and his company and who had been so cruely murdered shortly before in the Piney Bottom.
Having collected their plunder and mounted their horses, just ready to start, Mrs. Black said to the, "Well, you have a bad companion with you. "What Is that?" was the inquiry; and she replied, "the small pox." Instantly they threw down the blankets, clothing and every thing else of the kind that they had taken and rode off In great haste. They took Mr. Black along to pilot then down to Mr. Rays; but after going about half way, probably thinking there might be danger of getting the small pox from him, they told him he might return home. Some of the men proposed shooting him down; but Culp told them to go on, while he stayed behind with Black for his protection. After going the distance of about a hundred yards, one of them turned round and fired at Black with his rifle; but the ball missed him and passed very near Culps head, who ordered them, with a loud, stern voice to go on and behave themselves. They pursued their course then; and when they got to the fork In the road, some went to Alexander Grahams, and some to Alexander Blacks, the place on which the Honorable Laughlin Bethune now lives, at both of which places a similar course was pursued and with similar results.
When those who took the road to Squire Grahams came in sight of the house, there was one man out at the corn crib who slipped under it without being seen, and Archibald Peterson was sitting in the house by the fire who jumped into a bed at the lower end of the house and drew the bed clothes over him. One of the young ladies then, with great presence of mind, took up a broom and stood by the bedside, waiving it over him very deliberately, as if keeping off the flies. When the men rushed Into the house, they enquired, "where is such a man? and where is such another man? "She could not tell; but on observing her so gravely and deliberately keeping the files off the man in bed, they asked her what was the matter with the sick man; "The small pox:"well this is no place for us;" and they immediately started towards the door; but just at that moment they heard the firing of guns over at Alexander Blacks, where the other party had gone. "There," they exclaimed, clapping their hands together, there they have caught Alexander Black." Then mounting their horses, they galloped over to his house and found him dying.
Taking the road now towards Rockfish, before they reached It, Captain Culp rode on a head to see and protect his old friend McLean. When the men arrived, he told then to pass on; for, Mclean not having been at the Piney Bottom, was his friend, and they must do no mischief there; so they crossed the Rockftsh and came to the house of Peter Blue, where they found him and Archibald McBride. and shot them both. Blue was badly though not mortally wounded; but McBride was shot dead on the spot. This was sorely to be lamented; for McBride was a sound Whig, one of Captain McCranies men and was then at home on parole; but he was found in company with a man who had been at the Piney Bottom, and without any inquiry, or waiting for explanation, they recklessly shot him down.
The Whigs, it must be admitted, had great provocation; but still most people will perhaps think that they carried their revenge too far, and that they let their resentment of a most wanton and atrocious act of cruelty control their Judgment and their better feelings; or we may suppose that their object was, not merely to take revenge for the murders committed at the Piney Bottom, but to teach the Tories a lesson which they would not soon forget, and to make an Impression which would deter them from ever attempting such a thing again. If this was their object, it may be said to have been accomplished; for they were now both deterred and disabled.
My correspondent says that the Tories were now under dreadful apprehensions, believing that It was Wades intention to scour the whole country and put every man of then to the sword. They were therefore greatly relieved in their feelings when his revenge seemed to be satisfied, and when he began to turn his course towards home. He turned down through the upper end of Robeson county and passed thence through the lower side of Richmond, by the Rockdale mills, into the Pedee country.
At the Rockdale mills, there lived some free mulattoes by the name of Turner, who were Tories and very wicked. The troops engaged in this expedition, having been disbanded, and Captain Culp having gone home, some of these rnulattoes followed him to his own house, called him out at night, and accused him of whipping one of their brothers. He refused at first to come out, and they threatened to burn the house; but still he refused, until they began to apply the fire; then he came out between two young men, one on each side, holding them by the arms, and begging for his life; but the Turners told the young men that, If they did not wish to share the same fate with Culp, they must leave him. They did so; and he was Immediately shot down in his own yard. It is said that they not only murdered him, but his family also, and then burned his house which stood about a mile below Hunts Bluff. Old Major Ponceys wife was Cuips daughter.
After the close of the war, General Wade had John McNeill tried for his life on account of the robbery and murders committed at the Piney Bottom; but he was acquitted, principally by the oath of Colonel Folsom, who testified that John McNeill was at his house at or about sundown, the evening before the massacre. This made the impression on the minds of the Jury that, considering the distance, It was not probable he could have been there by the time the attack was made; but neither old Daniel Munro, nor Marren McDaniel, nor the weaver were called into court, either because they could not be found, or because It was not known that they were acquainted with any facts involved In the case. They could have testified that John McNeIll had shown them the cloth next day, and told them that he got it at the Piney Bottom, where they had killed so many of Colonel Wades company the night before; and by their testimony he must have been condemned. Perhaps he had bribed them, and kept then concealed in some place where they could riot be found, until the trial could be decided; but however this may have been, from all these circumstances Johm McNeill was ever after known by the name of CUNNING JOHN.