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Two Obscure Heroes
by [?]


When the British marched up from Savannah and took Charleston, in the spring of 1780, they thought the Revolution was at an end in the Southern States, and it really seemed so. Even the patriots thought it was useless to resist any longer, and so when the British ordered all the people to come together at different places and enrol themselves as British subjects, most of them were ready to do it, simply because they thought they could not help themselves.

Only a few daring men here and there were bold enough to think of refusing, and but for them the British could have set up the royal power again in South Carolina, and then they would have been free to take their whole force against the patriots farther north. The fate of the whole country depended, to a large extent, upon the courage of the few men who would not give up even at such a time, but kept up the fight against all odds. These brave men forced the British to keep an army in the South which they needed farther north.

The credit of beginning this kind of partisan warfare belongs chiefly to two or three plain men, who did it simply because they loved their country more than their ease.

The man who first began it was Justice Gaston–a white-haired patriot who lived on a little stream called Fishing Creek, near Rocky Mount. He was eighty years of age, and might well have thought himself too old to care about war matters; but he was a brave man and a patriot, and the people who lived near him were in the habit of taking his advice and doing as he did.

When the news came that Tarleton had killed a band of patriots under Colonel Buford in cold blood Justice Gaston called his nine sons and many of his nephews around him. Joining hands, these young men promised each other that they never would take the British oath, and never would give up the cause, come what might.

Soon afterwards a British force came to the neighborhood, and all the people were ordered to meet at Rocky Mount to enrol their names and take the oath. One of the British officers went to see Justice Gaston, and tried to persuade him that it was folly to refuse. He knew that if Gaston advised the people to give up, there would be no trouble; but the white-haired patriot told him to his face that he would never take the oath himself or advise anybody else to do so.

As soon as the officer left the old man sent for his friends, and about thirty brave fellows met at his house that night, with their rifles in their hands. They knew there would be a strong force of British and Tories at Rocky Mount the next day, but, in spite of the odds against them, they made up their minds to attack the place, and when the time came they did so. Creeping through the woods, they suddenly came upon the crowd, and after a sharp fight sent the British flying helter-skelter in every direction. This stopped the work of enrolling the people as British subjects, and it did more than that. It showed the patriots through the whole country that they could still give the British a great deal of trouble, and after this affair many of the men who had thought of giving up rubbed up their rifles instead, and formed little bands of fighting men to keep the war going.

Another man who did much to stir up partisan warfare was the Rev. William Martin, an old and pious preacher in the Scotch-Irish settlements. These Scotch-Irish were very religious people, and their preacher was their leader in all things. One Sunday, after the news had come to the settlement that Buford’s men had been killed by the British in cold blood, the eloquent old man went into his pulpit and preached about the duty of fighting. In the afternoon he preached again, and even when the service was over he went on in the open air, still preaching to the people how they should fight for their country, until all the men in the settlement were full of fighting spirit. The women told the men to go and do their duty, and that they would take care of the crops.