The American Revolution in North Carolina

The North Carolina Board of War

In September of 1780, the NC General Assembly created the Board of War and appointed its members:

Archibald MacLaine

Alexander Martin

Thomas Polk

John Penn

Oroondates Davis


Archibald MacLaine and Thomas Polk refused to serve, and their positions were never refilled. Oroondates Davis was a lawyer and a member of the legislature from Halifax County. John Penn had been a delegate to the Continental Congress and was considered to be a politician. Only Alexander Martin had any previous military experience as a Colonel/Commandant of the 2nd NC Regiment on the Continental Line.

For most of its fairly short duration, Alexander Martin attempted to perform the assigned duties almost single-handedly. Both John Penn and Orrondates Davis had so little military experience and very seldom showed up to lend a hand.

Gov. Abner Nash was seldom consulted and he soon quit communicating with the Board of War. There were now two separate "commanders-in-chief" transmitting orders to the various military organizations across the State. Those receiving these different orders soon complained, and by January of 1781 the Board of War was abolished. It was soon replaced by the Council Extraordinary.

On September 13, 1780, the North Carolina General Assembly resolved that they will exert themselves "to obtain an immediate supply of all military and other stores necessary for the Continental Army, and that the utmost strength and credit of this State shall be exerted to make their present station respectable and agreeable to them." On this date, they also approved "An Act for Establishing a Board of War, and other Purposes," which included the following highlights:

- Whereas it is expedient that a board of commissioners be appointed for the more effectually and expeditiously calling forth the powers and resources of the state, and disposing the same in such a manner as to enable generals and commanders of the troops which shall be employed against the common enemy to act with vigor and precision.

- Board to consist of five members to sit at the most convenient locations within the state, and to correspond with the commander-in-chielf to jointly prepare a plan of operations for the defense of the state. Said plan to be consistent with those formed by the Continental commander as circumstances permit. Board to call upon all officers and direct the military operation jointly. Board to superintend the acquisition and distribution of all arms, horses, carriages, provisions, and stores of all kinds.

- Board empowered and required to remove or suspend, as they think proper, all officers, and to appoint their replacements.

- Board to to cause plans and surveys to be made of all posts, passes, routes, and other places deemed necessary to employ troops and erect defenses. Also to obtain information on the designs of the enemy. Any three members empowered to act as the Board.

- Whereas this state is likely to become the theater of war, the executive department may take, pursue, and execute any measures which the Board of War shall direct as necessary or expedient for the public security.

- Board may appoint a secretary and as many clerks as necessary.

- If any member should die or move out of state, or refuse to serve, the Governor, with advice of Council, may appoint a replacement, and that person will have the same powers as those originally appointed by the General Assembly.

- If the pending Act for the trial of all persons accused of treason does not pass during this session [it does not], then the Board of War may recommend carrying said law into execution, and then said law shall be in full force and virtue.

- Board of War is empowered to call to account all commissioners and contractors and all persons who have received public monies and have not fully accounted for the same to compel them to settle their accounts within ten days. If they do not, then the Board of War is authorized to enter judgement in a county court.

- Governor has full power to convene to such places and at times he things expedient for the public safety, the Board of War, and to adjourn as to time and place as to him shall seem meet and convenient.

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