The American Revolution in North Carolina

Charles McDowell

Captain in the 2nd Rowan County Regiment of Militia - 1775-1776
Lt. Colonel in the 2nd Rowan County Regiment of Militia - 1776-1777
Colonel over the Burke County Regiment of Militia - 1777-1782
Brigadier General of the Morgan District Brigade of Militia - 1782-1783

On 11/11/1775, Charles McDowell was nominated to be commissioned as a Captain under Col. Adlai Osborne in the newly-created 2nd Rowan County Regiment of Militia.

On 4/22/1776, Charles McDowell was commissioned as a Lt. Colonel under Col. Christopher Beekman in the 2nd Rowan County Regiment of Militia. As a Lt. Colonel, he participated in a skirmish at McDowell's Station (his) on 7/3/1776, and marched in the Cherokee Expedition of August to November of 1776 with Col. Christopher Beekman and Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford, along with over 2,500 men.

On 5/9/1777, the NC General Assembly created Burke County and soon thereafter they commissioned Charles McDowell as the Colonel/Commandant over the Burke County Regiment of Militia. He led this regiment in several skirmishes and battles in both NC and SC.

On 5/17/1782, the NC General Assembly created the Morgan District in the western part of the state, and they commissioned Charles McDowell as its first and only brigadier general, a position he retained until the end of the war. Later in 1782, Brig. Gen. Charles McDowell led his brigade in a massive campaign against the Cherokees, following very much the same paths that were taken way back in 1776.

Charles McDowell was born in Winchester, Virginia, on 10/18/1743; died in Burke county, North Carolina, on 3/31/1815. His father, Joseph, emigrated from Ireland to the United States about 1730, and after a residence of several years in Pennsylvania settled first in Winchester, Virginia, and subsequently at Quaker Meadows, on the Catawba River, North Carolina His family is distinguished from that of his cousin John by the name of the "Quaker Meadow McDowells."

Charles was an ardent Patriot, and at the beginning of the American Revolution was placed in command of an extensive district in western North Carolina. During the British invasion in 1780, he organized troops, fortified posts, and in June of that year attacked the enemy at their works on the Pacolet River, compelled their surrender, subsequently gained victories at Musgrove's Mill and Cane Creek. He was absent at the battle of Kings Mountain, SC because he was riding to meet with Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates in Hillsborough.

He was state senator in 1782-'8, and a member of the lower house in 1809-'11. His wife, Grace Greenlee, was noted among the women of the Revolution for her prudence as well as her daring. Her first husband, Capt. Joshua Bowman, of the Patriot army, was killed at the battle of Ramseur's Mill. After her marriage with McDowell, she aided him in all his patriotic schemes, and while he was secretly manufacturing in a cave the powder, she made the charcoal in small quantities in her fireplace, carrying it to him at night to prevent detection.

A party of marauders having plundered her house in the absence of her husband, she collected a few of her neighbors, pursued, and captured them, and at the muzzle of the musket compelled them to return her property. She was the mother of a large family.

Charles's brother, Joseph, soldier, born in Winchester, Virginia, in 1756; died in Burke county, NC. He served in the campaigns against the frontier Indians previous to the Revolution, and under his brother Charles in all the battles in western North Carolina before that of Kings Mountain. In that engagement he commanded the Burke County Regiment of Militia, with the rank of major. He was in the state house of commons in 1787-'92, was a member of the North Carolina constitutional convention in 1788, and largely instrumental in its rejection of the United States constitution. He was elected to congress in 1792, served till 1799, and was active in opposition to the Federal party. He was boundary commissioner in 1797 for running the line between Tennessee and North Carolina, a general of militia, and the recognized leader of the Republican party in the western counties. A county is named in his honor.

Click Here for an early biography of Charles McDowell provided by John Hill Wheeler in 1851.

Click Here for a photo and short writeup about the burial headstone of Charles McDowell.

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