The American Revolution in North Carolina

Joseph McDowell*

Major in the 2nd Rowan County Regiment of Militia -1776-1777
Major in the Burke County Regiment of Militia - 1777-1781
Lt. Colonel in the Burke County Regiment of Militia - 1781-1782
Colonel over the Burke County Regiment of Militia - 1782-1783

Joseph McDowell was the brother of Charles McDowell; both served together for the duration of the American Revolution.

He was appointed Major in early 1776 (probably around the same time as others - 4/22/1776 - records not found) of the 2nd Rowan County Regiment of Militia. It is possible that he had been a Lieutenant or a Captain earlier, but proof has yet to be found. Maj. Joseph McDowell accompanied his regiment on the famous Cherokee Expedition of 1776 led by Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford.

When Burke County was created on May 9, 1777, Major Joseph McDowell now served under his elder brother, Col. Charles McDowell, in the newly-created Burke County Regiment of Militia. As a Major, he participated in the battles of: Chickamauga Towns (4/10-4/20/1779), Stono Ferry, SC (6/20/1779), Earle's Ford, SC (7/15/1780), Ramseur's Mill (6/20/1780), Musgrove's Mill, SC (8/18/1780), and Cane Creek (9/12/1780). He led the Burke County Regiment of Militia at the battles of Kings Mountain, SC (10/8/1780), and Cowpens, SC (1/17/1781), where he was wounded.

Soon after the battle of Cowpens, SC, Joseph McDowell was promoted to Lt. Colonel in the Burke County Regiment of Militia under his brother, Col. Charles McDowell.

On May 17, 1782, the NC General Assembly created the Morgan District and appointed Charles McDowell as the new Brigadier General over the Morgan District Brigade of Militia. They subsequently appointed Joseph McDowell as the second full Colonel, alongside Col. Robert Holmes, who as the senior colonel became the new Commandant over the Burke County Regiment of Militia.

Col. Joseph McDowell led the Burke County Regiment of Militia in the Cherokee Expedition of 1782. Brig. Gen. Charles McDowell led this expedition on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Joseph McDowell was born on March 8, 1756 in Winchester County, VA. He died on February 5, 1801 in Burke County, NC. He married Margaret Moffett in 1783, and they had six daughters - Sarah, Elizabeth, Margaret, Hannah, Celia, and Clarissa; they also had two sons - Hugh Harvey and Joseph Jefferson.

Joseph McDowell was in the NC 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.

Joseph McDowell is buried at Quaker Meadows in an unmarked grave beside his brother Charles at the base of a white oak tree with the letter "J" carved in its trunk. The white oak tree existed in 1890 but has long since been removed. Joseph is probably located in what appears to be a vacant unmarked space beside his brother Charles on the oppsite side of Charles' wife Grace Greenlee McDowell who is known to be buried next to her husband.

McDowell County, NC is named after this Joseph McDowell.

Click Here for a short writeup and photo of a graveyard memorial online at

*Joseph McDowell of Quaker's Meadow or John's River. Cousin to Joseph McDowell of Pleasant Gardens, a Captain and Major of NC Militia.

© 2013 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved