The American Revolution in North Carolina

Martin Armstrong

Colonel over the Surry County Regiment of Militia - 1775-1783

On September 9. 1775, the NC Provincial Congress appointed Martin Armstrong as the Colonel/Commandant over the Surry County Regiment of Militia, a position he retained until the end of the war. One source asserts that he was stripped of his command in 1781, but this Author has not been able to corroborate this assertion. All available evidence indicates that although he was admonished for his proclamation of October 1780 (see below), he continued to lead the Surry County Regiment of Militia, alongside second Col. Joseph Williams, until the end of the war.

Very early in 1775, he had been a Captain in the Provincial Militia. Sources indicate that he was a Captain in the Militia as early as 1773.

Col. Martin Armstrong led the Surry County Regiment of Militia at the battles of Moore's Creek Bridge (2/27/1776), Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford's Cherokee Expedition of 1776 on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Little Lynches Creek, SC (8/11/1780), and Camden, SC (8/16/1780). In 1781, he led the Rifle Companies of the Surry County Regiment of Militia at the battles of New Garden Meeting House (3/15/1781) and Guilford Court House (3/15/1781).

Upon the conclusion of the Patriot victory at the battle of Kings Mountain, SC (10/7/1780) (which Col. Martin Armstrong did not participate - the Surry County Regiment was led by Maj. Joseph Winston with Maj. Micajah Lewis), the many Loyalist prisoners were turned over to Col. Martin Armstrong who was at home in Surry County. All of the other Patriots went home, leaving the large number of prisoners to be guarded by a much smaller group of Patriot Militiamen, most with virtually no ammunition. Soon thereafter, Col. Martin Armstrong convened a council of officers who agreed that it would be prudent to parole all of the Loyalist prisoners, and Col. Armstrong issued a proclamation to this effect. It was not long before the NC Legislature found out and strongly admonished Col. Martin Armstrong for this improper act. They were furious that they no longer had a large number of prisoners to exchange for Patriot prisoners in the hands of the British in Charlestown.

After the American Revolution, he was appointed as the State's Surveyor General overseeing the NC Continental veterans land claims in what is now Tennessee. Martin Armstrong was accused of impropriety while in this position, an accusation he strongly denied until his death. He ended his career as a Brigadier General over the 8th NC Brigade of Militia.

An act to form Surry County was proposed to the North Carolina Assembly in December 1770 by Martin Armstrong, Anthony Hampton and James Dunne. The legislation was passed in January 1771 and was to become effective 1 April 1771.

Martin Armstrong was elected to the Third Provincial Congress of August 1775.

Martin Armstrong was born in 1739 in Virginia. He married Mary Tate in 1766, and they had five known children - Thomas Temple, Jane, Mary Ann Elizabeth, John Barclay, and Joseph Martin. He died in 1808 in Davidson County, TN.

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