Mark Alexander / November 8, 2017

Patriot Veterans, Then and Now

“It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” —Thomas Paine (1777)

From the first shots of the American Revolution until this day, what has distinguished American Patriots then and now is their willingness to sacrifice all in defense of Liberty — for themselves and their posterity. It’s an unfortunate truth today, however, that too many Americans know too little of such devotion and sacrifice.

This week we observe Veterans Day, first designated Armistice Day marking the end of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower, former Supreme Allied Commander of World War II, signed legislation formally changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

The highest percentage of constitutionally conservative Americans is found among our veterans, active duty military and their families. Uniformed service personnel are required by law to honor their oaths “to Support and Defend” our Constitution, but there is no such legal mandate for elected officials, too many of whom disregard their oaths their first day in office.

Rarely has the contrast between those who support Liberty with blood and life and those who want to destroy it been so striking. Through too many election cycles, the Left and its MSM propaganda machine assailed our Patriots in uniform, and the cost as measured by military morale has been heavy.

Occasionally, there is a new dawn for Patriots in uniform, when a new Commander in Chief who honors their service and sacrifice is elected.

If I might digress, antithetically, this week also marks the centennial of the rise of socialism/communism and what would become a reign of murderous terror over hundreds of millions of civilians. Despite the historical record, there are still plenty of socialism deniers in Congress. Untangling eight years of the most invasive socialist policies in our nation’s history will take more than one election cycle, but our course has been temporarily reset.

Two years ago this week, I wrote about the life and death of the most influential veteran in my life — my father. He was an exceptional example of his “Greatest Generation,” having served in WWII as a Naval Aviator, and he was always vigilant in his commitment “to Support and Defend” Liberty to the day he departed. It was with his encouragement two decades ago that we launched The Patriot Post.

Of the many interests we shared in his later years, one was our family’s history, particularly those frontier men and women who settled in the mountains of what is now East Tennessee prior to the Revolutionary War. That history includes one of many Revolutionary War veterans in our 18th century family line, but his story is America’s story, not just that of our family.

Among our hardheaded Appalachian ancestors was an early Patriot militia colonel, George Gillespie (1730-1794). In 1772, he arrived in the wild and largely uninhabited area of what was then Western North Carolina, and over the next four years constructed Fort Gillespie at the mouth of Big Limestone River on the Nolichucky River. In October of 1780, during the Revolutionary War, he and his brother and sons, joined others to form a gauntlet against British tyranny at the Battle of Kings Mountain on the North and South Carolina border.

Early in 1780, the British shifted their war strategy to the south in an effort to retain the Carolina and Virginia colonies — the breadbasket for the other colonies. General Lord Charles Cornwallis sent British regulars to invade South and North Carolina, and his officers were instructed to force pledges of Tory support from settlers.

In early September of 1780, Cornwallis’s campaign henchman, the infamously brutal Scotsman, Major Patrick Ferguson, sent word to Appalachian settlers along the border of western North Carolina that he would “lay waste to their country with fire and sword” if they did not pledge their loyalty to the British. He grossly underestimated the courage and resolve of these fiercely independent mountain folks.

After receiving Ferguson’s “fire and sword” message, Patriot militia leaders Isaac Shelby and John Sevier met and determined they would not wait on Ferguson and his legions to arrive and execute his threat. On September 25th, more than 600 volunteers, the “Overmountain Men,” mustered at Sycamore Shoals near present-day Elizabethton, Tennessee — Col. Gillespie a leader among them. They set out east across the mountains intent on taking the battle to the the British. As they marched toward Ferguson’s position, they were joined by 360 additional mountain militiamen.

On October 1st, Ferguson was in North Carolina’s Broad River area, where he issued another warning to local militia that they best join him or they would be “pissed upon by a set of mongrels.”

On October 6th, Patriot militia determined that Ferguson and his 1,100 men of the 71st Foot, were just east of them, making camp at Kings Pinnacle. To catch up with Ferguson, the Patriot militia put 900 men on horseback. By sunrise on October 7th, they were just 15 miles from Kings Mountain. By mid-afternoon, they confronted Ferguson’s Loyalists. As the Patriots began their attack, British Captain Abraham de Peyster exclaimed to Ferguson, “These things are ominous — these are the damned yelling boys!”

The Loyalist forces suffered heavy casualties in the first hour of battle. Soon thereafter the invincible Ferguson, noted for wearing a brightly colored red shirt, which made him a distinct target on horseback even at some distance, was wounded as he rode along his lines. Falling from his mount, his foot lodged in the stirrup, and he was dragged by his horse into the militia lines, where he received seven additional musket rounds.

In 65 minutes, the battle was over. The British suffered 244 dead, 163 wounded and 668 taken prisoner, while the Patriot militia suffered 29 dead and 58 wounded.

The Redcoats’ defeat at Kings Mountain was, arguably, a significant turning point in the Revolutionary War. Our ancestor, Col. Gillespie, went on to fight with Gen. Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox), providing his own mount and arms. He then served under George Washington at Yorktown, until Cornwallis and his British army surrendered in October of 1781.

Sidebar: Col. Gillespie’s great grandson, Gen. George Lewis Gillespie of Kingsport, Tennessee, graduated second in his 1862 Class at West Point and received the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Cold Harbor during the War Between the States. He later redesigned the modern Medal of Honor (its current form), which was first awarded for actions around Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1862. As was the case with several of our kinfolk in East Tennessee, brothers fought brothers over divided loyalties. Gen. Gillespie’s brother, John, fought with the 43rd Tennessee Infantry in 1863. His wife provides our family lineage to Sam Houston, Governor of Tennessee before leading battles in Texas where he would become the first president of the Texas Republic in 1841 and then governor of the State of Texas in 1859.

From the Revolutionary War forward, our family line has been represented in the American ranks of every major conflict – including in the last century the veterans who most influenced my life – my grandfather serving as an early experimental Naval aviator in World War I and as noted above, my father who served as a Naval Aviator in World War II. Their legacy extends to our son, a Marine Infantry officer.

But, these Patriots represent much more than our family line — their legacy is just a small part of our shared national heritage and belongs to all Patriot defenders of Liberty today! They are the founding spirit for The Patriot Post, extending the endowment of American Liberty to the next generation from our editorial offices in the foothills of the Great State of Tennessee.

This Veterans Day, join us as we honor generations of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen who have carried forward the banner of Liberty since the first shots at Lexington and Concord.

Of such Patriots, Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, “My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world’s noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. … Duty, honor, country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”

It is worth remembering the words of Army Veteran Charles M. Province: “It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

There are, and have always been, pathetic souls who know nothing of our history or the spirit of American Patriotism. These include today’s wealthy celebrity “NFL Kneelers,” protesting our national flag, and, by extension, all who have sacrificed under it, so that these self-absorbed celebs may demonstrate their abject ignorance.

That notwithstanding, it is with eternal thanks that we honor all those generations of military Patriots, more than 41 million veterans, who have served our nation.

On this Veterans Day, and every day of the year, may God bless our men and women in uniform — Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen who have stood and continue to stand in harm’s way. For their steadfast devotion to duty, honor and country, we, the American people, offer them and their families our humble gratitude and heartfelt thanks.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” —John 15:12-14

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Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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