John Stokes (North Carolina)

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John Stokes (March 20, 1756 – October 12, 1790) was a North Carolina attorney, politician, and judge.

Stokes served in the North Carolina State Senate from 1786 to 1787 and in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1789, also serving at that time as a member of the North Carolina convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

John Stokes was born March 20, 1756 in Lunenburg County, Virginia. John Stokes was a well-educated man and later became an attorney with a private practice in Salisbury, North Carolina. He joined the Revolutionary Army and rose quickly through the ranks. Commissioned an ensign in the 6th Virginia Regiment on February 16, 1776, promoted to Second Lieutenant in July 1776, to First Lieutenant December 1776, and to Captain; February 20, 1778. He engaged in several battles and was based near Williamsburg. He went to South Carolina to help defend Charleston under command of Colonel Buford in 1780. Before arriving there they were attacked by a superior force under British General Tarlton at Waxhaw and suffered a disastrous defeat. Captain Stokes was severely wounded and taken captive.

Of John Stokes experience in the Waxhaw’s massacre of May 29, 1780, it has been written: "Early in the sanguinary conflict he was attacked by a dragoon, who aimed deadly blows at his head, all of which, by the dexterous use of his small sword, he easily parried; when another dragoon attacked from the right, and by one stroke cut off his right hand. They both then attacked him, and instinctively attempting to defend his head with his left arm, that was hacked in eight or ten places from the wrist to the shoulder and a finger cut off. His head was laid open almost the whole length of the crown to the eyebrows. A soldier passing asked if he expected quarter. Stokes answered, "I have not, nor do I mean to ask it; finish me as soon as possible; whereupon the soldier transfixed him twice with his bayonet." Astonishingly, John Stokes survived. He was a prisoner until May 1, 1783.

President George Washington appointed him on August 2, 1790 to be the first judge of the United States District of Western North Carolina, a new seat created by 1 Stat. 126. The following day, Stokes was confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission. He served until his death, less than three months after his appointment.

Stokes County, North Carolina is named for him.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Newly created seat
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Carolina
August 3, 1790 – October 12, 1790
Succeeded by
John Sitgreaves