(c. 1721 – 10 August 1805) was an officer in the American Revolutionary War
, a political leader in North Carolina
, and an important figure in the early history of Tennessee
. Originally from Ireland
, Rutherford immigrated to Philadelphia
at the age of 18 with his parents, both of whom died during the voyage. After working on a relative's farm for a period of time, he moved to Rowan County, North Carolina
in 1753, where he married Elizabeth Graham. An active member of his community, Rutherford served in multiple municipal occupations such as the local sheriff and tax collector. He was also a representative of Rowan County at the North Carolina General Assembly in 1766.
Rutherford's first military experience was during the French and Indian War, when he served as a Captain of a local militia in 1760. He continued serving in the provincial militia until the start of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, when he was commissioned into the Continental Army as a Colonel. Following his appointment to Brigadier General of the "Salisbury District" by the Fourth Provincial Congress of April and May 1776, Rutherford accumulated a force of 2,400 men and participated in several conflicts with the Cherokee Indians in western North and South Carolina and Georgia. He then spent most of the war checking local Loyalist activities; in June 1780, his activities were partially responsible for the Loyalist defeat in the Battle of Ramsour's Mill. Rutherford was also involved in the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780, when he was wounded and taken prisoner by the British. He was later exchanged in 1781. He partook in further campaigns after his release, including a second attack on the Cherokee.
Following the war, Rutherford continued to serve as a senator in North Carolina's state senate, a duty which he had first undertaken in 1779, until 1786. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1783 and became an advocate of the Antifederalist movement. He moved to Sumner County, Tennessee in 1792 and was appointed President of the Legislative Council of Tennessee in 1794. He died in Sumner County on August 15, 1805 at the age of 84. Counties in North Carolina and Tennessee bear his name.