Talk:Patrick County, Virginia

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Were Abram Penn and Henry County Militia at Battle of Guilford Courthouse?[edit]

I spoke recently with staff at the battlefield park on this subject and they presented a handout arguing against this ever having happened on two points. 1. Records indicate that Penn was involved in mustering men to send to Greene and there is no indication at all that he accompanied the Henry County militia, as it was known, when they marched to North Carolina. 2. A signficant portion of those troops did not make it to the battle before fighting ended. Records and correspondence include accounts of arriving in time to hear gunfire in the distance. The timing of the muster and the battle also suggest that it would have been very difficult for these troops to have arrived in time. Also, Penn shortly afterward replaced one company commander who attempted to disband his unit without proceeding to the front. According to the handout from the National Park Service, no one has found any convincing evidence to show that anyone from the Henry County Militia was actually present during the fighting at Guilford Courthouse.

So according to the National Park Service staff at the battlefield, the claim that Penn and the militia were in this battle is based on a misreading of the record. I'm putting this in the discussion for a while, but if it goes unrefuted, I'll change the main page eventually. I am by the way, a direct descendant of Abram Penn. Ftjrwrites (talk) 20:43, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

Interesting. But there are sources posted to refute what you're saying. I certainly have respect for the folks at the NPS at the battlefield, but I've visited there too and didn't see the handout you apparently did on the role (or lack thereof) of Penn's presence with Henry County troops at the battle. Is there something you can post from the handout? I'm not disputing whether you spoke to the NPS, but the way wikipedia works is you need to supply a source (as there are sources posted contradicting what you're saying.) I'm not a descendant of Penn, but I am a descendant of Col. George Waller, Major John Redd and other officers in the militia unit in question. MarmadukePercy (talk) 20:51, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
If the Henry County militia wasn't at Guilford Court House, you'll also need to inform the Virginia Department of Historic Resources[1], responsible for the state's system of highway markers, so they can change this sign: [2] MarmadukePercy (talk) 00:24, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
You'll also need to let the Virginia Department of Historic Resources know to change the plaque in Patrick County devoted to your ancestor: "During 1780-1781 he [Penn] organized the first Revolutionary troops from Henry and adjoining counties, and led his regiment to aid General Greene in the Battles of Guilford Court House and Eutaw Springs."[3] MarmadukePercy (talk) 05:05, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
This is exactly why I posted here rather than directly on the entry. Believe me, I would like to learn that he was there, which the family has certainly always believed as well. I was stunned when the NPS lady gave me the handout. I'll post directly from it shortly, but I don't have it with me at my present location. If anything is eventually posted to the entry itself, I would suggest simply some language saying Penn and the Henry County Militia's exact role at Guilford Courthouse have been disputed. I don't believe anyone is disputing that the militia was at Eutaw Springs and Yorktown, however they seem to be saying that Penn was an administrative officer whom Greene used to muster troops during this part of the war and probably did not personally see any action. Again, as far as I can tell, there's no conclusive evidence either way. On the sign being wrong, if it's like North Carolina, where I reside, the state takes the word of whoever is lobbying for the sign at the time and never attempts to have a historian verify the claims. OK, I'll post the material from the NPS shortly. Ftjrwrites (talk) 13:54, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
The handout from the NPS is Guilford Courthouse National Military Park Historical Publication 05-07 and is titled "The Henry County Militia and the Battle of Guilford Courthouse: Colonel Penn's Militiamen Arrive Too Late." If you look at what is currently footnote 5 on the main entry, someone has quoted directly from Penn's March 11, 1781 muster order and then used the footnote to argue that this was timely. The handout makes the opposite claim:
"Once called out, assembling the militia would have taken several days. However, presuming the militamen were already gathered and (Major John) Waller received the order the same day, he still had time to reach Greene's headquarters. While it is possible to cover the mean distancy of 60 or so miles from Henry County to Guilford Courthouse in two days by horseback (period militiamen often chose to ride their horses to battle), most of these militiamen were apparently infantry. Covering a hard-marching distance of 15-20 miles a day, an infantry unit could not have made the trip in less than three or four days. Those who record their service in their pension declarations say they arrived for the Guilford battle too late, either 'hearing the guns,' or arriving the day after the battle.' "
The handout earlier notes that only a few men on the the muster list filed pension applications and of those who did, none of those who did claims he was actually in the battle. On the other hand, the handout cites quotes from a number of Henry County militiamen on this idea of them arriving after the battle, though none of those quoted are among those named on Penn's muster list. However, one individual quoted who was not on the list, Lewis Franklin, was under Capt. Brice Martin who was on the muster list. According to the NPS handout, Franklin stated on his 1832 penion application that 30-40 of the men under Lyons deserted and the rest arrived too late and were told they weren't needed and should go home. The handout also notes that a Col. James Lyons was placed over another group of Henry County troops, called out in Dec. 1780, that was already in the field near Guilford Courthouse, and it was Lyons who retreated instead of approaching the battle. When Penn later issued another muster order in mid-March, the troops were placed under Major John Waller. It's this part of the detail that supports the idea that Penn was giving orders on behalf of Greene, but was not himself at the front, based on what I was told by the park official, but his personal location on the day of the battle is not discussed. This actually could mean Penn played a more important administrative and political role during this period of the war than has previously been assessed, especially since his cousin John Penn was a state War Commissioner in N.C. and had broad powers in support of Greene's forces.
Besides the evidence from the NPS, looking at the footnotes in support of this portion of the entry, they are all pretty much worthless. Geneaological books are notoriously poor sources for history and are themselves usually lacking in supporting documentation. State historical markers are similarly unreliable. The other footnote is mentioned above, and is a questionable interpretation of the muster list.

Ftjrwrites (talk) 17:49, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for the post. You mention several times a "Major John Waller." I assume you mean, Major George Waller? (At the time of the Battle of Guilford Court House, George Waller was a major. He was later promoted to colonel.) There was no Major John Waller of whom I'm aware in the militia. (There was a Major John Redd, however.) I'll address the rest of the points in a bit. MarmadukePercy (talk) 18:07, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
Incidentally, the Brice Martin you mention is discussed here.[4] He was the brother of General Joseph Martin, for whom Martinsville is named, and formed the first militia company from Henry County (next door to Patrick). According to this account (not a textbook): "Major Brice Major Martin’s Company of Henry County Militia received orders on March 11, 1781 to march to Guilford Court House, Hillsboro, North Carolina to assist General Green(e)." MarmadukePercy (talk) 19:06, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
As far as the footnotes go, the texts on Henry and Patrick County are not genealogical books, but local history books. Neither one is particularly good, but that's what you often find in local history texts. I just combed an old book on the Battle itself and didn't see anything on the Henry County militia. I would like to know what the sources are for the NPS piece. I had a friend who was at the battlefield park, and was underwhelmed by the explanations given by the park service people there on several points. (But the issue of the role of the Henry County militia wasn't discussed.) I know a couple of folks who might have some information and insight on this topic, but it may take me a bit to get ahold of them. MarmadukePercy (talk) 19:21, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

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