Joseph Winston

Served In Every Major N.C. Action

Biography

Photo of a Continental officer statue in black metal on a granite base, with thick trees behind
Joseph Winston Monument, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (Credit: MarmadukePercy, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps no one better represents the American Revolution in North Carolina than Joseph Winston. During a 1763 expedition against Native Americans as a Virginia teen, he was shot twice in an ambush. He carried one of those bullets in his body for life. In the early 1770s, he bought land at what now is Germanton, northeast of Winston-Salem, and became a farmer. He was elected in 1775 as a delegate to the provincial congresses, was a member of the county committee of safety, and later became the registrar of deeds. As a major and then lieutenant-colonel in the county militia, Winston served in every major Revolutionary campaign in N.C. He helped round up the defeated Loyalists (“Tories”) just after the 1776 Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge.[1] That summer he was in the campaign against the Cherokees, and helped negotiate the Treaty of Long Island with them in modern Tennessee. His force operated against Tories in the region under Col. Benjamin Cleveland, and at the Battle of Colson’s Mill under Col. William Davidson. Winston and his men joined the Overmountain Campaign, and played a key role in surrounding King’s Mountain (S.C.) for the victory there.[2] Winston’s unit was among the relatively few N.C. militia who fought well at the Battle of Guilford Court House. However, that same month he reportedly hung a boy (without killing him) to learn the location of a hideout now called the Tory’s Den, and two towns of the neutral Moravians reported trouble with his men. Starting during the war, Winston was elected multiple times to both houses of the state legislature, and to the state conventions to ratify the U.S. Constitution. He was elected to the U.S. Congress, and in the early 1800s became a trustee of the University of North Carolina. Awarded a ceremonial sword by the legislature in 1812 for his actions at King’s Mountain, he said: “‘I trust that the sword… will never be tarnished by cowardice, but be wielded in defence of my country’s rights and independence.’”[3] By 1790 Winston held 18 enslaved people working 1,300 acres, which he built up to 9,000 acres by his death at 68 in 1815.[4] The town of Winston, now part of Winston-Salem, was named for him. First buried at Germanton, his body was later moved to the Guilford battlefield, near the statue to him shown above.

More Information

  • Barefoot, Daniel, Touring North Carolina’s Revolutionary War Sites (Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, Publisher, 1998)
  • Draper, Lyman Copeland, King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It (Cincinnati: Peter G. Thomson, Publisher, 1881) <http://archive.org/details/cu31924032752846> [accessed 31 March 2020]
  • Hendricks, J. Edwin, ‘Winston, Joseph’, NCpedia, 1996 <https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/winston-joseph> [accessed 29 December 2020]
  • Jones, Randell, Before They Were Heroes at King’s Mountain, North Carolina/Tennessee Edition (Winston-Salem, NC: Daniel Boone Footsteps, 2011)

[1] Jones 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Draper 1881.

[4] Hendricks 1996.

Mug with a fortifications map saying, "Wilmington 1781"
Mug with a fortifications map saying, "Wilmington 1781"