Richard Caswell

First State Governor


Black and white drawing or painting of Richard CaswellAfter his father’s farm and commercial interests north of Baltimore failed, Richard Caswell and his brother moved to New Bern. Caswell became a surveyor for the state, later a lawyer, and then attorney general. First elected to the Colonial Assembly in 1754, he commanded one wing of Royal Gov. William Tryon’s militia army that defeated the Regulators in 1771. However Caswell became increasingly rebellious himself, as the British Parliament passed more laws against colonial interests, and served in the N.C. Provincial Congresses and first two Continental Congresses. He hatched the plan that booted Royal Gov. Josiah Martin out of New Bern, and led the forces at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge that blocked Loyalists from helping Martin. Elected the first governor under the state’s new constitution, he served from 1776-9, spending much of his time providing and supplying troops. In 1780 he was made a major general in charge of the state militia and fought at the Battle of Camden (S.C.). After the war he served as state controller and again as governor under the revised constitution. Caswell died of a stroke at age 60 in 1789, while attending the state convention in today’s Fayetteville to ratify the U.S. Constitution. He was buried near his home in Kinston.

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