Skirmish, Maj. Joseph Dickson vs. Lt. Guyon, between 8-13 Oct 1780
35.213584 -80.876345 Polk's Mill, 2 mi. from CH on Irwin's Creek
Maps: [map notes]
- John Robertson:
- Tarleton states that the Polk's Mill was "two miles from town". If one assumes that "town" is Trade & Tryon, the location selected is slightly over 2 miles. Per JHW, this location appears to be one of two Polk's mills shown on the Price-Strother map of 1808.
- It is well-established that Joseph Dickson(Dixon) was at Kings Mountain and that Kings Mountain occurred on 7 Oct 1780. There is apparently something amiss with Davidson's letter to Sumner (below) or with Clark's transcription of the letter. John Allison commented that Davidson's date was wrong by a week for the letter he wrote ref Wahab's Plantation (21 Sep 1780).
- The writings of Joseph Graham (an area militia captain but not a participant) give the date of the action as 28 September. Sherman's 27 September 1780 entry based on Wm. R. Davie's writing appears consistent with this date. A secondary collection of 23rd Regt. records gives the date as "September 1780" (Callaham).
- Note the listing of related actions in the RevWar75 listing below. The British moved into Charlotte on 26 Sep 1780 and there was a flurry of actions in the vicinity through 13 Oct 1780. Either of the dates (28 Sep, 9 Oct) is plausible.
- It is remarkable that Dickson was able to get that many horsemen that close to a major British camp on high alert, involving significant firing and capture of prisoners. The Americans are described as circling Charlotte Town. It is possible that half of the 120 men described as being involved were creating distractions on all sides of Charlotte, while the 60 (described by Graham) attacked the Mill.
- Joseph Graham, resident of Mecklenburg and captain of Mecklenburg militia, was left for dead after the battle of Charlotte. In Dec 1780, he became a captain under Joseph Dickson. Graham states that Joseph Dickson led the attack on Polk's Mill with 60 men. While he appears to have confused the date of the action, it would be incredible for him not to have known who led the attack.
- A cursory search of Will Graves' Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements will produce a number of returns showing Joseph Dickson involved in actions of the Polk's Mill sort in the vicinity of Charlotte Town. I found none indicating similar activity on the part of Henry (Hal) Dixon.
- No contemporary source has yet been found for the 9 October 1780 date for the action. John Allison has noted that Newton's pension application says that:
1. He was absent from the Kings Mountain battle because he had been carrying an express and that he had to swim 14 streams on his return.
2. He was wounded in the thigh at Polk's Mill.
If accepted as true, this would be evidence that Polk's mill occurred after 7 Oct (KM) and not later than 13 Oct (British evacuation of Charlotte).
- Hunter (below), writing in 1877, said the mill was later known as Bissell's. Graham (below), writing in 1904, said the mill was "now Wilson's".
- It is noted that others may well draw different conclusions from these same sources.
- James H. Williams:
Are you aware of the battle of Polk's Mill? It is mentioned in Stedman. I have also attached a transcription of the footnote that mentions it and talks about provisioning the army in this area. I have looked for the mill, but have not found any trace. I believe it was located on Sugar Creek, near where the road to the Cherokee Nations crossed it – current day South Tryon Street, or York Road, Route 49. All of my information came from John Allison, whom you may know.
The primary mention of Polk's Mill in Steadman is in Vol II, page 223 where he says "At Polk's Mill, near Charlotte, a small detachment of the twenty-third regiment was posted, commanded by lieutenant Guyon, a very young man. The Americans made an attack upon the mill, with a very superior force, but were repulsed. Lieutenant Guyon's conduct was highly applauded."
This battle is also mentioned in The Historical Record of the Twenty Third Regiment of Foot which quotes Stedman verbatim, and in the pension application of Benjamin Newton, 10 Sept 1832.
Attached is an article on the Battle of Polk’s Mill which will be published in the Olde Mecklenburg Genealogical Society quarterly magazine in March.
In sum, it reviews the situation in Charlotte during the British occupation of September/October 1780 and then tells what little we know about the battle. We have three British accounts, 3 American pension applications, and one letter from Gen. William Lee Davidson to go on.
Look at the lasts two pages of the article. The Davidson letter seems to indicate the date as October 7th and that the captives came from "a certain Mr. Elliott's." ...
As to the location of Polk’s Mill, the Price-Strother map of 1808 shows two mills labeled Polk. Both are on Sugar Creek and the northernmost one tallies somewhat with your Irwin’s Creek reference. The name Irwin’s was applied to the upper part of Sugar Creek at some later time.
Col Thomas Polk’s house stood near the center of town and was occupied by Lord Cornwallis. It was said to be the only painted house in Charlotte at the time.
Col. Polk was one of the original commissioners for Meckelnburg County, Representative to the Colonial Assembly, Commissioner for the founding of Charlotte, a JP, surveyor, Col. of the county Militia, Col. of the 4th NC Regiment, Continental Line, Commissary for the western region for Gen. Gates, etc., etc., etc. He owned lot of land all over the county with a number of plantations and at least three mills. He called the meeting that resulted in the document of May 20, 1775, of which you may know, and read the document from the courthouse steps.
As to original documentation, unfortunately at the time of the revolution the nearest printing press in the state was at New Bern. And the early records of the county have never come to light.
The Polks are a fascinating family. Thomas brother, Ezekiel, moved to Tryon County, NC which became the New Acquisition of SC, and was the grandfather of Pres. James K Polk. My wife, Ann, and I perform a first person interpretation of Thomas and Suzanna Sprat Polk upon occasion. We have learned a lot about the family, but have much more to learn.
As far as Polk’s Mill goes, it seems to me that the "Dixon" commanding the 120 mounted troops was Henry, not Joseph. Joseph Dixon was at Kings Mountain. Henry was not at King’s Mountain and seems to have been in Mecklenburg. This does not prove the date of the battle, but it does not deny the Davidson letter saying that it happened "yesterday" on October 7.
- John Allison
It may be helpful to know that Davidson was one week off on his date in a ltr he wrote describing the action at Walkup's. Perhaps he had some problem with the correct date for Polk's.
[JR note: "Walkup's" is also known as Wauchope's, Wahab's Plantation, and as "Battle of the Waxhaws".]
... PS [pension statement] of Newton [below] states that he carried an express to Gen
Rutherford at time of Bat of K Mtn, and he states that he missed the
action at K Mtn due to this, and further states that he "swam fourteen
watercourses" returning to his men. So, it's obvious that Newton did not
fight/wasn't wounded at Polk's on 7 Oct 1780.
My opinion: It's likely he and his outfit drifted into Meck Co (near
their home) after Bat of Kings Mtn, perhaps putting him at Polk's on 9
or 10 Oct, 1780. Just a thought.
- Jay Callaham
The only date that I've seen in my own research was from working on the 23rd Reg't of Foot, the Royal Welch Fusiliers many years ago. According to their Regimental Records of the Royal Welch Fusiliers by Cary and McCance* ... - been a long time and I no longer have those books), the only date shown was "September, 1780."
I couldn't find a detailed footnote on where that was obtained. That series of books is secondary sources. The problem is that even working from primary documents, unless the date is specifically given, all you have to go on is the date of the document - which may be much later, or from memory that is off by days or even weeks.
* Arthur Deering Lucius Cary, Stouppe McCance, Charles Humble Dudley Ward,
Regimental Records of the Royal Welch Fusiliers (late the 23rd Foot), 1921.
published for the Royal
Institution by Forster
- Banastre Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America,, 1787, p.160-161
The foraging parties were every day harassed by the inhabitants, who did not remain at home, to
receive payment for the produce of their plantations, but generally fired from covert places, to
annoy the British detachments. Ineffectual attempts were made upon convoys coming from
Camden, and the intermediate post at Blair's mill; but individuals with expresses were frequently
murdered. An attack was directed against the picket at Polk's mill, two miles from the town: The
Americans were gallantly received by Lieutenant Guyon, of the 23d regiment; and the fire of his
party from a loop-holed building adjoining the mill, repulsed the assailants. Notwithstanding the
different checks and losses sustained by the militia of the district, they [p161] continued their
hostilities with unwearied perseverance; and the British troops were so effectually blockaded in
their present position, that very few, out of a great number of messengers, could reach Charlotte
town in the beginning of October, to give intelligence of Ferguson's situation.
- Stedman, Charles, The History Of The Origins, Progress And Termination Of The American War, Vol.II., 1794, p.223-224
At Polk's Mill, near Charlotte, a small detachment of the
twenty-third regiment was posted, commanded by lieutenant Guyon,
a very young man. The Americans made an attack upon the mill,
with a very superior force, but were repulsed. Lieutenant Guyon's
conduct was highly applauded.
- Major Bowland Broughton Mainwaring, Historical Record Of The Royal Welch Fusiliers, 1889, p.97-98
As the army depended entirely for subsistence on
the country through which it marched, several mills in the
neighbourhood of Charlotte were occupied by detachments
in order to be preserved for the purpose of grinding corn
for the troops. At one of these (Polk's Mill) a small
detachment was posted, commanded by Lieutenant Guyon,
of the regiment, a very young man. The Americans made
an attack upon the mill with a very superior force, but
were repulsed. Lieutenant Guyon's conduct was highly
* Stedman's History of the American War, Vol.II, p.233.
- Walter Clark, The State Records of North Carolina, Vol 14, pg 784. Discovered by Ellen Poteet, a fine historian, author, and editor of the Olde Mecklenburg Historical Society Quarterly. (JHW)
Gen. W. L. Davidson to Gen. Jethro Sumner
October 8th, 1780
I have the pleasure to enclose to you a large packet taken yesterday at McAlpines Creek, on the way to Camden, by a small party of my brigade. A detachment of 120 horse under Rutledge and Dixon almost surrounded Charlotte yesterday, attacked a picket at Col. Polk’s mill, and at a certain Mr. Elliott’s brought off a sentry and 8 tories, who are now on their way to join you. A small party of riflemen brought off 50 horses from the tories at Col. Polk’s plantation last night. Dixon lost one man and killed one.
- Edward McCrady, The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 1775-1780, 1901, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., p.746-747
An attack was directed against a
picket at Polk's Mill, two miles from the town,1 and
a foraging party in large force at a mill seven miles from
Charlotte was attacked, a British captain was killed with
others and several wounded, the Americans making good
their retreat without loss. The detachment returned to
town disappointed of the forage, and reported to Lord
Cornwallis that "every bush on the road concealed a
1 Tarleton's Campaigns, 160.
2 Wheeler's Hist. of No. Ca., 263.
- William Alexander Graham, General Joseph Graham and His Papers on North Carolina Revolutionary History, 1904, Edwards & Broughton, p.258
2. Engagement At Charlotte And The Cross Roads
Events Preceding And Following.
A guard of fifty men were stationed at
Polk's Mill (now Wilson's), in two miles of Charlotte,
which was kept grinding night and day for the army.
On the 28th of September, Major Dickson set out from
Colonel Davie with sixty men, made a circuit around
Charlotte, and in the evening charged on this post. The
garrison was vigilant, threw itself into a log house on
the hill above the mill, and had loop-holes in the daubing
and chinks to fire through. Major Dickson was repulsed,
with the loss of one man killed and several horses
wounded. Before the enemy got into the house, two
were wounded, but after that they were secure, and the
assailants, much exposed, withdrew.
[JR note: These documents are presented as being writings of Joseph Graham.]
- Samuel A'Court Ashe, History of North Carolina, 1908.
C.L. Van Noppen. p. 631
At Charlotte there were but a few houses, but it was a
desirable location for an army because of the numerous
mills in the immediate vicinity, at which corn and wheat
could be ground for the use of the troops. At Polk's Mill,
two miles distant from Charlotte, Cornwallis stationed a
detachment of fifty men, and on September 28th Major
Dickson with sixty cavalrymen made the entire circuit
around Charlotte and attacked that post. He was repulsed,
but the assault added to the disagreeable position of the
*Graham's Graham, 258, 260
James Jones, Pension application of James Jones S31170, fn28NC Transcribed by Will Graves
In the summer & fall of the year 1780, I served a tour of three months in Mecklenburg County
under the command of Thomas Cowan Captain, Lieutenant Samuel Knox and John Morrison Ensign,
our Company were horsemen, the Colonels then present with the Army were Colonel Craig and
Colonel Barringer, and General Morgan who commanded the regulars was our Commander as well as
now recollected during this tour we were scouting on several occasions, and we made an attack on the
British at Polke's mill [sic, Polk's mill] under the command of Captains Hart & Dixon. The British
Army then occupied Mecklenburg Court house but before our discharge they retreated from
Mecklenburg & marched back into South Carolina.
Benjamin Newton, Pension app of Benjamin Newton W21837, 10 Sep 1832 Transcribed by Will Graves (also,
I was in a small engagement with the British at Polks Mills when
the enemy lay in Charlotte. I was under Captain John Clark and was wounded in the
thigh by a British ball at said Mills.
Captain Maddox and Major Chronicle both were killed at the
battle of King's Mountain - where I should have been but was sent as an express to
Coddle Creek Mecklenburg to see General Rutherford on my return I swam 14
watercourses, the last being the Catawba river.
Note: See John Allison comment, above. Since Newton was wounded at Polk's Mill, he could only have swum 14 streams (at time of KM battle) if Polk's Mill occurred after Kings Mountain.
- Joseph Patten. Pension application of Joseph Patten S3632 Transcribed by Will Graves
...the British remained in Charlotte some time and we stationed at
Rocky river about 24 miles off we were engaged for some time in watching round where
the enemy was stationed and in keeping them from plundering and at one time we took
about forty of the British that were out foraging with their wagons and teams. He was in
a skirmish at Col. Polk's Mill the British were guarding said mill we thought it was the
Tories until we fired a few times on them they wounded 7 [could be 17] of our horses and
killed one man of ours named Hugh Gray, we took one of their guards and retreated and
then returned to head quarters at Rocky river and went on to Sallis Bury [sic, Salisbury]
and was their verbally discharged for a three months tour and returned home...
- James Neill, Pension application of James Neill S38256 Transcribed by Will Graves
But a few days after his return, he again marched under the command of his Lieutenant Byers to
Mecklenburg County near Charlotte and joined the Regiment commanded by Colonel Davy [sic,
William Richardson Davie] – Joseph Dickson was the Major – the British Army occupied Charlotte –
Colonel Davie kept his Regiment on duty in watching and attacking the foraging parties of the British –
this declarant aided in defeating for such parties – one of those times was at David McCreey's* [?] farm
where under the command of Major Dickson they defeated the foraging party and took, burned and
destroyed nine of their wagons loaded principally with corn in the [illegible word] – they were kept on
duty by Colonel Davie in harassing parties of the British Army in their advance upon the Country after
the Battle of Camden
[* McIntyre's Farm?]
- Alexander McLaen, Pension application of Alexander McLaen (McLane, McLain, McLean) S17575 Transcribed by Will Graves
... was in the engagement at King's Mountain;
continued with his company until the defeat of Ferguson taking his men prisoners, at which place
Captain Maddox and Major Chronicle were both slain; that after that Major Joseph Dickson [Dixon]
was appointed by the a party to command said companies, and Samuel Martin appointed Captain of his
(affiant's) Company, and were employed to range the Country arresting Tories &c; remained under
Major Dixon until Tarleton [Banastre Tarleton] came after General Morgan and met with him at the
place called the Cowpens and there had an engagement, and took all his foot men &c.
- Sherman's Calendar....
Lieut. Stephen Guyon, 23rd Regiment
Guyon, with a small detachment of the 23rd, repulsed a much larger rebel force at Polk's mill near Charlotte on
October 9th, 1780. He survived the Guilford Court House campaign only to be killed at Yorktown.
27 September . Sumner and Davidson continued their retreat away from Cornwallis moving north beyond the
Yadkin. The day after the action at Charlotte, Davie withdrew to Salisbury, where he was reinforced by Col.
John Taylor's regiment from Granville which raised the strength of his corps to 300 mounted infantry and a few
dragoons. He then returned to the outskirts of Charlotte. There his men acted in detachments in an effort to
catch or confine within Charlotte enemy foraging parties, while taking pains to avoid a general engagement.
They were assisted in this by their close and thorough knowledge of the countryside, and the frequent support of
the inhabitants. In the weeks following "no party of the enemy ventured out without being attacked, and often
retired with considerable loss." As well, communications were cut with Camden, and dispatch riders captured.872
872 DRS [(Davie) Revolutionary War Sketches of
William R. Davie (Blackwell P. Robinson,
editor)] p. 26.
9 October  (or possibly Early October or Late September.) [skirmish] Polk’s Mill (Mecklenburg County, N.C.) As part of his effort to keep his army supplied,
Cornwallis occupied a number of local mills and farms around Charlotte, including Polk's Mill. On 9 October Maj.
Joseph Dickson, a veteran of King's Mountain, and 120 mounted militia with rifles surprised the British there.
Dickson captured a British sentinel and 8 loyalist militia men, while Lieut Stephen Guyon and about 20-30
soldiers of the 23rd Regt. barricaded themselves in a loop-holed stockade.948 There, out numbered four or six to
one, they successfully fought off Dickson. Dickson lost1 killed and 1 wounded. Later in the evening, 50 whig
militiamen came to Polk's plantation and made off with 50 horses.949
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Tarleton: "The foraging parties were every day harassed by the inhabitants, who did not remain at home, to
receive payment for the produce of their plantations, but generally fired from covert places, to annoy the
British detachments. Ineffectual attempts were made upon convoys coming from Camden, and the intermediate
post at Blair's mill; but individuals with expresses were frequently murdered. An attack was directed against the
picket at Polk's mill, two miles from the town: The Americans were gallantly received by Lieutenant Guyon, of
the 23d regiment; and the fire of his party from a loop-holed building adjoining the mill, repulsed the assailants.
Notwithstanding the different checks and losses sustained by the militia of the district, they continued their
hostilities with unwearied perseverance; and the British troops were so effectually blockaded in their present
position, that very few, out of a great number of messengers, could reach Charlotte town in the beginning of
October, to give intelligence of Ferguson's situation." 950
948 It was not unusual for farms situated near or on the frontier to contain a stockade or other small fort to protect against
possible Indian attacks. Some would remain standing years after any real threat had passed.
949 TCS [(Tarleton) Campaigns of 1780 and 1781
in the Southern Provinces] p. 160-161, MST [(MacKenzie) Strictures on Lieut.
Col.Tarleton's History] pp. 54-55*, HRS [(Hanger) Reply to MacKenzie's Strictures] pp. 68-69**.
950 TCS pp. 160-161.
* [Note: use Control-F and search for p54]
** [Note: use Control-F and search for p68]
- "American War of Independence
1780 Oct. 9 Polk's Mill
- C. L. Hunter, Sketches of Western North Carolina, Historical and Biographical, 1877. Use Control-F and search for 2 instances of Polk's Mill.
And, again, Tarleton informs us, "The foraging parties were every day
harassed by the inhabitants, who did not remain at home to receive
payment for the product of their plantations, but generally fired from
covert places to annoy the British detachments. Ineffectual attempts
were made upon convoys coming from Camden, and the intermediate post
at Blair's Mill, but individuals with expresses were frequently
murdered. An attack was directed against the picket at Polk's Mill,
two miles from the town. The Americans were gallantly received by
Lieutenant Guyon, of the 23rd Regiment; and the fire of his party,
from a loop-holed building adjoining the mill, repulsed the
assailants. Notwithstanding the different checks and losses sustained
by the militia of the district, they continued their hostilities with
unwearied perseverance; and the British troops were so effectually
blockaded in their present position, that very few, out of a great
many messengers, could reach Charlotte in the beginning of October, to
give intelligence of Ferguson's situation."
Note: Mention is made that Polk's Mill was later known as Bissell's.
- NBBAS:Two. P.343-344.
- listing. 5/20/1775 Charlotte Town NC. Draw (Meck. Dec?). Per O'Kelley.
- listing. 9/21/1780 Wahab's Plantation (Waxhaws). Per Heitman, Peckham, O'Kelley
- listing. 9/26/1780 Charlotte (Charlotte Town). British victory. Per Heitman, Peckham, O'Kelley.
- listing. 10/3/1780 near Charlotte NC. American victory. Per Peckham.
- listing. 10/3/1780 McIntyre Farm (The Battle of the Bees). Per O'Kelley.
- listing. 10/7/1780 King's Mountain. American victory. Per Peckham, O'Kelley, Braisted
- listing. 10/7/1780 Charlotte NC. Draw. Per Peckham.
- listing. 10/9/1780 Polk's Mill. Shown as insufficient data. Per O'Kelley.
- listing. 10/12/1780 Sugar Creek SC. Insufficient data. Per Braisted.
- listing. 10/13/1780 Charlotte Town NC. Draw. Per O'Kelley.
- listing. 10/13/1780 10/14/1780 Shallow Ford NC. American victory. Per Peckham, O'Kelley, Braisted
- listing. 10/13/1780 10/14/1780 Antioch SC. Insufficient data. Per O'Kelley.
Davidson St., Charlotte Town;
Charlotte Town NC;
Confidence level: See above.