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Livingston County Biographies

Libbie Griffin has provided this biographical sketch of Gen. Edward Lacey of early Livingston County.

General Edward Lacey

Gen. Edward Lacey served the new American republic throughout the Revolutionary War in South Carolina, and it may be said that without his courageous effort, the Battle of King's Mountain would not have occurred.

Edward Lacey was born in Pennsylvania in 1742, oldest son of Edward Lacey Sr. At the age of 13, during the French and Indian War, Edward ran away from home to join Braddock's Expedition against the French in Canada. Found after two years and brought home by his father, Edward ran away again the following year, joining the exodus of Pennsylvanians to Carolina. He was taken in by William Adair, father of a future governor of Kentucky, who gave him an excellent education. Again Edward's father followed him, but this time Edward Sr. moved his family to South Carolina, settling in Chester County. Father and son made peace, but soon found themselves on opposite sides, politically, when the Revolutionary War began.

In 1779 the British made the submission of South Carolina a high priority. In the Spring of 1780 Charleston fell under British control and the government of South Carolina fled in exile. There was strong support for the Patriot cause in the back country led by Gen. Thomas Sumter. Edward Lacey, captain of the Chester Co. militia, became one of Sumter's most trusted deputies.

In July 1780 a Philadelphia Tory, Capt. Christian Huck, began a campaign of terror -- murdering and burning his way across York County, South Carolina with a small force of about 100 Tories, including about 20 British dragoons. Captain Huck destroyed the local iron works then stopped to camp for the night. General Sumter was alerted to Huck's presence nearby and soon 500 local militiamen, including the Chester Co. contingent led by Capt. Lacey, surrounded Huck's position. At morning's first light the patriots opened fire. Capt. Huck, rushing from the house where he had been sleeping, jumped upon his horse and tried to get away, but was almost immediately shot in the neck and killed.

Although Edward Lacey Jr. was a committed patriot, his father was just as devoted to the King. Before leaving to fight Huck, Capt. Lacey had ordered his father held under guard to prevent him from warning the Tories. The old man escaped his guard but was recaptured. Capt. Lacey, taking no chances, then ordered his father tied to a bed.>BR>

Prior to the arrival of Gen. Nathanael Greene, the Patriot resistance in the Carolina back country had consisted primarily of locally-raised militia units often operating independently of one another. Gen. Sumter had been chosen by the South Carolina militia commanders to be their leader, but his leadership was contested by Col. James Williams, who had finagled an appointment as commander from John Rutledge, the patriot governor of South Carolina, then in exile in North Carolina. Farther west, "over the mountains," Evan Shelby and John Sevier raised and led patriot armies made up of their neighbors. In the autumn of 1780, concerned by the success of the British and in particular by the activities of Col. Patrick Ferguson in the Carolina back country, Shelby, Sevier and others raised troops from Kentucky, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia and set out to find and stop Ferguson. The mountain men marched toward the settlement of Ninety-Six, nearly missing Ferguson who had turned to the east. Thomas Sumter and his band of 400 men were camped in the area. Col. Williams, still trying to wrest control of the militia away from Sumter, surreptitiously met the Over the Mountain Men and purposely misled them about Ferguson's location. Col. William Hill and Col. Lacey uncovered Williams' deceit, and Lacey was sent that night to convince the Westerners to join the Carolina men in fighting Ferguson. A new book, "The Road to Guilford Courthouse", by John Buchanan* describes that night in detail:

"Taking a guide who knew the country, he [Lacey] set out at 8:00 that evening. Twice on the way, when they got temporarily lost, Edward Lacey thought the guide might betray him and pulled his pistol, cocked it, and threatened to kill the man; but the guide convinced Lacey of his innocence and after some eighteen to twenty miles on the trail they arrived at the campsite on Green River in the wee hours of Friday, 6 October. Now it was Colonel Lacey's turn to come under suspicion. He was blindfolded and led to the colonels. He introduced himself but they had no knowledge of him. As his guide had convinced him, Lacey finally convinced the colonels that James Williams had lied to them, Ferguson was to the east headed in the direction of Charlotte, and speed was of the essence before Ferguson could be reinforced by Cornwallis. The colonels were won over by Lacey. It was agreed that the combined forces would meet that evening at a place well known to all, the Cowpens, just over the South Carolina line. It was still dark when Edward Lacey swung back into the saddle to retrace his route to the South Carolinians' camp."

On that same Friday, October 6, Col. Patrick Ferguson chose King's Mountain as the place to dig in and make his stand against the patriots he knew were on his trail. On Saturday, the seventh, the "flying column" in the advance of the combined patriot army found him there. Surrounding the small mountain, they moved in on Ferguson's soldiers from all sides. Col. Lacey commanded one of several militia units taking part in the battle. Within hours the battle was over, the hated Ferguson dead.

Col. Lacey continued to lead troops under Gen. Sumter, fighting in several other battles in South Carolina. Following the war, Lacey was made Brigadier General by South Carolina and named a judge in the newly created Chester District. He was elected to the South Carolina legislature, serving until 1793. In 1797 he moved his family west, first locating in Montgomery Co. Tenn., then the farthest frontier, to the west of Nashville. He remained there for two years, then moved again to Livingston Co. Ky. where he served as a county judge. On March 20, 1813, he drowned while attempting to cross a flooded creek.

* Sources: Primarily, "The Road to Guilford Courthouse" by John Buchanan, 1997, John Wiley and Sons, New York. (This is an excellent new book about the Revolution in the Carolinas, and contains much historical information of interest to genealogists. Very readable and highly recommended.)

Secondary sources: A family narrative in the possession of the writer. Also, the Draper Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society.

This article was written by Libbie Griffin (LIBBIE@prodigy.com) and originally appeared in The Doss Connection, Vol. 3, No. 3 , the newsletter of the Doss Family Association.