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A Minuteman in the American Revolution

Written & copyrighted by Janet Morrison, 2006

        Did you know that there were Minutemen in Harrisburg during the Revolutionary War?  Did you know that the Federal government enacted legislation in 1832 that made pensions available to soldiers who fought in the Revolution?

        One man who served as a Minuteman and lived long enough to apply for his pension from the Revolution was William Morrison, who grew up about five miles south of Harrisburg.  He was born in 1765 to Scottish immigrant parents.

        Family and government documents fail to give a physical description of William, but it is thought that he was called "Big William" to distinguish him from the other William Morrisons in the neighborhood.

        Big William moved to Dallas County, Alabama in 1816.  In order to apply for his pension, he had to appear before a judge in Selma, Alabama in 1834.  He answered a series of questions about his place of birth and details of his military service. 

        Big William testified that he volunteered in his "fifteenth year."  That means he was fourteen years old.  People of that era often referred to their age in such terms.

        He gave the following testimony about his service that first year:  "… at the time that Cornwallace was at Charlotte, McLinburgh, No. Carolina, I volunteered, went on duty & joined a Major White at Fifers old place on the road from Charlotte to Salisbury.  We moved about collecting strength with a view of preventing the British from foraging & plundering & when we obtained more numbers, moved to Charlotte, continuing to patrol the country. 

        "During this tour I was some part of the time under the command of Capt. James Reese, sometimes under that of Col. Fifer & sometimes of Maj. Davidson.  We were no part of this time with any regular troops or officers.  I went on duty, this tour at the time Cornwallace came to Charlotte & remained out until he left Charlotte, when this was ascertained we broke up & went home.

        "After this I was under the command of a Capt. Wiley, of McLinburgh County, as a minute man, our object to endeavor to keep the tories in subjection.  Whenever there was a call, I went out on this duty."

        Big William testified that when he was fifteen years old, "News reached our part of the country that General [Nathanael] Green[e] wished reinforcements to attack the British in the Indian part of South Carolina…."  Before Big William's company could join Greene, "the battle of Eutaw had been fought, so we joined the army commanded by Genl. Greene at the High Hills of Santee."

        Big William stated that he was later sent as a guard to take prisoners from the High Hills of Santee in South Carolina to Rowan or Iredell County.  His Captain remained in South Carolina, and Big William came back to North Carolina under the command of "A Lieutenant Ross of McLinburgh."  Just as they arrived at their destination, Cornwallis surrendered at "Little York" and William returned home.

        Big William Morrison died in 1839.  He is buried at Valley Creek Presbyterian Church near Selma, Alabama.


"Big William" Morrison's December 18, 1834, sworn testimony of military service.  Photocopy of original handwritten record from the State Archives, Montgomery, AL.

Descendants of James & Jennet Morrison of Rocky River, by Alice Marie Morrison and Janet Sue Morrison, 1996.