Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gen. Greene at Steele's Tavern

From Makers of America: Biographies of Leading Men of Thought and Action, Volume II, by Leonard Wilson, pub. 1916, B.F. Johnson, pp. 256-257:

    William Steele was a Commissioner of the Borough of Salisbury [North Carolina]. He died November 1, 1773, thirty-nine years of age, leaving only one son, the John Steele whose record has already been given. John Steele was commonly called "General," because he held the office of General of Militia. Elizabeth Maxwell is the heroine of one of the most interesting of all true stories in American history. The story is given as it is told in reliable and fully authenticated records."On a wild and wintry night, February 1, 1781, a lonely horseman sits his weary steed seven miles below Torrence's Tavern. He waits for news of the day's campaign. It is a crucial hour; only by bringing out the militia can he oppose Cornwallis. The preceding day he had sent Morgan towards the Yadkin. The messenger arrives with news that brings despair; General Davidson had been killed, the militia scattered, Cornwallis had crossed the Catawba, Huger is hotly pressed by the British and Greene begins his weary ride to Salisbury. After Morgan learns of the crossing of Cornwallis at Cowan's Ford, he begins his retreat, February 1, toward the Yadkin along Beattie's Ford, or Sherrill's Ford Road to Salisbury. They marched through the town and encamped about one-half a mile east of the town on the Yadkin road in a grove, where is now located the home of Honorable John Steele Henderson. A surgeon of the army, Dr. Joseph Read, with hospital stores and a number of wounded, reached Salisbury. Dr. Read establishes himself at Steele's Tavern; Greene arrives. Dr. Read said:
    "It was impossible not to perceive in the deranged state of his dress and the stiffness of his limbs some symptoms of his late rapid movements and exposure to the weather.
    "'How do you find yourself?' asks Dr. Read.
    "'Wretched beyond measure, fatigued, hungry, alone, penniless and without a friend' (for one time heroic Greene was discouraged).
    "Mrs. Steele heard the general's remark and replied:
    "'That I deny. Come in, rest, dry yourself, and in a short time a hot breakfast shall cheer and refresh you.'
    "A bountiful repast was soon spread. As he sits by the table with bowed head, she enters. Handing to him two bags of specie,
    gold and silver coins, her savings of years, she said:
    "'Take them, for you will need them and I can do without them.'
    "On the wall of the room hung pictures, colored engravings of King George III and Queen Charlotte, which had been given Mrs. Steele by her brother, Dr. James Maxwell. General Greene took a piece of charcoal and wrote under the picture of the king: 'Oh, George, hide thy face and mourn.'"
    This colored lithograph was donated to the State of North Carolina, and is still in a good state of preservation.