Sunday, February 15, 2015

John Threadgill

For my first Patriot on this site, I have decided to highlight my own Patriot Ancestor in the DAR, John Threadgill (or as the DAR spells it "John Threldkeld"). The following is an excerpt from the Veterans' Day speech I gave at my husband's school this past November. I've added some relative clippings from his and his wife's pension applications. He is, of course, an already "proven" Patriot, so any woman who can prove that she descends from this man can be admitted into the Daughters of the American Revolution. After the speech excerpt, I will provide some further information on his immediate descendants.
"John Threadgill was the fourth child of John and Anabel Threlkeld.  He was born on the 17th of November 1750 in North Carolina.  He and his brothers and sisters were the first in their family to be born on American soil.  His grandfather, Deodatus, who had French roots, traveled from England to the colony of Virginia, by way of Bermuda, just as the Virginia Company and several others had in those days.  John’s father, who was also named John, was born while Deodatus was in Bermuda. 
Now, Bermuda was a great asset to the colonies during the Revolution, providing ships, salt, and gunpowder.  Some say they were so supportive of the American cause that, were they not so far from the mainland, they would have become the 14th colony to join the fight.  So, maybe John was persuaded to fight for the Revolution because of his Bermudian influence, or maybe, since he came from a line of goldsmiths and watch makers, he felt compelled to defend his home which mostly depended on merchants and traders, or maybe there was another reason, but John enlisted in the Continental Army in September of 1775.  He served in the 2nd Virginia Regiment under Colonel William Woodford, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Scott, and Captain Richard Meade.
Excerpt from Mary Cob Threadgill's widow's
pension application describing John Threadgill's service.
Excerpt from John Threadgill's pension application
where he recounts his service in the American Revolution.
Before we get to the battle in which John fought, a little backstory.  Up until this point, Virginia had been pretty quiet.  Most of the action prior to this had taken place in the northern colonies, like Massachusetts.  But in Virginia, there was a road, called the Great Road, which came up from North Carolina and served as the primary route for transporting tar, pitch, and turpentine to the Chesapeake Bay where the British kept and repaired their ships.  This area was also important in the transport of food and livestock to northern colonies and to England as well. 

The port town of Norfolk was where the British fleet often took anchor gathering supplies and forces.  Colonel Woodford saw the importance of this region to the Loyalists.  The American Navy was still a new endeavor, but the British Navy was strong, making this port town impossible to attack from sea.  Great Bridge, a nearby town, was the only landward passage into Norfolk and, therefore, was Lord Dunmore and the British Army’s Achilles’ heel.  For this very reason, Colonel Woodford decided to attack. 
But Lord Dunmore wouldn’t go down without a fight!  Hearing of the rebel forces moving in on Great Bridge, Dunmore moved his troops to meet them.  Dunmore’s first encounter with the patriots happened about 10 miles outside the town where the Princess Anne militia was waiting.  The British, with double the men in their army compared to the militia, easily defeated them causing them to retreat into the swamps.  After that small victory, no doubt Lord Dunmore knew there was no way these rebels could take his town! 
These small skirmishes went on for 11 days.  During this time, both sides were recruiting forces.  The British even had a unit consisting of runaway slaves on their side thanks to martial law which was passed just a month prior.  The British were able to gather the strength of about 670 men.  And a “deserter,” a slave from the Marshall household, a well-known Patriot family (who helped organize the Culpeper Minutemen and who gave us our first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), told the Loyalist troops that Woodford only had 300 “shirtmen” gathered at the village of Great Bridge.  But the Patriots had in fact recruited around 900
On the morning of December 9, 1775, the British troops marched out from their fort and began crossing the bridge to attack the Patriots’ breastwork, which was positioned on the southside of the causeway.  The Patriots were hiding in the trenches nearby on the island and opened fire on the British soldiers.  Unlike in previous battles where the soldiers would shoot early and miss their targets, these rebels waited until their targets were about 50 feet away before shooting and then retreating further into the wood to the breastwork where more forces were waiting.  The battle itself only lasted about 30 minutes, but the result was incredible. 
Which side do you think won? 
The Rebels! 
The rebel victory at Great Bridge proved to be key in the goal of American Independence.  It was, obviously, great for patriotic moral.  With 102 British men killed or wounded and only one rebel wounded (in the thumb!) in the battle, the win was decisive.  Any doubts that a win was possible were quickly put to rest.  It also persuaded some citizens who were undecided in betraying the crown to join the cause.  It also prompted the Fourth Virginia Convention and the first open public debate on Independence.  It enabled rebel forces to advance to Norfolk, which was later burned, and forced Lord Dunmore and the Loyalists to ultimately abandon Virginia, which was a valuable resource for supplies, leaving all of the area’s goods for the patriots.  (This, in itself, became key to the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781.)  And lastly, it elevated Colonel Woodford, commander of the 2nd Virginia Regiment, so much that it influenced Patrick Henry, commander of the 1st Virginia Regiment and already famous for his speech where he said “Give me Liberty or Give me Death!” to leave the military and become the first Governor of Virginia. 
Thanks to my ancestor, John Threadgill, and others like him that fought in the Revolution, I’m an American, and I’m very grateful for that.  I’m grateful to all the veterans who came after him too and everyone who has helped defend this great country and who has fought for our freedoms."
John Threadgill's signature as found following
his personal statement in his pension application.
The following photo is a clipping from John's pension application. It references a family "prayer book" and provides a list of John and Mary Threadgill's 13 children.

As of this writing, Daughters have successfully joined the DAR under the following children of John and Mary:
  • Elizabeth
  • George
  • Howell
  • Lucy
  • Randall (spelled "Randle" in the pension application)
  • William
This means, each of the following children would be considered a "new child" for this Patriot (which is a great accomplishment in the organization):
  • Ann
  • Jane
  • John
  • Martha
  • Mary
  • Sarah
  • Thomas
Keep in mind that some of these lines may not contain living descendants. But so far I have not followed out these remaining lines to see how they develop. That's a post for another day.



  1. I'm happy to report that in March 2016, I was admitted into DAR as a descendant of Thomas Threadgill - one of the "new" children of John Threadgill that you mention in your post. Thanks for writing a wonderful post about John Threadgill and keeping the history alive. If what I learned about the history of one line of this family is any indication, it's an amazing family.

  2. Congratulations on your membership AND on opening up a new line under John through Thomas! It's always fun to meet new cousins.