Benjamin Cleveland

Benjamin Cleveland (May 28, 1738 – October 1806) was an American pioneer and officer in the North Carolina milita. He is best remembered for his service as a colonel in the Wilkes County Regiment of the North Carolina militia during the War of Independence, and in particular for his role in the American victory at the Battle of Kings Mountain .

Benjamin Cleveland
Benjamin Cleveland rides astride Ferguson's mount in War Prize, by Don Troiani, 2012
BornMay 28, 1738 (1738-05-28)
Orange County, Virginia
DiedOctober 15, 1806(1806-10-15) (aged 68)
Oconee County, South Carolina
Place of burial
Benjamin Cleveland Cemetery, Madison, Oconee County, South Carolina
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchNorth Carolina militia
Years of service1775-1782
UnitSurry County Regiment, Wilkes County Regiment, 2nd Battalion of Volunteers
Commands heldWilkes County Regiment, North Carolina militia
Battles/warsBattle of King's Mountain
Spouse(s)Mary Graves

Personal life and careerEdit

Benjamin Cleveland was born in Orange County, Virginia, the fourth child of John and Elizabeth [nee Coffee] Cleveland, and was of English descent.[1] He moved to the area which would become Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1769. There, Cleveland built his estate, "Roundabout," near what is today Ronda, North Carolina. He was noted in the early history of Wilkes County, and is known to have worked as a hunter, trapper, farmer, carpenter, and surveyor.[citation needed] By the time of the American Revolution, Cleveland was the wealthiest and most prominent citizen in the county.[2] A large, heavy set man – around six feet tall and weighing over 300 lbs in his prime – he was called "Old Roundabout.[3]

Cleveland married Mary Graves, a sister of Susannah Graves, the wife of Revolutionary War patriot and frontiersman, General Joseph Martin (for whom Martinsville, Virginia, is named.)[4]

Cleveland was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1778[5] and to the North Carolina Senate in 1779 and 1780.[6][7][8][9]

Revolutionary WarEdit

Military service record:[2]

  • Lieutenant in the Surry County Regiment of militia (1775-1776)
  • Captain in the Surry County Regiment of militia (1776-1777)
  • Captain in the 2nd Battalion of Volunteers (1776-1777)
  • Colonel over the Wilkes County Regiment of militia (1777-1782)

Cleveland was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1775 and as a Colonel in 1777 in the North Carolina militia.[2] Until Lord Cornwallis invaded in 1780, the fighting in North Carolina consisted of guerrilla warfare between patriots ("Whigs") and "Tories". Cleveland became known as the "Terror of the Tories" for his treatment of Loyalists.[10] In 1779, two Tories looted the home of George Wilfong, a patriot and friend of Cleveland. The Tories used Wilfong's clothes line to chase away his horses. The marauders were captured by Cleveland's men, who had them hanged using the clothes line they had stolen. In revenge, a group of Tories led by Captain William Riddle kidnapped Cleveland. Cleveland's men rescued him and captured Riddle and two others. All three were hanged from the same tree, which became known as the "Tory Oak," and was for years an historic landmark behind the old Wilkes County courthouse (now the Wilkes Historical Museum).[citation needed]

Kings MountainEdit

Historical marker about Cleveland on the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway in Cleveland, Tennessee.

In 1780, General Lord Cornwallis led a British army into the Carolinas, and won several victories over the patriots. Major Patrick Ferguson, one of Cornwallis's commanders, led an army of Tories into the North Carolina mountains to crush the rebels there. A large force of mountain men attacked Ferguson at Kings Pinnacle, an isolated ridge on the North Carolina-South Carolina border.[citation needed]

Cleveland played a key role in the ensuing Battle of Kings Mountain. According to legend, Cleveland climbed up Rendezvous Mountain and blew his horn to summon some 200 Wilkes County militiamen.[11] He led them into battle. Cleveland's horse was shot from under him, and Major Ferguson was himself killed in the battle. Cleveland's brother, Robert, is said to have rallied the militiamen during the heat of the battle, contributing to the patriot victory.[citation needed] Cleveland claimed Ferguson's white stallion as a "war prize", and rode it home to his estate of Roundabout.

Later yearsEdit

After the war, Cleveland moved to the South Carolina frontier and was a commissioner in the Pendleton District.[12]

He died at his home in Oconee County, South Carolina in 1806 of heart dropsy. An obelisk monument to him stands on private property just north of U.S. Route 123 about 160 yds (145 m) east of the Madison Baptist Church in the Madison Community of Oconee County. He was buried about 1 mi (1.6 km) away in a private cemetery.


Cleveland County, North Carolina and Cleveland, Tennessee are named in his honor.

A historical marker dedicated to Cleveland reads: "Colonel in Revolution, Whig leader in battle of Kings Mountain, state legislator. Home was on 'The Round About,' one mile southwest."[13]

First historically accurate depiction and statueEdit

In 2012, artist Don Troiani completed the first historically accurate depiction of Benjamin Cleveland, titled "Benjamin Cleveland's War Prize."[14] Troiani teamed with experts from across the nation to ensure accuracy. The project was funded by local businessman and philanthropist Allan Jones. The painting features a victorious Cleveland leading his troops back home to Wilkes County on Ferguson's white stallion.[14]

The research that contributed to the Don Troiani painting was used to create a 500 pound bronze statue of Colonel Benjamin Cleveland. On April 19, 2013, the statue of Cleveland, sculpted by local Cleveland, Tennessee artist, Joshua Coleman, was erected in Patriots Park in Cleveland. The statue was funded by the Colonel Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Tennessee Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.[15]

See alsoEdit

Robert Cleveland Log House


  1. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore; The Winning of the West — Volume 2; P. 261; retrieved September 2015
  2. ^ a b c Lewis, J.D. "Benjamin Cleveland". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  3. ^ "NCPedia, Colonel Benjamin Cleveland". Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  4. ^ General Joseph Martin; Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail website;
  5. ^ "Documenting the American South: Colonial and State Records of North Carolina". Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  6. ^ Connor, R.D.D. (1913). A Manual of North Carolina (PDF). Raleigh: North Carolina Historical Commission. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  7. ^ "The Legislative Manual and Political Register of the State of North Carolina". 1874. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  8. ^ Lewis, J.D. "North Carolina State House 1780". The American Revolution in North Carolina. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  9. ^ Lewis, J.D. "North Carolina State Senators 1780". The American Revolution in North Carolina. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  10. ^ "Deeds of Glory: A Biography of Colonel Benjamin Cleveland". Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  11. ^ Peter J. Barr (2008). "Rendezvous Mountain". Hiking North Carolina's Lookout Towers. John F. Blair, Publisher. pp. 225–232. ISBN 978-0-89587-433-7.
  12. ^ "History | Town of Pendleton". Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  13. ^ Marker; Historical Roadside Marker #M-30; NC 268 at Chatham Street in Ronda; North Carolina; photo included; accessed September 2015
  14. ^ a b Sedlander, Alex (May 28, 2012). "Benjamin Cleveland Painting Project Headed by Historian". Cleveland Daily Banner. Cleveland, Tennessee. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013.
  15. ^ Leach, Paul (April 20, 2013). "Cleveland unveils statue of namesake". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Chattanooga, Tennessee. Retrieved 2019-02-04.

External linksEdit