Benjamin Cleveland

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Benjamin Cleveland
Born May 28, 1738 (1738-05-28)
Orange County, Virginia
Died October 1806 (1806-11) (aged 68)
Oconee County, South Carolina
Occupation Colonial militia and surveyor
Spouse(s) Mary Graves
Parent(s) John and Elizabeth Cleveland
Colonel Cleveland's War Prize – October 7, 1780 (oil painting by Don Troiani, 2012)

Benjamin Cleveland (May 28, 1738 – October 1806) was an American pioneer and soldier in North Carolina. He is best remembered for his service as a colonel in 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 .

Personal life and career[edit]

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.[citation needed] A large, heavy set man – around six feet tall and weighing over 300 lbs in his prime – he was called "Old Roundabout."[citation needed]

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.)[2]

Cleveland was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1778 and to the North Carolina Senate in 1779.[citation needed]

Revolutionary War[edit]

At the beginning of the American Revolution, Cleveland was commissioned a colonel in the North Carolina militia.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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 Mountain[edit]

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.[3][4] He led them in the 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.[citation needed]

Later years[edit]

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

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."[5]

First historically accurate depiction[edit]

In 2012, artist Don Troiani completed the first historically accurate depiction of Benjamin Cleveland, titled "Benjamin Cleveland’s War Prize." (See above.) Troiani teamed with experts from across the nation to ensure accuracy.[6] The painting features a victorious Cleveland leading his troops back home to Wilkes County on Ferguson’s white stallion.[7]

The research that contributed to the Don Troiani painting was used to create a statue of Colonel Benjamin Cleveland. On April 19, 2013, the statue of Cleveland, sculpted by local Cleveland artist, Joshua Coleman, was erected in 1st Street Park, in Cleveland TN.[8]

See also[edit]

Robert Cleveland Log House


  1. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore; The Winning of the West — Volume 2; P. 261; retrieved September 2015
  2. ^ General Joseph Martin; Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail website;
  3. ^ Fay Byrd; Wilkes Community College. Division of Learning Resources (19 October 2010). Wilkes County Bits and Pieces. Wilkesboro, NC: pp. 306–310. ISBN 978-0-557-49244-2. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Marker; Historical Roadside Marker #M-30; NC 268 at Chatham Street in Ronda; North Carolina; photo included; accessed September 2015
  6. ^ Note: The project was funded by Tennessee businessman and philanthropist Allan Jones
  7. ^ Alex Sedlander, "Benjamin Cleveland Painting Project Headed by Historian", Cleveland Daily Banner, May 28, 2012[dead link][dead link]
  8. ^ Note: The statue was funded by the Colonel Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Tennessee Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

External links[edit]

  • USGenWeb Cleveland Cemetery and Benjamin Cleveland's will
  • Benjamin Cleveland SAR Chapter Photo of the Cleveland Statue in Wilkes County, North Carolina
  • [1] Photo of Colonel Benjamin Cleveland Statue at 1st Street Park in Cleveland, TN