Frederick Hambright (1727-1817)

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Lt. Col. Frederick Hambright immigrated to the colonies in 1738 from the Grand Duchy of Bavaria, having been born at Mosbach on May 1, 1727 to Conrad Hambrecht and his wife. Contrary to how his family name is recorded in American history by historians, it was changed after his arrival to something that sounded very English from its German pronunciation. His family name was "Hambrecht", which would sound similar to "Hambright" when English colonists heard it and tried to pronounce it. His real name was Friedrich Hambrecht.

At the age of eleven, Frederick immigrated from Bavaria to the New World. Upon his family's arrival, they settled in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. His family may have been of the Moravian faith. Lancaster was a haven for those wishing to practice their own unique Protestant faiths that differed from the traditional Calvinistic-based faiths that were developed by German princes after the Thirty Years War of the previous century in the lands of central Europe. In the Hapsburg Austrian Empire, Catholicism was the only religion allowed by its rulers during the 18th century. While I am speculating about Hambright's religion, it is known that during his adult life that he wound up living with ethnic-German immigrants of that faith. Further, some of his children married into those families (the Shell and Aker or Eker families who went on to settle late 18th and early 19th century frontier lands such as Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri).

While the Hambrights settled in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, Frederick later moved further into the frontier. At the age of 18 he moved in Henrico Country Viriginia. There he met Sarah Hardin, sister of Col. Joseph Hardin and married her. She bore him 12 children, six of whom survived to adulthood. In 1760 Sarah and Frederick moved to North Carolina to live in Tryon County, North Carolina. The Hambrights settled near a frontier fort known as Fort Catawba on the Catawba River. During the 18th century, Spain still held Florida and other vast tracts of land (that were later known as the Louisiana Purchase) in North America. Spanish raiders and their Indian allies conducted against the British settlers who lived on the Catawba River. Hambright participated in militia units in defending against such raids.

In 1775 Hambright moved to Lincoln County in North Carolina, which was where he lived at the time of the Battle of King's Mountain. By that time he was an experienced frontiersman and we might say survivor of the frontier. Being 48 years of age in 1775, he would have been considered somewhat of an "old" man, as well as very experienced in life, given that many people didn't make it past the age of 35. No doubt some of the children of his first family were already grown and married.

The settlers of Lincoln County at the time of 1775 were either ethnic-Germans (many of whom were Moravians) or Scotch-Irish. All of these people were very resourceful and had spent a good deal of their lives surviving mother nature and the Indians and the frontier life in general. Lincoln County was the edge of the settled frontier in that time. The British goaded the local Cherokee Indians into attacking these frontier settlements after the revolution had begun. No doubt they plied them with trade items, as well as arms and munitions. The Cherokees (rightfully so) felt threatened by the steady encroachment of their lands by whites.

Perhaps one reason that Hambright elected to move further into the frontier in 1775, was that in August of 1775 he signed the Tryon Resolves. This pledge of support was treason to the crown. This document pledged support of the revolutionary actions that took place at the Battle of Lexington against the British by other rebels.

Initially Hambright served as a statesman and representative in the early days of the war, in the earliest continental congresses. When the hostilities of the revolution finally arrived in North Carolina in 1777, Hambright took up the cause of the rebels and given the rank of Lt. Colonel of militia. Those neighbors and relatives who volunteered to serve with him in his militia unit became known as the "the South Fork Boys". They engaged in attacking pro-British Tory forces and probably non-combatant loyalist sympathizers. It was not uncommon for people of either side to pay for their viewpoints with their lives and property. As a result Hambright attained the handle "terror of the Tories" and such was his reputation in the Carolinas prior to the Battle of King's Mountain.

The revolution was going rather poorly in the Carolinas and southern colonies prior to the Battle of King's Mountain. The future of the revolution throughout the colonies was in question. The significance of this time period was that there may have been only ten colonies as opposed to thirteen had the war been won and the British continued to hold onto this area militarily.

General Cornwallis had sucessfully invaded the south. The British controled the coastal areas and cities in that part of colonial America and was working their way inland. As a result Tories were emboldened to show support for the crown and on numerous occasions non-combatant rebel sympathizers were attacked by Tory militia units and killed.

A bain to all rebel Carolinians was the cavalry force of Lt. Col. Banastare Tarleton. In 1780 this young British officer was given command of a calvary unit that was transferred from New York City to Savannah to aid the forces of Cornwallis in the subjegation of the South. He became known as "Bloody Tarleton," "Bloody Ban" and the term "Tarleton's Quarter" was attached to him and his reputation after he directed his troops to act in a blood thirsty manner against rebel forces. He ordered his men to execute surrendering rebel military forces, rather than accept their surrender, giving them "no quarter" or choice to surrender. Further, elements of his calvary forces attacked civilians and suspected rebel settlements, slaughtering non-combatants of all ages and both sexes. Once his men burnt a church to the ground with its rebel parishners locked inside the church building on a Sunday morning! Such was the bloodshed during the Carolinas campaign and a strong motivator to the rebel troops who attacked and captured the surviving Tory forces at King's Mountain. No doubt Tarleton had much to do with Hambright's own tenacity in leading repeated attacks against the Tory forces at King's Mountain, after he himself was badly wounded.

In May of 1780, British Major Patrick Ferguson was detailed with the task of recruiting Tory troops to suplement the regular British army forces under Cornwallis. He was ordered to Tryon County, NC to raise loyalist troops that would protect the left flank of Cornwallis' regular army forces. A military camp was established at Gilbert Town, NC. to train and arm Tory troops.

Ferguson issued this ultimatum to the rebel forces in North Carolina announcing that they '''"desist from their opposition to the British Army, and take protection under his standard, (or) he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders and lay their country (to) waste with fire and sword." '''Isaac Shelby and John Sevier, both rebel militia leaders, issued a call to launch an attack against Ferguson's army. Meeting at Sycamor Shoals with two other units from North Carolina and Virginia, they were further joined by 1400 "over the mountain" men.

Discovering this numerically-superior force of rebels was facing him, Ferguson requested reinforcements from Lord Cornwallis to deal with the rebels. The message didn't reach Cornwallis in time and Ferguson was eventually trapped at King's Mountain with a force of 900 Tories.

Rebel leaders Shelby and Sevier ordered 900 hand-picked men to ride to King's Mountain with all haste, which included the South Fork Boys commanded by Hambright. By the morning of the 7th the rebels had surrounded Ferguson and his Tories, steadily and quickly driving them up the mountain, killing them along the way, as well as taking losses themselves.

Lt. Col. Hambright was given command his militia unit, since its commander Col. William Graham was sick and not fit for duty. During the battle several rebel leaders were killed and wounded, including Hambright, who was shot in the thigh. Although he lost a lot of blood, Hambright refused to leave the field of battle and continued to lead assaults against the Tory forces with "a boot full of blood" as one source put it. Those assaults were among the last assaults lead against Ferguson and Hambright and his men are credited with being instrumental in "breaking the camel's back."

After the battle one of Hambright's men who fought under him recorded "he knew he was wounded, but was not sick or faint from the loss of blood-he said he could still ride very well, and therefore deemed it his duty to fight on till the battle was over". (John Wayne couldn't have said it better in one of his movies)

Major Ferguson was killed late in the battle and the entire surviving Tory force (some 700) was taken prisoner. Many of the rebels were outraged by acts perpetrated by Col. Tarleton's cavalary in the months before the battle. Initially they offered the Tories "Talleton's Quarter," just as their own comrades had been given a few months before. A few of the Tories were hung within hours after the battle, after hasty mock trials were conducted, but the majority were freed.

In the end, the half dozen hangings of Tory prisoners were enough of a threat to other Tories throughout the colonies, that if they served in the King's militia and were captured, their rebel neighbors might well do the same thing to them and not grant them any quarter, as at King's Mountain. Such was the lesson.

What this did was to crush British recruiting efforts for the duration of the war. The Brits could no longer supplement their forces with locals. Further, it no doubt did a lot to quiet the voices of those loyal to the Crown.

On a more immediate basis, it caused the cancelation of the invasion of North Carolina by Cornwallis, who withdrew his army to the coast and allowed the rebellion to flourish in the interior lands of the South. Eventually Cornwallis' forces would be defeated at the Battle of Cowpens in 1781. The battle was a huge morale booster for the rebel armies under the command of Washington in the northern colonies.

A little more credit should be given to Frederick Hambright, the Bavarian immigrant, for his role in this pivotal battle in the history of our country. Although numerous rebels fought bravely and without regard for their lives in this battle, Hambright was in a position to exercise great influence on his men at a crucial time in this critical battle. Leading men uphill, with a bleeding flesh wound in his leg, was no small feat. For such an act of heroism under fire, later American servicemen and women would have been awarded at least a Silver Star and probably the Congressional Medal of Honor. Further, the wound could have easily been life-threatening in that time. Unfortunaely Frederikc Hambright was a lesser- known American patriot of the American revolution.

After the battle Hambright was taken to a nearby cabin and treated for his wound, as best they could in that time when "bleeding patients" was an acceptable medical practice! He did recover from the wound, but walked with a limp the rest of his life. Further, he resigned from further military service due to his wound. It is also thought by his family that he served as a parade marshall in one of George Washington's inaugeral parades.

Not long after the battle in July 1781, Sarah Hambright died. Frederick remarried a second time to Mary Dover. They had 8 children who lived to adulthood. Hambright remained living in the vicinity of King's Mountain until his death at age 90 on March 9, 1817. He was interned at Shiloh Presbyterian Church cemetery at Grover, NC.

Some of Hambright's own children would go on to be among the very first settlers in Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. Other descedants would be the first American settlers to settle in Missouri (Cape Girardeau) in 1801, where their only neighbors were the native Indians for many decades. Several of his grandchildren and great-children would also live to be as old as he did.

My wife and daughter are direct descendants of Lt. Col. Frederick Hambright, through two of his children (a son and daughter). According to family oral history it has been passed down that he walked with a limp and "spoke funny," which are family testaments to his bravery and service, as well as his ethnicity. May he rest in peace!

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