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Home North Carolina Camden County City of Camden Historical Markers Isaac Gregory

Isaac Gregory

US 158 and NC 34, Camden, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 20' 59.3952", -76° 9' 10.3248"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Member provincial congress, 1775; brigadier general of militia in Revolution; member N.C. conventions, 1788-1789. Home is 4 miles S.E."
     Isaac Gregory, Revolutionary War militia general, was born in 1737 in Pasquotank County, the son of William and Judith Morgan Gregory. Little is known of Gregory’s early life; however, he served as a county sheriff in the 1760s and early 1770s. In 1773 he was appointed a trustee to the building of St. Martin’s Anglican chapel on land owned by Thomas McKnight in Currituck County.

     In 1775, Gregory represented Pasquotank County in the last colonial assembly to meet under a royal governor in North Carolina. Although an early supporter of the Continental Congress and delegate to the provincial congresses of 1775-1776, Gregory withdrew, along with five other members, in defense of his friend Thomas McKnight, the Currituck County representative, when McKnight refused to sign the Continental Association.

     From 1775-1779, Gregory held a series of appointments in the region including member of the Safety Committee in Edenton and senior Pasquotank County militia colonel. In July 1777 the General Assembly appointed him to a committee to establish a courthouse and public buildings in the new county of Camden, where Gregory held large land holdings. That same year, Gregory’s brother, Dempsey, obtained a captaincy in the 10th N.C. Continentals, a post he held for only a few short months. On May 12, 1779, the General Assembly appointed Gregory a brigadier-general of the Edenton district militia.

     Although he had no combat experience, Gregory quickly gained the trust and respect of his superiors and fellow officers. On August 16, 1780, under the overall command of Richard Caswell, Gregory led his brigade in the battle of Camden, South Carolina. Facing a superior British army led by Charles Cornwallis, Gregory’s men held while other North Carolina militia regiments fled the field and joined Maryland and Delaware Continentals in a last-ditch bayonet charge that resulted in hand-to-hand combat with some of the very best British regiments. Gregory’s horse was killed and fell upon him, after which he was bayoneted twice while stuck underneath the horse’s body. Briefly captured, Gregory was paroled as British surgeons determined that he could not live.

     Gregory recovered from his wounds and returned to Pasquotank County. By November of that year he began forming a militia company of dragoons in the district to oppose a projected British invasion of the area from Suffolk, Virginia. In the spring of 1781 accusations arose that Gregory was secretly cooperating with the British after a letter was captured reputedly from him to the British commander in Suffolk offering to surrender his command. Patriot officials, horrified at the thought that one of the senior militia commanders in the region was a traitor, moved to court-martial Gregory. However, the letter had been written as a joke by a British officer under the command of Colonel John Graves Simcoe, and when word came of Gregory’s impending trial, the British sent word to Whig officials admitting that it was untrue. Although he escaped trial, questions about Gregory’s loyalties continued to haunt him for the remainder of the war.

     After the conflict, Gregory served in the General Assembly, and as a trustee of various academies and schools in northeastern North Carolina. He was appointed a delegate to the constitutional conventions of 1788 and 1789 as a Federalist, and served as a commissioner of navigation for Albemarle Sound, as well as a customs collector for Camden County. Gregory died of an unrecorded illness at his plantation, Fairfax, in April 1800, leaving a wife, Sarah Lamb Gregory, and six children.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 367—sketch by William S. Powell
Lawrence E. Babits and Joshua B. Howard, Fortitude and Forbearance: The North Carolina Continental Line in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783 (2004)
Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, XIII-XV, XIII-XIX, XXII-XXV (1896-1906)
J. G. Simcoe, A History of the Operations of a Partisan Corps Called the Queen’s Rangers (1844)
Isaac Gregory Historical Marker Location Map, Camden, North Carolina