Johnson tracks down Revolutionary War roots

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — They say we all bleed red, but the veins of at least one Bladen County resident have a hint of blue coursing through them.

Since his mother’s passing, attorney Leslie Johnson has kept a box of his late mother’s items at his law office in Elizabethtown. Last year, he opened the box in search of one item and stumbled upon something he hadn’t expected — an affidavit for Joshua Tatum from March 18, 1833.

In 1832, Congress passed an act allowing veterans of the Revolutionary War who had served less than two years but more than six months to collect pensions. In 1833, Tatum submitted an affidavit to the court detailing his service in order to collect the $26.66 pension.

According to the affidavit, in the summer or fall of 1778, Tatum, who resided in Sampson County, was drafted into the military. The affidavit continues that “he was in the battle of Briar Creek (sic); that he embodied under Captain Willaims in Elizabeth Town, Bladen County and marched on toward Charleston in South Carolina to a place called Ten-mile or Seven Mile swamp (sic), where he remained a few days, thence on for Augusta where he crossed the Savannah, thence on for Briar Creek (sic) in pursuit of the enemy, aiming to make an attack upon them before they joined their other troops below, that at Briar Creek (sic) the Americans halted the enemy having burnt the bridge across that creek; that while he was posted there, believing the enemy were in advance below us (the Americans) they unexpectedly came upon us in the rear, an engagement ensued …”

Along with the affidavit was a genealogy chart tracing the lineage of Johnson’s father to Joshua Tatum.

“Not many people can say they have ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War,” said Johnson. “There may be others in Bladen County, but I don’t know about them.”

At the suggestion of a friend and through a process that he described as “tedious, but necessary,” Johnson applied for membership in Sons of the Revolution.

“When I went to law school at Wake Forest University, my roommate was Curtis P. Cheyney, who was from Philadelphia. He considered himself a blue blood, and he always reminded me his ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War anytime we would go have a drink together. When I found this information, I called him and told him he didn’t have (anything) on me,” Johnson said, laughing.

He added that Cheyney reminded him that the Patriots were considered to be traitors by the British and, had the Tories won, the Patriots would have been shot for treason.

Johnson said he plans to frame the Sons of the Revolution certificate and place it in his law office along with other photos and memorabilia from his family’s history.

“I’m pretty proud of it,” he added.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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