Griffith Rutherford
Revolutionary War Officer
Griffith Rutherford
Griffith Rutherford was an officer in the American Revolutionary War, a political leader in North Carolina, and an important figure in the early history of the Southwest Territory and the state of Tennessee. During the French and Indian War, Rutherford became a captain of a local British colonial militia. He continued serving in the militia until the start of the revolution in 1775, at which time he enlisted in the North Carolina militia as a colonel.
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Griffith Rutherford's personal information overview.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1805
    Age 84
    Rutherford retired to Sumner County, Tennessee, where he died on August 10, 1805, at the age of 84.
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    Rutherford died in Sumner County, Tennessee, on August 10, 1805.
    More Details Hide Details These areas are all namesakes of Griffith Rutherford:
  • 1794
    Age 73
    Rutherford was an advocate of the anti-federalist movement and was appointed President of the Legislative Council of the Southwest Territory in 1794.
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  • 1792
    Age 71
    With his family and eight slaves Rutherford relocated to this area, in what is today Sumner County, Tennessee, in September 1792.
    More Details Hide Details Two years later, he was appointed President of the Legislative Council of the Southwest Territory.
  • 1788
    Age 67
    At a Constitutional Convention held at Hillsborough, North Carolina in 1788, he had reservations about the Constitution—as did other anti-federalists at the meeting.
    More Details Hide Details Rutherford requested if he could challenge some of the clauses. While each clause was challenged individually despite opposition from federalist Samuel Johnston and others, Rutherford rarely contributed to discussion. His final decision to vote against the ratification of the Constitution resulted in him losing his seat in the state senate. However, his reputation with his colleagues was relatively unaffected, and he was subsequently elected Councilor of the State. Rutherford acquired nearly 13,000 acres of Washington District land through trading off his 700 acres in Salisbury, government grants and purchasing Continental soldier's tracts.
  • 1783
    Age 62
    Rutherford ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1783.
    More Details Hide Details He was an ardent anti-federalist during the national debate on the recently created United States Constitution.
  • 1782
    Age 61
    After Wilmington, Rutherford again fought the Chickamauga in the west in 1782.
    More Details Hide Details He followed the same route he had taken seven years before. No known accounts were written of the campaign, though it was reportedly successful.
  • 1781
    Age 60
    Rutherford returned to Salisbury in September 1781 after his release to find his home ransacked by British troops.
    More Details Hide Details After a short reunion with his family, Rutherford trained and took command of 1,400 men and allegedly began to brutally attack Tory militias and communities according to several reports sent to his superior, General Greene. Greene disagreed with Rutherford's tactics, warning Rutherford that these methods would only encourage the Loyalist cause. While these reports were later found to be false, Rutherford decided to redirect his forces towards the British encampment and surrounding militias at Wilmington, North Carolina, beginning with the Loyalist force at Raft Swamp. During October and November, Rutherford continued to force the Loyalists into Wilmington, and eventually surrounded the city, successfully cutting off British communications and supply lines. The commanding British officer, Major Craig, was soon afterward informed of Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, and his forces at Wilmington were hastily evacuated.
    He was detained for ten months at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, and was later exchanged for another prisoner in 1781.
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    After being exchanged in 1781, Rutherford participated in several other campaigns, including further attacks on the Chickamauga faction of the Cherokee.
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  • FIFTIES
  • 1779
    Age 58
    Rutherford was elected to North Carolina's senate during the War in 1779 and continued to serve in this position until 1789.
    More Details Hide Details He opposed the restoration of Loyalist lands, supporting and assisting in their confiscation while serving in the Council of State.
  • 1778
    Age 57
    British strategists viewed the Southern colonies, especially lightly populated Georgia, as the most vulnerable of all. Despite early victories won by the Patriots at Charleston and other settlements, the South became the focus of English attack starting in 1778.
    More Details Hide Details Governor Richard Caswell of North Carolina identified this threat and immediately ordered militia to regroup. Rutherford, who had been checking on Loyalists since his return to Salisbury in 1776, received word of this by October. Governor Caswell and Rutherford met in Kinston, North Carolina, on November 25 to discuss the specifics of Rutherford's assignment. Apparently a fleet of British ships were en route from New York, heavily endangering key coastal cities. Rutherford was able to amass a force which reached the border of South Carolina by early December. They proceeded to establish headquarters near Savannah in Purrysburg, South Carolina, the following month. With the cities of Savannah and Augusta taken by February, the campaign was severely weakened. Rutherford moved his troops near Augusta, where he supported General John Ashe during the Battle of Brier Creek on March 3. Soldiers' enlistments soon began expiring; by April 10 most of Rutherford's forces returned to North Carolina.
  • 1776
    Age 55
    Rutherford represented Rowan County at the Fourth Provincial Congress in Halifax from April 4 to May 14, 1776, during which he helped develop and write the North Carolina Constitution and was promoted to brigadier general of the Salisbury District.
    More Details Hide Details In the summer following the conference, he raised an army of 2,400 men to campaign against local Cherokee Indians, who had been attacking colonists on the western frontier since their alliance with the British. Rutherford's regiment rendezvoused at Fort McGahey with the Guilford and Surry regiments under Colonels James Martin and Martin Armstrong on July 23. From there, the three groups traveled through the Blue Ridge Mountains at the Swannanoa Gap, passed up the valley of Hominy Creek, and crossed the Pigeon River. They then passed through Richland Creek, near the present day town of Waynesville, North Carolina, and crossed the Tuckasegee River near an Indian settlement. They moved further onwards towards the Cowee Gap, where they had a small engagement with a band of Cherokee, in which one of Rutherford's men was wounded. After that conflict, they marched to the Overhill Cherokee "Middle Towns" (on the Tennessee River), where he met General Andrew Williamson of South Carolina on September 14. Williamson was on a similar mission and readily joined forces with the original three regiments.
  • 1775
    Age 54
    Rutherford entered the war in 1775 as a colonel in the North Carolina militia following his appointment to the Rowan County Committee of Safety.
    More Details Hide Details Throughout that year, his regiment helped to disarm and disperse Loyalist groups in the South Carolina back country, most notably during the Snow Campaign in Ninety Six, South Carolina.
  • FORTIES
  • 1769
    Age 48
    Between 1769 and 1771, he embraced the cause against the rebels during the Regulator Movement, commanding a local militia which participated in the Battle of Alamance (May 16, 1771).
    More Details Hide Details The following month, Rutherford retired to Salem to recover from an acute attack of gout.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1760
    Age 39
    Rutherford began his extensive military career in 1760 during the French and Indian War.
    More Details Hide Details He was a participant in several battles and skirmishes, most notably the Battle of Fort Duquesne (1758); the battle at Fort Dobbs (1760); and James Grant's campaign against the Cherokee in the southern Appalachians (1761). By the war's end, he had achieved the rank of captain.
  • 1753
    Age 32
    Around 1753, he moved to Rowan County, North Carolina Colony, and bought a tract of land about seven miles (11 km) from Salisbury; this was the first of several land purchases he made during the 1750s.
    More Details Hide Details The following year Rutherford married his neighbor's sister, Elizabeth Graham, who eventually bore him ten children. One of their sons, James Rutherford, later became a major during the Revolutionary War, dying at the Battle of Eutaw Springs. Rutherford also became friends with Daniel Boone during this time, with whom he often went on hunting and surveying expeditions. After the French and Indian War, Rutherford became increasingly active in community affairs. He was listed as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1766, a sheriff and justice of the peace of Rowan County from 1767 to 1769, and a tax collector.
    Originally from Ireland, Rutherford immigrated with his parents to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Colony, at the age of eighteen. In 1753 he moved to Rowan County, in the Province of North Carolina, where he married Elizabeth Graham.
    More Details Hide Details An active member of his community, Rutherford served in multiple civil occupations. He was a representative of both houses of the North Carolina House of Commons, as well as an unsuccessful candidate for governor.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1721
    Age 0
    Little is known about Griffith Rutherford's early life. Born in Ireland in either 1721 or 1731 to John Rutherford, who was of Ulster Scots descent, and Elizabeth (née Griffin), who was of Welsh descent, he appears clearly in records after his immigration to Philadelphia at the age of eighteen.
    More Details Hide Details His parents died during the voyage from Ireland, and for a while he worked on a relative's farm, where he was taught how to survey land.
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