Micajah Bullock Chapter NSDAR

Raleigh, NC

Micajah Bullock

Micajah Bullock was born October 20, 1745, in Hanover County, Virginia, and came to Granville County, North Carolina, when he was a young man to live on land inherited from his father, Edward Bullock, Jr.

It is evident that Micajah had a keen interest in land. His great, great granddaughter, the late Kathryn Bullock Royster, noted in her family history that he had gotten over 2,000 acres of land in grants from the state of North Carolina as well as acquiring other parcels. In 1776 he was taxed on over 4,000 acres of land.

As a prominent landowner, he was expected to participate in local government, and he held various posts such as the county entry taker, sheriff and county surveyor. He is also listed as a bondsmen for two sheriffs as well as other individuals. Bondsmen posted money or bonds as security.

Micajah's interest in the colony's struggle for Independence from the British began early. He is listed as being in Captain James Yancey's Company in Col. Richard Henderson's regiment. From the Colonial Records of North Carolina, it is stated that Micajah wrote a letter to Colonel Folsone about the back payments of troops in 1776. In 1778 the Colonial Records state that Micajah Bullock took the oath of allegiance.

On February 26, 1776, he fought at Moore's Creek Bridge, the first Revolutionary War battle in North Carolina. It was a match-up between North Carolinians who were loyalists and those who were patriots. Josiah Martin, British Governor of North Carolina had called for loyalists to fight the insurgents and over 1,000 Scots responded to the call. A force of about 1500 loyalists were supposed to rendezvous near Wilmington and link with British troops under General Clinton. The Patriots, about 1,100 strong, reached Moore's Creek Bridge before the loyalists and removed some of the boards from the middle of the bridge. When the loyalists attacked the bridge, the Patriots were ready for them with blistering fire from their weapons. The attack was over quickly and most of the Scots were captured.  The British troops, which had landed in Brunswick County, withdrew to South Carolina after hearing about the battle at Moore's Creek.

It is not known what other battles Micajah was in before he fought at Guilford Courthouse. But the family records and accounts from the 1909 proceedings of the North Carolina Grand Lodge of Masons say  he brought back the flag that was flown in Revolutionary War battles in North and South Carolina. It is believed that Micajah got the flag at the Guilford battle.

After the war, Micajah continued his involvement with local county government and pursued various land development projects. For example in 1797, he filed a petition to build a grist mill on property that he owned.

The exact date of his death is not known but it is speculated that he died between March 30, 1827, and May 1828.
Source for biographical information:
A family history compiled by the late Kathryn Bullock Royster, great, great granddaughter of Micajah Bullock.
Source for the history of the Battle of Moore's Creek:
Donald Barr Chidsey, The War in the South ( Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1969)

 The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

The fierce battle at Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, played a pivotal role in ending the Revolutionary War in the Carolinas. Lord Charles Cornwallis claimed victory, but his army was severely depleted in the battle, and he retreated to Wilmington and then to Virginia, leaving the way open for American troops to retake British held positions in the South.

 The story of the Guilford Battle actually begins with a retreat. In the early winter of 1781, General Nathanael Greene leading the American army in the South had retreated across the Dan River to Virginia to rebuild his shattered forces.

As the American troops recovered from their wounds, militia units joined Greene and his army grew to over 4,000  men enough to challenge Cornwallis. Greene recrossed the Dan River. After a skirmish at Weitzel's Mill where both sides said the other had more casualties, Greene realized that many of his volunteers would not stay.  He kept his army moving to avoid conflict with Cornwallis until more militia could arrive. In early March he got his reinforcements and was ready at last for a battle.

Greene had three lines of attack. The front line was made up of North Carolina militia, many of them new recruits who had no bayonets. Green knew his front line would be weak but he hoped they would hold the field and fire at least two shots. His second line was composed of Virginia militia who had had battle experience. In the third line were the veteran troops.

 Cornwallis only had 2,000 soldiers, but they were experienced, disciplined men.

 It is well known that the first line of North Carolinians did not stay long in their positions. However sources note that North Carolina soldiers had fought valiantly at Brandywine, Germantown and Valley Forge, many dying on the field. Not enough veteran militia were left to bolster the morale of the new recruits.

An interesting account about the front North Carolina line can be found in the 1848 edition of William Grimshaw's "History of the United States from Their First Settlement as Colonies, to the Period of the Sixth Census in 1840."  Grimshaw writes, "After a brisk cannonade in front, the British advanced in three columns, and attacked the first line, composed of North Carolina militia. It gave way, before the enemy were within a hundred yards. This was owing to the misconduct of a colonel; who called out to an officer at some distance, that he would be surrounded. The militia were obliged to quit the field."

 For whatever reason the first line did disintegrate quickly, but the second line fought ferociously. But it was not enough to turn the tide of the battle. The experienced British soldiers continued their advance and finally General Greene was forced to call for a retreat. Although the battle was technically a victory for the British, Colonial forces inflicted such heavy casualties that Cornwallis was also forced to retreat.

After a long march with his wounded men to Wilmington, Cornwallis decided to leave North Carolina and concentrate his forces in Virginia. He surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19, 1781.

Sources:
Hugh F. Rankin, Greene and Cornwallis: The Campaign in the Carolinas, (North Carolina Bicentennial Pamphlet Series: North Carolina in the American Revolution, 1976)

Donald Barr Chidsey, The War in the South, (Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1971)

William Grimshaw, History of the United States From Their First Settlement as Colonies to The Period of the Sixth Census, in 1840, (Grigg, Elliot and Co., Philadelphia, 1848)

F.E. Schermerhorn, American and French Flags of the Revolution 1775-1783, (Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution, Philadelphia, 1948)

John Buchanan, The Road to Guilford Courthouse, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1997)

 

The Guilford Flag
Photo of a flag thought to be the actual Guilford Flag

Photo of a flag thought to be the actual Guilford Flag Micajah Bullock's Flag flown at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse   A battle relic or merely an old flag?

 

According to the Bullock family history, Micajah Bullock brought home the flag that was flown at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. That flag is now stored in the North Carolina Museum of History.

However there is some controversy on whether the flag is an actual battle relic.

Al Hoilman, curator of Political and Socio-Economic History at the museum, has studied the reports on the controversy and believes the flag could have been flown at the battle. "It (story of the flag) smacks of truth to me," he says.

The documented part of the story starts in 1854 when Micajah's son Major Edward Bullock, 81, carried the flag in the dedication of the Mt. Energy Masonic Lodge and then gave the flag to the lodge, which carefully preserved it.  In 1909, the flag found a new home at the North Carolina Grand Lodge of Masons. In the Lodge Proceedings for 1909, it says, "This flag is presented by...the two eldest male descendants of Micajah Bullock, who brought it home from the battlefields of North and South Carolina about the close of the war of the Revolution...This flag was brought home by our ancestor, and the family tradition says was carefully preserved in his home until the dedication of the lodge at Mt. Energy in April, 1854."

The Grand Lodge gave the flag to the North Carolina Historical Commission in 1914. Hoilman says the flag is considered one of the earliest artifacts in the museum that was founded in 1903.

The flag's connection to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse is mentioned in a family history compiled by the late Kathryn Bullock Royster, the great, great granddaughter of Micajah Bullock. She states that Micajah Bullock was in the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge as well as in Guilford battle. He brought the flag back from that battle, she says.

The main controversy seems to center around the fragment of the flag that is missing. Most of the flag is still intact with 12 stripes, six red and six blue. The 13th stripe is partially missing. There are also fragments on the staff side of the flag that suggest that there were 14, perhaps 16 stripes at one time. There is also an indication that the missing stripes were deliberately removed.

In 1970 Grace Rogers Cooper, Curator in the Division of Textiles at the Smithsonian, examined the flag. In a letter, dated February 20, 1970,  to the Archives and History Department, she wrote that the presence of 14 and perhaps more stripes indicated that the flag did not exist at the time of the Revolutionary War.

Another unique aspect about the flag is the field of stars, says Hoilman. "Eight-pointed stars are unusual in any flag," he says, "and the field of stars is asymmetrical. In most flags the field is symmetrical."

He noted that it has even been suggested that originally there were 15 stars and two were cut off, making the field appear asymmetrical. If this were the case he said, it would appear that the flag was made during the early 1790s when Vermont and Kentucky became states and Congress adopted the 15-star, 15-striped flag in 1794.

Hoilman doesn't like this theory. "There is no hard evidence of 15 stars," he said. "I don't buy that." He added that "sixteen stripes and 15 stars don't make sense."

But it does make sense to look at the time in which the flag was supposedly made. "The militia locally put together their own impressions of the flag," he said.  "It could have been a militia flag which would add credence to the unusual design... I can understand why a flag of this peculiar design existed. There were all kinds of different designs in the 1770s. By 1790 the familiar red, white and blue was well established."

Others have come to the same conclusion. In a July 1959 article in National Geographic Magazine ("New Stars for Old Glory,", pp. 86-121), author Lonnelle Aikman says, "...the land forces of that time usually bore their own state, regional and other devices...the designs differed sharply. How sharply can be seen by flags displayed as battle relics of Bennington, Guilford Courthouse and Cowpens." On page 94 of the magazine there is a picture of the Guilford flag on display at the old NC Hall of History Museum.

Hoilman says that while he cannot definitively say the Guilford flag was flown in the Revolutionary War, he thinks that it was because of family and Masonic lodge accounts. He says he has no reason to believe the family story was fabricated. Also he noted that Micajah Bullock did serve in the Revolution. "I like to think it (the flag) is authentic," he says.

At the Guilford Courthouse National Military park, a handmade replica of the flag is on display. In a description of the flag, it is noted that the flag is believed to have been carried at the battle.

Healan Barrow has been a member of Micajah Bullock Chapter, NSDAR, since 1985. She is the author of two Maryland town histories "Sykesville Past and Present" (Greenberg Publishing Company, Inc. 1987) and with Kristine Stevens, "Olney: Echoes of the Past" ( Family Line Publications, 1993)

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