Monday, May 21, 2012

Col. John Renta Baker

     John Renta Baker is, at this point, the most popular Baker that I have found in my Google searches.  I have met many Bakers.  Many, if not most, are very entertaining.  I believe that John Renta Baker would give the current family a run for their money.  There are many stories from many sources which I could choose to share with you, but they are all different and worth posting.  I will do a little here and there so as not to bore you but be certain that once you begin to read the stories, I seriously doubt that you will be bored.

     I don't believe in censorship so I will publish these stories just as written.

Added to on 5 January 2012 by


When the Revolutionary War broke out back east, it came to no big surprise to John Renta and his neighbors. After all, they had been fighting their own war with the Tory for quite sometime. The main impact of the war did not come to the valley until late September of 1780. A rider came in with some shocking news. He had been sent by Col. John Sevier, commander of the Watauga Station in Tennesse. Col. Sevier informed Col. Cleveland that he had just received word from Col. Patrick Ferguson, a British officer under the command of Gen. Cornwallis. The message came in the form of a warning. It stated that if he, (Col. Sevier) did not lay down his arms and stop this rebellion against the Crown, he would come, "hang their leaders and lay waste to their country with fire and sword." Riders had also been dispatched to Col. William Campbell in Virginia and  Col. Isaac Shelby 
 in Tennesse with the same message. All were advised, with the utmost urgency to gather as many men and as much supplies as possible. The Americans had made up their minds, they were not going to wait for the war to come to them, they were going to meet it head on. In less than a week Col. Cleveland had mustered about 350 men and started out to join the main force. When united with Campbell's and Shelby's men, the American Army amounted to a little over 900 men. The British office, Col. Ferguson, had about 100 regular soldiers under his command. He had also managed to recruit about 900 to 1000 Tory also. Col. Ferguson and his men had fortified themselves on top of a mountain. The battle was fought on October 7, 1780 and would become known as the Battle of Kings Mountain. The battle ended in defeat for the British. They lost 157 men that day, among them their leader, Col. Patrick Ferguson.

There was little time for rejoicing over their victory of the battle. A more pressing problem was now at hand. These men had been continuously on the move and marching for many weeks. They were hungry, cold, tired, and a long way from home. Their food and other provisions were almost depleted. If this were not bad enough, they now had 750 British and Tory prisoners to contend with.
Of these, 60 were wounded. They resorted to scavenging for food anyway or anywhere they could find it. It was late in the year and all the crops had been harvested. Occasionally, they would come across an abandoned garden, where they would sometimes find sweet potatoes and green pumpkins. These they fried and ate as if they were some sort of delicacy. As each day passed the situation became worse. A constant reminder of all their suffering was always close at hand. These were the British and Tory prisoners they had captured. The hate and resentment for them grew with each passing day and was about to reach a boiling point. Of course, Col. Cleveland had his usual solution to the problem. He simply just wanted to hang them all.
Col. Shelby and Campbell were not quite as blood thirsty, but did agree to hold trials, hoping to appease him and some of the others. So on the 7th day after the battle, a makeshift Court was set up in the middle of the woods. The trials began early and lasted all day. Needless to say, few of the prisoners were pronounced innocent, most were sentenced to hang. That night in a nearby forest, a very eerie seen took place. By the light of Pine-knot torches the prisoners were placed on horseback and hung, three at a time.

This process was repeated over and over, until the total of nine men had been hung. At this point a stop was called. What had began in a rage of hate and revenge, had ended in total silence. Nevertheless, it sent a very clear message to the remaining Tory prisoners of their situation. Within the next few days most of them had managed to escape. Of the 750 prisoners taken, only 130 were turned over to the authorities at Hillsborough, North Carolina.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was one of the most decisive battles of the Revolutionary War. But for the people in Wilkes County, North Carolina the war was a long way from being over. The personal war that Col. Cleveland and his little band had waged against the Tory, once again raised it's ugly head. A certain Tory leader by the name of Capt. William Riddle made a bold move. A party of six or eight men, lead by Capt. Riddle, sneaked into the valley and captured the biggest prize of all, Col. Ben Cleveland himself.

The Colonel was on a visit to his plantation up at "Old Fields". The creek that ran through his plantation still bares this name today. This was on Saturday, April 13, 1781. The Tory had been following Col. Cleveland and his whereabouts for quite sometime. They had finally located him at the house of Jesse Duncan, a tenant of the Colonel's plantation. Not known to the Tory, there were two men in the house at the time. Richard Callaway and John Shirley, who had come over to visit the Colonel and decided to spend the night. The Tory knew that the Colonel was not going to be taken without a fight, so they devised a plan. Under the cover of darkness, they came and stole the Colonel's horses, knowing he would think they had broken loose and would try to find them. Sure enough, the next morning the Colonel, after discovering his horses missing, set out to find them. His tenant, Duncan, came along accompanied by Richard Callaway and John Shirley. As the Tory had planned, they ran head on into their ambush. Col. Cleveland, was taken prisoner. Richard Callaway was shot through the thigh and left to die. Jesse Duncan and John Shirley had manage to escape.

The discovery of what had taken place was not made until later that morning. Joseph Callaway, who I guess became concerned in the whereabouts of his brother, set out to find him. After reaching Duncan's house, he discovered no one there and the horses gone. It was about this time Callaway heard a gun fire. He ran in the direction from where the sound came and there discovered Shirley and Duncan. After the story was related to Joseph Callaway, he mounted his horse and road off as fast as he could in the direction of his father's house, a short distance away. After telling his father, Thomas Callaway, the location of his wounded brother, he remounted his horse and set out again. This time to tell the Colonel's brother, Capt. Robert Cleveland, of the situation. There was no time to waste. Capt. Robert Cleveland lived some 12 miles away. By the time Callaway reached his home and the return trip, the trail would be long cold. In a short time the whole neighborhood was alerted.

William Callaway, another brother of Richard, John Renta Baker and Samuel McQueen set out on the trail in pursuit of the Tory. After tracking most that day, shortly before dusk they discovered the Tory camp. Not wanting to alert the Tory of their presents, our little rescue party retreated back down the trail and bed down for the night. Just before sunrise the next morning Capt. Robert Cleveland rode up with another twenty or so. After exchanging ideas of how to deal with the situation, the party moved in closer to take a look at the Tory camp. The Tories were going about their business preparing breakfast, totally unaware of what was about to take place. Old Ben Cleveland was setting on a log, acting as if he didn't have a care in the world. He was among the first to discover the presence of his rescuers. The Colonel was a very large man, weighing upward to 300 pounds. When the first shots rang out he knew it would be of little use for him to try running. So he just set there on the log shouting; "Hurrah for Brother Bob! That's right, give 'em hell.! " With this he fell backwards off the log and lay on the ground, in fear of being shot by one of his own men.

With the exception of one, the Tories made their escape, including their leader, Capt. Riddle. But Colonel Cleveland was not to be denied his revenge. Capt. Riddle and two others by the names of Reeves and Goss were captured shortly after. It does not take much imagination to figure out their fate. That's right! The Old Oak Tree in Wilkesboro. But, it could never be said that the old Colonel wasn't an understanding person. He did allow Capt. Riddle's wife to watch as he hung her husband.

So - there you have a little bit of info.  To find more on the Battle of Kings Mountain and the soldiers who fought that battle go to  this roster site.

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