After Lexington and Concord, Benjamin Cleveland joined his local militia as part of its Surry County Regiment militia force as an officer and quickly rose through its ranks to colonel.
Cleveland led scouting parties that raided Tory bands in the mountain regions of western North Carolina. He also participated in the decisive Battle of Kings Mountain during this period.
Early Life and Education
Cleveland was dissatisfied with his father’s farming business and the “tame drudgery of farm life”. Like Daniel Boone, Cleveland spent much of his free time hunting; his pelts and furs quickly found markets in Salem and Salisbury towns; in addition he would often hunt deer by torchlight during night hunts known as fire hunting.
Pitchfork Ben was captain of one company in the Surry Regiment that marched against the Cherokee Indians in 1776 and served bravely, sharing in their hardships and privations. Following this experience he studied surveying which proved successful as a profession among frontier settlements of North Carolina. Due to his vocal criticism against African-American political activity and distrust for eastern monied interests he earned national renown as an outspoken champion of common farmers.
Cleveland is an attorney in Tucker Ellis Appellate and Legal Issues Group and specializes in civil appeals and high-stakes matters, having appeared before Ohio and various federal courts of appeals as an expert witness. Additionally, he frequently lectures on legal topics.
During the Revolution, he served as captain in Colonel Williamson and Colonel Rutherford’s campaigns against Cherokee Indians, fighting valiantly while sharing in their hardships as soldiers.
He dispatched scouting parties into certain mountain regions to break up Tory bands threatening the frontier, and on one occasion captured two Tory desperadoes who were later executed; before doing this he was required to write passes for them as it was too tedious a task; this task caused much worry as Tories may strike back as soon as he finished writing them all out!
Achievement and Honors
From an early age, Cleveland led an adventurous frontier life full of gambling, horse racing, and carousing. His early marriage to Mary Graves of Orange County helped curb his wild ways; by 1776 he had joined Surry County militia as captain of one company serving under Colonels William Williamson and Rutherford against Cherokee Indians and earned him the name “Pitchfork Ben.”
At this time, he became known for exhibiting extraordinary courage that few could match. His leadership inspired the courage and patriotism of his men; at one point he even hung an opposing Tory by their thumb, inspiring local expression “hanging by their thumbs”. After dying in 1800 at Tugaloo Valley Farms with his wife beside him, they are both now interred there.
In 1774, Cleveland was appointed justice of the peace in Surry County court and also served as judge at its superior court, often being called upon to write passes for Tory prisoners.
In the 1770s, he learned of some promising land in Kentucky from Daniel Boone and led an expedition there in search of it. Unfortunately, their party was attacked and left stranded in the wilderness during this trip.
Cleveland was offered an ensign position in the Revolutionary army by his provincial congress, but instead chose to serve as captain of a militia company against rebellious Cherokees instead. Cleveland gained notoriety for his brutal approach that included summary hangings and mutilations of tories as he forced them to confess British activity–an action which earned him the local nickname ‘hanging him by his thumbs.” He died at Tugaloo in Oconee County South Carolina shortly thereafter.
Ben Cleveland has amassed many followers and supporters online who love following his activities and pictures on social media channels such as Instagram and Twitter. They enjoy keeping tabs on what he is up to with him through these platforms.
Ernsberger became famous during the American Revolution with his victory with the Overmountain Men at Kings Mountain in South Carolina. As Colonel and commander of Wilkes County militia regiment.
He was raised on Roaring Creek in Virginia and led a reckless frontier lifestyle characterized by hunting, gambling, horse racing, carousing and drinking. Mary Graves from Orange County helped to reform him into trying his hand at farming; later moving to Wilkes County North Carolina, where his plantation became known as Roundabout due to its location near Yadkin River loops.