Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rev William Martin sermon extract, South Carolina, Sunday 11 June 1780: "unresisting Americans, praying for quarter, were chopped to pieces.”


The content of this sermon is very grim. The appeal back to the times a century before of the Covenanters in Scotland is deeply significant. You can read more about the incident here, with the memorial monument shown above. A young Andrew Jackson was among those who tended to the wounded and mutilated survivors who were brought to the church:

'... At eleven o'clock precisely, the venerable form of Martin, the preacher, came in sight. He was about sixty years of age, and had a high reputation for learning and eloquence. He was a large and powerful man, with a voice which it is said might have been heard at the distance of half a mile. As he walked from the place where he had hitched his horse, towards the stand, it being customary, when the congregation was too large to be accommodated in the meeting-house, to have the service in the open air, the loud and angry words of the speakers must have reached his ears. The voices ceased as he approached, and the congregation was soon seated in silence upon the logs around the stand.

When he arose to speak, every eye was fixed upon him. Those who had been most noisy expected a reproof for their desecration of the Sabbath, for their faithful pastor was never known to fail of rebuking those whose deportment was unsuited to the solemnity of the day. But at this time he too seemed absorbed with the subject that agitated every bosom.

"My hearers," he said, in his broad Scotch-Irish dialect— "talk and angry words will do no good. We must fight! As your pastor—in preparing a discourse suited to this time of trial—I have sought for all light, examined the Scriptures and other helps in ancient and modern history, and have considered especially the controversy between the United Colonies and the mother country. Sorely have our countrymen been dealt with, till forced to the declaration of their independence—and the pledge of their lives and sacred honor to support it. Our forefathers in Scotland made a similar one, and maintained that declaration with their lives; it is now our turn, brethren, to maintain this at all hazards."

After the prayer and singing of the Psalms—he calmly opened his discourse. He cited many passages from Scripture to show that a people may lawfully resist wicked rulers ; pointed to historical examples of princes trampling on the people's rights; painted in vivid colors the rise and progress of the Reformation—the triumph of truth over the misrule and darkness of ages—and finally applied the subject by fairly stating the merits of the Revolutionary controversy. Giving a brief sketch of the events of the war from the first shedding of blood at Lexington, and warming with the subject as he went on, his address became eloquent with the fiery energy of a Demosthenes. In a voice like thunder, frequently striking with his clenched fist the clapboard pulpit, he appealed to the excited concourse, exhorting them to fight valiantly in defence of their liberties. As he dwelt on the recent horrid tragedy—the butchery of Buford's men, cut down by the British dragoons while crying for mercy—his indignation reached its height. Stretching out his hand towards Waxhaw—

"Go see," he cried— "the tender mercies of Great Britain! In that church you may find men, though still alive, hacked out of the very semblance of humanity: some deprived of their arms—mutilated trunks: some with one arm or leg, and some with both legs cut off. Is not this cruelty a parallel to the history of our Scottish fathers, driven from their conventicles, hunted like wild beasts? Behold the godly youth, James Nesbit—chased for days by the British for the crime of being seen on his knees upon the Sabbath morning!" etc.

To this stirring sermon the whole assembly responded. Hands were clenched and teeth set in the intensity of feeling; every uplifted face expressed the same determination, and even the women were filled with the spirit that threatened vengeance on the invaders. During the interval of divine worship they went about professing their resolution to do their part in the approaching contest; to plough the fields and gather the crops in the absence of the men—aye, to fight themselves, rather than submit. In the afternoon the subject was resumed and discussed with renewed energy—while the appeals of the preacher were answered by even more energetic demonstrations of feeling. When the worship was concluded, and the congregation separating to return homeward, the manly form of Ben Land was seen walking among the people, shaking hands with every neighbor and whispering in his ear the summons to the next day's work...'

- from The Women of the American Revolution. v.3 by EF Ellet (1848). All three volumes have tonnes of great Scotch-Irish material.


• the quote in the post title is from an account published just 5 years later by David Ramsay in his History of the Revolution of South Carolina. Ramsay's parents were both from Ulster.