Thomas Sumter | History of SC Slide Collection

Thomas Sumter

Thomas Sumter (1732-1832) was, at his death, the last surviving general of the Revolutionary Army. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, he fought in the French and Indian Wars as a Virginia militia man. Thrown into prison for debt, he had escaped Virginia and fled to South Carolina by 1775, where he established himself as a landowner and an advocate of independence. In 1776 he was given a commission as an officer of the state militia and in 1780, after the fall of Charleston, Sumter was named the state's first brigadier general and put in charge of the state militia. British commander Colonel Banastre Tarleton (see image 139 in "Portraits of Noted Carolinians") rewarded him for this by burning his plantation near Eutaw Springs, but Sumter, nicknamed "The Gamecock," continued to harass the British army, serving as an intelligence officer under Nathanael Greene and coordinating the activities of militia with those of the Continental army. When the war ended, Sumter served in the state House of Representatives and Senate and in 1788 was a leader of the fight against ratification of the Constitution. One of the few anti-federalists elected to the First Federal Congress, he served in the House of Representatives until 1793, when he was chosen to represent South Carolina in the U.S. Senate. He remained an outspoken advocate of states' rights after his retirement from the Senate in 1810. A strong supporter of moving the South Carolina capitol to the Midlands, he founded the town of Stateburg in Sumter District, which he lobbied for as the new seat of government. Portrait by Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860), painted in 1796.

Courtesy of the Sumter County Museum Archives.

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