Charlotte Liberty Walk
The Charlotte Liberty Walk is a guide to bronze plaques and monuments in the uptown area which tell the story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County during the American Revolution. Printed copies of this brochure are available at the Charlotte Visitors Information Center located in the Charlotte Convention Center and also at the Levine Museum of the New South. Both locations have lots of information about other historic sites in Charlotte.
Guided tours can be arranged by contacting the MHA. See “Contact” on this site.
New Markers – These three markers were placed after the publication of the map shown above. They are located along South Tryon Street
Marker A The Southern Campaign of the American Revolution, located on a stone in front of the Harvey B. Gant Center at the corner of Stonewall Street and South Tryon Street.
“More Hostile Than Any Other”
During the American Revolution, Charlotte was of vital importance as it lay directly on the invasion route (Tryon Street) from the southern colonies into North Carolina. A number of major engagements were fought within 90 miles of Charlotte, including Camden, Kings Mountain, Cowpens and Guilford Court House.
In late 1778, the American Revolution had reached a stalemate in the north and the British began a Southern Campaign. They had initial successes, taking Savannah (December 1778) and Charleston (May 1780). Following the fall of Charleston, British Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton destroyed a force of 380 Continental soldiers in the Waxhaws, 35 miles from here, earning him the name “Bloody Ban.” Then in August 1780 the the British Army defeated the American southern army at Camden, SC.
In September 1780 the tide turned. Cornwallis’s army was delayed in Charlotte by the Mecklenburg militia at the Battle of Charlotte and in October his western army under Major Patrick Ferguson was destroyed at Kings Mountain, 40 miles west of Charlotte. In February 1781, Tarleton’s British Legion was soundly defeated at Cowpens, and in March the armies fought to a draw at Guilford Court House near present-day Greensboro, NC. The British Army then marched to Virginia where it was trapped and defeated at Yorktown. The war continued in the south with many important and bloody battles before it finally ended in 1783.
Many Mecklenburg citizens fought in this campaign and the sentiment in Mecklenburg was fiercely rebellious. In his memoirs, Tarleton wrote, “It was evident, and had been frequently mentioned to the King’s officers, that the counties of Mecklenburg and Rohan were more hostile to England than any other in America.”
Marker B African Americans in the Revolution, located in the sidewalk a few yards north of Marker A.
At least 5,000 African-Americans, both free and enslaved, served in the Continental army, state troops, navies, and militias. A substantial number of these African-American patriots came from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Some served as body servants and laborers, but the majority served as front line troops, including non-commissioned officers. African-Americans also served in the British army and navy. There was no segregation in the military during the Revolutionary War, and troops of European, African and Native American ancestry served side-by-side and suffered the same hardships.
An example of an African-American soldier from Mecklenburg County is Dempsey Reed, a “free Negro” who served as a substitute for a Mecklenburg resident named Nathaniel Harris. Reed was wounded in battle and received payment for his military service from the State of North Carolina in 1783.
Another local African-American soldier was Ishmael Titus, a slave from Rowan County who served as a substitute for his master, Lawrence Ross. Titus fought in the battles of Kings Mountain, Guilford Courthouse and Deep River. He was granted his freedom after the war and died at the age of 110 in Massachusetts.
Marker C The Indian Trading Path, located on a stone one block north of Marker A
The road now known as Tryon Street was once an Indian trading path which stretched over 800 miles from the Cherokee Nation in the south to the Iroquois in the north. It was known as the Great Warriors Path, the Iroquois Path, or the Road to the Cherokee Nation .
This path connected the populous Catawba Indian Nation settlements 20 miles south of Charlotte (near present-day Rock Hill) to their bitter enemy the Iroquois tribes of New York. Other Native American tribes in the Mecklenburg region in the colonial period included the Sugarees, Shuterees, Esaws and Waxhaws.
Over time the path became a major artery of commerce in the American colonies. Known as the Great Wagon Road it stretched from Philadelphia to the backcountry of North and South Carolina.
This section of the road was named Tryon Street in honor of Col. William Tryon, the Royal Governor of North Carolina from 1765-1771.
This granite monument is located on the site of Liberty Hall, originally known as Queen’s College (see below).
It was erected in 1913 by the Daughters of the American Revolution to honor prominent early Charlotteans who were Trustees of Liberty Hall.
Marker 2 Site of Queen’s College, established 1771
In 1771 the N.C. Assembly and Governor Tryon authorized Queen’s College, the first publicly supported college in the South. (It was supported by a tax on rum!) In 1772, King George disallowed the operation of the college but the citizens of Charlotte changed the name to “Queen’s Museum” and continued operation. In 1777 they changed the name to Liberty Hall and the school continued operation into the 1790s. Liberty Hall was used as a hospital for soldiers on both sides during the Revolution. Today, /Charlotte’s Queens University carries on the name of this early school.
From September 26 to October 12, 1780 the British Army was encamped in Charlotte. The encampment made a square centered on the courthouse, at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets, about 300 yards across. This marker is in the southern part of that encampment where Lt. Col. Tarleton’s infantry and cavalry, the Loyalists militia and camp followers were located. Four cannons of the artillery were placed in the crossroads near the courthouse.
On September 26th, 1780 the southern British army, commanded by Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis advanced on Charlotte, by way of South Tryon Street. In the lead was Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion cavalry. They expected little or no resistance from the inhabitants. As the British approached the Court House they were met with a volley of musket fire from a small force of American troops hidden on both sides of the street and under the courthouse, under the command of Colonel William Richardson Davie, and Captain Joseph Graham. The British Legion cavalry broke under the withering fire and retreated. They charged again and were driven back by another volley. Lord Cornwallis himself rode up, harangued the troops, and they advanced again. By this time the British infantry was moving up on both sides to surround the Americans who fired a third volley and withdrew in good order.
Marker 5 The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence
On May 20, 1775, the citizens of Mecklenburg County, N.C. became the first political entity in the American colonies to declare themselves free and independent from the King and Parliament of Great Britain. The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was signed by elected representatives in the county courthouse, a log building on brick pillars which stood in the middle of the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets. This declaration preceded the US Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776 by more than a year. Nearby are two earlier markers to this historic event.
Marker 6 Thomas Polk Park
This park commemorates Colonel Thomas Polk: early settler, surveyor, state legislator, Justice of the Peace, founder of Mecklenburg County and of Charlotte, and a Colonel in the American Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His house stood diagonally across the street from this park. Stones throughout the park give more details of Polk’s life and accomplishments.
Marker 7 Cook’s Inn
While on a tour of the southern states in 1791, President George Washington spent the night of May 28th in Charlotte. He was entertained by Col. Thomas Polk at his house at the square and stayed at Cook’s Inn, across the street from this location. When Washington departed the next morning he left behind a box of white wig powder. For many years afterwards Mrs. Cook would put this powder on children’s hair telling them to always remember that they had President Washington’s powder on their hair.
Marker 8 Captain Jack Homesite
Captain James Jack lived here and ran the tavern owned by his father Patrick Jack. When the Mecklenburg Declaration and the Mecklenburg Resolves were signed on May 20 and May 31, 1775, Captain Jack volunteered to ride to Philadelphia and present them to the Continental Congress. Royal Governor Martin called these resolutions “most treasonable.” A bronze statue of Captain James Jack, riding off to Philadelphia, is located in the Trail of History in Little Sugar Creek Greenway, east of here at the corner of Fourth Street and Kings Drive.
Marker 9 First Presbyterian Church
In 1815, the Charlotte town commissioners set aside this land for a town church, whose first building was finished in 1823. While initially a non-denominational meeting house known as the Town Church, The Presbyterian Church purchased the property to nurture the Charlotte community. Dr. Robert Hall Morrison, who later became the first President of Davidson College, was installed as the first pastor of the church in 1821. While Fourth Ward has changed over the years, First Presbyterian Church has stood “for Christ in the Heart of Charlotte.” The main sanctuary was dedicated in 1895, while two additions from 1993 and 2001 renovations flank either side.
Marker 10 Settler’s Cemetery
In this cemetery lie the mortal remains of many of the founders and leading citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. It is a municipal cemetery and is not affiliated with the nearby First Presbyterian Church. Use the bronze map at the entrance to find the graves of: Thomas Polk and his wife Susanna Spratt Polk; Joel Baldwin, 1776 (the oldest grave here); a Memorial to NC Governor Nathaniel Alexander; and a Memorial to Major General George Graham. There are bronze markers along Fifth Street recounting the history of Mecklenburg County.
The American militia fought a delaying action along North Tryon Street against the entire Southern British Army.
Colonel William R. Davie commanded the North Carolina militia cavalry for several months before the British Army invaded North Carolina. Captain Joseph Graham commanded the Mecklenburg County mounted militia which was called out to oppose the British invasion of North Carolina. In the Battle of Charlotte, these two groups defended the Courthouse in the middle of Trade and Tryon Streets. After firing three volleys to good effect, and causing the British Legion Cavalry to draw back and re-form, the Americans retreated up the Salisbury Road (today North Tryon Street) past this spot. Farther up the road they stopped twice to form a defensive line, delaying the British advance each time. By the time the British reached the main American force eight miles north of town, it was late in the day and they withdrew to Charlotte. The Southern British Army occupied Charlotte for 16 days and then, after hearing of the American victory at King’s Mountain, retreated to South Carolina.
Marker 12 Queen Charlotte Statue
This delightful statue of Queen Charlotte in her garden with her dogs was privately funded and for many years has been preserved and maintained by Bank of America. Mecklenburg County was named in honor of Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who was married to King George III shortly before the county was formed in 1763. The city of Charlotte was named in her honor when it was established in 1768.
Marker 13 Dr. Ephraim Brevard Lived near here in 1775
Dr. Brevard was a prominent local patriot. Although blind in one eye he attended college in Princeton, New Jersey. He trained as a doctor and taught at Queen’s College where he was also a Trustee. He married Martha, the daughter of Thomas and Susanna Polk and had a hand in writing both the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the Mecklenburg Resolves. He served as an officer and later as a surgeon during the Revolution and was captured at the fall of Charleston in 1780. As an officer he could have signed a parole and been sent home, but he chose to stay on in Charleston to minister to the American prisoners. In doing so, he contracted the same fever that killed so many of his fellow soldiers. He returned to Mecklenburg where he died aged only thirty five.
Marker 14 Thomas Polk Homesite
Here stood the house of Colonel Thomas Polk the founder of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Polk’s home was used by Lord Cornwallis as his headquarters when the British occupied Charlotte in the autumn of 1780. President George Washington visited Charlotte on May 28, 1791 and was entertained here. For over a hundred years, Polk’s house was Charlotte’s leading tourist attraction.
Marker 15 Nathanael Greene 1742-1786 – North Carolina Historical Marker
After the American defeat at the battle of Camden, Congress relieved General Horatio Gates of command. General George Washington chose General Nathanael Greene to replace Gates as the commander in the south. Greene took command near this spot. He reorganized the American Army and caused Lord Cornwallis to lead the British Army out of North Carolina to Virginia where they were eventually defeated at the Siege of Yorktown.