General Thomas Sumter: The Carolina Gamecock from American Revolution

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– Gameness til the End

South Carolina Gamecocks

The University of South Carolina’s 19 varsity sports teams are known as the “Gamecocks“. The unique moniker is held in honor of Thomas Sumter, a South Carolina war hero who was given the name “The Carolina Gamecock” during the American Revolution for his fierce fighting tactics, regardless of his physical stature or the size of his regiment. A British General commented that Sumter “fought like a gamecock.” While the men have traditionally been the Fighting Gamecocks and the women were previously the Lady Gamecocks, this distinction was discontinued in part to help eliminate gender bias in their athletic department.

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Thomas Sumter

Thomas Sumter (August 14, 1734 – June 1, 1832) was a soldier in the Virginia militia, planter, brigadier general in the South Carolina militia during the American Revolution, and politician. He was later repeatedly elected to the United States House of Representatives and to the United States Senate, where he served from 1801-1810, when he retired. He was nicknamed the “Carolina Gamecock” for his attack on British soldiers after they burned down his house during the American Revolutionary War and his fierce fighting style.

American Revolutionary War

In February 1776, Sumter was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Regiment of the South Carolina Line of which he was later appointed Colonel. He subsequently was appointed Brigadier General of the South Carolina militia, a post he held until the end of the war. He participated in several battles in the early months of the war, including the campaign to prevent an invasion of Georgia. Perhaps his greatest military achievement was his partisan campaigning, which contributed to Lord Cornwallis’ decision to leave the Carolinas for Virginia. Cornwallis was defeated there at Yorktown in October 1781.

Sumter acquired the nickname, “The Carolina Gamecock” during the American Revolution for his fierce fighting tactics, regardless of his size. A British General commented that Sumter “fought like a gamecock”, and Cornwallis paid him the finest tribute when he described the Gamecock as his greatest plague.




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