See also

Patrick FERGUSON (1744-1777)

1. Patrick FERGUSON, son of James FERGUSON of Pitfour (1700-1777) and Anne MURRAY (1708-1793), was born in 1744 in Edinburgh. He died in 1777 in Pennsylvania.


Early Life: 1744-1777

Patrick Ferguson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 4, 1744 to James Ferguson of Pitford. His father was a lawyer and had defended the followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. In 1764, he had become Lord Pitford. Patrick's older brother was a friend of Pitt the Younger and served for thirty years in Parliament. His mother was sister to Major General James Murray, who had served under Major General James Wolfe in his Quebec campaign, even commanding the left wing at the Plains of Abraham.

On July 12, 1759, at the age of 15, Ferguson joined the Royal North British Dragoons, later known as the Scots Greys, as a cornet after having studied at a military academy in his youth. When he was 17, while serving in Germany, he contracted an illness that left him with a slightly lame leg. The illness troubled him from 1762 to 1768, keeping him out of military service. He spent most of that time at home, although in 1766, he spent some time in Paris. On September 1, 1768, he purchased a captaincy in the 70th Foot Regiment. He served with them putting down a slave rebellioin in Tobago in the West Indies where his younger brother, George was governor. Patrick contracted fever, and also being plagued by his illness, he returned to England in 1774.

Ferguson attended Light Infantry camp in Salisbury in the summer of 1775, where he first attracted the attention of Maj. General William Howe. In the year following, he worked on developing a breech-loading rifle. The Ferguson Rifle was a modification on the Chaumette rifle, which he demonstrated to King George III and then before the top brass of the British Army at Woolwich with excellent results. He even secured a patent on December 2, 1776, which has led to some controversy over whether he actually developed the rifle, or was merely the first to patent the improvements.

Revolutionary War: 1777-1778
Following Ferguson's impressive demonstration before King George III, he was given command of a 100-man experimental rifle company and sent to America in 1777. He and his company first saw action at the Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777. During the battle, he chose not to shoot a Continental officer, who may have been General George Washington, because it would have meant shooting him in the back. Later on that battlefield, Ferguson's right elbow was shattered by a rifle ball.

Ferguson spent the next eight months in Philadelphia undergoing surgeries in order to avoid amputation of the arm. In the meantime, he learned to use his left hand for writing, shooting and fencing. He never regained the use of his right arm. While he had been convalescing, General Howe disbanded his experimental ranger company and the rifles were put in storage. Following his recovery, Ferguson was used to gather intelligence and lead raids on privateer bases.

Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey: October 1778
On October 4-5, 1778, Captain Patrick Ferguson led 300 men from the 70th regiment and the 3rd New Jersey Tory Regiment against a privateer base at Little Egg Harbor. Meanwhile, a naval force also approached. Pulaski's Legion of Continentals was sent to combat the British, but Ferguson was able to destroy ten vessels and moved twenty miles up the Mullica River destroying storehouses, shipyards and homes of prominant patriots.

When Ferguson return to the mouth of the river, he learned that Pulaski was camped not far away and security was lax. Some believe that Captain Gustav Juliet had deserted Pulaski and gave the British that information. Ferguson took 250 men, rowed ten miles in small boat under the cover of darkness and surprised Pulaski at Mincock Island. At about 4 A.M. on October 5, 1778, the British Tories entered three house and killed about fifty officers and men by bayonet. Pulaski's infantry commander Colonel de Boze was killed in the attack. Pulaski arrived with his dragoons and was able to drive Ferguson back to his boats with some of his men captured in the confusion. The Americans raised charges of a massacre. There is some dispute over the dates of the attack with some listing it on October 15, 1778.

Revolutionary War: 1778-1779
Ferguson had now won the respect and confidence of General Howe's successor, Lt. General Henry Clinton. In 1779, Clinton named Ferguson Commandant of Stony Point where he oversaw the building of fortifications. But in October 1779, he was ordered to dismantle and withdraw. On October 26, 1779, Ferguson was promoted to Major in the 71st Highlanders and put in command of the American Volunteers, which were made up of New York and New Jersey Tory units. He then joined General Clinton and Lt. General Charles Cornwallis when they sailed south.

Southern Campaign: 1780
In February 1780 as part of the approach force, he was put ashore in South Carolina in command of 300 cavalry including 150 American Volunteers and 150 men detatched from the 71st Highlanders. During the march to Charleston, South Carolina, Ferguson's Rangers were accidentally attacked by Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton's British Legion and Ferguson's good left arm was bayoneted. He would fully recover, but spent some time riding with his reins in his teeth.

Captain Ferguson rejoined General Clinton on March 25, 1780 outside of Charleston. He was then detached to cut off American lines of communication. On April 13, he joined up with Lt. Colonel Tarleton and his British Legion in an operation to secure a supply depot at Monck's Corner, South Carolina. On the 14th, they intercepted a letter from Brig. General Isaac Huger to Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln, which revealed the Continental deployments around Monck's Corner. They were reinforced with infantry under Lt. Colonel James Webster and in the early morning hours of April 14, 1780, they totally surprised and routed General Huger. Ferguson then operated on the north bank of the Cooper River and participated in the capture of Fort Moultrie on May 7, 1780.

Southern Campaign: 1780
On May 22, 1780, Lt. General Henry Clinton appointed Major Ferguson Inspector of Militia in the Southern Provinces. He had the difficult task of raising militia units from the Loyalists of the Carolina Back Country. With the help of Major George Hanger, he raised 4,000 Loyalists from around Ninety-Six. On August 8, he and his men skirmished with Colonel Elijah Clarke and Colonel Isaac Shelby at Cedar Springs. On September 2, 1780, Lt. General Charles Cornwallis ordered Ferguson to move west into the mountains in order to protect his army's left flank as he invaded North Carolina.

On September 7, 1780, Ferguson set up his base of operations at Gilbert Town, North Carolina, but withdrew on the 10th when he moved back south in an effort to intercept Colonel Clarke who was leading a force against Augusta, Georgia. Before he had left on the 10th he had paroled Rebel Samuel Phillips with a message for the nearby Blue Ridge mountain communities telling them to "desist from their opposition to the British arms, and take protection under his standard" or "he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword."

This message enraged the Over Mountain men and the men of the nearby backcountry. These men had mostly sat out of the war, but with their own homes and families threatened, they came to action. On September 20, Ferguson returned to Gilbert Town. The Over Mountain Men gathered at Sycamore Shoals on September 25 and set out after Ferguson the next day. On September 27, Ferguson withdrew south, having learned of the force moving against him. On October 1, he turned east toward Charlotte, North Carolina where General Cornwallis was now located. He did not seem to be overly worried, because he was setting a slow pace, although he did send a letter asking for 300 or 400 reinforcements that "would finish this business."

But a week later, Major Ferguson learned from spies that the Over Mountain Men were closing in and he chose to make his stand at King's Mountain, South Carolina. He sent a letter to General Cornwallis on October 6, informing him of his decision. He chose the higher ground, fortifying the heel of the mountain. The Over Mountain Men arrived the following afternoon and divided into four columns, surrounding the mountain. They made relentless rushes up the mountain, while Ferguson could be heard rallying his men by blowing his Silver Whistle. Finally, when the Rebels were closing in, Ferguson tried to break through the lines and escape, but was felled by a multitude of rifle balls.

2. Boatner, Michael; Encyclopedia of the American Revolution
3. Buchanan, John; The Road to Guilford Courthouse
4. Morrill, Dr. Dan; Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution.


Patrick Ferguson was born on 24 May/4 June 1744. He was the second son of James Ferguson of Pitfour, an Aberdeenshire-born advocate, and his wife Anne Murray, sister of the noted literary patron, Patrick, Lord Elibank. The Fergusons lived mostly in and around Edinburgh — then "a hotbed of genius" according to their acquaintance, the novelist Tobias Smollett — and mixed with the leading figures in the Scottish Enlightenment. Other friends included John Home, David Hume, Adam Ferguson (no relation), Allan Ramsay, & c. Between 1764-76, James Ferguson served on the bench as 'Lord Pitfour', and as a judge was noted for clemency and wit. The Fergusons were a cultured and affectionate family. The three boys and three girls who reached adulthood all had lively and distinctive personalities. The eldest son, Jamie, was MP for Aberdeenshire for 30 years, dying as 'Father of the House of Commons' in 1820, aged 85, while the youngest, George, was, for a time, Lieutenant-Governor of Tobago.

"Pattie," as his family called him, was extremely slender — he often joked about being nothing but bone — and not very tall. But his features were handsome, slightly elfin-looking. His personal letters reveal him as a gentle yet fun-loving young man, with great wit and charm. He was intelligent, sensitive, honourable, and remarkably courageous; flirtatious, too, when he had time! An articulate and expressive writer, it is a singular tragedy that he did not live to write his memoirs.

Ferguson began his career, aged 15, as Cornet in the Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys), encouraged by his uncle Gen. James Murray. After training, he was sent to Germany in 1761, where he served in the Seven Years' War, until illness left him with a lame leg, which gave him years of intermittent trouble. He then served with his regiment on garrison duty around Britain. He visited France twice in 1766. In 1768, he bought a Captaincy in the 70th Foot, and spent 3 years in the Caribbean. He returned to Britain in 1772.

A brilliant marksman with innovative ideas on light infantry tactics, he improved Chaumette's breechloading mechanism, already used in sporting guns, for use in a military rifle. The Ferguson Rifle was successfully tested, at his own expense, in 1776. With such a weapon, light infantry troops would be able to continue loading and firing without breaking cover or while lying prone. Appointed Captain Commandant of his own corps, armed with Ferguson rifles, he was sent to North America in spring 1777.

The green-clad rifle company served in New Jersey, before sailing to the Chesapeake in August 1777 to take part in Howe's campaign to capture Philadelphia. They performed well, and Howe, impressed, assured Ferguson that the little corps of 100 men would be increased — but tragedy intervened.

In their only major engagement at Brandywine on 11 September 1777, Ferguson had the chance to shoot a senior-looking Rebel officer, who was riding out with a French hussar as escort, but, as he later wrote, the idea of shooting in the back someone who was going about his duties so coolly, and did not pose a threat, "disgusted" him. Even when told next day that the officer in question was Washington, he did not regret his chivalry. 54 years later, Fenimore Cooper claimed his father-in-law, De Lancey, then serving with Ferguson, had said the officer involved was Pulaski, not Washington, and that the incident happened after Ferguson was maimed, not before — but this is contradicted, nearer the time, by Ferguson himself, and by the extent of his injuries. It is possible that Pulaski may have been the French hussar.

It was moments after sparing these horsemen that Ferguson was gravely wounded — shot through the right elbow-joint. For 8 months, in Philadelphia, he suffered numerous agonising operations to remove bone splinters, under threat of amputation — or death. In letters home, dictated or written left-handed, he joked bravely about his plight and made wisecracks about the surgeons who argued whether his arm should belong to him or "the worms". He kept his arm, but it was permanently crippled. The plans for augmenting his rifle company had to be curtailed. The army gave higher priority to making more of the less expensive, general service weapons, and the corps was disbanded. There is no need to advance any conspiracy theories about this: the corps had been an experiment, and at the time it seemed unlikely that Ferguson would ever be fit for service again. However, he was tougher than he looked. Undeterred, he learned to fence and shoot with his left hand.

By autumn 1778, Ferguson, nicknamed "The Bulldog" for his tenacity, was leading daring raids, such as that against the privateer base, Little Egg Harbor, in NJ. As commander of Stony Point in 1779, he designed improvements to the fortifications. He also wrote proposals to curtail marauding against civilians. He was commissioned Major in the 71st Regt. (Fraser's Highlanders), and at the turn of 1779-80, was posted South in the campaign for the Carolinas.

In March 1780, at MacPherson's Plantation, near Charleston, Ferguson was bayoneted through his good arm in a 'friendly fire' incident involving Charles Cochrane and the British Legion infantry. For 3 weeks he rode with the reins in his mouth, propped up in the saddle by his orderlies. With the capture of Charleston, Gen. Sir Henry Clinton appointed him Inspector of Militia, to recruit and train local Loyalists. He gave up a brevet Lieutenant Colonelcy to do so. Recognising that the war in the South was a civil war, he tried to win people over to the Loyalist cause, visiting their houses and talking to them.

In autumn 1780, Ferguson warned the 'Overmountain' men to desist from rebellion or he would bring fire and sword down upon them, and hang their leaders. The Rebels took up the challenge: to hunt down Ferguson. There was no question of taking him alive. The counter-sign was "Buford" — in revenge for the losses at Waxhaws.

When Ferguson learned of the enemy's advance, he issued an impassioned proclamation to rally the local Loyalists, and began to withdraw towards Cornwallis' base in Charlotte. On 6 October, he encamped on King's Mountain, expecting reinforcements — but some messages were intercepted, and those which reached Cornwallis were not dealt with immediately, because of illness.

On 7 October 1780, the Loyalists made their stand when the Rebels surrounded them in a surprise attack. In a desperate struggle, Patrick Ferguson, the only British serviceman in the battle, fought heroically, until he was shot from his horse. His slight body, which had overcome so much pain and disability, was torn by at least 8 bullets. He died within minutes, without regaining consciousness. Rebel fire continued for some time after the white flag was raised. The subsequent abuse of the prisoners, several of whom were hanged and others hacked at with swords on the march up country, brought the Rebels no glory. Ferguson's corpse was brutally treated, and buried under a cairn on the hillside. Legend has it that his girlfriend, Virginia Sal, shot early in the battle, shares his grave.

Reinforcements arrived 3 days too late, and news of their "gentle Pattie"'s death reached his widowed mother and siblings in Scotland shortly before Christmas, 1780.

– Dr. M. M. Gilchrist, St. Andrews, Scotland, 1999.

Second Generation

2. James FERGUSON of Pitfour, son of James FERGUSON and Anne STUART of Crichie, was born in 1700. He had the title '2nd of Pitfour'. He married Anne MURRAY on 3 February 1733 in Aberlady. He died on 25 June 1777 in Woolmet.


Lord Pitfour was an eminent councillor at law (a Lord of Session and Justiciary) highly distinguished for his probity, integrity, and knowledge of his profession. He was also Commissioner of Justiciary. He was created Lord Pitfour in 1764.


3. Anne MURRAY, daughter of Alexander MURRAY 4th Lord Elibank and Elizabeth STIRLING, was born on 20 September 1708. She died on 2 January 1793.


From a letter to her brother, General Jon. James Murray:

"I have three girls, none of whom have any claims to the beauties of the body. Annie whom you visited in the Small Pox is of a low stature, and pretty much pitted without having her features altered by them. Betty is taller than I am, genteel enough and when in here good looks is thought by strangers to have a resemblance to my Sister Jannie; Jeanie who is of Annies size is in point of looks middling, but for a soul and genious I'll sett her loose with any she that ever stept in petticoats, she had cost me more trouble than all the rest, for her genious bewitched me, and some times got the better of my reason. But now, after Hunting, Riding, Shooting and Latin, I have got her brought to a moderate use of her needle, which with a little musick, bowling and chess, which I indulge her in, makes her turn out a good decent girl of sixteen. As to her dancing, its the Horn Pipe she excells in; but I must not conclude without assuring you that they are modest, virtuous girls, uncapable of lying of falsehood, and just the reverse of some others that you'll remember.".


James FERGUSON and Anne MURRAY had the following children:


James FERGUSON (1735-1820). James was born in 1735. He had the title '3rd of Pitfour'. He was an Advocate, MP. He died in 1820.

Annie FERGUSON ( - )

Betty FERGUSON ( -1810). Betty died in 1810.


Patrick FERGUSON (1744-1777)

Jeanie FERGUSON (1746-1821). Jeanie was born in 1746. She died in 1821.

George FERGUSON (1748-1820). George was born in 1748. He had the title 'Fourth of Pitfour'. He died in 1820.

Third Generation

4. James FERGUSON, son of William FERGUSON of Badifurrow and Jean ELPHINSTONE of Logie, was born in 1672. He was a Sheriff-Depute of Aberdeenshire. He had the title '1st of Pitfou'. He died in 1734. He married Anne STUART.


5. Anne STUART of Crichie was born in 1669. She died in 1731. She and James FERGUSON had the following children:


Elizabeth FERGUSON (1698-1781). Elizabeth was born in 1698. She died in 1781.


James FERGUSON (1700-1777)


6. Alexander MURRAY 4th Lord Elibank, son of Sir Patrick 3rd MURRAY 3rd Lord Elibank and Anna BURNET, was born on 9 March 1677. He was a 4th Lord Elibank. He had the title '4th Lord Elibank'. He married Elizabeth STIRLING in February 1698. He died on 6 February 1735.


Sir Alexander became 4th Lord Elibank on his father's death in 1686, when he was nine years old. He had 15 children of whom 5 sons and 5 daughters survived him.

As a matter of interest, the Lord of Elibank voted for the Union of the Scottish and English Parliaments in Edinburgh in 1706-1707. He also recieved ?0 for doing so. This information was stated by The Earl of Glasgow, on oath, and by David Nairne, Secretary Deputy of Scotland. What a price for Scotland's freedom!

Alexander and his family had many financial problems, and the depletion of the family fortunes to the Stuart coffers was further exacerbated by the Fourth Earl losing heavily in the South Sea Bubble. He wrote to his wife about this - "I am infinitely vexed that you should torment yourself so much, which I assure you is more galling to me than any misfortune that has yet befallen me. As I shall answer God I have never bought a farthing's worth of stock but that third subscription, nor you may depend upon it will I venture a groat more that way, for now the South Sea has fallen to its primitive 110 this day (it stood at 1,000 a few days previously) so that it seems now past all recovery; what parliament will be able to do with it I cannot tell".

At the time, the Scottish Nobility was also in a generally impoverished state, and so Elibank's situation was not by any means unique.

Alexander devoted much of his life to the (succesful) reform of agriculture in Scotland, and was a founder of the "Society of Improvers in the knowledge fo Agriculture in Scotland".

Alexander was clearly loved and respected by both friends and family, and his son Patrick wrote of him: "My father, Alexander, Lord Elibank, died of what the Phisicians called the gout in his stomach on the 6th of February, 1736, The following character was given him in the common newspapers - "He lived esteemed and beloved by men of all ranks and parties and his death is universally lamented. No man ever surpassed himin the practice of every social virtue, he was a fond Husband, and indulgent Parent, and an unalterable friend, and as he never had an enemy he never was accused or suspected of anyone. Never was there a juster character"".


7. Elizabeth STIRLING, daughter of George STIRLING, was born before 1683. She appeared in the census. She celebrated her Bar Mitzvah. She died on 11 November 1756.


Book: "The five sons of Bare Betty" by A.C, Murray:

Elizabeth, who married at 16, displayed form her early teens an independence of character which not infrequently led her into eccentricities, and hse handed on to her sons the traits she herslef possessed of vivacity and original wit in thoought, speech and action. In his "Scotland and Scotsmen" Ramsey tells us an intertesing and amusing anecdote. A somewhat rash Edinburgh minister when conducting "public examinations" referred to Miss Elizabeth as "Betty Stirling". This caused deep offence to the dignity of the young lady: "Mistress Betty" or "Miss Betty", she said in tones of scathing rebuke, was the style of address to which she was accustomed, but certainly not "bare Betty". Needless to say, after this incident, she was always known in Edinburgh and district as "bare Betty".

When a man, who was deeply in love with her, told her that he was ready to lay down his life for her sake, "Oh," she said, "I do not believe you would part with a little joint of your little finger for my whole body." Next day the gentleman returned, and presented her triumphantly with the joint of one of his little fingers. But he was dumbfounded when she gave him a peremptory refusal, "for," said she, "the man who has no mercy on his own flesh will certainly not spare mine."

But despite this mercurial turn "bare Betty had a tender side to her character, and was much beloved by all her family.


Alexander MURRAY and Elizabeth STIRLING had the following children:


Patrick MURRAY (1703-1778). Patrick was born on 27 February 1703. He had the title '5th Lord Elibank, Earl of Westminster'. He married Margaretta Maria DE JONGE in 1735. He died on 3 August 1778 in Ballencrieff Castle in Haddingtonshire near Edinburgh..

Alexander MURRAY (1704-1705). Alexander was born on 23 July 1704. He died in 1705.

George MURRAY (1706-1785). George was born on 14 May 1706 in Aberlady. He was an Admiral in the Navy. He had the title 'Admiral, 6th Lord Elibank'. He married Isabella MCKENZIE on 8 January 1760. He died on [Julian] 12 November 1785 in Ballencrieff.

Gideon MURRAY (1710-1776). Gideon was born on 5 February 1710 in Ballencrieff. He was a Priest. He married Elizabeth MONTOLIEU DE ST. HYPPOLITE on [Julian] 30 June 1746 in London. He died on [Julian] 21 June 1776 in Wandsworth.

John MURRAY (1711-1711). John was born on 14 September 1711. He died on 31 December 1711.

Alexander MURRAY (1712-1778). Alexander was born on 9 December 1712 in Ballencrieff. He was christened on 9 December 1712 in Aberlady. He was a Politician. He had the title 'Jacobite Earl of Westminster'. He died on 27 February 1778 in Taplow, Bucks.

James Patrick 1 MURRAY (1721-1794). James was born on [Julian] 21 January 1721 in Ballencrieff. He was a Governor General of Canada, General in the Army, Governor of Minorca, Governor of Hull, Warden of the Cinque Ports. He married Cordelia COLLIER in 1748 in London. He married Ann WHITHAM on 14 March 1780 in Minorca. He died on 18 June 1794 in Beauport, Hastings, Sussex.

Barbara MURRAY ( -1773). Barbara married James JOHNSTONE on 1 September 1719. She died on 15 March 1773.

Elizabeth MURRAY (1701-1748). Elizabeth was born on 26 August 1701. She was baptised on 27 August 1701. She died on 19 March 1748 in Edinburgh.


Anne MURRAY (1708-1793)

Mary MURRAY (1714-1772). Mary was born on 4 September 1714. She was baptised on 5 September 1714. She died on 18 June 1772.

Helen MURRAY (1716-1809). Helen was born on 19 January 1716. She was baptised on 24 January 1716. She married John (James) STEWART on 12 September 1761 in Edinburgh. She died on 28 December 1809 in Ormistoun.

Janet MURRAY (1723- ). Janet was born on 13 July 1723. She was baptised on 19 July 1723. She married Robert MURRAY on 22 June 1750.