Wife of Patriot Militia General Thomas Sumter
General Thomas Sumter
Charles Willson Peale, Artist
Mary Cantey was born in 1723. Thomas Sumter was born August 14, 1734, in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of William and Patience Sumter. Educated in common schools, Thomas worked in his father’s gristmill, and after his father’s early death, cared for his mother’s sheep and plowed his neighbor’s fields.
It has been said that Thomas Sumter was a wild boy. He gambled, went to cockfights, and horse races. When the Indians started causing problems, he joined the Virginia militia and served as a sargeant during the Cherokee War of 1760-1761. He accompanied Lieutenant Henry Timberlake on an arduous peace mission to the Overhill Cherokee towns in Tennessee in 1761.
Sumter and Timberlake escorted three Cherokee chiefs to London in 1762 to meet King George III. Upon returning to the colonies in August 1762, Sumter landed in Charleston and spent that winter with the Cherokee. He was paid by the British ministry for information about Indian affairs along the frontier.
Returning briefly to Virginia, Sumter was imprisoned for an old debt. His friend and fellow soldier Joseph Martin arrived at the prison, and asked to spend the night with Sumter in jail. Martin gave Sumter 10 guineas and a tomahawk. Sumter used the money to buy his way out of jail in 1766.
He traveled to Eutaw Springs, South Carolina, where he opened a crossroads store, earned the respect from the community, and was made a justice of the peace.
In 1767, Sumter married widow Mary Cantey Jameson, who was eleven years his senior. They had one child, Thomas Sumter, Jr., born August 30, 1768. Together they became successful plantation owners. As he became more prosperous, Sumter built a larger store, a sawmill and a gristmill, and began to obtain more and more land.
Sumter in the Revolutionary War
Thomas Sumter became the leader of rebel partisan forces in the South Carolina Piedmont (the plateau between the coastal plain and the Appalachian Mountains) during the American Revolution. In 1775, he raised a band of Patriot militia and served as its captain. In November, he and his troops took part in the Snow Campaign against loyalist militia (British supporters).
In February 1776, Sumter was elected lieutenant colonel of the Second Rifle Regiment of the South Carolina Militia, and participated in several battles in the early months of the war. He and his regiment were in Charleston on September 20, 1776, as part of a defensive force when the city was attacked.