On March 15, 1781 one man, Peter Francisco, was a force of nature on the battlefield at Guilford Courthouse. Despite being wounded in Greensboro, NC he continued fighting all the way to the end of the Revolutionary war. Standing 6’06” and weighing an estimated 260 lbs., Francisco towered a full foot above his contemporaries. He was a mythic man of war prior to the battle and his legend would grow even more afterwards.
Dressed in fine clothes, he was left dockside in Virginia as a small boy of 5 years of age in 1765. He did not have the ability to speak the language of his new home and his background was shrouded in mystery. Taken in by a relative of Patrick Henry, he was raised a blacksmith in Virginia. His hulking size lent itself to the hearty work and to the community in which he lived.
These humble beginnings in a new world took on an air of epic proportions. At 16 years of age he joined the Continental Army. At 17 years of age he was in the fighting at Brandywine, the longest single day battle of the war. He was laid up with wounds in the freezing cold at Valley Forge. Around 18 years of age he was shot in the leg at the battle of Monmouth, NJ. A year later he stormed a fort at Stony Point, NY and killed three soldiers, captured the British colors and suffered a slashing wound to the abdomen. At the Battle of Camden, SC in August of 1780 he carried a cannon from the battlefield, killed three soldiers in hand to hand combat, stole an enemy horse and saved the life of a commanding officer. Seven months later he was a part of the cavalry charge at Cowpens that won the day. And at Guilford Courthouse the 21-year-old is said to have killed 11 of the enemy, while being bayonetted in the leg.
After the battle, Francisco volunteered to scout the movements of British Colonel Tarleton who was raiding in Virginia. Tarleton’s men found the Patriot giant and arrested him at a tavern somewhere along the way. Feeling overly confident the soldiers then wished to push their luck and take the silver buckles from the shoes of the intrepid hero. In a fierce hand to hand fight Francisco was able to kill three of the nine assailants and ride off on one of their horses. He but suffered a glancing bullet wound to the side.
After recovering from his wounds, he was present at the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia. His six-year military career came full circle a mere 60 miles from Richmond, Virginia where he initially signed up for service in the Patriot cause.
The daring stories told of the “Hercules of the Revolution” are legendary. Peter Francisco, in the early years of his manhood, fought boldly for the early years of our nation. Stories grow bigger in the telling, but they are hard to dispel for a man as big as Peter Francisco. And in Greensboro, NC in March of 1781 a young man, blessed with a boldness only matched by his size, roamed the battlefield and added to his legend.