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Richard Caswell

Richard Caswell
1st & 5th Governor of North Carolina
In office
November 12, 1776 – April 20, 1780
Preceded by William Jones as Royal Colonial Governor
Succeeded by Abner Nash
In office
May 13, 1785 – December 20, 1787
Preceded by Alexander Martin
Succeeded by Samuel Johnston
Second Grand Master of Masons of North Carolina[1]
In office
Preceded by Samuel Johnston
Succeeded by Samuel Johnston
Personal details
Born (1729-08-03)August 3, 1729
Harford County, Maryland
Died November 10, 1789(1789-11-10) (aged 60)
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Spouse(s) Sarah Caswell (nee Herritage)
Profession Lawyer, Surveyor

Richard Caswell (August 3, 1729 – November 10, 1789) was the first and fifth governor of the U.S. State of North Carolina, serving from 1776 to 1780 and from 1785 to 1787.


  • Early life 1
  • Regulator Movement 2
  • American Revolution 3
    • Revolutionary governor 3.1
  • Later career and death 4
  • Legacy 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Early life

He was born on August 3, 1729 in Joppa, Harford County, Maryland, one of the eleven children of Richard Caswell and Christian Dallam Caswell. The younger Richard Caswell departed Maryland for the New Bern area of North Carolina in 1745.[2]

While a member of the North Carolina colonial assembly, a post he held for seventeen years, he introduced a bill in 1762 establishing the town of Kingston, now Kinston, NC.

Regulator Movement

As an officer in the local militia, Caswell fought against the Regulators in the Battle of Alamance in 1771 during the War of the Regulation (1760-1771). According to some sources, he commanded the right wing of Governor William Tryon's forces at Alamance.[3]

American Revolution

Caswell once owned Harmony Hall in Kinston.

A lawyer and surveyor by training, Caswell represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress of 1774 and 1775. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Caswell was the commander of the district of New Bern, NC Minutemen. As a Patriot officer in the American Revolutionary War, Caswell led North Carolina militiamen in the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge. In 1780 he was also commissioned as a major general of North Carolina troops. At the Battle of Camden, his troops fled after the Virginia militia broke and fled in a panic exposing Caswell's militia to attack without greater defense, leaving the Continentals behind to suffer defeat.

Revolutionary governor

Caswell was president of the provincial congress that wrote the first North Carolina Constitution in 1776. As the congress adjourned, it elected Caswell as acting governor. He took the oath of office on January 16, 1777. Under the new constitution, the state Legislature ("General Assembly") re-elected him as the first Governor in April 1777. He stepped down in 1780, as the constitution allowed only three consecutive one-year terms. He then assumed command of all of North Carolina's militia, which he commanded at the American defeat at Camden, 16 August 1780.

Later career and death

He served as the state's comptroller and as a member of the North Carolina Senate between his two gubernatorial terms. Caswell was also chosen to be one of North Carolina's delegates to the United States Constitutional Convention of 1787, but he did not attend.

Richard Caswell was a prosperous farmer, land speculator, tanner, and Grand Master Mason of North Carolina.[4] He had training in surveying and was appointed deputy surveyor for the colony in 1750.

At the time of his death in 1789, he had returned once again to the North Carolina General Assembly, this time serving as Speaker of the Senate. Caswell died in Fayetteville, NC, on November 10, 1789. According to tradition, his body was returned to Kinston for burial in the family cemetery, near where a memorial and museum stands today.


Among his many accomplishments was his proposal to use the reimbursement funds for aid rendered to the Crown during the French and Indian war for erecting and establishing a free school in every county in North Carolina. His "Address to the General Assembly" in 1760 on this topic was used for many years by other politicians in favor of public education, and he also wrote the proposal into the first state constitution in 1776.[5]

Caswell County, North Carolina, and Fort Caswell were named for him.

The Richard Caswell Memorial and museum is established in Kinston, NC.


  1. ^ "Officers of the Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of North Carolina, the first 100 years". Raleigh, North Carolina, USA: Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  2. ^ "North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program - Richard Caswell". North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources. Retrieved 2014-10-01. 
  3. ^ Caswell, Richard
  4. ^ Francois X. Martin "A Funeral Oration of the Most Worshipful and Honorable Major-General Richard Caswell" (1791). Freemason's Magazine, Or General and Complete Library, Volume 5.
  5. ^ Holloman, Charles R. 1979.Caswell, Richard. NCpedia.


  • Samuel A. Ashe, Biographical History of North Carolina, vol. 3 (1905).
  • Connor, R.D.W. (Robert Digges Wimberly). “Richard Caswell,” in Revolutionary Leaders of North Carolina, 79-101. 1916.
  • Richard Caswell Papers, 1776-1914 (bulk 1776-1785). The Richard Caswell Papers, #145-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The collection is primarily correspondence relating to North Carolina and United States military and political issues of the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary periods. Topics include Revolutionary preparations including the arrival of French military officers and the difficulties of funding and arming the militia. After the Revolution, correspondence discusses legislative issues and political news. Correspondents include Thomas Burke (North Carolina), John Penn (Continental Congress), Rawlins Lowndes, Henry Laurens, John Baptista Ashe (Continental Congress), James Iredell, William Sharpe, Abner Nash, and his son, William Caldwell, among others. Other items include a commission, 1777, for the negotiation of boundaries and peace with the Cherokee Indians; a diploma, 1803; and list and map, 1914, related the burial places of Caswell and his relations.

External links

  • Caswell's Congressional biography
  • Richard Caswell Memorial
Political offices
Preceded by
President of the North Carolina Council of Safety
Willie Jones
Governor of North Carolina
1776 – 1780
Succeeded by
Abner Nash
Preceded by
Alexander Martin
Governor of North Carolina
1784 – 1787
Succeeded by
Samuel Johnston
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