Thomas Sumter was born on the Virginia frontier to poor English immigrants. He worked as a surveyer and worked in his father's mill. During the French and Indian War, he served with the Virginia militia in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Now a sergeant, he was with the militia when it cooperated with South Carolineans in the Cherokee War in 1760-1761. Although, he did not see action, he was in the right place at the right time.
When peace was made, one of the chiefs asked that the treaty with Viriginia be carried by a Virginian into Cherokee country. Lieutenant Henry Timberlake and Sergeant Sumter volunteered. Sumter borrowed sixty pounds to buy provisions for the journey. After they returned to Williamsburg, they were given the task of escorting three Cherokee chiefs to London to meet with King George III. While in London, Timberlake and Sumter passed themselves off as British army officers. They returned to South Carolina on October 28, 1762. Sumter took the chiefs to the Royal Governor. Sumter was then asked to escort them back to their village. Along the way, he lingered at a place called Eutaw Springs. He spent that winter with the Cherokee, arresting a Canadian militia lieutenant who was telling the Indians that the French would defeat the English. He then brought the man to Fort Prince George, again stopping at Eutaw Springs.
After being well received in Charleston, Sumter decided to return to Virginia, again stopping at Eutaw Springs on the way home. When he returned to Virginia, he was imprisoned for the old debt of the loan of sixty pounds. He escaped and returned to South Carolina where he first tried to secure money from the South Carolina government, but later secured money from the British goverment for his escorting the Cherokee.After Sumter received his money, he returned to Eutaw Springs and bought land on the Santee River. He built a crossroads store. In 1766 he was named a justice of the peace. In summer of 1767, he married Mary Jameson, a wealthy widow that was eleven years his senior and crippled on her left side. On August 30, 1768, Thomas Sumter Jr., was born.
Revolutionary War: 1775-1780
In late 1775, Captain Thomas Sumter raised a company of militia. In November 1775, Sumter accompanied his brother-in-law, Richard Richardson, in the Snow Campaign which subdued backcountry Tory forces. Thanks in part to his brother-in-law's patronage, in February 1776, Sumter was named Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Rifle Regiment. On June 28, 1776, he served under Colonel William Moultrie at the Battle of Fort Sullivan, but saw no action. His regiment was then used a reserve in Williamson's Campaign against the Cherokee in the fall of 1776, but saw no action beyond helping burning the Cherokee villages and cornfields.
The 2nd Regiment was commissioned soon after into Continental service, serving in Maj. General Robert Howe's southern coastal campaigns. In September 1778, when fighting had subsided in the Carolinas, Sumter resigned his commission as Commander of The Regiment, Continental Line. Sumter remained out of the war until May 28, 1780, when word arrived that Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his British Legion were riding their way. Sumter donned his old uniform rode off with his African servant, Soldier Tom. Soon after, Capt. Charles Campbell of the British Legion arrived with orders to bring Sumter in. The story is that the dragoons carried Sumter's wife in her chair onto the lawn, where she watched the Legion loot and then burn the house.
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