James "Horseshoe" Robertson

Robertson Family Cemetery

Tuscaloosa County, AL




The following information was found on Ancestry.com


JAMES "HORSESHOE" ROBERTSON, private S. C. Continental Line; enrolled on October 29, 1833, under act of Congress of June 7, 1832; payment to date from March 4, 1831; annual allowance, $80; sums received to date of publication of list, $240.--Revolutionary Pension Roll, in Vol. xiv, Sen. Doc. 514, 23rd Cong., 1st sess., 1833-34.

"The following tribute to 'Horseshoe Robinson' is extracted from a poem, entitled 'The Day of Freedom,' by Alexander B. Meek, and delivered as an oration at Tuscaloosa on the 4th of July, 1838:

"Valoriously He bore himself, and with his youthful arms Chivalrous deeds performed, which in a land Of legendary lore had placed his name, Embalmed in song, beside the hallowed ones Of Douglass and of Percy; not unsung Entirely his fame. Romance has wreathed With flowering fingers, and with wizard art That hangs the votive chaplet on the heart, His story, mid her fictions, and hath given His name and deeds to after times. When last This trophied anniversary came round And called Columbia's patriot children out To greet its advent, the old man was here, Serenely smiling as the autumn sun Just dripping down the golden west to seek His evening couch. Few months agone I saw Him in his quiet home, with all around Its wishes could demand--and by his side The loved companion of his youthful years--This singing maiden of his boyhood's time; She who had cheered him with her smiles when clouds Were o'er his country's prospects; who had trod In sun and shade, life's devious path with him, And whom kind Heaven had still preserved to bless, With all the fullness of maternal wealth, The mellowing afternoon of his decline. Where are they now?--the old man and his wife? Alas! the broadening sun sets in the night, The ripening shock falls on the reaper's arm; The lingering guest must leave the hall at last; The music ceases when the feast is done; The old man and his wife are gone. From earth, Have passed in peace to heaven; and summer's flowers, Beneath the light of this triumphant day, Luxurious sweets are shedding o'er The unsculptured grave of 'Horseshoe Robinson.'"

"The grave of James Robertson is in Tuscaloosa county on the banks of the Black Warrior river near Sanders' ferry, in the old family burying-ground. He was the famous 'Horseshoe Robertson' of Revolutionary fame in South Carolina, and the hero of the novel of that name written by John Pendleton Kennedy in 1835. The name 'Horseshoe' was given because of a bend in a creek in his plantation in South Carolina shaped like a horseshoe.

"The following inscription is taken from his tombstone:

MAJOR JAMES ROBERTSON, A native of S. C. died April 26, 1838, aged 79 years, and was buried here. Well known as Horseshoe Robinson, he earned a Just fame in the war of independence, in which he was eminent in courage, patriotism and suffering. He lived fifty-six years with his worthy partner, useful and respected, and died in hopes of a blessed immortality. His children erect this monument as a tribute justly due a good husband, father, neighbor, patriot and soldier.

"James Robertson was born in 1759; and his epitaph states that he was a native of South Carolina. He was married in 1782 and 'lived fifty-six years with his worthy partner;' she died in January, 1838, and he died April 26, 1838. The name of his wife was Sarah Morris ---; tradition says her maiden name was Hayden; they left several children, one daughter was living in Mississippi a few years ago. James Robertson was a famous scout during the Revolution and a terror to the Tories. After the war he settled in Pendleton district and was living there when Kennedy met him in 1818. In the preface to Kennedy's novel of Horseshoe Robinson he gives an account of the circumstances which led him to write the story.

"He says that in the winter of 1818-19 he had occasion to visit the western section of South Carolina. He went from Augusta to Edgefield, then to Abbe ville and thence to Pendleton, in the old district of Ninety-six, just at the foot of the mountains. His course was still westward until he came to the Seneca river, a tributary of the Savannah. He describes how he happened to spend the night at the home of Col. T--, who lived thirty miles from Pendleton. Horseshoe Robinson came here that night. 'What a man I saw! Tall, broad, brawny and erect. His homely dress, his free stride, his face radiant with kindness, the natural gracefulness of his motions, all afforded a ready index to his character. It was evident he was a man to confide in.'

"The old soldier was drawn out to relate some stories of the war. He told how he got away from Charleston after the surrender, and how he took five Scotchmen prisoners, and these two famous passages are faithfully preserved in the narrative.

"It was first published in 1835. Horseshoe Robinson was then a very old man. He had removed to Alabama and lived, I am told, near Tuscaloosa. I commissioned a friend to send him a copy of the book. The report brought me was that the old man had listened very attentively to the reading of it and took great interest in it.

"'What do you say to all this?' was the question addressed to him, after the reading was finished. His reply is a voucher, which I desire to preserve: 'It is all true and right--in its right place--excepting about them women, which I disremember. That mought be true, too; but my memory is treacherous--I disremember.'"

It is a pleasure to know that this fine old hero was a real personage, and although his exploits may have been colored in a measure by the pen of the romancer, there still remains a rich stock of adventures, which were undoubtedly true, and the picture of a nature frank, brave, true and yet full of modesty.

Extract from Flag of the Union, published at Tuscaloosa, January 17, 1838:

Horseshoe Robinson--Who has not read Kennedy's delightful novel of this name, and who that has read would not give an half day's ride to see the venerable living Hero of this Tale of "Tory Ascendency," the immortal Horseshoe himself--the extermination of "Jim Curry" and Hugh Habershaw? The venerable patriot bearing the familiar sobriquet, and whose name Mr. Kennedy has made as familiar in the mouths of American youths as household words, was visited by us in company with several friends one day last week. We found the old Gentleman on his Plantation about 12 miles from this city, as comfortably situated with respect to this world's goods as any one could desire to have him. It was gratifying to us to see him in his old age after having served through the whole war of Independence thus seated under his own vine and fig tree, with his children around him and with the Partner of his early toils and trials still continued to him enjoying in peace and safety the rich rewards of that arduous struggle, in the most gloomy and desponding hour of which he was found as ready, as earnest, as zealous, for the cause of liberty as when victory perched upon her standard, and the stars of the "Tory ascendency" was for a while dimmed by defeat--and in which he continued with unshaken Faith and constancy until it sank below the Horison never again to rise. The old gentleman gave us a partial history of his Revolutionary adventures, containing many interesting facts respecting the domination of the Tory party in the South during the times of the Revolution, which Mr. Kennedy has not recorded in his Book. But it will chiefly interest our readers, or to that portion of them at least to whom the history of the old hero's achievements as recorded by Mr. Kennedy is familiar, to be assured that the principal incidents therein portrayed are strictly true.

That of his escape from Charleston after the capture of that city, his being entrusted with a letter to Butler, the scene at Wat Adair's, the capture of Butler at Grindal's Ford, his subsequent escape and recapture, the death of John Ramsey, and the detection of the party by reason of the salute fired over his grave, his capturing of the four men under the common of the younger St. Jermyn, his attack up Ines' camp, and the death of Hugh Habershaw by his own hand and finally the death of Jim Curry, are all narrated pretty much as they occurred, in the old veteran's own language: "There is a heap of truth in it, though the writer has mightily furnished it up." That the names of Butler, Mildred Lindsay, Mary Musgrove, John Ramsay, Hugh Habershaw, Jim Curry and in fact almost every other used in the Book, with the exception of his own, are real and not fictitious. His own name, he informed us, is James; and that he did not go by the familior appellation by which he is now so widely known until after the war, when he acquired it from the form of his Plantation in the Horseshoe Bend of the Fair Forest creek, which was bestowed upon him by the Legislature of South Carolina in consequence of the services he had rendered during the war--this estate, we understood him to say, he still owned.

He was born, he says, in 1759 in Virginia, and entered the army in his seventeenth year. Before the close of war, he says, he commanded a troop of horse, so that his military title is that of Captain. Horseshoe, although in infirm health, bears evident marks of having been a man of great personal strength and activity. He is now afflicted with a troublesome cough, which in the natural course of events must in a few years wear out his aged frame. Yet, notwithstanding his infirmities and general debility, his eye still sparkles with the fire of youth, as he recounts the stirring and thrilling incidents of the war, and that sly, quiet humor so well described by Kennedy may still be seen playing around his mouth as one calls to his recollections any of the pranks he was wont to play upon any of the "tory vagrants," as he very properly styles them. The old Gentleman received us with warm cordiality and hospitality; and after partaking of the Bounties of his board and spending a night under his hospitable roof we took leave of him, sincerely wishing him many years of the peaceful enjoyment of that liberty which he fought so long and so bravely to achieve. It will not be uninteresting, we hope, to remark that the old hero still considers himself a soldier, though the nature of his warfare is changed; he is now a zealous promoter of the Redeemer's cause as he once was in securing the independence of his country.

Since the above was in type we have heard of the death of the aged partner of this venerable patriot. An obituary notice will be found in another column.

"The novel Horseshoe Robinson is interesting reading even in this critical and blase twentieth century. Judge A. B. Meek, a fine literary critic, says that "Mr. Kennedy, the author of 'Horseshoe Robinson,' has in that inimitable 'Tale of the Tory Ascendency' in South Carolina proved the suitableness of American subjects for fictitious composition of the most elevated kind. Although in his incidents and characters he has done little more than presented a faithful chronicle of facts, using throughout the veritable names of persons and places as they were stated to him by his hero himself, yet such is the thrilling interest of the story, the vivid pictures of scenery, manners, customs, and language, the striking contrasts of characters and the pervading beauty and power of style and description throughout the work, that we think we do not err in saying that it is not inferior in any respect to the best of the Waverly series.'

"The home of James Robertson in South Carolina, where he lived for a third of a century, is still standing. It is in Oconee county a few miles from Westminster. It is now owned by a Mr. Cox and travelers frequently visit the place, drawn thither by the fame of 'Horseshoe Robinson.'"--Mrs. P. H. Mell in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Vol. iv, pp. 560-564.