Marker No. G-25
Marker Text: Thomas Sumter was born on 14 Aug. 1734 in this region. Sumter, a member of the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War, moved to South Carolina in 1765. He served as a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army (1776-1778); in June 1780 he came out of retirement. In Oct. 1780, he became a Brigadier General, and was instrumental in defeating the British in the Carolinas. He served in Congress (1789-1793; 1797-1801) and was an U.S. senator (1801-1810). He died on 1 June 1832. Sumter's name is also associated with the Civil War, because Fort Sumter is named for him.
Location: On Virginia Route 231 (Gordonsville Road), two miles south of Gordonsville, between Lover's Lane (County Road 646) and Klockner Road (State Route 860). Erected by the Department of Historic Resources in 2000.
As we begin this year's observances of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. April brings us to the attack and surrender of Fort Sumter in South Carolina. I don't have a marker directly related to Fort Sumter. I have never had the opportunity to go to Charleston, South Carolina, but today's marker from Virginia is about the person for which Fort Sumter is named. Thomas Sumter was born in Virginia in the area near this marker in Albemarle County. Apparently the exact location of his birth is lost to history, but it is known to have occurred near here. Some sources give the location of his birth as Hanover County. At the time of his birth in 1734, this location was officially in Goochland County and did not become Albermarle County until 1744. Virginia has many markers, as do other states, about people who were born in Virginia and made their fame and fortune in other states or countries.
General Thomas Sumter was born on August 14, 1734, the son of William and Patience Sumter. Educated in common schools he engaged in surveying in Virginia, worked in his father's mill and after his father's early death cared for his mother's sheep and plowed his neighbor's fields.
Sumter joined the Virginia Militia as a sergeant where he campaigned against the Cherokees which took him to South Carolina. He acted as a Cherokee interpreter for a delegation traveling to London appearing before King George III. Returning on October 28, 1762, he landed in Charleston, South Carolina and spent that winter with the Cherokees.
Many native born Virginian's left the state to seek their fortunes in other areas of the country, but interestingly Sumter left to avoid prison. After being in South Carolina around 1762, he returned briefly to Virginia, where he was arrested for an old debt. He managed to escape with the help of friends from a Staunton, Virginia Prison and came overland to Eutaw Springs, SC where he invested his savings in land and slaves. He also opened a crossroads store and earned such respect from the community that he was made a justice of the peace in 1766.
Sumter later married the wealthy widow, Mrs. Cantey Gemstone, seven years his senior. They settled in St. Mark's parish, opened another store, a saw mill and a grist mill. They had one child, a son, Thomas Sumter, Jr., born August 30, 1768.
Thomas Sumter served his country during the American Revolution and as many veterans he served the nation in many other roles. His role during the American Revolution is well documented and you only need to do an internet search to learn the details, but they are too involved for me to related here. Following the Revolutionary War, he founded the town of Statesburg and held land grants for more than 150,000 acres of land. Service to his community, state and country continued from 1782 to December 16, 1810 when he retired from public life.
Photo taken looking southwest on Route 231 at intersection with Klockner Road.
Thomas Sumter's public life included service to South Carolina and the nation, serving in the General Assembly of South Carolina. He was elected to the First Congress which meet in NY in 1789. He was elected to the Second Congress but suffered his only defeat in the election of 1793. He remained out of politics for three years, then in 1796 he was again elected as a member of Congress now held in the new Capitol in Washington DC. Sumter was the only member from South Carolina who voted for Thomas Jefferson instead of Burr when the election for President was decided by Congress.
In December 1801, the South Carolina General Assembly elected Congressman Sumter to fill an unexpired term as a U.S. Senator, where he served until 1810. He had been re-elected to the Senate in December 1810, then being 76 years of age and beginning to be weary of public service and harassed by complications in his vast private enterprises. Sumter resigned and retired from public service and returned to his home among the High Hills of Statesburg.
In the last year of his life, Sumter took a stand on a principle of government closest to his heart "States Rights," which interestingly was a major factor in the American Civil War and it first actions at Fort Sumter, 29 years after his death.
The town of Sumter, South Carolina and Sumter County were named for Thomas Sumter. The town of Sumter is even dubbed "The Gamecock City" after his nickname. "Gamecock" is one of the several traditional nicknames for a native of South Carolina.
In addition, Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor was named for Sumter after the War of 1812. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter in April 1861.
Sumter died on June 1, 1832 at South Mount, his home near Stateburg, S. C., at the age of 98 years. At the time of his death, he was the oldest surviving general officer of the American Revolution.