Francisco, Peter

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Francisco, Peter

FRANCISCO, PETER. (1760?–1832). War hero. Possibly Portugal and Virginia. Put ashore from a strange ship and abandoned near the present Hopewell, Virginia, when he was about four years old, Peter was reared by Judge Anthony Winston, an uncle of Patrick Henry. The boy's true name and origin are not known. He grew into a 6-foot, 6-inch giant and joined the 10th Virginia Regiment at the age of 15. He was wounded at the Brandywine (September 1777) and met the Marquis de Lafayette when they were both receiving medical treatment. After fighting at Germantown and Fort Mifflin, he re-enlisted and was seriously wounded by a musketball at Monmouth on 28 June 1778. He was one of the twenty-man, forlorn hope of a troop led by Lieutenant James Gibbons at Stony Point on 16 July 1779, and one of the four who reached the final objective. Despite a bayonet slash across the abdomen received in this action, he also took part in the assault on Paulus Hook, slightly more than a month later, and is credited with splitting the skulls of two grenadiers. At the expiration of his second enlistment he joined the militia regiment of Colonel William Mayo. In the rout at Camden, South Carolina, on 16 August 1780, he is said to have carried off a 1,000-pound cannon to prevent its capture, and to have rescued Colonel Mayo after he was taken prisoner. Francisco then joined the mounted troop of Captain (Thomas?) Watkins and took part in the subsequent guerrilla operations of Colonel William Washington's dragoons. At Guilford, North Carolina, on 15 March 1781, he was twice wounded by bayonet while charging at the head of Nathanael Greene's counterattack.

Found lying among the dead at Guilford, Francisco was rescued by a Quaker. He recovered and volunteered as a scout in the operations against British raiders in Virginia. At a place called Ward's Tavern he was surrounded by nine of General Banastre Tarleton's dragoons, but managed by ruse and by single combat to fight his way out, leaving at least two of the enemy dead. He took part in the siege of Yorktown.

After the war he served for many years as sergeant at arms in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1824 he accompanied Lafayette on a tour of the state. He died in Richmond in 1832.

SEE ALSO Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina.


Moon, William A. Peter Francisco: the Portuguese Patriot. Pfafftown, N.C.: Colonial Publishers, 1980.

                            revised by Michael Bellesiles

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