Unveiling a local hero

Jun. 21, 2013 @ 05:20 AM

A piece of Revolutionary War history is now documented on canvas thanks to a local author, artist and historians.

The first known portrait of Col. Andrew Hampton, commander of the Rutherford County Liberty Men during the defense of Charleston and in the battle of Kings Mountain, was unveiled Wednesday evening at the Rutherfordton Town Hall.

“This is a long past-due honor for one of the great pioneers and heroes of our area,” said Chivous Bradley, a Rutherford County historian.

Local author Joe Epley first came across Hampton when he began researching the Revolutionary War activities in the western Carolinas for his first book, “A Passel of Hate.”

“During my work, I realized that Col. Hampton, a local war hero, had not received the recognition he rightfully deserved,” Epley said.

Delving deeper into Hampton’s history, Epley contacted Bradley, who coordinated with the American Revolutionary War Living History Center (ARWLHC) in Grover and Martin Mongiello, one of the ARWLHC founders.

A prosperous farmer and miller and devoted father of 15 children, Hampton settled in Mountain Creek in 1770, in what was then called Tryon County, and was a captain in the frontier militia.

In 1775, he resigned his royal commission when he signed with the Tryon Resolves, which declared the area’s support for the struggle against British tyranny.

A year later Hampton was a major in General Griffith Rutherford’s expedition against the Cherokee Indians.

When Rutherford County was created in 1779, he was promoted to Colonel and given command of the new county’s Patriot militia.

“He was 67 years old at the battle of Kings Mountain,” Pauley said. “This great man had such determination to march uphill during battle at that age.”

Later during the Battle of Blackstock plantation near Spartanburg, Hampton led the Rutherford riflemen as they inflicted heavy casualties upon Banastre Tarleton’s Legion.

Hampton resigned his military commission in 1781 and then served three years as sheriff of Rutherford County.

He died in 1805 and is buried near Mountain Creek.

After learning about this local history, Mongiello commissioned artist Thomas Kelly Pauley of York County, S.C. to produce a series of portraits of the heroes of Kings Mountain, including Hampton.

“Many of the heroes of the backcountry militia leaders were simple men who never sat for an artist and of whom no graphic likeness exists today,” Pauley said. “Andrew Hampton was one of those heroes that history has almost forgotten.”

Specializing in historical as well as contemporary portraits, Pauley takes a historic forensic approach to his portrait painting.

“By analyzing dozens of photographs of Hampton’s descendants and comparing common facial features, I produced a reasonable facsimile of what he must have looked like,” Pauley said. “It’s the hope that when the painting is complete, it looks like the actual person — a face that family and relatives can be familiar with.”

Hampton’s descendants from Rutherford and Polk counties and as far away as Texas and Arkansas contributed old photographs for Pauley to use, some dating back to the mid-1800’s.

“Initially, I made several sketches, giving attention to the details around the eyes, cheekbones and hairline before putting the finishing touches to an oil portrait,” Pauley said

The portrait of Hamilton will remain on display at the Rutherfordton Town hall for three weeks.

“Rutherfordton was selected as the site for the public unveiling because Hampton lived only a few miles west of the town,” said Mongiello. “His family played a major role in the early development of the county and many of Hampton’s descendants still live in the area.”

Ambrose Mills of Rutherford County was one of Hampton’s descendants who attended the public unveiling Wednesday.

Other inaugural completed portraits of Kings Mountain Patriots by Pauley include Colonels Frederick Hambright and Benjamin Cleveland, and Ishmael Titus, a free African-American who fought with the Patriots.

These portraits are on display at The Inn of the Patriots in Grover.

“The Town of Rutherfordton is honored with the unveiling of the portrait of Col. Andrew Hampton,” said Mayor Jimmy Dancy. “Col. Hampton’s valor and bravery should be honored and revered by those of us who call this wonderful area home.”