Though still insufficiently covered in classrooms, the Battle of Kings Mountain is recognized as the key event in the demonstration of popular southern refusal to submit to Loyalist rule. Even less well-remembered is the smaller Battle of Musgrove’s Mill, without which there may have been no Kings Mountain. It was a little encounter in which just 200 Patriot militiamen faced off against 264 Loyalist regulars and militia. Though small, it sent a strong signal that backcountry Americans simply would not be ruled any longer by a foreign king.
Giving such small battles their due is the purpose of Westholme Publishing’s “Small Battles” series. The Battle of Musgrove’s Mill, 1780 comes from the pen of John Buchanan, the undisputed dean of southern Revolutionary War history. Now in his 90s, Buchanan writes as well as ever. In fewer than a hundred pages, he puts the story in context; explains the British, Tory, Indian, and Patriot perspectives; tells us about the key commanders on both sides; narrates the battle; and tells us why it matters. That is a lot to put into eighty-eight pages of text, but he has done it masterfully.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
The Parrot family were, according to genealogies, among the earliest German-speaking settlers of the Shenandoah Valley in 1734. They are believed to have been Swiss, which would make Jacob and his brothers Joseph and George three of several Swiss-descended soldiers in the 8th Virginia, alongside Chaplain Christian Streit, Lt. Jacob Rinker, and private soldier Joachim Fetzer. The name was originally spelled "Parett" or possibly "Barrett."
What Lieutenant Parrot did when he "left his detachment" is not clear, though the term "detachment" hints that it happened before the regiment was united in the spring of 1777. A fair guess is that he went home sick from the south without permission. After the ignominious end to his military service, he returned to the Shenandoah Valley and remained there until his death in 1829. He is buried next to his wife in a small cemetery northwest of Harrisonburg, several miles south of his old home in Shenandoah County. Though the stones match, it should be noted that one genealogy states that Jacob was never married.
Pat Kelly lives on the east side of the Blue Ridge in Albemarle County, about thirty miles south of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and more than an hour southeast of Jacob Parrot’s resting place. He descends from Jacob’s brother John, making him a 7th great-nephew. He grew up in East Tennessee (where his ancestor founded Parrottsville), but moved to Virginia in 1978 when he retired from the Navy. He has several Revolutionary War ancestors and has been researching Henry to see if he also fought in the war. Henry is listed in the Capt. John Tipton's company of activated Dunmore County Militia during Lord Dunmore’s War (1774), but he was not in the 8th Virginia and further service has not yet been demonstrated.
Fortunately, a search of the cemetery found his marker leaning with more than a dozen others against a concrete riser off to the side of the cemetery and not visible from the other graves. It is severely eroded, but its inscription is intact. It is broken at its base and could not be placed back in the ground in its current state. The stone for Jacob’s wife, Rachel, is still in the ground and is of identical design.
Though intact, Jacob’s and Rachel’s inscriptions are too eroded to be easily legible. Only a few letters can be made out in photographs taken of them in 2013. Pouring water on Jacob’s stone made it only slightly more legible. The full inscription therefore seemed to be lost before a trick of nature revealed the full wording. Very carefully turning the stone to obliquely face the light of the late afternoon sun illuminated the edges of the letters and brought them back to almost full visibility. It reads
Departed this Life
May th[e?] 12 1829 Age[d?]
[7?]2 Years 6 mo 19 d[ays?]
The letters are carefully and somewhat formally executed, the odd mix of capital letters, the variant spelling of "Parrit," the small capital “H” in the second word, and the off-center placement of the fourth and fifth lines indicate that the marker was not made by a professional stone carver. If anything, this makes the memorial even more valuable as a relic of Jacob Parrot’s life. Someone who dearly loved him and his wife appears to have worked the stones to honor them. What at first look like scratches near the top of Jacob’s marker seem on closer inspection to be a decoration of some kind, perhaps a flower.
In Parrot’s case, it may be possible to craft a facsimile of the original stone. Then he and Rachel could continue to have matching stones as they have for two centuries. A repaired original could be reset upright at the correct angle to catch the rays of the late-day sun. Or it could be taken to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society’s museum. At all costs, it should not disappear into someone’s garage.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
© 2015-2022 Gabriel Neville