One Story, Two Versions

When researching my ancestor Joseph Greer I was amused to find two different versions of the same story.  After the revolutionaries were victorious in the Battle of King’s Mountain, Greer was chosen to take the news to the Continental Congress.  Wikipedia summarizes it as, “Joseph Greer (born 8 August 1754) also known as the Kings Mountain Messenger, is most known for his delivery of the message of victory against the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain to the Continental Congress in 1780.”

The Daughters of the American Revolution in Tennessee have a chapter named Kings Mountain Messenger in honor of Greer.  Their version of the event includes a few more details.  It explains that he was chosen by Col. John Sevier to deliver the news of the victory and “It took him some thirty days on foot and horse while enduring the wilds of the country, the threat of hostile Indians, and the snow and rain of a severe winter to arrive with musket and compass on November 7, 1780 at the session of Congress, a 600 mile trip. It is said that the Indians shot his horse from under him and on one occasion was hiding inside a hollow log while the Indians sat on it.”

When he finally got to Philadelphia, “His entry to the Congress was restrained because he was unknown, however he pushed his 6 foot 7 inch frontiersman stature through the door and delivered his message to a stunned and disbelieving Congress. Seeing his size and courage, they were heard to say ‘with men of his size and strength, no wonder the frontier patriots won.’

There is also a chapter of the lesser-known Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) named for Joseph Greer.  Their version of the story has some differences, though.  This is where you need to put on your skeptical glasses.  When relating the journey through the wilderness, the SAR says, “During the journey, Greer had several horses shot out from under him by Indians.  One night Greer hid in a log while hiding from a group of Indians chasing him.  One account said the Indians even sat on the same log resting their feet while Greer remained immobile inside the log.  Greer also had to cross several streams, some covered with ice, and walk through deep snow along the trip.

In the SAR version, when Greer got to the Continental Congress, “A Continental soldier guard refused to let Greer enter the meeting. This didn’t stop Greer. He had already been through too much to be stopped now. If Indians or the weather couldn’t stop him no soldier was about to keep him from his mission. One account says Greer hit the guard with his bare fist knocking him out and then Greer picked him up over his head and slammed him to the ground. Greer then kicked the door down where the Continental Congress was meeting. A Stunned Congress looked in awe at Greer, a big man standing six feet seven inches tall while he gave his account of the battle on how Ferguson was defeated.” It also repeats the “With men his size and strength, No wonder we won the battle” exclamation.

I thought it was funny how the SAR seemed to “punch up” (pun intended) the details.  I’ve been trying to find the original source material without luck so far, so I don’t know if the second version started out as the first version and just naturally changed over time as stories do, or if someone intentionally changed it to make it more interesting.  It’s also possible the second version is the one straight from Greer’s mouth (which doesn’t mean it was completely accurate, of course.)  It is yet another example of how we need to be skeptical genealogists and never stop looking for more information.

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