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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Patten, John

by Hugh F. Rankin, 1994

1733–1 Aug. 1787

John Patten, planter and Revolutionary soldier, was born in New England around 1733 and moved to North Carolina from Wells, Mass. He established himself on a plantation on the south bank of the Pamlico River about six miles from the site of Washington. On 26 Oct. 1766 he married Ann Caldom, daughter of Churchill Caldom. Patten and his wife had two children, a son and a daughter.

At the Battle of Alamance on 16 May 1771, he served as a captain of a company of Beaufort County volunteers in the regiment of Colonel William Thompson. Four years later he represented Beaufort County in the Third Provincial Congress, which sat at Hillsborough during August–September 1775. On 1 September, when the congress appointed officers of the First and Second North Carolina Continental regiments, Patten was named major for the Second Regiment. He served in Virginia under Colonel Robert Howe when Howe went to the aid of the Virginians against Lord Dunmore. On 10 Apr. 1776 Patten was promoted to lieutenant colonel and in June served with his regiment at Charleston, S.C., when that town was besieged by the British.

In the spring of 1777 the North Carolina Continentals were sent northwards to reinforce the primary American army under General George Washington, which they joined at Morristown, N.J. Patten was present at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. On 22 November, when the Second and Third North Carolina regiments were consolidated and designated the Second Regiment, he was promoted to colonel and given the command of the unit. He spent the dreadful winter of 1777–78 at Valley Forge, and on 28 June 1778 he and his men fought in the Battle of Monmouth Court House. Patten was stationed in the New York highlands during the summer and fall of 1778. In late 1779 the North Carolina Continental regiments were detached from Washington's army and ordered south to aid Major General Benjamin Lincoln, arriving at Charleston on 19 Feb. 1780. When the city fell to the British on 12 May 1780, Patten was taken prisoner with 301 of his men. An attack of fever led to his being paroled.

John Patten was mustered out of the army on 1 Jan. 1783. After the war he lived rather quietly on his plantation until his death.


Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, vols. 11–12 (1895).

Hugh F. Rankin, North Carolina Continentals (1971).

William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, vols. 9–10 (1890).

Charles L. Van Noppen Papers (Manuscript Department, Duke University Library, Durham).


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