McCall, James

August 11, 1741–April 1781

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, McCall was selected as commander of one of three companies of patriot militia formed in the Long Cane area. He commanded his company in the stand against the Loyalists at Ninety Six in November 1775 and was selected the following summer to command a detachment in a covert mission to capture a party of Tories in the Cherokee country.

Soldier. McCall was born on August 11, 1741, on Canacocheque Creek in Pennsylvania. He moved southward with his family in his youth, settling first in western Virginia and, after being driven out by Indians, later in Mecklenburg District, North Carolina. A young James McCall appeared in the ranks of a militia company with his father in 1766 and became active during the North Carolina Regulator insurrection. In the early 1770s he moved to the Long Cane District of South Carolina to settle among his Calhoun relatives.

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, McCall was selected as commander of one of three companies of patriot militia formed in the Long Cane area. He commanded his company in the stand against the Loyalists at Ninety Six in November 1775 and was selected the following summer to command a detachment in a covert mission to capture a party of Tories in the Cherokee country. Advancing carefully, McCall’s expedition was ambushed by a larger force of Indians. He and six companions were held captive, but McCall alone managed to escape several weeks later.

As the militia gained more structure in the backcountry, McCall was promoted to major of the Upper Ninety Six District Regiment, commanded by his friend and neighbor Andrew Pickens, and he later participated in the decisive battle at Kettle Creek on February 14, 1779. After the fall of Charleston in May 1780, McCall refused to accept parole and retreated into Georgia to continue operations against the crown with Elijah Clark. Undoubtedly he was one of the more active field commanders in South Carolina, as he participated in the actions at Musgrove’s Mill, Augusta, King’s Mountain, Fish Dam Ford, Blackstock’s Plantation, and Long Cane Creek in the turbulent latter half of 1780.

With Andrew Pickens back in command in late December 1780, McCall was appointed to raise a regiment of dragoons and promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. The patriot militia of Ninety Six moved to join Brigadier General Daniel Morgan’s camp on the Pacolet River in late December 1780, and McCall’s new command was immediately attached to the reduced ranks of Lieutenant Colonel William Washington’s corps of light horse to pursue a marauding band of Tories. Washington and McCall caught up with the Tories at Hammond’s Old Store and inflicted many casualties on the fleeing band. McCall’s regiment formed the reserve under Washington and fought well in the signal victory over Tarleton’s forces at Cowpens on January 17, 1781. Retreating into North Carolina before Lord Cornwallis’s advance, McCall’s contingent operated as an important shielding force for the main Continental army. He returned to South Carolina in early March. While coordinating an offensive on the British outpost at Ninety Six, he died from the effects of a wound and smallpox in April 1781.

Lumpkin, Henry. From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.

McCall, Hugh. History of Georgia: Containing Brief Sketches of the Most Remarkable Events, Up to the Present Day. 2 vols. Savannah, Ga.: Seymour & Williams, 1811–1816.

Waring, Alice Noble. The Fighting Elder: Andrew Pickens (1739–1817). Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1962.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title McCall, James
  • Coverage August 11, 1741–April 1781
  • Author
  • Keywords Soldier, appeared in the ranks of a militia company with his father in 1766, active during the North Carolina Regulator insurrection, elected as commander of one of three companies of patriot militia formed in the Long Cane area, promoted to major of the Upper Ninety Six District Regiment,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 26, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 20, 2016
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