Captain Larkin Smith
This is the entry for Larkin Smith in latest edition of Heitman's Register. He was not listed in the original edition.

Smith, Larkin (Va)
Private Company of Minute Men, Nov l775;
Cadet 6th Virginia, 10 Feb 1777;
Cornet 4th Dragoons, 1 Aug 1777, Lt, 4 Sept 1778, Capt, 1 April, 1780;
Served to the close of the war.

This intelligence note to Gen. Sterling from Cornet Smith was found in the GW Papers.

This is the narrative of Francis Brooke from the book SOME PROMINENT VIRGINIA FAMILIES, CHAPTER XI, pp343 to 351, in which Larkin Smith is cited as being in action in the Richmond, Virginia area in January of 1781. He is also cited as being present at the battle at Green Spring farm, in July of 1781. From this account, it is not possible to identify which brigade Larkin Smith was attached to, that of Gen Lafayette or Gen Anthony Wayne's brigade. These brigades joined forces at Green Spring. This account was written well after the Revolutionary War. So, many side issues are inserted into the narrative. The participants in the battle of Green Spring are cited and the action at Burnt Ordinary is noted. The action at Spencer's Ordinary, which occurred in the same time frame, is not noted. This narrative provides an excellent description of the war in the South.



'Tis pleasant to recall our former days,
What we have been, and done, and seen and heard,
And write it down for those we love, to read.

To my beloved Daughter,

Who has been my amanuensis in preparing this family narrative, has written about two-thirds of it from my dictation,
and aided me essentially in completing it. I now affectionately dedicate it, with my paternal blessing.


I was born on the 27th of August, 1763, at Smithfield, the residence of my beloved father, upon the Rappahannock, four miles from Fredericksburg. Tradition said it was called Smithfield after Capt. John Smith, otherwise called Pocahontas Smith; but as there is nothing in the histories of Virginia stating that Capt. Smith was ever so high up the Rappahannock, I think that tradition was in error. I think it was so called after a Capt. Laurence Smith, who, in 1679, had a military commission to defend the frontier against the Indians in that region. It was an estate belonging to one Tanner, who was in England, and authorized his agent to sell it, and it was bought by my grand-father, Taliaferro, who then resided at Epsom, the adjoining estate, and he gave it to my mother, God bless her. The estate now belongs to Mr. Thomas Pratt, the old house in which I was born is burnt down, and he has built a new one, not so large, and higher up the river. When I was a boy these were the traces of a fortification, including a fine spring, as a defense against Indians.

My father was the youngest son of my grandfather, who came to this country, with a Mr. Beverley, at the time Gov. Spotswood came, about the year 1715; he became the Surveyor of the State, and was with the Governor when he first crossed the Blue Ridge, for which he received from the Executive a medal, a gold horse shoe set with garnets and worn as a brooch which I have seen in the possession of Edmund Brooke, who belonged to the oldest branch of the family.

My father's name was Richard Brooke. He left four sons and a daughter by my mother, and a fifth son by his second wife; he died aged sixty of gout in the stomach in the year 1792. He was a handsome man, with great vivacity of spirits; he read much; had a good library of the books of that age. He sent my two eldest brothers, Laurence and Robert at an early age to Edinburgh College where they were educated for the two learned professions Medicine and Law and did not return to this country until the revolution had progressed. They got over to France and Dr. Brooke was appointed by Dr. Franklin Surgeon of the "Bon Homme Richard", commanded by the celebrated John Paul Jones, and was in the battle with the Serapis and all the battles of that memorable cruise.

My brother Robert was captured and carried into New York and sent back to England by Lord Home, went again to Scotland, again got over to France and returned to Virginia in a French frigate that brought the arms supplied by the French government. He did not remain idle, but joined a volunteer troop of cavalry under Capt. Larkin Smith; was captured in a charge of dragoons by a Capt. Loller of Simcoe's Queen's Rangers, at Westham seven miles above Richmond. He was soon exchanged; commenced the practice of law; was a member of the House of Delegates and in 1794, was elected Governor of the State and afterwards Attorney General, in opposition to Bushrod Washington, who was afterwards a Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. My brother Robert died while Attorney General in the year 1799. Dr. Brooke died some years after. I do not recollect the year.

My father was devoted to the education of his children. He sent my twin Brother John and myself very young to school. We went to several English schools, some of them at home, and at nine years of age went to the grammar school in Fredericksburg taught by a Trinity gentleman from Dublin, by the name or Lennegan, who having left the country at the commencement of the War of the Revolution, was hanged for petit treason, and being sentenced to be quartered after he was cut down, was only gashed down the thighs and arms and delivered to his mother, afterwards came to life, got over to England, was smuggled over to France, being a Catholic, and died in the monastery of La Trappe (according to Jonah Barrington, in whose work this account of him will be found). My father sent us to other Latin and Greek schools, but finally engaged a private tutor, a Scotch gentleman of the name of Alexander Dunham, by whom we were taught Latin and Greek. He was an amiable man, but entirely ignorant of everything but Latin and Greek, in which he was a ripe scholar. We read with him all the higher classics; I read Juvenal and Perseus with great facility, and some Greek, the Testament and Aesop's Fables.

Having passed the age of Sixteen, the military age of that period, I was appointed a First Lieutenant in Gen. Harrison's regiment of Artillery, the last of the year 1780; and my twin brother, not liking to part with me, shortly after got the commission of First Lieutenant in the same regiment. Our first campaign was under the Marquis Lafayette, in the year 1781, during the invasion of Lord Cornwallis.

We came to Richmond in March of that year and were ordered to go on board an old sloop with a mulatto Captain. She was loaded with cannon and military stores, destined to repair the fortification at Portsmouth, which had been destroyed the winter before by the traitor, General Arnold. She dropped down the river to Curles, where we were put on board, with the stores of the twenty-gun ship, the Renown, commanded by Commodore Lewis, of Fredericksburg; in addition to which ship, there were two other square-rigged vessels and an armed schooner. We were detained some days, lying before Curles, the residence of Mr. Richard Randolph, who treated us with great hospitality, we being often on shore.

In about ten days the ship was hailed from the opposite bank, by Major North, one of the aids of the Baron Steuben, who was then at Chesterfield Court House. Major North was brought on board the ship. He informed Commodore Lewis that the British fleet was in Hampton Roads, and ordered him to put the artillery and stores on the north bank of the river, and to run the ship and the rest of the fleet as high up as he could. I believe it was to Osborne's where, they were taken by the British, some carried off, according to Simeoes account, and the rest scattered.

Having been set on shore on the north side of the river, when we arrived in Richmond, I was ordered to take the command of the Magazine and Laboratory at Westham, seven miles above that place. My brother John joined a fragment of a State regiment, under Major Ewell, but on the arrival of the Marquis, joined a company of his own regiment under Captain Coleman, and cannonaded Gen. Phillips, then in Manchester, from the heights of Rockets, below Richmond.

In a few days after I took the command of the Magazine, I saw Mr. Jefferson, then Governor of the state, for the first time. He came to Westham with one of his council, Mr. Blair, whom I had not known before, and who informed me they wanted to go into the Magazine. I replied they could not, on which they introduced me to Mr. Jefferson as the Governor. I turned out the guard, he was saluted, and permitted to go in. They were looking for flints for the Army of the South, and of the North, and found an abundant supply.

The condition of Virginia can hardly be imagined. Her soldiers were nearly all in the army of Gen. Green, her military stores exhausted, by constant supplies to the Southern Army, yet there was a spirit and energy in her people to overcome all her difficulties. I was continued in the command of the Magazine. Lord Cornwallis having crossed the James River, at Westover, I was ordered to remove it to the south side of the river, and carried it to Brittan's Ferry, on the opposite side of the river, from whence I was ordered to remove it back again to Westham, where it remained until I was ordered to throw the cannon into the creek, and carry the rest of the stores to the Point of Fork, now Columbia, as I did. From thense I was ordered to carry a large portion of the powder and small arms, etc., to Henderson's Ford, now Milton, four miles below Charlottesville; there I remained until Col. Tarleton came to the latter place.

There was a Capt. Lieutenant Bohannan, who had come a few days before, and who ordered me to remain where I was, and defend the Magazine against any detachment that might be sent to take it, until I heard that Tarleton had crossed the river at Charlottesville, after which I should join Baron Steuben, at the Point of Fork. About eleven o'clock I heard that Tarleton had crossed the river at Charlottesville, and driven away the Legislature. I then commenced my march to join Baron Steuben. By the road I took, I was thrown on the south of him, and, about a quarter of an hour by sun, I met a man who, on my inquiry, informed me I was five miles from the Baron's encampment, then occupied by Lord Cornwnllis' light infantry, who had driven the Baron across the river that morning. Capt. Bohannan having ordered me, if I could not join the Baron, to proceed to Staunton, and to join the army of the Marquis Lafayette. By sunrise the next morning I crossed the south branch of the James River, and thence to Hardware, where I crossed the river.

The next day I met Col. Davis. I had known him before, and without hesitation he asked me where I was going. I told him I was going to Buckingham Court House, to get provisions for the men. He replied that Lord Cornwallis' light infantry would be there before me. I said I had left them in the Fork the night before; on which he said, "You will do as you please." There was a panic everywhere.

The next day I crossed the Ridge, about six miles to the south of Rockfish Gap, where there is a large limestone spring on the top. When I got to where Waynesborough is, I found a large force of eight hundred or a thousand riflemen, under the command of a General McDowell, who, Gov. McDowell has told me, was from North Carolina. He stopped me, saying he had orders to stop all troops to defend the Gap. I replied that I belonged to the Continental Army, and had orders to go to Staunton, and said to the men, "Move on," and he let me pass. In the morning I entered the town. There, for a few days, I heard Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, George Nicholas, and my neighbor, Mann Page, of Mansfield.

It may seem strange that so young as I was, not seventeen years old, that I should have the command that I had. My twin brother, who was an older twin, but a younger officer, had left me at Henderson's Ford, being ordered to
Albemarle's old Court House, where there were public stores. I had been in command of about seventy-five men, to guard the Magazine and to make cartridges, portfire, etc., and when I arrived at Staunton, Col. Davis, whom I found there, insisted on retaining me in that service, but Capt. Fleming Gaines, who belonged to Harrison's regiment of artillery, ordered me to join my corps as speedily as I could in the army of the Marquis, and furnished me with his horses and servant to do so.

In a few days I left Stauton and crossed the Ridge at Swift Run Gap. At that time Lord Cornwallis, having learned that the Pennsylvania Line had arrived at Culpepper Court House, changed his route. His first design was to burn Hunter's Iron Works, above Falmouth, which were very valuable. Gen. Weedon at the same time commanded a small body of militia, near Fredricksburg, from which he had nothing to fear in his progress to burn the iron works. He, however, began to retire, when the Marquis recrossed the Rappahannock at the Raccoon Ford, and by opening a new road, threw himself between Lord Cornwallis and our remaining stores in the upper country, and followed Lord Cornwallis at a respectful distance.

The corps of Tarleton and Simcoe rejoined him. He halted one day on the heights, above Goochland Court House, when the Marquis also retrograded and placed the army behind Mechunk's Creek, I think they called it, in Fluvanna. Both armies proceeded slowly towards Richmond, and at Westham. I found a corps of which my brother Robert, afterwards Governor of the State was a volunteer. He was captured by a troop of Simcoe's regiment, commanded by Capt. Loller. Lord Cornwallis kept on his way to Williamsburg and the Marquis halted a few miles below New Kent Courthouse where, on the 4th of July the army was reviewed and fired a few de joie.

I was attached to Gen. Lawson's brigade, with one six-pounder, and had some opportunity to know the whole force of the American Army. It consisted of eight thousand militia, Stephen's and Lawson's brigades; of one thousand light infantry, New England troops brought on by the Marquis; the Pennsylvania line, as it was called, between six and seven hundred men, commanded by Gen. Wayne, with a good train of artillery; one thousand riflemen under Gen. Campbell, of King's Mountain, and a part of the regiment of Virginia Continental troops, under Col. Febiger a Dane: a vidette corps of dragoons under Capt. Larkin Smith, and a single company of Harrison's regiment of artillery to which I belonged; there were some additional militia, under Maj. Willis. The British army was more efficient; seven thousand infantry, who had fought the battles of the South; Tarleton's and Simcoe's full regiments of cavalry, and a fine train of artillery. These were all troops that could not be easily driven out of the field of battle. The Marquis, in a few days, marched to the Cross Roads and the Burnt Ordinary, sixteen miles from Williamsburg.

While the army lay on the ground, Lord Cornwallis marched from Williamsburg to Green Spring, or Jamestown. The morning of that battle, Maj. Geo. Washington, an old schoolmate, the second aid to the Marquis, was at our quarters, and was asked if the Marquis knew where Lord Cornwallis was, and whether he had crossed the river. His reply was, that Gen. Wayne had been sent on that morning to find out where he was. Tarleton, in his journal says, that one or two days before, he had bribed a white man and a negro to go out, and, if they met with any American detachments, to inform them that the British army, except a small portion of it, had crossed the river. It was this negro who fell in with Gen. Wayne, who, on his report, marched down and attacked the whole British army.

Tarleton is wrong in supposing that the Marquis intended to bring on a general engagement; on the contrary, at twelve o'clock, when he learned that Wayne was in some danger, he ordered Col. Galvan, who belonged to his light infantry, to run down with only one hundred men to his relief, while he, with Capt. John F. Mercer's troop of horse, who had lately joined, and some militia riflemen, followed to support him. The Marquis certainly had no idea of a general battle, as the rest of the army remained quietly in their encampment the whole of the day.

Gen. Wayne brought on the battle, relying on the intelligence the negro gave him, whom Tarleton had bribed, for which his troops suffered very much. He, as Tarleton says, attacked the whole British army, and got off only by Lord Cornwallis' supposing that a general action was intended by the Marquis, and taking time to prepare for it. Wayne not only lost his artillery, but had, I think, eleven officers badly wounded, whom I saw the next morning under the hands of the Surgeon, at the church, in the rear of our encampment. I think it is very certain that the Marquis, at this time, intended no general battle; nor did Lord Cornwallis either. His object was to cross the river and fall down to Portsmouth that he might send the reinforcement required of him by Gen. Clinton who apprehended an attack by Gen. Washington and the Count Rochambeau, who was hourly expected to arrive with the French troops from the West Indies.

In a few days after the battle of Green Spring the single company of artillery of Harrisons regiment, to which I belonged, was ordered to the south. It was to proceed to Charlottesville by the way of Goochland Court House. All the officers, except myself had leave to take their homes on their way. Left to command the company, I felt it a very arduous task, but I had been long enough in service to know that its disapline must be preserved, or I could not command. The first days march, we got to the mouth of the lane opposite Hanover Town and on dismissing the men I ordered that none of them should go to the town.

Having arrived at Goochland Court House, we were detained there and engaged in making cartridges and portfire for some weeks. In the meantime, Col. Davis arrived, and ordered me to return to Westham and get the cannon out, which I had been ordered and had thrown into the creek and river. He furnished me with a Continental horse, and I found the officer there had attempted to draw the canon out of the mud by fastening ropes to the pieces. I ordered two scows to be brought and by pulling the pieces up between them, soon got them all up, and returned to join the company at Goochland Court House, where I was for some time continued in command of the laboratory, and finally ordered to Charlottesville, and at last the company reached Cumberland Court House, where it was kept for some time.

The troops at Cumberland old Court House were at length ordered to join Gen. Green, under Gen. Posey. Having received no pay they mutinied, and instead of coming on the parade with their knapsacks, when the general beat, they came with their arms, as to the beat of the troop. I have said the troops received no pay: one company of them had been taken prisoners in Charleston, had been very lately exchanged, when it received orders to return to the South; the officers received one months pay in paper, which was so depreciated that I received, as a First Lieutenant of artillery, thirty-three thousand and two-thirds of a thousand dollars, in lieu of thirty-three and two-thirds dollars in specie.

We continued our march for about twenty days, having to impress provisions on the way.
On approaching Gen. Green's army, an order came that the infantry under Col. Posey should continue their march and join Gen. Wayne, in Georgia. In consequence of this, Col. Posey taking all the wagons, I was ordered to go to the army, lying about twelve miles below, near Bacon's bridge, on the Ashley River, to get wagons to take the baggage of the artillery to camp. In the rice country, the great part of which was covered with water, I mistook my way, and swam my horse to the other side of the Ashley River; meeting with a man on the other side, I asked him how far I was from Gen. Green's army. To my surprise, he told me I was on the wrong side of the river, and the British had a port at Dorchester. I had to retrace my course, and to swim the river again, where it was very narrow. I proceeded, and obtained the wagons necessary to move the company of artillery, and that joined the Park of Artillery. It so happened that I was ordered with one six pounder, to join the advanced picket, near Bacon's Bridge, and it cost me some effort to keep awake the whole night, after so much fatigue.

Col. Stewart, of the Maryland line, was the officer of the day, and came the grand rounds twice in the night, and complemented me on my vigilance.

In a few days, my boots were worn out, and I applied to Gen. Harrison for an order on the quartermaster, for a new pair; He gave me the order but said so scarce were the stores, that unless Gen. Green would endorse the order, I would get no boots and that I must go to headquarters. I accordingly went; he was quartered in a large wooden building, a mile or more in the rear of the army. The first officer I saw when I got there was his first aid, Maj. Burnet. He asked if I wished to see the General.I said, “Yes, I have some business with the General." On which he desired me to sit down and he would return to me. Having waited some time, I walked to the other door and saw Gen.Green for the first time, sitting at a table writing. I knew him by his regimentals, and went in. He accosted me, saying, "You belong to the artillery, have you any business with me?" I told him I had an order from Gen. Harrison, for a pair of boots, which I wished him to endorse, or I would not get the boots. Looking at my boots, he said, "You have very good boots." On which I replied, “I borrowed them this morning”; on which he endorsed the order, and I made my bow and left him. He immediately followed me, and overtaking me at the door and said: “ Lt. Brooke, I keep a roster of the officers of the Army, and they are invited to dine with me in rotation, and you will be invited in your turn, but whenever you are off duty Mrs. Greene will be glad to see you.” This arose from the circumstance that Mrs.Greene, on her way to join her husband, passed through my neighborhood, and received some attentions at Smithfield, and New Post, the seat of Gen. Alexander Spotswood. I was often at headquarters, on this invitation, and I felt somewhat a pet of the General’s. He was a man of most amiable feelings, and showed me marked kindness on one occasion.

Capt. Singleton, who was a great favorite of the General’s commanded the company to which I belonged. We lived in the same marquee on the most amicable terms, until there was a difference between myself and Lt.Whitaker, a nephew of his. We were eating watermelons, when I said something that he so flatly contradicted, that I supposed he intended to say I lied: on which I broke a half of a melon on his head, to which he said, “Brooke, you did not think I meant to tell you, you lied.” I said, “ if you did not, I am sorry I broke the melon on your head”; and there it ended. But his uncle, I presume, did not think it ought to have ended there. Whitaker had fought a duel going out with a Capt. Blair of the Penna. Line, and wounded him, which made him, at least in appearance, a little arrogant, and our difference was the talk of the camp.

I had been appointed by Gen, Greene, Quartermaster of the Park of Artillery, on the express condition that I should not lose my rank in the line: as I did not come into the Army to go into the staff, and having two duties to perform, I was very attentive to that in the line. On one morning when the troop beat, I was delayed and did not get on parade till the roll was at least half called, on which Capt. Singleton asked me, in a rude voice, why I was not on parade sooner. To which I replied, “I waited for my boots, and did not come here in gown and slippers,” looking at his nephew in that dress. On which he said, he should take notice of me at another time. The men being discharged, I said to Capt. Singleton, that as long as I thought him my friend, I should have taken a rebuke from him kindly, but as I was now to consider him in a different light, whenever he meant to rebuke me, he must do it through a court-martial; that I understand my duty and was not afraid of a court-martial, on which he said he would do so, but never did. After this we lived together, but never spoke, except on duty.

No objection had been made by Capt. Singleton to my performance of my duty in the line, until the company was ordered to join the light infantry, under Gen. Wayne, to take possession of Charleston on the expected evacuation of it by Gen. Leslie. This was highly desirable service and Capt. Singleton, seeing me preparing to go, said,”you cannot go, Sir, you are Quartermaster of the Park.” I replied, “I have served in the light infantry before, under Col. Laurence, and no objection was made, but I will go to headquarters and resign that office, rather than not go.”

Well, I went to headquarters, and there it was that Gen. Greene befriended me against the influence of my Captain. No objection was made to my brother, who was Brigade Major to the Park, and we both marched with the company to join the light infantry under Gen. Wayne. After crossing the Ashley River, we marched to the house of Col. Wright and were sumptuously entertained. From the balcony we could see the British fleet lying before Charleston.

In the evening, one of the videttes came in and informed Gen. Wayne that the post, called the quarter-house had been reinforced by 400 men.This was seven miles form Charleston: a canal was cut there from the Ashley to the Cooper River, and two redoubts erected, and the post secured by other fortifications. On receipt of this information, the troops were ordered under arms, and we marched down opposite the quarter house within hail of the British sentinels, and encamped in a wood.

Gen. Greene, with Washington’s regiment came in the next day, and the Army came down the Ashley River, crossed at Wapporcut, and encamped on James Island, opposite Charleston, where the Maryland Line, hearing that the preliminary articles of peace had been signed by the British commissioners, and believing the war over and their enlistment at an end, mutinied. Gen. Greene crossed the Ashley River on hearing it, found them on parade, as if they were discharged from service. He immediately addressed them, assuring them there was no intelligence that the war was over, and at last prevailed on them to ground their arms and submit.

The artillery to which I belong remained in Charleston, where we were kindly hospitably treated, especially myself by Mr. Frank Kinlaw, who resided at Kinlaw Court; he had been a member of Congress and married a Miss Walker, of Albemarle county, Va.

When the artillery company to which I belonged was ordered under Col. Posey, with the rest of the Virginia troops, to go to Savannah to take possession of it, on its evacuation by Col. Brown, Capt. Singleton, who had commanded the company, and my brother, with Lt. Southall and Lt. Whitaker, got leave to return to Virginia, and left the company under the command of Capt. Lt. Booker and myself.

Thank you for your interest.
Email us
or sign the guestbook and make your presence known.

or View the Archived Guestbooks

Links to other sites on the Web

The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress
The George Washington Papers at the Virginia State Library

Return to IV Dragoon Home Page.

[ Yahoo! ] options
Hosting by WebRing.