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May 2, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: “The Western Sampson,” Part II


Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham Notables: “The Western Sampson,” Part I

In 1855, an entertaining biography of Peter Francisco was printed in the Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser. Twenty years after his death, tales of Francisco’s feats of strength and cunning had taken on a life of their own. The article continued:

One day while reconnoitering he stopped at the house of the man by the name of W— to refresh himself. While at the table he was surprised by nine British troops who rode up to the house and told him he was their prisoner. Seeing that he was so greatly outnumbered, he pretended to surrender; and the dragoons seeing he was apparently peacefully inclined, after disarming him allowed him considerable freedom, while they sat down to partake of the food which he had left when disturbed. Wandering out in the door yard he was accosted by the paymaster, who demanded of him everything of value about him at the risk of his life, in the case of refusal.

“I have nothing to give,” said Francisco, “so use your pleasure.”

“Give up those massive silver buckles on your shoes,” said the dragoon.

“They with the gift of a friend,” replied Francisco; “and give them to you—I never shall, take them if you will; you have the power, but I will never give them to any one.”

Putting a saber under his arm, the soldier stooped down to take them. Francisco seeing the opportunity which was too good to be lost, seized the sword, and, drawing it with force from under the arm of the soldier, dealt him a severe blow across the skull. Although severely wounded, yet being a brave man, the dragoon drew a pistol and aimed it at his antagonist, who was too quick for him, however; and as he pulled the trigger, a blow from the sword nearly severed his wrist, and placed him hors de combat. The report of the pistol drew the other dragoons into the yard, as well as W—, who very ungenerously brought out a musket which he handed one of the soldiers and told him to make use of it. Mounting the only horse they could get, he presented the muzzle at the breast of Francisco, and pulled the trigger. Fortunately it missed fire, and Francisco closed in upon him. A short struggle ensued, which ended in his disarming and wounding the soldier. Tarleton’s troop of four hundred men were right now in sight, and the other dragoons were about to attack him. Seeing his case was desperate, he turned toward an adjoining thicket, and, as if cheering on a party of men, cried out, “Come on, my brave boys!” now’s your time; we will soon dispatch these few, and then attack the main body!” at the same time rushing at the dragoons with the fury of an enraged tiger.

They did not wait to engage him, but fled precipitately to the troop, panic struck and dismayed. Seizing upon the traitorous villain, W—, Francisco was about to dispatch him; but he begged and plead so hard for his life, that he forgave him and told him to secrete for him the eight horses which the soldiers had left behind them. Perceiving that Tarleton had dispatched to other dragoons in search of him, he made off into the adjoining wood, and, while they stopped at the house, he like an old fox, doubled upon the rear and successfully evaded their vigilance. The next day he went to W—, for his horses, who demanded two of them for his services and generous intensions. Finding his situation dangerous, and surrounded by enemies where he should have found friends, Francisco was compelled to make the best of it, and left with six horses intending to revenge himself upon W—, at a future time “but,” as he said, “Providence ordained that I should not be his executioner; for he broke his neck by a fall from one of the very horses.”

Coming next: Buckingham Notables: “The Western Sampson,” Part III

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