by Peter E. Schultz
Throughout history, some people pop to the surface of their ponds as tenacious, unsinkable corks. By brilliant innovation, extraordinary compassion, acute wisdom, or raw heroism, their lives powerfully impact others. During the American Revolution, Peter Francisco was one of the warriors who made such a difference.
Precise details about his birth are unknown. In 1765, he was put ashore by sailors in Virginia at the estimated age of four. He was dressed in fine but tattered clothes, and the only intelligible words he spoke were “Pedro Francisco.”1 Destiny called Patrick Henry’s uncle, Anthony Winston, who brought the boy to his plantation where he grew up as a servant blacksmith.
Among his first exceptional qualities as a teenager was Peter’s stature: height = over 6’-6’’; weight = 260 lbs.; flab = maybe zero. He was later known as the “Virginia Giant.”
On March 23, 1775, outside St. John’s Church in Richmond, Peter overheard Patrick Henry’s famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” At age seventeen, he enlisted and fought in the Battle of Brandywine where the Patriots defended the new capitol in Philadelphia.
“Unfortunately, Francisco took a musket ball in his leg during the regiment’s heroic fight. While recuperating for about a month in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Francisco is reported to have established a friendship with another injured soldier, the famous young officer Marquis de LaFayette – a friendship that was said to endure their lifetimes.”2
During the winter of 1777, Peter was among the ailing soldiers at Valley Forge. He recovered, reenlisted, and was wounded again during the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse (New Jersey). On July 15, Peter was slashed across his abdomen by bayonet during a nighttime raid on Stony Point (New York). After healing, he reenlisted yet again.
Francisco saved the life of Colonel William Mayo at Camden (South Carolina) by defeating a British soldier. “Then he escaped by bayonetting a British cavalryman, toppling him from his saddle, mounting the horse, and taking Colonel Mayo to a place of safety while confusing the advancing British line by shouting false commands that indicated the American troops were receiving reinforcements.”3
Tragically, the Continental troops retreated from the fight, but Peter hoisted a cannon barrel which was abandoned by fellow patriots onto his shoulder and carried it away for future use. Though skeptics have discounted this story, our bicentennial postage stamp in 1976 honors the event.
At the battle of Guilford Court House (North Carolina), he solely defeated eleven British soldiers with his sword before receiving a massive, nearly fatal bayonet wound in his leg. Four months later, after returning as a scout, Francisco was nearly captured while conducting force reconnaissance in Virginia. He unexpectedly encountered nine Redcoats outside a tavern.
Acting passive and compliant, the unarmed patriot was unwisely left alone with a British paymaster who foolishly attempted to rob him. As the cocky soldier turned away for a moment, Francisco snatched the man’s sword and promptly finished his wannabe captor.
Outside, Francisco charged another soldier who was on horseback. At point blank range the cavalryman’s rifle misfired! Peter sent him to the ground, mounted the horse, and proceeded to bewilder the four hundred onlooking troops. “All was hurry and confusion, which I increased by repeatedly hallooing, as loud as I could, ‘Come on my brave boys; now’s your time; we will soon dispatch these few, and then attack the main body!’ The wounded man flew to the troops and the rest were panic struck and fled.”4
General George Washington offered our hero a commission which he turned down due to his lack of formal schooling. After five years of service, he left the Continental Army – surviving six battle injuries, never advancing beyond the rank of private. As a free man, he later attended to his education, then marriage, leaving behind a valorous legacy for us.
Genuine warriors view obstacles as useful stepping stones on their path to victory.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12).
1 Lance Wubbels, Brad Cummings, John Peterson, The Founders’ Bible, Peter Francisco: A Mighty Man of the Revolution, (Shiloh Road Publishers, 2018) 516. [Scores of priceless accounts are compiled in The Founders’ Bible.]
2 Ibid, 517.
3 Ibid, 519.
4 Ibid, 522.