PACOLET — In a life that began in the middle of the 18th century and ended near the middle of the 19th, James “High Key” Moseley lived in three colonies of the British empire that are now states of the United States of America; was married twice and fathered more than a dozen children; was a woodsman, a blacksmith, and a dentist; and, during the American Revolution, an army private who fought for the Patriot cause throughout South Carolina for the duration of the war.
On Saturday, nearly 240 years after he helped America win its independence and nearly 180 years after he died, Private Moseley, his life, and his service to his country and the cause of freedom, was remembered and honored with a grave marking ceremony involving his descendants, members of patriotic associations dedicated to honoring the heritage and heroes of the American Revolution, and others interested in the history of that era and the lives of the men and women who made it.
The ceremony, which was held at Moseley’s grave off Tump Smith Road in the Pacolet area of Union County, featured an address by Moseley descendant John Ingle who, dressed in the style of a militiaman of the Revolutionary War, told the story of his ancestor’s life. Ingle is a Past President of the Daniel Morgan Chapter of the South Carolina Society of the Sons of the American Revolution which hosted the grave marking ceremony.
“High Key was born in Brunswicke County, Virginia,” Ingle said. “His family moved first to Yadkin, North Carolina, and then on to Grindal Shoals in South Carolina. Family legend says High Key wanted to join Daniel Boone’s expedition to Kentucky at 14 years old. His father, John, forbid it.”
Moseley was living in Grindal Shoals when America rose up in rebellion against British rule and began what has become known as the American Revolution or War of Independence. He joined the Patriot cause and soon found himself in combat against the British army, the American collaborators known as Loyalists or Tories, and their Indian allies.
Ingle said Moseley’s service record included participation in the following battles on the following dates:
• Lyndley’s Fort on July 15, 1776
• Seneca Town on Aug. 1, 1776
• Cherokee Towns on Aug. 8-11, 1776
• Tamassee on Aug. 12, 1776
• The Ring Fight on Aug. 12, 1776
• Coweecho River, North Carolina, on Sept. 19, 1776.
Ingle said that Moseley served in Capt. Zachariah Bullock’s Company in Col. John Thomas’ Regiment of the Spartan Militia and that during his service he lived in the Union and York District which includes modern day Chester County.
Not much is known about Moseley’s service in 1780, but Ingle said he received his pay for serving as a soldier under Union County’s Col. Thomas Brandon.
On Feb. 9, 1781, Moseley fought in the Battle of Fort Granby under General Thomas Sumter. In March of that year, Moseley, again under the command of Sumter, served in Col. Thomas Gill’s Company, Col. Edward Lacy’s Regiment. On May 10 of that year, Moseley was at the Battle of Orangeburg followed by several light engagements.
In May of 1782, Moseley served a month’s tour at Orangeburg in Capt. John Thompson’s Company and Col. William Farr’s Regiment, again commanded by Sumter. In September of that year, Moseley marched in Capt. John Thompson’s Company under Lt. Francis Lattimore, Col. Farr’s Regiment, commanded by General Francis Pickens against the Cherokee Indians.
During his address, Ingle quoted five documents about his ancestor’s service to the Patriot cause including his application for a military pension.
“In his pension application, he states that ‘Under General Sumter, I was frequently with Colonel William Washington and Col. Henry (Light Horse Harry) Lee before Washington was taken prisoner at the Battle of Eutaw Springs,” Ingle said. “Two noted publications state that his service was principally that of a scout and he did much valuable service — always on foot.
“Another record states that ‘… he has behaved himself as become a citizen since he has been in the Camden district,” he said. “In another statement made by Capt. Thomas Gill, ‘This is to certify that the bearer James Moseley hath behaved himself true to his country and hath done a tour of duty at Congaree Fort. Given under my hand May 25th day 1781.”
Ingle added that Moesley was not the only veteran and war hero in his family. He said that Moseley was the brother-in-law of St. William Jasper of Fort Moultrie fame.
Moseley, who had been born on Dec. 24, 1756, would live until May 19, 1840, dying at his home near Grindal Shoals at the age of 83.
In the decades following the war, Moseley, who Ingle described as “a respected woodsman” who not only gathered in intelligence but also food for the Patriot forces he served with, worked as both a blacksmith and a dentist, a work history which has been preserved locally.
“His teeth pullers, which he made himself, are displayed in the Union County Museum,” Ingle said and then told a story about how being a dentist enabled his ancestor to play a joke on a neighbor. “High Key obviously was a trickster and had a sense of humor. One day, Barney O’Neal, a good natured neighbor ,showed up to get a tooth pulled. High Key went into his blacksmith shop and returned with an armload of hammers, tongs, and chisels.
“The stunned Barney asked, ‘Does it take all them instruments to pull a tooth?” he said. “‘Yes, sometimes more,’ replied the blacksmith. Stepping backward, Barney O’Neal replies, ‘I bid you good day, Mr. Moseley.’”
Ingle said that Mosely, who he said got the nickname “High Key” because of his high-pitched singing voice, “had a large family. He married Nancy Anna Jasper in 1781 after the war over when he was 19. Nancy died in 1832 after 12 children. She was probably tired. He then married Martha Pickens. She died in 1839 and he died in 1840. They had one child, Jane.”
Looking back on his ancestor’s life, Ingle said “High Key was not only an American soldier, but a good citizen and a good neighbor.”
Ingle closed his address by saying that “I am proud, along with my brother Tom and Daniel Morgan Chapter to today be the ones to see that James Thomas ‘High Key’ Moseley’s grave is marked as a Revolutionary War soldier by the Sons of the American Revolution.”
The ceremony then concluded with Ingle and fellow descendants of Moseley assembling at his grave to formally unveil the new marker followed by Ingle and others dressed as Revolutionary War militiamen firing a salute in his memory.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.