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Military-Political Leader Richard Caswell

A portrait of Caswell from the N.C. Museum of History.On November 8, 1789, Richard Caswell, the first governor of the independent state of North Carolina, suffered a stroke that led to his death.

Before becoming governor, Caswell served as a member of the colonial assembly for 21 years. In 1771, he led part of Governor William Tryon’s army in its defeat of the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance. With the approach of the Revolution, Caswell was made a commander of militia and led his brigade in the decisive victory over Loyalist forces at Moores Creek Bridge.

When the Fifth Provincial Congress convened at Halifax late in 1776, Caswell served as its presiding officer and as chairman of the committee to draft the state’s constitution. He was elected to the first of three successive one-year terms allowable under the Constitution.

When his third term as governor expired in April 1780, Caswell was pressed into duty as commander of the state militia. He was elected to the state Senate in 1780 and served there for the next four years.

Caswell returned to the governorship in November 1784, and was reelected to that post in both of the next two years. After reaching three-consecutive term limit, Caswell was elected to the state Senate in 1789.

Caswell died in Fayetteville after suffering a stroke in the Senate chamber. He is buried near Kinston at the CSS Neuse/Governor Caswell Memorial.