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William Rankin was born in Pennsylvania, on the 10th of January, 1761, and at an early age joined the tide of emigration to the Southern States, and settled in “Tryon,” afterward Lincoln county, N.C.
He first entered the service as a private in Captain Robert Alexander’s company, Colonel William Graham’s regiment, and marched to Montfort’s Cove against the Cherokee Indians. In 1779 he volunteered under the same officer, and marched by way of Charlotte and Camden to the relief of Charleston, but finding the city completely invested by the British army, the regiment returned to North Carolina. In 1780, he again volunteered under Major Dickson, and marched against Col. Floyd, a Tory leader of upper South Carolina. After this service he returned home, and soon afterward marched under the same officer, General Rutherford commanding, to Ramsour’s Mill, where a large body of Tories had assembled under Colonel John Moore. The forces under General Rutherford were encamped on Colonel Dickson’s plantation, three miles north-west of Tuckaseege Ford, and about sixteen miles from Ramsour’s. Early on the morning of the 20th of June, 1780, they broke up camp and moved forward, but did not reach the battle-field until two hours after the action had taken place, and the Tories defeated by Colonel Locke and his brave associates, with a force greatly inferior to that of the enemy. Immediately after this battle, he substituted for Henry E. Locke, in Captain William Armstrong’s company, marched to Park’s Mill, near Charlotte, and thence to General Rutherford’s army, encamped at Phifer’s plantation.
The Tories having assembled a considerable force at Coulson’s Mill, General Davidson with a detachment of troops vigorously attacked them, in which skirmish he (Davidson) was severely wounded, detaining him from the service about two months. Soon afterward he marched with General Rutherford’s command to Camden and participated in the unfortunate battle at that place on the 16th of August, 1780. While the British army were in Charlotte he served under Captain Forney and Major Dickson, watching the movements of the enemy. Shortly afterward he volunteered under Captain James Little, marched to Rocky Mount, and thence to the Eutaw Springs. In this battle, one of the most severely contested during the Revolution, his company was placed under the command of Colonel Malmedy, a Frenchman. Soon after his return home he was placed in charge of a considerable number of prisoners, and in obedience to orders, conveyed them to Salisbury. Here he remained until his time of service expired, and then received his discharge from Colonel Locke.
William Rankin attained the good old age of nearly ninety-three, and was at the time of his death the last surviving soldier of the Revolution in Gaston county. He married Mary Moore, a sister of General John Moore, also a soldier of the Revolution. His wife preceded him several years to the tomb.
His son, Colonel Richard Rankin, is now (1876) living at the old homestead, having passed “his three score years and ten.” He served several times in the State Legislature, is an industrious farmer and worthy citizen of Gaston county.