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Biographical Sketch of Zacharias Gibbs by E. Alfred Jones of London, England

An excellent biographical sketch of Zacharias Gibbs was published in The Ohio State University Bulletin, Volume XXVI, Number 4, October 30, 1921, pages 79-82, entitled The Journal of Alexander Chesney, a South Carolina Loyalist in the Revolution and After, Edited by E. Alfred Jones of London England, with an Introduction by Professor Wilbur H. Siebert.  Professor Wilbur Henry Siebert describes Mr. Jones in the following words:

It is scarcely necessary to speak of the special qualifications of Mr. E. Alfred Jones for the task of editing The Journal of Alexander Chesney, since the admirable results of his labors are manifest in this volume. The present writer can not, however, deny himself the pleasure of saying that Mr. Jones has long been familiar with the abundant materials relating to the American loyalists that are to be found in the Public Record Office, the British Museum, and other collections in London. Nor can he forbear to add that the Editor has greatly increased the value of this volume by his copious annotations, many of which contain information not easily available and some, information not accessible at all in print. Mr. Jones found Chesney's Journal in the British Museum (Additional MSS., 32627).

Sketch of Zacharias Gibbs

Born in Virginia in 1741, Zacharias Gibbs migrated to South Carolina in or about 1763. Here he was the owner of large plantations on the fork of Broad river and Saluda River in the district of Ninety-Six, as well as large tracts of land at Camden, bought in 1779 and 1780 from two loyalists, Drury Bishop and John Brown. A further addition was made to his property by the purchase in 1781 of 100 acres at Orangeburg from George Dykes, a loyalist. These purchases by Zacharias Gibbs during the war are an indication of his faith in the permanence of the subjugation of South Carolina in 1780 by the British.

Captain Zacharias Gibbs, to give him his exact military rank at this time, began his military services on the side of the crown at Ninety-Six in November, 1775, the engagement which caused the first bloodshed in South Carolina in the Revolutionary war, when he was present with his company in the attack by the loyalists commanded by Major Joseph Robinson, on the Americans under Major Andrew Williamson. In his evidence before the commissioners of American Claims in London he asserted that his company took the fort.

After many adventures and temporary occupations of his plan­tations from time to time, he helped Colonel John Boyd to raise 600 men for the loyalist forces early in 1779, and marched with these men to Savannah, which they reached 350 strong in February, after fighting in two engagements on the way. Shortly after­wards he was captured at the battle of Kettle Creek in Georgia on 14 February 1779, and was marched in irons with other prisoners to Ninety-Six, a distance of nearly 400 miles. In this battle the loyalists under Colonel Bond were defeated, and Colonel Bond killed. Lieutenant-Colonel John Moore, of North Carolina, was second in command, and Major Spurgen third in command. (C. C. Jones, History of Georgia, 1883, pp. 339-342; W. B. Stevens, History of Georgia, 1859, Vol. II. pp. 190-192.)

At Ninety-Six, Captain Gibbs was put into prison for fifteen months and sentenced to death, but was reprieved.  On this occasion twenty-two other loyalists were sentenced to share the death penalty with him. Five only of this number were executed, includ­ing his brother-in-law, the remainder having been reprieved on two conditions, namely, that they sign their own death warrants and that they make written declarations never to return to the district of Ninety-Six. During his imprisonment, the gallows and grave prepared for him were ever in sight. On his release on 3 April 1780, Colonel Gibbs went to Camden, remaining there until the capture of Charleston by the British, when he emerged again into military activity, and was promoted to the command of his regiment.

The life of Colonel Zacharias Gibbs from the outbreak of hostilities in South Carolina until his final departure from the Province was full of adventure, as is proved by the loyalist documents. His military services were highly praised by Colonel John Harris Cruger, one of the most distinguished and successful military leaders on the loyalist side, in an original certificate which is still pre­served.

Colonel Nisbet Balfour, sometime commandant at Charleston, testified in evidence in London to his excellent qualities as a man and as one of the truest of loyalists, though, with the traditional prejudice of the British regular officer against the Provincial or mi­litia forces, qualified his praise by adding that Colonel Gibbs was not a very good soldier.

The good-natured Lord Cornwallis gave him a certificate of merit, as well as Colonels Balfour and Cruger, all of whose original certificates are in the Public Record Office. (A.O. 13/79.) A high opinion of the loyalty and meritorious conduct of Colonel Zacharias Gibbs was entertained by the commissioners of American Claims.

Captain Alexander Chesney was one of his neighbors, their plantations being separated by only four miles.

The name of Colonel Zacharias Gibbs' first wife, who left at least two children, is not recorded. His second wife was Jane Downes, widow of Major William Downes, an Irish merchant, black­smith, and turner, who settled in Camden district, South Carolina, after the peace of 1763, having served in the “Royal Irish Artillery” in the war in America against the French. He had by his industry and thrift acquired valuable plantations and lived in comfort. By Lord Rawdon, himself an Irishman, William Downes was appointed captain of militia. His military career in the Revolutionary war was cut off prematurely by his death on 15 April 1781, when, by an act of treachery, his house was attacked by a party of 164 Americans. William Downes ended his life in a gallant defense of his home, in which he was assisted by his overseer, who was also killed, and by his devoted wife and children in loading his firearms. This lady was a widow at the time of her marriage in 1773 to this Irish loyalist, her first husband having been one William Lindsay, the elder, whom she had accompanied in 1763 to South Carolina, where they settled near Georgetown. William Lindsay died in 1772, leaving a son, Thomas, and two daughters.

For the loss of her property in South Carolina, derived from her husband William Downes, the sum of £2,143 was claimed by Jane Downes, and she was awarded £955, as well as a pension of £40. She appears to have had seven children by her first and second marriages. In September 1785, she was living with her children at Springfield in county Down, Ireland, and was about to join her hus­band, Colonel Zacharias Gibbs, in Nova Scotia; but according to one document she was still at that Irish place in May 1789.

Colonel Zacharias Gibbs settled in 1784 on his grant of 1000 acres of land in Rawdon in Nova Scotia, where also were fifty-five other loyalists from South Carolina. In his letter of 4 May 1787, to Lewis Wolfe, a London agent for Ameri­can loyalists, he gives a picture of his life in Nova Scotia, adding that he has the large and helpless family of Richard Fenton with wife and four children employed on his wild uncultivated land at great expense to him. Fenton was a loyalist from South Carolina, though he and his wife were natives of Whitby in Yorkshire.

Among the other troubles and trials of Colonel Gibbs were the absence of his wife in Ireland and the anxiety for his two little children by a former wife, in South Carolina. He had made two unsuccessful attempts to obtain these children. One of the attempts was made through the agency of a loyalist who was going on a visit or returning to that State, but who, on his arrival there, was "maltreated and much abused" because of his loyalty. Letters to South Carolina were equally ineffectual in securing them.

A daughter of Colonel Gibbs by his first marriage, or of Mrs. Jane Downes his second wife, by a former marriage, was married to Robert Cooper or Cowper, a planter of Georgetown, South Carolina. Colonel Zacharias Gibbs was awarded £1,200 on his claim of  £2,884.15s. for the loss of his property in South Carolina. (F. O. 4/1; A. O. 12/46, fos. 145-162, 240-252; A. O. 12/99, fos. 26, 225; A. O. 12/109; A. O. 18/79; A. O. 1B/129; The Royal Commission on Loyalist Claims, 1785-1785, ed. by H. E. Egerton; Roxburghe Club, 1915.)

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