On July 4th, we will all be celebrating our country’s independence and remembering and honoring our American heroes, like Gen. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, but who remembers Pedro (Peter) Francisco, the Giant of the Revolution and the Virginian Giant.
Abducted at the age of 5 from the islands of the Azores of Portugal and left on the shipping docks in Virginia, he was raised as Peter by the uncle of Patrick Henry.
Because of his size (6 foot 8 inches and 260 pounds) and strength, Peter was apprenticed out as a blacksmith and joined the American Continental Army at the age of 16.
Over the length of the war, Peter fought as an infantry soldier under Generals George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, and“Mad” Anthony Wayne at the Battles of Brandywine, Fort Mifflin, of German town, Monmouth Court House, Fort Stony Point, Cowpens, Guiford Court House and of Camden, South Carolina.
Although Peter did not fight at the final Battle ofYorktown, he witnessed the British General Cornwallis surrender of his army. Over the course of the battles, Francisco would be wounded six times including three bayonet wounds.
At Valley Forge, Peter shared a hut with General Marquis de Lafayette while both were nursing wounds from battles and would become life long friends.
At the insistence of Lafayette, Gen. Washington had a six foot sword including a 5-foot blade forged for Francisco. Just two days later at the Battle of Guiford Courthouse, Francisco used this sword to kill 11 British soldiers in combat.
What later would become known as “Francisco’s Fight” outside a tavern, Peter would mortally kill one cavalryman from, Lt. Col. Banistre Tarleton dreaded and feared cavalry, and take the horses away from the other seven British cavalrymen for himself and his fellow soldiers.
Only one of the cavalry men was able to ride off on his own horse, while the rest of his comrades had to walk back to camp.
This action truly showed the fighting spirit of this giant, but at the Battle of Camden, his great strength would become legendary among the American Continental Army.
After the disastrous defeat of the American General Horatio Gates at the Battle of Camden, the American soldiers were retreating from the battle field.
Francisco saw a cannon stuck in the mud and the horse pulling the cannon had been shot dead.
Not wanting to leave a deadly cannon for the British to use against the continental army, Francisco lifted the 1,100 pound cannon barrel on his shoulders and carried it off the battlefield.
His exploits of his great strength and fighting abilities resounded throughout the colonies.
Gen. George Washington said that without Francisco, the American Continental Army would have lost at least two crucial battles, perhaps the war, and with it our freedom. He was a one man army.
On July 4th, while everyone is firing off fire crackers and rockets for our American heroes, we should fire a couple more just for this forgotten Hispanic Hercules, who was the most renowned common soldier the American Continental Army.
Jack Ayoub Harlingen