Known primarily through a mix of fact and legend as the most notorious Patriot of the southern campaigns, Paddy Carr was also claimed to have an “amiable and benevolent” nature. As if that contradiction were not enough to create complexity of character, Carr, a stone cold killer of Tories, never swore or uttered blasphemy. Instead, when faced with dangerous situations, he maintained the ability to remain completely calm. In fact, according to one story told by an early historian, Paddy considered himself “insensible to fear.” Just to demonstrate that quality to a friend, Paddy once sat on a keg of gunpowder and requested a candle. Just as he touched the powder with the lighted end, another man walking close by lost his nerve and snatched the powder away. Paddy’s friend considered himself spared from a dreadful explosion only by the “providence of God.” Meanwhile, Carr remained perfectly calm and asked if he were now convinced, which he was. At that point, Carr said that he might have made “a good soldier but nature had formed his heart too tender and compassionate.” Yes, all of those descriptions create a single individual, the man we know as Paddy Carr.
Other than his Irish heritage and settlement in Georgia, little is known of Carr prior to his appearance in May 1779 as a captain in the Wilke’s County militia regiment. He fell under the command of Elijah Clarke and served on most of Clarke’s expeditions during the war. The record is unclear as to whether Paddy had a family of his own but he may have been influenced by the experiences of his close friend, Peter Strozier. After the war, Mrs. Strozier wrote that “Carr was intimate & often at her house before he went into the army.” Unfortunately for her, after Peter and Paddy joined the militia, Tories came and destroyed “everything of consequence … She fled with her family of little children through South Carolina, half begging & starving suffering greatly” from cold and exposure.
Regardless of the original source for Carr’s attachment to the cause of liberty, he soon became a total enthusiast. Carr “conceived the most dreadful and implacable hatred against the Tories. Their desertion of principles which he held so sacred, entitled them, upon his political hypothesis, to no kind of mercy or indulgence. Whether therefore as prisoners, or as enemies in battle he gave them no quarters.” And it was exactly that unrelenting attitude that would define Carr’s character for history and not the glowing accolades that appear as contrast in the opening paragraph.
The earliest example of Paddy Carr in action comes from Col. Richard Winn of the South Carolina militia. Winn described an encounter immediately after the action at Ramsour’s Mill in North Carolina around June 20, 1780. One of the early refugees to flee Georgia after British occupation, Paddy had only just reached the area after the battle concluded. Colonel Winn tells the story:
After the battle of Ramsours Colo. Sumter with his party set out for Charlotte and encamped that night in a few miles of the battle ground. A small party of Georgians had joined him. Among them was a man name of Paddy Carr. After we had taken up camp this same Paddy and another man went to a house about one or two miles off. They inquired of the man of the house if he had not joined Colo. Moore. Answer yes, but that he after being made a prisoner was set at liberty by Genl. Rutherford and had just got home to his wife & children. By this time it had become dusk, Paddy inquires the way to camp. The man tells him the path forked in half mile you take such a hand. Carr tells him you must get up behind me and show me the path I must take. He did so. When they came to the fork, the man jumpt off and told him that is your path then Paddy, Judas like, shot him dead on the spot on the story being related to Capt. Winn by the man who was with him I ordered Carr to be delivered over to the Civil magistrate which was accordingly done but he was found in camp next morning.
Even though Colonel Winn was clearly shocked by Carr’s casual murder of the paroled Tory, nothing came of the episode and Paddy soon joined Elijah Clarke’s regiment of volunteer refugees from Georgia. Later in the summer, Clarke was operating near Musgrove’s Mill and sent Carr on patrol to capture a local Tory named Beaks Musgrove. According to a story passed down in the Musgrove family, Carr caught him unarmed sitting down to supper at the Musgrove home. Just as Carr raised his sword, Mary Musgrove threw herself between the men and pleaded for her brother’s life. Carr paused long enough to interrogate the Tory.
An interview now took place between Carr and Musgrove. Carr was struck with his manly beauty, & said, ‘Musgrove, you look like a man that would fight.’ ‘Yes’, said Musgrove, ‘There are circumstances under which I would fight.’ ‘If I had come upon you alone,’ said Carr, ‘in possession of your arms, would you have fought me?’ ‘Yes, sword in hand.’ Carr was so taken with Musgrove that he proposed to him to become a member of his unit & go with him on the spot, & then never to bear arms against the American Cause. His men had been stationed in the Cedars some distance from the house, & had by this time come up to the scene. Mary seeing her brother disposed to accede to Carr’s proposition, her fears for his safety being still awake, challenged Carr for his motives. ‘Mr. Carr,’ she said, ‘you do not design to persuade my brother to leave me, & then when the presence of his sister is no longer a restraint, butcher him in cold blood; pledge me sir, that such is not your design.’ ‘I’ll swear it,’ said Carr.’
Even though Carr allowed Beaks Musgrove to join the Patriot cause rather than fall to the sword, his heart soon turned stone cold. Perhaps due to the bitter battles around Augusta in which Clarke was repulsed amid charges of atrocities and many hangings, Paddy Carr did not accompany the refugees to Watauga in October 1780. Instead, he joined a company of Georgians with Major Candler that fought at King’s Mountain. During that battle and aftermath, Carr was reported to have personally killed eighteen Tories.
Carr also earned distinction in bringing on Tarleton’s assault at Blackstock’s Plantation. Unfortunately, once again, he showed a decided disregard for his Tory prisoners. In that instance, Carr held a couple of Loyalist teens in front of Tarleton’s charging dragoons as if they were Patriots. He released them just as the dragoons arrived and rode off to join his regiment. The young men were hacked to death before the Provincial dragoons realized that they were killing Loyalists.
With Tarleton’s repulse at Blackstock’s and the Long Cane uprising that took place in December 1780, British control over the backcountry appeared increasingly doubtful. Cornwallis took his army to North Carolina and left orders that no one travel in groups less than 125 men. As a result of this vacancy, Whig partisans started terrorizing the countryside. Paddy Carr joined with “one Dunn & a Party of Rebels from Carolina” on a raid against the Tories of Wrightsborough above Augusta. In late February 1781, they murdered at least nine men and plundered the area. Most galling of all must have been the report that “many people & some Women received Dunn & furnished him with provisions, etc.”
Within a couple of months, Loyalists in the Georgia backcountry were almost completely defeated. During the siege of Augusta, Paddy Carr took a prominent role in two skirmishes, both later deemed to be massacres against the Tories. In the first instance, Colonel Clarke got word that a Loyalist Major Dill was recruiting among the Loyalist population for help in coming to the assistance of Augusta. Clarke “dispatched Carr and Shelby with the command of Georgians and Overmountains and they met at Walkers Bridge on Brier Creek where they routed Dill completely, killing a number of his adherents with a very considerable loss; Carr and Shelby returned to Col. Clarke with their laurels.”
In his second skirmish during the siege, Carr again joined with Isaac Shelby and the Overmountain Men. This time they ambushed a party of Tories and Indians traveling below Augusta on an island where the Bugg Plantation was located. Carr “slaughtered them indiscriminately without any killed or wounded on our side. Mrs. Bugg and her family had suffered so extremely by them that she would not suffer them to be interred on her plantation.” The bodies were sent across to South Carolina for burial except for several dead Indians who received a “more expeditious internment.”
With the fall of Augusta in June 1781, the British retreated from the backcountry but still tried to hold onto Savannah and the lower regions near the coast. Many Loyalists moved with the British but others tried to remain on the frontiers in hopes of regaining their homes. Carr received a bump in rank and became Major Carr. It was during this time that he likely earned the reputation for hunting Loyalists. One author noted that “he hunted them down like wild beasts, and permitted no asylum to protect them.”
Even a month after the surrender at Yorktown, Paddy Carr remained as unrelenting as ever. At Ogeechee Ferry the Georgians had some British officers cornered in a small fort and arranged for their surrender. Unfortunately, “the glory of this brilliant exploit was soon obscured by the rash and sanguinary act of Captain Carr, who killing one of the British officers after the surrender, the rest resumed their arms, and retiring to a fortified house, compelled the Colonel to relinquish his prize.” Carr’s continuous murdering ways had become a liability.
In a report to London, the governor cast doubt on Carr’s guilt in the Ogeechee incident. He actually stated that the murder was committed by a man named Samuel West but then quickly got around to the subject of Carr. “Captain Paddy Carr, remarkable for his being concerned in many murders committed on the loyal inhabitants of this province, is missed by the rebels, and we hope is among the slain.” While insightful in giving the British opinion of Carr, the report was premature in suggesting his demise. Less than a month later the governor added this blurb: “Capt Paddy Carr, who it was thought was killed at Great Ogechee, it seems was fortunate enough for that time to escape.”
In time the war ended but violence continued on the frontiers of Georgia. Campaigns against the Indians and rumors of Tories in the swamps continued for several years and men like Paddy Carr had trouble turning off their desire for vengeance. Unfortunately for Paddy, the rules were now different. In 1790 he was convicted for the murder of Acquilla Massey. Carr was quickly sentenced to death but, before the sentence could be carried out, a number of his old friends from the militia broke into the jail and rescued Carr from the hangman. Upon their petition, the governor ended up granting a reprieve to Carr a few weeks later.
Paddy Carr’s harsh treatment of the Loyalists came to an abrupt and appropriate end in August of 1802. No one knows for certain who murdered Paddy but “it was said the act was committed by descendants of the Tories.” A rather odd obituary notice appeared in the paper not long afterwards. It described Carr’s service in the cause of freedom as an “avenger of his country’s wrongs though his death is unavenged.” But that wasn’t quite enough to mark the death of Paddy Carr. With all the bad marks upon his reputation, the author of Carr’s death notice felt compelled to add a few remarks that read like an excuse for his murderous behavior. “Like other men, Carr had failings, and who is perfect? Say he was rigid, it was a time when vigor was a virtue, and levity would have been a crime.”
To summarize, Paddy Carr came to the revolution out of the Georgia backcountry. Although loyal to his neighbors, Carr let the war bring out the worst in men. His numerous murders of prisoners and Loyalist civilians still echo today in books that concern the southern campaigns of the American Revolution. In those histories, the war in Georgia is known as the most brutal part of the war with acts of vengeance and murder being commonplace. Perhaps Paddy Carr is responsible for a bit more than his fair share of that reputation.
Author’s Note – The point of the sketch above is to provide insight into the character of Paddy Carr along with relaying specific incidents involving him. The powder keg story and the capture of Beaks Musgrove may fall better into the category of legend. Even so, the inclusion of these details helps the reader understand the complexity of Carr and his not-so-glorious reputation.
 Thomas Usher Pulaski, The Life of Major General James Jackson (Randolph & Co., Augusta, GA, 1809), 22f.
 Pulaski, The Life of Major General James Jackson, 22f
 Edward Musgrove, Draper Manuscripts 16vv298, 311-314.
 Lyman Draper, King’s Mountain and its Heroes (Cincinnati : Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1881), 341.
 Hugh McCall, History of Georgia (Savannah, GA: Williams, 1816), 345.
 Waters to Wright, February 20, 1781, and Grierson to Wright, March 4, 1781, Mary Bondurant Warren, Georgia Governor and Council Journals 1781 (Athens, GA: Heritage Papers, 2009), 18, 19.
 Samuel Beckaem, “Captain Samuel Beckaem’s Statement on the War in Georgia, 1778 – 1781,” Robert S. Davis Jr., Georgia Citizens & Soldiers of the American Revolution (Southern Historical Press, Greenville, SC 1979), 169.
 Pulaski, The Life of Major General James Jackson, 22f
 Ibid, 36.
 Wright to Germain, November 15, 1781, Warren, Georgia Governor and Council Journals, 237 – 239.
 Wright to Germain, November 29, 1781, Warren, Georgia Governor and Council Journals.
 Judy Swaim Kratovil, Georgia Governors’ Journals 1789 – 1798 (Fernandino Beach, FL: Wolfe Publishing, 2000), 11-12.
 Draper, King’s Mountain and its Heroes, 341.
 Notice from Georgia Gazette, December 24, 1802, Draper Manuscripts file 16vv83-86.