When Matthias (sometimes spelled with one “t”) Judd joined the Union Army in the Civil War, it may have been motivated out of revenge for the killing of his brother Siles Judd by Confederate guerrillas. It must have weighed heavy on his heart. In truth, he probably had several reasons for volunteering. One of the reasons may have sprung out of pure patriotism-love for country. There might have been another factor: Matthias was thinking about his grandfather John Judd and his grandfather’s father Rowland Judd. Both had served in the Revolutionary War. Both had died before Matthias was born: John Judd passed away in 1823 and Rowland in 1806. I’m sure, however, that Nathan Jackson Judd Sr. ( the father of Matthias) told him the stories. What father wouldn’t? And maybe when the Civil War broke out, Nathan Jackson Judd Sr. told his son Matthias to remember what he learned about his ancestors: the military thread of honor. Matthias honored them by his service.
Rowland Judd Sr. was born in England in 1725. His parents were Francis Judd and Elizabeth Smyth. What things young Rowland must have heard about the “new world”-America! A place of adventure and endless possibilities. A place of abundance! There was danger there too- tales of savage Native-Americans! So much was unexplored! It was enough to encourage any young man to leave home and hearth to travel into one’s destiny with so much promise. And that’s what Rowland Judd did. As a lad of 21 years of age he boarded a ship bound for America. How the hearts of his parents must have been broken to lose a son knowing he may never been seen nor heard from again. There were so many perils in such an undertaking.
It is said that as far as two hundred and fifty miles from the shores of America, ships out at sea could smell the pine forests of the land. That alone must have exhilarated Rowland as the fresh scent filled his nostrils. The trip took months. Fortunately, he survived. He landed at the Port of Philadelphia in 1746. Upon stepping on the shore, he could not know then what turns his life would take. He had four years of indentured servitude to fulfill. He would learn a trade from that experience. His life in America would only be beginning-even after that. Rowland Judd Sr. would eventually be a respectable citizen-admired by all who knew him. He would establish many relationships-including with Native-Americans. Indeed, he would marry a Cherokee. Eventually, he would become friends with Daniel Boone. One of his sons (Robert) would marry into the Boone family. Rowland would find new homes. He would leave Pennsylvania for Virginia. After some years in Virginia, he would make his final home in North Carolina. In the mean time, he was raising sons: Rowland Jr., John, and Robert.
When Rowland Judd Sr. arrived in America, there was no United States. There were thirteen colonies. England was the “mother country.” George Washington was only fourteen years old. The French and Indian War in America had not even started yet. The life that Rowland Judd would eventually carve out for himself would include his participation in one of the great events of world history: The Revolutionary War. It couldn’t have been a small matter to side against one’s native country. At risk for Rowland was everything he had held dear-his fortune, property, and his very life. How would the Judd name be treated in England as relatives still living there heard of Rowland’s service on behalf of the new United States?
Rowland Judd Sr.’s commitment to the United States was, perhaps, most strongly tested when he became part of those who would be called “The Overmountain Men.” Those men left their properties-their homesteads- to engage the enemies of the United States, namely the British forces. Rowland Judd Sr. with his sons Rowland Jr. and John were part of Col. Cleveland’s men. They served in a company of light horse commanded by Captain Joel Lewis. The expedition was from September 7, 1780 to November 7, 1780. At King’s Mountain they met the enemy. The date was October 7, 1780. British Col. Patrick Ferguson had arrayed his troops on top of the mountain. He considered the position unbeatable. Rowland, age 55, had his two sons with him. How he must have feared for them! John Judd was still a minor. He remained behind to keep the horses. there was no dishonor in that choice. Rowland Sr. and Jr. went up the mountain. The fighting was horrific. The smell of gunpowder filled the air. The smoke from the weapons burned the eyes and made it difficult to see who was who. Death took many souls. Some who survived were physically maimed. Others who survived would never forget what they saw and experienced. There would, indeed, be things to tell children and grandchildren-when emotions stirred would allow- and before memories faded. God pleased to preserve the three Judds at King’s Mountain. The British were soundly defeated. Col. Ferguson was killed. Shortly thereafter, the United States won her independence.
From that ghastly scene the Judd’s returned home to the Reddies River area of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Eventually, the Judds would move on to Kentucky. They probably were influenced by Daniel Boone in doing so. But not Rowland Judd Sr. He stayed at his North Carolina home. He died there in 1806. He had started a thread-a military thread of honor. The Judd family would not forget it. When Matthias Judd joined the Union Army-when Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States-during a time of the young nation’s greatest threat to survival up to that time-he continued the thread. Rowland Judd would have been proud.