Today in History: Death of Peter Francisco, Hercules of the Colonial Revolution of 1776

by DerdriuMarriner

Patrick Henry inspired two enlistments by Azores-born Peter Francisco, George Washington’s “One-Man-Army” and Hercules of the Colonial Revolution of 1776.

January 16 assumes historical significance as death month and day for Peter Francisco (July 9, 1760 to January 16, 1831), George Washington’s “One-Man-Army” and Virginia’s Hercules in the Colonial Revolution of 1776.

The six-foot-six-inch (1.98-meter), 264.55-pound (120-kilogram) “giant from Virginia” belongs in the topmost portions of lists of people who make a difference for their contemporaries and posterity. Recognition considers the assessment by first U.S. President George Washington (February 22, 1732 to December 14, 1799) of unique revolutionary skill sets of Azores-born Peter Francisco. The famous observation determines: “Without him we would have lost two crucial battles, perhaps the War, and with it our freedom. He was truly a One-Man-Army.”

Heroism evokes privileged beginnings and tragic interventions.

"This representation of Peter Francisco's gallant action with nine of Tarletons cavalry in sight of a troop of four hundred men; Took place in Amelia County, Virginia 1781":

designed by James Warrell (ca1780-ca1854); drawn by John James Barralett (ca1747-1815); engraved by David Edwin (1776-1841)
etching and engraving ; 55.5 x 74.5 cm (plate), 63.2 x 77.2 cm (sheet)
etching and engraving ; 55.5 x 74.5 cm (plate), 63.2 x 77.2 cm (sheet)


Genealogists furnish for posterity what Peter Francisco is thought not to have known or received help in determining: the whereabouts of his birth country and family.

Historians give a date of Sunday, June 23, 1765, to the end of the subsequent Revolutionary hero’s existence as Pedro Francisco and beginnings as Peter Francisco. James Durell’s eyewitness account and Peter’s memoirs have the Azores-born child deposited on the wharf of what then was City Point and now is Hopewell, Virginia. Both identify two sailors rowing Peter ashore in a longboat and sailing back down the James River in a foreign ship too distant to be described.

Silver shoe buckles join fine-quality, lace-collared, lace-cuffed clothing in suggesting noble Portuguese origins. 


Peter (Pedro) Francisco's birth certificate from church at town of Porto Judeu, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal. Born July 9, 1760.

Porto Judeu, Terceira Island, Azores
Porto Judeu, Terceira Island, Azores


Historians know of Peter living out of a warehouse near the dock and relying upon area housewives for food scraps and the wharf watchman for company. They list admission into Prince George County Poor House before indentured service under Judge Anthony Winston (September 29, 1723 to July 29, 1783) of Buckingham County. They mention work in the blacksmith shop and in the plantation fields as the chores structuring daily schedules during Peter’s eleven-year indentured service at Hunting Tower. Vestry Book records note Peter’s release in December 1776 to the Tenth Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army under Colonel Hugh Woodson of Prince Edward County.

They offer paper trails of re-enlistment with the first commitment’s expiration in 1779. 


Peter Francisco - the American Braveheart Story ~ The Virginia Giant's story in 3:10 minutes

Uploaded to YouTube on January 23, 2010 by Travis bowman ~ URL:


Pension files provide heroism, through three enlistments, at Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, and Stony Point in 1777; Camden in 1780; and Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse in 1781. Saving the 1,100-pound cannon during the retreat from the Battle of Camden qualifies Peter for an 18-cent commemorative stamp by the U.S. Post Office in 1975.

Post-revolutionary records and memoirs reveal Peter committing to a three-year education through private classes at the John McGraw School and operating a blacksmith shop in Curdsville. They suggest land ownerships in Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, and Prince Edward Counties before Peter’s last service-related position as Sergeant-at-Arms in the Virginia legislature from 1825 onward.

Locust Grove Plantation takes visitors to Peter’s favorite residence in his adopted homeland. 


The Peter Francisco Story ~ The story of "The Giant of the Revolution" as presented in 22:03 minutes by Travis Bowman, sixth generation descendant of Peter Francisco and author of "The Hercules of the Revolution"

Uploaded to YouTube on June 21, 2011 by Travis bowman ~ URL:

Genealogy of Peter Francisco


1. Rodrigo Affonso Fagundes, page to Prince Henry the Navigator 

2. Izabel Rodrigues Fagundes married Cil Annes Curvo 

3. Clara Gil Fagundes married Gaspar Gonçalves Machado Ribeira 

4. Manuel Machado Ribeira Secca married Izabel de Azevedo Netto (daughter of Affonso Annes Netto and Maria Azevedo, granddaughter of Diogo Fernandes de Boim and Dona Marinha Affonsa d'Azevedo, great-granddaughter of Affonso Vaz d'Azevedo and Beatriz Annes de Souza, great-great-granddaughter of Goncalo Annes Souza Fidalgo da Casa Real) 

5. Pedro Machado Netto married Brites de Avila d'Antona (descendant of Baldaya family of Terceira) 

6. Bartholomeu Machado Netto married Maria Luis Faleiro (descendant of Rui Faleiro, cartographer to Ferdinand Magellan, and of Joao RuizFaleiro married Catharina Salta) 

7. Francisco Machado Luis married Maria da Ascensao (daughter of Matheus Vaz d'Antona and Maria Machada, descendant of Antonio Vaz son of Pedro Alvares Sao Francisco and Isabel Goncalves d'Antona daughter of Affonso Goncalves d'Antona Baldaya and Dona Antonia Goncalves) 

8. Francisco Machado Luis married Maria de Sao Joseph do Sacramento (daughter of Antonio Cardoso Machado and Fracisca Linhares) 

9a. Francisco Machado Luis first married first Izabel Bernadda daughter of Bras Pereira, second Marianna Joaquina daughter of Joao Luis Mendes

9b. Joseph 

9c. Antonio 

9d. Angela Maria married Jose Pache de Ormonde 

9e. Pedro Francisco married first Susannah Anderson, second Catherine Fauntleroy Brooke, third Mary Beverly Grymes West

9f. Simao


base of monument honoring Peter Francisco at site of present-day Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Greensboro, Guilford County, northern North Carolina
Greensboro, Guilford County, northern North Carolina



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Locust Grove, restored historic home of Peter Francisco located between Dillwyn and Buckingham in Virginia's Buckingam County

image taken by John Duke of the Society of the Descendants of Peter Francisco
image taken by John Duke of the Society of the Descendants of Peter Francisco

Sources Consulted


Bowman, Travis. 2009. Hercules of the Revolution: A Novel Based on the Life of Peter Francisco. Davidson, NC: Bequest Publishing.

Eanes, Colonel Greg. 2014. Tarleton’s Southside Raid and Peter Francisco’s Famous Flight. Crew, VA: Eanes Group. 

Moon, William Arthur. 1980. Peter Francisco, The Portuguese Patriot. Pfafftown, NC: Colonial Publishers; and Winston-Salem, NC: Bradford Printing Service, Inc. 

Norfolk, Sherry; and Norfolk, Bobby. 2014. The Virginia Giant: The True Story of Peter Francisco. Illustrations by Cait Brennan. Charleston, SC: The History Press, Inc.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Peter Francisco, the Portuguese Patriot by William Arthur Moon ~ Available now via Amazon

Peter Francisco details

Hercules of the Revolution: a novel based on the life of Peter Francisco by Travis Bowman ~ Available now via Amazon

Peter Francisco's life presented by a sixth generation descendant of the Hercules of the American Revolution
Peter Francisco details

View of the City of Angra Do Heroismo with Mount Brazil on Terceira Island by foodbytes ~ Available via AllPosters as Premium Poster

Peter Francisco's homeland, never identified in his lifetime, was in the idyllic Azores archipelago in the Atlantic; Porto Judeu, where his birth is recorded, is a parish in Angra do Heroismo.
View of the City of Angra Do Heroismo with Mount Brazil on Terceira Island

Tarleton's Southside Raid: and Peter Francisco's Famous Fight by (Retired Air Force) Colonel Greg Eanes ~ Available now via Amazon

Based on information contained in British and American official records, period correspondence and regional oral traditions.
Peter Francisco details

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/16/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 08/22/2017

Veronica, It's ironic that Peter Francisco became a revolutionary hero respected by General Washington. His biological family in the Azores, as part of Portugal, most likely were more sympathetic to Great Britain.

Veronica on 08/22/2017


I had never heard of Peter Francisco or knew of any Azores residents going to the Americas. Very interesting reading. Thank You for posting this .

DerdriuMarriner on 05/26/2017

paperfacets, It's impressive that Peter Francisco overcame being an orphan and an indentured servant to become a brave hero and that his descendants are reconciled with their relatives on the other side of the pond.

paperfacets on 05/23/2017

Peter Francisco is a new historical figure for me. Interesting.

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