Peter Francisco was a legend in his own time. Tales of his extraordinary feats would have been excitedly told around militia and continental army campfires during the Revolutionary war.
Peter’s origins remain shrouded in mystery. He was a foundling who appeared on the wharf at City Point, Virginia in 1765. The dock workers who found him noted that he was dressed in expensive clothes and it was believed that he may have been born into noble Portuguese family in the Azores of Canary Islands. How he ended up completely alone at a North American dock aged only four years of age remains uncertain.
Peter was taken into the care of Judge Anthony Winston of Buckingham County, Virginia and was raised as one of the family. Over the years Peter continued to grow until he measured a colossal six foot eight inches and weighed over 260 pounds. Due to his massive size and incredible strength, he trained as a blacksmith and became well known locally as the ‘Virginian Hercules’ and the ‘Virginia Giant.’
Following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, Peter joined the 10th Virginia Regiment on turning 15 He had wished to join early but Judge Winston had prevented it, insisting he was too young. Peter had reached adult size by 14 years of age and his size and strength quickly earned him a reputation among his fellow soldiers.
Peter fought with distinction at many battles and was wounded during General Washington’s retreat from the battle of Brandywine. While being treated for his wounds, Francisco met the young Marquis De Lafayette and established a friendship that would last a lifetime.
Francisco then fought in the Battle of Germantown, and was one of the few survivors of the Royal Navy’s bombardment of fort Mifflin on the Delaware River. His reputation grew after he was the second person to storm the British Fort of Stony Point during General “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s attack. He suffered a nine-inch gash in his stomach, but continued to fight, killing three British grenadiers and capturing the enemy flag.
Legend has it that Peter once freed a 1,100-pound cannon stuck in mud and carried it into position on his shoulder to use against the advancing British Forces at the Battle of Camden. Peter was also well known for facing the much feared cavalrymen under the command of the ferocious Sir Banastre Tarleton. When ambushed later that day, Peter bayoneted one of Tarleton’s men and fled on his horse. He then rescued his Commanding officer who had been captured by two red coat soldiers.
Peter was severely wounded at the Battle of Guilford Court House in 1781. He was sent home to recover from a bayonet wound in his thigh and while there, set about observing and reporting on the movements of Tarleton’s Cavalry in the area. It was during this period that Peter Francisco performed his most celebrated feat. While out spying, he was captured by 11 of Tarleton’s raiders and taken prisoner. Once under guard he awaited his moment before grabbing the nearest soldier’s sword and killing a number of the group before fleeing on a stolen horse.
On October 19th 1871, Peter was present at Yorktown and witnessed the British surrender. After the war he continued his basic education, married three times and fathered six children before dying of appendicitis in 1831. In the last years of his life he worked as the Sergeant-at-Arms to the Virginia State Senate and was buried with full military honours in Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond.