Although born in Pennsylvania, Andrew Pickens became one of South Carolina’s most famous Revolutionary War heroes. The Pickens family moved with other Scots-Irish settlers to South Carolina’s Waxhaws when he was a child. A young man on the eve of the Revolution, Pickens’ military began with the Cherokee War of 1760-1761, followed by an expedition against the lower Cherokee towns in 1761. On March 19, 1765 he married Rebecca Calhoun (1745-1814), the aunt of John C. Calhoun, and began a family.
As the Revolution began in 1775, Pickens first saw service as a militia captain under General Andrew Williamson’s command at Ninety Six. In 1776, several Cherokee attacks were met with Williamson’s expedition to burn the Lower Towns of the Cherokee. Captain Pickens led troops to victory over a large force of Cherokee by forming them into a circle and firing outward in the “ring fight” near the Indian town of Tamassee. Then as a Major, Pickens served again under Williamson as the campaign against the Cherokees moved into North Carolina and Georgia.
In 1778, Pickens was appointed Colonel of the Regiment of Ninety Six, South Carolina Militia. In January of 1781, Pickens led the South Carolina Militia at the Battle of Cowpens, where they fought in cooperation with Continental troops commanded by General Daniel Morgan. Their defeat of Tarleton’s British regulars turned the tide for Patriot forces in the South. His promotion to Brigadier-General came as a result of this victory. Pickens next fought under General Nathaniel Greene in North Carolina before being recalled to fight the British back in South Carolina.
After British troops withdrew from the state, Pickens was active in the reestablishment of civil government. He became a member of the South Carolina General Assembly in 1782. He spent much of the rest of his life as a negotiator between his new country and various Indian tribes. Many of the Indians respected him as an honest man and he had great knowledge about their affairs due to both military experience and his business as a trader. Pickens often traveled hundreds of miles into other states to negotiate treaties on behalf of Congress. In the 1790s, he became the first United States Congressman from the Pendleton District.
While best known for his military accomplishments, Andrew Pickens was also a leader in politics, religion, and community building. A devout Presbyterian, he and Robert Anderson were both founding elders of the Old Stone Church in Clemson. General Pickens died in 1817 and was buried with his family at the Old Stone Church Cemetery.