Peter Francisco
rating: +3+x

Basic Information

Peter Francisco was one of the so-called "Giants of the American Revolution," (Francisco, George Washington, and Ethan Allen were all over six feet tall in a time when the average man in the colonies was 5 feet and 6 inches) and a man whose mysterious origins are not nearly as impressive as the feats he is said to have accomplished in his adult life.

Found at the docks of City Point, Virginia in 1765 as a crying child of about 5 years, he was wearing nice clothing and boots with silver buckles. The buckles were engraved with the initials "P.F." and later the boy confirmed (with some trouble, as he spoke what appeared to be a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, and French) that he was named Pedro Francisco. With only vague memories of being in a place with palm trees and a sister who escaped the captors that had taken him, he was eventually taken in by a local judge (the uncle of Patrick Henry).

He grew to be over 6 feet and 6 inches tall, and is said to have weighed about 260 pounds. A blacksmith by trade, he was nevertheless involved at the periphery of early events in the American Revolution, such as Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech. At the age of roughly 16 Peter, as he was now known, joined a local militia and began his military career.

Some brief highlights of that career:

  • Francisco literally walked away from injuries that, at the time, might have crippled men for life. He took a musket ball to the leg on two separate occasions, a nasty bayonet slash across the abdomen early in his military career, and even had a leg injury from a bayonet entering at his knee and exiting from his hip. Of all of these it was the second musket ball that caused him the most long-term pain; he walked home over 100 miles after healing up from the worst of that last bayonet injury.
  • During one retreat Francisco not only stood his ground against a mounted enemy officer in order to buy others time to escape, but after killing the soldier and taking his horse was able to use the confusion; he impersonated the dead officer and led those chasing the retreat in the wrong direction. Still riding the dead man's horse he spotted a Continental Colonel who had been captured by the British, struck down the Redcoat captor, and offered the Colonel his horse to escape on.
  • After the Colonel in the above situation made his escape Francisco performed one of the two acts he is most famous for; an impossible task followed by a madcap escape. Fleeing on foot with the other Continental soldiers Francisco saw a small fieldpiece that was being left behind because the horse pulling it had been killed; not wanting to let the enemy capture it he unfastened it from the carriage and managed to get the 1,000+ pound cannon onto his back. After staggering under the weight until he was able to reach some fellow soldiers it is said that Peter collapsed at the base of a tree, completely exhausted, and it was then that an enemy trooper arrived on horseback. As the others pulled back, the exhausted Francisco was given the choice of surrender or death, and as an answer he stood to present his would-be-captor with the butt of his musket. It was a ruse, though, and as the Tory reached down to take the weapon Francisco spun it around and drove the bayonet into the man's chest. He then climbed the man's horse and, once again, impersonated the dead officer well enough that he was able to ride off without further challenge.
  • Dissatisfied with the small size of the standard sword of the time, his frequent complaints that it was more a toothpick than a weapon eventually reached the ears of General Washington. Washington had a broadsword with a five-foot blade forged specifically for Francisco's use. Just days after receiving the sword Peter used it at the battle of Guilford's Court House in North Carolina, where he reportedly killed 11 men in the initial charge at the British line and dispatched two men who had managed to stab him in the legs with bayonets (the second of which was the terrible injury mentioned above). After his more serious injury of the day he apparently retreated from the front lines and eventually fell from his horse, unconscious. This was during his fourth enlistment.
  • After being rescued from the field of battle by a Quaker who was looking for survivors, Francisco was nursed back to health over the course of several weeks. He eventually decided to walk home, from North Carolina to Virginia. It was on or shortly after this journey that he committed his other famous feat; when accosted by one of Tarleton's dragoons (a mounted British soldier) who wanted his silver belt buckles Francisco refused to give them over and insisted the armed man take them by hand. The events that followed are told in various ways, but the gist is that Peter was able to severely injure the lone dragoon and drive off the remaining eight who had been inside the nearby tavern. He netted seven horses out of the deal, and a place in Revolutionary War legend. This has been called "The Battle of Ward's Tavern."
  • He turned down a commission offered by George Washington, as he insisted he did not have enough formal education to be an officer. General Washington attributed the final successful result of two battles to Francisco, and referred to him as a "one-man army."
  • After his retirement from military life he slowly gained a reputation as a man of remarkable kindness, feeding the poor and caring for old or ill servants. There were still, though, a large number of tall tales that spread about him, and one of the most well known is the story of how he let a surly Kentuckian with something to prove kick him around a bit before throwing the man off his property over a 4-foot fence… and then threw the man's horse after.
  • He died in 1831, at the age of 70, of what is now thought to be appendicitis.
  • Three states mark March 15 as Peter Francisco Day.


1. Wikipedia Entry on Peter Francisco - []
2. JSTOR Copy of Peter Francisco's Obituary - []

Game and Story Use

  • In General
    • He could be used as the basis for a larger-than-life NPC.
    • Events from his life could be reshaped into legends, stories, or actual events.
    • The mysteries of his origin and childhood make for some inspirational fodder, considering the sort of man he grew up to be.
    • - What if his family were the last remaining survivors of Samson's line? This would explain his prodigious strength in a game less concerned with the theological particulars of the Samson story.
    • Nephilim blood would also do it.
  • In Modern Games
    • His sword could be a rather important artifact.
    • His family line could make a good background for a character, especially if they share some of his traits.
    • The ghost of a man like this could be dangerous, helpful, or simply interesting depending on how it's encountered.
  • In Historical Games
    • He can be used as an NPC, both during and after the war. Perhaps even involving his mysterious origins.
    • His background or life events could serve as inspiration for a PC's background.
    • The events he was involved in could be used as inspiration for in-game events.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License