The Virginia Giant - Peter Francisco's Fight
Nowadays, when we hear that someone is 6’6, we don’t think of them as a giant.
Sure, that’s pretty tall, but it’s not even a guarantee you could play in the NBA.
Peter Francisco may have only been 6’6 but he came to be known as the ‘Virginia Giant.’
Please note: Francisco’s story has many conflicting accounts, as often happens when a real person’s story grows into a legend all its own. I’ve done my best to acknowledge any debated subject matter.
The Virginia Giant
After reading several (conflicting) studies, it seems that American men in the late 18th century were only slightly shorter on average than men today.
However, coming in somewhere between 6’6 and 6’8, Peter Francisco gained the nickname the ‘Virginia Giant.’ Also known as the ‘Virginia Hercules,’ Peter would have stood approximately 5 inches taller that George Washington (whose height is also debated, but was accustomed to being the tallest person in the room).
Francisco’s nickname was also given a boost based on his humongous frame (approaching 300 pounds) and strength.
Peter Francisco’s history is impossible to determine.
He was found on a dock in Virginia as a 5-year-old speaking a language with turned out to be Portuguese. It has been suspected that he was kidnapped, either for ransom or by his parents’ enemies. He was taken in by Anthony Winston (a relative of Patrick Henry) and educated to be a blacksmith.
At about the age of 16, Peter decided to join the Continental Army in the wake of the Declaration of Independence.
Francisco served throughout the Revolutionary War, mostly in the Middle Colonies until moving to the Southern Department near the end of hostilities.
Never exceeding the rank of private (probably due to his limited education), Peter was heralded by his fellow soldiers for his bravery in the heart of battle.
Francisco was seriously wounded on several occasions but is not reported to have left the scene until the engagements were completed.
Peter’s most famous moment was a conflict he had with Banister Tarleton’s Raiders.
Now, accounts of this engagement only come from Francisco himself. Both reports come four decades after the incident and contradict each other on several counts. However, an artist did an engraving of the event years before Peter’s statements so at the very least we know the story began to gain popularity before it was ever written down.
The legend goes like this: In the waning months of the Revolutionary War, Francisco was outside a tavern when he was surrounded by several of Tarleton’s men. They demanded his shoe buckles and Peter refused. The men attacked him and Francisco quickly won the day, killing at least one of the men and taking most of their horses while the rest of the attackers ran away.
Apparently, his size and strength were just too much for nine Redcoats to manage.
After the war, Francisco married three times and had six children.
As his legend grew, the man himself fell on hard times. Although he received a veteran’s pension, his still became short on funds.
The Virginia State Senate took pity on the man and hired him as their Sergeant-at-Arms. Despite approaching 70, the Virginia Giant was still trusted to complete the police work for State’s Upper House.
Do you want to read about other Founders whose lives have obtained mythical status?
You might like some of these stories:
Do you want to read the full legend?
For this story, children’s books are the best (I find children’s authors can really bring tall tales alive).
‘The Virginia Giant’ is one of many kids books about Francisco that is a lot of fun to read while sticking as much to the facts as possible.
Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).