Old Augusta in the Revolution



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SOurce:White, 1902


Augusta County was well represented at the Battle of Great Mea- dows. "In Braddock's ill-starred defeat in 1755 the backwoods rifle- men of Augusta, under the eye of Washington were most formidable in staying the sad fortunes of that fatal day." In 1756 a most for- midable force marched from this county to invade the Shawnee country. And in 1760 Colonel Boquet led a successful expedition from here, and all through the struggle known as "Pontiac's War," then again at the time of the troubles with the Cherokees, company after company went from Augusta.

Point Pleasant also witnessed a desperate struggle in 1774, result- ing in a complete overthrow of their dusky foes by these hardy forest warriors. It is to be regretted, however, that the brave Cornstalk was destined to meet such a tragic death at the hands of those whom he came to succor not long after his hard fought battle at Mount Pleas- ant. It is believed that in point of time, the very first paper present- ed to the Continental Congress, distinctly proposing separation from Great Britain was one from the people of Augusta.

On the fields of Guilford and Cowpens some organized companies from the Virginia Valley were engaged and bore the brunt of battle like veterans.

Then the memorable battle of Kings Mountain was won by men of this same stock. It is probable that nearly all that engaged in that action were immediate descendants of Scotch-Irish settlers. The gallant leaders, Shelby and Sevier, were born and reared in Augusta, and General William Campbell, their chief commander, wore upon the field at this battle the same trusty sword his grandfather bore in the Highlands of Scotland.

The Calendar of Virginia State Papers gives a little account of a few persons who were in the 2nd Virginia Regiment. The document bears date of May 8, 1772, and is entitled "The Petition of William Byrd, Samuel Meredith, James Walker, and William Christian, which Humbly Sheweth, That our Petitioner, Colonel Wm. Byrd, served his Majesty during the late war as Colonel of the Second Vir- ginia Regiment, and that your Petitioners, Samuel Meredith, James Walker, and Wm. Christian at the same time served as Captains in the said Regiment; that by the Royal Proclamation, dated at St. James the 7th day of October, 1763, your petitioners conceive them- selves entitled to take up and obtain Grants for the respective quan- tities of land proportioned to their rank as officers, as by the said Proclamation, reference thereunto had, may appear ; that your Peti- tioners have not been able to locate the Lands so designed for them as aforesaid, by reason of the restriction in the said Proclamation Contained of the several Governors on this Continent from giving patents or warrants of survey for any unceded lands reserved for the Indians. By which means the Royal Bounty intended your Peti- tioners hath been withheld from them. Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that out of the lands lately ceded by the Indians, &c., &c., they may be permitted to take up and obtain warrants for the representive quantities of land following: Wm. Byrd, 5000 acres; Samuel Meredith and James Walker and William Christian, 3000 >ieres each, on the Eastern Bank of Ohio Eiver at the Mouth of Little Kanawha otherwise called Elk Eiver, &c., &c. — Calendar of Vir- ginia State Papers, 1, 265, 266.

Many of our family emigrated to what is now Kentucky, and set- tled in various counties of this state. Campbell County received its name in honor of Colonel John W. Campbell (No. 21), who came to Kentucky at an early period. Having received a grant of 4000 acres of land from the commonwealth of Virginia, which was located im- mediately below and adjoining the grant on which Louisville stands, he became an extensive landed proprietor, and a very wealthy man. He was a member of the Convention which formed the first constitu- tion of Kentucky. During the same year he was elected one of the electors of the Senate, and in the electoral College was chosen the Senator from Jefferson County. He never married. His estate at his death passed into the hands of many heirs. His nephew, John Poage Campbell (No. 24), was the author of many religious works.

Lincoln County, Ky., was set off in 1780. Its first court was held on the 16th of Jan., 1781, at the town of Harrodsburg, at which time a commission from the Governor of Virginia was read, appoint- ing the following gentlemen to be justices of the peace, to hold county court, and to be commissioned at any court of Oyer and Terminer for the trial of slaves, viz. : Benjamin Logan, John Logan, John Cowen, and ten others.

It was probable at this time also that Jolm Logan was appointed Lieutenant- Colonel of the Lincoln County Militia. — Collins' History of Kentuclcy.

We also find the names, George Walker, who was a Senator in Con- gress from Kentucky in 1814-15, and David Walker, a representative in Congress from Kentucky, 1817-20.

Palmer's Calendar of Virginia State Papers gives some fragment- ary history of Virginia in the Revolution.

"In January, 1781, a British force under Benedict Arnold invaded Virginia. They sailed up James Eiver, entered Eichmond without resistance on Jan. 5, destroyed all the public stores there, and some private property. In the meantime the militia had been called out by Gov. Jefferson, Baron Steuben being at the head of the state troops. Several hundred men from Augusta served in lower Vir- ginia at that time. There is no other record of the fact that we know of. Sampson Matthews of Staunton was Colonel of militia in Augusta, and on the 13th wrote to the Governor that, in accordance with orders, he would start to Fredericksburg early the next morn- ing with about 250 men. The men of the second battallion were then on their way, and also the militia from Eockbridge and Eockingham. Major Posey, of the 1st regiment of the line, a recruiting officer at Staunton, was to go with Colonel Matthews. His men would take some of the beef cattle from Augusta, as ordered. On Jan. 21 Col- onel Matthews wrote the Governor from Bowling Green that Colonel John Bowyer with about 220 men from Eockbridge joined him there.

General Greene being hard pressed by Cornwallis, it seems to have been proposed to send the militia already in the field to North Caro- lina. In reference to this matter. Baron Steuben wrote to the Gov- ernor on Feb. 15. He agreed with the Governor that "the militia of Rockbridge, Augusta, Rockingham and Shenandoah would be the most speedy reinforcement to General Greene, but they must be first relieved by others. As far as it appears, the regiment or battallion under Matthews was not ordered to North Carolina, but other com- panies went from the Valley under Tate, Moffett, &c.

Major Thomas Posey, recruiting for the regular army at Staun- ton, wrote the Governor March 27, 1781, that according to Baron Steuben's orders he could not enlist men under 5 feet 4 inches. There were men well adapted to military service who did not reach that standard, and he asked for discretionary powers in such cases.

Colonel Wm. Preston wrote in April, 1781, in reference to a call for troops, that "nearly one-half of our militia are disaffected, and cannot be drawn into service. Moreover, the frontier of the county was exposed to depredations by the Indians, and the men could not join Greene's army without leaving their families exposed, &c."

On April 20th, Colonel Samuel McDowell of Rockbridge wrote to the Governor that a draft was ordered to take place on the 26th, but the men drawn would be ruined. Most of them were in service in the fall of 1780, when Lesley invaded the state, and were prevented from sowing fall crops, and to go now would prevent their raising spring crops. With few exceptions they would leave no one at home to work their farms. This county had in October last. Captain James Gil- mer (Gilmore) and forty odd men in Carolina, under General 'Mor- gan, for near four months, and was at Tarleton's defeat at the Cow Pens in South Carolina. And there were also three companies drawn when Lesley invaded the state ; their numbers were about 180 men. On Arnold's invasion. Colonel John Bowyer marched with about 200 men down the country; and when Greene retreated into Virginia, I marched near 200 men from this county to join Greene. I with difficulty persuaded the men to cross the Dan into Carolina. We joined Greene some time before the battle of Guilford Court- house ; continued with him till after the battle. The 15th of March last, had 1 captain, 4 privates killed ; 2 captains, 1 ensign and 7 pri- vates wounded, and Major Stuart and 4 privates taken prisoners. From these different calls all the men in this county have been on hard service, each a term, since October last, and nearly two-thirds of them at the same time.

Stephen Southall, Quartermaster, had 280 barrels of powder and other army supplies stored at Staunton on the 9th of June, 1781.

Colonel Febiger wrote from camp, June 30, 1781, to Colonel Davies at "Staunton, "that the men were literally naked, shirts and blankets excepted; unless supplied they would be compelled to quit the field. There was not more than 20 pairs of good shoes in the regiment."

One-fourth of the Augusta militia were called out by order of July 25, and marched on the 8th of August to lower Virginia and York- town, as appears from a letter written by Colonel Matthews Sept. 4th.

Several calls for troops were made in the beginning of the year 1782, which were not responded to on account of Indian invasions on the frontier. On May 7, 1783, Colonel Moffett wrote the Gov- ernor about Indian depredations "nigh ye head of gGreenbrier." Sev- eral persons had been killed. He had ordered spies to be sent out, etc.

William Bowyer, sheriff of Augusta, wrote to the Governor Oct. 15, 1784, begging indulgence for delinquency. He could not collect the public revenue. The condition of the people was distressed, and hard money was scarce, and products unsalable.

On a certain day the petition of Michael Coalter, a soldier in Cap- tain McDowell's Company, for additional pay for services as a car- penter, was presented and allowed; and on another day the petition of John Lyle, a Lieutenant in McDowell's Company in the expedition against the Shawnees, was presented. He was probably the per- son known as Rev. John Lyle of Hampshire County, who, according to Foote, was at the battle of Point Pleasant. He was a Commissary, detailed to assist Sampson Matthews, "a master drover of cattle." The subsistence of the troops consisted mainly of cattle driven afoot. Michael Coalter was the father of Judge John Coalter.