William Richardson Davie

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Founding Fathers
William Richardson Davie.jpg
William Richardson Davie
State North Carolina
Religion Presbyterian
Founding Documents United States Constitution

William Richardson Davie (June 20, 1756 - November 29, 1820) was a soldier and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, representing the state of North Carolina.[1]

He founded the University of North Carolina, and in 1793 laid the first cornerstone.[2][3]

Early life

William Richardson Davie, of North Carolina, was born in England in the village of Egremont, near White Haven, on the 20th of June, 1756.[4]

His father Archibald,[5] visiting the Waxhaw South Carolina soon after the peace of 1763, brought with him this son; and, returning to England, confided him to the care of the reverend William Richardson, his maternal uncle; who, becoming much attached to his nephew, not only took charge of his education, but adopted him as his son and heir. At the proper age William was sent to an academy in North Carolina; from whence he was, after a few years, removed to the college of Nassau-hall in Princeton, New Jersey, then becoming the resort of most of the southern youth under the auspices of the learned and respectable doctor Witherspoon. Here he finished his education, graduating in the autumn of 1776, a year memorable in our military as well as civil annals.

Returning home, young Davie found himself shut out for a time from the army, as the commissions for the troops just levied had been issued. He went to Salisbury, where he commenced the study of the law. The war continuing, contrary to the expectation which generally prevailed when it began, Davie could no longer resist his ardent wish to plant himself among the defenders of his country. Inducing a worthy and popular friend, rather too old for military service, to raise a troop of dragoons, as the readiest mode of accomplishing his wish, Davie obtained a lieutenancy in this troop. Without delay the captain joined the South army, and soon afterwards returned home on furlough. The command of the troop devolving on lieutenant Davie, it was at his request annexed to the legion of count Pulaski, where captain Davie continued, until promoted by major general Lincoln to the station of brigade major of cavalry. In this office Davie served until the affair of Stono, devoting his leisure to the acquirement of professional knowledge, and rising fast in the esteem of the general and army. When Lincoln attempted to dislodge lieutenant colonel Maitland from his intrenched camp on the Stono, Davie received a severe wound, and was removed from camp to the hospital in Charleston, where he was confined for five months.

Military Service

Soon after his recovery he was empowered by the government of North Carolina to raise a small legionary corps, consisting of one troop of dragoons and two companies of mounted infantry; at the head of which he was placed with the rank of major.

Quickly succeeding in completing his corps, in whose equipment he expended the last remaining shilling of an estate bequeathed to him by his uncle, he took the field, and was sedulously engaged in protecting the country between Charlotte and Camden, from the enemy's predatory incursions. On the fatal 16 August, he was hastening with his corps to join our army, when he met our dispersed and flying troops. He nevertheless continued to advance towards the conqueror; and by his prudence, zeal, and vigilance, saved a few of our wagons and many of our stragglers. Acquainted with the movement of Sumter, and justly apprehending that he would be destroyed unless speedily advised of the defeat of Gates, he despatched instantly a courier to that officer, communicating what had happened, performing, in the midst of distress and confusion, the part of an experienced captain. The abandonment of all the southern region of North Carolina, which followed this signal overthrow, and the general despondency which prevailed, have been recorded in the body of this work; nor have the fortunate and active services of major Davie been overlooked. So much was his conduct respected by the government of North Carolina, 'that he was, in the course of September, promoted to the rank of colonel commandant of the cavalry of the state.

In this station he was found by general Greene on assuming the command of the Southern army; whose attention had been occupied from his entrance into North Carolina, in remedying the disorder in the quarter master and commissary departments. To the first Carrington had been called; and Davie was now induced to take upon himself the last, much as he preferred the station then possessed. At the head of this department colonel Davie remained throughout the trying campaign which followed; contributing greatly by his talents, his zeal, his local knowledge, and his influence, to the maintenance of the difficult and successful operations which followed. While before Ninety-Six, Greene foreseeing the difficulties again to be encountered, in consequence of the accession of force to the enemy by the arrival of three regiments of infantry from Ireland, determined to send a confidential officer to the legislature of North Carolina, then in session, to represent to them his relative condition, and to urge their adoption of effectual measures without delay, for the collection of magazines of provisions, and the reinforcing of his army. Colonel Davie was selected by Greene for this important mission, and immediately repaired to the seat of government, where he ably and faithfully exerted himself to give effect to the views of his general.

The events of the autumn assuring the quick approach of peace, colonel Davie returned home; and having shortly afterwards intermarried with miss Sarah Jones, daughter of general Allen Jones of North Carolina, he selected the town of Halifax, on the Roanoke, for his residence; where he resumed the profession with the practice of law.


In 1787, Davie was a part of the North Carolina delegation to the Philadelphia Convention, along with Richard Dobbs Spaight, William Blount, Alexander Martin, and Hugh Williamson.

In 1798 he was elected Governor of North Carolina, and was a member of the Federalist Party.[6]


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