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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Petition from William Lee Davidson concerning his father's military service in the Revolutionary War
Davidson, William Lee
Volume 22, Pages 115-117

(Petition filed in 3d Auditor’s Office.)

To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled—

The petition of William Lee Davidson showeth to your Honorable bodies that he is the son and heir of General William Davidson who was a soldier of the Revolutionary War and served his country faithfully from the beginning of said war until he was killed at the battle. of Cowan’s Ford on the Catawba River, in the County of Mecklenburg in the State of North Carolina.

“When the Revolution broke out on the 22d of April, 1777, the State Congress at Halifax raised four additional regiments, to the two already in service. Of the 4th Regiment Thomas Polk was Colonel, James Thackston Lieutenant Colonel, and petitioner’s father, William Davidson, Major.

With this regiment, under General Francis Nash he marched to join the Army of the North, under General Washington, where he served until Nov, 1779, when the North Carolina line was ordered South to reinforce General Lincoln, at Charleston, S. Carolina. Previous

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to this your petitioners Father, Wm. Davidson had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the line. As the troops passed through North Carolina Colonel Davidson obtained a furlough for a few days visit to his family which he had not seen for three years. This saved him from the fate that befell Lincoln at Charleston; for when he approached Charleston, he found it so closely beleaguered by the British Army, that he was prevented from joining his regiment. When Lincoln surrendered, your petitioner’s Father returned to Mecklenburg and rendered important services in subduing the Tories, who, encouraged by the success of the British became numerous, daring and dangerous.

He raised a troop of volunteers and marched against them. At Colson’s Mill he encountered a strong force of Tories, and a severe engagement took place in which petitioner’s Father was severely wounded. A ball entered the umbilical region and passed through his body near the kidneys. This had nearly been fatal. He was confined for two months with this wound. On his recovery he took the field having been promoted for his bravery to a brigadier general in the place of General Rutherford, taken prisoner at Camden, S. C. He was active with General Sumner and Colonel Davie in checking the advance of the British, and throughout this dark period of our fortunes gave unceasing evidence of his untiring zeal in the cause of his Country.

After the brilliant affair of the Cowpens (17th Jan., 1781), in which General Morgan, with an inferior force, chastised the temerity and insolence of Colonel Tarleton, Genl. Davidson was most active in assembling the militia of his district to aid Genl. Green (who had on the east bank of the Catawba joined the light corps of Morgan) in impeding the advance of the enemy, and it was his fortune to guard the very ford at which Cornwallis attempted to pass. At the head of three hundred men, he took post at Cowan’s Ford.

At day break on the 1st of February, 1781, the British Army under Cornwallis entered the waters of Catawba (then swollen by heavy rains) at Cowan’s Ford. The morning was dark and rainy. The light infantry under Col. Hall entered first, followed by the grenadiers and the battalions. The picket of General Davidson challenged the enemy, receiving no reply, the guard fired. This turned out the whole force of General Davidson, who kept up a galling fire from the bank. The guide of the British alarmed at the firing, turned

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about and left them. This caused an unexpected diversion of the enemy from the expected landing of the force, and Col. Hall led them directly across. Col. Hall was killed as he ascended the bank. Lord Cornwallis’s horse was shot in the river and fell as he reached the bank; three privates killed, and thirty-six British wounded.

Petitioner’s father, General Davidson, in riding from the point where he expected the enemy to the point where they landed, was shot; the ball passed through his heart and he fell dead from his horse. “Your petitioner further showeth to your Honorable bodies that in consideration of the gallant services of his Father in the defence of his country—the Congress of the United States, in 1781, passed the following resolution—“Resolved, That the Governor and Council of the State of North Carolina be desired to erect a monument at the expense of the United States not exceeding in value of five hundred dollars, to the memory of the late Brigadier General Davidson who commanded the militia of the District of Salisbury in the State of North Carolina and was killed on the first of February fighting gallantly for the defense of the liberty and independence of these States.”

That petitioner’s Father entered the service of his Country at the commencement of the Revolutionary War and continued in active service until his death at Cowan’s Ford1 —a period of more than five years, serving part of the time as Lieutenant-Colonel and part as Brigadier General.

Your Petitioner has been informed that his said Father, Genl. Davidson was entitled to seven years half pay, by a resolution of Congress passed the 24th of August, 1780, and 21st of October, 1780, and having died or been killed in service his children are entitled to whatever may be due.


1 See Wheeler’s History of North Carolina.