Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Revolutionary Hero

Correspondence of the Missouri Republican.

Yesterday, while at Gen. Curtis’ headquarters, I was introduced to a most remarkable man – a surviving hero of the revolution, in his one hundred and second year, who served with Washington and Marion towards the close of the war. His name is William Dotson, and his residence on the James Fork of White River, near Galena. The following is the history he gives of himself. He was born near the Dan river, Virginia, February 22d, 1760, of Irish and German parentage; entered the army of Gen. Washington when a young man; was at the siege of Yorktown; was also with Marion and his men on the Pedec, and fought the Tories of South Carolina; was in the war of 1812, and fought under Gen Pinckney; took part in the battle of James Island, on the coast of Carolina, in which three British ships were sunk by cannon shots from a fortification made of Cotton bales, the Wasp and Hornet co-operating with the land forces in which battle he was wounded in the right hand. These are his own recollections, as given by himself, and may not be in all respects correct, depending, as they do, on the memory of an uneducated man of great age.

Mr. Dotson says he has fourteen sons in the Federal army, fighting for the Government established by Washington. Two of them are in the army of the Southwest, under Colonels Phelps and Boyd; the others were living in Indiana and Illinois, and have joined the army in their respective states. He has been married to four wives, the last a young woman of Missouri, by whom he has several young children. – He is the father of twenty-two children, all living, the oldest being seventy-six years of age, residing in east Tennessee, and the youngest three years old by his young wife, born to him in his ninety-ninth year. After the Revolutionary war, he removed to South Carolina, and resided there till 1820, when he emigrated to East Tennessee. Here he remained until 1854, when he emigrated to Southwest Missouri. He is a farmer by occupation, and he and his sons have always performed their own labor. They have never owned slaves, nor used slave labor. Once bought a slave by an exchange of property, and his wife was so opposed to it that he took him back and induced the owner to trade back again. He as always labored with his own hands, and what he possesses is the fruit of his own honest toil. He is still in the enjoyment of vigorous health and a sound memory, rides on horseback and walks perfectly erect, converses intelligently, and performs a considerable amount of labor. Two years ago, during the sitting of the Court at Galena, he ran a foot race, with a younger man, in the presence of the Court and a multitude of spectators, amid the shouts and laughter of the crowd at his defeated antagonist.

He is about five feet four inches in statue, and compactly built, and, like Moses of old, “his eye is not dimmed, nor his natural force abated.” There is no reason why he should not live another fifteen or twenty years. He is a strong Union man, and was tempted at the outbreak of the rebellion to offer himself for enlistment in the Union army, but the rebels came and took his horse and gun, and he gave up his purpose, feeling that his fourteen sons would do their own and his share of service in putting down the rebellion.

The rebels visited him and warned him that he was in danger, and had better flee. But he answered them, saying, “I have bought and paid for my farm, and mean to live and die upon it. If you choose to kill me you will only wrong me out of a few years, and the deed will do you no credit. According to the common course of nature I ought to have died years ago.” They did not further molest him, except to take an excellent horse, his gun and tobacco. The latter he said was a great privation. He could not get along without it, and thought they might have left him his tobacco.

The old man appeared delighted to see and converse with our troops. Riding about upon his horse he mingles with the crowd, cracks his jokes and laughs with great hilarity. Gen. Curtis has had his statement taken down, and to which the old hero has subscribed and made his affidavit, and it is to be sent on to Washington with a recommendation for a pension the remainder of his days.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 26, 1862, p. 2

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