General Thomas Posey

by Edmund Starling, 1886


GENERAL THOMAS POSEY.-The subject of this brief history was born in Westmoreland County, Va., July 9th, 1750. He removed to Botetourt County in 1769; was Quartermaster in Governor Dunmore's army, which made an expedition against the Indians in 1774, and was engaged in the battle at Point Pleasant, October 10th. He enlisted early in 1776 in the Revolution, and received his commission as Captain, March 20th, in the Seventh Virginia Regiment, and, during this year, rendered active service against Lord Dunmore at Gwynn's Island. After Dunmore's forces were driven from the Island, he was stations there until late in September, 1776, and then went into winter quarters at Williamsburg. The next January he was ordered to New Jersey to join the main army under General Washington, and, after some delay, reached Middlebrook on the twelfth of April, and, on the next day, covered (with his command) the retreat of General Lincoln from Boundbrook. Shortly after this, Morgan's rifle regiment was organized, officers and men having been selected from a large portion of the army then encamped between the mountains at Middlebrook. He was selected as one of the Captains of this regiment, and from this time was engaged in the most arduous and dangerous duties of the great struggle. In the engagement at Piscataway, New Jersey, following Cornwallis after his evacuation of New Brunswick, his company bore the brunt of the fight, having been at one time surrounded by the enemy and nearly cut off from his regiment. He at one ordered a well directed fire upon one part of the opposing line, thus opening a passage through which he made good his retreat. The rifle regiment was soon after annexed to Gate's command, and was present at the memorable battles of Bemis Heights or Stillwater, on the nineteenth of September and seventh of October, and, ten days later, saw the surrender at Saratoga. He now rejoined the forces under Washington, near Germantown, and did constant duty on the enemy's line until the army quartered at Valley Forge and he stationed at Radnor, nearer Philadelphia. In the spring of 1778, he took command of the rifled regiment during Morgan's absence and was engaged in frequent skirmishes. He was raised to the rank of Major, and, at the battle of Monmouth, acted under LaFayette, being among the number that led the attack. He next assisted Col. Wm. Butler, of the eleventh Pennsylvania regiment, in relieving the settlement at Cherry Valley and Schoharie, which had been ruthlessly visited by the Indians and Tories. The Indians were driven far back to the lakes and several of their towns burned. On his return he was directed to lead the eleventh Virginia regiment to Middlebrook, where he was given command of all the light infantry then serving against the enemies' lines. At the reduction of Stony Point, his valor shone out conspicuously, he being the first to scale the fort and enter the main work, leading the charge upon a battery of two twenty-four pounders, then playing on our left column and give the watchword, "The fort's our own!" upon which the enemy threw down their arms and cried for mercy, shouting, "Spare us, brave Americans, spare us!" after which not a man was killed. Gen. Wayne and a gallant French Colonel were awarded medals and swords by Congress, together with a public expression of thanks, and Major Posey was not spoken of until complaint was laid before Gen. Washington; this led to a second letter from Gen. Wayne, reporting upon the affair, upon which John Marshall, afterwards Chief Justice, commenting, writes: "Was Gen. Wayne regardless of you? he ought, I think, to have said more for his own sake. He committed an error in omitting you. This he did not attempt to correct till your complaints obliged him to do it, and even then he said nothing which he could possibly avoid." He was present at the siege and surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, and, on being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, recruited a regiment in Virginia; then, in the winter of 1781 and 1782, marched to South Carolina to join Green's forces, thence to Georgia to assist Gen. Wayne. Here he had two successful engagements. After the evacuation of Savannah, he returned to South Carolina, and, when the British withdrew from Charleston, was sent into the city to prevent the depredations of the departing troops.

When peace came in 1783, he returned to Virginia, married and settled in Spottsylvania County. He served as Magistrate and County Lieutenant of that county. After the death of his wife, he was married to Mrs. Thornton (nee Miss Alexander). In 1793 he was commissioned Brigadier General in the U. S. army and served some time under Major General Wayne. After his resignation he removed to the State of Kentucky and settled in Henderson County. Here he served four years as Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the State Senate. In 1808 he received his commission of Major General of Kentucky State Militia. In 1810 he removed a part of his family to the Opelousas country, in the Louisiana territory. In 1812 he was appointed to represent the newly elected State in the United States Senate, in which capacity he served until 1813, when he was commissioned Governor of Indiana Territory by President Madison. In 1806, Indiana was made a State, after which Governor Posey was appointed Indian agent and continued in this service until the time of his death, March 18th, 1818. His grave is at Shawneetown, Ill., where he died during a visit to his son-in-law, Gen. Joseph M. Street.

Gen. Posey was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a devoted Mason. During the latter part of his life he became an efficient member of several Bible Societies and much interested in supplying the poor and unfortunate with the Holy Scriptures.

He is said to have been a man of remarkable physique and wonderful strength and agility of the body, singularly handsome, erect, tall and commanding in figure, striking suavity of manners, watchful, patient and diligent in his undertakings, successful in his business. He bequeathed to his children an ample fortune, and to his countrymen an untarnished reputation and a noble example.

Gen. Posey was the father of nine children, as follows: Major Fayette Posey, Lloyd Posey, William Posey, Thornton Posey, Thomas Posey, Maria Posey, Alexander Posey, Washington Posey and Sarah Ann Posey.

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