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Like most of the enterprising youth of America Davidson repaired to the standard of his country, on the commencement of the revolutionary war, and was appointed a major in one of the first regiments formed by the government of North Carolina.
In this character, he marched with the North Carolina line, under brigadier general Nash, to the main army in New Jersey, where he served under the commander in chief, until the North Carolina line was detached in November, 1779, to reinforce the southern army, commanded by major general Lincoln. Previous to this event, major Davidson was promoted to the command of a regiment, with the rank of lieutenant colonel commandant.
As he passed through North Carolina, Davidson obtained permission to visit his family, from which he had been absent nearly three years. The delay produced by this visit saved him from captivity, as he found Charleston so closely invested when he arrived in its neighbourhood, as to prevent his rejunction with his regiment.
Soon after the surrender of general Lincoln and his army, the loyalists of North Carolina, not doubting the complete success of the royal forces, began to embody themselves for the purpose of contributing their active aid in the field te the subsequent operations of the British general.They were numerous in the western parts of the state, and especially in the highland settlement about Cross creek. Lieutenant colonel Davidson put himself at the head of some of our militia, called out to quell the expected insurrection. , He proceeded with vigour in the execution of his trust; and in an engagement with a party of loyalists near Calson's mill, he was severely wounded; the ball entered the umbilical region, and passed through his body near the kidneys. This con, fined him for eight weeks; when recovering, he instantly took the field, having been recently appointed brigadier general by the government of North Carolina, in the place of brigadier general Rutherford, taken at the battle of Camden. He exerted himself, in conjunction with general Sumner and colonel Davie, to interrupt the progress of lord Cornwallis in his advance towards Salisbury, and throughout that eventful period, gave unceasing evidences of his zeal and firmness in upholding his falling country.
After the victory obtained by Morgan at the Cowpens, Davidson was among the most active of his countrymen in assembling the militia of his district, to enable general Greene, who had joined the light corps under Morgan, to stop the progress of the advancing enemy, and was detached by general Greene, on the night of the last day of January, to guard the very ford selected by lord Cornwallis for his passage of the Catawba river on the next morning. Davidson possessed himself of the post in the night, at the head of three hundred men; and having placed a picquet near the shore, stationed his corps at some small distance from the ford.
General Henry Lee, from whose “memoirs of the war in the Southern department of the United States, we copy the present sketch of General Davidson, gives the following account of the battle :
“A disposition was immediately made to dislodge Davidson, which the British general O‘Hara, with the guards effected. Lieutenant colonel Hall, led with the light company, followed by the grenadiers. The current was rapid, the stream waist deep, and five hundred yards in width. The soldiers crossed in platoons, supporting each others steps. When lieutenant colonel Hall reached the river, he was descried by the American sentinels, whose challenge and fire brought Davidson's corps into array. Deserted by his guide, Hall passed
directly across, not knowing the landing place, which lay below him. This deviation from the common course, rendered it necessary for Davidson to incline to the right; but this maneuvre, although promptly performed, was not effected until the light infantry had gained the shore. A fierce conflict ensued, which was well supported by Davidson and his inferior force. The militia at length yielded, and Davidson, while mounting his horse to direct the retreat, was killed. The corps dispersed and sought safety in the woods. Our loss was small, excepting general Davidson, an active, zealous and influential officer. The British lieutenant colonel Hall was also killed, with three of the light infantry, and thirty-six were wounded. Lord Cornwallis's horse was shot under him, and fell as soon as he got upon the shore. Leslee's horses were carried down the stream, and with difficulty saved; and O'Hara's tumbled over with him in the water."
The loss of brigadier general Davidson would have always been felt in any stage of the war. It was particularly detrimental in its effect at this period, as he was the chief instrument relied upon by general Greene for the assemblage of the militia; an event all important at this crisis, and anxiously desired by the American general. The ball passed through his breast, and he instantly. fell dead.
This promising soldier was thus lost to his country in the meridian of life, and at a moment when his services would have been highly beneficial to her. He was a man of popular manners, pleasing address, active and indefatigable. Enamoured with the profession of arms, and devoted to the great cause for which he fought, his future usefulness may be inferred from his former conduct.
The congress of the United States, in gratitude for his services, and in commemoration of thejr sense of his worth, passed the following resolution directing the erection of a monument to his memory.
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 the 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 day of February last, fighting gallantly in the defence of the liberty and independence of these states.
DICKINSON, John, a distinguished political writer and friend of his country, was the son of Samuel Dickinson, esquire, of Delaware. He was a member of the assembly of Pennsylvania, in 1764, and of the general congress in 1765. In November, 1767, he began to publish his celebrated letters against the acts of the British parliament, laying duties on paper, glass, &c. They supported the liberties of his country, and contributed much to the American revolution. He was a member of the first congress in 1774, and the petition to the king, which was adopted at this time, and is considered as an elegant composition, was written by him.
He was the author of the declaration adopted by the Congress of 1775, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms; which declaration was directed to be published by general Washington, upon his arrival at the camp before Boston, in July 1775. He also wrote the second petition to the king, adopted by the same congress, stating the merits of their claims and soliciting the royal interposition for an accommodation of differences on just principles. These several addresses were executed in a masterly manner, and were well calculated to make friends to the colonies. But their petition to the king, which was drawn up at the same time, produced more solid advantages in favour of the American cause, than any other of their productions. This was, in a great measure, carried through congress by Mr. Dickinson. Several members, judging from the violence with which parliament proceeded against the colonies, were of opinion, that farther petitions were nugatory; but this worthy citizen, a friend to both countries, and devoted to a reconciliation on constitutional principles, urged the expediency and policy of trying, once more, the effect of an humble, decent, and firm petition, to the common head of the empire. The high opinion that was conceived of his patriotism and abilities, induced the members to assent to the measure, though they generally conceived it to be labour lost.
In June, 1776, he opposed openly, and upon principle, the declaration of independence, when the motion was considered by Congress. His arguments were answered by John Adams, Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, and others, who advocated a separation from Great Britain. The part which Mr. Dickinson took in this debate, occasioned his recal from congress, as his constituents did not coincide with him in political views, and he was absent several years. Perceiving, at length, that his countrymen were unalterably fixed in their system of independence, he fell in with it, and was as zealous in supporting it in congress, about the year 1780, as any of the members. He was president of Pennsylvania from November, 1782, to October, 1785, and was succeeded in this office by Dr. Franklin. Soon after 1785, it is believed, he removed to Delaware, by which state he was appointed a member of the old congress, and of which state he was president.
He filled with ability the various high stations in which he was placed. He was distinguished by