Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DAVIE, William Richardson, soldier, born in Egremont, near Whitehaven, England, 20 June 1756; died in Camden, South Carolina, 6 November 1820. He came to this country with his father in 1768, and was adopted by his uncle, Rev. William Richardson, who lived near the Catawba, in South Carolina. Young Davie was graduated at Princeton, in the autumn of 1776, after serving with a party of his fellow-students as a volunteer in the vicinity of New York during the summer of that year. He then began to study law in Salisbury, N. C., but was commissioned lieutenant of a newly organized company of dragoons on 5 April 1779, and, succeeding to the command of the troop, joined Pulaski's legion and rose to the rank of major. At the battle of Stone Ferry, 12 June 1779, he received a severe wound in the thigh, and on his recovery returned to Salisbury, resumed his studies, and was admitted to the bar in September 1779.
In the winter of 1780 he raised a body of cavalry, spent in its equipment the last shilling of f, h e estate bequeathed to him by his uncle, and with this force protected the southwestern part of the state from the attacks of the British in South Carolina. He fought in the battles at Hanging Rock and Rocky Mount, did good service in saving the remnant of the army after Gates's defeat at Camden, and' on 5 September 1780, was appointed colonel commanding the cavalry in North Carolina. He surprised the enemy at Wahab's plantation, and when Cornwallis entered Charlotte, N. C., he withstood three charges by Tarleton's legion, in the presence of the whole British army, and then retired in good order. In 1781 Colonel Davie, yielding his hopes of gaining additional honor in the fight, accepted, at the urgent request of General Greene, the post of commissary-general of the southern army, and, by his zeal, influence, and local knowledge in this difficult position, added much to the success of the military operations that followed.
After the war he settled at Halifax, N. C., in the practice of his profession, and, by his sagacity and eloquence, soon rose to eminence, He served many terms in the legislature, and was a member of the convention that framed the Federal constitution, favoring the equal representation of the states in the national senate, and the taking into account of the slaves in assigning representatives to the south, His name does not appear as a signer of the document, as he was called home by illness, but he was one of its most earnest defenders in the North Carolina convention that followed. He drew up the act for establishing the University of North Carolina, which, after much opposition, was passed in 1789, and was active in providing for its support. The erection of its buildings, the choice of professors, and the arrangement of studies, received his personal attention. He was influential in securing the cession of the present state of Tennessee, was three times a commissioner to settle boundary disputes between North and South Carolina, and in 1794 was made major general of militia. He was elected governor of the state in 1799, but before the close of his term was sent by President Adams, with Oliver Ellsworth and William V. Murray, on a special embassy to the French government, the result of which was the convention signed 30 September 1800. President Jefferson appointed him to treat with the Tuscarora Indians in 1802. In 1803 he was an unsuccessful candidate for congress, and after his defeat he withdrew to his farm on the Catawba River, South Carolina, where he spent the rest of his days, declining a major general's commission in the U. S. army in 1813 on account of failing health. He was a man of commanding appearance and dignified yet affable manners. See his life, by Fordyce M. Hubbard, in Sparks's "American Biographies."
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