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Sampson Mathews
Silhouette of Sampson Mathews, 1756[1]
Virginia State Senate from Augusta, Rockingham, Rockbridge, Shenandoah, and Pendleton counties

In office
1776-1781, 1790-1792
Delegate to the
Virginia Convention
from Augusta County, Virginia

In office
March 20, 1775
Personal details
Born c. 1737
Augusta County, Virginia
Died January 20, 1807
Staunton, Virginia
Spouse(s) Mary Lockhart
Relations Mathews family
Profession politician, soldier, lawyer
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain Great Britain
United States United States
Service/branch Virginia provincial militia
Rank Colonel of Virginia provincial militia
Battles/wars French and Indian War
 • Braddock expedition
Dunmore's War
 • Battle of Point Pleasant
American Revolutionary War
 • Arnold's invasion

Sampson Mathews (c. 1737- January 20, 1807) was an 18th century American soldier, legislator, and college founder in the colony (and later U.S. state) of Virginia.

As a soldier he participated in three major wars. He was a captain of Virginia provincial militia under General Edward Braddock on Braddock's Expedition of the French and Indian War; he was commissary of subsistence to Colonel Charles Lewis in the Battle of Point Pleasant of Lord Dunmore's War; and he was colonel of Virginia militia in the American Revolutionary War.[1] He led the American defense against Benedict Arnold's January 1781 invasion of Richmond, Virginia, leading to Arnold's withdrawal to Portsmouth, Virginia.[2]

In politics he was a delegate to the Virginia Convention and a member of the inaugural Virginia State Senate, of which body he was a member from 1776-1781 and 1790-1792, representing Augusta, Rockingham, Rockbridge, Shenandoah, and Pendleton counties.[3][3] He toured the western frontier from the legislature to fortify the colonial border from Indian attacks, and he oversaw shipbuilding efforts for the Continental Navy's Virginia fleet.[1][4]

He was a founding trustee of Liberty Hall (later Washington and Lee University), formerly the Augusta Academy, when it was made into a college in 1776.[5] He was included in Herbert B. Adams list of the "first contributors to university education in the South." [6]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Sampson Mathews was born c. 1737 in Augusta County, Virginia to Anne (née Archer) and John Mathews. His parents were among the first settlers of Augusta County who had immigrated to America during the Scotch-Irish immigration of 1710-1775.[2] His father was a prominent member of the early Augusta County community.[7] Sampson was educated at the Augusta Academy, a classical school founded in 1749. He was named an original trustee of the academy when in 1776 it became Liberty Hall (later Washington and Lee University).[2][5][5] In 1759, he married Mary Lockhart.[1]

In the 1760s Sampson and his brother George Mathews ran a local inn and tavern, as well as a series of mercantile outposts along the frontier as far west as Greenbrier County, some 80 miles away. In their outposts they sold basic supplies but also specialty items including "spelling books, silk, hats, silver, and even tailor-made suits,"[8] and acted as unofficial bankers.[8]

American Indian wars[edit | edit source]

On the outbreak of the French and Indian War, Mathews was commissioned captain of a local militia unit and accompanied British General Edward Braddock on his ill-fated Braddock expedition. This was the largest British expedition to the colonies, and was intended to expel the French from the Ohio Country. The French and their Indian allies ambushed Braddock, who was mortally wounded in the Battle of the Monongahela. After suffering devastating casualties, the British retreated in disarray.[9] Though the expedition was a disaster, Mathews for his part had proved a capable leader and was elected sheriff of Augusta County the following year, also assuming the functions of chancellor.[1][10]

By fall of 1774, tension between colonial frontiersmen and local Native American tribes again elevated, causing Royal Governor Lord Dunmore to assemble a 1000-man invasion of Native American Virginia territory, culling recruits from the Virginia frontier. Mathews was appointed commissary of subsistence for Col. Charles Lewis and oversaw the driving of 500 pack horses with equipment and food, including 54,000 pounds of flour, and 108 cattle for the march from Augusta to Point Pleasant, for which he was nicknamed the Master Driver of Cattle.[1] The Battle of Point Pleasant, the only major battle of Dunmore's War, was fought between Virginia militia and Native Americans from the Shawnee and Mingo tribes along the Ohio River. The Native Americans, under the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk, attacked Virginia militia under Col. Lewis, attempting to halt Lewis's advance into the Ohio Country.[11] The Virginians incurred over 200 injuries and deaths during the battle.[10] The campaign was declared a victory by Lord Dunmore; it was the last battle that the colonies of America would fight alongside the British.

American Revolution[edit | edit source]

The months following the Battle of Point Pleasant saw tension between the British and the Colonies rise. Lord Dunmore had dissolved the House of Burgesses in May of 1774, and when the assembly was set to convene in Richmond for the 1775 session under the interim name of the Virginia Convention, Mathews was sent as a delegate to make preparations for the impending war.[10] The Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought less than a month later.

A Revolutionary War painting depicting the Virginia Navy cruiser Capt. Barron taking the British navy brig HMS Oxford. Mathews was responsible for the production of the sails for the Continental Navy's Virginia fleet

He was elected to the first Virginia State Senate in 1776 on the formation of that body from the dissolved Governor's Council.[3] He represented Augusta, Rockingham, Rockbridge, Shenandoah, and Pendleton counties.[3] When the state of Virginia undertook the creation of a navy fleet, there was no money available to buy linen cloth for sails. During the first session of the Virginia legislature, in 1776, the senate passed an act to promote the Continental Navy's Virginia fleet. He was appointed trustee to take care of this operation. He oversaw the making of sail material from flax was grown by the farmers of Augusta County.[1] As the British neared the American capitol of Richmond, Virginia, Mathews presided over the Virginia State Senate in the absence of Governor Thomas Jefferson.[12]

In November 1777, the Continent Congress learned of Alexander Hamilton's attempts to lure western patriots to the side of the loyalists with pay and land. Congress appointed a commission consisting of Sampson Mathews, George Clymer, and Samuel Washington and sent them to Fort Pitt to fortify the colonial border from Native American attacks in reaction to Hamilton's initiative. The commission reported back to Congress in April 1778 that such attacks were likely, leading Congress to send 3,000 militiamen to the western frontier.[4]

In January 1781, British Brigadier General Benedict Arnold invaded and captured the capital city of Richmond by surprise, destroying supply houses, foundries, and mills. Governor Thomas Jefferson sent an emergency call for defense of the capital. Mathews, then lieutenant colonel of the Augusta County militia, responded with a company of approximately 250.[13] Mathews' march to Richmond was delayed for several days at the James River due to heavy rain that impeded crossing efforts. At this time food was running low, many were ill, and medical care was almost nonexistent in the camps. Desertion was commonplace, and rumors of mutiny spread.[1] The militia finally arrived in Richmond to find the city ravaged. Mathews' men skirmished with the British Army until Arnold eventually retreated to Portsmouth to either be evacuated or reinforced in the closing days of the month.[2][14]

Death[edit | edit source]

Modern day Washington and Lee University (formerly Liberty Hall), Lexington, Virginia.

At the conclusion of the war Mathews retired to Richmond to practice law before returning to Augusta County. He served as the first high sheriff of Bath County when it was formed from Augusta County in 1791. He died in Staunton, Virginia in 1807.[10]

In his Annals of Augusta County, Virginia (1902), historian Joseph Addison Waddell said of Mathews:

"Colonel Mathews was a man of strong character and sound integrity. He must have been highly respected for he was kept in public office continually for over fifty years."

 — Joseph Addison Waddell, Annals of Augusta County, Virginia (1902) [15]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Clem, Gladys B. (1965)"It Happened Around Staunton in Virginia"(Staunton, Virginia: Second Edition) p. 21-23
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Wadell, Joseph (1902). Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871. C. Russell Caldwell. p 278. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=rZbEC1kEdpcC&pg=PA278&lpg=PA278&dq=%22sampson+mathews%22+benedict+arnold&source=bl&ots=ogEYCfX4sU&sig=fnh6UkBocVgPnZQdGyH-K_AIvR8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=AA6cUYyvL4jm9gSauIBw&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=%22sampson%20mathews%22%20benedict%20arnold&f=false Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Waddell" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Waddell" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Waddell" defined multiple times with different content
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Leonard, Cynthia Miller 1978. The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: a bicentennial register of members. Virginia State Library.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Pieper, Thomas, and Gidney, James (1980). Fort Laurens, 1778-1779: The Revolutionary War in Ohio. Kent State University Press, p 13. http://books.google.com/books?id=9aoJVOjymwIC&dq=%22sampson+matthews%22&source=gbs_navlinks_s Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Washington and Lee University (1890). Historical Papers, Volumes 1-2. The New York Public Library: Washington and Lee University, 1890 http://books.google.com/books?id=9p4gAAAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA87&dq=%22sampson+mathews%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8IWVUJiMFqSa0QGKm4GQAQ&ved=0CDoQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=%22sampson%20mathews%22&f=false Retrieved November 3, 2012
  6. Adams, Herbert B. (1888). Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1888. p 23
  7. Cole, J. R. (1917). "History of Greenbrier County." Greenbrier Historical Society: Lewisburg, WV. p 67-72 http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/WV-FOOTSTEPS/1999-09/0937846706Retrieved November 2, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 Handley, Harry E. (1963), "The Mathews Trading Post", published in The Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society: Volume 1, Number 1 (Lewisburg, West Virginia: Greenbrier Historical Society, August 1963) http://www.gillilandtrails.org/pages/MathewsTradingPost.asp Retrieved October 28, 2012
  9. Borneman, Walter R. (2007). The French and Indian War. Rutgers. ISBN 978-0-06-076185-1. p55.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Chalkley, Lyman (1912) Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, 1745-1800 (Washington, D.C.: Daughters of the American Revolution, 1912).
  11. Atkinson, George W., History of Kanawha County: from its organization in 1789 until the present time; Printed at the Office of the West Virginia Journal, 1876, 345 pgs.
  12. Harris, J.D. (1901) General Thomas Mathews. The Virginia Law Register , Vol. 7, No. 3 (Jul., 1901), pp. 153-158 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1100495 Retrieved October 25, 2013
  13. Benedict Arnold captures and destroys Richmond. (2012). The History Channel website. Retrieved 9:21, October 28, 2012, from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/benedict-arnold-captures-and-destroys-richmond
  14. Randall (1990), pp. 582–583
  15. Waddell, Joseph A. (1902)/ Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, second edition, 1902. Reprinted Bridgewater, Virginia: C. J. Carrier & Co., 1958

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