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William Darke
Portrait of William Darke
Born 1736
Died November 26, 1801 (aged 64–65)
Place of birth Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Place of death Jefferson County, Virginia
Buried at Ronemous Eagle Cemetery, Jefferson County, West Virginia
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
 United States
Service/branch  British Army
U.S. Army
Years of service 1755–1801
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General

General William Darke (1736 – November 26, 1801) was an American soldier. In 1740, he moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Virginia. He was in Braddock's army in the defeat in 1755, and was made a captain at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. He was made prisoner at the Battle of Germantown, and was commanding colonel of the Hampshire and Berkeley regiments at the capture of Cornwallis. Darke was often a member of the Virginia legislature, and, in the convention of 1788, voted for the Federal Constitution. Lieutenant-colonel of the regiment of "Levies" in 1791, he commanded the left wing of the St. Clair's army, at its defeat by the Miami Indians, November 4, 1791. He made two gallant and successful charges with the bayonet in this fight, in the second of which his younger son, Captain Joseph Darke, was killed, and he himself was wounded and narrowly escaped death. Afterwards, Darke was a major-general of the Virginia militia. He died on November 26, 1801.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Very little is known of Darke's early life. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1736.[1] In 1740, he and his family moved to Shepherdstown, Virginia.[2] His father was named Joseph, and Darke had two brothers and one sister.[3] As a child he fished, ploughed, and planted.[3] He was described as "a strong man of his hands", and "herculean".[3]

Military career[edit | edit source]

Darke enlisted in the British Army in 1755.[4] He served briefly in the Braddock Expedition during the French and Indian War under the command of General Edward Braddock.[4] Braddock's plan was to capture the Fort Duquesne from the French. Even though there were many casualties, Darke was not injured.[4]

In the American Revolutionary War, Darke served as a Continental Army captain in the 8th Virginia Regiment and was wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Germantown in 1777. He was held in a British prison ship in New York Harbor until his exchange in 1780. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was probably present at the siege of Yorktown in 1781.

After the war he served in the Virginia Convention in 1788 and subsequently served in the Virginia legislature. As a lieutenant colonel in the Kentucky militia, Darke commanded the left wing at the disastrous Battle of the Wabash in 1791 during the Northwest Indian War. His son Captain Joseph Darke died as a result of wounds received in the battle.

In 1790, General Josiah Harmar, with a poorly trained and ill equipped army and volunteer militia, was sent to attack the Indian villages on the upper Maumee River. Harmar was soundly defeated. President George Washington reinforced the army and assigned General Arthur St. Clair to command. St. Clair went north from Fort Washington, Ohio and built Fort Hamilton and Fort Jefferson. On October 1791, St. Clair left Fort Jefferson and camped at a spot later called Fort Recovery on November 3, 1791. On November 4, his army of 1,400 men was surprised at sunrise by a large party of Indians. Within a few hours, St. Clair was forced to retreat under cover provided by Darke. Nine hundred men, women and children were reportedly killed.[5]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Not much is known of Darke's wife, except she was a widow.[3] The two had four children: John, Joseph, Samuel, and Mary.[3] His three sons all died while young men. He has descendants through son John's daughter Elizabeth and through daughter Mary's two marriages.[3]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

Darke was subsequently a militia general. Darke County, Ohio is named for him.

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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