WilliamRichardsonDavieByCharlesWillsonPeale

Davie, William Richardson

June 22, 1756–November 5, 1820

An active member of the South Carolina Agricultural Society, Davie also assisted in negotiating the boundary dispute between North and South Carolina.

Soldier, jurist, statesman. Davie was born on June 22, 1756, in Egremont Parish, Cumberlandshire, England, the eldest child of Archibald Davie and Mary Richardson. In 1764 he immigrated with his family to America, where he was raised by his uncle, the Reverend William Richardson, minister of the Waxhaw Presbyterian Church. From his uncle he received his early education, and he was enrolled in Queen’s College in Charlotte, North Carolina. He entered the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1774 and graduated with first honors in 1776. In 1779 at the Battle of Stono, Davie was severely wounded leading a charge and barely escaped capture. It took nearly a year to recover from the wounds.

The following year, using his considerable inheritance from his uncle, Davie raised and outfitted a troop of his own. Commissioned a major, he led his men in action at the Battle of the Waxhaws (May 29, 1780), Hanging Rock (August 6, 1780), and various places in and around the Waxhaw settlement. At Hanging Rock, Davie was observed by a thirteen-year-old Andrew Jackson, the future seventh president of the United States. For the remainder of his days Jackson would consider Davie to be the beau ideal of a soldier. Davie’s small command, which included white settlers and Catawba Indians, was never surprised or dispersed during its existence. His talents soon caught the eye of General Nathanael Greene. He persuaded Davie to become commissary general of the Southern Army in early 1781. In this post he served admirably, being able to feed the army even though the land in both Carolinas had been devastated by war.

After the war ended, Davie settled in Halifax, North Carolina. He married Sarah Jones on April 11, 1782, and they were the parents of six children. Taking an active role in North Carolina politics, he served in the North Carolina House of Commons from 1784 until 1798, when he was elected governor. He favored a lenient policy toward Loyalists and was the leading figure in the establishment of the University of North Carolina in 1789. In 1787 Davie was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. A lifelong Federalist, he approved of the Constitution and campaigned vigorously for its passage. In 1799 President John Adams appointed Davie as one of three delegates to negotiate agreements on amity and commerce with France.

Davie returned to South Carolina in late 1805, retiring to his Tivoli plantation in Lancaster District. An active member of the South Carolina Agricultural Society, Davie also assisted in negotiating the boundary dispute between North and South Carolina. In 1812 he was nominated for vice president on the Federalist ticket and was briefly considered for command of the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. His last public office was as a commissioner of the Board of Public Works in South Carolina. Davie died on November 5, 1820, and was buried at Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church in Lancaster.

Robinson, Blackwell. William R. Davie. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1957.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Davie, William Richardson
  • Coverage June 22, 1756–November 5, 1820
  • Author
  • Keywords Soldier, jurist, statesman, Reverend William Richardson, Battle of Stono, Battle of the Waxhaws, General Nathanael Greene, commissary general of the Southern Army, North Carolina House of Commons, lifelong Federalist, South Carolina Agricultural Society, command of the U.S. Army during the War of 1812, commissioner of the Board of Public Works
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 24, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update September 14, 2016
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