John Milam (ca 1742 - 1780) - historical vignettes

John Milam was the second son of Thomas Milam, born in Orange County in the Dominion and Colony of Virginia by 1742 or earlier as recent evidence indicates. See my Genealogy Notes for details here (link) . John Milam married Anna Jackson, daughter of Jarvis and Helena Jackson, in Bedford County around 1768.

We first meet a young John Milam on 27 MAR 1760 when he assisted his father, Thomas, as a chain carrier for a survey of George Row's land warrant for "107 acres of land in Culpeper County.....on North Side of the South fork of Robinson River in the line of a Survey made for John Kelly.....on the Fork Mountain". John was about 18 years old. { The South fork of the Robinson River was later known as the Row's River and now as the Rose River. } You may view Row's survey with Thomas and John as chain carriers here (image). [309]

On a Culpeper map with the land plats of Milam's neighbors, the 1752 John Kelly survey is in the upper left hand corner labled in white. Thomas Milam's land is about a mile down the Row's River from Kelly's near the center. You may study this interesting topographic map here (map).

The John Kelly and Thomas Milam families had a close relationship - being brother-in-laws - which would continue after they both removed to Bedford County in the 1760s and thoughout the century as we shall see. For the details, see these links: here (link) and here (link) .


John Milam Appointed Bedford County Constable

In 2014 I discovered that John Milam of Bedford County was appointed Constable for the Northfork District on 22 MAR, 1773. [481] John took the Oath of Constable on 26 APR 1773. [506] You may read the details here (link) and here (link).


John Milam for Northfork Constaple

Lieutenant John Milam and the Defense of Boonesborough, KY

Until now, it was not known that John Milam had served in any capacity during the Revolutionary War. Indeed the transcriber of William Tracey's pension declaration (below) commented that he could not find a Lieutenant John Milam listed as an officer from Bedford County and suspected that instead it was Lieutenant William Milam - who was known to be a Bedford Militia officer. However, as you shall read, there are at least five Revolutionary War pension declarations from members of Capt. Charles Gwatkin's Company who mention Lt John Milam as an officer at Boonesborough - and none mention a William Milam.

 

A Brief History of the Conflict with Great Britain up to 1777

Following the Boston Tea Party protest against the British Tea Tax in November 1773, the Virginians were so concerned that the House of Burgesses approved a “Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer” on the 24 MAY 1774. [482] On May 26th Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore announced that he had dissolved the House. Meanwhile, Dunmore was waging war against the Indians in present day Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky over hunting rights although the official Proclamation Line agreed to in the treaty between Great Britain and the Indians was the crest of the Appalachian Mountains.  West of the Appalachians was Indian Territory. He won "Dunmore's War" at the Battle of Point Pleasant in October 1774. [483]

The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia the same month and passed its Articles of Association, listed grievances against the King of Great Britain and banned certain imports. The Second Virginia Convention was held in March 1775 when Patrick Henry argued for "a well regulated militia" and famously said:

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and Slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!....I know not what other course others may take. But as for me – give me liberty or give me death!" [484]

By May Dunmore had brought in 43 British marines from the ship Fowey and barricaded his palace in Williamsburg.  Threatened by approaching militias, early on the morning of June 8th Dunmore fled the palace and joined his wife and children aboard the Fowey.

Also in June 1775 - having blockaded Boston Harbor - the British won the Battle of Bunker Hill at great cost:  226 men dead and 828 wounded. [485] Talk of rebellion and revolution spread through all the colonies but still there were many Loyalists – usually of the wealthy Gentry class and of the Church of England clergy. Norfolk, Virginia, was rumored to be a hot-bed of Loyalists;  therefore Dunmore headed there. Norfolk was the most populous city in Virginia and also its most important port with the greatest shipyard in America, Gosport, nearby. It was there that Dunmore’s fleet settled. [486]

By December 1775 Virginia had organized a militia force of 900 men who marched toward Norfolk and engaged Dunmore’s British and Loyalist forces at the Battle of Great Bridge. The rebels won the brief battle killing or wounding 102 British then they occupied Norfolk.  [487] Dunmore and the Loyalist retreated to their vessels. Low on food and supplies and denied permission to acquire them, the British cannonaded Norfolk on New Year’s Eve.  Hundreds of homes and warehouses were destroyed in the ensueing fires; only 400 houses remained. Dunmore and the Loyalist fleet slowly made their way 30 miles up the Chesapeake Bay and settled on Gwynn’s Island in March 1776 awaiting to be reinforced by the British Navy. On July 8th the Virginia military shelled his ships with 18 pound cannons from the shore. During the night the 4 British naval vessels and up to 50 private Loyalist ships set sail. On August 2nd Dunmore finally left Virginia waters and fled to England. [488]

Many of Virginia’s leading patriots believed that Virginia’s destiny was to expand west. They felt that the Declaration of Independence (4 JUL 1776) meant that the British peace treaty with the Indians could be ignored and that the Demarcation Line was no longer an obstacle to acquiring land beyond the mountains in future Ohio and Kentucky. [489] To that end, the Virginia Assembly created Kentucky County on 31 DEC, 1776 and appointed George Rogers Clark as Major in command of the Kentucky Militia with Daniel Boone as Captain in Boonesborough.  At the time, Boonesborough had about a dozen families including 30 or so children, 10 to 15 slaves and 22 men to defend it. Harrodsburg had 84 men and Logan’s Station only 15. [490]

Naturally the Delaware, Miami and Shawnee Indians concluded that it was in their best interest to support Great Britain to protect their treaty rights. Indeed they were already supplied with weapons from Canada via Detroit. Although Cornstock and other Indians Chiefs counseled peace, Blackfish, a Shawnee leader, argued for a sustained attack against the small Kentucky settlements. With a force of about two hundred, Blackfish led his warriors south from Ohio and began skirmishes around Harrodsburg in mid March 1777. The first action on Boonesborough occurred on April 24th with an attack on two scouts, killing one. In the subsequent battle a couple of Indians were killed and three Americans wounded including Daniel Boone shot in the ankle. Skirmishes and ambushes occurred at all three settlements in May and began again in July. Boonesborough was under siege for two days during which time corn fields were burnt and cattle were slaughtered. In late July Blackfish returned to Ohio leaving the Kentucky settlements desperate for winter food supplies. [491]

For some time Major Clark and Captain Boone had requested aid from North Carolina and Virginia. Finally in early August 1777 Col. John Bowman of Roanoke came with one hundred men and took charge of the Kentucky Militia. In October Captain Charles Gwatkins and Lt John Milam arrived with fifty men from Bedford County - a march of some 370 miles. [491]

 

Pension Declarations Describing Lieutenant John Milam's Service

These pension declarations are from Bedford County militiamen in their seventies taken between 1832 and 1834 who mention Lieutenant John Milam and Captain Charles Gwatkins:

Joseph Jackson, brother-in-law of John Milam, recollected:

"On this 22nd day of August 1832 personally appeared in open Court before me Richard French Judge of the Circuit Court in the County of Bourbon now sitting, Joseph Jackson a resident of the County of Bourbon and State aforesaid aged seventy-five years who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the Following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed the 7th of June 1832.

That he entered the service of the United States under Captain Charles Gwatkins of the Virginia Line of State Troops in Bedford County Virginia and enlisted for the term of eighteen months sometime as well as he remembers in July 1777 – and that he was immediately marched to Boonesborough Kentucky by said Captain Gwatkins, Lieutenant John Milum  & David Crews the Ensign – and that Jesse Hodges, Kellis Eubanks, James Callaway and others was of the same company in all about seventy, and that sometime in December 1777 being transferred to Captain Daniel Boone  he was marched to the Lower Blue Licks as a guard to guard the salt makers – that had been sent there to make salt – and on the 8th day of February 1778 – Daniel Boone and himself,  John Holly, James Callaway, Cajah Callaway, William Hancock, Jesse Cofer and others in all twenty-seven was made prisoners by the British and Indians and was carried to the Little Miami {River} and that he remained there a prisoner until after the treaty of peace in 1783.  And he further saith that Daniel Boone got away from the British and Indians and returned to Boonesborough.....

S/ Joseph Jackson"

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).


William Tracy had similar memories:

"The declaration of William Tracey of Bedford County Virginia made in Bedford County Court this 22nd day of April 1833 to enable him to draw a pension from the Government of the United States under the act of congress passed June the 7th 1832. said William Tracey after being duly sworn in open Court sayeth ~

He was born in Bedford County Virginia 1761 agreeable to his fathers register now lost to him for he does not know where it is, where he has resided ever since and now resides, and was Seventy one years old the 8th day of July last agreeable to his fathers register & that he enlisted as a private and volunteer in August 1777 in this County for twelve months under Capt Charles Gwatkin and was marched by said Captain to old Boonesborough in Kentucky to protect the fort and frontier settlers against the Indians and British, was under Lieutenant Milam and part of his time when Boone was absent under Col. Richard Callaway; he thinks our adjutant was by the name of May. That in February 1778 at the Big Blue Licks in Kentucky he was with twenty odd others taken prisoner by the {Shawnee} Indians. Col. Boone was taken prisoner the day before by them. We were at the licks making salt for the Garrison at the fort. He, this deponent, enlisted for Twelve months. He was kept as a prisoner of war by the Indians over five years, was carried to Chilicothe Town {in present day Ohio} then high up said river, then to Piqua Towns and many other places on Big Miama {River} to their towns; then to Detroit and was returned as a prisoner of war after the close of the war with Great Britain.....Sworn to and subscribed the day and year first aforesaid.

S/ William Tracey"

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).


Jesse Hodges adds details:

"On this 4th day of September 1832 personally {appeared} in open Court before Richard French sole & presiding Judge of the Court for the Circuit of Madison aforesaid, Jesse Hodges a resident of Madison County Kentucky aged 72 years in November next – who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress passed June 7th 1832.

That he enlisted in July 1777 in Bedford County Virginia for Eighteen Months under Captain Charles Gwatkins in what he understands was the State Troops of Virginia. He enlisted to come to Kentucky to defend the Western Country. John Milam was Lieutenant & David Crews Ensign. We were immediately marched to Boonesborough in the now County of Madison – where he continued to do duty as a soldier guarding the Fort, spying for Indians & hunting for meat for the people in the Fort – he was there during the great Siege of 1778 of 11 days – by 300 or 400 Indians - that he continued at Boonesborough after his 18 months Service was out – did duty as a Soldier & a Spy till the end of the War – in May 1779 he went on a Campaign across the Ohio {River} against the Indians – John Holder Captain & Colonel Bowman Commanded – In 1780 he also served on a Campaign across the Ohio against the Indians – went to the Piqua Towns – was in the Battle – burnt the corn fields – General George Rogers Clark commanded – He also served as volunteer on a Campaign in 1782 – under General Clark against the Indians across the Ohio....

S/ Jesse Hodges"

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).


John Pribble recounted:

"On this the 14th day of August 1832 personally appeared in open court before the Justices of the court of Campbell county now sitting John Pribble aged 73 years who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress passed the 7th day of June 1832.

....Then in the month of September 1777 he again was called into service and met near the Peaks of Otter in the county of Bedford and was marched to Kentucky under the command of Capt Charles Gwatkins, Lieutenant John Milum, Ensign David Crews and was marched direct to Boonesborough where we remained until sometime in April.  We were then marched home where we arrived sometime in May 1778. I saw while at Boonsborough Colonel Richard Callaway and Col. Daniel Boone and some troops from North Carolina. In this tour I served Ten months from the time I was called from home until my return....

S/ John Pribble"

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).


Achilles Eubank recollected:

"On this 21st day of October in the year of our Lord Eighteen hundred and thirty four personally
appeared before the Circuit Court sitting in and for said County, Achilles Eubank a resident of the County of Cooper and State of Missouri aforesaid, aged seventy six years on the 31st day of July last, who being first duly sworn, according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration, in order to obtainthe benefit of the provision made by the Act of Congress passed June 7th 1832.

That he enlisted in the Army of the United States from the County of Goochland in the State of Virginia some time in the month of July in the year seventeen hundred and seventy seven for the term of six months, as a militiaman, under Charles Gwatkins Capt., William May Lieut. & John Milam Ensign; that his company belonged to a Regiment commanded by Col. John Bowman and was sent some time in the month of August next ensuing to Kentucky at Boonesborough for the purpose of guarding and protecting the families at that place, that he arrived at Boonesborough about the 1st of October of the same year where he remained guarding the Fort ‘till the 8th of February in the year 1778, when Daniel Boone was captured at the lower Blue Lick on Licking River with twenty seven other men by the Indians, while engaged in making salt, when he was immediately dispatched to Virginia as an express in company with Squire Boone, and his term of six months had expired upon his arrival and he received no formal discharge....

S/ Achilles Eubank"

You may read a transcription of his entire declaration here (link).


Captain Charles Gwatkins and Lieutenant John Milam's Company

On 1 MAY 1777, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Act of Oath of Affirmation which may be viewed here (image). The following is the Oath of Affirmation, sometimes referred to as the Oath of Alligence, that the men affirmed with their signatures:

"I do swear or affirm, that I renounce and refuse all allegiance to George the third, king of Great Britain, his heirs and successours, and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the commonwealth of Virginia, as free and independent state, and that I will not, at any time, do, or cause to be done, any matter or thing that will be prejudicial or injurious to the freedom and independence thereof, as declared by Congress; and also, that I will discover and make known to some one justice of the peace for the said state, all treasons or traiterous conspiracies which I now or hereafter shall know to be formed against this or any of the United States of America."

The Bedford County Court on 28 JUL 1777 proscribed the manner in which the Oath would be administered in the county:

"Agreeable to an Act of the General Assembly of this State, this Court doth appoint the following Gentlemen to administer the Oath of Alligence to the Inhabitants of this County (viz.) John Ward Gent. in the bounds of his Company, ....William Callaway Gent. in his own Company, ....Charles Gwatkins Gent in Capt. Gwatkins' Company,....Isham Talbot Gent. in Capt. Henry Buford's Company....etc." [492]

You may read the entire court order here (image).

On 1 SEP 1777, David Crews, Charles Gwatkins and John Milam signed their names to the Oath of Affirmation along with 47 other men who made up Gwatkins' Company of fifty. You may view the Oath and their names on two pages here (image) and here (image).


John Milam Signature on Oath

Two family members of Lt John Milam were in his Company: Joseph Jackson - the brother of John's wife, Anne Jackson Milam, signed on page 2; and Benjamin Kelly - John's 1st cousin, the son of John Kelly and Ann Margaret Rush { sister of John Milam's mother, Mary Rush } signed on page 1. Both were captured by the Shawnee Indians at the Lower Blue Licks on 8 FEB 1778. Jackson, Daniel Boone, Benjamin Kelly and six others were "adopted" by the Shawnee at Little Chillicothe on the Miami River in Ohio. Jackson remained with the Indians for more than two decades until 1799. [491]


Where were Capt Gwatkins and Lt John Milam during the Blue Licks episode?

In April 1844 the historian, Lyman C. Draper, interviewed Joseph Jackson which is recorded in volume 11C of the Draper Manuscripts.  You may read Joseph Jackson's fascinating account by clicking here (link). [501] In the fifteen pages of Draper's hand-written notes, Jackson recalled:

"In early January 1778, Daniel Boone and twenty-eight others went from Boonesborough - where Watkin's Company was stationed - to make salt at the Lower Blue Licks and were to stay a month....on the very night after the Indians had left Blue Licks with their prisoners { 9 FEB }, Captain Watkins reached there with the relief party and kindled up a fire to camp for the night thinking that as the {salt} kettles were gone, Boone and the others had returned to Boonesborough....but after discovering an Indian bow, Watkins and his men now understood what had happened and thought it prudent to leave...." [501]

The pension declarations of other members of Capt Gwatkins' company are fascinating and may be read by clicking on each name in Bold Print: John Brown, Ansel Goodman, John Holley, Richard Wade. Goodman and Wade describe in detail their captivity with Shawnee Indians and their escapes.

{ NOTE: On 20 SEP 1777, William Milam, Benjamin Milam, Zachariah Milam and Rush Milam signed the Oath of Affirmation administered by Justice William Callaway to his Company. [480] You may view a typed copy here (image). By now it is clear that William Milam was not associated with Capt Gwatkins' Company at this time - later though, William and Benjamin Milam would be in Gwatkins's company at the time of the Battle of Guilford Court House. You may read the details of that company and battle here (link). }

The length of John Milam's service is not known but John Pribble, John Holly, Bartholomew Gaddy and others "was marched back to Bedford County Va. by Lt James Davis sometime in May" 1778. [John Pribble's deposition in support of John Holly's application at bottom of the page here .] John Milam died two years later. Since he was only about 38 years or so of age, one wonders if his death was the result of war injuries.

John's wife, Anne Jackson Milam - sister of the captured Joseph Jackson - was granted administration of his estate on 26 JUN 1780. "John Kennedy, Basil Wheat, Chesley Woodward and Francis Holley....were Appointed to Appraise the said deceased Estate". [493] You may read the appointment here (image).

Chesley Woodward was a soldier with Lt John Milam on the Boonesborough campaign. His name is below Charles Gwatkins' in the image above. A year later, John Kennedy would be wounded, captured and die along with Benjamin Milam after the battle of Guilford Courthouse (15 MAR 1781) in North Carolina.

On 26 NOV 1780 at Bedford County court, John Milam's Inventory and Estate Appraisal was returned and ordered recorded. You may view the Inventory and Estate Appraisal here (image) .


John Milam Inventory 26 November 1780


On 28 NOV 1785 for £122 of Current Money of Virginia Ann Milam bought from Samuel Jack "one certain Tract or parcel of land containing three Hundred and four acres....on the branches of Little Otter River and bounded as followeth, Beginning where Talbot's line crosses the dividing branch.....etc. thence along McLaughlin's line...". You may read her original deed here (image) .

On 24 SEP 1787 Anne Milam purchased a Slave from David Douglas.

On 19 APR 1798 Anne sold the 304 acres which she purchased from Samuel Jack to Charles Marcle.

Ironically, Anne Milam then removed to Madison County, Kentucky, where Boonesborough was located.

 

NOTE TO READERS: Most all the words in bold type face are links to images, maps or word definitions in the Glossary. The Citations and Glossary are available under the Resources tab or here (link) .


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