Colonel Sampson Mathews

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Sampson Mathews

Birthdate: (70)
Birthplace: Staunton, Augusta, Virginia, USA
Death: January 20, 1807 (70)
Staunton, Augusta, Virginia, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Reverend John Mathews and Ann Archer
Husband of Mary Mathews
Father of Nancy Ann Nelson; John Mathews and Sampson Mathews
Brother of Jane Lynn Paul; Richard Mathews; Mary Elder; Governor George Mathews; William Mathews and 10 others
Half brother of Hannah Bowen

Managed by: Private User
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About Colonel Sampson Mathews

A Patriot of the American Revolution for VIRGINIA with the rank of COLONEL. DAR Ancestor # A075570

Sampson Mathews (c. 1737- January 20, 1807) was a Colonel of the Virginia militia during the American Revolutionary War who lead a company in the battle against Benedict Arnold in Richmond in 1871. During the war he served in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly. He was a founder of Liberty Hall (later Washington and Lee University).

Born in Augusta County, he was a merchant along the Virginia frontier. He began his military career as a Captain in the French and Indian War, fighting in the battle of Braddock's Defeat. He was a commissary for Colonel Charles Lewis at the Battle of Point Pleasant of Lord Dunmore's War.

In 1775, he was sent as a delegate to the Virginia Convention to make preparations for the American Revolution. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates the following year and later to the Virginia State Senate. He was appointed Colonel of the Virginia militia in 1781. In later life he practiced law and served as High Sheriff of Staunton until his death.

Early life

Sampson Mathews was born c. 1737 in Augusta County, Virginia. He was the son of John Mathews and Ann Archer. John Mathews had settled in Augusta by land grant issued by George II when the county was formed. Sampson was raised among 10 siblings and was educated at the Augusta Academy.

French and Indian War

He first distinguished himself in 1755, leading a local unit as Captain in the battle of Baddock's Defeat in the French and Indian War. The battle was a decisive defeat to the British, General Edward Braddock's force of 1,400 being soundly beaten at Fort Duquesne by the French and Indian resistance guessed to number in the mid-hundreds. Mathews, though, for his part had proved a capable leader and was elected Sheriff of Augusta the following year, also assuming the functions of Chancellor. In 1759, he married Mary Lockhart.

Frontier life

By the 1760's, Sampson and his brother, George Mathews, had established a local tavern and inn, as well as a series of mercantile outposts along the frontier, having made land acquisitions that stretched as far west as Greenbrier County, some 80 miles away. In their outposts they sold basic supplies but also "spelling books, silk, hats, silver, and even tailor-made suits," and acted as unofficial bankers. As the Virginia frontier expanded, relations between the settlers and Native Americans became increasingly tense, and raids by Native Americans to Augusta commonplace.

Lord Dunmore's War

By fall of 1774, relations between settlers and local Native American tribes had reached a head, and Lord Dunmore assembled a 1000-man invasion of Native American Virginia territory, culling recruits from Virginia localities. William Foote noted of George Mathews' company:

"[They] excited admiration for the height of the men and their uniformity of stature. In the barroom of Sampson Mathews a mark was made upon the walls, which remained until the tavern was consumed by fire- about seventy years after the measurement of the company was made. The greater part of the men were six feet two inches in their stockings, and only two were but six feet." 

He was appointed Commissary of Subsistence for Colonel 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 war. The Battle of Point Pleasant, the only battle of Lord Dunmore's War against the Shawnee and Mingo Indian tribes, was fought on October 10, 1774. The Virginians incurred over 200 injuries and deaths, Col. Charles Lewis among the dead, Sampson and his brother George among the wounded. The campaign was declared a victory by Dunmore; it was the last battle that the colonies of America would fight alongside the British.

American Revolution

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. It was here that Patrick Henry delivered his "give me liberty or give me death" speech. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought less than a month later.

Virginia General Assembly

He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates the following year and spent the majority of the war in the Virginia legislature. He represented his county of Augusta in the House from 1776–77, then moving to the Virginia State Senate and serving until early 1781.[2] In 1776 he was named an original trustee of Liberty Hall (later Washington and Lee University).

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 Legislature, in 1776, an act was passed to promote the Continental Navy's Virginia fleet. Mathews was appointed trustee to take care of this operation. He oversaw the building of a factory at public expense and then superintend the making of sail material from flax was grown by the farmers of Augusta County.

Arnold's Invasion

When Benedict Arnold, Brigadier General in the British Army, invaded Richmond, Governor Thomas Jefferson sent an emergency call for defense of the capital. Sampson, having been appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Augusta County militia, and his company of approximately 200, were among those who responded. Gladys B Clem described the circumstances in his company as follows:

"The bitter cold of January 1781 found him with his company near the James River trying to reach headquarters at Smithfield. The crossing was detained day after day, owing to the "wett and the badness of the boats." Chill torrential rains added to the men's misery. Food was running low, many were ill, and medical care almost nonexistant. Sampson feared his men might mutiny." 

Arnold's force of 1,600 troops arrived off Virginia on January 1, 1781. Landing his troops on January 4, he captured Richmond by surprise and then went on a rampage through Virginia, destroying supply houses, foundries, and mills. The Virginia militia would not arrive until days later, to find the city had been ravaged. Several skirmishes between the British Army and the Virginia militia ensued, but the militia was ineffective at impeding Arnold's movements. In late January 1781 Arnold left Richmond for Portsmouth .


At the conclusion of the war Mathews retired to the devastated capital city to practice law, before then returning to Augusta. He served as the first High Sheriff of Bath County when it was formed from Augusta County in 1791. He died in Staunton in 1807.[5] Joseph A. Waddell said of him in commemoration: "He must have been highly respected, for he was kept in public office continually for over fifty years."

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Colonel Sampson Mathews's Timeline

Staunton, Augusta, Virginia, USA
July 17, 1763
Age 26
January 20, 1807
Age 70
Staunton, Augusta, Virginia, USA
January 16, 1932
Age 70
April 25, 1933
Age 70
November 18, 1959
Age 70