Major Joseph Hamilton Daviess

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Joseph Hamilton Daviess

Birthdate: (37)
Birthplace: Bedford County, Province of Virginia
Death: November 7, 1811 (37)
Near Prophet's Town, Knox County, Indiana Territory, United States (Mortally wounded in the Battle of Tippecanoe)
Immediate Family:

Son of 2nd. Lt. Joseph Daviess and Jennett McKee
Husband of Anne Pollard
Brother of Margaret Hess; James Harvey Daviess; Robert Daviess; Samuel Daviess; Jane Dunn and 6 others

Occupation: Owned a newspaper, lawyer, had Aaron Burr apprehended and tried
Managed by: Gwyneth McNeil
Last Updated:

About Major Joseph Hamilton Daviess

Major Joseph Hamilton Daveiss (March 4, 1774 – November 7, 1811) commanded the Dragoons of the Indiana Militia at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Although the correct spelling of his name appears to be "Daveiss", it is uniformly spelled "Daviess" in places named for him.

Daveiss was born on March 4, 1774, in Bedford County, Virginia. He moved at a young age with his parents to Kentucky, eventually settling near Danville, Kentucky. Admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1795, he appeared in court dressed as a backwoodsman. He served as a second in a duel in 1799, and was for a time a fugitive. Daveiss eventually defended his principal in court, and achieved an acquittal.

Daveiss is said to have been the first lawyer west of the Appalachian Mountains to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court. He married Chief Justice John Marshall's sister Nancy, and returned to Kentucky.

Daveiss served as United States District Attorney for Kentucky. He has been described as a "Kentucky Federalist". In February and March, 1806, he wrote President Thomas Jefferson several letters warning him of possible conspiratorial activities by Aaron Burr. Daveiss's July 14 letter to Jefferson stated flatly that Burr planned to provoke a rebellion in Spanish-held parts of the West in order to join them to areas in the Southwest to form an independent nation under his rule. Similar accusations were appearing against local Democratic-Republicans in a Frankfort, Kentucky newspaper, Western World, and Jefferson dismissed Daveiss's accusations against Burr, a Democratic-Republican, as politically motivated.

In 1806, Daveiss brought treason charges against Burr in Kentucky. The charges were, however, dismissed thanks to the help of Burr's attorney, Henry Clay.

In 1811, Daveiss volunteered to serve in the Indiana militia, answering Governor Harrison's call for troops to march against Tecumseh's village at Prophetstown. He was placed in command of two companies of dragoons, and all the cavalry in Harrison's army.

On the night of November 6, 1811, Harrison's army made camp near Prophetstown. Major Daveiss' dragoons occupied a position in the rear of the left flank. The dragoons were instructed to fight dismounted, with pistols, as a reserve in the event of a night attack. When the Indians attacked early the next morning, Major Daveiss advanced toward the heaviest fire with a small detachment. He was driven back, and mortally wounded in the process. He died soon after.

At the time of the Battle of Tippecanoe, Daveiss was serving as the eighth Grand Master of Masons of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky. He was a member of Lexington Lodge #1

DAVIESS, Joseph Hamilton, lawyer, born in Bedford County, Virginia, 4 March 1774; killed in t he battle of Tippecanoe, 7 November 1811. He accompanied his parents in 1779 to Kentucky, whe re they settled first in Lincoln County and then near Danville. Young Daviess received his ed ucation in an academy at Harrodsburg, becoming an excellent classical and mathematical schola r, and afterward pursued a wide course of reading. He served for six months as a volunteer i n the Indian campaign of 1793, and then studied law. In 1795 he was admitted to the bar and , settling in Danville, entered on a career that made his name a household word in the west . Being a federalist, he was excluded from any hope of political advancement, and consequentl y devoted himself to his profession and attained a high position at the bar. His eccentriciti es made him famous. Instead of "riding the circuit," he used to shoulder his rifle and rang e the woods from town to town; and he usually appeared in court in a hunting costume. In 179 9 he acted as second to John Rowan in a duel in which Rowan's antagonist was killed, when bot h principal and seconds fled to avoid prosecution.

Daviess was for some time a fugitive; but, after hearing that Rowan had been arrested, return ed, appeared in court as his counsel, and secured his acquittal. It is said that he was the f irst western lawyer that ever argued a case in the U. S. Supreme Court. He came to Washingto n in a dilapidated hunting uniform, gained an important suit, and returned home in the same p eculiar costume. About this time he married a sister of Chief-Justice Marshall, and afterwar d became U. S. attorney for Kentucky, in which capacity, on 3 November 1806, he moved for a n order requiring Aaron Burr to appear and answer to a charge of levying war against a natio n with which the United States was at peace. The judge overruled the motion; but Burr appeare d in court next day and requested that the motion be granted. After this was accomplished, Bu rr, with his counsel, Henry Clay, boldly courted investigation; but the witnesses upon whom t he prosecution relied could not be brought into court, and it was impossible to sustain the c harges. This event almost entirely destroyed the popularity of Daviess, which even the subseq uent revelation of Burr's plot could not fully restore. In 1811 he joined the army of Genera l William H. Harrison as major of Kentucky volunteer dragoons, and served in the campaign aga inst the northwestern Indians. In the battle of Tippecanoe, seeing that an exposed angle of t he line was likely to give way before a determined assault, he led a cavalry charge against t he savages at that point. The manoeuvre was completely successful, but Major Daviess fell, sh ot through the breast. Counties in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri have been name d for him. He published " A View of the President's Conduct concerning the Conspiracy of 1806 " (1807).

The Filson Guide Daveiss, Joseph Hamilton, 1774-1811. Papers, 1780-1856. A\D255. .66 cu. ft.Kentucky lawyer a nd soldier. Correspondence, legal papers, land papers, statements of account, commissions, an d estate papers. Correspondence, 1797-1811, relates chiefly to Kentucky lands and slaves, Dav eiss' opposition to Aaron Burr, his removal from office as U.S. attorney for the District o f Kentucky in 1807, publication of his pamphlet vindicating his conduct, and authorship o f a bill before Congress for arming and disciplining the militia of the U.S. in 1811. Legal p apers, 1797-1810, include an opinion of Edmund Randolph, 1800. Also included are papers of Da veiss' brother, Samuel Daveiss (1775-1856), lawyer of Harrodsburg, Ky., consisting of letters , 1811-1855, legal papers, 1812-1850, and statements of account, 1816-1854; and correspondenc e of Thomas Patrick Moore, lawyer of Harrodsburg, Ky., while serving as U.S. minister to Colo mbia from 1829 to 1833. Correspondents include John Breckinridge, James Brown, Joseph Desha , Andrew Jackson, Richard M. Johnson, James Madison, Humphrey Marshall, James Monroe, John Po pe, John Rowan, James Speed, John Speed, Robert Todd, Thomas Todd, Thomas Tunstall, and other s. An index of correspondents is filed with the collection.

1806 - February-March. Joseph H. Daveiss, a Kentucky Federalist, writes Jefferson several letters wa rning him of possible conspiratorial activities by Aaron Burr. Daveiss's July 14 letter to Je fferson states flatly that Burr plans to provoke a rebellion in Spanish-held parts of the Wes t in order to join them to areas in the Southwest to form an independent nation under his rul e. Similar accusations are appearing against local Republicans in a Frankfort, Kentucky newsp aper, Western World, and Jefferson dismisses Daveiss's accusations against Burr, a Republican , as politically motivated.

Will Book B, Page 307 - Names wife; nephews, Samuel and John Daviess (sons of William Daviess ). Written July 18, 1811. Probated December, 1811. Witness - Joseph H. Hawkins, James Fishbac k, John F. Bell.

EARLY MARRIAGE BONDS OF FRANKLIN COUNTY, KENTUCKY. 1803-1804-1805. 9th July 1803 - Joseph Hamilton Daviess and Ann Marshall. Bondsman: D. Weisiger. Statement o f Ann Marshall that she is of lawful age. Witness by her "best friend, Joseph Hamilton Davies s." Note: "Col. Joseph Hamilton Daviess, son of Jseph D. and Jean Hamilton Daviess, born March 4t h, 1774, was a warrior and statesman whose brief political and military career forms an inter esting chapter in the nation's history, and has often served as the theme of story and song . He was Attorney General of the State of Kentucky at twenty-three, and in this official capa city had Aaron Burr arrested and charged with treason. The trial and prosecution by Daviess a nd defense by Henry Clay formed an exciting incident in the history of the State." As shown b y the above bond, he married Ann Marshall. She was a sister of that most distinguished of Ame rican jurists, Chief Justice Marshalkl, of the Supreme Court of the United States. At the beg inning of the War of 1812, Col. Daviess raised a regiment of troops and was killed while lead ing a gallant charge at the battle of Tippecanoe. He was Grand Master Mason of Kentucky at th e time of his death. His own and three other States have honored him by naming counties for h im. The name is ordinarily spelled Daviess, but his signature in the bond is Daveiss.

On November 3, 1806, Joseph Hamilton Daviess, United States Attorney for Kentucky, moved tha t a grand jury be convened to consider indicting Aaron Burr for attempting to involve the Uni ted States in a war with Spain. On December 3rd the grand jury was called. Daveiss immediatel y moved "to be permitted to attend the grand jury in their room". This motion was considere d "novel and unprecedented" and was denied. After hearing the evidence in secret the grand ju ry deliberated and, on December 5th, an ignoramus bill returned.

Demythologizing The Grand Jury, 10 American Criminal Law Review 700, 734 (1972)

This case is found in the published opinions as United States v. Burr, Fed. Case No. 14, 89 2 (C. Ct. D. Ky. 1806).

Historical Sketches of Kentucky by Lewis Collins, Maysville, KY. and J. A. & U. P. James, Cin cinnati, 1847. Volume 1. Reprinted 1968. Mercer County. Artists of Kentucky, pages 619-620. M ATTHEW HARRIS JOUETT, still familiarly known to many old residents as "Matt. Jouett" - the gr eatest and most distinguished painter of Kentucky, and equalled by few in America - dates bac k his ancestry and name to pioneer Kentucky. His uncle, after whom he was named, MATTHEW JOUE TT, was clerk of the first legislative body assembled west of the Allegheny mountains, May 23 , 1775; returned, soon after, to Virginia; was a captain of the Virginia continental line i n the Revolution, and killed during the war or died before 1784. His father, Capt. JOHN (or " Jack") JOUETT (born Dec. 7, 1754, died March 1, 1822, aged 67) was also a Revolutionary offic er, and the recipient from the legislature of Virginia of an elegant sword, for gallantry an d boldness in preventing the capture of that body (then in session at Charlottsville) by th e raiding British Col. Tarleton; came to Mercer co., Ky., in 1782; was married to Sally Robar ds, Aug. 20, 1784; a delegate from Mercer co. to the Virginia legislature, in 1787 (five year s before Kentucky was made a state), and again in 1790; a member of the convention at Danvill e, in 1788; a representative in the Kentucky legislature from Mercer county in 1792, from Woo dford county, in 1795, '96, and '97, and probably also from Bath county, where he soon afte r made his home. He was a man of note in his day, "physically and mentally a man;" full of hu mor, fond of fun, a high liver, remarkable for hospitality, the associate and companion of Cl ay, Jackson, Joe Daveiss, Breckinridge, and the Marshalls, indeed of all the great men of ear ly Kentucky. Matt. Jouett, the painter, was born in Mercer co., Ky., April 22, 1788, and die d in Fayette co., Aug. 10, 1827, when only 39. He was educated with great care, for the la w - in strong faith and pride that his mental adaptation, personal appearance of rare beauty , and remarkable power in the control of men betokened a brilliant career. He studied fathful ly, acquired the law of the books as if by intuition, and attempted the practice, with rich p romise of name and fortune; but it was to please his friends solely, and to him a spiritles s life. From the pages of his law books fancies took form, and the edges of his memoranda bea med with the faces of his friends; his destiny was ART, and no pleading, or coaxing, or disco uragement, or depression could keep in long in abeyance. The applause of the former had no su ch fascination for him as the beautiful creations of his own free fancy. It mattered not tha t the profession of painting was then little esteemed in Kentucky; there was to him a world o f pleasure in its pursuit, higher and purer and sweeter than any other calling afforded. Stri king likenesses, wrought without effort, and most exquisite forms teemed from his pen and pen cil. Such powers could not be curbed in any rigid form, such inspiration was too natural to b e fettered. He began to paint without a master. And if the opinions of such men as Healy, Fra zer, and Bush - art men themselves, of no mean standing - are of weight, his portraits are to -day superior to those of any artist America has produced, and rank with the best of the ol d masters. In 1812, war for a little while was more exciting than art, and the sword than th e pencil. Jouett entered the army, and served with gallantry thorough at least one campaign i n the then Northwest. After the war, which was to him a kind of holiday, Jouett began to pain t with renewed zest. Wonderfully successful as a self-taught man, he yet felt the need of a m aster; and in 1816-17 spent six months in Boston, under the instruction of Gilbert Stuart, a t that time the most world-renowned and esteemed of American portrait painters. Tuckerman, i n his Book of the Artists, says Jouett was a favorite pupil of Stuart's. From other sources i t is known that an intimacy sprang up between these men of genius which lasted through life . No man more admired and more thoroughly appreciated the peculiar excellences and promise o f Jouett - the glimpses of character, if not the most outspoken character, and the brillianc y and beauty of color, so remarkable in his portraits. It has been said that Matt. Jouett wa s to Kentucky what Rubens was to Flanders. He was more. Kentucky, at the time Jouett painted , was almost a wilderness - the people unprepared for art, indifferent to its influences, wit h no masters to teach, no models to work from, no styles to study. Rubens had every advantag e - in association, masters, art galleries, and an art-loving people, who were able and willi ng to pay for good works. Rubens was a sensualist, with all his accomplishments, and not beyo nd reproach. Jouett was a startling genius, of the most marked character; a thoroughly manl y and pure man, with a fine musical education; full of poetry, and one of the most brillian t talkers of his day. Rubens painted to old age; Jouett did not begin painting in earnest unt il he was 25, and was cut down at 39. Rubens knew by daily contact what the Renaissance in ar t had accomplished, for he studied from the best pictures; Jouett never saw old masters' work s, and could only dream of their glories. And it is astonishing that in the early days of Ken tucky an artist should have been born, who, without breathing the Italian air or seeing the r ealistic productions of the Dutch, should have instinctively produced portraits which - for r ichness of coloring, mellow subdued tones, and strong character portrayal - stand to-day equa l to the best works of European art in that direction. Mr. Jouett was thoroughly the ideal ar tist, highly informed, of poetic temperament, vivid imagination, and most sympathetic nature . No wonder that such a genial and gentle disposition was admired and sought after by such li ghts as Clay, Crittenden, Daviess, the Marshalls, and Breckinridges. And no wonder that amon g his best pictures were those of some of these very friends - Henry Clay, Joseph Hamilton Da viess, John J. Crittenden, and James Morrison. To these should be added the full length portr ait of the Marquis La Fayette, which belongs to the state of Kentucky, and adorns the hall o f the house of representatives, to the right of the speaker's chair; also, those of Gov. Isaa c Shelby, Gov. Robert P. Letcher, Rev. Horace Holley, D. D., besides others in families at Vi cksburg, Natchez, and New Orleans, where he spent several winters. HISTORY OF THE BATTLE OF TIPPECANOE "I found Major Daveiss forming the dragoons in the rear of those companies, and understanding that the heaviest part of the enemy's fire proceeded from some trees about fifteen or twent y paces in front of those companies, I directed the major to dislodge them with a part of th e dragoons. Unfortunately, the major's gallantry determined him to execute the order with a s maller force than was sufficient, which enabled the enemy to avoid him in the front and attac k his flanks. The major was mortally wounded, and his party driven back. The Indians were, ho wever, immediately and gallantly dislodged from their advantageous position, by Captain Snell ing, at the head of his company." "The arrangements of Captain Piatt, in the quartermaster's department, were highly judicious ; and his exertions on all occasions -- particularly in bringing off the wounded -- deserve m y warmest thanks. But, in giving merited praise to the living, let me not forget the gallan t dead. Col. Abraham Owen, commandant of the Eighteenth Kentucky Regiment, joined me, a few d ays before the action, as a private in Captain Guiger's company. He accepted the appointment of volunteer aid-de-camp to me. He fell early in the action. The Representative of his Stat e will inform you that she possessed not a better citizen, nor a braver man. Maj. J. H. Daveiss was known as an able lawyer and a great orator. He joined me as a private volunteer; and , on the recommendations of the officers of that corps, was appointed to command the three tr oops of dragoons. His conduct, in that capacity, justified their choice. Never was there an officer possessed of more ardor and zeal to discharge his duties with propriety, and never on e who would have encountered greater danger to purchase military fame." William Henry Harriso n

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Major Joseph Hamilton Daviess's Timeline

March 4, 1774
Bedford County, Province of Virginia
November 7, 1811
Age 37
Near Prophet's Town, Knox County, Indiana Territory, United States