General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

John Owsley


John Owsley, one of the first pioneer families in Claiborne County who fought at the battles of White Plains, Monmouth, Kaskaskia, and Vincennes.

Owsley was born on March 6, 1757 in Loudoun County VA. At the age of 19, Owsley joined the Continental army in 1776. Owsley’s first assignment was to help build defenses along the Virginia coast at Norfolk and Suffolk to protect against British Invasion.

 In October 28, 1776, Owsley was sent to White Plains New York to participate in the up coming battle there. On October 28, 1776, Owsley was a top Chatterton hill when the British 17th dragoon charged up the hill. This was the first Cavalry charge during the Revolutionary war. The continentals were forced to flee.

On June 13, 1777, Owsley was transferred to the Virginia 11th regiment under the command of Captain Charles Porterfield.  They spent most of the moth of June attacking Howe’s rear guard all throughout his retreat from Philadelphia PA through New Jersey to New York City. Owsley would also participate in the battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1777

 In December 1777, Owsley was sent to Valley Forge. Valley Forge was a difficult time for the Continental Army.  4000 troops, nearly one- third of the continental army that was stationed there was sent to the infirmary for mostly frostbite, dysentery and typhoid. Out of the 4000 men, 2500 men would die. Also 3000 men would desert, nearly one- fourth of the men there. Out of the 3000 desertions, 2000 would desert to the British army.

Owsley was discharged from the army in 1778.  Owsley moved back to Virginia. In June 1778 Owsley would join George Rogers Clark Expedition to Kaskaskia.

 On June 24, 1778, Owsley left with 175 frontiersmen on an expedition to Kaskaskia. Clark arrived there on July 4, 1778 and captured the fort from the French Commander Rocheblave. Rocheblave had been place in charge of the fort by the British Commander Henry Hamilton.

  In August 1778, Owsley moved back to Rowan County NC. On August 16, 1778, Owsley married Charity Barton. From this union they would have 8 children. Soon Owsley was sent back to Kaskaskia to participate in the upcoming battle of Vincennes

 From February 4-23, 1779, Owsley participated in the Impossible March to Vincennes. It was called the Impossible March because no ordinary man could do it.  On February 25, 1779, Henry Hamilton surrendered Vincennes without Rogers having to fire a shot.  This would be the last battle of the revolutionary war that Owsley would participate in.

In 1783 while living in Montgomery County VA, Owsley joined the local militia. They spent most of 1783 fighting Indians. By 1800 Owsley had moved his family to Grainger county TN. In 1807 Owsley moved to Claiborne county TN. In 1816 Owsley moved to another location in Claiborne County called the Pleasant Point community. In 1832, Owsley applied for a pension. Owsley lived in the Pleasant Point community until he died on December 19, 1845 at the age of 88. Owsley is buried at Pleasant Point Cemetery

 During the Civil war, Owsley County KY who is named after Judge William Owsley, a descendent of John Owsley, sent more men to serve in the Union army than any other county in Kentucky.   


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