General Joseph Martin Chapter

Cumberland Gap, TN


Cumberland Gap Patriot

Ambrose Powell

Ambrose Powell was born on January 18, 1761 in Culpepper county Virginia.

 His father, Thomas may have named him after the famous Kentucky explorer, Ambrose Powell, who journeyed with Thomas Walker in 1750 when he first came to Kentucky. Powell River which stretches from Southwest Virginia to Norris Lake was named after this famous explorer.

 In late 1780, Thomas Powell, Ambrose’s father was drafted by the orange County Virginia militia to serve in the Revolutionary war. Ambrose refused to let his father go to war, and went as a substitute in his place. For the next two months Powell was stationed at a Fort in Fredericksburg Virginia.

 After he was discharged, Powell went back home to Orange county Virginia. As soon as he returned home, Powell was drafted by the Orange county Militia. On January 4, 1781, Powell was sent to Richmond to participate in the battle of Richmond Virginia.

In early January, Benedict Arnold, now the famous traitor who had recently joined the British Army, landed in Virginia with 1000 British troops.  On January 4, 1781, Arnold burnt the town of Richmond Virginia to the ground after Thomas Jefferson; Governor of Virginia refused to hand over the tobacco warehouses to the British.

Powell and the Orange County militia could do nothing but watch as the British torched the city Richmond would not face this much devastation again until the Civil war.

 On April 29, 1781, Powell was part of the militia under the command of Col. Mullenberg at Petersburg Virginia. Here at Petersburg they stopped Arnold and the British Army from returning to Richmond to set it a fire again.

 On July 6, 1781, Powell participated in a bayonet charge with 800 other soldiers under the command of Mad Anthony Wayne against a 5000 man British Army under the command of Cornwallis. Cornwallis thought the American force here was much larger because no man in their right mind would order a bayonet charge against an army superior in numbers. Cornwallis got part of it right anyway, Mad Anthony Wayne fought an unconventional warfare that made him seem as if he was not in his right mind.  

 Cornwallis retreated to Portsmouth Virginia, then Yorktown. Tarleton, the butcher of the Waxhaws, stated in his memoirs that if Cornwallis could have destroyed the American army at Green Springs the battle of Yorktown may never have taken place.

 At Yorktown on October 9, 1781, Powell was assigned to a French artillery unit.

The French had been shipping cannons and gunpowder to America since 1775. 80 percent of all the gunpowder used in the Revolutionary war came from France.

 Here at Yorktown, the French had twelve 24 pounder cannons and eight 16 pounder cannons. During the nine day siege, the French and American Artillery would fire over 15000 cannon ball rounds at the British. On October 19, 1781, The British surrendered.

 After the war, Powell moved back to Culpepper county Virginia. In 1783, Powell met Sally Britt and was soon married. They had at least 2 children from this union.

 In 1810, Powell came though the Cumberland Gap and moved to Estill county Kentucky located near Clay County KY. Estill County had been the scene of an Indian massacre at Estill Station on March 25, 1782 by the Wyandot Indians. The Wyandot Indians called Kentucky, the Land of Tomorrow, in their language.

 In 1820, Sally Britt, Powell’s first wife died and Powell married Nancy Cavender. In 1832, Powell applied for his Revolutionary war pension while living in Estill County KY. In 1833, Powell helps start an Iron works which would be used to make artillery and rifles during the Civil war. In 1846, Powell died and was buried in Estill County.

 During the Civil war, descendents of Powell joined the Kentucky 8th Infantry of the Union army. On November 25, 1863 at the battle of Chattanooga the Kentucky 8th was one of the first Union Regiments to make it to the top of Missionary Ridge and defeat the Confederates. Estill County only saw one Civil war battle take place in its county lines. On July 30, 1863, Col. John Scott, CSA, tried to capture the 14th Kentucky Union Cavalry that was stationed there, but failed in his attempts.  


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