Joseph Hamilton Daveiss

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A man with dark hair wearing a high-collared, black military jacket
Portrait of Joseph Hamilton Daveiss

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.[1]

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.

Places named after Daveiss[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Original letter from Daveiss at Vincennes Lodge No. 1.
  2. ^ The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 1. Kentucky State Historical Society. 1903. p. 35. 

Further reading[edit]

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