Prince William County
|Death: ||Feb., 1778|
A United States soldier and pioneer, Captain Thomas Bullitt was both the first owner of what is today Charleston, West Virginia, and the founder of Louisville, Kentucky. Thomas was born to Benjamin and Sarah (Harrison) Bullitt about 1734 in Prince William County, Virginia, and became active in the militia when young; becoming interested in both western exploration and development.
Bullitt was an ensign in the French and Indian War in the Virginia Regiment under Colonel Joshua Fry, and continued under George Washington. By 1754 Bullitt was appointed Captain in the County's militia and saved a part of the army from destruction at James Grant's defeat in 1758, where his conduct won the special commendation of Washington. Throughout the war Bullitt participated in a number of attempts to secure western Virginia and Pennsylvania from the French, and had also been present at the defeat of General Edward Braddock in 1758. Additionally, Captain Bullitt was in the expedition against Fort Duquesne and was one of the signers to the "Address of the Officers of the Virginia Regiment to Colonel George Washington" on Washington's retirement as commander of the Virginia troops on December 27, 1758.
After the French and Indian War, Bullitt became a surveyor in 1760, and three years later was a signer of the Articles of Association of the Mississippi Company, which Washington organized. Later with Washington, Bullitt assisted his former commander in 1771 in distributing the land gratuities to the soldiers of the 1754 campaign. As a reward for his own service on this expedition and in the French and Indian War, Bullitt was granted 1,240 acres in the newly surveyed territory. He chose a site he believed best for early development, in what is today downtown Charleston, West Virginia (an excellent location because at the head of the deep-water navigation of the Great Kanawha).
In 1773, Virginia was still searching for land to satisfy grants and bounties, in addition to struggling with the details of the Proclamation of 1763. As a result, many settlers were pushing west into Kentucky, even without colonial authorization or control. In an effort to bring some order to the situation, Governor Dunmore authorized Captain Bullitt to organize a party to survey northern and eastern Kentucky. Bullitt gathered about 40 men and set out from the Kanawha River Valley in western Virginia, generally following along the south side of the Valley of the Ohio during the expedition. He made some excursions from his direct path, going as far north as Chillicothe to speak with Chief Cornstalk of the Shawnee. By July 1773 his party had reached the Falls of the Ohio, and Bullitt laid out a town site there that later became Louisville, Kentucky. Bullitt and his men tried to maintain peaceful relations with the Indians, but did lose one work party in an attack. Unfortunately the incursion resulted in one of the Indian complaints that caused Lord Dunmore's War the following year.
Bullitt was one of the earliest to take part in the American Revolution; commanding a company of regulars, and was Lieutenant-Colonel at the battle of Great Bridge in Virginia in 1775; was Adjutant-General of the Virginia forces; in March, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed him Deputy Adjutant-General of the Southern Department of the Continental Army, with rank of Lieutenant-Colonel; he served in South Carolina in 1776, and resigned because he did not receive a promotion he thought he was entitled to.
Also during the Revolution, Bullitt was elected several times to the House of Delegates of the newly formed Virginia government. But he did not usually attend their meetings. He made an exception in November and December of 1777 to help George Rogers Clark promote his plans for a western campaign. The delegates made Clark a Lieutenant Colonel and authorized him to defend the western frontiers. A second, and secret, set of orders allowed him to invade the Illinois Country. These were known only to Bullitt, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason and George Wythe.
Thomas Bullitt died at his home in Fauquier County, Virginia, in February of 1778, at the comparatively early age of forty-eight years. His will, dated September 17, 1775, was probated February 23, 1778, and he left most of his estate to his brother, Judge Cuthbert Bullitt.
Ruffner Memorial Park
West Virginia, USA
GPS (lat/lon): 38.33838, -81.61988
Created by: Ryan David Schweitzer
Record added: Sep 10, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 96814751
To a Great Grandfather|
Added: Nov. 2, 2013