Friday, July 4, 2008

For July 4th, In Honor of Benjamin Taliaferro

In Honor of Benjamin Taliaferro, taken from Sketches of some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia by George R. Gilmer:

When he had just begun to mix with men, he was challenged by a bully before a crowd in the court-yard to a contest of fisty-cuffs. He was too proud to accept, and was threatened with disinheritance by his father for his supposed lack of courage. That he was not afraid to fight, when fighting was right, he proved in many of the hardest fought battles of the Revolution.

He was appointed at the beginning of the war a lieutenant in one of the Virginia regiments, which was afterwards placed upon the Continental establishment. He commanded a company under General Washington during the severe service in the Jerseys, in 1777-8. At the battle of Princeton he captured, with his company, a British captain and his command. When the British officer stepped froward in this dashing regimentals to deliver his sword, the proud barefooted captain ordered his lieutenant to receive it.

At the call of General Washington he volunteered to join the southern army, then under command of General Lincoln. He served under General Lee, and took part in many of the successful exploits of that dashing officer. He was made prisoner at the capture of Charleston, and permitted to return home on parole.

Capt. Taliaferro married Martha Meriwether. He moved to Georgia in 1784. He came one of the leading men of the State; was President of the Senate, a member of Congress, and filled many other high offices. He was a member of the Legislature which passed the Yazoo Act, and reisted all the effort of speculators to induce him to vote for it. When the people of Georgia rescinded the Act, and discarded from office those concerned in its passage, Colonel Taliaferro was made Judge of the Superior Court, though he was no lawyer. The members of the bar who had the law learning necessary for the office, and were willing to accept it, had been concerned in some way or other in that disgraceful contract.

It became very important to the fraudulent land jobbers, who were interested in land causes depending in the courts of the circuit in which Col. Taliaferro presided, to drive him from the bench. By agreement among them, he was challenged by Col. Willis, upon some frivolous pretense, to fight a duel, upon the supposition that his army opinions would compel him to fight, and therefore to resign his judgeship. They were mistaken. He accepted the challenge without resigning. The speculators tried a novel expedient to effect their purpose. Judge Taliaferro's attachment to his wife was well known. Col. Willis and his friends, to overcome the Judge's determination to fight, made their preparations for the duel by practicing within sight and hearing of Mrs. Taliaferro, intending thereby so to frighten her as to make it impossible for her husband to meet the challengers. They were mistaken. Whilst they were practicing, Mrs. Taliaferro was aiding the Judge to put in order the horseman's pistols which he had used when he belonged to Lee's Legion. The Judge and his opponent met. The pistol, which had been oiled by his wife, sent its ball so near the speculator's vitals that he declined receiving a second shot.

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