Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Monday, September 29, 2014

Military Monday - William M. Lay, Teenage Revolutionary War Soldier

According to an article by Helen Lay Dalgleish, my fifth great-grandfather, William Marion Lay, spent many years later in life trying to get recognition from the government for his service in the United States Army during the Revolutionary War.  William and his brother Thomas served in the same unit during the war, and Thomas received recognition and a pension for his service.  William's application was denied because he was unable to produce anyone who could verify his service. 

William was born around 1860 in Halifax, Virginia (in his application, he stated that his father did not keep records on the births of his children, so he was unsure of his exact age).  He grew up in Wilkes, North Carolina, and said he enlisted in the "United States" army near Camden, South Carolina "after the taking of Charleston by the British."  He also said he had tried to enlist before under Col. Cleveland as a substitute for a Sam Tucker, but was rejected because of his age. 

In 1780, he enlisted as a substitute for draftee Benjamin Howard under Capt. Charles Gordon.  The regiment was marched to Salisbury, North Carolina, where they joined the Regiment of the North Carolina Infantry under Col. Joel Lewis.  They remained at Salisbury through the spring of 1781.  William recalled that he was assigned to guard Tory prisoners there.  The regiment was then marched to the Deep River, then the Haw River, where they spent the remainder of the twelve month enlistment period protecting that section of the country from the enemy.  During this period, William was among a group of soldiers who stumbled on the headquarters of Tory leader David Fanning and his men. 

Toward the end of the twelve month period, the regiment was marched back to Hillsboro, North Carolina, where they would be discharged.  William was taken ill "with fever and ague which was then prevalent in the county."  He became so ill he was given a furlough to return home; the rest of the regiment returned to Hillsboro and was discharged.  William's father went to collect his discharge papers, which William left in his care.  Unfortunately, he never saw them again.

After the war, William married Sarah Martha Duncan in Wilkes, North Carolina, then appears to have moved to Pendleton, South Carolina, back to North Carolina and then on to Wayne, Tennessee; his 1842 court appearance for recognition of his military service says he had lived there for 14 or 15 years.

Beginning in 1840, William made a series of court appearances to try to prove his service.  His brother Thomas had died by then and there were no living persons he knew of who could verify his service.  The discharge papers he left with his father had been lost or destroyed.  He said he retained two lawyers in 1841 to help him file the correct papers and the court said they returned them to him, but he apparently never received them.  His attorneys failed to show up for hearings and because he was illiterate, William had no one to help him read the papers that were sent to him. 

In the end, at about 83 years old, very feeble and nearly blind, he was still trying to obtain his pension from the government.  He was never able to prove his service and no pension was ever paid.  William died in May of 1843 and is probably buried somewhere near Collinswood, in Wayne County, Tennessee.  Martha had died three years earlier. 

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