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One Hundred Years before the Marriage

By Melinda Cohenour

In the course of researching separate branches of the family tree on my maternal line, one of those remarkable realizations occurred that makes the combination of historical and genealogical research so rewarding. A cousin provided me with a link to a website that is devoted to the life and times of one Joseph Bullard. This link first led to my realization that Joseph Bullard (5th Great-Grandfather) and Martin Davenport (our 4th Great-Grandfather) actually joined forces in the Battle of King's Mountain in the early days of the Revolutionary War. They were mountain men whose descendants would not co-mingle their blood lines for 100 years and 19 days from the 7th of October 1780 when they both fought in the Battle of King's Mountain until the 26th of October 1880 when Malinda Ellen Hopper {my namesake) married William Henry Bullard, but whose lives left an indelible mark on those who would follow, not only by their bravery in meeting this challenge and the daily dangers inherent in pioneering in an adversarial territory, but by the essential goodness in their character - the core of their belief system.

Following are the bits of key information that surfaced in researching these family Revolutionary War heroes. Background information has been provided to permit the reader insight into the specific point in time when these two progenitors of our family shared a common cause in an historic battle which was elemental in establishing the birth of our nation as an independent entity. How astonishing to imagine the confluence of events that led to these two brave frontiersman as they approached one battleground from their separate cabins, Joseph Bullard from the Washington District of North Carolina (what is now northeast Tennessee) under the command of his friend and fellow patriot, John Sevier, and Martin Davenport as one of the Overmountain Men from the Wilkes County, North Carolina colony (now southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee) under the command of the Virginia militia leader, William Campbell. I have relied heavily on the information provided by a Bullard cousin for the biographical information of Joseph Bullard, as noted in citations below.

Battle of Kings Mountain

The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive battle between the Patriot and Loyalist militias in the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The actual battle took place on October 7, 1780, nine miles south of the present-day town of Kings Mountain, North Carolina in rural York County, South Carolina, where the Patriot militia defeated the Loyalist militia commanded by British Major Patrick Ferguson of the 71st Foot.

On September 2, Ferguson and the militia he had already recruited marched west towards the Appalachian Mountain hill country on what is now the Tennessee / North Carolina border. By September 10, he had established a base camp at Gilbert Town, North Carolina and issued a challenge to the Patriot leaders to lay down their arms or he would "lay waste to their country with fire and sword." North Carolina Patriot militia leaders Isaac Shelby and John Sevier, from the Washington District (now present day northeast Tennessee), met and agreed to lead their militiamen against him. Patriot leaders also sent word to a Virginia militia leader, William Campbell, asking him to join them. Campbell called on Benjamin Cleveland to bring his Wilkes County North Carolina militia to the rendezvous. The detachments of Shelby, Sevier and Campbell were met by 160 North Carolina militiamen led by Charles McDowell and his brother Joseph. Campbell's cousin, Arthur Campbell, brought 200 more Virginians. About 1,100 volunteers from southwest Virginia and today's northeast Tennessee, known as the "Overmountain Men" because they had settled into the wilderness west of the Appalachian Mountains ridgeline, mustered at the rendezvous on September 25, 1780, at Sycamore Shoals near the modern city of Elizabethton, Tennessee.


My 5th Great-Grandfather Joseph Bullard entered the Battle of King's Mountain alongside his friend and compatriot, the commander John Sevier, with whom Joseph shared a remarkable and striking resemblance - so great a resemblance that when an Indian raiding party killed Joseph Bullard in 1788, they first celebrated their defeat of the famous John Sevier. (Please see biographical sketch of (*)John Sevier at the bottom of this narrative.) As stated in the wonderful Narrative of the Life and Times of Joseph Bullard by one of my cousins (at

"In 1788, while on an Indian raid at Lookout Mountain near present day Chattanooga, Tennessee, Captain Joseph Bullard was shot and killed in an ambush by a Chickamauga war party under the leadership of Indian chief, Dragging Canoe. Joseph was ~56 years old.

"When Joseph Bullard was killed at Lookout Mountain, the Indian warriors thought they had killed John Sevier, the well known Tennessee pioneer, Indian fighter and first governor of the state. They dug up Joseph’s body and held an all night war dance over it. Historians have mentioned a strong resemblance between John Sevier and Joseph Bullard. Sevier’s physical description is well documented as being well proportioned, of slender build with strong marked features and brown hair. This could well surmise the physical appearance of Joseph Bullard. On John Sevier’s further appearance…

"On his first appearance among the settlers of North Holston and Watauga, Sevier attracted considerable attention on account of his handsome face, manly bearing and remarkably winning manners. No man ever had a more symmetrical, well-knit frame. He was five feet nine inches in height and weighed one hundred and ninety pounds. His complexion was ruddy, indicating his perfect health; he had small, keen, dark-blue eyes, expressive of vivacity and fearlessness; his nose was prominent; his mouth and chin, the model of firmness; his hair, fair, and his face was expressive of sympathy for humanity.

"Joseph Bullard stood about 5 foot 8 inches tall. It is unknown how much of John Sevier’s description fits Joseph Bullard, but it does give a glimpse into Joseph’s overall outward appearance. Physically,… Sevier… was some 3 or 4 inches under 6 feet in height…he was well-proportioned, hard-muscled, and lithe.

"There are many historical documents and events paralleling the life of Joseph Bullard and John Sevier. Early court documents put both men in the same courtroom on the same day. It is reasonable to assume many of John Sevier’s battles and adventures were collectively shared with Joseph Bullard. It would be unreasonable to assume their lives crossed only in brief encounters. Both men not only knew each other, but lived in the same area for many years. Both were mounted riflemen, fierce Indian fighters, ranchers; both fought beside each other at the Battle of Kings Mountain and numerous Cherokee Indian campaigns.

SOURCE: /The Life and Times Narrative of Joseph Bullard (~1732-1788).

My 4th Great-Grandfather Capt. Martin Davenport, Jr. was one of the Overmountain Men, who came to the battle as a sharpshooter of some fame under the command of Colonel Benjamin Cleveland and at the request of the Virginia Militia Leader William Campbell. Martin Davenport's family was instrumental in the domestication of Wilkes County, Avery County and Burke County, North Carolina as evidenced by the many landmarks bearing the Davenport name.

Shortly following the successful Battle, during the transport of the prisoners taken in that battle, it occurred to some of the impassioned Patriot militias that some redress should be sought against those Tory's who had engaged in a pattern of terror and brutality levied upon the wives, mothers, daughters and sons of the militiamen as they were encountered during the absence of the Patriots. The so-called courts martial resulted in the convictions of 36 loyalist Torys and the summary judgment rendering of execution against 9 of those convicted before Isaac Shelby brought an end to the proceedings.

"On October 14, the retreating Patriot force held drumhead courtmartials of various Loyalists on various charges (treason, desertion from Patriot militias, incitement of Indian rebellion). Passing through the Sunshine community in what is now Rutherford County, N.C., the retreat halted, perhaps not coincidentally on the property of the Biggerstaff family. Aaron Biggerstaff, a Loyalist, had fought in the battle and been mortally wounded. His brother Benjamin was a Patriot and was being held as a prisoner of war on a British ship docked at Charleston, S.C. Their cousin John Moore was the Loyalist commander at the earlier Battle of Ramsour's Mill (modern Lincolnton, N.C.), in which many of the same troops had participated on both sides."


The family was also memorialized in the book "King's Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King's Mountain, 7th October 1780, and the Events which Led to It" Lyman Copeland Draper, Anthony Allaire, Isaac Shelby.January 1, 1881 - P G. Thomson - Publisher

Among those tried on that fateful day was one John McFall, a notorious Tory, who with his men arrived at the domicile of Martin Davenport, Jr. while Martin was away with the militia.

"Heading a party of mounted Loyalists, McFall dashed up to the house of Martin Davenport, on John's river, hoping to capture or kill him, as he was a prominent Whig, and had, more than once, marched against the Tories, under Colonel Cleveland and Major McDowell."

Finding Martin away, McFall and his men took out their spleen against Martin's hapless wife, redressing and abusing her mightily (in ways not set forth in the narrative of the book) ending with their demand that she prepare a breakfast for the rogue company. Before partaking of the food so prepared, McFall ordered the young son, William Davenport, then but a lad of ten to

"procure corn from the family corn cribs"
and carry it to the troughs to feed the band's horses. After emerging from the cabin and finding the horses yet unfed, McFall turned on the young William in anger, demanding to know why his orders to feed the horses had not been carried out. William, in his most rebellious tone is reported to have replied,
"You want your horses fed, feed 'em yourself!"
whereupon McFall took a switch and beat the lad smartly.

When John McFall's hearing was held, the legal representative for McFall's home area of Burke County, William McDowell, was not inclined to favor the death penalty. However, upon hearing McFall's name, Colonel Cleveland, one of the presiding justices, lifted his attention from the documents he was working on and loudly said:

"That man, McFall, went to the house of Martin Davenport, one of my best soldiers, when he was away from home, fighting for his country, insulted his wife, and whipped his child; and no such man ought to be allowed to live."
His fate was sealed by this revelation; but his brother, Arthur McFall, the old hunter of the mountains, was saved through the kind intervention of Major and Captain McDowell, believing, as he had been wounded in the arm at King's Mountain, it would admonish him not to be found in the future in bad company.

(*) John Sevier (September 23, 1745–September 24, 1815) was an American soldier, frontiersman and politician, and one of the founding fathers of the State of Tennessee. He played a leading role, both militarily and politically, in Tennessee's pre-statehood period, and was elected the state's first governor in 1796. Sevier served as a colonel in the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, and commanded the frontier militia in dozens of battles against the Cherokee and Chickamaugas in the 1780s and 1790s.

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