Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thomas "Turner" Lee Wilkerson (1758-1838)

When Thomas "Turner" Lee Wilkerson was born on April 14, 1758, in Henrico, Virginia, his father, William, was 26 and his mother, Sarah, was 18. He married Chloe and they had six children together. He then married Mary Agnes Brooks and they had seven children together between 1803 and 1820. He died on March 19, 1838, in Smith, Tennessee, having lived a long life of 79 years.

Turner Wilkerson received a pension in TN for his service in Virginia during the Revolution. I have found a copy of his pension index, and according to one researcher he was called up three times between November 1775 to November of 1781, participating in the Battle of Great Bridge on 9 December 1775, and the Battle of Yorktown in the fall of 1781.

Battle of Yorktown
In August 1781, General George Washington learned that Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis' army was encamped near Yorktown, VA. After discussing options with his French ally, Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Ponton de Rochambeau, Washington decided to quietly move his army away from New York City with the goal of crushing Cornwallis' isolated force. Departing on August 21, the Franco-American army began marching south. As any success would be dependent upon the French navy's ability to prevent Cornwallis being resupplied, this movement was supported by the fleet of Rear Admiral Comte de Grasse. Arriving in the Chesapeake, de Grasse's ships assumed a blockading position. On September 5, a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves arrived and engaged the French. In the resulting Battle of the Chesapeake, de Grasse succeeded in defeating the British and leading them away from the bay. Disengaging, the French returned to the Chesapeake and resumed blockading Cornwallis' army. Arriving at Williamsburg, Washington met with de Grasse aboard his flagship Ville de Paris on September 17. After securing the admiral's promise to remain in the bay, Washington focused on concentrating his forces. As troops from New York reached Williamsburg, they joined with the forces of the Marquis de Lafayette who had been shadowing Cornwallis' movements. With the army assembled, Washington and Rochambeau began the march to Yorktown on September 28. Arriving outside the town later that day, the two commanders deployed their forces with the Americans on the right and the French on the left. A mixed Franco-American force, led by the Comte de Choissey, was dispatched across the York River to oppose the British position on Gloucester Point. In Yorktown, Cornwallis held out hope that a promised relief force of 5,000 men would arrive from New York. Outnumbered more than 2-to-1, he ordered his men to abandon the outer works around the town and fall back to the main line of fortifications. This was later criticized as it would have taken the allies several weeks to reduce these positions by regular siege methods. On the night of October 5/6, the French and Americans began construction of the first siege line. By dawn, a 2,000-yard long trench opposed the southeast side of the British works. Two days later, Washington personally fired the first gun. For the next three days, French and American guns pounded the British lines around the clock. Feeling his position collapsing, Cornwallis wrote to Lieutenant General Henry Clinton on October 10 calling for aid. The British situation was made worse by a smallpox outbreak within the town. On the night of October 11, Washington's men began work on a second parallel, just 250 yards from the British lines. Progress on this work was impeded by two British fortifications, Redoubts #9 and #10, which prevented the line from reaching the river. The capture of these positions was assigned to General Count William Deux-Ponts and Colonel Alexander Hamilton. After extensive planning, the attack moved forward on the night of October 14, with Deux-Pont's French troops seizing #9, while Hamilton's Americans captured #10. Immediately after the redoubts were captured, American sappers began extending the siege lines. With the enemy growing nearer, Cornwallis again wrote to Clinton for help and described his situation as "very critical." As the bombardment continued, Cornwallis was pressured into launching an attack against the allied lines on October 16.Led by Colonel Robert Abercrombie the attack succeeded in taking some prisoners and spiking six guns, but was unable to breakthrough. That night, Cornwallis shifted 1,000 men and his wounded to Gloucester Point with the goal of transferring his army across the river and breaking out to the north. As the boats returned to Yorktown, they were scattered by a storm. Out of ammunition for his guns and unable to shift his army, Cornwallis decided to open negotiations with Washington. At 9:00 AM on October 17, a single drummer mounted the British works and beat the long roll as a lieutenant waved a white flag.
The fighting at Yorktown cost the allies 72 killed and 180 wounded. British losses were higher and included 156 killed, 326 wounded. In addition, Cornwallis' remaining 7,018 men were taken prisoner. Meeting at the nearby Moore House, Cornwallis attempted to obtain the same favorable terms of surrender that Major General John Burgoyne had received at Saratoga. This was refused by Washington who imposed the same harsh conditions that the British had demanded of Major General Benjamin Lincoln the year before at Charleston. With no other choice, Cornwallis complied and the final surrender documents were signed on October 19. At noon the French and American armies lined up to await the British surrender. Two hours later the British marched out with flags furled and their bands playing "The World Turned Upside Down." Claiming he was ill, Cornwallis sent Brigadier General Charles O'Hara in his stead. Approaching the allied leadership, O'Hara attempted to surrender to Rochambeau but was instructed by the Frenchman to approach the Americans. As Cornwallis was not present, Washington directed O'Hara to surrender to Lincoln, who was now serving as his second-in-command. With the surrender complete, Cornwallis' army was taken into custody rather than paroled. Shortly thereafter, Cornwallis was exchanged for Henry Laurens, the former President of the Continental Congress. The victory at Yorktown was the last major engagement of the American Revolution and effectively ended the conflict in the American's favor.
American Revolution: Battle of Yorktown
By Kennedy Hickman

American Victory Southern theater, 1775-83

The Battle of Great Bridge was fought in the area of Great Bridge, which resulted in the end of British Colonial government of the colony. This battle was responsible for removing Lord Dunmore and any other vestige of English Government for the Colony of Virginia during the early days of the Revolutionary War. Shortly thereafter, Norfolk, at the time a Tory center, was captured and destroyed. A cannon ball fired from the English ship HMS Lord Dunmore was fleeing Virginia on is incased in the wall of St. Pauls Church in Norfolk. That cannon ball remains on display in its final resting place in the southeast wall of the church. The complete defeat of the British in the Virginia Colony at the Battle of Great Bridge, 7 months before the writing of the Declaration of Independence, was at the time called the Second Battle of Bunker’s Hill. It resulted in the capture of Norfolk by the Americans and the bombardment and complete destruction of Norfolk 3 weeks later on January 1, 1776. It ended the rule of the British in Virginia. Lord Dunmore, colonial governor of Virginia, has, in growing disfavor, retreated from Williamsburg but in Norfolk was considered a "nest of Tories", and Dunmore thought he was making headway against the rebellion by pillaging the plantations of patriots, winning slaves over to his side and seizing printing presses. With just 1 more regiment and a few more battalions, he wrote on the last of November, "I really believe we should reduce this colony to a proper sense of their duty." On the other side, Gen. George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, urged that Dunmore "should be instantly crushed" lest his forces grow. He wrote the president of the Continental Congress from New England: "I do not mean to dictate, I am sure they will pardon me from freely giving them my opinion, which is, that the fate of America a good deal depends on his being obligated to evacuate Norfolk this winter or not." According to contemporary accounts in the Virginia Gazette, Dunmore, after defeating the opposition at Kemp’s Landing moved ten miles south to Great Bridge on the South Branch of the Carolinas. Great Bridge was the shipping point to nearby Norfolk of shingles, tar potash and turpentine from the Carolinas. Finding resistance increasing, he built a stockade on the North (Norfolk) side, removed the bridge planking, destroyed 5 or 6 houses on the opposite shore and fortified the narrow causeway bridge approaches with two 12-lb. cannons. Col. William Woodford, in charge of the 2nd Virginia Regiment, was gathering forces at Great Bridge of minute men from Fauquier, Augusta and Culpepper Counties, in the western part of the Colony as well as volunteers from Princess Anne and Norfolk Counties. Woodford reported 250 Carolina men arriving under Colonel Vail "composed of regulars, minute men, militia and volunteers." The Virginia Gazette reported "150 gentlemen volunteers had marched to Virginia from North Carolina on hearing of Dunmore’s insolences and outrages." Dunmore, misinformed of the strength of the opposition, sent sailors from the Otter at Norfolk, "plus some 60 townsmen" on a surprise attack on Great Bridge. In the early morning hours, the column within 15 steps of the American forces before falling mortally wounded. Lt. Travis, in command of the American advanced breastworks, had ordered his handful of 25 men to reserve their fire until the British troops came within 50 yards. The staggered British were rallied under Lt. Samuel Leslie, who was later captured. Col. Woodard’s main group, moving through Great Bridge, received a heavy cannon barrage. It was all over, however, in half an hour’s time. Royal authority in the Virginia Colony was at an end. It was a complete rout. The loss of men to the British was reported as 102 killed or wounded, and only 11 of Fordyce’s grenadiers survived. The British retreated to Norfolk. By the time Washington had written the Continental Congress from New England, Col. Woodford was able to report to Edmund Pendleton, president of the Convention at Williamsburg, that he and Col. Robert Howe were in complete command in Norfolk with 1,275 men, and that the Tories and their families had removed themselves to Dunmore’s ship, HMS Otter , in the harbor.
Built by Thomas Turner Lee Wilkerson in 1816
Photo by John Waggoner, Jr.

Tennessee Property
Photo by John Waggoner, Jr.

Thomas "Turner" Lee Wilkerson (1758 - 1838)
is our 4th great grandfather
daughter of Thomas "Turner" Lee Wilkerson
daughter of Nancy S Wilkerson
son of Nancy S McDonald
daughter of Martin Crenshaw  Holland
daughter of Ollie Florence Holland


  1. Thomas "Turner" Lee Wilkerson is my 4th Great Grandfather on my father's side.

  2. I am also a descendent of Nancy Wilkerson and her husband John McDonald. My mother is a McDonald. I have been looking for information on her mother, whom I know s not Agnes Brooks. How did you find Turner's first wife name as Chloe? Any idea here maiden name or where they were married?

    Thank you!

  3. I am also a descendent of Nancy Wilkerson and her husband John McDonald. My mother is a McDonald. I have been looking for information on her mother, whom I know s not Agnes Brooks. How did you find Turner's first wife name as Chloe? Any idea here maiden name or where they were married?

    Thank you!