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Thomas Posey (July 9, 1750 - March 29, 1818) was a officer in the American Revolution, a General during peacetime, Lt. Gov. of Kentucky, Governor of the Indiana Territory, and a Louisiana Senator.

 

Early Life


Posey was born on the banks of the Potomac River on a farm adjacent to Mt Vernon in Fairfax County, Virginia on July 9th, 1750. He received a plain English education and at 19 he moved to Virginia frontier where he intended to engage in a trade or farm. Life on the frontier would not quiet down though and the Indians continual raiding led to a reprisal by the Virginia's Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore. In 1774 Posey was in the quartermaster's department of a armed expedition against the Indians who threatening the frontier settlements. The expedition would succeed in suppressing the Indians for the short term.


The Revolution

Posey was elected a member of the Virginia committee of correspondence in 1775. He served in the army during the War of Independence, first as a captain in the Continental Army, mostly with the 7th Virginia Regiment, then later rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1782. Some claimed his quick rise was due to the patronage of George Washington. During the war Posey led campaigns against Lord Dunmore who was fortified on Gwyn's Island and drove him and his naval support out of the area. Lord Dunmore had been the officer he served under during the Indian war. In the winter of 1775 the 7th Virginia Regiment marched to join with General George Washington in New Jersey. It was at this time that Washington promoted Posey to the rank of Captain. Posey Corps would then be involved in the battle to drive Gen. Howe back to New York City. In 1778 Lt. Posey replaced Col Morgan as head of a force of riflemen and was promoted to Major. In 1779 Posey was detached from Washington and joined General "Mad" Anthony Wayne in defending the frontier against Indians and Tories that were terrorizing the settlements there. Having dealt with the threat on the frontier, Posey's forces marched toward Charleston where they would join in the siege of General Clinton. During 1781-1782 he would serve with General Wayne again, this time in Georgia against the forces in Savannah. He was promoted to Lt. Col. in 1782
Serving in the United States Army after the Revolution, he rose to the rank of brigadier general in 1793 and served with "Mad" Anthony Wayne campaigning against the Indians beyond the frontier in the Northwest Indian War.


State Senator


In 1794 he resigned from the army and moved to Kentucky, where his service in the army provided the popularity for him to be elected as a state senator. First elected in 1804 as a senator, he presided over the body as president from 1805 to 1806. He was later elected lieutenant governor in 1806.
In preparation for possible hostilities with the French and British, in 1809 Congress authorized an army of 100,000 men to be mobilized. Kentucky was assigned the task of providing five thousand men. Posey returned to the army as a Major General in command of the Kentucky Volunteers. He again resigned from the army in 1810 just before the outbreak of the War of 1812.He then moved to the Attakapas region of Louisiana, and served as a U.S. Senator from that state in 1812-1813 to fill the vacant seat of John N. Destrehan after his resignation.

Governor of Indiana Territory


 


The Posey House, where Gov. Thomas Posey briefly lived while he was in the Indiana Territory. After he was defeated for re-election to his senate seat, he was appointed by President Madison to be Governor of Indiana Territory in February 1813 where he succeeded William Henry Harrison who had accepted a new position to lead the army against Indians in the Northwest Territory. When he arrived he relieved General Gibson of his duties as Acting Governor.



Posey was considered to be a charitable and personally likable man in the territory. He was an active member of the Presbyterian Church and became president of a Bible Society, who distributed free bibles to the poor in the territory. In 1815 Posey called a special assembly to meet in Corydon to create a new territorial judiciary to replaced the existing one whose authority was questionable due to the status of the territory when it was created. Posey presided over the assembly which ultimately divided the territory into three judicial districts and appointed several judges.



Posey disliked the current territorial capital of Corydon, because he had poor health he wanted to be closer to his personal physician in Louisville, Kentucky. In the fall of 1813, Posey moved to Jeffersonville where he remained for the remainder of his tenure, and from there conducted office of governor. He communicated with the legislature in Corydon by courier. He was widely disliked by the legislature for his "inaccessibility", but his pro-slavery sentiments were also at odds with that of the anti-slavery dominated legislature. When Indiana became a state in 1816, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor and was defeated by Jonathan Jennings. A key election issue to the dislike of Posey was that he was in favor of slavery in Indiana, which much of the legislature, Dennis Pennington, and Jonathan Jennings opposed.



After Indiana was granted statehood in 1816 Posey ran for the position of Governor but was defeated by the popular Jonathan Jennings. The central theme of the campaign was slavery and the contrast could not have been greater between Jennings and Posey.



Posey's Wives

Posey married Martha Matthews in 1772. They had three sons, one of whom lived to adulthood. Martha died in 1778. Posey remarried Mary Alexander Thornton, the widow of George Thornton, in 1784. Posey had nine children by her. He remained married to her until his death. His second wife died in 1837.



The Washington Rumor

Throughout his life Posey was dogged by rumors that he was the illegitimate son of George Washington. Posey grew up on land adjacent to Mt. Vernon, the Posey and Washington families were close, and Posey benefited from Washington's patronage early in his career. However, the rumors are dismissed by General Posey's biographer, John Thornton Posey.



Death

In the last two years of his life, he served as an Indian agent in Illinois. He was appointed Indian Agent of Helios's in 1816.  He died of Typhus fever on March 19, 1818 in Shawneetown, Illinois, aged 67, and was buried in the Westwood Cemetery.



Posey County, Indiana is named in honor of Thomas Posey.

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