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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor



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William Preston

PRESTON, William, soldier, born in County Donegal, Ireland, 25 December, 1729; died in Montgomery county, Virginia, 28 July, 1783. His father, John, emigrated to this country in 1735, and settled in Augusta county. William received a classical education, and in early life acquired a taste for literature. He became deputy sheriff of Augusta county in 1750, was elected to the house of burgesses a short time afterward, and accompanied General Washington on several exploring expeditions in the west. This led to a correspondence and a friendship between them, which continued till Preston's death. He was appointed one of two commissioners to make a treaty with the Shawnee and Delaware Indians in 1757, and, by negotiations with Cornstalk, secured peace along the western frontiers for several years. The privations that the party suffered on their return journey compelled them to eat the "tugs" or straps of rawhide with which their packs were fastened, and Preston, in memory of the event, called that branch of the Big Sandy river "Tug Fork," which name it still retains. He became surveyor of the new county of Montgomery in 1771, was early engaged in the organization of troops for the Revolutionary war, became colonel in 1775, and led his regiment at Guilford Court-House, South Carolina, where he received injuries that caused his death in the following July. --His son, Francis, congressman, born at his residence in Greenfield, near Amsterdam, Botetourt County, Virginia, 2 August, 1765; died in Columbia, South Carolina, 25 May, 1835, was graduated at William and Mary in 1783, studied law under George Wythe, practised with success in Montgomery, Washington, and other counties, and in 1792 was elected to congress, serving two terms. He then declined re-election and removed to Abingdon, Virginia, where he subsequently resided. At the beginning of the second war with Great Britain he enlisted with the appointment of colonel of volunteers, and marched with his regiment to Norfolk, and subsequently he was appointed brigadier-general and major-general of militia. He was frequently a member of the Virginia house of delegates and of the state senate, where his ability in debate and graceful elocution gave him high rank. He was the personal friend of Madison, Jefferson, Monroe, and Chief-Justice Marshall. He married in 1792 Sarah, the daughter of William Campbell, the hero of King's Mountain.--Their son, William Campbell, senator, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 27 December, 1794 ; died in Columbia, South Carolina, 22 May, 1860, began his education at Washington college, Virginia, but was sent to the south on account of his delicate lungs, and was graduated at the College of South Carolina in 1812. On his return to Virginia he studied law under William Wirt, and was admitted to the bar, but failing health again compelled him to seek a change of climate, and, after an extensive tour of the west on horseback, he went abroad, where on his arrival he formed the beginning of a life-long intimacy with Washington Irving. Through Mr. Irving he was placed on terms of intimacy at Abbotsford, and in the intervals of his law studies at the University of Edinburgh, where Hugh S. Legard was his fellow-student, he made several pedestrian tours with Irving through Scotland, northern England, and Wales. Together they witnessed many of the scenes of the "Sketch-Book." He returned to Virginia in 1820, and settled in South Carolina in 1822, where he at once won a brilliant reputation as an advocate and orator. He was in the legislature in 1828-'32, was an ardent advocate of free-trade and state rights, became a leader of the nullification party, and in 1836 was elected to the United States senate as a Calhoun Democrat. Among the most carefully prepared and eloquent of his speeches in the senate was that on the French spoliation claims, which was praised by Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and statesmen of all parties Differing with his colleague, John C. Calhoun, and also with his constituents, in regard to the support of President Van Buren's policy, he resigned his seat and resumed his law-practice in 1842. He was president of the College of South Carolina from 1845 till his retirement in 1851 When he accepted the office the institution had lost many members, but under his guidance it rose to a prosperity that it had never before enjoyed, and became the most popular educational institution in the south. He also established the Columbia lyceum, and gave it a large and valuable library. Harvard gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1846. As a popular orator Mr. Preston was the peer of his maternal uncle, Patrick Henry, in many instances arousing his audiences to enthusiasm and the next moment moving them to tears. His style has been described as florid, but his vocabulary was large, and the illustrations and classical allusions that ornamented his speeches were as naturally employed in his familiar conversation. He was a profound classical scholar, and it was universally admitted that he was the most finished orator the south has ever produced. His distress at the secession of the southern Democratic party in 1860 hastened his end. When he was dying, his friend, James L. Petigru, said to him: "I envy you, Preston; you are leaving it, and I shall have to stay and see it all." Preston signified, with a sigh of relief, theft the words were true. He left no children.--Another son of Francis, John Smith, soldier, born at the Salt Works, near Abingdon, Virginia, 20 April, 1809; died in Columbia, South Carolina, 1 May, 1881, was graduated at Hampden Sidney college in 1824, attended lectures at the University of Virginia in 1825-'6, and read law at Harvard. He married Caroline, daughter of General Wade Hampton, in 1830, and settled first in Abingdon, Virginia, and subsequently in Columbia, South Carolina He engaged for several years in sugar-planting in Louisiana, but also devoted much time to literary pursuits and to the collection of paintings and sculptures. He aided struggling artists liberally, notably Hiram Powers, whose genius had been recognized by his brother William. Mr. Powers, as a token of his appreciation, gave him the first replica of the "Greek Slave." He also became widely known as an orator. delivering, among other addresses, the speech of welcome to the Palmetto regiment on its return from the Mexican war in 1848, which gained him a national reputation. This was increased by his orations before the "Seventy-sixth association of Charleston" and the literary societies of South Carolina college, and those at the 75th anniversary of the battle of King's Mountain and at the laying of the corner-stone of the University of the south at Sewanee, Tennessee He was an ardent secessionist, and in May, 1860, was chairman of the South Carolina delegation to the Democratic convention that met at Charleston, South Carolina After the election of President Lincoln he was chosen a commissioner to Virginia, and in February, 1861, made an elaborate plea in favor of the withdrawal of that state from the Union, which was regarded as his greatest effort. He was on the staff of General Beauregard in 1861-'2, participated in the first battle of Bull Run, and was subsequently transferred to the conscript department with the rank of brigadier-general. He went to England shortly after the close of the war, and remained abroad several years. After his return he delivered an address at a commencement of the University of Virginia, which, as a fervent assertion of the right of secession, incurred the criticism of the conservative press throughout the country. His last public appearance was at the unveiling of the Confederate monument at Columbia, South Carolina, when he was the orator of the occasion. General Preston was more than six feet in height, and of a powerful and symmetrical frame. -Another son of Francis, Thomas Lewis, planter, born in Botetourt county, Virginia, 28 November, 1812, was educated at the University of Virginia, studied law, but never practised, and for many years engaged in Washington and Smith counties, Virginia, in the manufacture of salt, in which he made material improvements. He was twice a member of the legislature, for many years a visitor of the University of Virginia, and twice its rector. He was on the staff of General Joseph E. Johnston during the first year of the civil war, and his aide-de-camp at the first battle of Bull Run. He has published " Life of Elizabeth Russell, Wife of General William Campbell of King's Mountain" (University of Virginia, 1880).--Francis's brother, James Patton, statesman, born in Montgomery county, Virginia, in 1774; died in Smithfield, Virginia, 4 May, 1843, was graduated at William and Mary in 1790, and settled as a planter in Montgomery county, Virginia He became lieutenant-colonel of the 12th United States infantry in 1812, colonel, 5 August, 1813, and received at Chrystler's field a wound that crippled him for life. He was governor of Virginia in 1816-'19, and subsequently served frequently in the state senate. He married Ann, daughter of General Robert Taylor, of Norfolk, Virginia--Their son, William Ballard, secretary of war, born in Smithfield, Montgomery County, Virginia, 25 November, 1805; died there, 16 November, 1862, was educated at the University of Virginia, adopted law as a profession, and achieved signal success in its practice. He served several times in the Virginia house of delegates and senate, and was never throughout his career defeated in any popular election. He was chosen to congress as a Whig in 1846, and on the accession of General Zachary Taylor to the presidency he held the portfolio of the navy until General Taylor's death, when he retired to private life, but was several times presidential elector on the Whig ticket. He was sent by the government on a mission to France in 1858-'9, the object of which was to establish a line of steamers between that country and Virginia, and a more extended commercial relation between the two countries. The scheme failed on account of the approaching civil war. He was a member of the Virginia secession convention in 1861, and resisted all efforts toward the dissolution of the Union till he was satisfied that war was inevitable. In 1861-'2 he was a member of the Confederate senate, in which he served until his death.--Francis's nephew, William, lawyer, born near Louisville, Kentucky, 16 October, 1806" died in Lexington, Kentucky, 21 September, 1887. His education was under the direction of the Jesuits at Bardstown, Kentucky He afterward studied at Yale, and then attended the law-school at Harvard, where he was graduated in 1838. He then began the practice of law, also taking an active part in politics. He served in the Mexican war as lieutenant-colonel of the 4th Kentucky volunteers. In 1851 he was elected to the Kentucky house of representatives as a Whig, and in the following year he was chosen to congress to fill the vacancy caused by General Humphrey Marshall's resignation, serving from 6 December, 1852, till 3 March, 1855. He was again a candidate in 1854, but was defeated by his predecessor, General Marshall, the Know-Nothing candidate, after a violent campaign. He then became a Democrat, and was a delegate to the Cincinnati convention of 1856, which nominated Buchanan and Breckinridge. He was appointed United States minister to Spain under the Buchanan administration, at the close of which he returned to Kentucky and warmly espoused the cause of the south. He joined General Simon B. Buckner at Bowling Green in 1861, and was made colonel on the staff of his brother-in-law, General Albert Sidney Johnston, when that officer assumed command. He served through the Kentucky campaign, was at the fall of Fort Donelson, the battle of Shiloh, where Gem Johnston died in his arms, and the siege of Corinth. He was also ill many hard-fought battles, especially at Murfreesboro. At the close of the war he returned to his home in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1867 he was elected to the legislature, and in 1880 he was a delegate to the convention that nominated General Hancock for the presidency.--William Ballard's cousin, Isaac Trimble, jurist, born in Rockbridge county, Virginia, in 1793 ; died on Lake Pontehartrain, Louisiana, 5 July, 185:2, was graduated at Yale in 1812, and studied at Litchfield law-school, but resigned his profession in 1813 to serve as captain of a volunteer company in the wa, r with Great Britain. He resumed his legal studies under William Wirt in 1816, was admitted to the bar, and removed to New Orleans, where he practised with success. At the time of his death he was a judge of the supreme court of Louisiana. His death was the result of a steamboat disaster.

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