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Many years ago there lived in Virginia a little boy whose name was John Davenport. His father was a farmer who planted and raised large crops of tobacco in the fields about his home. His parents were good and wise people, and carefully brought up and trained their children. John was a good boy. He was honest, truthful, obedient, bold and strong. If he had anything to do, either in work or play, he did it well. He grew up like other boys of his day. He went to school and made many friends among his playmates by his manly conduct.

 

There lived in the same county in Virginia another little boy of strong and sterling character whose name was Harry Burnley. These two little boys were near neighbors and great friends, and they played and hunted and fished together all during their early boyhood days.

When John Davenport was quite a young man he met and married Lucy Barksdale, a girl of great merit and beauty who was just sixteen years old at the time of their marriage in 1772.

This couple spent many happy days together; children came to gladden their home; and life looked rosy and bright before them. As these peaceful and happy days were gliding by in their Virginia home a tempest was gathering--a great war cloud--which was destined to bring much sorrow to this happy pair.

England, the mother country, who at first dealt kindly and justly with the colonists, had begun to be unkind to them and to tax them unjustly. These oppressive and burdensome taxes the colonists refused to pay. England sent over trained soldiers to the American colonies to enforce obedience to her unjust laws. The colonists were weak, and had no trained soldiers; but they raised an army and determined to fight for their liberties. So war began.

After the Declaration of Independence by the patriots on July 4th, 1776, John Davenport, ever true to his country and his convictions of right and wrong, though regretting to leave his beautiful young wife and his happy children, took up arms to fight for liberty. Harry Burnley went with him to fight for the same noble cause. They were both brave soldiers and fought in most of the prominent battles of the Revolutionary war. They were mess-mates and bunk-mates throughout the war.

On the night of March 14th, 1781, while the two opposing armies were encamped near Greensboro, at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, and stood ready to join in bloody battle the next day, these two devoted friends were sitting by their campfire, talking of the coming battle and thinking of their loved ones at home. John Davenport seemed sad and much depressed. Harry Burnley noticed his depression and asked him why he was no downcast. He said, "Harry, somehow I feel that I will be killed in battle tomorrow. I almost know it." Harry Burnley tried to dissipate his gloomy forebodings and cheer him up, by laughing at him and by making light of presentiments and by tussling with him, but all without success. Determined to cheer up his friend, Harry finally said, "John, if you are killed tomorrow, I am going back home and marry your widow," Harry being an unmarried man.

Battle of Guilford CourtHouse by Oldwildbill at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

On the next day the cruel battle was fought. The ground was covered with dead and dying men, soldiers on both sides, covered with blood and dust. One of these soldiers was John Davenport. He had been wounded and would die; and he was suffering from both pain and thirst. When the battle was over, his devoted friend hurried to his side and found him mortally wounded. When he found him, skulkers were stripping him of the silver buckles which he wore.[2]

He was tenderly nursed by his lifelong friend during the few hours that he lived. Realizing that the end was near, John Davenport said to his friend, "Harry, I am dying; and you remember last night you said to me in jest that if I lost my life today, that you were going home and marry Lucy. You have been my best friend, you are a noble and good man, and I now ask you in earnest to do as you said you would in jest--go back home after the war is over, marry my wife, and take care of her and my five little children."

About one year after the death of John Davenport, Harry Burnley and Mrs. Lucy Davenport were married. Several years later they moved to Warren County, Georgia, where they lived and died and were buried. Mrs. Lucy Davenport Burnley was the mother of fourteen children, five by her first marriage and nine by her second. Among her descendants are to be found very many noble men and women in America--distinguished as writers, lawyers and educators, and in every walk of life. Many of her sons and grandsons have sacrificed their lives for their country.--Mrs. Annie Davidson Howell.

FOOTNOTE:

[2] These skulkers in their hurry to get away left five silver buckles and epaulettes which were exhibited at the Exposition in New Orleans some years ago.