James Bohannon was born in 1742, the first child of “Captain” Elliott Bohannon and his wife, Anne Walker. In 1763, he married Frances Booten (Boughton), whom he named his “beloved wife” in his will, and together they had twelve children.
Prior to the start of the War for Independence, James was an agent for Glasgow tobacco merchants who owned large tracts of land in Virginia, and leased them, through agents like James, to farmers who raised the tobacco. The crop was then shipped to Glasgow, where it was the basis for the fortunes of the “Tobacco Lords.”
During the Revolution, James worked actively on behalf of Virginia to procure supplies for militia units. He distributed cash to pay for supplies, and is referenced as having reimbursed a number of individuals on behalf of the Colony of Virginia for expenses relating to Captain Todd’s company of Culpeper County Militia in General George Rogers Clark’s Illinois campaign: “Total cost for the company of 29 men from Culpeper Court House, Virginia [,] to Big Creek on Kaskaskia was 322 pounds, 8 shillings and 9 pence. Payment was for salt, meat, flour, forage for horses, whiskey, and use of wagons.” (1)
As was typical of the supply system of that time, suspicions were aroused and accusations made when things didn’t go the way a commander thought was right. Even Washington’s favorite general, Nathaniel Greene, was accused of impropriety when overseeing the Quartermaster Corps. It was part of the job.
In a letter from Colonel John Montgomery, commander of the Culpeper unit, to General Clark, Montgomery described an incident regarding the supply situation (2).
Montgomery stated that James had sent an officer to by bacon. The officer, finding the bacon bad, refused to complete the transaction, and returned the money to his superior, Colonel Arthur Campbell. There was acrimony between this Colonel Campbell and James over some previous argument, in which they had come to blows. When Colonel Campbell, in turn, returned what he claimed to be the money received originally from James, it was found to be short by some amount. Colonel Montgomery wanted an investigation, but thought that the accusation may have been the result of the enmity Campbell harbored for James.
Later, Montgomery sent a follow up letter to Clark stating upon further investigation, James was proven to be a good steward of Virginia’s money, and helped further the cause of Independence by getting needed cash from the Virginia treasury to where it was needed.
After the Revolution, James moved his family to Surry (now Stokes) County, NC, where he died in 1807. His son Philemon, married Elizabeth Strother Gaines, whose father, Thomas Gaines, was also a Patriot, serving in the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment.
1 “The Illinois Regiment,” George Rogers Clark Papers at the Virginia State Library and Archives (microfilm). Ed., Richard Eugene Willson, microfilm reel 1, frame 1069-1072.
2 “Montgomery to Clark, September 29, 1779,” Kaskaskia Records, 1778-1790. Virginia Series Volume II, ed. Clarence Alvord, p. 125.