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This webpage reproduces an article in
American Historical Magazine
Vol. 7 No. 4 (Oct. 1902), pp311‑314

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p311 Governor William Trousdalea

By B. F. Allen,b1 Gallatin, Tenn.


[image ALT: An oil painting of a relatively handsome, intelligent-looking man in early middle age with an earnest expression, staring straight at the viewer. He wears a jacket and a shirt with a high flowing collar tied at the neck by a small scarf. He is William Trousdale, a 19c Governor of Tennessee, the subject of the biographical sketch on this page.]

Portrait of Gov. Trousdale in the Tennessee State Capitolc

The grandfather of William Trousdale was of Scotch-Irish descent. He came from Ireland about the year 1735 and settled in Pennsylvania, in which State his son James (the father of William Trousdale), was born in 1736. In a few years the family removed to North Carolina. James Trousdale was twice married; his second wife was Elizabeth Dobbins, a member of a prominent family in North Carolina. She was the mother of William Trousdale. James Trousdale was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. He commanded a company of North Carolina patriots. He was severely wounded, and until his death he carried a scar made by a sabre in the hands of one of Tarleton's men. He served throughout the war and was with Washington at Yorktown.

Captain James Trousdale in 1784 obtained from North Carolina a grant for 640 acres of land situated in what was then Davidson County, now Sumner County, Tennessee. This land was paid for in scrip or certificates issued by North Carolina to him for services in the war for independence. James Trousdale moved from North Carolina and settled on this tract of land in 1796. The land was then covered by a dense forest. Here he cleared land and began to cultivate the soil. But, on the 6th of November, 1801, the Legislature of Tennessee appointed commissioners to select and purchase land upon which to lay out a town to be named Gallatin, which was to be the county seat of Sumner County. The commissioners selected the farm of Captain James Trousdale, and the town of Gallatin now stands upon the old Trousdale farm.

p312 Captain James Trousdale left a large family. One son (James the 2nd) moved to Illinois at an early date. One named Robert moved to St. Mary's Parish, Louisiana. The descendants of another son went to Indiana. Captain Matthew Cowan married Katie, a daughter of Captain James Trousdale. Captain Cowan lived in Putnam County, Tennessee, and he has descendants in Smith, Jackson and Putnam Counties, Tennessee.

Captain James Trousdale's youngest son was Bryson Trousdale, the father of Colonel Leon Trousdale and of Mrs. Susan Anderson, wife of General S. R. Anderson.

Captain James Trousdale died in 1818; his wife died in 1839. William Trousdale, a son of Captain James Trousdale, was born in Orange County, North Carolina, on September 23, 1790. In 1796, when he was six years old, he came with his father to what is now Sumner County, Tennessee. He grew up surrounded by the scenes of pioneer life, and became inured to all the hardships of frontier life; but, the settlers at an early day paid attention to the erection of school houses and churches. John Hall, a man of great learning, was among the first teachers in Sumner Creek. William Trousdale, for a while, was under the tuition of John Hall. He was a pupil of Dr. Gideon Blackburn in 1813. When a call was made for volunteers for the Creek War, he at once left school and enlisted as a private in Captain Edwards' company of mounted riflemen. He was elected third lieutenant and took part in the battles of Talladega and Tallashatchee. He re‑enlisted in 1814 in Captain Scurry's company and was at the capture of Pensacola and took part in the battle of New Orleans. When peace was made, William Trousdale returned home and resumed his studies under John Hall and finished his education in 1816. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1820. In 1827 he married Miss Mary Ann Bugg, a lady of great refinement and worth. She was born in Mecklenbergº County, Virginia, and was a daughter of Mr. Samuel Bugg, who married Miss Frances Lewis. They removed to Sumner County, Tennessee, when their daughter, Mary Ann, was quite young. William Trousdale was elected to the Senate of Tennessee in 1835. In 1836 he was made major-general of militia. He was colonel of the second regiment of p313mounted volunteers in the Seminole War in 1836. After the close of the Seminole War he was tendered by President Jackson an appointment as brigadier general in the United States army. He declined to accept the appointment, and in response to the offer, said: "I value the compliment, but decline the appointment, as I desire no connection with the army except in times of war." In 1837 General Trousdale was the Democratic candidate for Congress in a strong Whig district, and while he received a large vote he could not overcome the Whig majority. He was a Democratic elector in the presidential campaign in 1840.

In 1847 General Trousdale was appointed by President Polk, colonel of the fourteenth regiment of United States infantry, and took an active part in the Mexican War. He landed with his regiment at Vera Cruz on June 13, 1847. He took part in the battles of Contreras, Churubusco, Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. In this last battle General Trousdale commanded a brigade, and was twice severely wounded, but refused to leave the field until the close of the battle. On August 23, 1848, President Polk appointed General Trousdale brigadier general by brevet in the United States army for gallantry at Chapultepec. With the restoration of peace General Trousdale returned to private life. He was elected governor of Tennessee in 1849, and served one term. He was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Brazil on May 24, 1853, by President Pierce. He remained in Brazil for four years. He then returned to his home in Gallatin, Tenn., where he died on March 27, 1872. J. A. Trousdale, a son of General Trousdale, wrote of his father, in part as follows: "He would have attracted attention in any assembly of men, as well by his striking features as by his manly address. He was six feet tall, erect, spare made, muscular and well formed. A thick growth of black wavy hair covered a head of faultless shape. His eyes were gray and deep seated, and his nose was straight and thin. His mouth, chin and jaws were symmetrically formed, adding much in their expressive shape to the idea of strong character which the facial features all clearly indicated. His face in repose wore an expression of deep earnestness tinged with sadness, but relieved of severity by an air of quiet, satisfied p314composure. He was entirely free from affectation in either look, speech or act. He bearing was civil, polite and courtly."

General Trousdale was a great reader. He was modest and retiring in his manner. He was true to his friends, and lost his fortune early in life by being surety for some of his neighbors. He was an earnest and forcible speaker and a successful lawyer. He loved truth and despised the false. His ideas of life were on a high plane. His great and moving sentiment was patriotism and devotion to his country.

General Trousdale left surviving him two daughters, viz.: Maria Louisa, the wife of B. F. Allen;b2 and Frances T., the wife of J. B. Peyton. They reside in Gallatin, Tenn.

He left two sons, Charles W., who lost a leg at Chickamauga, died in January, 1900, leaving one child, Miss Kate, who now lives in Gallatin. The other son of General Trousdale was Julius A., who was severely wounded at the battle of Shiloh. He died in September, 1899. He left no children. General Trousdale's second daughter, Miss Valeria, married General James Lafferty, of Grainger County, Tennessee. She died in 1860, leaving three children.

Mrs. Mary Trousdale, widow of General Trousdale, died in 1882.


Thayer's Notes:

a The reader will find this brief article unsatisfactory, and for a good reason. It consists of an unattributed — plagiarized — abridgment of the much better sketch by the governor's son, to which a sort of genealogical preamble and coda have been tacked on. That original is also onsite: it's the one we should take our information from.

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b1 b2 Surely the author of this sketch is the man mentioned as its subject's son-in‑law, but I haven't checked.

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c This is a photograph taken by me during a visit to Nashville. It is unfortunately somewhat spoiled by my own flash. I reproduce it because the images of this same portrait seen elsewhere online are almost all reversed.


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Page updated: 20 Feb 14