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HON. JOSEPH R. UNDERWOOD. .
Joseph ROGERS UNDERWOOD was born a large family of children to provide for, in Goochland county, Virginia, on the 24th were induced to commit him to his maday of October, 1791. He was the eldest ternal uncle, Edmund Rogers, who, shortof eight children of John Underwood, who ly after the Revolutionary War, (in which frequently represented that county in the he was a gallant soldier, and engaged in Legislature. The name of Senator Under- several battles,) emigrated to Kentucky, wood's grandfather was Thomas, and that and became a locator and surveyor of of his great-grandfather, William Thomas land warrants, by which he secured a Underwood. The last emigrated from handsome estate. England as a merchant's clerk, when quite Mr. Rogers conducted his youthful a boy, in the latter part of the seventeenth charge to Barren county, Kentucky, in the century. He had two wives : the last, spring of 1803, and nobly did he fulfil the whose maiden name was Taylor, was the promise made to the parents of the little mother of Thomas Underwood, who rep-boy “to be unto him as a father.” The resented the county of Goochland in the Green river country in Kentucky, in which Legislature of Virginia ten years, begin- | he had settled, was then a wilderness, and ning in 1777 and ending in 1790; a contained but few schools, and those not period when it may be safely affirmed that of the best class. Joseph was placed at no man, unless he possessed a clear head school, near the town of Glasgow, with the and sound heart, was likely to be trusted. Rev. John Howe, a Presbyterian minister, Thomas Underwood, the grandfather, also and under his tuition commenced learning had two wives. The second, whose maid- the Latin language. After remaining with en name was Taylor, was the mother of him a year, he was transferred from place nine children, among whom John was the to place, and put under the charge of second child. Thus, by a double con- various teachers in different parts of the nection, Judge Underwood is related to State, as suited the means and arrangethat very numerous family of Taylors who ! ments of his uncle, until, having been preinhabit the low lands of Virginia. On the pared for college, he was sent to Transylmother's side, Judge Underwood is de- vania University, where he completed his scended from the Rogers and Pollard scholastic course in the year 1811. On families. His maternal ancestors have re- | leaving the University, he commenced the sided in Virginia from the earliest periods study of law in Lexington with Robert of the colony. His mother was Frances Wickliffe, Esq., and under the instructions Rogers, daughter of George Rogers and of this learned and accomplished lawyer, Frances Pollard. His great-grandfather, he finished the course of elementary readJoseph Pollard, and his wife, lived until ing. they were about ninety-three years of age, About this time Kentucky was thrown and were man and wife more than seventy into great excitement by the war with years.
Great Britain, then raging with violence Senator Underwood was named for his on the Canada border. The melancholy maternal uncle, Joseph Rogers, who went affair of the River Raisin had deprived the with his cousin, Gen. George Rogers State of some of its best citizens, and Clark, to Kentucky at an early period, plunged the commonwealth in mourning. was captured by the Indians near Mays. The impulse to arms was universal, and ville, and subsequently killed at the battle pervaded all classes. With a mind imbued, of Piqua Plains in attempting to make his by the teachings of his uncle, with strong escape from them.
admiration for military achievements, it was The parents of Senator Underwood not to be expected that young Underbeing in humble circumstances, and having wood should remain an indifferent specta
tor of the martial preparations around him. violation of Gen. Harrison's orders, instead In March, 1813, a company of volunteers of returning to the boats, and crossing the being about to be raised in Lexington, to river to Fort Meigs, the regiment pursued be commanded by John C. Morrison, two the retreating Indians and Canadian miliregiments of militia, which were to supply tia into the woods. These kept up a rethe number of men required, were drawn treating fire, and were rapidly reinforced. up in parallel lines, and a stand of colors | The pursuit continued about two miles, planted in the centre. Those wbo design- | the Indians contesting every inch of ed to volunteer, were requested, at the ground, sheltering themselves behind trees beat of the drum, to march to the colors. and logs, and shooting down the KentucYoung Underwood was the first to reach kians as they advanced. When the regiand raise the stars and stripes, and bearing | ment charged upon the foe in their amthem aloft, marched after the musicians buscades, as soon as they fired, they along the lines, other volunteers falling in would retreat, load, take new positions, as he passed. This little, but prompt in and again shoot from behind trees and logs, cident, stranger as he was among the on the advancing regiment. In this manyoung men who volunteered on that occa- per the fight continued for many hours. sion, led to the election of Mr. Under At length orders were given to retreat to wood as the Lieutenant of the company. the captured battery, which had been left A gentleman, much Mr. Underwood's sen- / in charge of two companies; where, inior, then holding a military commission, stead of finding friends and companions, tendered his services. The privilege was the regiment met foes. A detachment of conceded to the volunteers of electing the British army had retaken the battery their own officers. When the election for and driven the two companies to their the Lieutenancy was about to commence, | boats; and, as if anticipating what would a voice in the ranks was heard exclaim- happen, waited the arrival of the retreating, “Where is the man who carried the ing regiment, which, coming up in disorder, colors ? Let's elect him." Upon this, was incapable of resistance and surrenyoung Underwood stepped forward and dered. said to the company, he should be happy in the battle, Captain Morrison was to serve them if thought worthy. The killed, and the command of the company voters formed two lines, Mr. Underwood and devolved upon Lieutenant Underwood. his competitor being at the head of their The loss of the company, owing to its respective supporters. On counting the position on the extreme left of the regivotes, the numbers were found to be pre- ment, and the efforts of the enemy to outcisely equal. It was agreed to decide the flank and surround it, was very severe. matter by lot. The competitor of Mr. In the retreat Lieut. Underwood was seUnderwood threw up the dollar. He cried verely wounded. The ball still remains in heads, and so it fell. Those who voted his body. After the surrender, the prisonagainst him immediately surrounded him ers were marched down the left bank of in the best humor, saying, “It's all right; the Maumee river, about two miles, to the we'll now go for him who has luck on his old fort built by the British and retained side.”
for years after the end of the RevolutionIsaac Shelby was then Governor of ary War. In marching from the place of Kentucky, and signed the first commission surrender to the fort, the Indians stripped that Mr. Underwood ever held in the ser | the prisoners, with a few exceptions, of vice of his country. The company was their clothing, watches, and whatever else attached to the thirteenth regiment, com- of value they possessed. Lieut. Undermanded by Col. William Dudley, consti wood, however, saved his watch by hiding tuting part of Gen. Green Clay's brigade. the chain, so that it was not discovered, On the 5th of May, 1813, Dudley's regi- and it was afterwards of great service to ment was defeated and captured by the him and his fellow soldiers. He was stripcombined British and Indian forces oppo- | ped of all his clothes, except his shirt and site Fort Meigs. After taking the British pantaloons, and in this condition, bleeding battery, which the regiment was ordered to from his wound, was marched to the fort. attack, most imprudently, and in direct But before getting into it, he and his companions passed through a scene of savage, did so npon the wet ground. Lieut. Unbarbarity and cruelty which will probably derwood asked permission to lay his head never occur again in the United States. I in the lap of a fellow soldier named GilThey were made to run the gauntlet. , pin, which being readily granted, he This was done in the following manner. stretched himself upon the ground, the The Indians formed a line to the left of the better to enable the blood to escape from road or trace running along the river his wound. In this situation an Indian of bank, which was nearly perpendicular, and the Potowattamie tribe from the embankextending from the dilapidated walls of ment of the old fort, which was elevated the fort, about one hundred and fifty yards about four feet above the ground on which up the river, leaving a space of some forty | the prisoners were sitting, presented his or fifty feet between their line and the rifle, and shot a prisoner near the base of bank of the river. Through this defile, | the embankment. He then deliberately the prisoners were compelled to pass, in loaded his gun and shot another. After order to reach the gateway that led into this he laid down the gun, drew his tomathe fort. They were informed by the hawk, jumped off the embankment, and British soldiers, that it was the intention of drove it to the helve in the heads of two the Indians to whip, to wound, or to kill, others. He then scalped and stripped his just as their malevolence and vindictive- four victims, and departed with his troness should prompt, and that each from phies. The ball which passed through one the starting point, at the head of the line, of them, penetrated the hips of a soldier should make his way into the fort in the near by, inflicting a wound which afterbest way he could, and with all possible | wards occasioned his death. So that it speed. The prisoners were told, that may be said, that five prisoners were murwhen within the walls they would be safe, | dered by this infuriated savage after safety but this promise was violated. As the had been promised them. It is believed, prisoners ran between the Indian line and however, that the British officers and solthe river bank, many were maimed and kill- | diers were sincerely desirous to prevent ed with tomahawks, war clubs and rifles. the massacre which occurred in the fort. Those braves in whom all feelings of Whilst the Potowattamie was engaged in humanity were not totally extinct, only his work of death, hundreds of savage beat the prisoners over their heads and warriors dressed in their war costumes and shoulders, as they passed, with ramrods hideously painted, were stationed upon and wiping sticks. Lieut. Underwood, on and about the embankment which encircled reaching the head of the line, perceived the prisoners. Among them rage and fury that it was concave or circular, and that were manifested by every sort of ejaculathose who ran next to the river bank were tion. The British guard incessantly utmore frequently shot down than those tered the expression, “Oh nitchee wah, nearer the Indian line. He, therefore, de- oh nitchee wah.” It can never be forgottermined to pass by the ends of the muz- ten by those who heard it on that occasion, zles of their guns, knowing that if he It was the language of mercy addressed escaped being shot, when immediately into the infuriated Indian, and those who front, the gun would not be turned upon surrounded him, and as afterwards interhim, because the ball, after killing him, preted to the Kentuckians, signified, “Oh! might also hit those standing further on brother, quit, go away.” This appeal may in the curved line. This policy of the have prevented the massacre of all the Lieutenant, although it gave him a better prisoners. chance to escape the bullets, brought him When the Potowattamie began the in closer contact with ramrods and wiping butchery, the prisoners in danger, and who, sticks, and he received many severe blows. up to that moment, had retained their Between forty and fifty prisoners were kill- seats upon the ground, now rose to their ed in thus running the gauntlet ; among feet and endeavored to get out of the way them the brave Captain Lewis, who com- and save themselves, by jumping over the manded a company from Jessamine county. heads of those who remained sitting. In
As the prisoners passed into the old this melee of horror, while those on the fort, they were ordered to sit down, and outside were receiving the tomahawk, those a little removed were, in their efforts to | against the King of Great Britain or his alescàpe, trampling the wounded and pros- | lies, during the continuation of the war, untrate Lieutenant under their feet in his own less regularly exchanged. Upon the preblood. When the Potowattamie had sentation of the paper, inquiry was made glutted his vengeance and retired, when whether, by the term “allies,” it was intendthe uproar was calmed and order restored, ed to embrace the Indians. The reply was, o he presented an appearance more readily | “His Majesty's allies are known,” with an conceived than described. Having been intimation that the prisoners must act at previously stripped to his shirt and panta- | their peril. Upon the execution of the loons, he now appeared as if plastered with paper, those officers and men capable of a compost of mud and blood. In this marching, were landed and discharged on situation, he was an object of one of the parole. Lieutenant Underwood and James most disinterested acts of benevolence E. Davis, Esq., of Lexington, were landed ever performed. A generous soldier, at the mouth of Huron river, and found named James Boston, of Clark county, quarters in the cabin of a recent settler Kentucky, took off his hunting shirt, the named Sharrott, where they were treated uniform of his company, and insisted on with all kindness until they were able to clothing the Lieutenant with it, which was travel home. About the first of July, the done, thereby concealing the blood and Lieutenant reached the house of his uncle wound. This circumstance may have in Barren county. saved the Lieutenant's life, for it is believed This short but disastrous campaign harthat the Indians are disposed to put to ing terminated, Mr. Underwood resumed death all those who are wounded, and his legal studies, and in the fall of 1813 who fall into their hands.
obtained license to practice law. He After many other interesting and thrill opened an office in Glasgow in the winter, ing incidents, Lieutenant Underwood reach- and attended the first court in Bowling ed the prison ship lying in the Maumee Green in February, 1814. He was forriver, eight or nine miles below the rapids, tunate in obtaining fees and money enough about nine o'clock at night. He was put to pay his expenses, the more necessary on board, and being announced as a because his good uncle had now deterwounded officer, was taken to the cabin of mined to throw him upon his own rethe vessel and permitted to lie upon the sources. Well did he meet his uncle's floor, where he spent the night without a confidence in his success. He rose rapidly, blanket or covering of any kind. Mid- and in a few years stood high in his proshipman Parsons was kind enough on the fession. The Hon. John J. Crittenden, next day to surrender his berth to the Lieu-now his colleague in the Senate, and Solotenant, who thereafter, during his stay on mon P. Sharp, a distinguished member of board, received every attention from Cap Congress, and subsequently Attorney-gentain Stewart and the other officers in com eral of the State, were his associates at the mand. Captain Stewart and Midshipman bar, in the beginning of his professional Parsons were captured by Commodore career. These eminent lawyers then lived Perry in the naval battle on Lake Erie, in that part of Kentucky where Mr. Underand with other officers, were sent to Frank | wood has always resided. fort, Kentucky, and there confined in the He was elected in the year 1816, being penitentiary to answer as hostages for just eligible, to represent Barren county in the treatment American prisoners might the legislature, and was annually returned receive in England. This was a measure for four years. He then voluntarily withof retaliation, in consequence of the out- drew from the political arena, that all of rage perpetrated at Dartmouth, in Eng his energies might be devoted to the payland. Lieutenant Underwood visited the ment of heavy debts, incurred by the incaptain and midshipman in the penitentary solvency of those for whom he was bound with a view to return the kindness they as surety. He was greatly harassed, but had shown him when a prisoner.
by severe struggles freed himself. His On the day after the battle, the Ame- books were even surrendered to satisfy credrican officers, for themselves and men, itors, but he never was sued at any time of signed a pledge, promising not to fight his life except as surety for others. He punc
tually complied with his own contracts dur- | felt a deep interest. Time, however, de-
mates at Lancaster, were united as the In November, 1823, Mr. Underwood only judges of the court. Never did two removed to Bowling Green, where he still officers perform more labor than during resides. He became one of the actors in the first year, when they discharged the the memorable contest between what was whole business of the court without the called the new and old court parties, aid of a chief justice. It had greatly acgrowing out of the intense agitation of cumulated during the struggle between great constitutional questions, that had the new and old court. Each refrained
nearly resulted in a civil war. The legis- from doing business, from the uncertainty . lature had violated the obligation of con- which hung over the ultimate validity of 12 tracts, by the passage of relief laws, as its acts. Judge Robertson was commis
they were termed. The judges declared sioned as chief justice in December, 1829, ve them to be unconstitutional, and the legis- and Hon. Richard A. Buckner appointed
lature attempted to remove them from of- as one of the associate justices of the court. De fice by re-organizing the court, and there Judge Underwood remained upon the
* were then two sets of men claiming to be bench until 1835, when he resigned, and a judges of the appellate court. Although was elected to represent the third con
EMr. Underwood's pecuniary affairs seemed gressional district. He served as a repreE: naturally to throw him on the side of the sentative in Congress for eight successive
new court, yet his convictions and princi- years. He notified his constituents of his Tom ples sustained the old court, and their de- | intention to retire at the end of the third Incisions against the relief laws. He was term, and left Washington with his family,
selected by the members of that party as intending to execute his design. But at their candidate for the legislature, and was Louisville, on his way homeward, he was elected in 1825, after a most animated | informed of his unanimous nomination in contest. The controversy was not decided convention, by the people of his district, until the next year, when he again repre- for a fourth term. He did not think prosented the county ; and upon the settle- per to resist the flattering call, and was ment of this exciting question that had again elected. At the end of eight years convulsed Kentucky, he retired and labored he was permitted to retire, when he dilimost earnestly to relieve his pecuniary gently resumed the practice of his propressure. But he was not permitted to fession. remain in private life. In 1828, he was In 1845, he consented to serve his selected by the anti-Jackson party, as county-men, who had nominated him withtheir candidate for the office of Lieutenant-out his knowledge, when from home, in Governor, and was placed on the ticket the State legislature. He was elected by with the Hon. Thomas Metcalfe, who was a very large majority, many of his political the Gubernatorial candidate. Although opponents voting for him. He was elected
General Metcalfe succeeded and was elect- | Speaker of the House in December, and 13 ed by a few hundred votes over Major presided over that body so much to their
Barry, subsequently appointed postmaster satisfaction, as to merit and receive a * general, Mr. Breathitt, (late Governor of unanimous vote of thanks. At the next EMS Kentucky,) obtained a small majority over session, he was elected to the Senate of
Mr. Underwood. This result was partly the United States for the term of six years,
in consequence of votes given by Major commencing on the 4th of March, 1847. - Barry and Mr. Underwood when members In enumerating the offices which Senator
of the legislature, against a bill, in the Underwood has filled, it should not be provisions of which the occupants of lands overlooked that he was twice a presidential