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Richard Gilliam Dunlap

(1796 – 1841)

"Tennesseans Turned Texans"


Richard G. Dunlap was born in Knoxville, Territory South of the River Ohio 05Sep1796. He was the first son of Hugh and Susannah H (Gilliam) Dunlap, who married in Knoxville, on 12Jun1794.

 Susannah was a daughter of Devereux and Edith (Ellis) Gilliam, who built Gilliam Station at the forks of the French Broad and Holston Rivers in Knox County, five miles from Knoxville. Devereux was granted the land in the forks in 1791 by North Carolina for his services in the Revolutionary War.

 Hugh Dunlap was born in Londonderry, Ireland in 1769 and came to the colonies as a boy. He left Philadelphia with his goods in December 1791, and arrived in Knoxville about the first of February 1792. At that time, the whole town was a thicket of brushwood and grapevines except that portion near the river where several shanties were put up to hold government stores. There he deposited his goods, acting for several years as a commissary for all the troops stationed in East Tennessee.

 Richard attended Ebenezer Academy in Knox County, a preparatory school which was a leading educational institution for 20 years, and was a student of its founder, Samuel G. Ramsey.

 He was at the Battle of New Orleans in 1814 – 15 as a Captain of Cavalry with General Andrew Jackson, and became one of his firm friends.

 In December 1817, Richard was in middle Tennessee on business with his father when he heard that Gen. Andrew Jackson had left Nashville to take command of the Southern Army and head off trouble with the Creek and Seminole Indians. He returned home to Roane County after soliciting an order from Col. Williamson to raise a company and join Gen. Jackson.

The day of the first rendezvous of the Company at Kingston, Richard feared his youth would defeat the enterprise, so he went to two gentlemen and offered his support if they would agree to head the company. The gentlemen declined, as Gen. Jackson had not called upon East Tennessee for volunteers. This made the soldiers uneasy, as they had heard talk of doubts that the General would receive them. Richard paraded the men, and held elections for every officer in the Company, and they unanimously elected him their Captain. “Envious persons” clustered around the tavern excited fear in the minds of the men that their Captain would be cruel and tyrannical, and of the probability of their being rejected by Gen. Jackson.

Capt. Dunlap tried to appease them and wanted the names of the envious parties. He became enraged in the presence of the troops and tore the muster roll to pieces, saying, “I want no timid or reluctant soldiers – you are released from your voluntary enrollment.” He then told them that he would camp in General Brown’s old field, and would remain one week, when he would march out to meet the army alone, inviting all cowards to go home and soldiers who don’t fight for pay to march with him to the army. Seven of the Company camped with him that week.

When they were leaving town, Governor McMinn, at Richard’s request, addressed the Company and gave him a letter for Gen. Jackson. After that, had he remained another week, he could have raised a Regiment. Two merchants opened their purses and stores to him and took orders on the Government, which were promptly paid.

The East Tennessee Volunteer Company distinguished itself at the battle of Fort Barrancas, near Pensacola, Florida.

 After a treaty ended the Seminole War, Richard returned to East Tennessee and studied law in the office of John McCampbell. He was soon practicing law in Knoxville, becoming a member of the Bar in 1822.

 In 1824, R. G. Dunlap was practicing with his brother Devereux G. Dunlap, in Knoxville. Devereux removed to West Tennessee in summer of 1826 and died that August.

 Newspaper advertisements in 1826 – 27 show R. G. Dunlap and W. B. A. Ramsey attorneys in Knoxville.

 Richard became a candidate for State Representative from Knox and Anderson Counties, and was twice elected to that post between 1829 and 1833. In 1835, he was a candidate for Governor of Tennessee, but ill health caused him to withdraw.

 Volunteer troops were called for once more as the Seminoles, with their Chief, Osceola, were resisting the treaty stipulation that they move west. The East Tennessee Mounted Troops assembled at Athens and elected R. G. Dunlap Brigadier General of their brigade. Their task was finished after only two battles.

 Gen. Dunlap then went to Nashville looking for funding and authority to take his brigade to aid the Texans in their fight for independence. He boasted that he would raise a force of between two and five thousand men provided he could retain his rank of General, but the subsequent victory at the Battle of San Jacinto in April 1836, made it unnecessary.

 President Jackson officially proclaimed the Cherokee Removal Treaty, also in 1836. Gen. R. G. Dunlap and his troops policed the Cherokees in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia as they were moved west. There was no uprising. When his troops were disbanded in autumn he said that he gave the Indians all the protection in his power, the whites needed none. He added that he would never aid in executing, “at the point of the bayonet, a treaty made by a lean minority against the will and authority of the Cherokee people.”

 Richard moved to Texas in 1837, and after the election of Mirabeau Lamar as President of the Republic of Texas, he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury on 14Dec1838. As such, Richard hand-signed Texas’ currency issues of 1839.

 On 13Mar1839, Gen. Dunlap was sent by Pres. Lamar to Washington D.C. and presented his credentials as Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary on 09May1839. He proposed the idea to Secretary of State Forsyth, that the U.S. might mediate the recognition of the Texas Republic and its eventual borders, with the Mexican government. Forsyth’s answer expressed the cautiousness of the Van Buren administration, but stimulated hopefulness in Dunlap. Mexico, however, was not anxious to recognize what it considered to be a horde of adventurers in rebellion against the laws of the government of Mexico. As a result, Richard’s mission accomplished little. Back in Texas, the Senate refused to confirm his nomination, and he was replaced by Bernard Bee. Richard remained in Washington at his post until Bee arrived, and he eventually took his leave 20Apr1840. Bee had no better luck than Dunlap did.

 On 22May1840, R. G. Dunlap married Mary Louisa Winn, a daughter of Timothy Winn and Rebecca Dulany, of Washington, D.C.

 Mary’s sister, Eliza Rebecca Winn, was married to Richard’s second cousin, Powhatan Ellis of Mississippi, who was Minister to Mexico from the United States.

 Richard G. Dunlap died without issue 22Jun1841. The New Orleans Picayune carried this account:



At the City Hotel yesterday morning at 3 O’clock, of congestive fever, Maj. Richard G. Dunlap, a native of Tennessee, and formerly Minister from Texas to the United States. Aged 45 years. He came to this city almost six days ago, laboring under indisposition from which he never recovered, although the best medical aid and kindest treatment was afforded him.





Kenneth Dunlap  2003