Francis Otway Byrd Sacrifices Comfort For Country
Francis Otway Byrd gave up a comfortable life to serve as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental Army.
Byrd would go on to hold several minor positions in Virginia before becoming Customs Collector of the Port of Norfolk.
Francis Otway Byrd
By any reasonable expectation, Francis Otway Byrd should have been a British Loyalist.
Byrd’s grandfather, though born in Virginia, spent thirty-five years living in England as part of the King’s Council. This means he was a lawyer who worked directly for the King. For his services, Francis’ grandfather was awarded almost two hundred thousand acres of land in Virginia.
As a young man, Francis was placed in the Royal Navy by his father. As long as he stayed in the Royal Navy until his mother’s death, Byrd would inherit a princely sum.
But Francis Otway Byrd was an American.
Despite the financial risk, Francis disobeyed his Loyalist father by leaving the Royal Navy and joining the Continental Army.
This move proved fortuitous, as Byrd’s father was a gambler who spent away the family fortune. In fact his father, William Byrd III would kill himself less than two years later.
Aide de Camp
Just 19 and without any source of income, Francis went to the Third Virginia Convention (Virginia’s Revolutionary Government) and offered his services to the Continental Army.
Understanding of his predicament, the Virginia Convention recommended Byrd to George Washington who just recently took command of the Continental Army outside of Boston.
Upon arriving in Boston, Washington placed Byrd under Major General Charles Lee as an aide de camp. Byrd served bravely under Lee, most notably during the first Siege of Charleston.
Eventually Francis was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and led the 3rd Continental Dragoons.
After three years of war, Francis Otway Byrd resigned his commission. He was needed back home to help his stepmother who was recovering from the debts she was left with after his father’s suicide.
Byrd was elected Sheriff of Charles City County, Virginia which he held for almost two decades. He also spent several years as Clerk of the Court for the same county.
During the Whiskey Rebellion, Byrd served as Quartermaster General for the Virginia Militia. He supplied the Virginia troops on their journey to Pittsburgh as well as assisting Maryland’s soldiers in the same manor.
By 1797, Francis was appointed as Customs Collector of the Port of Norfolk by President John Adams. In this position he was responsible for reviewing all ships which came in the harbor and collecting necessary tariffs.
Byrd passed away just three years into his service as Port Collector at the young age of 44.
Since Francis Otway Byrd is a Founder who is very hard to find information on (trust me on this one) I have attached a book here about his grandfather William Byrd II. Pick up the ‘Commonplace Book’ through the affiliate link below.
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