The Clopton Chronicles

A Project of the Clopton Family Genealogical Society




An Army of Skeletons





Private David Clopton



By Carole Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., [email protected] [1]



Dark Prospects


An Army of skeletons appeared

before our eyes, naked,

starved, sick, discouraged.



Eighteen year old Private David Clopton[2] left the comfort of his New Kent County, Virginia home and soon found himself embroiled in a trial, not by fire, but by bitter cold and inadequate rations, for which he received 6 2/3 dollars a month for pay and subsistence..  The Continental Army commanded by General George Washington[3][ first arrived at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on December 19, 1777. They stayed there until June 19 1778. Men from each colony were at Valley Forge, and there were regiments from 11 of the 13 colonies. There soldiers lost their lives fighting the elements rather than the enemy.  Gouverneur Morris[4] said of a visit to Valley Forge that "An Army of skeletons appeared before our eyes, naked, starved, sick, discouraged."  Seldom, if ever, had or would the prospects for America gaining its independence seem darker.

The series of events that led to the American Army spending the Winter at Valley Forge began in August 1777 when British forces under Sir William Howe[5] landed at the upper end of Chesapeake Bay. Howe's goal was to take Philadelphia, at that time the American capital. Philadelphia was taken after the Americans were defeated at Brandywine Creek and Germantown. General Washington chose Valley Forge, which was located 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, because it was defensible and put his troops in position to protect Congress, which had fled to York, Pennsylvania. Many of his  men died of cold and starvation. Never were more than half of them fit for active service.

Valley Forge was named for an iron furnace on Valley Creek and was easily defensible as a result of  the barriers formed by Mount Joy, Mount Misery, and the Schuylkill River. Locating there also kept British raiding and forging parties out of central Pennsylvania. Within days of arriving at Valley Forge the snow was six inches deep. The men's first job was to build huts. The next was to build fortifications. The huts were 14 by 16 feet on a side and housed and average of 12 men. Approximately 2,000 men were felled by such diseases as typhus, typhoid, dysentery, and pneumonia. The encampment was designed by the Marquis de Lafayette.[6] Another Frenchman present at Valley Forge was Baron deKalb.




In April General Washington said that "To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie upon, without shoes...without a house or hut to cover them until those could be built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience which, in my opinion, can scarcely be paralleled."


The Marquis de Lafayette noted "The patient endurance of both soldiers and officers was a miracle which each moment served to renew."

In his diary, Surgeon Albigence Waldo[7] wrote "With what cheerfulness he meets his foes and encounters every hardship -- if barefoot -- he labours through the mud and cold with a song in his mouth extolling war and Washington -- if his food be bad--he eats it notwithstanding with seeming content, blesses God for a good stomach, and whistles it into indigestion."

A Prussian drillmaster, Baron Friedrich von Steuben,[8] tirelessly drilled the Americans, building the men's confidence in the process. Making life better for the men was the fact that some women came with their husbands, and they cooked, washed clothes, cleaned the huts, and nursed the sick. A few of the soldiers were black and Indians. They ranged in age from 11 to 60.


The troops at Valley Forge largely subsisted on dried meat, salted meat, apples, pears, beans, peas, and corn. They entertained themselves with games of bowls played with cannon balls, cricket, and the ancestor of baseball, which was called base.



Long Live the King of France


It becomes us to set apart a day

for gratefully acknowledging the Divine goodness,

and celebrating the important event

which we owe to His Divine interposition.



Things looked up when more troops and an increased amount of supplies began arriving. Then in the Spring the men learned that France had decided to come to the American's aid. The Army paraded on May 6, 1778 to celebrate the alliance with France. The day's activities organized by von Steuben included booming cannons and a running fire of muskets that passed up and down the double ranks of infantrymen.



General Washington's Order for the Celebration of the French Alliance


"It having pleased the Almighty Ruler of the universe to defend the course of the United States, and finally raise up a powerful friend among the princes of the earth, to establish our Liberty and Independence upon a lasting foundation, it becomes us to set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the Divine goodness, and celebrating the important event which we owe to His Divine interposition. The several brigades are to assemble for this purpose at nine o'clock tomorrow morning, when their chaplains will communicate the information contained in the postscript of the Pennsylvania Gazette of the 2nd instant, and offer up a thanksgiving and deliver a discourse suitable to the event. At half past ten o'clock a cannon will be fired which is to be a signal for the men to be under arms. The Brigade Inspectors will then inspect their dress and arms, and form the battalions according to the instructions given them, and announce to the commanding officers of the brigade that the battalions are formed. The commanders of brigades will then appoint the field officers to the battalions, after which each battalion will be ordered to load and ground their arms. At half past seven o'clock a second cannon will be fired as a signal for the march; upon which the several brigades will begin their march by wheeling to the right by platoons, and proceed by the nearest way to the left of their ground by the new position. This will be pointed out by the Brigade Inspectors. A third signal will then be given, on which there will be a discharge of thirteen cannon; after which a running fire of the infantry will begin on the left of the second line and continue to the right. Upon a signal given, the whole army will huzza, 'Long Live the King of France.' The artillery then begins again and fires thirteen rounds; this will be succeeded by a second general discharge of musketry, in running fire, and a huzza, 'Long Live the Friendly European Powers.' The last discharge of thirteen pieces of artillery will be given, followed by a general running and huzza, 'The American States.'"




        1.  David19 Clopton, Sr., of St. Peter's Parish  (Waldegrave18, William17, William16, William15, Walter14, William13, Richard12, William11, John10, William9, Thomas8, Walter7, William6, Walter5, William4, Walter3, William2, Guillaume1 Peche, Lord Of Cloptunna and Dalham)1,2 was born 1760 in New Kent County, Virginia, and died Bef. July 3, 1823 in probably Henrico County, Virginia3.  He married Mary Ann Vanderwall December 29, 1783 in Henrico County, Virginia4, daughter of Nathaniel Vanderwall and Ann Gunn.  She was born Abt. 1760.

        His Revolutionary War Records show that David Clopton served as a private in the 6th Virginia Regiment, commanded by Colonel John Gibson.  He enlisted February 13, 1778 to serve one year, and his name appears on the rolls for the period from April, 1778, to September, 1778.  His name again appears on the pay rolls for the period from October 1778 to February 1779 when he is reported as discharged February 17, 1779.  He served as a private in Captain Benjamin Taliaferro’s Company, 2nd Virginia Regiment, commanded by Colonel Christian Febiger.  There is a typed message in his file dated October 6, 1915 to a Mr. David Clopton, % Army Medical Museum, 7th & B Streets, S.W., Washington, D.C. outlining Private David Clopton’s service.  Serving in the Virginia Militia were David’s brothers, Thomas and Waldegrave.  Waldegrave managed to get himself into hot water several times and wound up arrested, tried and convicted for disobeying orders.  See “Trials and Tribulations.”


Children of David Clopton and Mary Vanderwall are:

        2                 i.    Nathaniel Vanderwall20 Clopton, M.D.5, born May 2, 1786 in New Kent County, Virginia6; died October 6, 1855 in "Grassdale," Fauquier County, Virginia of gout at the age of 707.  He married Sarah Susan Grant Skinker, of "Spring Farm"8 October 17, 1821 in "Spring Farm", Fauquier County, Virginia9; born May 7, 1798 in "Spring Farm", Fauquier County, Virginia10; died January 30, 1881 in "Grassdale," Fauquier County, Virginia.

                                                Nathaniel Vanderwall Clopton loved nothing better than a fine horse and a good joke.  In fact, he pretty much dedicated his life to the pursuit of both.  He was a hard working man, a successful Fauquier County, Virginia, physician.  A veteran of the War of 1812, his reputation as a jokester was known far and wide, and it became something of a challenge to see who could pull a fast one on the good doctor and turn the tables on him.  See Fun and Games in Old Fauquier

        3                ii.    Alford Clopton, MD, C.S.A.11, born January 25, 1787 in Henrico County, Virginia12; died December 1870 in Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama and buried Tuskegee Cemetery, Macon County13.  He married Sarah "Sallie" Kendrick14 June 25, 1812 in Monticello, Jasper County, Georgia15; born December 13, 1794 in Washington County, Georgia16; died September 15, 1851 in Tuskegee, Macon County,  Alabama and buried Tuskegee Cemetery.

        4               iii.    Ann Gunn Clopton, of "Clopton House"17, born April 9, 1789 in New Kent County, Virginia; died May 16, 1869 in "Woodside," Chesterfield, Virginia.  She married Robert Mosby Pulliam, of "Clopton House" December 30, 1813 in Henrico County, Virginia18; born August 14, 1786; died July 3, 1843 in "Clopton House," Manchester, Virginia.

        5               iv.    John K. Clopton, of New Kent County, Virginia, born 1790 in New Kent County, Virginia; died Bef. July 182319.

        6                v.    David Clopton, Jr., of New Kent County, Virginia20, born 1797 in New Kent County, Virginia; died in Paulding County, possibly, Georgia21.

While much has been made of the sacrifices and hardships of white women in protecting the plantations, far too little attention has been paid to the sometimes courageous roles played by loyal slaves who risked life and limb for their masters.  Several letters written by David Clopton to a friend brilliantly illustrates a complex and trusting relationship between himself and a slave named Edy.  As Sherman's troops pushed into Georgia, David, entrusting his plantation to his loyal slave, Edy, went into hiding.  With the Yankees breathing down her neck and her master gone, Edy displayed remarkable calm and forethought as she went about attempting to hide valuables.  See The Degrees of Providence

        7               vi.    Sarah E. Clopton, of New Kent County, Virginia22, born Abt. 1800 in New Kent County, Virginia.  She married Edward Curd, M.D. June 9, 1819 in Henrico County, Virginia by the Rev. John D. Blair23.

        8              vii.    Albert Gallatin Clopton, Esq.24, born 1802 in New Kent or Henrico County, Virginia; died September 24, 1830 in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia25.

In 1824 Albert formed a law partnership with Charles J. McDonald, Esquire,  who would later become the Governor of Georgia.  At the time of his death, he was the law partner of Robert Sampson Lanier, Esquire.  One of Mr. Lanier's sons, Sidney Clopton Lanier, the beloved Georgia Poet, was born in 1842 and possibly named in honor of Albert.  Another son, Clifford Lanier, would marry in 1868,  Wilhelmina Clopton, the daughter of The Honorable David Clopton and his first wife, Martha Ligon.

Albert was one of the founders of Christ Church, in Macon, Georgia, a fact that is noted on this historical marker in front of the church which is located at 538 Walnut Street.  Christ Church was the first congregation in Macon.  The first organ was brought to Macon, a tracker organ, and installed in Christ Church in 1834.  Its use produced a sensation in religious communities throughout Macon and Middle Georgia.  The present church building was consecrated on Sunday, May 2, 1852.  Although Albert was not to live to see this lovely structure, he would most certainly applaud the words of Bishop Elliott, who commented:  "This very chaste and capacious church, having nearly doubled the seating of the former church, reflects great credit on the congregation who have built it entirely out of their own resources."






1.  The Clopton Family Archives contains a copy of an indenture (GS Film 7566 pt. 21 (031811) Book 41, page 319) dated August 29, 1838 between Nathaniel G. Clopton and Sarah S. G. Clopton, his wife, of the County of Fauquier in the State of Virginia, and Allford Clopton of the County of Putnam, State of Georgia.  Refers to the deceased Albert G. Clopton who had sold "Allford" lands derived from his father, David Clopton, deceased.  Refers to David Clopton's will dividing certain land among his "five children,"  "Nathaniel, Allford, David, Albert and Sarah now Sarah Curd.

2.  "New Kent Military Classes in 1782", Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Volume X, p. 184, He is in Class Number 22.

3.  Henrico County Will Book,  (Courtesy of Bert Hampton Blanton, Jr.), GS7565 Pt. 3 (031984).

4.  Lindsay, Marriages of Henrico County, Virginia 1680-1808,  (Courtesy of Leonard Alton Wood).

5.  Named in his father's will.

6.  Skinker, Samuel Skinker and His Descendants,  (Courtesy of Annie Chilton (Ott) Wood), p. 66, States he was "born near Richmond."

7.  Fauquier County Virginia Death Records,  (Located Fauquier County Courthouse, Warrenton, Virginia.  Abstracts and microfilm located Fauquier County Library, Warrenton.  Courtesy of Bert Hampton Blanton, Jr.), Page 19, Line 16, States he was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, which is incorrect.  He is a farmer and the husband of Sally Clopton.  His death was reported by his son, N.A. Clopton.

8.  GS Film 031828 (7566 pt. 38) Book 75, p. 349, The Clopton Family Archives contains a copy of this deed dated November 27, 1860 between S.S.G. Clopton (a widow), Wm. N. Bispham and Mary Ann [Clopton], his wife; J. S. Clopton and his wife and N. A. Clopton, the widow and heirs of N. V. Clopton of the first part and Henry D Taylor of the second.  Refers to land in the division of the estate of David Clopton.  It is signed, Sarah S. G. Clopton, W N Bispham, Mary Ann Bispham, J. S. Clopton, Susan G. Clopton, and N. A. Clopton.

9.  Fauquier County, Virginia, Marriage Book,  (Courtesy of Bert Hampton Blanton, Jr.), Date of bon was October 15, 1821; bondsman named William.

10.  Skinker, Samuel Skinker and His Descendants,  (Courtesy of Annie Chilton (Ott) Wood), p. 66.

11.  He is named in his father's will.

12.  Marianne Clopton & Andrew Reid Holy Bible,  (Courtesy Eatonton-Putnam County Historical Society).

13.  Two Alford Cloptons are listed in the Georgia Tax Digests for the year 1815, page 50 and 51, paying tax on two properties in the John H. "Brodnax" District.  An Alford was granted 202 1/2, acres, 2,970 feet square,  in Monroe County, Georgia, Lot 15, Section 2, in the Forth Georgia Land Lottery of 1821.  It is believed this refers to two different Alfords.  At the time of the drawing, about September 1821, an Alford was living in Putnam County, Leggetts Military District.  An indenture dated August 29, 1838, GS Film 7566 pt. 21 (031811) Book 41, page 319, between Nathaniel G. Clopton and Sarah S. G. Clopton, his wife, of the County of Fauquier in the State of Virginia, and "Allford" Clopton of the County of Putnam, State of Georgia.  (Copy located Clopton Family Archives).  An Alford Clopton is listed as living in Putnam County in the 1820 and 1830 Georgia Census.

14.  Milledgeville, Georgia, Georgia Journal,  (Courtesy of Leia Katherine Eubanks), Wednesday, November 30, 1814 Issue, A notice appeared in this issue stating that on the first Tuesday in March 1815, will be sold at the Courthouse at Dublin,  Laurens County, Georgia, 475 acres of swamp land of the first quality, lying on the Oconee River in Laurens and belonging to the estate of Martin Kendrick, deceased, and signed by Alford Clopton, Administrator, and Jane Kendrick, Administrator.  She is named Sarah Clopton, in her mother's will which was probated August 1, 1830.

15.  Marriage license, Putnam County, Georgia

16.  Washington County, Georgia, 1794 Census.

17.  The Clopton Family Archives contains a copy of a codicil (GS 7565 Pt. 3 (031984) dated July 3, 1823, which refers to "my old friend and neighbor," Mosby Pulliam and his son Samuel T. Pulliam, his daughter Ann G. Pulliam and Robert Pulliam, her husband.  Mentions but does not name her children.  Codicil appoints son, Nathaniel Clopton, and Hugh Davis as Executors.

18.  Virginia Marriage Index, 1740-1850, courtesy of Leonard Alton Wood

19.  He is not mentioned in his father's will.

20.  He is named in his father's will.  Special thanks to Carole Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., who provided the information regarding David Clopton and his possible connection with Georgia.  She cites as her sources "Mary Talley Anderson, "The History of Villa Rica (City of Gold,)" Villa Rica, Georgia Bicentennial Committee, 1976; S. P. Jones "Gold Deposits of Georgia," 1909 Geological Survey of Georgia.; and, Mary Bondurant Warren, "Alphabetical Index to Georgia's 1832 Gold Lottery," Heritage Papers, Danielsville, Georgia, 1981.

21.  Although no David Clopton was listed as living in Carroll County (Georgia) in the Census, a David Clopton, 53, who was born in Virginia, appears in the  1840 and as David C., in the 1850 census of Paulding County, Georgia.

22.  She is named in her father's will.

23.  Richmond (Virginia) Compiler (In some years called Richmond Courier & Compiler),  (Microfilm located Virginia State Library and Archives.  Courtesy of Suellen (Clopton) DeLoach Blanton), June 15, 1819, States she is the daughter of David Clopton, Sr., of Henrico.  Edward Curd is identified as a doctor.

24.  He is named in his father's will.

25.  Richmond (Virginia) Compiler (In some years called Richmond Courier & Compiler),  (Microfilm located Virginia State Library and Archives.  Courtesy of Suellen (Clopton) DeLoach Blanton), October 12, 1830, p. 3, States he was a native of Henrico County, Virginia and died in Macon, Georgia at the age of 32.





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[1]An Army of Skeletons, is an excerpt from The Clopton Chronicles, the Ancestors and Descendants of Sir Thomas Clopton, Knight & Dame Katherine Mylde, and is the property of the Clopton Family Genealogical Society which holds the copyright on this material.  Permission is granted to quote or reprint articles for noncommercial use provided credit is given to the CFGS and to the author.  Prior written permission must be obtained from the Society for commercial use.

Carole Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D. is a Founding Member of The Clopton Family Genealogical Society & Clopton Family Archives and serves on the Society’s Board of Directors.  David Clopton is her g-g-g-g-grandfather.

The Society wishes to thank Christina L. Gerwitz, Archival Technician, Archives of the United States of America; Edward P. Hamilton, Director, Fort Ticonderoga, New York; Ronald W. McGranaham, of The American Revolution Homepage; and, Leonard Alton Wood.  Map courtesy of the Valley Forge National Historical Park and the National Park Service.

Also thanks to Clopton descendant Annie Chilton (Ott) Wood.

[2] David Clopton, Sr., of St. Peter’s Parish, the son of Waldegrave Clopton and his wife, Unity Alford.  An abbreviated genealogy follows.  A copy of his Revolutionary War records may be found at the Clopton Family Archives, courtesy of Suellen (Clopton) DeLoach Blanton.  For a complete genealogy of this Clopton line, see  William Clopton of St. Paul’s Parish & His Wife Joyce Wilkinson of Black Creek.

[3] George Washington became the first President of the United States April 30, 1789 and served until March 3, 1797.  Born February 22, 1732 at Pope’s Creek, Westmoreland County, Virginia, in 1759 he married Martha (Dandridge) Custis, a neighbor of the New Kent County, Virginia Cloptons.  She worshipped with the Cloptons at St. Peter’s Parish Church, and numerous Dandridge graves may be seen near those of William Clopton and his wife, Ann Booth.

[4] Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816), was numbered among the youngest and most brilliant members of the Continental Congress.  He signed the Articles of Confederation and drafted instructions for Benjamin Franklin in Paris as well as those that provided a partial basis for the treaty ending the Revolutionary War.  A native of New York, he married a Virginian, Anne Cary, the widow of Thomas Mann Randolph, II, of Tuckahoe.

[5] Sir William Howe (1729-1814) opposed British coercion of North America, but he obeyed King George III’s orders and went to Boston in time to command the British troops at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775.  Sir William was an excellent tactician but was somewhat lacking in strategic sense.  His great fault was his failure to follow up his successes.

[6] Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), hailed as a hero in two worlds, he was prominent in both the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

[7] His account of the horrendous conditions were carefully preserved in his diary.  Himself desperately sick, he recounted the desperation of the starving soldiers sustained by “fire cake and water” and the seeds of “pessimmens.”

[8] Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben (1730-1794) he was considered a superb drillmaster.  Although the Americans were excellent individual fighters, their ignorance of the most elementary principles of drill or maneuvering often put them at a fatal disadvantage against their well-trained enemy.  Von Steuben would change all that.