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John Adair

General John Adair, in honor of whom this county received its name, was born in South Carolina, in the year 1757. His character was formed in the trying times and amidst the thrilling incidents of the Revolution. At an early age, he entered the army as a volunteer, was made prisoner by the British, and as usual, treated with savage cruelty, having been thrown into prison and subjected to every species of insult and hardship that the ingenuity of his captors could devise.

In 1786 he immigrated to Kentucky, and settled in Mercer County. In the border war which raged with so much fury on the north-western frontier, General (then Major) Adair was an active and efficient officer, and frequently engaged with the Indians. One incident of this nature merits a relation. On the sixth of November 1792, Major Adair, at the head of a detachment of mounted volunteers, from Kentucky, while encamped in the immediate vicinity of Fort St. Clair, twenty-six miles south of Greenville, near where Eaton, the county seat of Preble County, Ohio, now stands, was suddenly and violently attacked by a large party of Indians, who rushed on the encampment with great fury. A bloody conflict ensued, during which Major Adair ordered Lieutenant Madison, with a small party to gain the right flank of the enemy, If possible, and at the same time gave an order for Lieutenant Hall to attack their left, but learning that that officer had been slain, the Major with about twenty-five of his men made the attack in person, with a view of sustaining Lieutenant Madison.

The pressure of this movement caused the enemy to retire. They were driven about six hundred yards, through and beyond the American camp, where they made a stand, and again fought desperately. At this juncture about sixty of the Indians made an effort to turn the right flank of the whites. Major Adair foreseeing the consequences of this manoeuvre, found it necessary to order a retreat. That movement was effected with regularity, and as was expected, the Indians pursued them to their camp, where a halt was made, and another severe battle was fought, in which the Indians suffered severely, and were driven from the ground. In this affair six of the whites were killed, five wounded, and four missing. Among the wounded were Lieutenant (afterwards Governor) George Madison, and Colonel Richard Taylor, the father of the president Major General Zachary Taylor, the hero of Palo Alto, Monterey. Buena Vista, &c.

The Indians on this occasion, were commanded by the celebrated Little Turtle. Some years afterwards, in 1805-6, when General Adair was Register of the land offline in Frankfort, Captain William Wells, Indian agent, passed through that place, on his way to Washington city, attended by some Indians, among whom was the chief, Little Turtle. General Adair called on his old antagonist, and in the course of the conversation, the incident above related, being alluded to, Gen. Adair attributed his defeat to his having been taken by surprise. The Little Turtle immediately remarked with great pleasantness, "a good general is never taken by surprise."

In 1807, Major Adair's popularity underwent a temporary obscuration from his supposed connection with the treasonable enterprise of Burr. His conduct and opinions became the subject of much speculation, and the public got to regard him with an eye of some suspicion. But it is now generally believed that General Adair's course in that affair was predicated upon an opinion that Colonel Burr's plans were approved by the government, which at that time contemplated a war with Spain. General Adair's opinions and associations at that day, placed him with the federal party, among whom he stood deservedly high. In the campaign of 1813 he accompanied Governor Shelby into Canada, as an aid, and was present in that capacity at the battle of the Thames. His conduct during this campaign was such as to draw from his superior officers an expression of their approbation, and his name was honorably mentioned in the report to the war department. Governor Shelby afterwards conferred upon him that appointment of adjutant general of the Kentucky troops, with the brevet rank of brigadier general, in which character he commanded the Kentuckians in the glorious battle of New Orleans. The acrimonious controversy between him and General Jackson, growing out of the imputations cast by the latter on the conduct of the Kentucky troops on that eventful day, is fresh in the recollection of all.

In 1820, he was elected governor of Kentucky, in opposition to Judge Logan, Governor Desha, and Colonel Butler. He was often a member of the State Legislature, and on several occasions was speaker of that body. In 1825 he was elected to the senate of the United States, from Kentucky, for the term of one year. In 1831 he was elected to Congress, and served in the House of Representatives from 1831 to 1833, inclusive.

General Adair, in all the situations, military and civil, to which he was elevated by his countrymen, discharged his duties in such a manner as to command the respect and confidence of his fellow citizens. He was a brave soldier, an active, vigilant and efficient officer, a politician of sound principles and enlarged views, and an ardent patriot. Among the early pioneers of Kentucky, he deservedly occupies a prominent place and a high rank. He died on the 19th of May, 1840, at the advanced age of 83 years.

Source: History of Kentucky, Volume II, by Lewis Collins, Published by Collins & Company, Covington, Kentucky, 1874







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