Lieutenant-Colonel JAMES WEBSTER,
33rd Regiment


James Webster was the second son of the eminent Edinburgh clergyman Rev. Dr. Alexander Webster (1708-84), Minister of the Tolbooth Kirk, sometime Moderator of the General Assembly and occasional poet, and his wife Mary Erskine of Alva (a second-cousin of John Pitcairn, and aunt of James Boswell). There were several other children, although some died in infancy. That they were numerous is not surprising, given that their father wrote (and had published) poems like this about their mother:

When I see thee, I love thee, but hearing adore,
I wonder, and think you a woman no more;
Till, mad with admiring, I cannot contain,
And, kissing those lips, find you woman again.

(Raunchy stuff that, for a Moderator!) Mrs. Webster died of fever in 1766. Rev. Dr. Webster was a convivial soul, known as 'Bonum Magnum', because of his capacity for claret.
From 1760, when James was commissioned Lieutenant, he served with the 33rd Foot. He obtained his Company in 1763, Majority in 1771, and Lieutenant Colonelcy in 1774. Lord Cornwallis was his Colonel. When at home in Edinburgh, he and his father often dined with cousin James Boswell, who mentions the family in his Journals. James's career in America was extremely distinguished, and he saved the day at Monmouth on 28 June, 1778, being described by Sir Henry Clinton as "that gallant officer". Later he served as acting Brigadier, and was involved in several actions along with Pattie Ferguson, such as Monck's Corner, in the South. He commanded a brigade with great success at Camden. On 15 March 1781, at Guilford Courthouse, he again distinguished himself, but was severely wounded and died 2 weeks later, aged 41, at Elizabethtown, NC.
Cornwallis wrote as follows in condolence to his father:

Wilmington, April 23, 1781.

It gives me great concern to undertake a task which is not only a bitter renewal of my own grief, but must be a violent shock to an affectionate parent.
You have for your support the assistance of religion, good sense, and an experience of the uncertainty of all human enjoyment. You have for your satisfaction, that your son fell nobly in the cause of his country, honoured and lamented by his fellow-soldiers; that he led a life of honour and virtue, which must secure to him everlasting happiness. When the keen sensibility of the passions begins a little to subside, these considerations will afford you real comfort.
That the Almighty may give you fortitude to bear this severest of trials, is the earnest wish of your companion in affliction, and
most faithful servant,

Like Pattie's family, the Webster parents also rest in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh. Old 'Bonum Magnum' outlived his son by less than 3 years, dying in 1784, aged 76.

James's elder brother, Captain John Webster (b. 1738), 4th Foot, also served in America. His wife Charlotte Kerr, whom he had married in Ayr in March 1771, accompanied him there. The couple settled in Ayr after John left the army in 1777, and had two children, Alexander (b. 1778), and Eleonora (b. 1780).

Both Webster brothers were friends (indeed, distant cousins) of the Leslies, and are mentioned in their correspondence. It was to John Webster that General Leslie devolved the sad task of writing to his half-brother Lord Leven with news of Willie's death at Princeton.

Gravesite, Elizabethtown, North Carolina

Don Hagist tells us:

The location of Lieut. Col. James Webster's grave is not known, but there is quite an interesting story concerning him and the grave. I read this in a publication from the 1800s (I think it was in an issue of "The Historical Magazine" from the 1860s or 1870s), but failed to write it down...

It seems that some time in the first half of the 19th Century, some folks located Webster's grave. The exhumed the coffin... The story is that when they removed the lid of the coffin, they were shocked to see the dashing Webster perfectly preserved in his full uniform, as though he had been laid to rest on that very day. They had just time enough to perceive this amazing site, when the body collapsed to dust and bones before their eyes; presumably breaking the seal of the coffin and exposing the body to open air caused the sudden decomposition. Fact or fantasy? I don't know, but the precise location of the gravesite has been lost to history.

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