William “Fighting Billy” Tipton

William “Fighting Billy” Tipton, (1761-1849)

Note: Below is copied from an online history forum, historum.com with references:
2 Gr Grandpa William ‘Fighting Billy’ Tipton Posted June 16th, 2012 at 04:05 PM by Baltis
Updated June 16th, 2012 at 06:49 PM by Baltis.

In his later years, William ‘Fighting Billy’ Tipton (aka Revolutionary Billy) talked to himself while walking about the plantation. “Well Old Fox, one arm crippled, one leg crippled, shot in the ribs, you have about as much chance of making a living as a cat without claws getting out of hell.” In spite of his comment on making a living, Fighting Billy did quite well residing in Cades Cove, TN. Billy was a prominent citizen and substantial property owner until his death in 1849. Interesting that, even with all the passing years, he still summarized himself by reference to service in the American Revolution.

The Tipton family were among the early Scottish settlers in the Shenandoah Valley. John Tipton (later known as Col. Tipton) married Mary Butler on Cedar Creek, Shenandoah, Virginia in the year 1751. Four years later, Indians forced the settlers back into Maryland to wait out the French and Indian War. They returned only to get attacked by Indians again in 1760 resulting in the death of William’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Butler. Mary Butler was pregnant during this turmoil and Fighting Billy was born early in the following year.

When Billy was 15 his mother, Mary Butler Tipton, died on June 8, 1776, during the birth of son Jonathan Tipton. He was her 9th son.

On July 22, 1777, Billy’s father married Martha Denton Moore. She was a widow of James Moore. Her father was Abraham Denton. With this marriage, John became a stepfather to at least 4 stepchildren and possibly 9 stepchildren.

Growing up in the Valley of Virginia in the decade before the revolution undoubtedly had a huge impact on young Billy. His Great Grandfather immigrated from Scotland to Barbados as an indentured servant as punishment for serving against Cromwell at Dunbar in 1650 so there was little love for England in the family traditions. Billy’s father, John, was a captain in Dunmore’s War. Also active in colony politics, he served as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in June 1776 where he signed the Virginia Declaration of Rights written by George Mason. Billy’s Uncle Jonathan moved south down the Shenandoah with John Sevier as an original land grantee of the Watauga 1775 purchase from the Cherokee. With all this going on about teenage William Tipton, little surprise he developed a strong desire to join the revolution. Promptly upon attaining the ripe old age of 17, ‘Fighting Billy’ Tipton joined the company of the First Virginia under Captain Wales Parker. The regimental commander was Colonel Richard Parker.

In late summer 1777, four hundred Mingo, Wyandotte, and other tribes of the Ohio region laid siege to Wheeling which set all of western Virginia at immediate risk. The siege failed and events tried returning to normal but Cornstalk was murdered in November reigniting the tensions. Billy Tipton’s regiment was raised in March 1778 in response to fears the Indians would return to revenge the killing. A total of just under 1000 men enlisted for a ‘longer time than can be expected or required of militia’.

The First Virginia remained in the Parkersburg area patrolling the frontier until May 1779 when they marched to South Carolina and then to Augusta, Georgia a couple of months later. An army was gathering to prevent the southern colonies from falling under British control. Count d’Estaing arrived in September with four thousand five hundred French soldiers. They were joined by some 2800 Patriot militia gathered from the various southern states. The combined army settled into a siege of the British army at Savannah.

After several weeks D’Estaing was convinced the siege had failed. The Count’s siege tactics gained no significant advantage against the British and he could not continue to keep his fleet idle and exposed. He felt “New entrenchments rise while the old are neither abandoned nor taken. This strange siege is a Penelope’s web.” Before giving up and admitting the campaign a failure, D’Estang decided on a direct assault against the British defenses. The main thrust would go directly against the Spring Hill Redoubt on the north side of Savannah.

French columns began the assault early on the morning of October 9, 1779. Spring Hill’s steep and sandy sides proved difficult to climb. Particularly so in the face of constant musket and small artillery fire. Even though the British reported the defense at something less than 500 men most of whom were not regulars, wave after wave of the assault failed. By late afternoon the bottom and sides of Spring Hill were littered with dead and wounded soldiers. The carnage made climbing even more difficult. The French eventually gave way only to be followed into the fray by some Continentals and the First Virginia.

Standing in a ditch at the bottom of Spring Hill, the Americans were unable to advance into the enemy fire. French officer Meyronnet de Saint‐Marc wrote the Continentals “showed greatest courage, remaining at the foot of the ditch exposed to the enemy’s fire without wavering until they received the order of Monsieur le Comte d’Estaing to retire,”. Unfortunately, he described the actions of the First Virginia less enthusiastically. “At the first discharge of a gun, two‐thirds of the Virginia militia detach themselves.” Historian Alexander A. Lawrence defended the Virginians by noting that, with 9 dead and 51 wounded, they suffered the heaviest casualties of any Patriot unit. One of the wounded was ‘Fighting’ Billy Tipton. He took a ball through the shoulder, one to the ribs, and a third shot in the right hip.

Unable to take the redoubt and dying where they stood, the Americans retreated from the ditch and ended the fighting. They left Billy and the other wounded for dead overnight on the battlefield hoping for a truce. The French requested an immediate cease‐fire to remove the dead and wounded but this was refused. Both French and American commanders tried the next morning and received a six-hour window to recover the fallen bodies of their men.

Rescued from the battlefield, the French took Billy aboard one of their ships and transported him to the hospital in Charleston for recovery. Billy remained there until late December at which time he returned to his regiment now back in Augusta. In February the First Virginia moved to Charleston to help defend the city against Clinton’s invasion force. Against Billy’s wishes, Captain Parker discharged him for disability and sent Billy home to Shenandoah County, Virginia. The discharge came at just the right time as the siege in Charleston ended with disaster for the Patriots to include the surrender of the First Virginia. Most of Billy’s friends died of disease and starvation on British prison ships.

After the war, Billy’s family followed his Uncle Jonathan to the Watauga Settlement of Eastern Tennessee. At that time the area was governed as part of North Carolina. Billy’s wounds healed and he married his step‐sister, Phoebe Moore. Billy remained somewhat handicapped although fathered a dozen children and ran a large plantation. Reported as large and handsome, Billy was also somewhat obnoxious and combative. Known to drink on occasion, he might ride a horse right into the store and demand the clerk deliver his goods without the need to dismount.

Billy was good friends with Andrew Jackson and enjoyed horse racing. One of several family stories regarding their relationship has Billy bragging around that he could beat Jackson’s best racehorse with an ordinary plow horse. Jackson took the challenge and traveled to Cades Cove. Now, Billy, had his slaves keep a watchful eye out for Jackson’s approach. As they reported back, Billy hustled his own best racer out to the field and hitched him to a plow. When Jackson arrived his animal was tired from the trip and the Tipton horsewhipped him soundly. Apparently, there were no hard feelings as the two remained friends throughout their lives.

Well Old Fox, one arm crippled, one leg crippled, shot in the ribs, you have about as much chance of making a living as a cat without claws getting out of hell.

In spite of his disabilities, Billy continued to serve in the militia as needed. During the battle for the State of Franklin, he assisted his father against forces led by John Sevier. As representatives of North Carolina, they brought Sevier’s movement for statehood to an unsuccessful end. Even as he turned 50 Billy continued his long tradition of military service by accompanying Andrew Jackson during the Creek Indian War. Billy fought at Pensacola, Talladega, Cnicchopco, Emucfaw, and Horseshoe Bend. Once again in 1815 ‘Fighting’ Billy accepted the call to service and traveled with his friend Andrew Jackson to New Orleans and the repulse of the British invasion. On that occasion, Jackson remarked that with ‘one company of Tiptons he could lick the entire British Army.

Billy Tipton lived to the ripe old age of 89 and was buried at Tipton’s Station.

Find A Grave memorial

Transcription of William “Fightin’ Billy” Tipton’s Will

In the name of God. Amen. I William Tipton of the County of Blount in the state of Tennessee being weak in body but of sound mind and disposing memory and mind and understanding considering the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time thereof and being desirous to settle my worldly affairs and therefore make and publish this my last will and testament (to wit). First and principally I commit my soul into the hands of the almighty God and my body to the earth to be buried in a Christian manner at the discretion of my Executive and after my debts and funeral charges are paid. I devise and bequeath as follows:

Item 1:

I give and devise unto Samuel Tipton, son of Isaac Tipton, JWH Tipton son of Jonathan Tipton deceased, and Isaac Tipton son of Jacob Tipton certain tract or parcel of land containing 1255 acres known as the ironworks tract in Cades Cove and county of Blount.

Item 2:

I give and devise if not disposed of prior to my death twenty acres of land lying on adjoining the lands of John Singleton deceased and James Freeman deceased to Isaac Tipton son of Jacob Tipton and also 7 1/2 acres of land known as Scotts Island to said, Isaac Tipton.

Item 3:

I will the tract of land in Cades Cove containing 500 acres known as the Potato Branch tract be sold by my executors to the best advantage the proceeds of which tract to be appropriated as hereinafter named.

Item 4:

I will that the tract of land known as the Rich Gap survey to be sold by my Executors to the will and the proceeds appropriated as hereinafter named.

Item 5:

I give and devise to my grandson Samuel Tipton son of Isaac Tipton, a negro man named Joe now my property for life.

Item 6:

I give and devise unto my daughter Martha ____ and her heirs a negro woman named Mint to have and hold as her and their property for life.

Item 7:

I will that all my farm stock and farming implements and all my household and kitchen furniture be sold by my Executors herein named and the proceeds thereof to be appropriated as hereinafter named.

Item 8:

I will that in addition to the negro man Joe, Samuel Tipton to have one hundred dollars jointly with Isaac Tipton son of Jacob Tipton for the purpose of erecting a neat monument over the grave of myself my wife my son Jonathan and his wife, and William Tipton son of Jacob Tipton.

Item 9:

I will that after my debts are paid out of the proceeds of the estate the amount that may remain if any be appropriated as follows namely. The proceeds of several tracts of land ____ named not otherwise devised and bequeathed with all the proceeds arising from the sale of my personal estate be equally to and between Ann Stephens widow of John Stephens, Calvin Stephens, Abraham Tipton son of Isaac, William Tipton son of Jonathan Tipton and Samuel Tipton son of Isaac Tipton and lastly do hereby constitute and appoint Isaac Hart and Samuel Tipton as Executors.

Tipton Place


Photographer: Allan Carrano

The Tipton Place homestead was initially settled by Revolutionary War Veteran William “Fighting Billy” Tipton in the 1820s. He was able to procure the land under the Tennessee Land Grant program.

The two-story cabin that remains on the property was initially constructed by Fighting Billy’s relative and Civil War Veteran Colonel Hamp Tipton. He built the large cabin in the early 1870s.

The homestead was complete with a large, two-story cabin, double-pen corn crib, old-fashioned bee gums, a blacksmith shop, and a cantilever barn.

Photographer: Billy Hathorn

The cantilever barn was built in 1968 and is a replica of the original. This type of barn, which was common in the 1800s, allowed a wagon to pull through and unload hay or feed for the livestock. In addition, the two-pen design with the large, overhanging eaves provided protection for animals and equipment.

In addition to the land this homestead is on, Fighting Billy was able to secure multiple other land grants and was a dominant land speculator in Cades Cove. After taking ownership of the land, he then convinced friends and acquaintances to purchase the land from him at a handsome profit.



Relationship: great-great-great-grandfather

William Henry Tipton


George Washington Tipton


George Washington Tipton


Martin William Tipto


Jonathon R Tipton


William “Fighting Billy” Tipton

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