north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Marker Text:

Essay:
     James Innes, friend of Gov. Gabriel Johnston and associate of Granville agent Francis Corbin, never sought for himself high political office or undue personal gain but, through skill and experience, became the colony’s preeminent military leader of the mid-1700s. Born in northern Scotland around 1700, Innes immigrated to North Carolina in 1733, about the same time as Johnston. Soon thereafter, he gained appointment as justice of the New Hanover Precinct.

     Events suggest that he came to America with military experience. In 1740 he played a role in the ill-fated expedition to Cartagena, part of the larger Anglo-Spanish conflict known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739-1744). Four companies left from North Carolina, three raised in the Albemarle region and one raised by Innes in the Cape Fear, for the Spanish fortress on the coast of Colombia. Of Innes’s 100 men, only twenty-five returned, many lost to disease and others sacrificed in the assault. In 1748 Spaniards attacked the lower Cape Fear and Innes, as colonel of the New Hanover militia, assisted in repelling them. In 1754 Innes was chosen to lead an expedition to the Ohio country to fight the French and their Indian allies. For six months he was commander-in-chief of the colonial forces in Virginia fighting in what is now known as the French and Indian War or Seven Years’ War (1754-1763). As others moved west, Innes remained behind, in charge of Fort Cumberland (in Maryland) through 1756.

     For almost ten years, beginning in 1750, Innes served on the Councils of Governor Johnston and his successor Arthur Dobbs. Also on the Council was Francis Corbin with whom Innes served from 1751 to 1754 as a Granville agent. Innes’s plantation, known as "Point Pleasant," was north of Wilmington in a sharp bend of the Northeast River. Two years after his death on September 5, 1759, his widow Jean married Corbin. By provision of his will, written in Virginia in 1754, Innes devised that proceeds from the sale of his estate be set aside “for the Use as a Free School for the benefite of the Youth of North Carolina.” Consequently, a generation later, in 1783, the legislature established Innes Academy in Wilmington on the site now occupied by Thalian Hall.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 251-253 – sketch by Claiborne T. Smith Jr.
Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, II, 194-197 – sketch by Samuel A. Ashe
James Sprunt, Chronicles of the Cape Fear River, 1660-1916 (1916) Alfred M. Waddell, History of New Hanover County, 1725-1800 (1909)
(Janet Schaw), Journal of a Lady of Quality (1921)
National Geographic (April 1989) (on Cartagena)
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