HAMPTON, WADE. (early 1750s–1835). Planter, politician, soldier. South Carolina. Hampton's birth year and place are unknown, as are his early years. When the Revolution started he was living on the Middle Fork of the Tyger River in South Carolina. In 1776 he was a lieutenant and paymaster of the First South Carolina Regiment and was promoted to captain in 1777. He made a great deal of money selling supplies to the Continental army. On 21 September 1780 he declared himself to be a loyal British subject, but some time prior to 2 April 1781 he renounced this allegiance and joined General Thomas Sumter's partisans. Commissioned colonel, he became one of Sumter's most valuable subordinates, particularly distinguishing himself at Eutaw Springs in 1781.
After the war he held a number of important political posts, and during the periods 1795–1797 and 1803–1805 served in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he devoted himself to gaining compensation for himself and the other investors in the corrupt Yazoo Company. He opposed the federal Constitution and later became a Republican. On 10 October 1808 he was commissioned colonel of Light Dragoons, and on 15 February 1809 he became a brigadier general. In the fall of that year he succeeded James Wilkinson as commander in New Orleans. In 1811 he brutally suppressed a slave rebellion in the city. In 1812 he took command at Norfolk, Virginia; on 2 March 1813 he was promoted to major general; and in July he was made commander of the forces on Lake Champlain. Wilkinson, for whom Hampton had nothing but contempt, soon became Hampton's senior officer in Military District No. 9 and subsequently blamed him for the failure of the campaign against Montreal in the fall of 1813. Hampton resigned on 16 March 1814.
Hampton never failed to enrich himself, becoming by 1820 one of the wealthiest men in South Carolina. He owned thousands of acres and a thousand slaves, whom he notoriously treated with notable cruelty. At his death in Columbia, South Carolina, on 4 February 1835, he was reputed to be the wealthiest planter in America.
SEE ALSO Eutaw Springs, South Carolina.
Cauthen, Charles E., ed. Family Letters of the Three Wade Hamptons, 1782–1901. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953.
Hampton Family Papers. South Caroliniana Library. University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
Quimby, Robert S. The U.S. Army in the War of 1812. 2 vols. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1997.
revised by Michael Bellesiles