Webster, James

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Webster, James

WEBSTER, JAMES. (1743?–1781). British officer. Webster became a lieutenant in the Thirty-third Foot (West Riding) on 10 May 1760 and was promoted to captain in 1763, to major in 1771, and to lieutenant colonel on 9 April 1774. Cornwallis commanded the Third-third from March 1766 until he was promoted to major general in 1775, when Webster took over command as lieutenant colonel, continuing to serve under Cornwallis in the New York and New Jersey campaigns. In the Philadelphia campaign, the Thirty-third was in Grey's brigade of Cornwallis's command. In the Battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, it was Webster who came onto the field in the final stage of the action to make it possible for Clinton to extricate the light infantry.

Webster was promoted to brigadier in 1779. When Clinton withdrew forces from the Hudson Highlands and Rhode Island for Governor Tryon's Connecticut coast raid (July 1779), he left the Thirty-third Foot, Robinson's Loyal American Regiment, and half of Ferguson's corps to hold Fort Lafayette at Verplanck's Point under Webster's command.

Sailing south on 26 December 1779 with Clinton's Charleston expedition, Webster commanded a task force of fourteen hundred men that operated against Lincoln's line of communications from Charleston. Commanding a brigade composed of his own regiment, three light infantry companies, and the Twenty-third Fusiliers, he distinguished himself at Camden, where he was slightly wounded. In the unsuccessful pursuit of Greene to the Dan River, Webster commanded the force that conducted the demonstration against Beattie's Ford when Cornwallis made his main crossing of the Catawba at Cowan's Ford, 1 February 1781. He defied American marksmanship to lead his brigade forward at Wetzell's Mills, North Carolina, on 6 March 1781.

At Guilford on 15 March 1781, Webster particularly distinguished himself from the opening movement of the battle to the end. Mortally wounded in this action, he died a fortnight later.

SEE ALSO Camden Campaign; Charleston Expedition of Clinton in 1780; Cornwallis, Charles; Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina; Marksmanship; Monmouth, New Jersey; Southern Campaigns of Nathanael Greene; Wetzell's Mills, North Carolina.

                           revised by Michael Bellesiles