Veterans of the American Revolution Elected Governor

Historical Marker #1372 in Frankfort notes the Revolutionary War service of the state's early governors.

Although only one formal engagement occurred in what would become Kentucky (the Battle of Blue Licks, August 19, 1782), the Revolutionary War had a significant impact on the state. Formed as a county of Virginia during the war (1776), and with significant ties to several colonies (including Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) it was ensured that Kentucky's future would be intertwined with the conflict that created the new independent nation.

Kentucky was granted statehood less than a decade after the Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution. Surprisingly, only a few of Kentucky's early explorers and settlers became involved in the politics of establishing the new state. However, a number of the individuals who participated in the Revolutionarily War wound up contributing to Kentucky's early political future. In fact, seven of Kentucky's first governors served in the Revolutionary War.

Kentucky's first governor, Isaac Shelby, fought with Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee troops at the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina. That engagement helped turn the tide of the war in the southern theater and eventually led to General George Washington's victory at Yorktown. Shelby later served in the War of 1812 and also became Kentucky's fifth governor.

James Garrard, second governor, served as a colonel in the Virginia Militia before moving to Kentucky in 1783. Christopher Greenup was a lieutenant in the Continental Army in Virginia and then fought as a colonel in that state's militia. He immigrated to Kentucky in 1781.

Charles Scott fought in the French and Indian War and was then commissioned as the lieutenant colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment. In 1777, he was promoted to brigadier general and later served as an intelligence officer for General Washington. Scott was captured at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1780, was paroled in 1781, and was finally exchanged in 1782. He first visited Kentucky in 1785 and moved there in 1787.

George Madison's tenure as governor in 1816 was only a few weeks before he died in office. However, his service as a soldier in the Virginia Militia during the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812 helped him become Kentucky's chief executive. Like Madison, John Adair, Kentucky's eighth governor also fought in both wars with Great Britain. During the Revolutionary War he served with troops from his native South Carolina.

Kentucky's early political leaders serve as a prime example of the influence that the Revolutionary War had on the state. Their service to the colonies helped ensure their success in Kentucky politics. They are remembered to future generations for their contributions and for the counties named for them.