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First Name: Isaac

Last Name: Shelby

Birthplace: Hagerstown, MD, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Continental Army (1775 - 1784)

Date of Birth: 11 December 1750

Date of Death: 18 July 1826

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
Isaac Shelby
'Old King's Mountain'

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)
•  War of 1812


Isaac Shelby
Major General, Revolutionary War

Isaac Shelby was born on 11 December 1750 in Hagerstown, MD.

Shelby's military service began when he served as second-in-command to his father at the Battle of Point Pleasant, the only major battle of Lord Dunmore's War. He gained the reputation of an expert woodsman and surveyor, and spent the early part of the Revolutionary War gathering supplies for the Continental Army. Later in the war, he and John Sevier led expeditions over the Appalachian Mountains against the British forces in North Carolina. He played a pivotal role in the British defeat at the Battle of King's Mountain. For his service, he was presented with a ceremonial sword and a pair of pistols by the North Carolina legislature, and the nickname "Old King's Mountain" followed him the rest of his life.

Following the war, Shelby relocated to Kentucky on lands awarded to him for his military service and became involved in Kentucky's transition from a county of Virginia to an independent state. His heroism made him popular with the citizens of the state, and the state electoral college unanimously elected him governor in 1792. He secured the state from Indian attacks and organized its first government. He leveraged the Citizen Genet affair to convince the Washington administration to make an agreement with the Spanish for free trade on the Mississippi River.

At the end of his gubernatorial term, Shelby retired from public life, but he was called back into politics by the impending War of 1812. Kentuckians urged Shelby to run for governor again and lead them through the anticipated conflict. He was elected easily, and at the request of General William Henry Harrison, commanded the Kentucky Militia in the Battle of the Thames. His action was rewarded with a Congressional Gold Medal. At the conclusion of the war, he declined President James Monroe's offer to become Secretary of War.

In his last act of public service, he and Andrew Jackson acted as Commissioners to negotiate the Jackson Purchase from the Chickasaw Indian tribe. Shelby died at his estate in Lincoln County, KY, on 18 July 1826.


• Shelby's patriotism is believed to have inspired the Kentucky state motto: "United we stand, divided we fall." He was fond of The Liberty Song, a 1768 composition by John Dickinson, which contains the line "They join in hand, brave Americans all, by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall." Though he is sometimes credited with designing the state seal, his public papers show that the design was suggested by James Wilkinson.

• Centre College began awarding the Isaac Shelby Medallion in 1972, and since then, it has become the College's most prestigious honor. Those awarded the Medallion exemplify the ideals of service to Centre and dedication to the public good that were embraced by Shelby during his time at Centre and in Kentucky.

Death and Burial

Major General Isaac Shelby died on 18 July 1826 in Lincoln County, KY. He is buried at Shelby Traveller's Rest Burying-Ground in Stanford, KY.

Honoree ID: 3073   Created by: MHOH




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