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James Innes (1754-1798) was the son of the Rev. Robert Innes, an Anglican minister and a graduate of King's College in Aberdeen. Innes grew up on what amounted to a small, isolated farm, the glebe of Drysdale Parish, more than 20 miles southwest of Tappahannock (Hobbes Hole), Virginia. His early education was under a highly educated Scot, Donald Robertson, from 1759 until his father's death in 1765. He then became the ward of his father's executor, the influential lawyer and legislator Edmund Pendleton. In 1770, Innes entered William & Mary. After graduating in 1773, he remained at the school as the head usher of the grammar school. In the spring of 1775 he became a leader of the Williamsburg Volunteer Company, made up partly of students from the college and one of Williamsburg's two militia units. He was appointed a major in a Virginia regiment in the Continental Line, although he remained on duty in Virginia, he joined the Continental Army under General George Washington as a lieutenant colonel. He served in the battle of Trenton and the subsequent campaigns in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, seeing some of the most brutal combat of the war, including the fierce fight against loyalist Virginians at the battle of Brandywine. Innes was back in Virginia on recruiting duty in January 1778, having just left Valley Forge, but never returned to the army. He resigned in June and married Elizabeth Cocke of Williamsburg. Later that year he was appointed Virginia's commissioner of the navy. In 1779 he gave up the navy post to take a seat in the House of Delegates. That summer he was appointed to the Board of War and worked with the Reverend Robert Andrews to devise measures to halt the collapse of the economy. Throughout 1781, from the arrival of Benedict Arnold to the surrender of Cornwallis, Innes was tireless in his command of militia units to defend the Tidewater.

Material in the Special Collections Research Center

"Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, 1693-1888" Published in 1941.

"The College of William & Mary" by Mary Goodwin, 1967. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series -210, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1990,


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This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.