James Craig deserves better. He was a Continental officer who signed on early for the Revolutionary cause and took part in its first major victory. Despite this important service to his country his grave site is now a shambles.
Even before there were any Virginia Continental regiments, Craig signed on to help lead one of the Old Dominion’s independent frontier companies. He was a lieutenant under Capt. William Russell in a company that ranged the southwest Virginia frontier from 1775 to 1776. In 1776 he joined Capt. James Knox in forming a Fincastle County company assigned to the 8th Virginia Regiment. After a year serving in the south, he and Knox were selected to lead a company in Daniel Morgan’s elite rifle battalion. With Morgan and Knox, he played a key role in the defeat of Gen. John Burgoyne at Saratoga—the first major American victory and the event that persuaded the French to openly support the cause.
After the war Craig settled in Kentucky like thousands of other veterans. He was appointed by the Commonwealth to be one of the first justices of Muhlenberg County, when it was created in 1799. The county, of course, was named in honor of Peter Muhlenberg, under whom Craig had served in the war.
Though never famous on the national stage, Craig led a consequential and locally important life. He died in 1816 at the age of 81 after marrying twice and having many children. He is buried in Craig Cemetery in Rosewood, a rural Muhlenberg County community about forty miles west of Bowling Green. According to a Find-a-Grave page maintained by Liz Gossett, Craig’s headstone is in “very bad shape.” The featured image of it appears to be an old one taken from a newspaper. Three pictures of the Cemetery show a progressive decline. The first image, said to be from the late 19th century, shows a tidy, well-kept site. The second, from 2004, shows fallen headstones interspersed with clumps of weeds. A third photo (the first one shown above) shows cattle roaming among the fallen markers, the dirt churned up by their hooves.
Ms. Gossett indicates that the cemetery was maintained by descendant Luther Craig until his death in 1960 and has since been abandoned. Someone—the DAR, the SAR, the property owner, or descendants—should restore this cemetery and see to it that James Craig and those buried around him can rest with the dignity they deserve.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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