JAMES PATTON PRESTON was born in Smithfield, Virginia. He attended the College of William and Mary from 1790 to 1795. He was elected to four one-year terms in the Virginia Senate, after which he served two one-year terms in the House of Delegates. Appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Twelfth U.S. Infantry in 1812, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and assigned to the command of the Twenty-third Regiment of Infantry, suffering severe wounds in battle. He then served again in the House of Delegates until being elected by the state legislature to serve as governor for three one-year terms. During his gubernatorial administration, the federal government paid Virginia more than $1.5 million for expenses incurred in the War of 1812. In addition, the University of Virginia was established near Charlottesville. After leaving office, Preston served as Postmaster of Richmond before retiring to his estate.
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