WILLIAM FLEMING was born in Jedburgh, Scotland. He attended private school in Dumfries and studied surgery at the University of Edinburgh. While with the British Navy as a surgeon’s mate, he was taken prisoner by the Spaniards. Upon his release, he emigrated to Virginia, where he entered George Washington’s regiment in August 1755, engaging in border warfare and rising to the rank of captain. He resumed his surgical practice in Staunton but gave up medicine to begin farming at his home, “Belmont.” In 1774 he raised a regiment that he commanded as a colonel. In 1776 he was made Botetourt (now Montgomery) County Lieutenant by the Committee of Safety. He became a senator from the district of Botetourt, Montgomery and Kentucky when the Virginia state government was formed, and later became a member of the council. After Thomas Jefferson’s second year as governor and before Jefferson’s successor—Thomas Nelson—took office, Fleming served as acting governor. During his brief gubernatorial service, he called out the militia to resist Cornwallis’s troops. In 1782 he was appointed chairman of a committee to investigate accounts of commissaries and other agents appointed for the western country in Kentucky. He represented Botetourt County at the state convention of 1788 that ratified the federal constitution. Although he voted under instruction in favor of ratification, on the final roll call he abandoned his position and sustained the qualifying amendments that the convention adopted.
Goodwin, Edmund P. Colonel William Fleming of Botetourt 1728-1795. Roanoke, VA: Progress Press, 1976.
Johnson, Allen and Malone, Dumas, eds. Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. VI. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943.
Library of Virginia, Virginia Governor, Executive Papers (1781: Fleming). Accession 29604. Biographical/Historical Note. State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.
Tyler, Lyon Gardiner, ed. Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Vol II. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1998.
White, Clare. William Fleming, Patriot. Baltimore: Gateway Press, 2001.
Fleming Papers, Washington and Lee University Leyburn Library