Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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ST. CLAIR, Arthur, soldier, born
in Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, in 1734; died in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 31
August, 1818. He was the grandson of the Earl of Roslyn, was educated at the
University of Edinburgh, and studied medicine under Dr. John Hunter. Inheriting
a fortune from his mother, he purchased a commission as ensign in the 60th foot
on 13 May, 1757, and came to this country with Admiral Edward Boscawen's fleet.
He served under Gen Jeffrey Amherst at the capture of Louisburg, 26 July, 1758,
and under Gen. James Wolfe at Quebec, 30 September, 1758. On16 April, 1762, he
resigned the commission of lieutenant, which he had received on 17 April, 1759,
and in 1764 he settled in Ligonier valley, Pennsylvania, where he purchased
land, and erected mills and a residence.
In 1770 he was made surveyor of the district of Cumberland, and he
subsequently became a justice of the court, of quarter sessions and of common
pleas, a member of the proprietary council, a justice, recorder, and clerk of
the orphans' court, and prothonotary of Bedford and Westmoreland counties. In
July, 1775, he was made colonel of militia, and in the autumn he accompanied as
secretary the commissioners that were appointed to treat with the western tribes
at Fort Pitt. On 3 January, 1776, he became colonel of the 2d Pennsylvania regiment,
and, being ordered to Canada, he joined General John Sullivan after the
disastrous affair at Three Rivers, and aided that officer by his counsel, saving
the army from capture, fie was appointed brigadier-general on 9 August, 1776,
having resigned his civil offices in the previous January. Joining General
Washington in November, 1776, he was appointed to organize the New Jersey
militia, and participated in the battles of Trenton and Princeton. On the latter
occasion he rendered valuable service by protecting the fords of the Assanpink.
He was appointed major-general on 19 February, 1777, and, after serving as
adjutant-general of the army, succeeded Gem Horatio Gates in command at
Ticonderoga. The works there and at Mount Independence on the opposite shore of
Lake Champlain were garrisoned by less than 2,000 men, poorly armed, and nearly
destitute of stores. The approach of a force of more than 7,000 men under
General John Burgoyne warned General St. Clair to prepare for an attack. His
force was too small to cover all exposed points, and, as he had not discovered
Burgoyne's designs, he neglected to fortify Sugar Loaf mountain over which the
British approached. St. Clair and his officers held a council of war, and
decided to evacuate the fort. The blaze of a house that had been set on fire
contrary to orders discovered their movements, and immediately the British
started in pursuit. St. Clair fled through the woods, leaving a part of his
force at Hubbardton, which was attacked and defeated by General Fraser on 7
July, 1777, after a well-contested battle. On 12 July, St. Clair reached Fort
Edward with the remnant of his men. "The evacuation," wrote
Washington, when the news reached him, " is an event of chagrin and
surprise not apprehended, nor within the compass of my reasoning. This stroke is
severe indeed, and has distressed us much."
General St. Clair remained with his army, and was with Washington at
Brandywine, 11 September, 1777, acting as voluntary aide. A court-martial was
held in 1778, and he was acquitted, "with the highest honor, of the
charges against him," which verdict was approved by congress. He
assisted General John Sullivan in preparing his expedition against the Six
Nations, was a commissioner to arrange a cartel with the British at Amboy, 9
March, 1780, and was appointed to command the corps of light infantry in the
absence of Lafayette, but did not serve, owing to the return of General George
Clinton. He was a member of the court-martial that condemned Major Andre,
commanded at West Point in October, 1780, and aided in suppressing the mutiny in
the Pennsylvania line in January, 1781. St. Clair He was active in
raising troops and forwarding them to the south, and in October joined
Washington at Yorktown a few days before the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. In
November he was placed in command of a body of troops to join General Nathanael
Greene, and remained m the south until October, 1782.
He was a member of the Pennsylvania council of censors in 1783, a delegate to
the Continental congress from 2 November, 1785, till 28 November, 1787, and its
president in 1787, and a member of the American philosophical society. On the
formation of the Northwestern territory in 1789 General St. Clair was appointed
its governor, holding this office until 1802. The last words of Washington on
his departure were : "Beware of a surprise."
He made a treaty with the Indians at Fort Harmar in 1789, and in 1790 he
fixed the seat of justice of the territory at Cincinnati, Ohio, which he named
in honor of the Society of the Cincinnati, of which he was president for
Pennsylvania in 1783-'9. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the army that
was operating against the Indians on 4 March, 1791, and moved toward the savages
on Miami and Wabash rivers, suffering so severely from gout that he was carried
on a litter. He was surprised near the Miami villages on 4 November, and his
force was defeated by a horde of Indians led by Blue Jacket, Little Turtle, and
Simon Girty, the renegade.
Washington refused a court of inquiry, and St. Clair resigned his general's
commission on 5 March, 1792, but congress appointed a committee of
investigation, which exonerated him. On 22 November, 1802, he was removed from
his governorship by Thomas Jefferson. Retiring to a small log-house on the
summit of Chestnut ridge, he spent the rest of his life in poverty, vainly
endeavoring to effect a settlement of his claims against the government. The
legislature of Pennsylvania granted him an annuity of $8400 in 1813, and shortly
before his death he received from congress $2,000 in discharge of his claims,
and a pension of $60 a month.
He published "A Narrative of the Manner in which the Campaign against
the Indians in the Year 1791 was conducted under the Command of Major-General
St. Clair, with his Observations on the Statements of the Secretary of War"
(Philadelphia, 1812). See "The Life and Public Services of Arthur St.
Clair," with his correspondence and other papers, arranged by William
H. Smith (Cincinnati, 1882).
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