Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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POTTER, James, Revolutionary soldier, born in Tyrone, Ireland, in 1729 ; died in Centre county, Pennsylvania, in November. 1789. He came to this country with his father, John Potter, in 1741, and the family settled in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, of which the father became high sheriff in 1750. At the age of twenty-five the son was a lieutenant in the border militia, and in 1755 he was a captain under General Armstrong in the victorious Kittanning campaign, after which Armstrong and Potter were attached friends. In 1763-'4 he served in the militia as major and lieutenant-colonel. He sympathized ardently with the colonies in their contest with the mother country, in 1775 was made a colonel, and in the following year was a member of the Provincial convention, of which Benjamin Franklin was president. In April, 1777, he was made a brigadier-general of Pennsylvania troops, and he remained in almost continuous service until the close of the war. In 1777, with the troops under his command in the counties of Philadelphia, Chester, and Delaware, he obtained important information for Washington, and prevented supplies reaching the enemy. On 11 December, while the army under Washington was on its way to Valley Forge, after part of it had crossed the Schuylkill at Matson's ford, it was found that the enemy under Cornwallis were in force on the other side. "They were met," writes Washington, "by General Potter, with part of the Pennsylvania militia, who behaved with great bravery, and gave them every possible opposition until he was obliged to retreat from their superior numbers." In the spring of 1778 Washington wrote from Valley Forge:" If the state of General Potter's affairs will admit of his returning to the army, I shall be exceedingly glad to see him, as his activity and vigilance have been much wanted during the winter." He was chosen a member of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania in 1780, in 1781 became its vice-president, and in 1782 was a candidate for the presidency against John Dickinson, receiving thirty-two votes to Dickinson's forty-one. He became a member of the council of censors in 1784, and in 1785 one of the commissioners of rivers and streams. He was a farmer, and he left at his death large and valuable landed estates.
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