Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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ARMSTRONG, John, soldier, born in the north of Ireland in 1725; died in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 9 March 1795. He served with distinction in the war with France in 1755-'6, commanding an expedition against the Indians at Kittanning, destroying their settlement and taking the stores sent to them by the French. For this service the corporation of Philadelphia gave him a vote of thanks, a medal, and a piece of plate. He was commissioned as a Brigadier-General in the continental army 1 March 1776, served at Fort Moultrie, and commanded the Pennsylvania militia at the battles of Brandywine and German-town, but left the army 4 April 1777, on account of dissatisfaction in regard to rank. He was sent to congress in 1778-'80, and again in 1787-'8, and held many local public offices.*His youngest son, John, soldier, born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 25 November 1758; died in Red Hook, New York, 1 April 1843. I[e served in the war of the revolution, enlisting in 1775 while yet a student at Princeton. Ills first training was in the Potter Pennsylvania regiment, from which he went as aide-de-camp to General Mercer, whom, when fatally wounded, he carried in his arms from the Princeton battlefield. He then became an aide on the staff of General Gates, and served with him through the campaign against Burgoyne, which closed at Saratoga. In 1780 he received the appointment of adjutant-general of the southern army, but, in consequence of illness, retired before the battle of Camden. He afterward resumed his place on General Gates's staff, with the rank of major, which he held until the close of the war. While in camp at Newburg, New York, 10 March 1783, he wrote the first of the two celebrated "Newburg Letters." The communication, which was anonymous, set forth the services and destitution of the soldiers, and called a meeting of the officers of the army for the consideration of measures to redress the army grievances, being intended to arouse congress to a sense of justice to the army then about to be disbanded. Washington, who was in camp at the time, met the inflammatory document by issuing general orders forbidding the meeting, when suddenly the second address appeared. This also was anonymous, but Washington overruled the threatened embarrassment by attending the meeting in person. He shrewdly quieted Gates by making him chairman, and then rallied his faithful brother officers to his support. In calm and dignified tones he answered the argument of the "anonymous addresser," but intimated that he "was an insidious foe, some emissary perhaps from New York, sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent." At the time of making this address Washington did not know the anonymous author, but a private letter afterward written by him expressed his confidence in the good motives that had dictated the letters, "though the means suggested were certainly liable to much misunderstanding and abuse." The "addresses" were pointed and vigorous, written in pure English, and for the purpose for which they were designed*a direct appeal to feeling *they showed the hand of a master. After the war, Major Armstrong was made secretary of state, and also adjutant-general of Pennsylvania, under Dickenson and Franklin. In 1787 he was sent as member to the old congress, and was also appointed one of the judges for the western territory, but the latter honor was declined, as well as all other public offices, for a period of about eleven years. In 1789 he married a sister of Chancellor Livingston, and, purchasing a farm in New York, devoted himself to agriculture. He was a United States senator in 1800-'2, and again in 1803-'4. In 1804-'10 he was minister to France, and filled the position with distinguished ability, also acting after 1806 as minister to Spain. The commission of Brigadier-General was conferred on him 6 July 1812, and he was assigned to the district including the city and harbor of New York. In 1813-'14 he was secretary of war, and effected many salutary changes in the army. But his lack of success in the operations against Canada, and the sack of Washington City by the British in August 1814, rendered him unpopular. He was censured, and obliged to resign in September 1814. In his subsequent retirement at Red Hook, New York, he prepared and published the following works: "Notices of the War of 1812" (New York, 1836; new ed., 1840); "Memoirs of Generals Montgomery and Wayne"; "Treatise on Agriculture" ; "Treatise on Gardening" ; and a "Review of General Wilkinson's Memoirs." He also partially prepared a "Notices of the American Revolution," and several biographical notices.*His son, Henry B., soldier, born in New York City, 9 May 1791 ; died in Red Hook, Dutchess County, New York, 10 November 1884. His early years were spent in France, where his father was American minister to the court of the first Napoleon, and his education was received at a French military school, where he went bare-headed for years, hats of all kinds being considered effeminate. Before leaving France, in 1811, young Armstrong frequently saw Napoleon and many of his marshals. At the beginning of the second war with Great Britain in 1812, he entered the army as captain in the 13th infantry, and served throughout the war with great gallantry and distinction. He was severely wounded at the assault upon Queenstown heights, 13 October 1812, and shared in the capture of Fort George, 27 May 1813, the battle of Stony Creek, 5 June 1813, and the sortie from Fort Erie, 15 August 1814. On the return of peace in 1815 he retired from the army with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st regiment of rifles. For nearly seventy years Colonel Armstrong lived the life of a country gentleman on his estate on the banks of the Hudson. His mind was richly stored with reminiscences of the many eminent persons whom he had met during his long life.
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