Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page

COMRADE OF WASHINGTON - MAJOR-GENERAL ARTHUR ST.CLAIR, U.S.A. 1736-1818

NOTE - Reference to the entry of General Arthur St.Clair into army life should throw light on his parentage.

Arthur St.Clair, son of William Sinclair, merchant in Thurso, was born there, 22nd March 1736. He studied at the University of Edinburgh in preparation for a professional life, and was indentured to the famous physician William Hunter, of London, but at the age of twenty-one abandoned medicine for an ensigncy in the army, 13th May 1757. Under Amherst at Louisberg his gallantry won him promotion to the rank of lieutenant (17th April 1759), and in the fatal struggle on the Plains of Abraham (1760), seizing the colours that had fallen from the hands of a dying soldier, he bore them until the field was won by the British. Resigning his commission in 1762, in 1764 he settled on a fine landed estate in the Ligonier Valley, where he filled a number of prominent positions, and took an active part in adjusting the boundary disputes between Pennsylvania and Virginia; but as the spirit of resistance towards British aggression gained growth, he in December 1775, resigned his civil offices, took leave of wife, children, and as the event proved, of fortune, repairing to Philadelphia on a summons from President Hancock. In January 1776, he raised a regiment, and in May reached Quebec at a critical time, and covered the retreat of the imperiled army. Through the disastrous days which followed Colonel St.Clair rendered efficient service until the wearied, weakened, plague-stricken and demoralised forces were brought into camp on the banks of Lake Champlain. On the 9th of August 1776, St.Clair was made a Brigadier-General by Congress, and later in the year was ordered to leave the Northern Department and join Washington in the Jerseys. During the trials and hardships of the dark winter which followed, when the genius of Washington shone out so brightly at last, St.Clair was one of the faithful and trusted advisers of the Commander-in-chief. To his counsel are attributed the victories of Trenton and Princeton. It was in recognition of his distinguished services in this campaign that he was commissioned a Major-General in February and assigned once more to command in the North. On the 12th of June 1776, he took command of Ticonderoga, and was subjected to much cruel censure for abandoning that post twenty-four days later, where his works were commanded by guns of an enemy nearly 8000 strong, against less than half that number of his own ill-equipped and worse-armed troops. His skilful retreat and generalship in evacuating preserved his troops to the Republic, resulting in the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga and the triumph of the American cause. He was court-martialled for the evacuation, but unanimously acquitted of all charges and WITH THE HIGHEST HONOUR. Suspended for a time from command, he became a member of Washington's military family. He participated in the battle of Brandywine, shared the sufferings of Valley Forge, was a member of the court-martial which tried Andre, and the closing days of the war found him marching to the support of Greene in South Carolina.

Equally efficient in civil and military life, he was elected President of the last Continental Congress; 1787, and Governor of the North Western Territory, 1787, a post which he held for fourteen years, and under his administrative control the broad foundations of coming States were securely laid and established in the freedom and education guaranteed by the great charter. He was removed in 1802 by President Madison, and returned to Pennsylvania in his old age, to find his fortunes wasted, while the Government which he had served pleaded the statute of limitations to escape reimbursing him for money advanced to prevent Washington's army from melting away. While administering Indian affairs he had become responsible for certain supplies, and this amount was also refused, at first on the ground of informality in his accounts, and when this was rectified the statute was pleaded once more. His property, a valuable one for those times, was finally forced to a sale, and the old soldier and his family were reduced to want. In a log house on a bleak ridge by the side of the old State road from Bedford to Pittsburg, almost in sight of the broad acres which once were his, the closing days of the venerable patriot were ended selling "supplies" to waggoners. One day in August 1818, he was found lying insensible on the road, the wheel of his waggon having come off in a rut, the faithful pony standing near waiting the word of command. He never rallied from the shock, and died on the last day of summer (31st August 1818).

The General was President for Pennsylvania for the Society of the Cincinnati. His portrait is in a public building at Washington, below is an autograph signature graced with a beautiful whipcord flourish. Lake St.Clair and other American places are named in his honour. Numerous letters exist sent to His Excellency from military and diplomatic celebrities, amongst others Washington, La Fayette, Viscount Malartic, Generals Butler, Wayne, Gates, Greene, Knox, Paul Jones, etc. His treaties with the Wyandottes and the Six Nations are very curious documents.

Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page


e-mail to:fnsnclr@btinternet.com