General John Sullivan


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General John SullivanSullivan, JOHN, military officer; born in Berwick, Me., February 17, 1740; was a lawyer, an earnest patriot, and a member of the first Continental Congress. In December, 1774, he, with John Langdon, led a force against Fort William and Mary, near Portsmouth, and took from it 100 barrels of gunpowder, fifteen cannon, small-arms, and stores. In June, 1775, he was appointed one of the brigadier - generals of the Continental army, and commanded on Winter Hill in the siege of Boston. After the evacuation in March, 1776, he was sent with troops to reinforce the army in Canada, of which he took command on the death of General Thomas, June 2, 1776, and soon afterwards exhibited great skill in effecting a retreat from that province. On the arrival of Gates to succeed Sullivan, the latter joined the army under George Washington at New York, and at the battle of Long Island, in August, he was made prisoner. He was soon exchanged for General Prescott, and, joining Washington in Westchester county, accompanied him in his retreat across New Jersey. On the capture of Lee, he took command of the troops under that officer, and performed good service at Trenton and Princeton. In August, 1777, he made an unsuccessful attack on the British on Staten Island, and then joining Washington, commanded the right wing in the battle of Brandywine. He skillfully led in the battle of Germantown, and would have driven the British from Rhode Island, or captured them, in August, 1778, had not D'Estaing failed to cooperate with him. After a sharp battle, he withdrew with slight loss. The atrocities of the Indians (especially the Senecas, the most westerly of the Six Nations) in the Wyoming Valley, and their continual raids upon the frontier settlements in New York, caused a retaliatory expedition to be made into their country in the summer of 1779. It was led by General Sullivan, who was instructed to "chastise and humble the Six Nations." He collected troops in the Wyoming Valley, and marched (July 31), up the Susquehanna with about 3,000 soldiers. At Tioga Point he met (August 22) General James Clinton, who had come from the Mohawk Valley with about 1,600 men to join him. On the 29th they fell upon some Tories and Indians who were pretty strongly fortified at Chemung (now Elmira), and dispersed them. Before they could rally, Sullivan had pushed onward to the Genesee River, when he began the work of destruction. In the course of three weeks he destroyed forty Indian villages and a vast amount of food growing in fields and gardens. In fields and granaries 160,000 bushels of corn were wasted by fire. The Senecas had planted orchards in the rich openings in the forest. These were destroyed. A vast number of the finest apple and pear trees, the product of many years of growth, fell before the axe; hundreds of gardens abounding with edible vegetables were desolated; the inhabitants were hunted like wild beasts; their altars were overturned and their graves trampled on by strangers; and a beautiful, well-watered country, teeming with a prosperous people and just rising from a wild state by the aid of cultivation, was cast back a century in the course of a few weeks. This dreadful scourging awed the Indians for the moment, but it did not crush them. In the reaction they had greater strength, and by it the fires of deeper hatred of the white people were kindled far and wide among the tribes upon the borders of the Great Lakes and in the valley of the Ohio. After this campaign Sullivan resigned his commission on account of his shattered health, and received the thanks of Congress. He took a seat in Congress late in 1780, and aided in suppressing the mutiny in the Pennsylvania line. From 1782 to 1786 he was attorney-general of New Hampshire, and from 1786 to 1789 was president of that commonwealth. He was active in other public employments, and saved the State from great confusion by his prudence and intrepidity when discontented persons were stirring up the spirit of insurrection. From 1789 until his death he was United States judge of New Hampshire. He died in Durham, N. H., January 23, 1795.

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