Arthur St. Clair

 

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General Arthur St. ClairSt. Clair, ARTHUR, military officer; born in Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, in 1734; was a grandson of the Earl of Roslyn, and was educated at the University of Edinburgh. He studied medicine under the celebrated Hunter, of London, but inheriting a large sum of money from his mother, he purchased an ensign's commission in a regiment of foot (May 13, 1757) and came in Boscawen's fleet to America in 1758. He was with Amherst at the capture of Louisburg, and, promoted to lieutenant in April, 1759, distinguished himself, under Wolfe, at Quebec. In May, 1760, he married, at Boston, a half-sister of Governor Bowdoin; resigned his commission in 1762, and in 1764 settled in Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania, where he established mills and built a fine dwelling-house. Having held, by appointment, several civil offices of trust, he became a colonel of militia in 1775, and in the fall of that year accompanied Pennsylvania commissioners to treat with the Western Indians at Fort Pitt. As colonel of the 2d Pennsylvania Regiment, he was ordered to Canada in February, 1776, and in the early summer aided Sullivan in saving his army from capture. In August he was made a brigadier-general, and joined George Washington in November. St. Clair was actively engaged in New Jersey until April, 1777, when he took command of Ticonderoga, which he was compelled to evacuate (July 4-5), by the presence of Burgoyne in overwhelming force. After that he was a member of Washington's military family, acting as his aide at the battle near the Brandywine. He was with Sullivan in the Seneca country in 1779. St. Clair commanded the light infantry in the absence of Lafayette, and was a member of the court that condemned Major Andre. He was in command at West Point from October 1, 1780, and aided in suppressing the mutiny of the Pennsylvania line in January, 1781. Joining Washington in October, he participated in the capture of Cornwallis, and afterwards led a body of troops to join Greene in South Carolina, driving the British from Wilmington on the way. He was afterwards a delegate in Congress; president of that body (February to November, 1787); appointed governor of the Northwestern Territory (February, 1788); fixed the seat of government at Cincinnati, and, in honor of the Cincinnati Society, gave the place that name.

Made commander-in-chief of the army (March 4, 1791), he moved against the Indians on the Wabash, while so lame from gout that he was carried on a litter. The Indians, encouraged by the defeat of Harmar (October, 1790), had spread terror over the frontier settlements in the Northwestern Territory. In May, 1791, General Charles Scott, of Kentucky, led 800 men, and penetrated to the Wabash country, almost to the present site of Lafayette, Ind., and destroyed several Indian villages. At the beginning of August General Wilkinson, with more than 500 men, pushed into the same region to Tippecanoe and the surrounding prairies, destroyed some villages of Kickapoos, and made his way to the Falls of the Ohio, opposite Louisville. These forays caused the Indians to fight more desperately for their country. Congress then prepared to plant forts in the Northwestern Territory, and in September there were 2,000 troops at Fort Washington. under the immediate command of General Richard Butler. With General St. Clair as chief, these troops marched northward. They built Fort Hamilton, on the Miami River, 20 miles from Fort Washington, and garrisoned it. Forty-two miles farther on they built Fort Jefferson, and, when moving from that post, late in October, there were evidences that Indian scouts were hovering on their flanks. The invaders halted and encamped on a tributary of the Wabash, in Darke county, O., 100 miles north from Fort Washington (now Cincinnati). There the wearied soldiers slept (Nov. 3), without suspicion of danger near. During the night the sentinels gave warning of prowling Indians, and early the next morning, while the army were preparing for break-fast, they were furiously attacked by the barbarians. The slaughter among the troops was dreadful. General Butler was killed, and most of the other officers were slain or wounded. The army fled in con-fusion, and it was with great difficulty that St. Clair escaped on a pack-horse, after having three horses killed under him. Among the fugitives were 100 women, wives of soldiers, most of whom escaped. St. Clair lost nearly half of his army—over 800 men killed and wounded. The remainder returned to Fort Washington.

Blamed severely, a committee of Congress vindicated St. Clair; but he resigned his commission, March 5, 1792, and in November, 1802, Jefferson removed him from the governorship in the Northwest. He was then broken in health, spirits, and fortune, and, retiring to a log-house on the summit of Chestnut Ridge, among the Alleghany Mountains, he there passed the remainder of his days in poverty, while he had unsettled righteous claims against the government. Five years before his death the legislature of Pennsylvania granted him an annuity of $400, and, a short time before his death, a pension from the government of $60 a month was awarded him. He published a narrative of his unfortunate campaign against the Indians. He died in Greensburg, Pa., August 31, 1818.

 

 

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