Washington and His Generals - Vol. 1

By Joel Tyler Headley | Go to book overview
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THE unhappy history of Arthur St. Clair is familiar in its more prominent features. It is known that he was brave, patriotic, and esteemed by the greatest of men; that in the game of' war he was a loser, and that he suffered that loss of consideration which is usually incurred by misfortune. But with the details of his life no one has made us acquainted. We glean with difficulty the few particulars that are accessible, from the narrative of his last disastrous campaign, and from contemporaneous memoirs and correspondence.

He was born in Edinburgh in the autumn of 1734, of a respectable but not opulent family; and after graduating at the university of his native city, studied medicine. The inactive and monotonous life of a physician, however, did not suit his ardent temperament, and obtaining a lieutenant's commission, through some influential relation, he entered the army, and in 1755 arrived with Admiral Boscawen in Canada, where he served several years with distinguished credit, and was present with General Wolfe, in September, 1759, in the battle on the plains of Abraham, in which that heroic commander purchased victory and conquest with his life. He was now made a captain, and after the peace of 1763 was appointed to the command of Fort Ligonier, in western Pennsylvania.

It is not known how long St. Clair retained his commission in the British army; but his correspondence with Governor Penn shows that he purchased a tract of land, entered upon the business of farming, and turned his mathematical knowledge to advantage as a surveyor, sometime before the close of 1773, when he was an active and prominent magistrate in Westmoreland county. He


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Washington and His Generals - Vol. 1


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