Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography

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Selected biographies

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/1

John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones ((1747-07-06)July 6, 1747 – July 18, 1792(1792-07-18) (aged 45)) was America's first well-known naval hero in the American Revolutionary War. He was born John Paul in 1747, on the estate of Arbigland in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright on the southern coast of Scotland. John Paul's father was a gardener at Arbigland, and his mother was a member of Clan MacDuff. John Paul adopted the alias John Jones when he fled to his brother's home in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1773 to avoid the hangman's noose in Tobago after an incident when he was accused of murdering a sailor under his command, whom he claimed had been involved in a mutiny. He began using the name John Paul Jones at the suggestion of his brother.

Although he never rose above the rank of captain in the Continental Navy after his victory over the Serapis with the frigate Bonhomme Richard, he is the first genuine American Naval hero, and he has been highly regarded as a battle commander. His later service in the Russian Navy as an admiral showed the mark of genius that enabled him to defeat the Serapis. Although he was originally buried in Paris, after spending his last years abroad, he was ultimately reinterred at the United States Naval Academy, a fitting homecoming for the "Father of the American Navy".

During his engagement with Serapis, Jones uttered, according to the later recollection of his First Lieutenant, the legendary reply to a quip about surrender from the British captain: "I have not yet begun to fight!"

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/2

A 1792 portrait of La Fayette by Joseph Désiré Court
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de la Fayette (or Lafayette) (September 6, 1757 – May 20, 1834) was a French military officer and former aristocrat who participated in both the American and French revolutions. Even though he was already adopted by George Washington, he was twice granted Honorary Citizenship of the United States, first in 1824 (along with his descendants in perpetuity), and again, posthumously in 2002; one of only six specific persons so honored.

Lafayette served in the American Revolutionary War both as a general and as a diplomat, serving entirely without pay in both roles. Later, he was to prove a key figure in the early phases of the French Revolution, serving in the Estates General and the subsequent National Constituent Assembly. He was a leading figure among the Feuillants, who tried to turn France into a constitutional limited-monarchy, and commander of the French National Guard. Accused by Jean-Paul Marat of responsibility for the "Champ de Mars massacre" (before which, Lafayette was nearly assassinated), he subsequently was forced out of a leading role in the Revolution by Jacobin-Terror anarchists. On August 19, 1792, the Jacobin Club seized control of Paris and the National Assembly, ordering Lafayette's arrest. He fled France and was arrested by the Austrian army in Rochefort, Belgium. Thereafter, he spent five years in various Prussian and Austrian Empire prisons. He was released in 1797; however, Napoleon Bonaparte would not allow his return to France for several years. He continued to be active in French and European politics until his death in 1834.

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/3

Unfinished portrait of Daniel Boone by Chester Harding 1820.jpg
Daniel Boone (November 2 [O.S. October 22] 1734 – September 26 1820) was an American pioneer and hunter whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now the U.S. state of Kentucky, which was then beyond the western borders of the Thirteen Colonies. Despite resistance from American Indians, for whom Kentucky was a traditional hunting ground, in 1775 Boone blazed the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky. There he founded Boonesborough, one of the first English-speaking settlements beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 people entered Kentucky by following the route marked by Boone.

Boone was a militia officer during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), which in Kentucky was fought primarily between settlers and British-allied American Indians. Boone was captured by Shawnees in 1778 and adopted into the tribe, but he escaped and continued to help defend the Kentucky settlements. He was elected to the first of his three terms in the Virginia General Assembly during the war, and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782, one of the last battles of the American Revolution. Boone worked as a surveyor and merchant after the war, but he went deep into debt as a Kentucky land speculator. Frustrated with legal problems resulting from his land claims, in 1799 Boone resettled in Missouri, where he spent his final years.

Boone remains an iconic, if imperfectly remembered, figure in American history. He was a legend in his own lifetime, especially after an account of his adventures was published in 1784, making him famous in America and Europe. After his death, he was frequently the subject of tall tales and works of fiction. His adventures—real and legendary—were influential in creating the archetypal Western hero of American folklore. In American popular culture, he is remembered as one of the foremost early frontiersmen, even though the mythology often overshadows the historical details of his life.

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/4

Charles Scott.jpg
Charles Scott (1739 – October 22, 1813) was an American soldier and politician who served as Governor of Kentucky from 1808 to 1812. Orphaned at an early age, Scott participated in the French and Indian War, serving under Edward Braddock and George Washington. He again served under Washington during the Revolutionary War, weathering the winter at Valley Forge and serving as Washington's chief of intelligence during later campaigns.

Following the revolution, Scott moved to Kentucky where he participated in a number of skirmishes with the Indians, including the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers. He parlayed his military success into political gain, serving as a presidential elector in 1793, 1801, and 1809, and serving as Kentucky's fourth governor from 1808 to 1812. His most significant achievement as governor was preparing the state militia to participate in the War of 1812, including the elevation of William Henry Harrison to command the militia. During his first year in office, Scott was injured in a fall and left on crutches for the remainder of his life; consequently, he relied heavily on Jesse Bledsoe, his secretary of state, to perform the routine duties of the office.

Scott retired to "Canewood," his home in Clark County, following his term as governor. He died there on October 22, 1813, and was buried in a family plot before being re-interred at Frankfort in 1854. Counties in Kentucky and Indiana are named for him, as is Scottsville, Virginia.

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/5

Portrait of George Washington-transparent.png
George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was the first President of the United States, (1789–1797), after leading the Continental Army to victory over the Kingdom of Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

Washington was chosen to be the commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, but was defeated when he lost New York City later that year. He revived the patriot cause, however, by crossing the Delaware River in New Jersey and defeating the surprised enemy units. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies — Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, Washington retired to his plantation on Mount Vernon.

Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government's executive department. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington's farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against involvement in foreign wars.

Washington is seen as a symbol of the United States and republicanism in practice. His devotion to civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians. Washington died in 1799, and in his funeral oration, Henry Lee said that of all Americans, he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/6

Lord Cornwallis.jpg
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquis Cornwallis (31 December 1738 – 5 October 1805) was a British military commander and colonial governor. In the United States, he is best remembered as one of the leading British generals in the American Revolutionary War. Born into an aristocratic family with a history of public service, he first saw military action in the Seven Years' War. He was politically opposed to the American Revolutionary War, but agreed to serve when it became clear that Britain would require a significant military presence in the Thirteen Colonies. First arriving in May 1776, he participated in the Battle of Sullivan's Island, before joining the main army under General William Howe. He played a notable role in the partially-successful New York and New Jersey campaign when George Washington successfully eluded him after the Battle of the Assunpink Creek and inflicted a decisive defeat on troops left at his rear in the Battle of Princeton.

Cornwallis was also involved in the Philadelphia campaign (1777–1778), leading a wing of Howe's army, before he became one of the leading figures of the British "southern strategy" to gain control of the southern colonies. In that role he successfully led troops that gained a measure of control and influence in South Carolina before heading into North Carolina. There, despite successes like his victory at the Battle of Camden, which burnished his reputation, wings of his army were decisively defeated at Kings Mountain and Cowpens. After a Pyrrhic victory at Greensboro, North Carolina, Cornwallis moved his battered army to Wilmington to rest and resupply.

From Wilmington, Cornwallis, in a move that became a subject of contemporary and historical debate, led his army into Virginia, where he joined with other British troops that had been raiding economic and military targets in that colony. Ineffectually opposed by a smaller Continental Army under the Marquis de Lafayette, he was eventually ordered to establish a well-defended port by General Henry Clinton. Poor communications in the British establishment and French naval superiority over the Chesapeake Bay led him to become entrapped at Yorktown without the possibility of reinforcement; he surrendered after three weeks of siege, on October 17, 1781. He was released on parole, and returned to England in December of that year. He and his superior in New York, General Henry Clinton, engaged in a highly public exchange after the 1781 campaign in which each sought to deflect blame for its failure.

Following his North American service, Cornwallis was posted to India in 1786, where, as governor-general and commander in chief, he reformed the British East India Company operations, promulgated civil, criminal, and judicial reforms, and introduced land taxation reforms known as the Permanent Settlement that had long-term ramifications. After guiding British forces to victory in the Third Anglo-Mysore War, he returned to England. In 1798 he was posted to Ireland, where he oversaw the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, promoted the union of the British and Irish crowns, and argued for Catholic emancipation. In 1805 he was again posted to India, where he died a few months after his arrival.

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/7

Chappel Montgomery full length.jpg
Richard Montgomery (December 2, 1738 – December 31, 1775) was an Irish-born soldier who first served in the British Army. He later became a brigadier-general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and he is most famous for leading the 1775 invasion of Canada.

Montgomery was born and raised in Ireland. In 1754, he enrolled at Trinity College, Dublin, and two years later joined the British army to fight in the French and Indian War. He steadily rose through the ranks, serving in North America and then the Caribbean. After the war he was stationed at Fort Detroit during Pontiac's Rebellion, following which he returned to Britain for health reasons. In 1773, Montgomery returned to the Thirteen Colonies, married Janet Livingston, and began farming.

When the American Revolutionary War broke out, Montgomery took up the Patriot cause, and was elected to the New York Provincial Congress in May 1775. In June 1775, he was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the Continental Army. After Philip Schuyler became too ill to lead the invasion of Canada, Montgomery took over. He captured Fort St. Johns and then Montreal in November 1775, and then advanced to Quebec City where he joined another force under the command of Benedict Arnold. On December 31, he led an attack on the city, but was killed during the battle. His body was found by the British, who gave it an honorable burial. His remains were moved to New York City in 1818.

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/8

Benedict arnold illustration.jpg
Benedict Arnold V (January 14, 1741 [O.S. January 3, 1740] – June 14, 1801) was a general during the American Revolutionary War who first fought for the American Continental Army but switched sides to the British Empire in 1780. He distinguished himself early in the war through acts of cunning and bravery. His many successful actions included the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, successful defensive and delaying tactics while losing the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in 1776, the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut (after which he was promoted to Major General), and the pivotal Battles of Saratoga in 1777, in which he suffered leg injuries that effectively ended his combat career for several years.

In spite of his success, Arnold was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress while other general officers took credit for his many accomplishments. Charges of corruption were brought by political adversaries, and Congress investigated his accounts, finding he owed it money after he had spent much of his own money on the war effort. Frustrated, bitter, and strongly opposed to the new American alliance with France, Arnold decided to change sides in 1779. In July 1780, he sought and obtained command of West Point in order to surrender it to the British. Arnold's scheme was exposed when American forces captured British Major John André carrying papers that revealed the plot. Upon learning of André's capture, Benedict Arnold escaped down the Hudson River to the British sloop-of-war Vulture, narrowly avoiding capture by the forces of General Washington, who was arriving the same day to inspect West Point and to meet and dine with Arnold.

Arnold received a commission as a brigadier general in the British Army, and led British forces at Blanford, Virginia, and Groton, Connecticut, before the war effectively came to an end with the Siege of Yorktown. In the winter of 1782, Arnold moved to London with his second wife, Margaret "Peggy" Shippen Arnold. He was well received by King George III and the Tories but frowned upon by the Whigs. In 1787, he entered into mercantile business with his sons Richard and Henry in Saint John, New Brunswick, but returned to London to settle permanently in 1791, where he died ten years later.

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Portrait attributed to Andrea Soldi, painted circa 1762–1765
General Sir Henry Clinton KB (16 April 1730 – 23 December 1795) was a British army officer and politician, best known for his service as a general during the American War of Independence, during most of which he was the British Commander-in-Chief in North America. In addition to his military service, due to the influence of the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, he was a Member of Parliament and the Governor of Gibraltar.

He came from a noble family that could trace its lineage to 1066 and had a long history of service to the Crown. The son of George Clinton, an admiral of the fleet, Sir Henry Clinton had two sons who continued the family tradition of high command: General Sir William Henry Clinton (1769–1846), and Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton (1771–1829).

Portal:American Revolutionary War/Selected biography/10

Statue of Allen by Larkin Goldsmith Mead
Ethan Allen (January 21, 1738 [O.S. January 10, 1737] – February 12, 1789) was a farmer, businessman, land speculator, philosopher, writer, and American Revolutionary War patriot, hero, and politician. He is best known as one of the founders of the U. S. state of Vermont, and for the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga early in the American Revolutionary War.

Born in rural Connecticut, Allen had a frontier upbringing but also received an education that included some philosophical teachings. In the late 1760s he became interested in the New Hampshire Grants, buying land there and becoming embroiled in the legal disputes surrounding the territory. Legal setbacks led to the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, who Allen led in a campaign of intimidation and property destruction to drive New York settlers from the Grants. When the American Revolutionary War broke out, Allen and the Boys seized the initiative and captured Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775. In September 1775 Allen led a failed attempt on Montreal that resulted in his capture by British authorities. First imprisoned aboard Royal Navy ships, he was paroled in New York City, and finally released in a prisoner exchange in 1778. He returned to the now-independent Vermont Republic, where he continued to be politically active. In addition to continuing resistance to New York's attempts to assert control over the territory, Allen was active in efforts by Vermont's leadership for recognition by Congress, and he participated in controversial negotiations with the British over the possibility of Vermont becoming a separate British province.

Allen wrote accounts of his exploits in the war that were widely read in the 19th century, as well as philosophical treatises and documents relating to the politics of Vermont's formation. His business dealings included successful farming operations, one of Connecticut's early iron works, and land speculation in the Vermont territory. Land purchased by Allen and his brothers included tracts of land that eventually became Burlington, Vermont.

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Molly Brant's home, Johnson Hall
Molly Brant (c.1736 – April 16, 1796), also known as Mary Brant, Konwatsi'tsiaienni, and Degonwadonti, was a prominent Mohawk woman in the era of the American Revolution. Living in the Province of New York, she was the consort of Sir William Johnson, the influential British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, with whom she had eight children. Joseph Brant, who became an important Mohawk leader, was her younger brother.

After Johnson's death in 1774, Brant and her children returned to her native village of Canajoharie on the Mohawk River. A Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War, she fled to British Canada, where she worked as an intermediary between British officials and the Iroquois. After the war, she settled in what is now Kingston, Ontario. In recognition of her service to the Crown, the British government gave Brant a pension and compensated her for her wartime losses.

Since 1994, Brant has been honored as a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada. She was long ignored or disparaged by historians of the United States, but scholarly interest in her increased in the late 20th century. She has sometimes been controversial, criticized for being pro-British at the expense of the Iroquois. A devout Anglican, she is commemorated on April 16 in the calendar of the Anglican Church of Canada. No portraits of her are known to exist; an idealized likeness is featured on a statue in Kingston and on a Canadian stamp issued in 1986.

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General Griffith Rutherford's grave marker
Griffith Rutherford (c. 1721 – 10 August 1805) was an officer in the American Revolutionary War, a political leader in North Carolina, and an important figure in the early history of Tennessee. Originally from Ireland, Rutherford immigrated to Philadelphia at the age of 18 with his parents, both of whom died during the voyage. After working on a relative's farm for a period of time, he moved to Rowan County, North Carolina in 1753, where he married Elizabeth Graham. An active member of his community, Rutherford served in multiple municipal occupations such as the local sheriff and tax collector. He was also a representative of Rowan County at the North Carolina General Assembly in 1766.

Rutherford's first military experience was during the French and Indian War, when he served as a Captain of a local militia in 1760. He continued serving in the provincial militia until the start of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, when he was commissioned into the Continental Army as a Colonel. Following his appointment to Brigadier General of the "Salisbury District" by the Fourth Provincial Congress of April and May 1776, Rutherford accumulated a force of 2,400 men and participated in several conflicts with the Cherokee Indians in western North and South Carolina and Georgia. He then spent most of the war checking local Loyalist activities; in June 1780, his activities were partially responsible for the Loyalist defeat in the Battle of Ramsour's Mill. Rutherford was also involved in the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780, when he was wounded and taken prisoner by the British. He was later exchanged in 1781. He partook in further campaigns after his release, including a second attack on the Cherokee.

Following the war, Rutherford continued to serve as a senator in North Carolina's state senate, a duty which he had first undertaken in 1779, until 1786. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1783 and became an advocate of the Antifederalist movement. He moved to Sumner County, Tennessee in 1792 and was appointed President of the Legislative Council of Tennessee in 1794. He died in Sumner County on August 15, 1805 at the age of 84. Counties in North Carolina and Tennessee bear his name.

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Portrait by John Singleton Copley
Thomas Gage (1719 or 1720 – 2 April 1787) was a British general who was the commander in chief of British forces in the early days of the American War of Independence.

Born to an aristocratic family in England, he entered military service, seeing action in the French and Indian War, where he served alongside future opponent George Washington in the 1755 Battle of the Monongahela. After the fall of Montreal in 1760, he was named its military governor. During this time he did not distinguish himself militarily, but proved himself to be a competent administrator.

From 1763 to 1775 he served as commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America, overseeing the British response to the 1763 Pontiac's Rebellion. In 1774 he was also appointed the military governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, with instructions to implement the Intolerable Acts, punishing Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party. His attempts to seize military stores of Patriot militias in April 1775 sparked the Battles of Lexington and Concord, beginning the American War of Independence. After the Pyrrhic victory in the June Battle of Bunker Hill he was replaced by General William Howe in October 1775, and returned to Britain, playing no further major role in the war.

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Gen. Sir William Howe.jpg
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC (10 August 1729 – 12 July 1814) was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence. Following a distinguished military career in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War (where he served with distinction in North America), Howe was again sent to North America in March 1775, arriving in May after the Revolutionary War broke out. After leading British troops to a costly victory in the Battle of Bunker Hill, Howe took command of all British forces in America from Thomas Gage in September of that year. Howe's record in North America was marked by the successful capture of both New York City and Philadelphia. However, poor British campaign planning for 1777 contributed to the failure of John Burgoyne's Saratoga campaign, which played a major role in the entry of France into the war. Howe's role in developing those plans, and the degree to which he was responsible for British failures that year (despite his personal success at Philadelphia), has been a subject of contemporary and historic debate.

He resigned his post as Commander in Chief, North America, in 1778, and returned to England, where he continued to be active in the defence of the British Isles. He served for many years in Parliament, and was knighted after his successes in 1776. He inherited the Viscountcy of Howe upon the death of his brother Richard in 1799. He married, but had no children, and the viscountcy was extinguished with his death in 1814.

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Daniel Chester French's Minuteman was based on Isaac Davis
Isaac Davis (February 23, 1745 – April 19, 1775) was a gunsmith and a militia officer who commanded a company of Minutemen from Acton, Massachusetts, during the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. His company was selected to lead the advance on the British Regulars during the Battle of Concord because his men were entirely outfitted with bayonets. During the charge on the Old North Bridge, Davis was among the first killed and was the first American officer to die in the war.

Davis is memorialized through the Isaac Davis Monument on the Acton Town Common. He was also the inspiration behind The Minute Man, the sculpture at the Old North Bridge by Daniel Chester French. The sculpture, which French attempted to model after Isaac Davis, is now an iconic national symbol.

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Rear Admiral George Murray.jpg
Vice-Admiral Sir George Murray KCB (January 1759 – 28 February 1819) was an officer in the Royal Navy who saw service in a wide range of theatres and campaigns. His active naval career spanned the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Murray served under many of the most notable commanders of his age and participated in several of their greatest victories. His American Revolutionary War service included the 1776 Battle of Sullivan's Island and naval maneouvres of Admiral Lord Richard Howe in 1778 against the Comte d'Estaing off Rhode Island. Briefly made a prisoner of war in 1779, he served in the East Indies under Sir Edward Hughes in his celebrated battles with the Bailli de Suffren.

In later years he served with Jervis at Cape St Vincent, Nelson at Copenhagen, and took part in a host of other actions and engagements. During his time as a French captive he learned the French language and their naval customs. He had a particularly enduring friendship with Nelson, who personally requested his services as his captain of the fleet. It was only chance that prevented Murray from serving as such at Trafalgar. With Murray absent, Nelson declined to appoint a replacement, one biographer reasoning that "none but Murray would do".

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