Adam Stephen

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Adam Stephen (c. 1718 – 16 July 1791) was a Scottish-born doctor and military officer. He came to North America, where he served in the Virginia colonial militia under George Washington during the French and Indian War. He served under Washington again in the American Revolutionary War, rising to lead a division of the Continental Army. After a friendly fire incident during the Battle of Germantown, Stephen was found to have been drunk during the battle, and was cashiered out of the army. He later founded Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Early life and career[edit]

Adam Stephen was born in Scotland. He earned a degree at King's College in Aberdeen, and studied medicine in Edinburgh. He entered Royal Navy service on a hospital ship before emigrating to the British Province of Virginia in the late 1730s or early 1740s. There he established a medical practice in Fredericksburg.

Military life[edit]

Stephen entered the provincial militia in 1754, and became lieutenant colonel of the Virginia Regiment under George Washington. That year he participated in Washington's expedition that climaxed with battles at Jumonville Glen and Fort Necessity (the opening engagements of the French and Indian War). While with the regiment he was involved in several expeditions, including the disastrous Braddock Expedition of 1755.[1]

In 1761, Stephen helped organize and fund the Timberlake Expedition, which attempted to reconcile British and Cherokee interests following the Anglo-Cherokee War (part of the much broader French and Indian War).[2] When that war ended in 1763, he took over command of the Virginia Regiment from Washington, and assisted in putting down Pontiac's Rebellion.

When the American Revolutionary War broke out, Stephen offered his services to the Continental Army, again serving under Washington. He was with the army during the New York and New Jersey campaigns of 1776 and early 1777, and, as a major general, was given command of a division in Washington's army during the defense of Philadelphia. Following the October 1777 Battle of Germantown, it was found that Stephen was drunk at the time of the battle and he was court martialed, stripped of his command, and cashiered out of the army.

He returned to his home in Virginia, and in 1778 is said to have laid out the plan for Martinsburg in what is now West Virginia. He named it after a friend, Colonel Thomas Bryan Martin. Stephen became sheriff of Berkeley County (of which Martinsburg was the county seat). In later years he was joined there by Generals Horatio Gates and Charles Lee, who both purchased property in the county. In 1788, Stephen was elected to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, which ratified the Constitution of the United States.

Stephen was married and had one child, Ann. He died in Martinsburg in 1791, and is buried there beneath a monument erected in his honor.


Stephen's residence at Martinsburg, known as the Adam Stephen House, and The Bower near Shepherdstown, West Virginia, built on property which was once his, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3]


  1. ^ Lengel, Edward G.; General George Washington: A Military Life; pp. xxxiii–xxxiv; ?; ?
  2. ^ Timberlake, Henry; Memoirs, 1756–1765; Williams, Samuel (ed.); Marietta, Georgia: Continental Book Co.; (1948); pp.38–39.
  3. ^ National Park Service (13 March 2009). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.

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