William Montgomery (Pennsylvania)

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Major General

William Montgomery

Honorable
William Montgomery Danville, PA.jpg
Pennsylvania Assembly portrait, 1780
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 6th and at-large congressional district
In office
March 4, 1792 – March 3, 1795
Preceded byRedistricted
Succeeded bySamuel Maclay
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate
In office
February 1791 – January 20, 1794
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byWilliam Hepburn
ConstituencyHuntingdon, Luzerne, Northumberland
Chair of the Appropriations Committee
In office
1791–1793
Chief Judge, Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions
In office
May 4, 1785 – November 22, 1790
Preceded byUnknown
Succeeded byUnknown
ConstituencyNorthumberland, Luzerne
Delegate to the Continental Congress
from Pennsylvania
In office
1785 – resigned
Preceded byUnknown
Succeeded byCharles Pettit
ConstituencyConfederation Congress
Censor on the Council of Censors
In office
1783–1790
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byOffice abolished
ConstituencyNorthumberland County
Member of the Pennsylvania Assembly
In office
February 1780 – November 1783
Preceded byJames McKnight
Succeeded byJames McClenaghan
ConstituencyNorthumberland County
Chair of the Armed Services Committee
In office
1780–1783
Delegate to the Pennsylvania Provincial Convention
In office
July 15, 1776 – resigned
Succeeded byLTC Thomas Strawbridge
ConstituencyChester County
Delegate to the Pennsylvania Provincial Conference
In office
June 18, 1776 – June 25, 1776
ConstituencyChester County
Chair of Military Personnel Committee
In office
June 18, 1776 – June 25, 1776
Delegate to the Convention for the Province of Pennsylvania
In office
January 23, 1775 – January 28, 1775
ConstituencyChester County
Delegate to the Committee of Inspection
In office
December 20, 1774 – 1775
ConstituencyChester County
Personal details
BornAugust 3, 1736
Mill Creek, Delaware Colony, British America
DiedMay 1, 1816 (aged 79)
Danville, Montour County, Pennsylvania, America
Political partyPatriot
Constitutionalist
Democratic-Republican
Anti-Federalist
Anti-Administration
Spouse(s)Margaret Nevin (m. 1756)
Isabella Evans (m. 1772)
Hannah Boyd (m. 1793)
Children10, including Daniel
RelativesMontgomery Clan
Richard Montgomery
Montgomery Case
J. Montgomery Rice
C. Montgomery Marriott
ResidenceGeneral Montgomery House
EducationFaggs Classical School
Alma materWilliam & Mary (dropout)
Signature
WebsiteUnited States Congress
Military service
Allegiance
Branch/service
Years of service
  • 1757-75 (Associators)
  • 1776-77 (Continental Army)
  • 1793-1807 (Pennsylvania Militia)
Rank
  • Colonel (Associators)
  • Colonel (Continental Army)
  • Major General (Pennsylvania Militia)
Commands
  • 4th Elk Battalion, Associators
  • 1st PA Regiment Flying Camp, Continental Army
  • 7th Division, Pennsylvania Militia
  • 9th Division, Pennsylvania Militia
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War

New York and New Jersey Campaign

William Montgomery (August 3, 1736 – May 1, 1816) was a colonial-American patriot, pioneer, soldier, public servant, and abolitionist.

As a revolutionary patriot, he helped the Province of Pennsylvania declare independence from the British Empire, establish the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,[1] and save the American Revolution during the Ten Crucial Days.[2] As a soldier, he served a total of 34 years, including 14 years as major general and division commander. As a public servant, he was elected or appointed to 16 different offices, including the Continental Congress, Pennsylvania Congress, and United States Congress, and co-authorized the creation of the United States Navy's first six frigates. As an abolitionist, he helped pass: a resolution to prohibit the future import of slaves into the Province of Pennsylvania in 1775, An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery (the first law adopted by a democracy to end slavery in world history) in 1780, and the Slave Trade Act in 1794. He was one of seven congressman who voted against the Fugitive Slave Act in 1793.[2][3][4][5][6] As a pioneer he founded "Montgomery's Landing", later named Danville, Pennsylvania after his son, Daniel Montgomery.[7]

Early life[edit]

William Montgomery descends from Roger de Montgomery of Normandy via Arnulf de Montgomery through the Montgomery Clan.[8] His grandparents, Major John (aka "Boyne Water") and Margaret (née Dunbar) Montgomery, immigrated from County Armagh, Ireland to the Delaware Colony in 1722. They acquired extensive lands in Mill Creek Hundred of the Twelve-Mile Circle. John was a founding elder in the White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church.

William's parents, Alexander and Mary (née McCullough) Montgomery, followed them to Mill Creek Hundred in 1730 and inherited a plantation and gristmill of 400 acres upon John's death. William Montgomery was born in Mill Creek Hundred on August 3, 1736, the third of six children, and spent his childhood working the plantation and gristmill. In 1743, Alexander and his partner, William Nevin (William's future father-in-law), purchased 650 acres adjacent to Faggs Manor in Londonderry Township, Chester County, Province of Pennsylvania. In 1747, at age 11, William and his 5 minor siblings were orphaned when their parents died. Their cause of death is unknown. Their guardians, Evan Rice and Robert Kirkwood, were from the White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, but they were raised by their aunt and uncles (Thomas and Robert) who had also settled in Delaware and Pennsylvania. In his adolescence, William was educated in surveying, milling, trade, and management. He was taught by Samuel Blair and mentored by Dr. David Stewart. He dropped-out of the College of William & Mary.

In 1756, William married Margaret Nevin and settled on the 822 acres he inherited (and acquired) in Londonderry Township. Over the next 14 years, they had six children, including Daniel Montgomery, and made it the most prosperous farm in Chester County. It primarily produced wheat. Margaret died in 1770 and William married Isabella Evans in 1772. They welcomed their first of four children in April 1773. In November 1773 he began acquiring land in Northumberland County from J. Cummings. On November 26, 1774 he acquired 180 acres along Mahoning Creek and Susquehanna River known as "Karkaase" from J. Simpson. Originally referred to as "Montgomery's Landing", it would become Danville, Pennsylvania after his son, Daniel Montgomery.[7]

Following the Pennsylvania Militia Act of 1755, which compelled "all males between 17 and 45 years of age, having a freehold worth 150 pounds a year, to arm himself and appear for training on the first Monday of March, June, August, and November" for protection in the French and Indian War, William joined the Associators in 1757 and continued to serve for the next 17 years.[2][3]

Patriot[edit]

Background[edit]

By 1774, tensions over imperial rule had been escalating in the Thirteen Colonies for 14 years. It had been 9 years since the Sons of Liberty formed, 7 years since the Townshend Acts, 4 years since Golden Hill and the Boston Massacre, 2 years since Samuel Adams’ Committee of Correspondence, 1 year since the Boston Tea Party, and 55 days since the First Continental Congress. Montgomery is a father of six children, a prominent 38 year old farmer in Londonderry Township [Province of Pennsylvania], and had been serving in the Associators (militia) for 17 years. He is also a political activist whose correspondence with John Dickinson influenced Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, a precursor to Thomas Paine's Common Sense.[2]

William's oldest brother, Captain John Montgomery, was also a revolutionary patriot deeply involved in the grassroots effort for independence in the Province of North Carolina, which culminated in the War of the Regulation. He commanded a company in the Battle of Alamance and was wounded by the second canon volley. He also commanded a company at the Battle of Guilford Court House and was again wounded, then imprisoned. He was sentenced for execution but escaped.[2]

William's distant cousin was Richard Montgomery, for whom he wrote a poem about his revolutionary service.[9]

Political service[edit]

On December 20, 1774, Montgomery is nominated to the Chester County Committee of Inspection to enforce the trade boycott established by the First Continental Congress. The following month, he is nominated as a Chester County delegate to the Convention for the Province of Pennsylvania (January 23–28, 1775) where they pass 27 resolutions to "restore harmony with Great Britain" while logistically preparing for war.[6] Eighty-six days later, the "shot heard round the world" ignites the American Revolutionary War and Siege of Boston. On June 30, 1775 the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety was established, essentially displacing the governing Provincial Assembly until the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, and William was re-commissioned a colonel in command of the 4th [Elk] Battalion, comprising 450 infantry in eight companies.[2][10] In February 1776, the Chester County Committee of Inspection tasked Montgomery, along with two others, with safeguarding the county's gunpowder magazine.

On June 18, 1776, Montgomery is nominated as a Chester County delegate to the Pennsylvania Provincial Conference at Carpenters’ Hall. Their proceedings ("Provincial Conference of Committees of the Province of Pennsylvania") officially declare the Province of Pennsylvania's independence from the British Empire, establish the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,[1] mobilize the Pennsylvania militia for the American Revolutionary War, and set up the machinery for the Pennsylvania Provincial Convention (July 15–September 28, 1776) which frames the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776. As the last holdout of the Thirteen Colonies, they also enable the United States Declaration of Independence to proceed nine days later, which ensures Montgomery's execution if caught by the British.[11]

William was nominated as a Chester County delegate to the Pennsylvania Provincial Convention for establishing the Commonwealth constitution, but his battalion was deployed to New Jersey and he was unable to attend. His daughter-in-law's father, Thomas Strawbridge, went in his place.[12]

Military service[edit]

After defeating the British Army in the Boston, General Washington anticipates General Howe will next seek control of New York City and relocates the Continental Army to fortify the area. With an indefensible number of potential invasion sites and depleted ranks, Washington divides Continental forces between Manhattan and Brooklyn. On June 3, 1776, the Continental Congress grants Washington's request to stand up a Flying Camp of militia-based reserves. Montgomery's battalion is re-designated the 1st [Pennsylvania] Regiment[2][10][13] and mobilized for the fortification of New Jersey. They arrive at Perth Amboy in mid-July, establish a command post at the Proprietary House, and conduct rotating patrols along the 35 mile strait to Fort Lee.[14] Within days, they are horrified by the arrival of the British Navy off the coast of Staten Island — 340 transport ships carrying 32,000 infantry, 35 frigate warships, and 25 ship of the line (SOL) warships bearing 64 canons each with a range of 2 miles. 5 SOL warships alone have more collective firepower than the entire Continental Army. Each cost the equivalent of a modern aircraft carrier (the United States Navy currently has 20). It is the largest, most advanced, and most powerful amphibious invasion in world history until Operation Neptune 168 years later.

While repulsing British reconnaissance efforts into New Jersey, the 1st Regiment helplessly overhears the Continental Army’s defeat in Brooklyn. After peace talks fail, Montgomery orders four companies to Fort Lee and four companies to Fort Washington to buffer General Howe’s invasion into Manhattan. When Fort Lee and Fort Washington are defeated (along with Montgomery’s four companies who are taken prisoner and sent to prison “ships of hell”), Montgomery and his remaining companies, along with General Washington and the remaining Continental Army, retreat to Pennsylvania as they are pursued by General Cornwallis.

By December 1, 1776, Montgomery's regiment is stationed in Philadelphia to stifle Loyalist uprising. He is joined by his son, William Jr., who enlisted upon his 14th birthday, and is serving in Captain James McDowell's company as drummer. General Washington has encamped 30 miles northeast in Taylorsville. 90% of Continental forces have been killed, captured, or deserted — believing the American Revolution is now a lost cause. With their term of enlistment now expired, most of the Flying Camp reserves have returned home. Washington's supplies are also depleted and General Cornwallis is bearing down on his position with 8,000 British and 2,000 Hessian infantry, outnumbering him 3 to 1. The revolution is hanging-on by a single fiber of the last thread. On December 18, Washington writes to his brother: “I think the game is pretty near up...You can form no idea of the perplexity of my situation. No man, I believe, ever had a greater choice of difficulties and less means to extricate himself from them. However under a full persuasion of the justice of our Cause I cannot but think the prospect will brighten, although for a wise purpose it is, at present hid under a cloud.” On December 19, Thomas Paine echoes into eternity: "These are the times that try men's souls".

On Christmas night, December 25, 1776 — in the middle of a snowstorm — General Washington gathers the last of his men and launches operation “Victory or Death” across the Delaware River. Following their subsequent victory at the Battle of Trenton, Montgomery receives General Cadwalader's dispatch for militia reinforcements. Along with 1,800 militia, the 1st Regiment arrives in Crosswicks, New Jersey on January 1, then marches to Trenton where General Washington’s army is now engaged with General Cornwallis at the Battle of Assunpink Creek. Rather than retreating back to safety (with his element of surprise now gone and two victories under his belt), Washington attacks Cornwallis’ headquarters in the Battle of Princeton — defeating him and establishing his position to wage the Forage War for the next 3 months. Montgomery's regiment, among others, provided the vital diversion, which deceived Cornwallis that Washington's forces were still encamped, and simultaneously removed their supplies to Burlington, New Jersey.

Pioneer[edit]

In November 1773, William began acquiring land in Northumberland County from J. Cummings. On November 26, 1774 he acquired 180 acres along Mahoning Creek and Susquehanna River known as "Karkaase" from J. Simpson. Following his service in the New York and New Jersey Campaign, William re-settled his family from Chester County to Northumberland. Originally referred to as "Montgomery's Landing", it would become known as Danville after his son, Daniel Montgomery.[7] After developing his farm, William developed the first gristmill, sawmill, and trading post. In 1778, his family fled during the Big Runaway to Fort Augusta and returned following the Battle of Wyoming. In 1792, William constructed the General William Montgomery House. In the same year Daniel plotted the area between Mill Street and Church Street, the historic core of the town.[3][7]

Soldier[edit]

Background[edit]

Military service has defined William's life and the Montgomery's he descends from. His family line has been traced to Roger de Montgomery through his fifth son Arnulf de Montgomery. Following William the Conqueror's invasion of England, their service continued through the Montgomery Clan and Lands of Lainshaw. William's great-grandfather, Major John Montgomery, and two of his sons were killed at the Battle of Boyne. His third son (William's grandfather), Captain John Montgomery, was badly wounded but survived. He was promoted to major and given the nickname "Boyne Water Major" for heroism. William's oldest brother, Captain John Montgomery, was also a revolutionary patriot deeply involved in the grassroots effort for independence in the Province of North Carolina, which culminated in the War of the Regulation. He commanded a company in the Battle of Alamance and was wounded by the second canon volley. He also commanded a company at the Battle of Guilford Court House and was again wounded, then imprisoned. He was sentenced for execution but escaped.[2] William's cousin was Richard Montgomery, for whom he wrote a poem.[9]

Service[edit]

In addition to his political service, Montgomery served in the military for 34 years.

Posterity[edit]

The tradition of Montgomery's serving and fighting has continued for generations, including three of William's sons. William Montgomery Jr, who enlisted upon his 14th birthday and served as a company drummer in his father's regiment during the New York and New Jersey Campaign, achieved the rank of major in the War of 1812. John Montgomery served under William's command in the 7th Division and achieved the rank of colonel. On July 27, 1809, Daniel Montgomery was commissioned a major general and transferred command of the 9th Division. William's 2nd great-grandson, James Montgomery Rice, fought extensively in the American Civil War, helped establish the United States National Guard, and honored William's service through Sons of the American Revolution. William's 4th great-grandson, Charles Montgomery Marriott, lost both of his hands, and was awarded the Silver Star, from a stielhandgranate while saving his platoon during the Rhineland Offensive of World War II.

Public servant[edit]

In addition to his military service, which began at age 21, Montgomery was in continuous public service from age 38 to 72. In total, he was elected, appointed, or nominated to 16 different county, state, and federal offices.

Abolitionist[edit]

Legacy[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Baillie, William M. Pennsylvania Patriot: General William Montgomery. Columbia County Historical & Genealogical Society (2010)
  • Russel, A.F. In memory of Gen'l William Montgomery, Gen'l Daniel Montgomery, and John C. Boyd. Intelligencer (1879)
  • Brower, D.H.B. Danville, A Collection of Historical and Biographical Sketches. Lane S. Hart. (1881)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Birth of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania". US History.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Baillie, William M. (2010). Pennsylvania Patriot: General William Montgomery. https://lccn.loc.gov/2012371109: Columbia County Historical & Genealogical Society.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Russel, A.F. (1879). In memory of Gen'l William Montgomery, Gen'l Daniel Montgomery, and John C. Boyd. https://archive.org/details/inmemoryofgenlwi00russ: Intelligencer. p. 8.
  4. ^ a b c United States, Congress. "William Montgomery (id: M000873)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  5. ^ a b Pennsylvania, State Senate. "William Montgomery (id: 5257)". Biographical Directory of the Pennsylvania Assembly.
  6. ^ a b c d Bradford, William (1775). Proceedings of the convention, for the province of Pennsylvania, held at Philadelphia, January 23, 1775, and continued by Adjournments, to the 28th. https://books.google.com/books?id=LIs1AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false: London Coffee-Houfe.
  7. ^ a b c d Brower, D.H.B. (1881). Danville, A Collection of Historical and Biographical Sketches. https://archive.org/details/danvillemontourc00brow/page/n8: Lane S. Hart.
  8. ^ Bailie, William M. (2010). Orphan Prodigy, Pennsylvania Patriot. Columbia County Historical & Genealogical Society. pp. 9–16.
  9. ^ a b Baillie, William M (June 2009). "Columbia County's First Poem?" (PDF).
  10. ^ a b c Hendler, C.J. (1909). "Official history of the militia and the National guard of the state of Pennsylvania". Library of Congress.
  11. ^ a b c Gibson, James (1934). "The Pennsylvania Provincial Conference of 1776". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 58 (4): 312–341. JSTOR 20086878.
  12. ^ a b of Censors, The Council (May 27, 1940). Minutes of the Convention that formed the present Constitution of Pennsylvania. https://www.paconstitution.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/proceedings1776-1790.pdf: John S. Wiestling. p. 45.
  13. ^ Continental Army, United States (1972). Compiled service records of soldiers who served in the American Army during the Revolutionary war. https://archive.org/details/compiledservicer0793unit/page/n25: United States. National Archives and Records Service. pp. 22, 24, 60.
  14. ^ Devine, Francis E. (1979). "THE PENNSYLVANIA FLYING CAMP, JULY – NOVEMBER 1776". Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies. Penn State University Press. 46 (1): 59–78. JSTOR 27772569.
  15. ^ a b Cox, Harold (January 31, 2007). "Pennsylvania Election Statistics: 1682-2006". Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  16. ^ Cox, Harold (March 7, 2005). "Pennsylvania General Assembly - 1779-80" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  17. ^ Cox, Harold (March 7, 2005). "Pennsylvania General Assembly - 1780-1" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  18. ^ Cox, Harold (March 7, 2005). "Pennsylvania General Assembly - 1781-2" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  19. ^ Cox, Harold (February 19, 2005). "Pennsylvania General Assembly - 1782-3" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  20. ^ Cox, Harold (August 17, 2003). "Pennsylvania Senate - 1790-1791" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  21. ^ Cox, Harold (September 23, 2003). "Pennsylvania Senate - 1791-1792" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  22. ^ Cox, Harold (August 17, 2003). "Pennsylvania Senate - 1792-1793" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  23. ^ Cox, Harold (August 17, 2003). "Pennsylvania Senate - 1793-1794" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  24. ^ Cox, Harold (January 6, 2007). "2nd Congress 1791-1793" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  25. ^ Cox, Harold (January 13, 2007). "3rd Congress 1793-1795" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project.
  26. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
None
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's at-large congressional district

1793-1795
Succeeded by
None