John Armstrong, Sr and the Pennsylvania Militia
John Armstrong, Sr. was a friend of General Washington's who's engineering background and military experience played a large role in supporting the Continental Army.
John Armstrong was sent to America as a young man to work as an engineer for the colony of Pennsylvania. He surveyed large portions of the state and laid out the town of Carlisle.
Soon after, Armstrong served in the French an Indian war. He played notable roles in the Forbes Expedition and Kittanning Expedition (aka the Armstrong Expedition). These experiences would benefit him as a General in the American Revolution.
During Armstrong’s time in the British Army, he became friendly with a young George Washington. This relationship would grow over the ensuing years.
In the early stages of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress realized they would need to fight in the southern colonies soon. To this end, they appointed John Armstrong as a Brigadier General and sent him to Charleston, South Carolina.
While in Charleston, Armstrong used his knowledge of engineering to properly fortify the city. A few months later, these fortifications would assist the Americans in repelling the British at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.
Armstrong soon returned to Pennsylvania where he was named Major General of the Pennsylvania Militia. He resigned his commission from the Continental Army to take this position which placed him in command of all militia forces in the State.
Success in the Field
Serving in the State Militia did not end John Armstrong’s service to the Continental Army.
At the Battle of Brandywine, for instance, Armstrong and his men guarded Washington’s left side. Additionally, they oversaw protecting the Army’s supplies. After the Americans retreated, Armstrong’s men evacuated the supplies in the dark.
Days later Armstrong participated in the Battle of Germantown. His men wrapped around the British and attacked from the rear. Although Armstrong was successful in this endeavor, other Generals suffered from confused orders and a heavy fog. The battle was lost, and Armstrong returned to camp.
Shortly thereafter, nearly 60 years old and suffering from ill health, Armstrong resigned his command. Although he retired to Carlisle, his community sent him as a delegate to the Continental Congress twice. John Armstrong had proven himself as a war hero and his constituents were satisfied that he would serve them appropriately.
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