Finding Sullivan - James Clinton's Expedition
James Clinton, as a member of one of New York’s most important Revolutionary Families, played a significant role in the Founding of the United States.
Although his younger brother, then his son, were both more prominent in early politics, James established himself on the battlefield.
When the American Revolutionary War broke out, James Clinton signed on with the Continental Army.
James joined Philip Schuyler in the Invasion of Canada and within two years of signing up was named a Brigadier General.
By this point, the United States had declared independence and his brother, George Clinton, had been elected to a position he would hold for twenty years…Governor of New York. (After the Revolution, James’ son, Dewitt Clinton, would also be Governor of that State.)
James would spend the majority of the war serving in the Northern Department, in and around Upstate New York.
During the Battle of Saratoga, he was in charge of Fort Clinton. When the British attacked, he was wounded and forced to lead his men in retreat.
Fortunately, this battle would end in victory for the Continental Army.
James was soon tasked with joining the Sullivan Expedition.
Clinton cut across the New York following the Susquehanna River, destroying Native American villages along the way in an effort to win an area which was a ‘no man’s land’ in the Revolutionary War. The hope was this action would limit attacks by the British and their Native American allies on frontier settlers.
James arrived at the foot of Otsego Lake, where Cooperstown (and the Baseball Hall of Fame) now sits. While waiting for orders from Sullivan, he dammed up the lake and, when the time came to move on, opened the dam. This move flooded the river, making it much easier and quicker for his men to travel the area.
Eventually, Clinton connect with John Sullivan and participated in the Battle of Newtown, which solidified American control over New York State.
Clinton returned to the Main Army to join General Washington at the Victory at Yorktown.
He then returned to private life, though he did return to politics from time to time as a member of the State Assembly.
James’ wife, Mary, passed away 17 years after having their last child. Interestingly, Clinton remarried to another woman (also named Mary) who was 32 years younger than he was. Furthermore, they began having more children.
Clinton’s last child, Anna, was born in 1809…when James was 73-years-old!
To learn about other Founders who participated in the Sullivan Expedition, check out these articles:
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