John Paterson Finds A Woman Under His Command

John Paterson Finds A Woman Under His Command

John Paterson was a Major General in the Continental Army.

Paterson held a variety of positions in his home State of Massachusetts. As an older man, he helped lead a wave of population in Upstate New York.

John Paterson

Connecticut lawyer John Paterson relocated to Massachusetts just as the American Revolution was beginning.

Paterson held several local positions in his new home and was soon elected to the Provinical Assembly.

When hostilities broke out, John was named a Colonel in the State Militia.  He led men in the Siege of Boston, the Battle of Bunker Hill, the invasion of Quebec and the New Jersey Campaign.  

Noticing Paterson’s success, General Washington promoted him to Brigadier General.

Major General

After participating in the crucial Victory at Saratoga, Paterson spent the second part of the war in the Hudson River Valley.  He ensured the British did not take the River and split the colonies in half.

As the Revolutionary War came to a conclusion, John Paterson was one of the last men to receive promotion to the rank of Major General.  He was also one of the last Generals to be discharged from the Continental Army.

A Woman?

Before his discharge, Paterson found himself in a peculiar situation.  

John was informed that one of the men who served directly for him was actually a woman. Robert Shirtliff was really Deborah Sampson.

While most women who were found out to be impersonating men were treated harshly, Sampson was given an honorable discharge, money to return home, and words of encouragement from Paterson.

New York

John returned to Massachusetts after the Revolution where he held a variety of positions in his local government.  Additionally, he was stationed as one of the main Generals who suppressed the participants of Shay’s Rebellion.

Paterson later moved with several other investors to Lisle, New York.  

Lisle became a bustling center of trade (and thirty years after Paterson’s death, John D. Rockefeller would be born there).  Soon after his move, Deborah Sampson visited Paterson and stayed with him for about a month.


Always of a civic mind, Paterson participated in many local government jobs.

Nearing the end of his career, John Paterson was elected for one session to represent New York in the United States House of Representatives. As a Democratic-Republican, he voted along with the current administration under Thomas Jefferson.

I don’t usually like to recommend books on this site which I have not yet read, but John Paterson has a biography written by his great-grandson in 1898. It is the only bio of him so by default I am forced to tell you about it.

Fortunately, Paterson’s bio is old enough to be free online. You can read it if you like here.

If you’d like to purchase it through our affiliate link below, please do and thank you for supporting the site. If not, just partake in the link above.

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