MAJOR GENERAL ARTHUR ST. CLAIR is the most noted historic name connected with Westmoreland county. Naturally, it is true, he belongs to the nation, and not to any particular locality. Nevertheless he lived here when not in the Revolution, or performing other public duties which called him away. for over fifty pears. Here too he ended his days in poverty and neglect, and here on one of our hills in Greensburg he rests at last in peace, and, be it said to our shame, without a monument to suitably commemorate his greatness.
He was born at Thurso Castle, in Scotland, and sprang from one of the most noted British families. His people were of Norman birth. In the line of his ancestry were knights, earls, lords and dukes, many of whom had battled for English and Scotch supremacy, and whose names have been for centuries embalmed in the poetic and legendary lore of English story.
He was born April 3, 1736, the son of William and Margaret (Balfour) St. Clair, who by reverses of fortune on the part of their immediate forbears had lost most of their extended ancestral possessions, and were at the time of his birth without great influence at the court of St. James or in their native land. The remnant of the original estate possessed by William St. Clair was moreover entailed by the law of primogeniture, so that Arthur, being the youngest, could not hope to inherit any part of the impoverished possessions. He therefore took up the study of medicine in the University of Edinburgh. His father died, and he removed to London that he might have the benefit of hospital practice in the world's greatest metropolis. There he entered the office of Dr. William Hunter, then regarded as one of the first physicians of London.
But about that time a war broke out between England and France, the American part of it being known as the French and Indian war. Murray, Monckton and the brave and romantic young Englishman, General James Wolfe, were raising an army to carry the war against the rock-bound city of Quebec, in Canada, then under the dominion of the French government. Under the new ministry of William Pitt, enthusiastic young men from every calling in life abandoned their pursuits and enlisted in the service of the crown. War was shaking Europe and America. The streets of London were filled with the sounds of the bugle and the steady tread of grenadiers. St. Clair, like many other talented young men, could not resist. With the assistance of his family he purchased an ensign's commission, dated May 13, 1757, and sailed for America with Admiral Edward Boscawen's fleet, the same which brought to our shores the historic army of General John Forbes. He was in the general army of General Jeffrey Amherst, whose object was the capture of the northern forts, and was in the division of this army which was commanded by General James Wolfe. His first experience in arms was therefore in one of the most daring and romantic military expeditions in American history. He was with the army the night they silently floated down the St Lawrence and landed under the shadowy Heights of Abraham, since known as Wolfe's Cove. He heard Wolfe repeat the "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" which the poet Gray had just published to the world, and of which the General said he would rather be the author than to take Quebec:
"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way.
And leaves the world to darkness and to me."
He was with them, too, when under the cover of darkness they crawled up the hitherto impossible Heights, and was near the brave Young Englishman when he died with the song of battle on his lips, at the very moment of victory.
"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
More than this, to add to his superior military training, he was in the Sixtieth Royal American Regiment, which was organized by the Duke of Cumberland for service in the Colonies, and in the same battalion was General Lawrence, Colonel Robert Monckton, General Murray and Henry Bouquet, names without whose brave deeds the French and Indian war would be tame indeed.
After the taking of the city from the French it was immediately garrisoned by the English, and St. Clair, among other young officers, remained in the fortress. A part of the Sixtieth Regiment was sent to Boston, which was then the leading city of the Colonies after Philadelphia. St. Clair accompanied them bearing public documents to General Gage. who was his cousin. While stationed there he met, fell in love with and married Phoebe Bayard. She was a daughter of Balthazar and Mary Rowdoin Bayard, and was related to the Temples, the Winthrops and was in every way a woman of patrician birth. They were married in Trinity Chapel, Boston, in May, 1760. With her he received a legacy of 14,000 pounds, indeed a princely fortune as fortunes were then. Shortly after his marriage he removed to Bedford, Pennsylvania. having become acquainted with the Penns, who were then Proprietors of the Province. As agent for them, he looked after their possessions in the western part of the Province, and took up lands for himself. In 1767 he was appointed commander of Fort Ligonier. which position he filled for over two Years. After the opening of the Land Office in 1769 he was closely identified with the formation of new counties and in the sale and settlement of western lands. His brother-in-law, Captain Bayard. also came here, and together they took up large tracts of land in the southwestern part of the county. In these old boundaries he is sometimes designated as Lieutenant and sometimes as Captain St. Clair.
In May. 1770, William Crawford, Thomas Gist, Arthur St. Clair and others were appointed justices of the peace for Cumberland county. A year later, on the erection of Bedford county, he was appointed to the same position, and Was moreover appointed its first prothonotary and clerk of the courts. About this time he began to advocate the erection of a new county west of Laurel Hill. and in his correspondence with the Proprietaries urged it mainly because of the long distance the settlers in this region had to travel to reach the seat of .justice. Finally, when the project materialized in the formation of Westmoreland county (1733), he was appointed justice, prothonotary and clerk of the courts of the new county as he had been in Bedford county. Prior to the beginning of the Revolution he was the leading if not the sole agent of the Penns. The reader will recall his participation in Dunmore's war. This haughty Lord demanded that St. Clair be delivered into the custody of the Virginia authorities. This the Governor most peremptorily refused, and he stated further that the Proprietary government was responsible for St. Clair's official acts. St. Clair's greatest work in Dunmore's war was as a private citizen to induce the inhabitants of Westmoreland not to leave their homes as many of them were doing. With the Indians and Dunmore's outlaws, the county was in a very unsettled condition to say the least, and was in great danger of being depopulated. He organized the able bodied men into a militia for self-defense, and promised to pay them, and actually did pay them with his own money. It was then that a chain of blockhouses along the river was constructed. Forbes in his report in 1758 had recommended that a military road be built from Ligonier to Kittanning for frontier protection. This Was at length constructed under St. Clair's supervision, and a strong fortress Was built at Kittanning, which he named Fort Armstrong, in memory of Colonel Armstrong, the victor over the Indians at that place in 1756. Even at this time St. Clair had great power with the Indians. He often held conferences with them, and urged matters with them in plain words which he was careful to make good. They therefore, While not always guided by his advice, had the utmost confidence in him. The Indians and their agents frequently visited With him at Ligonier, and thus he accomplished a great deal for the safety and advancement of the white settlers in Westmoreland county.
His correspondence at this period with the leading men of Boston, Philadelphia, and the east, shows that though he had been an English army officer he was not in any danger of being a Tory, and that he had most pronounced views on the impending difficulties between Great Britain and the Colonies. Elsewhere We have considered the Hannastown Resolutions of May 16, 1775. St. Clair was undoubtedly the leading spirit of that convention, though he was too modest and unobtrusive to say so. The impartial reader cannot but regard his espousal of the American cause as one of the most independent and significant acts in his eventful life. With centuries of royal blood in his veins, his every tie of kindred and youthful affiliation, his services in the royal army, and his long and intimate association with the Penns and other Tories of Philadelphia, apparently bound him indissolubly to Great Britain. But these bonds were as gossamer threads to him when they conflicted with the rights of the oppressed colonies.
In 1773 the Indians in the west had been very troublesome and had repeatedly adopted Pontiac's tactics in making long raids on the east. Congress therefore appointed commissioners to meet at Fort Pitt to treat with them, and St. Clair was selected as secretary of the commission. But the conference was barren of immediate results, and St. Clair was appointed by the commission to raise an army to .chastise the Indians in the Detroit region. They gave him nc, financial aid, but that never mattered to St. Clair. He enlisted about five hundred young men who were to furnish their own horses, arms, forage and provisions and to march at once. At that time General Benedict Arnold was storming Quebec, and all interests centered there. When Arnold's expedition failed. St. Clair went to Philadelphia to urge his project on the Continental Congress. But, instead of sending him and his army to Detroit, he was called into the Revolution, where it was thought he would be of greater use. In this way he entered the great war. His first assigned duty was to make arrangements and preparations for war rather than to actively engage in it. He was commissioned a colonel in the Continental army. His duties were in and around Philadelphia, where he recruited, drilled and provisioned volunteers. Even then he began to advance money which was only paid back to him after the war had been ended many years.
His first duty in the actual field of war was to take six full companies to Quebec, where Arnold had been the victim of misfortune. General Montgomery, chief in command, was killed, and was succeeded by Arnold, who, being severely wounded, was succeeded by General Thompson, after whose early death came General Sullivan. St. Clair was already familiar with the St. Lawrence strongholds. He at once suggested the fortification of a point at Three Rivers to prevent the British transports from reaching Quebec. To his surprise St. Clair was the one appointed to guard this important point. Sullivan .afterwards reinforced St. Clair's army with many of Thompson s troops, but they were all beaten back to their original headquarters. Though unlooked-for misfortunes alone prevented their victory, they retired from Canada with colors flying.
St. Clair was next at Ticonderoga, and on Sunday, July 28, 1776, he read to his soldiers the Declaration of Independence, which had just reached him. In his report he says that "they threw their hats in the air and cheered for the cause of the 'United Colonies."
In August, St. Clair was made a brigadier-general, and was called to Washington's army, then in his well managed retreat before General Howe across New Jersey. He was now for the first time under the eye and direct command of the great chief, and was with him and fought under his direction at White Plains, Trenton and Princeton. It is claimed by most of St. Clair's biographers that he suggested to Washington the movements which culminated in this most glorious victory, but Bancroft labors hard to prove that he did not do so. No one denies, however, that he directed the details of the march, and that his brigade-composed of the New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts troops, with two six-pounders-marched at the head of the advancing army; nor do they deny that this was one of the few great victories won by Washington's army during the Revolution. For St. Clair's part in it he was forthwith made a major-general on the recommendation of Washington.
In the early months of 1777 the outlook was a very gloomy one for the American colonies. Washington's army had scarcely been able to get away from Long Island, and the unpaid. unfed and unclothed army was almost ready to disband. This condition of affairs actuated the British army to still greater efforts, hoping thereby to at once stamp out the rebellion. They therefore set about to divide the colonies by a line beginning at New York, thence up the Hudson and by Large George and Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence river. General Burgoyne had his army already in Canada, and he was to march by the way of Lake Champlain. General Clinton was to go up the Hudson and unite with Burgoyne as he came down. This division, we need not sat. would have greatly weakened each section of the Colonies by stopping all communication, and it would further have perhaps hopelessly divided the Continental army.
Ticonderoga was then a strong fort in the hands of the Colonial army, and was situated between Lake Champlain and Lake George. While it was held by the Continental army. Burgoyne's army could not come south to join Clinton's army going north. It was therefore at that time a most important point. St. Clair's success at the battle of Princeton had made him a major-general, passing General Schuyler and General Arnold, and he was at once selected by Washington as the one to hold this important point. He was given three thousand men, inadequate of course, but that was all the force which Washington could spare. He was familiar with the situation and its importance, and was instructed to hold it at all hazards.
Burgoyne's army came down to Lake Champlain, captured Crown Point and attacked Ticonderoga in June, 1777. Near by was a high rocky promontory called Mount Defiance, which overlooked Ticonderoga and practically commanded it. This was inaccessible to the Continental army because of their weakness, and was regarded as also. inaccessible to the British army. Burgoyne stormed Ticonderoga for many days. but was no nearer its capture then than when he began. Then by ropes and tackle he hoisted cannon to the crest of Mount Defiance, until lie had sufficient arms and force there to overcome Ticonderoga. St. Clair called his forces together and they all agreed that less than ten thousand men could not hold Ticonderoga with the British firmly fortified on Mount Defiance: that Mount Defiance should have been seized and fortified by the American army, had they had strength and munitions of war to do so ; that not having men sufficient to fortify it in the first place, they were much less able to take and fortify it now, and that it was therefore best to abandon the post. St. Clair accordingly began his retreat, and, like Washington in many instances, showed his finest generalship in getting his army away. They marched to Hubbardstown and Castleton. thirty miles away. The British did not allow them to retreat in peace. No information from St. Clair's army could be received for eight days, and the supposition was that Burgoyne had captured it. On the 7th of August his fleeing army was attacked by the British and German forces, which resulted in a loss of about three hundred of St. Clair's army. It was in every way a sadly disastrous campaign, the loss to the American army being not less than one thousand men. All the blame was for a time put on St. Clair, who did not defend himself but quietly asked for a court of inquiry. One was finally granted, with -Major-General Benjamin Lincoln as president. It was a very able court. They entirely exonerated St. Clair. and then the tide turned somewhat in his favor. Burgoyne, being compelled to divide his army to pursue the retreating St. Clair, gave General Horatio Gates an opportunity which he seized, and very soon forced Burgoyne to surrender his entire army at Saratoga. The British had depended largely on the division of the Colonies by a union of their armies, but after all their preparations and glowing prospects the result was the loss of Burgoyne's army. Thus our Colonies were held intact, and it has been said that though St. Clair lost a fortress he saved a State. This is perhaps giving him undue credit, for he could not have foreseen the result when he abandoned Ticonderoga. His object then was to save his army, and in this he succeeded splendidly.
Let us now look further into his reasons for retreating. The facts brought out by the court of inquiry speak very eloquently in favor of St. Clair. Burgoyne, when he met St. Clair's army, had 7863 men, while St. Clair had 2200. Burgoyne surrendered to Gates 142 heavy guns. St. Clair had less than one hundred second-rate cannon of various sizes, and these were served by inexperienced men. It is hardly necessary, therefore, to further defend his retreat in this age of general intelligence. Before the commission he made a defense of which the United States Gazette, in speaking of it, said: "His defense on that occasion is still extant and exhibits a sample of profound generalship. Whilst the English language shall be admired it will continue to be an example of martial eloquence." Pending his trial he was with the army at Brandywine and Valley Forge. Then he was detailed to organize the levies of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and send them to the front as rapidly as possible.
When Arnold turned traitor, Washington scarcely knew -whom to trust, but be selected St. Clair to temporarily take command of West Point. On September 29, 1780, he was selected to sit with Greene, Lafayette, Parscts, Clinton, Knox, Huntingdon, Stirling, Stark, Hand, etc., as a member of the most noted military jury that ever sat in this county, to try the unfortunate Major Andre. They were selected because of their high character both as soldiers and civilians, and because they were educated in the military history of European nations. They unanimously reported that Andre should be considered a spy and suffer death.
At the closing scenes of the Revolution, when the war-worn armies had practically surrounded the British at Yorktown, St. Clair was daily in advice with Washington, and was net by any means the least of those illustrious men who stood guard at the final moment, when the long contest was decided in favor of the Colonies. He had arisen more rapidly in the beginning of the war than any officer of the army. In 1783 he became a member of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. In all matters relative to the national policy he was even then a Federalist in principle, though the part- had not yet been formed. In 1785 he was elected a member of Congress, not by the people, as we now elect, but by the Assembly, as we now elect United States senators. Two years later, 1787, he was chosen president of the Congress, then. practically the highest office in the government, and which can only be compared to the present office of President of the United States, a position not then created, but which came with the Constitution of 1787. It was this Congress which provided for the convention of 1787, by which the Constitution of the United States was formed, written of as the ablest State paper yet conceived by the brain of man.
In 1790 St. Clair was the Federalist candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania against Thomas Mifflin. This was the first gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania under the new organic law. Muffin was not only very popular but his party largely predominated in Pennsylvania and he was therefore elected. On October 5th, 1787, the Continental Congress elected St. Clair governor of the Northwestern Territory, which then embraced all the country west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio river. On July 9, 1788, he arrived at Marietta, Ohio, the capital of the Territory. The citizens of Marietta had prepared with great care a residence for the new governor and family, which consisted of his wife, three daughters-Louisa, Jane and Margaret, and his son Arthur. His prerogatives as governor were very extensive. He was not only the executive officer of the Territory, but the law-giver as well. He appointed judges, and these in council with himself had the power to make laws for the government of the territory. He erected counties, appointed officers, held treaties with the Indians, etc. The territory over which he thus ruled now constitutes five of the leading states of the Union, and has a population of about sixteen millions. Yet the salary paid him for his services was less even than. his traveling expenses.
Early in June, 1791, he went down the river to Fort Washington and organized a new county and named it Hamilton, a name it still bears, and given it in honor of Alexander Hamilton, the brilliant leader of the Federalists. He also named the new town Cincinnati, in honor of the Society of the Cincinnati, then a new organization among the officers of the Continental armies, of which organization St. Clair was a shining light and president of the Pennsylvania division.
In all this new country he again encountered his old enemies, the hostile Indians who, having been driven westward, were just then committing all manner of depredations on the Ohio frontiers. General Harmar was accordingly sent out in r790 to subdue them, but his army was badly defeated. In 1791 St. Clair was appointed commander-in-chief of the army, and vested with a military power in the territory which corresponded with his title. He had an army of two thousand regular soldiers at his disposal in the contest with the Indians, and had authority to increase it as he saw fit by calling out the militia. St. Clair visited Philadelphia, the capital of the United States, relative to the approaching campaign, and Washington gave him special caution about the danger of surprises in Indian warfare. The President's parting words were, `Do not let them surprise you." In September, 1791, the army, the largest the west had yet seen, was assembled at Fort Washington, now Cincinnati. It was much better equipped finally than the average Revolutionary army, though it was not by any means an ideal army. There were three regiments of regulars in the infantry, two companies of artillery, and one of cavalry. Six hundred militia should have joined them at Cincinnati, but the greater part of them came in as they journeyed towards the enemy. On September r7th they began marching. They, as usual in new countries, had to cut roads through the wilderness, and it was necessarily an army, of slow progress. On the Big Miami river they erected Fort Hamilton, and some distance farther on they erected Fort Washington, and still later. came Fort Jefferson. At each post a small garrison was left. They were now nearing the Indian country, and matters began to look as though a battle might soon take place: Shortly after they left Fort Jefferson one of the militia regiments deserted bodily. Washington Irving, in speaking of these militia, says they were picked and recruited from the worst element in Ohio. Enervated by debauchery, idleness, drunkenness and by every species of vice, it was impossible to make them competent for the arduous duties of Indian warfare. They were without discipline and their officers were not accustomed to being under a commander. They were useless in a campaign, yet St. Clair thought it would disband his army or at least greatly impair its usefulness to allow them to desert at will. So he weakened his forces greatly by sending the First Regiment of Regulars in pursuit of the deserters. His army then numbered about fourteen hundred, with perhaps three hundred militia. The main army moved on to a point near the headwaters of the Wabash river, now in Mercer county, Ohio. It was supposed that the main body of the Miami tribe of Indians was about twelve miles from their encampment. Here they meant to entrench themselves behind earthworks and await the arrival of the First Regiment with the deserting militia. They encamped on November 3rd, and the General, with the engineers, immediately laid out the plans for the proposed breastworks. At night sentries were posted and all was quiet. The army was encamped on the banks of a tributary of the Wabash and a small creek. Against regular troops the encampment could easily have been transformed into a. stronghold by breastworks as contemplated. Several hours before the break of day on the morning of -November 4, the General had the reveille beaten and thus brought all troops to line with arms ready for action. Thus they watched till the sun arose when, there being no sign of danger reported by the outposts, the soldiers were dismissed to get more rest or breakfast. But scarcely had they reached their places of rest when an irregular volley of rifle shots came from the front. The Indians had arrived and would doubtless have begun the attack sooner had it not been that their advance scouts found the soldiers drawn up ready for battle. The drums beat and the officers formed their men in line. The Indians first struck the line of the militia, which almost at once fell back in confusion on the regulars. They were followed by swarms of Indians, some of whom passed beyond the first ranks and actually tomahawked officers and soldiers who had been carried back to have their wounds dressed. In a short time the army of St. Clair was overrun by Indians, who indiscriminately tomahawked and fired on all sides. St. Clair was suffering from a fever. Washington Irving in his charming and exhaustive "Life of Washington," says: "The veteran St. Clair, unable to mount his horse, was borne about on a litter, and preserved his coolness in the midst of the peril and disaster, giving his orders with judgment and self-possession." By his own suggestion he was carried to a place where the firing seemed heaviest, and where Colonel Drake, a Revolutionary officer of great bravery and experience, was trying to overcome the confusion and hold his lines steady. St. Clair directed them to make a vehement charge with bayonets. The charge did some good, for many Indians concealed in the tall grass fled in confusion, but the soldiers were unable to overtake them. They soon returned again and seemingly in 'increased numbers, and a second bayonet charge was followed with the same results. The artillery was practically of no use, for the daring Indians killed the men and horses before they could render any service. The regulars undoubtedly fought bravely and with much more system and effect than one might expect. Nevertheless the confusion spread from the militia till it pervaded all of the troops. Behind trees and bushes and concealed in the tall grass were Indians without number. With their bullets came showers of arrows, the latter seemingly more painful and exasperating than bullets. The soldiers were necessarily more or less in line, and this seemed only to aid the Indians and make the loss in killed and wounded so large in proportion to the size of the army. The usual order observed in the formation of military ranks was therefore worse than useless here; in fact, it actually favored the method adopted by the enemy. Two of the field-pieces were thrown into a stream, and the rest were captured by the Indians. Countless acts of heroism and daring courage were performed on that bloody field. They have already challenged the praise and admiration of four generations, and will yet live as long as any war stories of our border history. There was but one thing left to be done, and that was to retreat with as much safety as possible; at best, the retreat was a confusion. Men threw away their arms and fled towards Fort Washington, glad to escape captivity and death. When another and more successful army came later to the same locality, they found the path of retreat strewn with military accoutrements, and on the battlefield were the bleaching bones of hundreds of men who must have perished, each one, almost, within touch of an unfortunate comrade. There were five hundred and ninety-three reported killed and two hundred and fourteen wounded. The chief leader of the Indian forces in the battle was Mishikinakwa. He was chief of all the remnant united tribes of the Ohio regions. He was about six feet high and forty-five years old at the time of the battle. His picture is yet in the War Department at Washington, D. C. He died in 1812; and is buried near Fort Wayne, Indiana.
General St. Clair did not all day require a litter to carry him from place to place. When the battle raged and his forces began to, wane, the excitement brought back his strength as though the vigor of his youth had been renewed. Eight balls passed through his clothes and hat, one of which cut the hair from the side of his head. Two horses were killed under him just as he had been helped to mount them. For an hour or so, no horse being near, he moved about on foot, and surprised all who saw him by the agility he displayed. When again well nigh exhausted, lie was placed on a pack-horse, the only horse that could be procured, and, though he was scarcely able to prick him out of a walk, he rode him during the remainder of the day. Adjutant General Winthrop Sargent, in a private diary, wrote particularly of "St. Clair's coolness and bravery, though debilitated by illness." The unfortunate general was among the last to leave the field.
After the result of the battle became known, a bitter feeling arose throughout the United States against St. Clair. The real situation, had it been known as it is now, would have defended him against all blame. The means of circulating the real truth were extremely limited. At his own request, therefore, a congressional committee was appointed to investigate the entire affair and report their findings. Their report is as follows:
"The committee conceive it but justice to the Commander-in-Chief to say that in their opinion the failure of the late expedition can in no respect be imputed to his conduct, either at any time before or during the action, but that as his conduct in all the preparatory arrangements was marked with peculiar ability and zeal, so his conduct during the action furnishes strong testimonies -of his coolness and integrity."
When a new expedition was organized tinder General Anthony Wayne, who succeeded St. Clair as commander of the army, the latter tendered the benefit of the information concerning the enemy which he had purchased so dearly. In reply; President Washington wrote him as follows:
"Your wishes to afford your successor all the information of which you are capable; although unnecessary for any personal conviction, must be regarded as -additional evidence of the goodness of your heart and your attachment to your country."
General Wayne was successful in 1994 because the nation was by that time aroused to the serious nature of the contest, and gave him an army which he drilled for over two years before he gave battle. As Forbes profited by Brad-dock's defeat, so Wayne remembered St. Clair's disaster, and took precautions which would have been impossible for St. Clair to take. It seems that in all wars, defeats are necessary to inspire the people with a true realization of the magnitude of the situation. No intelligent student of history claims now that St. Clair should have been expected to hold Ticonderoga against Burgoyne's army, or that his army was properly equipped to meet the Indians in 1791. Notwithstanding all this, public sentiment was for years. against him. Even in the highly educated and considerate age in which we live, there are a few who are in some degree inclined to forget the great achievements of both his military and civil life, and remember him largely in connection with this unfortunate defeat which ended his military career. But they are not found among the enlightened leaders of public opinion, nor have they carefully investigated the facts connected with the history of that period.
He was retained as Governor of the Territory until the beginning of Thomas Jefferson's administration, in all a period of fifteen years, and was removed by Jefferson in 1802. As we have said, lie was an ardent Federalist and had unbounded admiration for the centralized power doctrine as advocated by Alexander Hamilton. Holding such views, he was necessarily antagonistic to the tenets of Jefferson, whose views were opposite those of Hamilton. St. Clair had moreover advocated the re-election of John Adams, whose unpopular administration, favoring among other things the deservedly obnoxious alien and sedition laws, had elected Jefferson. It was therefore but natural that the new president should remove him from office. The people of Ohio were largely Jeffersonian in their opinions and were anxious to form a state which could be brought about only through Jefferson and his friends. St. Clair had the veto power, which he was often forced to exercise, and to this his people were also opposed, for they were filled with the idea that the people alone should rule a state, and as they construed it, the veto power in one man was at war with the principles of a free government. Their ideas of Democratic equality were hostile to almost every principle which St. Clair, the open and avowed Federalist, represented.
It is not to be understood that he was absent from Westmoreland county all the time during which he was governor of the northwestern territory. The court records show that he was often in the county. On June tith, 1i93, he gave his bond for the appearance of some defendants in court at the next sessions. On May 30 he signed a petition, his name heading it, asking for a road, and when it was granted the record shows that the order was lifted in September, 1X94, "by Gen. St. Clair." A thorough search might reveal evidence of his being here a great many times, but we deem it unnecessary. St. Clair was the owner of lands in Westmoreland county for some time before lie advocated the formation of the county. In 1767-68 and '69 he was stationed at Ligonier as commander of the garrison, and this was probably his first connection with the county. During these years he made application for various tracts of lands and had them patented on the opening of the land office for this section in 1769. He was therefore a military resident of the county six years prior to its formation. But on April 3. he was appointed surveyor of the District of Cumberland, and was also a member of the Proprietary Council from Cumberland county by appointment of the Penns, dated May 23, 1770. Furthermore, he was appointed a justice in May, 1770, of Cumberland county, for that part of the county lying west of Laurel Hill territory, afterwards included in Westmoreland county. This was the policy of Penn, to appoint a resident of these outlying sections of the new counties, so that the settlers might at least have art apparent show of justice. St. Clair must therefore have lived here more or less in 1770. after he ceased to be commandant of Fort Ligonier. In March, 1771, Bedford county was formed, and he was appointed its first prothonotary, register, etc., and was again a justice for that part of the new county lying west of Laurel Hill. It is furthermore admitted generally that his son, Arthur St. Clair, Jr., was born at Ligonier in 1771, though the date is not known. It is. not easy therefore to determine the exact time that he became a permanent citizen of our county. When our county was formed (February 26, 1773) he was appointed first prothonotary, and also a justice of the peace. It is, however, safe to say that he was connected with the county more or less from 1767, when he first commanded Fort Ligonier, till 1772, after which time he became a permanent citizen of Ligonier Valley. He was therefore a citizen of our county for over fifty-one years. During the years prior to the Revolution his correspondence, which was very extensive, is generally dated at Ligonier, with an. occasional letter from Hannastown, written when court was in session there. During the Revolutionary war his family resided in Philadelphia, as will appear later on.
The office of Governor of the Western Territory did not require his entire-attention, for he was frequently at Ligonier looking after his property, and part of the time his family resided there. He built his residence near Fort Ligonier (a part of which is yet standing and well cared for) before the death of Washington, for there is a well handed down tradition that Washington sent hint two expert carpenters from near Mount Vernon, who came out on' horseback to do the finer work. Their work was the admiration of the common people, and is equal to the best work on the old colonial houses. It was certainly done by expert workmen who could not have found regular employment on the frontier in that age. Washington died in 1799, and was not acquainted with St. Clair prior to the Revolution. It is probable that it was built during the latter part of his term of governorship, perhaps looking forward to the time when he should retire from public life and pass the remaining years of his life in ease and comfort in his new residence. It was, or is, situated about one and-a half miles northwest of Ligonier. It is all gone now save one room, torn down perhaps by the ruthless hand of an ignorant iconoclast who neither knew of nor cared for its historical associations. The quaintly devised woodwork, the mantelpiece and wainscoting, no doubt the work of Washington's carpenters, doubtless saved the one room from destruction. It is now in the possession of Mr. H. S. Denny, who appreciates and preserves it because of its historic association. Vying in stately simplicity of design and in rich interior with the woodwork of our best homes in modern times, it bids fair to bear down to coming generations one of the few splendid specimens of Colonial architecture in western Pennsylvania.
Into this house lie moved his family when he returned from the Northwestern Territory, and tried to build up his shattered fortunes, though he was in his sixty-seventh year. He first erected an iron furnace called Hermitage. near his residence, and for a time manufactured iron castings of various kinds. In a few years he leased the furnace property to James Hamilton & Company for $3,000 per year. The crumbling ruins of the old furnace stack were torn away about r88o by one who did not appreciate their historic value, and there is left of it now only a mound of earth and stones to mark the spot where it stood.
Before the Revolution, St. Clair had built a flouring mill on his estate on Mill creek, a tributary of the Loyalhanna, which was, by the way, one of the first mills west of the Allegheny mountains. When he entered the army he -gave this mill to his neighbors to use while he was gone. But nearly eight years passed before he returned to find it in ruins. He therefore renewed the mill, and in many other ways contributed to the good of the people until his creditors seized his property. The story of his financial difficulties is not a pleasant one to contemplate. He received with his wife, as we have said, 14,000 pounds, or $70,000. In addition to that he had large tracts of land given him by the Crown, the Penns, the State of Pennsylvania and by the United States. He had also made some good land investments. All of his property was swept away to satisfy his creditors. In a letter to William B. Giles he says that the office of governor of the Northwestern Territory was forced upon him by friends who thought it would be an opportunity for him to replenish his fortunes, and that it proved otherwise, for he "had neither taste nor genius for speculation in land, nor did I consider it consistent with the office." He was too old to recuperate his fortunes when he returned to Ligonier, and in a few years was sold out by the sheriff. The most lamentable feature of his embarrassment is that his debts were nearly all contracted in the interests of the republic, and should have been paid by the state or nation and not by St. Clair. During his last years he presented several memorials to the legislature and to congress asking, not for charity, but for a simple reimbursement of the money he had expended in the public interest. Not a single statement in any of them was ever refuted or even denied. In one of them he explains his situation by saying that when he entered the Revolultion he could not leave his young wife, born and bred in the best society of Boston, alone with her children in an unprotected and hostile frontier. So he was compelled to sell real estate in western Pennsylvania, upon some of which he had expended large amounts of money, at a great sacrifice. This was sold for 2,000 pounds ($10,000) in deferred payments. But the purchaser paid him in depreciated Continental currency, so that of the 2,000 pounds he received only one hundred, that is, one-twentieth of the sacrifice price. Then he purchased a house in Pottsgrove, near Philadelphia, for his family to reside in while he was in the army. On selling this he lost one-half by the bankruptcy of the purchaser.
In a memorial to the Assembly he says that, beginning in 1774, he supplied nearly all the forts and blockhouses in Westmoreland county with arms and means of defense at his own expense. To Congress he says that in the darkest days of the Revolution, when Washington's soldiers were daily deserting him and the army rapidly melting away because they had not been paid, Washington himself applied to St. Clair to save the "Pennsylvania Line," the best organization in the entire army. St. Clair accordingly advanced the money for recruiting and for bounty, and put forth such other influence that with the aid of Colonel William Butler the Line was saved. To this claim the government, through its committee of Congress, unable to deny it, pleaded the statute of limitations. But the indebtedness which directly caused the sale of his real estate was contracted while he was Governor of the Territory. Among other anomalous duties which he performed there, was to act as Indian agent of the territory, and as such he negotiated several important treaties. But in paying the Indians and in supplying them according to the terms of the treaty, the money appropriated was not generally sufficient, and St. Clair, rather than allow the negotiations to fail, advanced the money out of his own pocket. In one treaty he expended sixteen thousand dollars while but eight thousand had been set aside for it. Eight thousand dollars then was almost a princely sum.
When the army for the disastrous campaign of 1i91 against the Indians was collected at Cincinnati, it was found that the money appropriated for the purpose was not sufficient to properly equip it. James O'Harra was quartermaster-general of the army, and was a man of abundant means. St. Clair obligated himself to repay O'Harra if the latter would furnish the necessary money so that the army could move on, and it was accordingly furnished. Later, when St. Clair presented this bill to the treasury, he was told that there was no money appropriated to pay bills in excess of the original amount provided for the expedition. All successive efforts to secure an appropriation were fruitless. St. Clair had given his bond to O'Harra on the express promise of the Secretary of the Treasury that it would be repaid with interest. It probably would have been had Alexander Hamilton remained in office. The face of the bond was $7,042. It was never paid to St. Clair, not one cent of it. Suit was brought be James O'Harra in the Westmoreland courts, and St. Clair. not wanting to contest its payment or validity, came into court and confessed judgment in favor of O'Harra for $10,632.17. that being the debt and interest. Executions on this judgment were issued from time to time, and finally all of his property was sold from him. The sale could not have taken place at a -worse time for St. Clair, for it was sold when the embargo had driven all the money out of the country. Property which had been valued at $50,000 was sold and did not bring more than the debt, interest and costs amounted to. The suit was brought by Hugh Ross as attorney for James O'Harra. Alexander Johnston was the sheriff of \Westmoreland when the property was sold. This was in i8o8. The tract of land at Ligonier, including the mansion house and the Hermitage furnace property, was sold for $4,000, though the furnace and the mill alone had rented for $3,000 per year. His creditors did not stop with selling his land but sold also all his personal property, except a few articles which he selected and which were exempt from sale. Among those selected was one bed and bedding, a few books from his classical library, and among them was his favorite Horace, whose classic beauty of verse he had long admired, and a bust of John Paul Jones, King of the Seas, presented to him and sent by Jones himself from Paris. This he prized very highly and kept till his death.
His claims before Congress were advocated by such men as Joseph Hopkinson. the eloquent John Sergeant, and by Henry Clay, the gifted leader from Kentucky. The Assembly of Pennsylvania pensioned him, and in 1817, a year before his death, increased it to fifty dollars per month. Congress the same year granted him sixty dollars per month and dated it back a year. There being no law to forbid it, this was attached by his creditors before it left the hands of the treasurer, and St. Clair never received one cent of it. Soon after the sale of his property lie was turned out of house and home. Daniel St. Clair, his son, owned a tract of land on the Chestnut Ridge, above the Four Mile Run, and to this the old man and his family removed. Broken with the storms of more than three score years and ten, saddened by the memories of the past, and denied Thy ingratitude what was justly due him from his state and nation, he quietly o awaited the last roll call. By this time, too, his wife, formerly the accomplished Phoebe Bayard, of Boston, had become weakened in intellect and was the additional care of his old age. To secure bread for his family he entertained travelers, though his house was but little more than a four roomed log cabin. On January 24, 1814, he was granted a tavern license by the Westmoreland court.
To a truly altruistic man like St. Clair, who had really given of his abundance with a profligate hand to the weak and destitute, poverty, rather than a disgrace, was a bright and shining crown of glory which now only adds to his .greatness. No one who was capable of appreciating true worth ever came in contact with him, even when in poverty, who did not recognize at once the presence of a statesman, a soldier from head to foot, a scholar in the broadest sense of the term, and a patriot pure and simple. Read his letter to the ladies of Yew York who, hearing of his needs, sent him a present of four hundred dollars, and compare it with our best English letters. We can only quote a few sentences:
"To soothe affliction is certainly a happy privilege, and is the appropriate privilege of the fair sex. And although I feel all I can feel for the relief brought to myself, their attention to my daughters touches me most. Had I not met with distress I should not have, perhaps, known their worth. Though all their prospects in life (and they were once very flattering) have been blasted, not a sigh, not a murmur, has been allowed to escape them in my presence, and all their plans have been directed to rendering my reverses less affecting to me; and yet I can truly testify that it is entirely on their account that my situation ever gave me a moment's pain."
It has been said that St. Clair in his last years was somewhat given to the use of intoxicants. Though after the general custom of his day he often drank liquor, there is no authority whatever for the statement that he used it to excess in any period of his life. The last pen picture of him we have is given below in full. It refers to a period but three years before his death, when he was almost overwhelmed with a mountain of sorrow, yet it is not by any means the picture of a man overthrown by the use of liquor. There are few public men of our day who would not feel proud to be described in words like those which follow. They are from the pen of Elisha Whittlesey who, with Joshua R. Giddings and James A. Garfield, represented the Ashtabula district in Congress for fifty-six years. Whittlesey was afterwards for many years an auditor of the United States Treasury, and therefore, by a life association with distinguished men, could recognize ability when he found it. In a letter to Senator Richard Broadhead in 1856, he wrote as follows:
"In 1815 three persons and myself performed a journey from Ohio to Connecticut on horseback in the month of May. Having understood that General St. Clair kept a small tavern on the Ridge east of Greensburg, I proposed that we stop at his house and spend the night. He had no grain for our horses, and, after spending an hour with him in the most agreeable and interesting conversation respecting his early knowledge of the Northwestern Territory, we took our leave of him with deep regret.
"I never was in the presence of a man that caused me to feel the same degree of veneration and esteem. He wore a citizen's dress of black of the Revolution; his hair was clubbed and powdered. When we entered he arose with dignity and received us most courteously. His dwelling was a common double log house of the western country, that a neighborhood would roll up in an afternoon. Chestnut Ridge was bleak and barren. There lived the friend and confidant of Washington, the ex-Governor of the fairest portion of creation. It was in the neighborhood if not in view of a large estate at Ligonier that lie owned at the commencement of the Revolution, and which, as I have at times understood, was sacrificed to promote the success of the Revolution. Poverty did not cause him to lose self-respect; and were he now living his personal appearance would command universal admiration."
St. Clair at no time in the army appeared so great as when under adverse circumstances he tried to save an army or prevent its destruction. So it may have been that in the poverty of his declining years only his true greatness asserted itself, and shone forth all the more brilliantly. At all events, at no time did he appear to greater advantage. He easily forgot that the nation had taken the best years of his life and much of his property, and, now in want, another generation of rulers had refused to recompense him. One sentence from his letter just quoted is the key to his entire life. "It is entirely on their account that my situation ever gave me a moment's pain." He always forgot himself when the rights of others or the interests of the state were being considered. He was president of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati, and perhaps more than any other was an exemplar of their motto, "Omnia relinquit servare republican."
Here, then, on the mountains, in a log cabin, lived the friend and companion of Washington, Greene, Steuben, Lafayette, Hamilton, Franklin, Wayne and Schuyler, and in no small degree did he share their glory. When the Revolution closed he was one of the leading men of the new nation, whether considered as a gentleman, a soldier, a scholar, or a statesman. His conversation was always embellished with wit and wisdom. His manners were those of the polished society in which his earlier days were spent, and no adversity could change him in this respect. In his solitary mountain home he was much given to reflection. Often he was seen wandering alone over the hills and through the wilderness with his hands behind his back and in deep thought, like Napoleon on the bleak and lonely island of St. Helena. He often drove or rode down to Ligonier or Youngstown, and at the latter place frequently met William Findley, our member of Congress and one of the leading men of his day. At Skyles' tavern they often sat and talked for hours, and around them gathered their unlettered neighbors to listen to their conversation. St. Clair generally rode a small dray horse, but sometimes drove in a low wheeled carriage. He was then described as a tall man with square shoulders, cleanly shaved, and most dignified in his address. In his youth he was described as being very tall and graceful, with chestnut brown hair, blue eyes and fair complexion, and was moreover a complete master of all the accomplishments of the best society of the age. His portrait given in this work is from a later painting by Peale, the original of which is in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
On one occasion St. Clair and Findley were talking, perhaps concerning measures in Congress for St. Clair's reimbursement. Findley was then a man of wealth and power ; St. Clair was almost an outcast. Findley, with perhaps the kindliest feelings, said, "General, I pity your case and heartily sympathize with you." Whereupon the old warrior, broken with years and decay, proudly drew himself up and with flashing eyes said, "I ant sorry, sir, but I can't appreciate your sympathy."
Toasted at a-militia muster by a thoughtless admirer as the `brave but unfortunate St. Clair," he drew his sword in an instant and demanded that the offender retract his words. He would not be complimented and commiserated in a breath; his achievements in the service of England and America, in peace and in scar, were deserving of all glory, without a compromising word of pity or regret.
On August 30th, 1818, he had driven down the Ridge on his way to Youngstown. Most likely he sustained a paralytic stroke, for by some means he fell from his wagon and lay unconscious by the roadside. He was soon found by some passersby and taken to his home, where he died the day following, without regaining consciousness. Three graves were dug for him--one in Unity Presbyterian graveyard, near the house of Findley, and which was nearest the temporary home of St. Clair: one at Ligonier. where he had so long resided; and one at Greensburg. the county-seat of the county which was mainly erected through his efforts. The citizens of the latter place promptly held a public meeting in the courthouse, adopted appropriate resolutions looking toward his interment in their cemetery, and appointed a committee to wait on the family and ask that this be selected as his final resting place. This request was put in the form of a letter to his daughter. Louisa Robb, and was signed by the members of the committee appointed. The following is the letter, with the names of the committee attached:
"Madam: In obedience to the resolution of the corporation and citizens of Greensburg. we beg leave respectfully to present to the family of General St. Clair their condolence at the melancholy event of his death. Desirous to express some small token of respect for the memory of a man whose name is conspicuous on the pages of our history as one of the heroes who achieved our hide independence, we are directed to obtain permission from the family that the body of our lamented friend may be deposited near us.
"Mr. Drum will have all necessary arrangements made at Youngstown in unison with those which are preparing here, to do honor for the occasion.
"We are, Madam, respectfully, James Potstleitwaite, A. W. Foster, John Reed, Simon Drum, Jr., John H. Seise, George Armstrong, Daniel Maclean, Richard Coulter."
"Mrs. Louisa Robb."
Mrs. Robb consented, and his remains were accordingly interred in Greensburg. In 1832 an humble monument was erected over his grave by the Masonic fraternity, and its most appropriate inscription is self-explanatory:
"The earthly remains of Major-General Arthur St. Clair are deposited beneath this humble monument, which is erected to supply the place of a nobler one due from his country."
Interior of General St. Clair Home.
Phoebe Bayard, his wife, who was born in 1743, survived him nineteen days, and was then buried by his side. She was a true matron of the Revolution, and a woman of heroic mold. Though brought up in the best circles of Boston society, she willingly accepted her hard life on the rude frontier, and bore its privations and sufferings with great fortitude and without complaint. Both she and her illustrious husband contributed greatly to the welfare and prosperity of the pioneer days of Westmoreland, but the county has done nothing for them. Their names should be honored and their memory ever cherished by the people our county. Their heroic privations, self-sacrifices and deeds of noble daring should be written on the scroll of the nation's history as a perpetual incentive to coming generations to preserve the rich heritage of freedom made possible to us by such illustrious examples of true nobility.
In the chapters of this work relative to the formative period of the county, St. Clair's work in its interests was fully considered and therefore need not be repeated here. The reader will notice that the date given as that of his birth, April 3. 1736, is not the usually accepted one. (March 23, 1734). The error has been but recently discovered by a noted genealogist of the St. Clair family. The Kirk Session Book of Thurso. Scotland. notes that he was born March 23d. and baptized by Rev. Willliam Innes, March 24, 1i36. But eleven days must be added to March 23, because of the new style calendar. This gives his real birthday as April 3, 1736. He was therefore eighty-two years, four months and twenty-eight days old when he died.
Source: Page(s) 624-642, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed August 2008 for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)
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